Friday, May 20, 2022
Researcher Explains: Misuse of Data Can Lead to "Pariah-Tizing" the Elderly While Failing to Provide Key Information for All Ages
In September 2021, I listened to a great set of speakers at the Aging, Health, Equity and the Law Conference hosted by Touro College in New York. One session in particular captured my attention. Barbara Pfeffer Billauer, JD, MA (Occ. Health), PhD, who is currently Professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Porto and Research Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC. spoke about the misuse of statistics regarding COVID-19 on an international scale. We exchanged emails, and it was clear she was deep into the emerging data from countries around the world.
Dr. Billauer's most recent analysis has received its first publication on May 19, 2022 by the American Council on Science and Health at ACSH.org, with the appropriate yet provocative title of Pariah-Tizing the Elderly: Another Casualty of COVID.
Here she takes on recent news media coverage, including the Washington Post, as well as some scientific community publications, to raise the significant concern that exaggerating the risk of COVID-19 stigmatizes one group -- here the elderly -- while failing to fully inform all age groups about the efficacy of vaccination. She opens with this explanation:
I call a mistaken, targeted focus and overemphasis on any population group “pariahtization.” As recent evidence demonstrates, this "pariah-tized” focus on the elderly regarding COVID-19 is certainly misplaced. It also has resulted in untoward policies that caused more deaths in both the younger segments of the population. . . .
Contrary to popular opinion . . . COVID is not a disease of the elderly—like dementia, or cataracts, or osteoarthritis. Indeed, older people are less likely to die of COVID than heart disease or cancer. This is not so for the younger cohort, for whom during several months last year COVID was the leading cause of death.
For six months of 2021—half the year, COVID was the leading cause of death in those 45-54. In three months of the year, COVID was the leading cause of deaths forages 55-64, but only in two months was it the leading cause of death for those 65-74, the same as for those 35-44; and only in one month was COVID the leading cause of death for those over 75. . . .
The misplaced focus [of the media] on the aged being especially vulnerable has led younger people to unwisely eschew vaccination on the grounds that the disease is not generous to them.
Dr. Billhauer clearly has a way with words and she makes effective use of data and charts to explain important data concerns. The implications of her findings go beyond the problem of the current crisis.