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Life (and death) after Covid in five graphs

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The Covid-19 epidemic has left a legacy of excess deaths around the world—but nobody seems to be investigating the problem, says Bryan Hubbard

The Covid-19 epidemic may be behind us, but it’s left a worrying trend of excess deaths.  Strangely, there have been more excess deaths since July 2021 than in the whole of 2020, when Covid was at its deadliest peak.

It could be argued that we’re seeing the legacy from a deadly virus—except that the excess death rate is disproportionately among the young, and it’s a phenomenon that’s being seen around the world.

Excess deaths are calculated in various ways. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) uses deaths from 2015 to 2019 as a baseline, and the UK government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) uses a similar model.  Strangely, the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) includes deaths in 2021—which includes Covid deaths—as part of its baseline calculation.

Although the proportion of excess deaths is highest among the young, the true extent is likely to be worse still. A young death is suspicious and is investigated, and it can be many months before the death is registered and becomes another statistic.

Excess deaths in the young: We already know there were nearly two extra deaths a day in the second half of 2021 among 15- to 19-year-old males, but it may be even more if those referred to the coroner were fully included.

Excess deaths in the elderly: Among those over age 85, there were 8,000 excess deaths—4 percent above the expected levels—for the 12 months starting in July 2020. That number includes the Covid wave in autumn that year, according to the OHID. For the year starting July 2022, there were more than 18,000 excess deaths—9 percent above expected levels.

Excess deaths in the middle-aged: There were just over 14,000 excess deaths in those under age 65 from April 2020 to the end of March 2021. However, since that time, there have been more than 21,000 excess deaths, ignoring the registration delay problem, and the majority of those deaths—58 percent—were not attributed to Covid.

Causes of death: Since 2022, there has been an 11 percent excess in ischemic heart disease deaths and a 16 percent excess in heart failure deaths. Cancer deaths are only 1 percent above expected levels.

Dr Clare Craig from the UK’s Health Advisory & Recovery Team (HART) first highlighted a stepwise increase in cardiac arrest calls after the vaccine rollout in May 2021. Four participants in the vaccine group of the Pfizer trial died from cardiac arrest compared with only one in the placebo group. Overall, there were 21 deaths in the vaccine group up to March 2021, compared with 17 in the placebo group.

The state of South Australia had only 1,000 cases of Covid across its whole population by December 2021, before the Omicron variant arrived. But once the population was vaccinated, there were 1,300 emergency cardiac presentations a month among 15- to 44-year-olds. Among the under-50s, there were 2,172 cases in November 2021, which was 67 percent more than usual. Overall, 17,900 South Australians had a cardiac emergency in 2021 compared with only 13,250 in 2018, a 35 percent increase.

Are the Covid vaccines to blame for the excess deaths? We can’t be sure, especially as the vaccine rollout was so successful, with up to 93 percent of populations being vaccinated.  Because of this, scientists can cite correlation rather than causation.

But the fact that the excess death rate is not even being investigated is nothing short of a national, and international, scandal, says UK MP Andrew Bridgen, who presented the figures to the House of Parliament last October.

“No one seems to care,” he told the House. “I fear that history will not judge us kindly. Nothing could be more serious. Numerous countries are currently gripped by a period of unexpected mortality, and no one wants to talk about it.”

References
  1. HART Group, “Trends in Excess Deaths, 20th October 2023,” Oct 21, 2023, hartgroup.org
  2. HART Group, “Updated Analysis of Deaths in Males 15–19 Years of Age,” July 8, 2022, hartgroup.org
JAN24
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