The mistake of politicizing a pandemic » Tech T100

IMAGE: Hakan German - Pixabay (CC0)

My column in Invertia this week was originally titled «The mistake of politicizing a pandemic» (pdf), and tries to test some hypotheses that the development of the pandemic, which will be two years old in March statement by the World Health Organization, seems to be making it quite clear, as well as underlining the mistake of allowing a politicization of issues that should never be political, but simply scientific.

If we go back in history to previous pandemics, the evolution of the current one seems to follow similar paths: a strong initial mortality, followed by phases in which the population acquires immunity through various means, and a final phase in which the pandemic goes yielding to become an endemic disease generally with more moderate consequences.

At this point in the pandemic, therefore, and with an incidence that increasingly tends to represent more and more the fact that those affected have to spend a week in confinement at home, the variable that is really interesting to analyze is not that but relative mortality.

And in this case, what can be clearly observed is the marked difference in the mortality of the disease from the moment in which the vaccination campaigns reach a high percentage. The difference is particularly noticeable In cases like the United States, where if we look at the states in which vaccination has been more widespread versus those in which it has not been as successful, important percentage differences in relative mortality rates can be seen. If we observe the evolution of the relative mortality in three states with successful vaccination campaigns (California, Columbia and Maryland) compared to three others that are significantly more reluctant to do so (Wyoming, West Virginia and Oklahoma), we can see significant differences in the evolution of relative mortality, which also become visible in the time series from the moment in which vaccination begins to advance.

But what is truly shocking is to see to what extent the distribution of the administration of vaccines match with the political color of the state in question: The states with a more Democratic tendency in the last presidential elections tend to be more accepting of the idea of ​​vaccination, while the more Republican ones are usually more resistant. The difference, which can be clearly appreciated by anyone who follows American news, reaches the point that even the very Donald Trump was booed by his supporters when he confessed to receiving his third dose. In practice, this politicization of vaccines could even have an effect on the political map: Republicans, due to a strong politicization of the pandemic, tend to get less vaccinated and, therefore, have comparatively higher mortality rates than Republicans. those of the Democrats.

In the case of Spain, one of the countries in the world with the most successful vaccination campaigns, the longitudinal observation is the truly interesting one: although the country occupied the highest places in the sinister ranking of relative mortality throughout the beginning of the pandemic, despite having a high-quality health system with universal coverage, that position it has been giving way to a much more reasonable place (38th in the world) as the vaccination campaigns have progressed. If we look at the evolution of the Eastern European countries, for example, the trend is exactly the opposite: now, the places with the highest relative mortality in Europe – and in the world – are busy by countries such as Bulgaria, Bosnia, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Romania, with significantly lower vaccination rates.

Obviously, there are factors with contributions that are difficult to measure and that also seem to play an important role: in addition to the aforementioned quality of the health system, there is clearly a climatic variable that influences the spread by forcing the population of certain countries to stay in indoors during certain parts of the year. But without a doubt, at this point and with the data we have, it is becoming increasingly clear that the variable that most influences mortality caused by the pandemic is the evolution of vaccination campaigns.

From there, one wonders about the effect of politicization on denialism: in Spain, the percentage of people who refuse to receive the vaccine is only around 5%, but they are the ones who tend to feed, obviously in percentage terms, hospital admissions and mortality. But where we can really observe this effect is in countries with higher percentages of denialism, which have gone from relatively modest mortality figures at the beginning of the pandemic, to much more severe ones in its current segment.

Anyone who wants to ask about the real constituents of denialism: fear, insecurity and ignorance, or politicization, social pressure and absurd conspiracy theories. But data is data.

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