Like Chris Rock at an Oscars ceremony, this year has felt like a proper slap around the face. In fact, I’ve decided to name it Brad because, frankly, it’s been the Pitts.

Here’s my review of 2022……

Base Rate Fallacy

👁️‍🗨️ Today I thought it might be helpful to discuss base rate fallacy. This is something I’ve touched on several times in my Covid updates. It’s formed part of the statistical misrepresentation that’s become commonplace on Covid-conspiracy social media since the start of the pandemic.

It’s more than likely that you’ll have witnessed someone say something along the lines of: “Covid-19 vaccines don’t work. The majority of hospitalisations/fatalities are occurring in the fully vaccinated!” Whilst the latter part of the statement is true, the first part is not. Let’s look at why…

What is base rate fallacy and how does it apply here?

Base rate fallacy refers to times where we ignore statistical information (base rates) in favour of specific information related to it.

🚗 Let’s use the analogy of seatbelts. In 2019, the European Transport Safety Council reported that 27% of car occupants killed on UK roads were not wearing a seatbelt. This means 73% of those killed on the UK roads were wearing seatbelts. Adopting base rate fallacy mindset, we might falsely assume that the 73% figure means you’re more likely to die in a road accident if you’re wearing a seatbelt.

Of course, to adopt that conclusion would be false because it would be ignoring the base rates - the fact that 98.6% of car occupants wear seatbelts. The conclusion would also fail to incorporate a key missing piece of data - the number of people whose lives have been saved by wearing seatbelts (so, did not die, but would have done so without the seatbelt).

Bringing this back to Covid-19, then, and social media posts mentioning that the majority of hospitalisations/fatalities are occurring in the fully vaccinated and linking it to the idea that vaccines don’t work (or, worse, making the false suggestion that you’re more likely to go to hospital if you’re vaccinated). Yes, there are more hospitalisations and fatalities now occurring in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. But, this is not a cause for concern. Allow me to explain why…

According to the last UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report, around 82% of adults (over 18s) in hospital with Covid-19 had received at least two doses of a vaccine.

📊 Much like the seatbelt analogy, we need to consider the base rate. There are FAR MORE vaccinated people in England than unvaccinated. So, the number of hospitalisations/fatalities is a small percentage of a far higher base, and the figure doesn’t include an unknown statistic - how many people have NOT been hospitalised or died because they’ve been protected by their vaccine shot(s).

Age ranges also need to be factored into the equation. In older age groups, a larger percentage of the population has been vaccinated. But, these people are also amongst the most vulnerable in our society because of their age and underlying conditions. Vaccines increase protection, but these people remain more vulnerable than most.


Let’s look at the data mathematically. Around 90% of people in England aged 18+ have received two doses of a vaccine. That’s 40 million (source: NHS England) out of a population of 44.5 million (ONS estimate). Conversely, 4.5m have not received two doses of a vaccine.

If 1,500 people are entering hospital each day with Covid-19, and 82% of those have been fully vaccinated (at least two doses), that would mean 1,230 fully vaccinated and 270 non-vaccinated. This may seem bad at first, but when you refer back to the original base, the picture is different…

1,230 out of 40 million is 0.003%. However, 270 out of 4.5 million is 0.006%. So, as a percentage of the base, the rate of hospitalisations amongst the unvaccinated is higher - twice that of vaccinated individuals, in this case.

This figure, of course, gives an overall view of all age groups aggregated together. To get a more accurate picture of the impact of vaccines, you need to look at age-standardised statistics, because older age groups are both more likely to be vaccinated and more likely to be hospitalised. But, you get the point.

And so you now see why base rate fallacy can result in data being misrepresented to form an agenda that simply isn’t there. The next time you see posts suggesting that Covid-19 vaccines aren’t working, consider whether there is base rate fallacy involved.

For more reading, I recommend this excellent article on FullFact:…

Thanks to David Paton, Professor of Industrial Economics at Nottingham University Business School. Graphic from Marc Rummy. Seatbelt stats: . UKHSA surveillance report July 2022: .

