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Commentary: COVID-19 numbers can create public confusion over outcomes for the vaccinated

SINGAPORE: The term “scientific evidence” has become part of our everyday vernacular since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policymakers rely on it when making any decision–whether to promote vaccination amongst older and high-risk individuals, tighten or ease COVID-19 safety measures or impose requirements on international travellers. The public also makes informed decisions based on it.

But this evidence often comes in the form of numbers, which can be confusing if we don’t fully understand the context and research methodologies. For example, how the data is collected, the sample size and representativeness will affect findings.

Failing to sift through the complexities in data presentation and interpretation may create confusion and give rise to potentially dangerous misinformation.

Up until recent format changes, the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s daily COVID-19 update seemed at first glance to indicate that about half the patients in serious condition – who required oxygen supplementation and ICU care – were fully vaccinated.

If we only look at these numbers, we might be tempted to conclude that the chance of serious illness for vaccinated individuals is about the same as getting a heads or tails in a coin flip.

Then it should not come as a surprise that some people are confused about the value of vaccination for avoiding serious COVID-19 complications.

UNDERSTANDING REAL RISK REQUIRES A FULLER PICTURE

However, to compare the real risk of a bad outcome between the vaccinated group and the unvaccinated, we must know how many people were exposed to risk in each group – in this case, this refers to how many people are vaccinated and how many are not.

A picture may help. What we observed in daily updates only captures the top half: The absolute number of people requiring ICU care or requiring oxygen supplementation.

The bottom half is the rest of the story: The number of people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, exposed to COVID-19 infection.

Commentary: COVID-19 numbers can create public confusion over outcomes for the vaccinated Source link Commentary: COVID-19 numbers can create public confusion over outcomes for the vaccinated

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