A Misleading C.D.C. Number

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/briefing/outdoor-covid-transmission-cdc-number.html

Excerpt:

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines last month for mask wearing, it announced that “less than 10 percent” of Covid-19 transmission was occurring outdoors. Media organizations repeated the statistic, and it quickly became a standard description of the frequency of outdoor transmission.

….

That benchmark “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” as Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews, said. In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation.

Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.

Author(s): David Leonhardt

Publication Date: 11 May 2021

Publication Site: NY Times

The Pandemic Will Likely End In One Of These Four Ways

Link: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/danvergano/coronavirus-pandemic-vaccines-endings?utm_source=digg&amp%3Butm_medium=email

Excerpt:

By June, most US adults get vaccinated. The shots halt the spread of SARS-CoV-2, even the more transmissible variants. And people feel safe shopping, traveling, and visiting each other, almost like they did before the pandemic.

This is the best outcome — and it isn’t completely far-fetched. Half of US adults have received at least one shot. Even with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine paused, more than 3 million shots are being administered a day; at that rate, every adult American could receive one by late June.

Israel offers a glimpse of this future. There, a fast-paced campaign had immunized more than half of the population by mid-April. The results have been striking in the country of 9 million, with new cases falling to around 200 a day, 2% of the January peak. Starting this weekend, an outdoor mask mandate will be lifted.

Author(s): Dan Vergano

Publication Date: 21 April 2021

Publication Site: Buzzfeed News

Vaccine Efficacy and the Immunity Time Spans

Link: https://polimath.substack.com/p/vaccine-efficacy-and-the-immunity

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Let’s refer back to the Pfizer study submitted to the FDA. In that study, 18,555 people were vaccinated and 18,533 people received the placebo injection. In these groups, 7 days after the second dose was administered, we saw that the vaccinated group got infected at only 5% the rate that the placebo group was infected.

Furthermore, this is the number of cases we see over the course of a two month study. So those 9 people out of 18,555 were not symptomatic and infectious that whole time, but only for a few weeks.

So, to take CNN’s example and re-imagine it for the reality we have with this data.

Let’s say 1 million people are travelling. If everyone is unvaccinated (and the window of infection is roughly one week), there will be about 1,100 infected travelers.

If, however, everyone is vaccinated, there will be about 60 infected travelers and their chance of infecting you (my dear vaccinated friend) is reduced substantially.

Author(s): PoliMath

Publication Date: 13 April 2021

Publication Site: Marginally Compelling on substack

J&J Covid-19 Vaccine Pause Driven by Risk of Mistreating Blood Clots

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/j-j-covid-19-vaccine-was-paused-over-blood-clot-treatment-concerns-11618777554

Excerpt:

U.S. health authorities came close to simply warning about a blood-clotting risk from Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, but they decided to recommend pausing use out of concern doctors would improperly treat the condition, people familiar with the matter said.

Over the previous four weeks, U.S. health officials had become alarmed about similar blood-clotting conditions in Europe involving a Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca PLC, the people said. The officials dug into a U.S. vaccine safety database and identified the cases of great concern, but they debated what action to take.

By the night of April 12, the officials resolved that urgent action was needed, the people said. Four of six women in the U.S. who developed the clots days after vaccination had initially been given blood thinner heparin, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its use could have worsened the patients’ condition, the people said.

Author(s): Thomas M. Burton and Betsy McKay

Publication Date: 18 April 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Blood clots as prevalent with Pfizer and Moderna vaccine as with AstraZeneca’s: study

Link: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/blood-clots-as-prevalent-with-pfizer-and-moderna-vaccine-as-with-astrazenecas-report-2021-04-15

Excerpt:

study by Oxford University found the number of people who receive blood clots after getting vaccinated with a coronavirus vaccine are about the same for those who get Pfizer PFE, 2.43% and Moderna MRNA, 6.67% vaccines as they are for the AstraZeneca AZN, -0.16% vaccine that was produced with the university’s help. According to the study, 4 in 1 million people experience cerebral venous thrombosis after getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, versus 5 in 1 million people for the AstraZeneca vaccine. The risk of getting CVT is much higher for those who get COVID-19 — 39 in a million patients — than it is for those who get vaccinated. AstraZeneca’s vaccine use has been halted or limited in many countries on blood clot concerns.

Author(s): Steve Goldstein

Publication Date: 15 April 2021

Publication Site: Marketwatch

Covid 4/9: Another Vaccine Passport Objection

Graphic:

Excerpt:

I haven’t said this explicitly in a while, so it’s worth saying it again: If you are not vaccinated, the current level of risk out there is much higher than the graphs and charts naively imply. On top of that, the cost of getting Covid now is much higher than it was earlier, both because the new dominant strain is deadlier, and also because the main benefit of getting infected – that you can’t get infected again – no longer matters much since you’ll have vaccine access soon either way and things aren’t so bad out there that prevention is hopeless. You won’t even be able to skip the vaccine, due to people requiring it (plus it’s a good idea anyway, since the cost is trivial).

Not only have we vaccinated over a quarter of the population, and given one dose to over a third of the population, we’ve done so with an emphasis on those most at risk.

That means that if you’re in the remaining two thirds, not only is your risk a third higher than it looks (e.g. almost all the infections will happen to unvaccinated people) but also the risk of death is more than double what it appears, as those at risk have largely been vaccinated early.

