Monday, November 22, 2021

Oh, I Get Letters

      But the letters don't have cites, or, in one case, they have half-arsed cites to derivative data.  So they'll get refuted but not published.  This may lose me some "near-fans."  I don't care.  This blog is a hobby, not a business, and the reward is getting up every morning and doing some writing instead of laying in bed, staring blankly at the Stupid Human Tricks in the morning TV news.  That people may (or may not) read what I write afterward is a fringe benefit for me and a lagniappe for them; it's not the point of the exercise.

     A commenter with a predilection for using ALL CAPS for emphasis* wants to know if I am a "genetic virologist."  Since no such specialty appears to exist, I couldn't be one.  What I am, is a techie and a writer.  I have been on what we used to call The World Wide Web since text-based interfaces, "Lynx" (and others) for the Web,  "Pine" and "Elm" for e-mail, "tin" and "trn" for Newsreaders, back when e-mail and Usenet News were much more interesting parts of the Internet than that dorky web-thing and we searched with Archie, Gopher and a few others.  I remember Inktomi and AltaVista, which came along shortly after I got a computer that had a color display and that looked at the Web with a "browser."  I was pretty good at telling BS from real data, and at times hung around with some of the smart-alec Netizens who liked to confuse the newbs.  (That was real fun, back before the Eternal September washed it all away in a flood of cluelessness.)  My work just happens to call for extreme reliability from the critical widgetry -- as I have mentioned recently, 99.9% uptime would be considered a dire failure.  So I am interested in things like reliability and large numbers.  I was the last of the slide-rule generation in High School and gave up scientific notation and three-significant-digit accuracy in college with great reluctance and (on the part of both me and my professors) ungraciously.  Plus, I like reading what might be called "geek history," histories of science, technology, medicine...epidemics.  And I read obsessively.

     So I have been around.  I know bullshit when I encounter it.  Large numbers don't impress me.  I have some idea of the technological path the human race has taken to get where we are today.  No "genetic virology" required.

     With that out of the way, I'm going to do some link-heavy 'splainin'.  The links are to sources I believe to be relatively unbiased.  None of them are to commentary-heavy sites, either Left or Right.  As much as I am able to do so, they are to factual data and solid sources.  Or at least they link to good sources themselves.

     Let's dig in.  The chickenshit† propagandists of vaccine hesitancy‡ are very fond of using VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a joint data-gathering venture of CDC and FDA.  They take reports, and present the raw data; as I write, over 195 million Americans are fully vaccinated, just over 59% of us.  It's a huge pool and some of them were going to die, for a huge number of reasons, with or without the vaccine.  (Excess mortality graphs comparing year-to-year or year-to-average are useful for understanding this.)  Or as they tell us, "When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event."  It's raw data, and has to be sifted by persons with actual medical training.  If a site is just crunching the numbers, it's still raw data.  VAERS-reported deaths (and other negative outcomes) are not necessarily caused by vaccination; to date, there are five deaths definitely known to have resulted from vaccination.

     On Facebook, I pointed out to a vaccine skeptic that the vaccine was "safer than driving on the roads."  I tend to challenge people to cite sources there, too, and he fed me a dose of my own medicine:  "Prove it!"

     I would not have made the claim if I weren't just about certain it was true.  I used Wikipedia for the traffic death rate; for this kind of thing, their numbers trace back to dependable sources. U. S. traffic death rates have been declining in recent years. Taking the U.S. traffic death rate per 100,000 people per year gives us a higher rate than picking the most recent year, and it's 12.4 deaths per 100k.

     To be fair, I started with raw VAERS death reports, even though health care providers are required to report any adverse event after vaccination, no matter the probable cause. The Nebraska Med article gives 14,506 deaths as of 2 Nov 2021, with about 223 million total vaccinations, of which 193.5 million count as fully vaccinated. That works out to 6.5 deaths per 100k in the vaccinated population, and 7.5 deaths per 100k in the fully vaccinated pool.

     Rates worked out as (14506/[223*10^6])*100000 and so on -- my arithmetic could be in error but I don't think so. Those are absolute worst-case numbers. There's no need to go any farther: it's already safer to get vaccinated than to drive (or ride in a car).

     The actual number of genuine vaccine-caused deaths will be somewhere between 5 and 14,506.  Taking the very worst-case numbers for the vaccine, it's still a bit over 1.65 times more dangerous to go driving than to get the full-course COVID-19 vaccine.

     So, my ever-so-cautious vaccine-refusal propagandists, let me ask you a question: do you drive?  Do you ride in cars?   On the public roads?  My heavens!  The risk!
* Blogger's comment window supports simple html, using I and /I for Italics on and off, B for bold and U for underline.  You tell the text editor it is a command by enclosing the letter or /letter in angle brackets, the "less than"/"greater than" symbols above the comma and full stop.  All caps is "shouting" in text and when used frequently, it's essentially an attempt at brow-beating.  I react poorly to this.  Very poorly indeed.  Ask my EE profs, who kept on having to have those three-significant-digit-answers for so long, no matter how loudly they shouted.  Most frickin' electronic component values are only within ten or twenty percent, after all.
† Keep telling me all about the risks of the coronavirus vaccines using the most ooga-boogiest of boogyman-type tales, and it's pretty obvious the real problem here is that you are scared -- and scared of being snickered at over it unless you can get enough other people to go along.
‡ Nevertheless, I don't give a flip if you, personally and individually, get the COVID-19 shot.  Do or do not.  It's the BS-based fear-mongering and trying to talk others out of getting their shots that irks me.  Vaccines only help get a disease under control if sufficient of us get them.  True of measles, true of polio, true of smallpox, true of SARS-CoV-2


Comrade Misfit said...

I was finishing college when electronic calculators became common, so I was well-versed in using slide rules and scientific notation. I took a 100-level astronomy course my last semester. The juniors and seniors in the class were using slide rules, the freshmen were using calculators. Those with slide rules far surpassed those with calculators, because we had to know what we were doing, as opposed to just mindlessly punching in numbers.

Going away from slide rules dumbed down the population. (Yes, I still have my Pickett,)

JustMusing said...

Vaccines versus Driving; This is just my experience after having had a course of 2 +1 Pfizer injections and dealing with increasing traffic over the last year.

No significant issues other injection site soreness and a little fatigue. Same for other family members. Fortunately we haven't had to test efficacy, but I have no doubt it will provide protection if pathogen contact occurs, in spite of masks and quarantine.

I have been driving in Oregon several days a week for the last several years. Traffic disappeared during lockdowns and it was much more pleasant to be on the road without traffic light runners, tailgaters, speeders weaving through multilane traffic, and the occasional impaired/distracted driver. It's almost needless to say I felt much more at more risk than when traffic was isolated to a few folks on the road.

As traffic has increased over the last 6 months with drivers who have not been behind the wheel for a year or more, I feel doubly at risk. Bad behavior has become much more prevalent and driving skills are rusty. So I've switched up driving hours to miss rush hour traffic and avoid the higher risk times. Even so, I've seen a number of multi-car chain reaction pile ups that could have been avoided by some common sense and understanding of simple physics.

I guess raging against vaccines and masks or driving without regard to others safety can make some folks feel good, but either will get you and others just as dead.

I should probably just retire again and avoid the entire mess.