One Chart, Many Questions
Ok, I’m cheating a bit because it’s a two-panel chart, but it’s the juxtaposition that makes it striking. This will be a short blog. I have no answers, but would love to know what you think.
In the gym the other day I saw a Bloomberg headline saying something like “lockdowns are back as Eastern Europe pays the price for low vaccination rates.” I had looked at Covid trends in Europe recently, so I knew Romania has one of the most severe spikes. I had also heard about Singapore.
Here comes the chart:
In Romania, only about 30% of the population is fully vaccinated; in Singapore it’s 84%. Yet the spike in new cases in Singapore has been nearly as bad as in Romania. (The spike began at end-August, when the fully vaccinated ratio was already 75%)
Vaccines do offer strong protection against severe health consequences: Singapore’s hospitalizations and deaths have increased, but nowhere near as much as in Romania. Singapore government data indicate that only 0.2% of new cases result in deaths, 1.1% in hospitalization and 0.1% in intensive care. This chart is in no way an argument against vaccination.
Singapore has been doing everything right: prolonged repeated lockdowns, some of the most stringent limits on movements and gatherings, efficient and pervasive track and tracing, severe travel restrictions, masks for everyone everywhere, free distribution of N95 masks to all households, and nearly the entire population fully vaccinated.
And yet its spike in new cases looks nearly as bad as Romania, where just a third of the population is fully vaccinated and barely over a half wear masks in public. (You already know what I think about masks, this is one more example)
Are vaccines a lot less effective than we think in containing contagion? And if that is the case, does it undermine the rationale for vaccine mandates and the EU-style Green Pass? Are we underestimating the role of natural immunity from past infection? Will this ever end?
As I said, I have no answers.