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How to Spot False Deductions on Covid Vaccines – Let us All Get Fully Vaccinated


Let us look at a few false deductions being bandied around in high up places about Covid vaccines. 

China has 3 Covid deaths per million inhabitants while the USA has 2,333 deaths per million inhabitants. That is a statistical fact. However, it is not correct to deduce from this that the Sinopharm vaccinations administered in China do work, while Pfizer and Moderna used in the USA don’t work. It would be foolhardy to deduce such a thing. Less still is it correct to deduce that Sinopharm is 777 times (2,333 divided by 3) more efficient than Pfizer and Moderna at preventing death from Covid. It is just not a valid deduction you can make – whether in general, or by doing the mathematics as a screen to the logical flaws. 

There are obviously other issues in addition to the efficacity of particular vaccines administered that are impacting on the huge success of the Chinese public health strategy and the hideously high number of Covid deaths in the supposedly most advanced country in world, the USA. But, be that as it may, deductions cannot be made rashly a l’emporte-pièce from the crude death-rate from Covid that vaccinations used in America “don’t work”.  

But this is exactly the kind of rash deduction that Opposition Leader Xavier Duval’s makes in his campaign against the Sinopharm vaccine. How can he be short of arguments to use against this MSM-led Government to such an extent that he has to stoop to this?

He “deduces” from the fact that there are, in Mauritius, more Covid deaths after Sinopharm vaccination than after vaccination with the other brand-name vaccines that Sinopharm supposedly “does not work”. And it is not just on a street-corner that he makes these stupid deductions but he makes them in the National Assembly. He does not even, in his PNQ, at the same time request figures on the number of vaccines administered of each brand-name vaccine so that at least he is given a valid “proportion” of Covid deaths. If, say, 20 people in Mauritius die of Covid in one week, 10 unvaccinated, and the other 10 despite being vaccinated – 4 despite Sinopharm, and two each despite Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and one each despite Pfizer and Sputnik, respectively – it would be stupid to announce in Parliament that Sinopharm does not work, if we know, for example, that Sinopharm was the vaccine administered to over half those vaccinated. In fact, this example would mean Sinopharm had a better track record. There are, just for a start, two fallacies involved in Duval’s claims: first small numbers do not make good statistics – and this group of 20 clearly does not; second you need a bottom figure for any fraction. Xavier Duval should be bright enough to know that taking only the top half of a fraction and pretending it has meaning in the real world without the bottom half, is folly.

Nor does he request any information from which to assure basic “age-standardization”, which is paramount in any Covid death comparisons. If the turn of most old-age pensioners’ came up for vaccination, according to the public health strategy adopted, when Sinopharm was available, then obviously death rates for those few vaccinated people who do end up dying, will be higher amongst pensioners than amongst, say, front-liners, who are by definition mainly under 60, and who were administered another vaccine, say Astra-Zeneca because that was what was available when their turn had come around earlier. So, Duval should have asked for these figures, too. Without them, what he quotes is plainly ludicrous, making Duval look “an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But even with the bottom figure of the fraction, it would, at best, be merely an interesting figure – academically speaking. In the real world, however, the figure would still not, on its own, be useful. We take the vaccines we get. Those with over 90% of cover against severe illness and death from Covid are the best in the world – though they are new technology – while those with 70-80% cover are also very, very good indeed. Both kinds slow the rate of spread of Covid in society as well as giving individuals protection.

But, Xavier Duval’s inability to make logical statements is even worse than this example.

Hansard for 9 November quotes Duval saying, “the more that we vaccinate, the more people are dying.” Just like that. Can you believe it? Obviously, people are dying more now than during lockdown when the spread of the epidemic was contained because we all stayed indoors just about the whole time, and did even a one-week stint of total 24-hour-a-day curfew not even allowed to go out to a shop or supermarket, but with the NEF and police home-delivering food packs to families on the Social Register. Mauritius was one of the few countries that, for the whole of 2020 actually quelled and contained the epidemic. When he spoke, with most restrictions lifted, with everyone going to work and until Thursday last going to school, the virus was spreading more, and this was simply because people were circulating more, allowing the virus to jump from one host to another, and this is why more people were dying. In addition, the Delta variant has taken over and, being more efficient in its spreading techniques, this variant is moving amongst us like wild-fire, especially among the 90,000 adults still not vaccinated. (Fortunately schools are now closed, which will slow the spread; as from today, the unvaccinated are no longer allowed into shops or restaurants; marriage groups are again not to exceed 50; picnicking is again illegal; work from home is back again; for the next month.)

