Analysis by Keith Rankin.
This pandemic keeps surprising many people. If scientists had spent more time studying coronaviruses circulating as common cold pathogens, they would not have been surprised that immunity is short-lived. SARS 2003 was a red flag that should have led to much more research on other (endemic) human coronaviruses.
Western Europe is now caught out by the Nth wave of Covid19. Austria has led the way in its case growth, and has had 9,380 reported cases per million of population in the last week; that would translate to 46,900 cases in New Zealand (6,700 per day; compare with the 200 that we get on average each day). It appears to have been very sudden in Austria, though excess deaths since June tell us that not all is well in what was the heart of the former Habsburg Empire. While deaths are well short of their December 2020 peak, Austria’s on a track towards a repeat of that peak.
This wave is being branded the “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. And indeed there are relatively more unvaccinated people than in New Zealand. A more truthful description would be the “pandemic of the undervaccinated”. Six months ago, Austria was a vaccination leader in Europe, on a par with Ireland and just behind Germany; and ahead of Netherlands and Sweden. And that’s the point; Austrians’ immunity has waned markedly, and they have left it too late to revaccinate effectively.
This chart shows how deaths in Austria this year have been tracking well above other years.
The following charts show the context of the pandemic post the 2020/21 winter, comparing Austria with Netherlands and Sweden.
We see that Austria has had a number of substantial and unusual mortality peaks in the summer; they have the look of an epidemic disease that may or may not be Covid19. The Netherlands shows a similar worrying picture.
Sweden, however, looks OK. Sweden is notoriously slow to release its official Covid19 death toll. So the September peaks do in fact match. This suggests that deaths in August/September were in fact Covid. (France’s data also points to significantly more summer deaths of Covid19 than these EU populations realised.)
It’s too early to say whether Sweden will be immune to Europe’s latest covid wave. But Sweden certainly had a much better summer than Austria and Netherlands.
Keith Rankin (keith at rankin dot nz), trained as an economic historian, is a retired lecturer in Economics and Statistics. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.