Author(s): TheZvi

Publication Date: 9 April 2021

Publication Site: TheZvi

Rational Ignorance and the Protection Gap: Is There a Cure?

Link: https://www.soa.org/sections/reinsurance/reinsurance-newsletter/2021/march/rsn-2021-03-poon-affat/

Excerpt:

The phrase “coverage gap,” heard often from life insurance company executives, is defined as  “the shortfall in the amount of life insurance cover necessary to maintain the current living standards of dependents.” Life insurance companies devote extraordinary amounts of time, effort, and expense trying to educate underinsured individuals about the need to protect themselves and their families from this gap by buying more cover. Could our industry not be addressing one of the key issues leading to the lack of consumer enthusiasm for our products?

Here’s the issue: insurance products and contracts are not consumer-friendly. To the average person, life and living benefits products are at least as byzantine as Brazil’s political system, and the language of insurance contracts could almost be considered an actual dialect. Insurance is thus fertile ground for the manifestation of rational ignorance among potential customers, who are already known to be more likely to pay attention to information about it if it comes from friends and social media posts. (I pity the buyer researching concepts and options such as pure protection, accumulation, critical illness, disability income, or long-term care.)

Author(s): Ronald Poon-Affat

Publication Date: March 2021

Publication Site: Reinsurance News at the Society of Actuaries

A Primer on Insurance Policies and Genetics

Link: https://www.soa.org/resources/research-reports/2021/primer-ins-policies-genetics/

Full report: https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/resources/research-report/2021/primer-ins-policies-genetics-report.pdf

Graphic:

Excerpt:

A new subset of Somatic non-blueprint information is the growing field of Epigenetics, defined as changes ‘above
the genetics,’ where it has recently been found that lifestyle choices also induce non-heritable physical or chemical
changes directly on a person’s DNA after birth, and can be measured by isolating the DNA and revealing these
features. The U.S. Center for Disease Control states: “Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and
environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes
are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence.” (9)


An example of the latter is a finding that the tips of our chromosomes – called telomeres – can shorten or lengthen
in correlation with health status and ‘biological aging,’ a finding that was the subject of a 2009 Nobel Prize (10). An
additional example of epigenetics is in tobacco use, shown below, and generally discussed at the 2020 SOA Health
Conference by Dr. Brian Chen at this link https://webcasts.soa.org/products/actuarial-innovation-and-technologyupdate-on-recent-research#tab-product_tab_speaker_s.

Author(s): James Timmins

Publication Date: March 2021

Publication Site: Society of Actuaries

Quick-Takes: Mortality Update, Meep’s Math Matters, and a Few Bailout Reactions

Link: https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/quick-takes-mortality-update-meeps

Excerpt:

A few remarks — the total public pension unfunded liability (using the discount rates they themselves use, that is, too high, and thus valuing the unfunded liability too little) is the same size as the full American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — that is, $1.9 trillion.

That is not how much is getting shoveled to the various state and local governments.

Graphic:

Video:

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 21 March 2021

Publication Site: STUMP at Substack

Ethics and use of Data Sources for Underwriting ft. Neil Raden and Kevin Pledge -NSNA(Ep.4)

Video:

Description:

The video features Neil Raden who is the author of ethical use of AI for Actuaries. Alongside him , it features Kevin Pledge who is CEO of Acceptiv , FSA,FIA and chair of Innovation and Research Committee of SOA. We discuss about the issue of ethics and about the use of new data sources in the recent Emerging issues in Underwriting Survey Report by IfOA.

Authors: Harsh Jaitak, Kevin Pledge, Neil Raden

Publication Date: 17 March 2021

Publication Site: TBD Actuarial at YouTube

Pausing AstraZeneca COVID-19 Shots Is a Bad Risk/Benefit Call

Excerpt:

Last week Austria, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland all suspended the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, citing reports of blood clots occurring in a few folks who had been inoculated with it. Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and the Netherlands have now joined them.

“There is no causal effect established or anything like that yet,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin told CNBC, “but as a precautionary move in line with the precautionary principle and in an abundance of caution, our clinical advice was to pause the program whilst the EMA does a review of this.”

The precautionary principle is an ideological construct that eschews risk-benefit evaluations and essentially requires that all new technologies be somehow proved entirely risk-free before they can be used.

Author(s): Ronald Bailey

Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Reason

The Tyranny of Experts

Link: https://tinyletter.com/acs171/letters/known-unknowns-44

Excerpt:

It is a miracle anyone ever listens to us. Honestly, sometimes they shouldn’t. Other than the theory of comparative advantage, I can’t think of any correct economic insights that defy common sense. Economists, or experts in any field, are meant to offer a framework to weigh costs and benefits, help us see risks, and understand how the economy and people respond to shocks and policy. This helps people make choices that are right for them. If someone is pushing something totally counterintuitive, whether in economics or public health, we should be skeptical.
 
The same goes for debt. I heard someone say MMT has become an accepted theory – that is simply not true. And there is nothing new here. If you look at the history of debt cycles and financial crisis, they often featured some convoluted justification for why taking on tons of leverage isn’t so risky after all because this time was different – we are so much more clever now. Guess what, you might use some big words that tell you otherwise, but debt is always risky. Sure, some of the time it works out and juices higher growth, but when it doesn’t, things get really nasty. 

Author(s): Allison Schrager

Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Known Unknowns on TinyLetter