Unpacking the Alleged "Cost of the Unvaccinated"
Learn the rules of the blame game and the threats that go with them
Last week Reuters published Joshua Schneyer’s article “Costs of Going Unvaccinated in America are Mounting for Workers and Companies.”
Let’s review it.
Now is a good time to learn to spot the spinning of narrative, because you can expect to see more articles like this. According to messaging tests conducted by Civis Analytics, “For general messaging targeting all unvaccinated people, focus on protecting children from COVID-19 and on the financial ramifications of contracting the virus.”
The study defines financial cost messages as ones that “reinforce that a severe case of COVID-19 can be expensive and that vaccination can help avoid financial burden.”
So expect to see more of these messages repeated and amplified in mainstream media.
Framing the “vaccine hesitant” as a financial burden is a narrative that’s been floated for years. Essentially, it asserts that people who don’t get vaccinated are responsible for infectious disease outbreaks that would otherwise not occur and that treatment of these diseases, and other repercussions, drain the system.
But is it true?
Let’s review Shneyer’s assertions.
“Vaccine hesitancy likely already accounts for tens of billions of dollars in preventable U.S. hospitalization coast and up to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, say public health experts.”
There’s no source here, as is often the case when you see the word “likely.” This is speculation based on the widely accepted belief that vaccines prevent millions of deaths and hospitalizations from infectious disease (when this assertion is sourced, it’s usually cited to this WHO link, but I can’t find the science). Somehow “correlation is not causation” is always suspended when it comes to this assertion, but we’ll circle back to this it.
The author also fails to examine a bigger picture that demonstrates that Americans have become less healthy despite their increasing dependence on vaccines and pharmaceutical products.
Consider the fact that the Americans spend more on health care than any country in the world, yet are among the unhealthiest. In the U.S. 86% of health care expenditures are attributable to chronic disease. Over 50% of Americans suffer with at least one chronic disease, making a large percentage of them more vulnerable to infectious disease. The steady rise in chronic disease in our country happens to coincide with steep expansion of the CDC recommended vaccination schedule following the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Act.
In other words, the majority of America’s health problems are not problems of the unvaccinated and increasing vaccine uptake has not solved them.
Schneyer goes on to assert:
“For employers, vaccine hesitancy can contribute to short-staffed workplaces. For taxpayers, it could mean a financial drain on programs such as Medicare, which provides healthcare for seniors.”
Essentially, he blames the unvaccinated for the the repercussions of the policies that discriminate against them. He then goes on to compare the unvaccinated to smokers, suggesting that some employers may want to require those who refuse COVID-19 shots to pay higher health premiums.
“Vaccination status and other health risks - such as obesity or smoking - are metrics life insurers can probe when customers seek coverage. Under the U.S. Affordable Care Act, individuals seeking health insurance can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions, including COVID, or charged more for not being vaccinated. But companies who dover some of employees’ health insurance costs can pass along higher costs to unvaccinated employees.”
First, pay attention to that little conflation trick. “Vaccination status and other health risks?” This is not science, but rather truth by repetition. Much like “vaccines save lives” and “safe and effective”, it’s an assertion that gains ground simply by being asserted again and again. This particular assertion suggests that people who do not get COVID shots are less healthy and will cost insurance companies more.
But is it the unvaccinated who are costing more to insurance companies?
BlackRock Whistleblower, Ed Dowd, has been sharing disturbing details about an 84% increase in excess mortality among millennials (25-44) that coincides with the mass vaccination of this age group. These numbers are unprecedented and do NOT represent Covid deaths. In fact, Dowd presents compelling evidence to support his belief that these deaths are largely attributable to vaccine compliance, not hesitancy. You can read the details here and here.
But Schneyer points us in a different direction, so let’s examine it.
“In a December study, the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks U.S. health policy and outcomes, estimated that between June and November of 2021, unvaccinated American adults accounted for $13.8 billion in “preventable” COVID hospitalization costs nationwide.
Kaiser estimated that over that six-month period, which included the Delta wave, vaccinations could have averted 59% of COVID hospitalizations among U.S. adults. Kaiser tallied 690,000 vaccine-preventable hospitalizations, at an average cost of $20,000. And it estimated vaccinations could have prevented 163,000 U.S. deaths over the same period.
