Introduction for Strangers

Published: 09-05-2023

I wrote this for my Mum in 2021/2022 to help her make informed choices about how to live during COVID.

I showed my working, provided context, and let her reach her own conclusions. There wasn’t much of that available at the time.

Information about COVID was mostly black and white and wrong.

Black or white, rather:

  • COVID is deadly / just the flu!
  • Vaccines will save you / kill you!
  • Masks save lives / do nothing!

By late 2020 my Mum had adopted the certainty and models of one team. Her actions began to reflect those wonky models.

I tried to give her the means to make her own model.

Specifically I tried to exhaustively answer the question “Should we get a COVID vaccine?”… which mapped to:

  • Is COVID dangerous to us? If so
  • Can we avoid catching it? If not
  • Can we minimize the danger? If so
  • What options are realistically available to us? For each
  • Is this effective at minimizing the danger? If so
  • At what cost? and
  • What is unknowable and how should we account for that?

Getting to the starting line took me ~95,000 words of notes and so, so many exclamations at the dire state of study design and statistical fuckitude.

My goal was to protect and educate those I love. I had a pretty good track-record.

I failed. My Mum never read any of it. I quit while I was behind.

Oh well. What does COVID do?