This is the third eNsight on the topic of data being new gold to South Africa.
You can check out the second eNsight in this series here:
In this eNsight, I demonstrate how comparisons based on averages can lead to wrong findings and conclusions.
For this purpose, I shall use COVID-19 vaccination data as a perfect example.
And I want to convince you, now that you took the trouble to visit this eNsight, to at least follow my reasoning.
So let’s go.
Table of Contents
Inspiration for this second eNsight in the series
I am currently reading a book by Daniel Kahneman titled Thinking Fast and Slow.
A passage on page 62 in the book struck a chord, and here it is:
So what has the passage above have anything to do with averages and COVID-19?
I am about to test my theory that there is a folly in the comparisons based on averages that are made between African countries – using South Africa as a proxy – and the West on some of the fronts, including GINI Coefficient, the latter which I hope to share my thoughts on sometime in the future.
To give you a clue about COVID-19, age distribution lies at the heart of the title for this eNsight.
Read on, for the unfolding of my inspiration.
Countries for comparing averages against South Africa in this eNsight
For purposes of my “expose”, I shall compare COVID-19 vaccination averages of South Africa to those of 3 countries – the US, the UK and Israel.
I could have chosen any number of countries in the west, but I decided on the first two above because they continue to hog the COVID-19 spotlight.
By the way…
I am aware that the UK is not one but four countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, Our World in Data – the main source I use for comparative vaccination data – displays stats for this group of counties as an aggregate.
Therefore, my loose reference to the UK as if it is a country is out of contextual convenience.
Because, this country of 9.3 million people – or one sixth of South Africa’s population size, was one of the first off the blocks with the Pfizer vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccinations: South Africa vs the US, the UK and Israel
According to Our World in Data, South Africa’s total vaccinations are at 31%, next is Israel at 70%, then the US at 73% and lastly the UK at 76%; in the ascending order.
If nothing else is considered, South Africa’s vaccinations are far off when compared to the other 3 countries.
However, this does not tell the whole story.
Age distribution: South Africa vs the US, the UK and Israel
I have already indicated that age distribution is at the heart of my assertion that there is a folly in the use of averages to compare African countries with the west.
Now, it is an accepted fact that older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19, which has been the reason why vaccination drives focused on them first, the world over.
Building on this age factor, let us compare the four countries that are the subject of this eNsight, based on the sizes of their citizens who are 50 years and older.
- The US has the largest population of the four countries (330 million, or almost 6 times the size of the South African population), and Israel has the smallest population (9 million).
- The US also has the oldest population of the four countries, as judged by the percentage of members of its population who are over 50 (37%), followed closely by the UK (36%).
Meanwhile, South Africa has the youngest population of the four countries.
The younger the population of a country, the lesser the burden of the COVID-19 disease, all other things considered.
Naturally then, South Africa’s low vaccination rate is explained, at least in part, by the fact that the nation’s older members who get vaccinated first are fewer in number.
South Africa: vaccination stats for the vulnerable age groups
What do the South African total vaccination stats look like for members of the population who are 50 years and older?
See the answer below.
6.6 million South Africans who are 50 years and older have received at least one vaccine jab, and that is well over 6 in every 10 people in this age group.
What are the total vaccination stats for the vulnerable groups in the other 3 countries that re being compared with South Africa?
In Israel, over 8 in every 10 people who are 50 years and older have received at least one vaccine jab.
The vaccination data by age group for the US and the UK is not easily accessible, and/or it is not structured in a user-friendly way.
However, I am happy that Israel provides enough evidence for the purpose of this eNsight.
The folly of averages exposed?
When comparing the data for South Africa and Israel, it is clear that:
- Mzansi’s overall vaccination rate is lower due to a younger population, and
- Mzansi’s vaccination rate for a population of 50 and older does not fall too far behind.
By extension, the two points above apply to the US and the UK as well, given the larger sizes of the older age groups of these two countries.
Without a doubt, the overall COVID-19 vaccination averages on their own do not tell the whole story, or explain some of the nuances that must be taken into account, such as a nation’s age distribution that has a direct impact on vaccination rates.
Point made regarding South Africa’s total vaccination rate of 31%, when compared to UK’s 76%, US’s 73% and Israel’s 70%?
I hope I got you to think again.
My closing thoughts
The abundance of COVID-19 stats is a gift to Africa.
The responsibility now rests with Africans to be vigilant, to unearth the truths buried in the available stats, and to tell their own positive stories, their own way.
In this era of the Internet, and in the case of South Africa, where reliable data is in plain sight, there is no reason why People of the South cannot do their own bidding.
I hope that this eNsight has proven yet again, that data is new gold to South Africa.