Archive for United Kingdom

COVID by numbers [not a book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2021 by xi'an

David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters have made a book out of their COVID related columns in The Observer. Here are ten key figures extracted from that book:

  1. The UK was hit by more than 1,000 separate outbreaks (…) [with] far more imports of Sars-CoV-2 from France, Italy and Spain than from China
  2. Reported Covid deaths depend on the day of the week (due to delayed reporting, and a weekend effect, but smoothing is very rarely applied)
  3. In the first year of Covid, over-90s had 35,000 times the risk of dying of Covid-19 as young children (with no relevance of the figure per se since an extra death of a young child would have moved it from 35,000 to 32,000, since there were thankfully so few deaths of young children)
  4. 2020 saw the highest number of deaths since 1918 in England and Wales (even when correcting for population increase or population ageing)
  5. The UK has led the World in testing Covid treatments (like dexamethasone and hydroxychloroquine, thanks to the centralised NHS, making me wonder why France with another centralised and public health structure was not able to do the same)
  6. People who have died with Covid have on average lost about 10 years of life (contrary to the authors’ intial hunch, and mine as well, to oppose to the less relevant loss of life expectancy across the entire population)
  7. Most people died “of” Covid rather than “with” it, but most have also had other medical conditions (with 91% of pre-COVID conditions)
  8. Alcohol consumption stayed the same during lockdown (which came as a surprise, given the general feeling for the opposite, and still as a worrying indicator of alcoholism)
  9. Most people with Sars-CoV-2 don’t infect anyone (which would need more details, as the figure should be weighted by the base probability to infect someone)
  10. The pandemic has been a net lifesaver for young people (with 300 fewer deaths for 15-29 year old, but it also has had a potentially negative impact on their life expectancy).

Bayesians at the helm!

Posted in pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2021 by xi'an

Just read the announcement that my friend (and former colleague at Warwick U) Mark Girolami became the Chief Scientist at The Alan Turing Institute, joining forces with Adrian Smith, currently Director and Chief Executive of the Turing Institute, into a Bayesian leadership!

ten recommendations from the RSS

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2021 by xi'an

‘Statistics have been crucial both to our understanding of the pandemic and to our efforts to fight it. While we hope we won’t see another pandemic on this scale, we need to see a culture change now – with more transparency around data and evidence, stronger mechanisms to challenge the misuse of statistics, and leaders with statistical skills.’

  • Invest in public health data – which should be regarded as critical national infrastructure and a full review of health data should be conducted
  • Publish evidence – all evidence considered by governments and their advisers must be published in a timely and accessible manner
  • Be clear and open about data – government should invest in a central portal, from which the different sources of official data, analysis protocols and up-to-date results can be found
  • Challenge the misuse of statistics – the Office for Statistics Regulation should have its funding augmented so it can better hold the government to account
  • The media needs to step up its responsibilities – government should support media institutions that invest in specialist scientific and medical reporting
  • Build decision makers’ statistical skills – politicians and senior officials should seek out statistical training
  • Build an effective infectious disease surveillance system to monitor the spread of disease – the government should ensure that a real-time surveillance system is ready for future pandemics
  • Increase scrutiny and openness for new diagnostic tests – similar steps to those adopted for vaccine and pharmaceutical evaluation should be followed for diagnostic tests
  • Health data is incomplete without social care data – improving social care data should be a central part of any review of UK health data
  • Evaluation should be put at the heart of policy – efficient evaluations or experiments should be incorporated into any intervention from the start.

on Astra and clots

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2021 by xi'an

A tribune this morning in The Guardian by David Spiegelhalter on having no evidence that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots.

“It’s a common human tendency to attribute a causal effect between different events, even when there isn’t one present: we wash the car and the next day a bird relieves itself all over the bonnet. Typical.”

David sets the 30 throboembolic events among the 5 million people vaccinated with AstraZeneca in perpective of the expected 100 deep vein thromboses a week within such a population. Which coincides with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency statement that the blood clots are in par with the expected numbers in the vaccinated population. (The part of the tribune about the yellow card reports, based on 10 million vaccinated people, reiterates the remark but may prove confusing to some!) As for hoping for a rational approach to the issue,  … we would need a different type of vaccine, far from being available! As demonstrated by the decision to temporarily stop vaccinating with this vaccine, causing sure additional deaths in the coming weeks.

“Will we ever be able to resist the urge to find causal relationships between different events? One way of doing this would be promoting the scientific method and ensuring everyone understands this basic principle. Testing a hypothesis helps us see which hunches or assumptions are correct and which aren’t. In this way, randomised trials have proved the effectiveness of some Covid treatments and saved vast numbers of lives, while also showing us that some overblown claims about treatments for Covid-19, such as hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, were incorrect.”

a year ago, a world away

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2021 by xi'an

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