Split views on vax models
Analysts are picking apart the Federal Government’s much-lauded Doherty modeling.
Modelling produced for the Federal Government by the Doherty Institute has been used to set the nation's vaccine targets and debate.
The modelling says that once Australia achieves 70 per cent to 80 per cent vaccination, it will see less transmission of COVID-19 and fewer people with severe illness, and therefore fewer hospitalisations and deaths.
In a savage article posted on Medium, tech CEO Matt Barrie says the public is being fed “nonsense”, the model is “producing garbage” and that the complex simulations simply stop “before the effects of opening up play out”.
Mr Barrie took aim at the use of a 180-day cutoff for the modelling, suggesting this was imposed to “fudge the data” and hide what he predicts will be drastic impacts of allowing society to return to ‘normal’.
He also criticised the assumption that available vaccines will massively reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Mr Barrie says that the vaccines would need to reduce transmissibility by over 90 per cent if they are to be the only tool slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“One would think you would see the effect in the overall case numbers overseas in highly vaccinated countries,” his article states.
“Certainly looking at [the] US, UK and Israel, if there is a reduction in transmission it is overwhelmed by the increase in delta transmissibility.
“The very heart of the Doherty modeling is that the pandemic is a single phase infection curve that goes to zero at some point in time due to an assumption that there is a 90 per cent damping effect on transmissibility from a double dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer.
“If this was even remotely close, new daily infections in the US, UK and Israel would be well under control by now. They are not.
“The Doherty modeling appears to be nothing more than manufactured scientific opinion to achieve a political outcome by working the numbers backwards.”
However, fellow businessperson and writer Adam Schwab has slammed Mr Barrie's analysis in an article for Crikey.
After poking fun at Mr Barrie’s business record and labelling him a “COVID-zero ideologue”, Mr Schwab goes on to claim that the Doherty modelling cuts off after 180 days because by then, “the COVID caravan [is] likely to have moved on”.
He also points out that Mr Barrie’s article attacks the modelling for being too optimistic, when Doherty itself admits the outlook is likely to be far too conservative.
“Interestingly, Barrie didn’t criticise the controversial Grattan Institute report, nor the fatalistic modelling of fellow COVID-zero advocate, agricultural economist Quentin Grafton,” Mr Schwab writes.
“In fact, Barrie used their flawed modelling as evidence that Doherty’s well-regarded modelling was wrong.
“At one point, Barrie even resorted to the 18-month-old Medium post of fellow tech bro, and Stanford Engineering grad, Tomas Pueyo, as some sort of rebuttal to the assumptions within the detailed months-long work of Australia’s best regarded epidemiologists.
“He simply threw up thousands of words of scientifically flawed criticisms from his gilded cage.”
Falling somewhere in the middle, this article by Grattan Institute researchers for The Conversation says the Doherty modelling is being used “to build public momentum and hope around targets that are unlikely going to be enough”.
“Australia needs the National Cabinet to come clean and accept that the changing circumstances require a change in the plan.”