Can you spot the countries with high vaccinations? Or recent lockdowns?

I am all for effective vaccines and have been impressed with how fast vaccines have been developed against covid, but I never expected them to be the wonder weapons some promised them to be. After all, the yearly new vaccines against the flu never eradicated the flu but reduced their death toll, which is of course still a good thing but not a ‘final victory’. Gradually, the limitations of the covid-vaccines and the negative side-effects are starting to dawn on many.

To help the reader test herself on whether the vaccines are an immediate game-changer, find below the graphs on covid-deaths for four countries over the last three months. Two of these countries are in the high-vaccination group of countries with large roll-outs among the vulnerable starting before 2021, whilst two other countries are in the lagging group. All four countries participate in Eurovision. Try and put these countries into the right ‘vaccination order’ without cheating …


While we are at it, have a guess which of these countries introduced new lockdowns and when, or which ones changed regulations on mask wearing and when? If such policies have the clear effects politicians claim for them when they announce them, it should be easy to work out what policies were implemented and when from such graphs, even allowing for whatever lag you think is appropriate.

Think of what these limitations mean for what will inevitably happen if Australia opens up fully again. A stark choice awaits….

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12 Responses to Can you spot the countries with high vaccinations? Or recent lockdowns?

  1. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    on studies of lockdowns Andrew Gelman right on queue. comments are good too.

  2. Conrad says:

    Since the vaccines take a few weeks to get to full efficacy after you have had them twice across a month and most countries haven’t even started, it isn’t clear to me that it is useful to look at the results at this time. Even Israel, where they have been able to do things quickly and people seem sensible enough to want them, hasn’t given people the two doses they need to get high efficacy with the current vaccines. Things like death rates would also accumulate in many places like the UK even if 100% of the population was vaccinated tomorrow because you have a large group of people already with the virus and symptoms, some of whom will die and this is quite a drawn out process. So this reminds me of the now falsified predictions of death rates in Euroland and other places that many people made before this Winter (or Summer here). Waiting a month or two more clearly changed the story.

    To me the biggest current limitation is there is no vaccine for children, so there is no hope of herd immunity as children will be running around spreading it to each other and anyone else not vaccinated — but at an individual level they are clearly worth having. Ethically, it will be interesting to see if countries are willing to give children a vaccine even if one gets through testing, because if children below a certain age show no symptoms or only very minor ones, the vaccine is clearly of no benefit to them, and so at the individual level it wouldn’t pass the harm/benefit trade-off.

  3. derrida derider says:

    Oh for goodness sake, Paul. Of course there will at this early stage be a large positve correlation between national rates of vaccination and incidence of coronavirus – because those countries with a high incidence of coronavirus were the most desperate to start immunising.

    Pretty elementary, mate.

  4. John Goss says:

    Here are some promising numbers from Israel relating to vaccination of those 65+ in the period Dec 19-24 ‘showing an ~2/3 reduction in cases ~21 days after the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine’. It will be interesting to see the final real world numbers.

  5. John Goss says:

    Speaking of promising numbers, the ABS provisional mortality data is showing a 10.0% reduction in the age standardised mortality rate for the period 3 March to 27 October 2020 as compared to the same period for the average of the years 2015 to 2019.
    (See sheet Table 2.1 in workbook Provisional Mortality Statistics Jan- Oct 2020 with SDRs These numbers represent at least a 1 year improvement in Life Expectancy if they are maintained for the full year.
    I wonder how long it will take for these very good numbers to percolate through to improved subjective well-being numbers.

    • I am always Not Trampis says:

      you do realise we did not have a flu season because of social distancing and
      working from home

      • John Goss says:

        Actually its more interesting than just the things you mentioned. Flu and other respiratory disease infections have reduced dramatically because of social distancing and working from home, but the elimination of flu and zero flu deaths for the 5 months to October is partly due to the effectiveness of alcohol in santisers in knocking off the flu virus. And heart disease and stroke deaths are also down significantly for reasons that are not clear. The reduction has mostly been in the winter peak of cardiovascular deaths, so its probable that the reduction in respiratory infections has reduced the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease. We won’t know for sure until we get the multiple cause of death data from the ABS.

  6. paul frijters says:

    [4 days on]
    Above of course the predictable ‘just wait, its coming’ mantra on the effects of vaccines, just as we had for lockdowns and other measures. I am glad a few commenters put these on the record because we will then be able to compare again in a week’s time and have a clearer line-up of expectations and outcomes. I personally, btw, do expect some clear death-reduction effect of vaccines, but not so dramatic that it would be all that obvious. Its not obvious now, 4 days later.

    I do note no commenter tried to guess when lockdowns or mask policies were introduced/changed in the countries above, which is for the better because its a fairly hopeless task.

    • Conrad says:

      It’s a biased question, because you’re saying “predict this in a myriad of different factors, some of which, like the change of seasons, clearly have massive effects”. How about: are there any cases where coronavirus cases didn’t drop after a population was strictly locked down for 10 weeks? I can’t think of any. That’s not necessarily entirely obvious, because one can imagine spreading via water contamination, air-conditioning etc. Of course, one wishes you could predict the first, in which case governments wanting to reduce coronavirus may in some cases need to do very little when instead they lock people up (so people should really think about things like changes of season). Aternatively going in hard early rather than waiting may be less costly as, say, Melbourne vs. London appeared to show.

      As for predicting the effect of the vaccinations, it’s very difficult at the population level because you need predict to how very inefficient governments work (good luck), social characteristics of the population, age of the population, the ability to get vaccinations etc. . All of these differ across countries and in many places states in countries.

      Of course, I’m willing to predict that of those that get vaccinated, the results will be more less what the test trials show (excluding Chinese vaccines where I wouldn’t believe the results). That’s of course obvious.

      However, I’m also willing to predict that because the virus is very contagious compared to many others, the proportion of people that get it and the effects they have after controlling for demographics will be very similar. Thus, I don’t think we’ll get herd immunity in many places especially because, as noted above, there are going to be lots of children spreading it. This is why I think some governments are now trying to temper people’s expectations — not just to try and get vaccination rates high.

      • paul frijters says:

        “predict this in a myriad of different factors, some of which, like the change of seasons, clearly have massive effects”
        yes, that was indeed one of the points I was making. Glad to see it was understood! It is important to note those things because governments have been portraying vaccines as the wonder weapon.

        And yes, as I say in the post, I too expect vaccines to make some difference, though the reports are already coming in how vaccines might be less effective than hoped for.

        • paul walter says:

          Of course, Paul Frijters… all that hard sell from a notorious sector, “ethical” pharma”.

          The only thing that would have surprised me would have been if there HADNT been the series of production and distribution stuff ups.

          They had at least a small window of opportunity for remedying faults before this rollout began.

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