By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
A new Yale University School of Public Health study of excess death rates during the COVID-19 pandemic found “substantially higher” death rates among registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats.
Almost all the difference was “concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available.”
“Overall, the excess death rate for Republicans was 5.4 percentage points (pp), or 76 percent higher than the excess death rate for Democrats. Post-vaccines, the excess death rate gap between Republicans and Democrats widened from 1.6 pp (22% of the Democrat excess death rate) to 10.4 pp (153% of the Democrat excess death rate.),” says the study’s abstract. “The gap in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats is concentrated in counties with low vaccination rates and only materializes after vaccines became widely available.”
The study, using data from Florida and Ohio, the only two states from which voter registration information could be obtained, was begun after political affiliation “emerged as one potentially significant risk factor, amid evidence that Republican-leaning counties have had higher COVID-19 death rates than Democrat-leaning counties,” the non-peer reviewed study says.
DEATH AND DESANTIS
Published late last month by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research seeking comment and discussion, the study attempts to drill down to the individual level. No persons are named, no fingers pointed. Yet it serves as a tacit indictment of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s well-publicized anti-vaccine campaign – a campaign the study by the governor’s alma mater suggests was paid for in blood, more frequently by members of his own political party.
“Overall, our results suggest that political party affiliation only became a substantial risk factor in Ohio and Florida after vaccines were widely available,” wrote study authors Jacob Wallace, Jason L. Schwartz and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham. “Lack of individual-level vaccination status limits our ability to draw broad conclusions, but the results suggest that the well-documented differences in vaccination attitudes and reported uptake between Republicans and Democrats have already had serious consequences for the severity and trajectory of the pandemic in the United States.
“If these differences in vaccination by political party affiliation persist, then the higher excess death rate among Republicans is likely to continue through the subsequent stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study concludes.
The Yale study follows research released by Brown University’s School of Public Health in May that found Florida had more vaccine-preventable deaths, 29,200, than every state except Texas, 29,773.
The Brown study found Ohio had the fourth-most vaccine-preventable deaths, 15,875.
DESANTIS, DEWINE CONTRASTED
After initially promoting coronavirus vaccines early last year, DeSantis made an apparent personal political calculation that soon saw him become a darling of the anti-vax crowd. Under the banner of ‘protecting Florida jobs,’ DeSantis obtained from the Republican-dominated Legislature and then signed into law measures that prohibited private employers from requiring their employees to obtain COVID-19 vaccines or face heavy fines; blocked local governments and “educational institutions” from requiring vaccines; barred school districts from having face mask policies or quarantining “healthy” students; and allowed students and parents to sue “violating” school districts.
In contrast, Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, relied heavily – and publicly – on public health experts for how to address COVID-19 in his state. DeWine has also used the Ohio National Guard and Ohio’s State Defense Force across the state to augment testing facilities and nonclinical hospital support.
In September 2021, DeSantis appointed vaccine skeptic Dr. Joseph Ladapo as Florida’s Surgeon General. Ladapo, who has promoted two “treatments’’ the FDA has said should not be given to COVID patients – ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine – has embraced and sought to justify the governor’s political positions.
For example, two days after taking office, Ladapo issued a rule that removed quarantine and mask decisions from school officials and gave them to parents. In February, DeSantis issued a press release and video titled “Buck the CDC” (Centers for Disease Control) in which he and Ladapo continued to push back “on unscientific corporate masking” and offering other recommendations to physicians as to how they should deal with their patients.
Ladapo used his prestigious perch again on Oct. 7 to issue his own controversial “guidance” about the safety of Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines used by both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines based on an “analysis” by authors who are not identified by name or affiliation. Ladapo said the non-peer reviewed study found “an 84 percent increase in the relative incidence of cardia-related deaths among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination” and he recommended individuals in that age group not take the vaccine.
LADAPO UNDER FIRE
It didn’t take long for Ladapo to take heavy fire. Florida Politics on Oct. 9: Twitter flags anti-vaccine guidance from Joseph Ladapo as misinformation.Here’s an Oct. 10 story from the Tampa Bay Times: “Scientists question Florida’s advice against COVID mRNA vaccines for some men”. Oct. 11 from Politico: Medical experts reject Florida surgeon general’s Covid-19 vaccine guidance
Here’s what the CDC said in March about the efficacy of those mRNA vaccines. “Receiving 2 or 3 doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine was associated with a 90% reduction in risk for COVID-19 – associated IMV (invasive mechanical ventilation) or death. Protection of 3 mRNA vaccine doses during the period of Omicron predominance was 94%.”
The Yale University School of Public Health’s study of the political risk factors of dying from COVID-19 focused on excess death rates. Excess deaths are those above the expected deaths due to seasonality, geographic location, party affiliation and age.
To calculate those rates, the study says it used 577,659 deaths of individuals linked to their 2017 voting records in Ohio and Florida who died at age 25 or older between January 2018 and December 2021. Excess death rates are the percentage increases in deaths above the expected.
The study report notes that from 2018 to the first months of 2020, excess death rates for Republicans and Democrats were “similar and centered around zero. Both groups experienced a similar large spike in excess deaths in the winter of 2020-2021. However, in the summer of 2021 – after vaccines were widely available – the Republican excess death rate rose to nearly double that of Democrats, and this gap widened further in the winter of 2021.”
The study’s authors noted three limitations, including having no data about an individual’s vaccination status and incomplete mortality data. “While detailed and recent, it only includes approximately 80 percent of deaths in the US. However, excess death patterns in our data are similar to those in other reliable sources.”
“Third, our study is based on data from the only states where we could obtain voter registration information (Florida and Ohio); hence, our results may not generalize to other states,” the study says.