Blog | Covid, the data collected during vaccinations are a unique opportunity to guide health choices – Il Fatto Quotidiano


Blog |  Covid, the data collected during vaccinations are a unique opportunity to guide health choices – Il Fatto Quotidiano
Written by aquitodovale

Since the world was hit by the pandemic due to Covid we have been inundated, perhaps for the first time with such a high frequency, by widespread numbers able to describe the phenomenon, the growth or decrease of the disease with the consequent choices, lockdown, color regions, etc. In the face of this confusion of numbers, it would be necessary a reflectionbefore addressing the topic of this post, which concerns the opportunity that the pandemic could offer us: the mass of data collected on the state of health of the population could be used very profitably by those in our country who deal with health organization.

The introductory reflection on the amount of data collected, disclosed every day – before the war between Ukraine and Russia, which absorbed almost all the interest of the media – concerns the interpretation of the data itself and its processing. It is a good idea to present the data clearly because the excessive quantity can contribute to confusion: it is necessary to choose, among the many elaborations, often redundant and therefore useless, those that best describe and interpret the phenomenon. One of the basic rules, when it comes to numbers, is that comparisons are made between homogeneous quantities, following that famous phrase that the teacher told us in first grade: “You can’t add pears to apples”.

Also, keep talking about absolute numbers it’s just a way to confuse ideas: what does it matter if 100 thousand swabs were performed yesterday and 200 thousand today and which, respectively, identified x and y positive? The important thing is to know whether the positivity rate has remained the same, whether it has gone up or down. The important thing would be to know who is affected by the disease (segmenting patients by age and sex). The overall data is important because it provides the entity of the phenomenon as a whole, but it is even more important to know if the phenomenon is distributed equally in all strata of the population or if, instead (as generally happens), it nestles more in one band (for example the elderly) or in another: this will allow us to intervene more effectively and efficiently, directing our efforts in one direction rather than another.

Data analysis, especially when you have a lot of data, is essential, not because it should be a mere statistical exercise, a divertissement, but because it helps us to understand reality and to take decisions based on facts and not on perception or sensations, often based only on opinions. The numbers on the pandemic, updated in June 2022, say that the Italians infected by Covid were over 18 million, more women (52.8%) than men (47.2%), with a higher concentration among 41-year-olds and with deaths exceeding 168 thousand units.

But now we come to the real topic of our discussion: the data collected in this pandemic during the screening we have been subjected to every time we have gone to get vaccinated. Anyone who has been vaccinated will surely remember having filled in a questionnaire who asked him questions about the photograph of his state of health: present and past illnesses, allergies, medicines used, etc. Secondly, when you went for the next two vaccinations, the questionnaire also collected data on the effects of the vaccine administeredto correlate the side effects with the subject who noted them (young, elderly, suffering from a certain disease, pregnant woman, etc.).

The information contained in the first questionnaire is a real mine of data and we wonder what use the Ministry of Health wants to make of it. In a moment of “turning point”, of reprogramming our obsolete system of governancepassing towards computerization and the digitizationthis almost complete check-up of the Italian population which returns a map of the pathologies, of where they are geographically and age-related, could be very effective to guide health care choices: what are the diseases on which more prevention needs to be done? How are the different pathologies distributed according to age, gender, territorial location? What are the most common drug allergies? And according to the results: what medical specializations they are more urgent in our country and, therefore, need to be incentivized? Which departments to strengthen in hospitals? Where is there the greatest need for medical aids? What type of health care organization should be envisaged? What are the costs to be faced?

It is a unique opportunity. Perhaps the Ministry of Health is already taking action. We hope so.

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