Throughout the pandemic the CDC has been accumulating demographic data on COVID-related fatalities, including age. Although you frequently hear that COVID has been particularly dangerous for seniors, the true dimensions of the disproportionate distribution of deaths among seniors has, in my opinion, been grossly under-reported.
This chart based on most recent numbers from the CDC shows the percentage of COVID fatalities for each age group of the total COVID-related fatalities (~603,000).
Another interesting way to parse the data is to look at the percentage of the total fatalities for each group that has been attributed to COVID.
What this shows is that about 12% of all deaths during the pandemic have been attributed to COVID, or stated differently, 88% of Americans who have died during the pandemic have died from something other than COVID. The percentage attributable to COVID begins to drop off rapidly below 45.
The age disparity is even more dramatically demonstrated by looking at the percentages on a cumulative basis by age. This chart shows that over 99% of all fatalities have occurred in people over 35 years old.
In the 17-35 age group, there have been 5,365 fatalities, which make up about 3.4% of all of fatalities for that age group. There are approximately 85 million Americans between the ages of 17 and 35. That means only a tiny fraction of them would even know anyone in their age group who has died with COVID. It is hardly surprising then that they are not rushing out to get the vaccine, because as much as we like to believe that we are analytical creatures, our brains are still wired to be most affected by our personal experiences.
For children under 4 the numbers are even more stunning. Of the 34,426 children aged 0-4 who died in America during the pandemic, 124 of those died with complications from COVID. That means that 99.6% of the children 0-4 who died during pandemic died from something other COVID. To put that into even more vivid perspective, the total number of 0-4 children whose deaths has been attributed to COVID during the entire pandemic is about a third of those in that age group who were murdered in 2019.
We have known about this dramatic age disparity from the early days of the pandemic. The data on the age disparity has been remarkably constant. (See this post I wrote in May, 2020.) As the age disparity became clear, a number of scientists and researchers argued that our efforts should have been concentrated on protecting seniors rather than attempting a general suppression of the virus, which they viewed as largely a pyrrhic effort. This view was articulated in the Great Barrington Declaration. But those voices were quickly drowned out by the “scientific consensus”, at least as reflected in the media, that we had to do everything we could to prevent everyone and anyone from getting COVID. I do not know whether a more nuanced policy would have produced a better result or not, but I certainly hope it is something that will be objectively studied after all of this is over.
Also, throughout the pandemic there has been a recurring narrative from public health officials and the media that, while COVID was particularly dangerous for seniors, it was also dangerous for young people. There have been numerous media accounts of healthy young people succumbing to the disease, implying that such cases were typical rather than the extreme outliers they were. The narrative appears to have been designed to frighten younger people into taking preventative measures and being vaccinated. Presumably those pushing the narrative did not have much faith that young people might take precautions to help protect others, notably the seniors in their own families.
But in doing so, public health officials and the media have damaged their credibility with young people and contributed to the skepticism about COVID generally and the vaccines in particular. This Kaiser Foundation survey found that the age group with the highest percentage (21%) saying that they will “definitely not” get the vaccine is 18-29. The second highest at 19% was 30-49. That compares to seniors at 7%.
The media and public health officials would be better just to shoot straight with the public instead of attempting to manage their behavior by coloring the data. Because the problem is, once you have lost the public’s trust, it is hard to get it back when you need it. That is something most of us learned from our mothers in a story about a little boy that cried wolf.