New Review Claims COVID Deaths Were “Over-Counted” In Several Countries, Undercounted In Others

Visualization Of The Covid-19 Virus (Corona)

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A recent paper published in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggests that in many countries, COVID deaths have been over reported while in others, they may have been underreported.

  • Reflect On:
    • The over reporting of deaths was a common theme throughout the pandemic, so why was it never acknowledged within the mainstream?

    • Why was only underreporting only acknowledged?

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How many people have died as a result of COVID? It’s hard to say, and a recent paper published in the European Journal of Epidemiology by John Ioannidis from Stanford Medical school explains why.

The study claims that over-counting of deaths probably occurred in several countries, and is most likely still occurring, specifically in countries with “intensive testing and high sensitization and/or incentives for COVID-19 diagnoses.” On the other side of the coin, in other places, like Africa for example, there has been apparent underreporting.

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This was a big issue throughout the pandemic, with claims of over-reporting of deaths being fact-checked, supposedly debunked, and labelled a conspiracy theory. The CDC has been mentioning underreporting throughout this pandemic, claiming that it’s been an issue with no mention of the possibility of over reporting.

The paper also points out that death attribution in the case of COVID needs “great caution”, and that excess deaths estimates are subjected to a substantial amount of variability and also include indirect effects of the pandemic as well as the effects of measures taken.

Take lockdowns for example, some researchers have shown that lockdown measures resulted in more deaths than the actual pandemic it self. The consequences of government-enforced lockdowns killed more Canadians under the age of 65 than the COVID-19 virus itself, according to a report by Statistics Canada. Of course, one could argue that without lockdowns, deaths would be higher, which may be true, but what is being pointed to hear is that the measures we took have been quite lethal.

Professor Anna-Mia Ekström and Professor Stefan Swartling Peterson from Sweden examined data from UNICEF and UNAIDS and came to the conclusion that least as many people have died as a result of the restrictions to fight COVID as have died of COVID.

The study also points out that death certificates, even prior to COVID, have been known to be error prone. Add in a pandemic with unclear guidelines for what a COVID death is, and the problem worsens.

There are many variables at play here, but the idea that deaths may be over-counted in some countries is not novel, and we’ve seen many examples throughout this pandemic that have caused even more confusion.

In Peru, the official death toll was revised in June from 69, 342 to 185 380, after a scientific review of medical records was ordered by the government. The new count included deaths with no testing, or negative testing.

In June of 2020, Toronto (Canada) Public Health tweeted that “Individuals who have died with COVID-19, but not as a result of COVID-19 are included in the case counts for COVID-19 deaths in Toronto.” In fact, Ontario (Canada) public health clearly states (footnote #7) that deaths will be marked as COVID deaths whether or not it’s clear if COVID was the cause or contributed to the death. 

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, pointed out that all people who pass away and test positive for COVID-19, regardless of the cause of death, means that the death will be marked as a COVID-19 death.

“If you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live and then you were also found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death, despite if you died of a clear alternative cause it’s still listed as a COVID death. So, everyone who is listed as a COVID death, that doesn’t mean that was the cause of the death, but they had COVID at the time of death.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike

Furthermore, how COVID-19 deaths are defined is not standard across countries, and the study points out that COVID-19 is a “syndemic” where most deaths occur in people with several underlying diseases. 

People < 65 years old without underlying predisposing conditions accounted for only 0.7-3.6% of all COVID-19 deaths in France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Georgia, and New York City, and 17.7% in Mexico. The author has also calculated the survival rate of COVID in most people under 65 to be nearly 100 percent.

So, exactly how many people have died from COVID? We don’t really know. In some regions it could be more than what’s being reported, and in others it could be less. What’s discouraging is that the mainstream, from the very beginning, failed to have meaningful discussion regarding over-reported deaths and simply pushed the idea that most counts have been under counted. This is not an accurate examination of all of the information and data that’s available out there. Which led to an uninformed public who did not fully understand the situation at hand.

One thing that’s not questionable, however, is that this pandemic has implicated those who are unhealthy and have underlying medical conditions. It goes to show that our collective health, in general, may be the real pandemic. We’re always searching for quick fixes like prescription medications, with absolutely no focus on lifestyle changes.

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