Vaccination rate and excess mortality: no evidence of link

fact finder

Status: 25.11.2021 09:28 a.m.

A paper distributed in social media is supposed to show that there is a connection between excess mortality and the vaccination rate. However, this claim does not stand up to scrutiny – as the authors agree.

By Wulf Rohwedder, editor at ARD-faktenfinder

“The higher the vaccination rate, the higher the excess mortality” is the title of a paper that Ute Bergner, member of the Thuringian state parliament, presented to state health minister Heike Werner. “My urgent appeal to you: stop exercising unvaccinated pressure! Let the responsible citizens of Thuringia decide whether they want to be vaccinated or not,” said Bergner.

Since then, the paper has been massively advertised on social media, including by ex-constitutional protection chief Hans-Georg Maaßen.

Destatis sees methodological errors

It was written by the two psychologists Rolf Steyer and Gregor Kappler, who evaluated the figures from the Robert Koch Institute and the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).

However, the Federal Statistical Office cannot confirm the interpretation of the paper. “The fact that there is no systematic connection between the vaccination rate and excess mortality can already be seen from the graphic that the researchers created,” explains Felix zur Nieden, an expert on demographics and death rates at the authority ARD fact finder.

The correlation of +0.31 calculated by the authors is also not “astonishingly high”, as the authors claim, but rather a moderate value. “Correlations are also sensitive to ‘outliers’: adding or leaving out a few data points can produce a completely different result.” The weighting of the values ​​according to the population of the individual federal states also ensures that the result depends on a few populous federal states and thus on very few data points.

In addition, the determination of a correlation would only be a first clue, explained to Nieden. This would have to entail further investigations into whether there was an actual direct or indirect causal relationship – a statement that the authors also agree with, but without taking this step so far.

Many important factors hidden

Furthermore, the selection of the investigation period of just five weeks is problematic, especially since it is a phase in which there were comparatively few cases of corona infection. The time correlation and distance between the vaccination rate and immunity was completely ignored in the study, as were effects such as mortality displacement and the different infection rates in the individual federal states.

Mortality Displacement

Mortality Displacement describes the phenomenon that follows a phase with excessive deaths one with a lower rate of motrality. It is triggered, for example, by heat waves, pandemics, natural disasters and wars in which people die prematurely who would otherwise have lived longer. Such a shift in the death rate is also known as the “harvest effect”.

Last but not least, the question arises why the researchers assume that only vaccinations are the cause of the deaths recorded in the excess mortality. The Paul Ehrlich Institute assumes that it will last from the beginning of the vaccination campaign until September possible or probable in only 48 cases is that death was actually due to vaccination.

As for Niedens’ conclusion on the paper, it is correspondingly harsh: “This is not a serious evaluation that you go public with.”

Authors distance themselves from interpretation

The latter also seems to see the authors this way: “On November 16, we wrote a short note for the member of the Thuringian state parliament, Dr. Ute Bergner. The occasion was a current hour of the state parliament on corona policy,” they explain . The report was intended solely for this purpose and should give rise to further discussion and analysis.

“We did not authorize or even arrange for the note to be distributed or passed on on the Internet or social media. To clarify: The note is neither a scientific publication nor a well-founded scientific study that meets our own quality standards”, it continues.

No evidence of connection

The note in no way proves that an increased vaccination rate leads to an increased likelihood of death, explains co-author Steyer ARD fact finder. “We also don’t want it to be misinterpreted as such”. The authors regretted the choice of some words and the headline. “In the public eye it was and is evidently completely wrong (because it is causal)”.

“As far as I know, we didn’t draw any conclusions ourselves,” Steyer continued. With the addition of the data now available, the remaining positive correlation is almost zero. The vaccination as the cause of death is only one of many conceivable hypotheses – several of them could be correct, but: “I do not have the impression that the deaths after vaccination are carefully examined for their causes. At least that is what the reported individual cases suggest to me.”

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