In fact, were there not so many vaccinated people (90% of adults in Mauritius), there would have been many more deaths, and Xavier Duval should know that. So, he is talking rubbish. This is indeed very dangerous rubbish from an Opposition Leader. He sounds like an anti-vaxer pure. He goes on, “the more that you vaccinate, the more people are dying. As a Minister of Health and Wellness, can you tell us why, what is wrong? Are you using the wrong vaccination?” He is, of course, once again also waging his one-man war on Sinopharm. Then he changes tack, but only to go on to another anti-vax line, “Do you not have the right medicine to treat people?” As if there were easily available specific treatment that could replace vaccination, and that the absence of a magic pill is the “cause” of deaths. And then he once against reverts in the next breath to implying that vaccines, themselves, somehow cause death from Covid, “I would like to ask the hon. Minister, last week, on Friday, he announced that out of 42 deaths, 22 were fully vaccinated. That means 52% rate of death of vaccinated persons. Does he know that the studies in the U.K show that only 0.51%, that is, 100 times less vaccinated people are dying and the same figure, a little bit higher for Italy? So, tell us then, why is it that 52% of people who died last week were fully vaccinated?” Back to his poor grasp of basic statistics. Does Mr. Duval not know that in Britain and Italy, people know that you have to divide by the number of each population concerned i.e. in this case by the number of vaccinated people. In Mauritius, roughly speaking, 900,000 adults have been vaccinated and 90,000 not vaccinated. So, for a start 22 is out of 900,000 -- that makes it .0024% -- and 20 is out of 90,000 – which makes it .024%. So, those with vaccines in their arms are 10 times more protected – and the statistics, at first glance, seem better for Mauritius than for the UK and Italy – though the sample size is too small. But, his mathematics is pure cock-and-bull. And Duval is oblivious, as we have mentioned, to the need for the usual age-standardization when talking about Covid. He is equally not bothered by different levels of relevant co-morbidities in different countries. 

In order for comparative statistics to be really useful – and curiously this is little mentioned by anyone – standardization for sex is also useful – men are over 50% more likely to die of Covid than women, men’s death rate being 1.6 times as high as the death rate for women (from studies in the USA). And new research from an Oxford University unit suggests a genetic disposition. There is cluster of genes much more common amongst people descended from South Asian people (it is present in 60% of presumed South Asian people, as opposed to 15% of those of presumed European ancestry) that can increase, even double, one’s likelihood of getting lung failure from Covid. So, if this study is confirmed by further research, we will need to make allowance for an estimated 80% or maybe more, of Mauritians who have some South Asian ancestors, when comparing countries’ figures.

The Opposition Leader should, instead of spending all his time on the blame game and spreading anti-vax propaganda, just simply call on everyone in his party, and everyone in the Opposition he leads, to go out and get their first vaccination, if they are amongst the slow-footed, and go out and get fully vaccinated for the rest of us. He should call on us all to stay home for this one month as much as is humanly possible. 

In addition to the plain crazy use of statistics by the Opposition Leader and to his foolhardiness, there is another fact of concern that has surfaced. And this is that vested interests may well be at play. The Health Minister openly said the following to the Leader of the Opposition Xavier Duval, as reported in Hansard, and which Duval has not denied, because it is true, or was when he declared his assets: “Concerning those two drugs that the hon. Leader of the Opposition has said [sic], Tocilizumab and the other drug, I will make an appeal to this hon. Member. It is, in fact, very challenging to procure these drugs. And I know that, as per your disclosure of declaration of assets, you hold some 43,000 shares in that company...” On the ICAC site where Declarations of Asssets are recorded, we in LALIT have checked, it is recorded that he owns 43,200 shares in Pharmacie Nouvelle Ltd and 2,320 in IBL i.e. he owns shares in the two big pharmaceutical importer companies, one of which the Minister says represents the producer of “these drugs”. It is worth bearing this in mind when Duval puts PNQs or speaks in his weekly Press Conference. Perhaps his Parliamentary allies sitting next to him each week – Bérenger and Bodha who have often spoken in favour of vaccination – should put into question their parties’ support for him as Opposition Leader.

In the meantime, Xavier Duval’s need and will to oppose Government does not dispense him of the need and will to be logical and rational. By being illogical and irrational, he is only playing into the hands of an already bumbling Government.

And, in doing so, he exposes everyone in Mauritius to public health dangers. And this is in addition to the Government’s delay in facing the worsening of the health situation.