📺 It’s April Fools Day tomorrow (you have been warned). True story: On April 1st 1957, the BBC broadcast a special Panorama current affairs programme about a Swiss family who had harvested a record crop of spaghetti from a ‘spaghetti tree’. 🌳

🍝 As spaghetti wasn’t widely eaten in the UK at the time, the programme got quite a reaction. Hundreds of viewers phoned in to the BBC to ask questions about it, with some even asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees.

Decades after it had first been broadcast, CNN called it “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.”

🎧 There’s no doubting the big tech story of the day - Dyson’s new ‘Air-Purifying’ Headphones. Answers to your questions: 👇

1️⃣ No, it isn’t [April 1st]

2️⃣ Yes, they are [real]

3️⃣ Yes, I guess you could say that! [“Its like a breath of fresh air”]. Great pun!

4️⃣ No, I won’t be [buying a pair]. And, neither will anyone else, unless they’re GI Joe……

At times of high anxiety, little moments of humour can be a perfect antidote…

🥞 Something a little more upbeat for your Shrove Tuesday…

❤️ A wonderful description of love from a 6-year-old. ⬇️

(thanks to Giles Paley-Phillips on Twitter)

Statistics 101. 📈

☄️ A giant asteroid measuring more than one kilometre wide will pass Earth this evening. Nothing to worry about, though. As NASA points out, Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1), which measures twice the size of the Empire State Building, is “very well known and has been studied for decades.” It will pass by around 1.2 million miles from us at a speed of 43,000 mph. Here’s an idea of just how big Asteroid 7482 is… (image from Sky News)

I’m all for future planning. However, my wife received this offer addressed to her in the post today and was VERY unimpressed. She’s 32! 😁

Couldn’t resist…

Looking back at 2021

🎉 As the curtain falls on 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣1️⃣, let’s take a look at some of the highlights…

💉 2021 was a year for vaccines, with Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out at speed and a ground-breaking vaccine for malaria. It was also a year that brought greater focus on the ticking clock of climate change with COP26. 🌎

🚀 Innovation took billionaires Musk, Bezos and Branson into space (with a sizeable carbon footprint) and saw Nasa’s Perseverance rover land on Mars to collect rock samples. In the natural world, China declared that Pandas are no longer endangered. 🐼

🎾 In sport, we witnessed the incredible rise of Emma Raducanu to become US Open champion, saw Team GB once again deliver in the delayed Olympics and Paralympics, and watched England come agonisingly close to winning their first international football trophy for over 50 years at the Euro 2020 tournament, as penalties were once again our undoing. ⚽

💃 In entertainment, we watched Rose Ayling-Ellis make history on Strictly Come Dancing as the first-ever deaf winner of the show. And we saw Netflix series Squid Game take television to strange new levels (no, I haven’t, and probably won’t). James Bond fans saw Daniel Craig bow out in style with the much-delayed release of his final film - No Time To Die. And, theatres all around the country re-opened their doors, as musicians, dancers and entertainers re-took to the stage to the sound of rapturous applause.

😔 We sadly said goodbye to a lot of famous names in 2021. Amongst those to have passed away were entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair, actor Christopher Plummer, film director Richard Donner, comedians Tom O’Connor and Sean Lock, entertainer Lionel Blair, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, war veteran and charity fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, footballers Frank Worthington and Jimmy Greaves and Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker.

❤️‍🩹 Mentally, it’s been a difficult year for many of us with the ongoing Covid pandemic - an anxiety rollercoaster. And it’s worth remembering that although we may all be in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat. There have, however, been some highlights to cheer about, which we can perhaps allow ourselves to reflect on a little.

I think we can look forward to 2022 with more optimism about our situation (let’s just get January over with first). Whatever this new year brings for you, I hope you get what you wish for and I wish you happiness and good health.

See you in 2022 with more optimistic realism… 👋