If vaccine hesitancy accounted for half of the more than 1 million new U.S. COVID hospitalizations since December, the added cost of preventable hospital stays could amount to another $10 billion, Reuters found.”
You can read the study here, and review some of the
It’s a good example of why study design matters, as most of these numbers are the product of estimates and speculation. Studies like this are also indicative of the tunnel vision that pervades our health care system and a tendency for the medical establishment to find exclusively what it’s looking for. This study and others like it:
Uses a blanket estimate ( in this case 85%) of unvaccinated hospitalizations during each month rather than tracking month-to-month patterns that demonstrate and increasing percentage of vaccinated hospitalizations over time.
Use a blanket estimates of vaccine “preventable” hospitalization (84%), ignoring an evolving picture of waning efficacy and reduced efficacy against new variants. (Somehow we never get to discuss other things that may have made these hospitalizations preventable.)
Does not address flawed diagnostic parameters (i.e. flawed and unreliable COVID-19 tests) and ignores any discussion of “with Covid” vs. “from Covid”.
Assigns a cost (“While real-time data on the cost of all COVID-19 hospitalizations are not publicly available, various sources point to an average hospitalization cost of around $20,000”) without ever reviewing issues of failures (and obstruction) in providing early treatment, and necessity (and failures of) expensive hospital protocols.
I’m just scratching the surface here, but hopefully you catch my drift. If you want to support a conclusion without much evidence, speculation, semantics and statistics are your friends. And if you’re willing to support the conclusions above, so is BigPharma (and that’s a lucrative friendship). Imagine if Kaiser Family Foundation instead invested in the question: How else can we reduce the financial burden of COVID, both in health care expenditures and human lives?
Moving on, I can’t help but notice that much of article consists of thinly veiled threats:
“For individuals forgoing vaccination, the risks can include layoffs and ineligibility to collect unemployment, higher insurance premiums, growing out-of-pocket medical costs or loss of academic scholarships…
Giant employers including J.P. Morgan and Bank of America have informed their U.S. employees they can expect to pay more - or receive fewer perks through company wellness programs - if they don’t provide proof of vaccination.
Other companies have extended an insurance premium surcharge for unvaccinated spouses or family members of employees if they want to be ”
Again, these are all policy-related and descriptions of punitive measures inflicted on those who do not comply after doing their own risk/benefit analyses. But we have yet to see evidence that these punitive measures are warranted. We are only told that "after global life insurance providers were hit with a higher-than-expected $5.5 billion in claims during the first nine months of 2021, insurers will be looking to calibrate premiums more closely to COVID mortality risks going forward.”
So 2021 was expensive for insurance companies. I point to back to data from Ed Dowd’s report to give broader context to where those costs may be coming from.
An Unwarranted Witch Hunt?
Mainstream publications will continue to try to support the idea that the unvaccinated are a problem. This is a seed it’s been planting for years. But when reviewing these stories, context matters.
A 2016 UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy study sponsored by Merck, decided, I mean determined, that “Vaccine-preventable diseases among adults cost the U.S. economy $8.95 billion in 2015, and unvaccinated individuals are responsible for 80 percent, or $7.1 billion, of the tab.”
The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, examined the actual cost of inpatient and outpatient care, cost of medication and the value of productivity lost from time spent seeking care.
I wonder what motivated Merck to sponsor such a study? Often, the motivation can be found in the conclusions and/or recommended solutions…
“We believe our estimates are conservative and highlight the potential economic benefit of increasing adult immunization coverage and the value of vaccines,” Ozawa said.
But even if we accept these findings, we should be putting that $7.1 billion in context. The CDC acknowledges that it is not acute infectious disease, but rather chronic diseases that are both the leading causes of death and the leading drivers of the $3.8 trillion in annual health care expenditures. According to the CDC, estimated direct health care expenditures for diabetes were $176 billion in 2012. Heart disease cost Americans an estimated $315.4 billion in 2010.
Is it possible that mainstream media and regulatory authorities are barking up the wrong tree when they target the unvaccinated? If promoting health and reducing overall health care costs are the goal, it would seem so.
Let’s look for ways to filter out the speculation, predictions and fear mongering in our pursuit of truth and health.