Analysis by Keith Rankin.
In the absence of more detailed recent data on deaths in New Zealand, the Smithometer acts as a good proxy for older New Zealanders’ mortality. The Smithometer includes all New Zealand deaths where the persons’ surnames are Smith, including women with birth surnames of Smith. So, the Smithometer most reflects the mortality of older women. The historical data-source only gives access today to the deaths of people born on or before 10 January 1944.
In the above chart, the seven-week moving total is the most informative, as it better smooths out random variations.
The chart clearly shows the three Covid19 peaks of 2022: February/March, June/July, and December.
2023 is different. The usual seasonal peaks are missing. Deaths for this demographic have been consistently high from April to November, with recent peaks in early September and late October.
The new pattern is partly because Covid19 is a ‘seasonal’ illness that’s proving to be far less seasonal than we originally expected. The second reason is likely to be related to a more general deficit in immunity to a whole range of conditions, but especially conditions like Covid19 for which immunity tapers off relatively quickly. Put another way, there are likely to be more problems of tissue ‘inflammation’ in the community in our populations, and that is almost certainly partly due to decreased exposures to the regular minor bugs which used to keep topping up our general immunity.
Prolonged facemask mandates have almost certainly been part of the problem. Facemask mandates should only apply to exponential growth phases of a new respiratory virus. We need to discard the facemasks as soon as possible to bring ourselves back to a normal environmental interaction between humans and microbes.
An important point to note about 2022 is the death peak in June/July of that year was almost certainly due to many older vulnerable people being refused second booster vaccinations, on account of there having been ‘only’ five months between the well-predicted June wave of Covid19 and their first boosters in January and February. This finding is reinforced by the relatively small mortality peak for this demographic in March 2022, the month of peak infections in New Zealand. In March 2022, the vulnerable population had been recently vaccinated.
Younger New Zealanders
My suspicion is that younger demographics – for which good data is harder to find – will be showing greater increases (compared to the over-80s) in mortality relative to their 2010s’ norms. While younger people are more ‘vigorous’, their immune systems are generally less-well trained. Indeed, that’s probably why younger people are more likely than older people to get ‘long-coronavirus’ symptoms. In saying this, I am putting out the hypothesis that many pre-Covid19 cases of chronic fatigue syndrome may have been lagging symptoms of the other four circulating human ‘common cold’ coronaviruses.
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.