By : Rebekah Barnett
Never let the data get in the way of pushing jabs
The stats don’t lie, but politicians do.
Over the weekend, WA Premier Mark McGowan posted an update on his Facebook page:
Here is the WA Covid-19 Update from the day prior, 15 July 2022:
McGowan states that, “Out of the people in hospital with COVID-19, nearly one three were unvaccinated.” A shocking statistic, which McGowan uses as the basis of his plea to West Australians to go out and get their fourth dose.^
The most up to date published data on WA hospitalisations states that 27% of hospitalisations between 20 June - 03 July 2022 were ‘Not Vaccinated’, which “includes unknown vaccination status.”
What the hell, Mark.
The Not Vaccinated and the Unknown categories are blended.
Not Vaccinated means no Covid-19 vaccination has been administered.
Unknown means the status is unknown. Unknown could be all vaccinated. Unknown could be all unvaccinated. Unknown could be a mix of the both. We don’t know, because they are Uknown.
It is misleading - misinformation even - to state that nearly one in three West Australians in hospital with Covid is unvaccinated.
What McGowan should have said is,
’Our record keeping is sloppy so we don’t even know how many unvaccinated people are in hospital, but we can tell you that 61% of those in hospital have had 3 or more doses.’
Of course, that would have to be followed by, 'this means it’s working and you should get boosted (again).’
But at least the statistics would be accurate.
On the categorisation of Uknown hospitalisations, NSW Health states on their Respiratory Surveillance Reports:
“Vaccination status is determined by matching to Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) data. Name and date of birth need to be an exact match to that recorded in AIR. People with unknown vaccination status were unable to be found in AIR, though may have vaccination details recorded in AIR under a shortened name or different spelling.”
As for the distribution of Not Vaccinated and Unknown categories within the combined group, after comparing WA against NSW, I think it’s likely that almost all of the blended group are Unknowns.
During June and July (to date) in WA, the combined Not Vaccinated and Unknown groups comprise between 21-27% of Covid hospitalisations.
Compared against NSW Covid data, the rate of combined 0 Dose and Unknown hospitalisations falls within the same range. What is most significant though, is that almost all of the NSW combined group (0 Dose + Unknown) are Unknown. In the past 7 weeks, 0 Dose hospitalisations have not exceeded 1% of hospitalisations in NSW. In contrast, 23-30% of NSW Covid hospitalisations were of Unknown vaccination status. Both states have similar rates of vaccination, although NSW has a slightly larger group of eligible unvaccinated and has lower booster uptake. Comparing rates of hospitalisation for the 2 Dose and 3+ Dose groups, the states track fairly closely, although WA shows slightly lower rates of 2 Dose hospitalisations and slightly higher rates of 3+ Dose hospitalisations compared to NSW. This variation could be explained by the higher booster uptake in WA.
View Australian vaccination statistics by state HERE
Up until 03 June 2022, the Not Vaccinated group was listed on WA Health reports as simply that - Not Vaccinated. There was no Unknown category on the reports. From 10 June onwards, the disclaimer, “includes unknown vaccination status” was added in fine print after the category name Not Vaccinated, indicating than Unknowns have been lumped in with the Not Vaccinated category all along.
This means that the West Australian public was misled on the rates of hospitalisation by vaccination status for the entire first half of the year. Worse, McGowan is still peddling this misleading information in support of his (seemingly never ending) booster drive.
But McGowan is not done with the misinformation.
McGowan states, “To put that into perspective - less than two per cent (sic) of all eligible Western Australians are unvaccinated.”
This is his sucker punch. One in three hospitalisations are coming from only 2% of the population. The implication - only a crazy person would take that risk. The sane thing to do is book that appointment for your fourth jab.
Except this too, is factually inaccurate.
On 16 July 2022, the day of McGowan’s post, 5.35% of the eligible WA population had received 0 doses of a Covid vaccine.
There is also the problem that McGowan dishonestly uses the vaccine eligible population to frame entire population hospitalisation statistics. Groups not included in the vaccine-eligible population are children aged 0-4 and those with medical exemptions due to contraindication (such as myself). Note that on the WA Health table, hospitalisations include all age groups, with children under 10 accounting for 12.4% of hospitalisations with Covid. If I had thought it ok to use selective ‘part of population’ statistics to frame entire population data, I would barely have graduated from high school, let alone university. For McGowan to be using such dishonest framing without being checked by even one of his recent graduate interns suggests to me that this is a wilful error.
As of December 2021, the WA population was 2 762 200, and was tracking a 1.1% growth rate. Population Australia estimates the population to be 2.84 million at June 2022. I’ll be conservative and underestimate the WA population by using the December figure of 2 762 200. The Australian Government counts total 2, 492, 010 West Australians as having received at least one dose of Covid vaccine. That leaves a 0 dosed population of 270, 190 people, which is 9.8% of the total WA population.
*Update* I found an accurate source which indicates 11.4% of the WA age 0+ population is 0 dosed. Figure correct as at 18 July 2022.
Who makes up this 11.4%? In 2020, children aged 0-4 made up around 3.3% of the total WA population. Assuming that the rate has not changed much more than a decimal point, children aged 0-4 should account for about 91, 150 of the 270, 190 undosed West Aussies. What about the other 179, 040 undosed West Australians? Do they all have medical exemptions? Is 6-7% of the WA population aged 5+ ineligible for Covid vaccination? WA Government does not publish any information on this cohort, so we don’t know.
Now that we have parsed the facts, let’s review the situation.
CLAIM: Mark McGowan says that nearly one in three WA Covid hospitalisations is Unvaccinated.
FALSE: 27% of WA Covid hospitalisations are either 0 Dosed or Unknown. This is a combined statistic for two separate groups. We do not know how many unvaccinated people are in hospital with Covid, but after making comparisons to NSW data, it is probable that the true rate is somewhere between 0.5-5% (with the Unknown group making up the majority of the 27% figure).
CLAIM: Mark McGowan says that less than 2% of the eligible WA population remains unvaccinated.
FALSE: 5.35% of the eligible WA population is unvaccinated (0 Dose), according to Australian Government official statistics.
CLAIM: Mark McGowan proposes measuring the efficacy of vaccines on preventing hospitalisations by using a false ‘vaccine-eligible population’ statistic to frame ‘all population’ hospitalisations.
MISLEADING: McGowan should use all population vaccination statistics to frame all population hospitalisations. 11.4% of the WA population has not received any dose of a Covid vaccine. This is compared to an undetermined rate of 0 Dose hospitalisations, as the WA Government does not release this information to the public.
Now more than ever, when public trust in our government and institutions is at such a low ebb, it is essential that politicians speak truthfully. Sleights of hand and outright lies such as those posted by Mark McGowan this weekend only serve to further undermine trust and foment civil unrest. McGowan has been caught flying fast and loose with the facts. If the misinformation is in error, the appropriate action to take is to admit the error, amend the data, and proceed truthfully from here. Your move, McGowan.
POSTNOTES: I HAVE QUESTIONS
^ATAGI has not taken the step to recommend the fourth dose to people between the ages of 30 to 49. While the fourth dose is available to this group, ATAGI states, “the benefit for people in this age group is less certain.” It would be wonderful to know why Mark McGowan believes he is qualified to recommend a fourth dose to all those eligible, when the national advisory body does not do so.
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