Stanford prof: Median infection fatality rate of coronavirus for those under 70 is just 0.04%

The lower number is 'a welcome piece of evidence,' he says.

Updated: June 20, 2020 - 2:38pm

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A scientist known for his contrarian takes to dire COVID-19 predictions has released a paper claiming that antibody evidence suggests the median coronavirus infection fatality rate for those under 70 is just 0.04%. 

The estimate throws into sharp relief the lopsided mortality figures for the disease, which has claimed an inordinate number of elderly people across the planet while leaving younger individuals mostly unscathed. 

John Ioannidis, a professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford University, argues in a paper published earlier this month that COVID-19 "seroprevalence studies," which measure infection rates using the presence of antibodies in blood samples, "typically show a much lower fatality than initially speculated in the earlier days of the pandemic."

"It should be appreciated," he writes in the paper, "that [the fatality rate] is not a fixed physical constant and it can vary substantially across locations, depending on the population structure, the case-mix of infected and deceased individuals and other, local factors."

In the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, Ioannidis surveyed 23 different seroprevalence studies and found that "among people <70 years old, infection fatality rates ranged from ... 0.00-0.23% with median of 0.04%." 

The median fatality rate of all cases, he writes, is 0.26%, significantly lower than some earlier estimates that suggested rates as high as over 3%. 

In the paper, Ioannidis acknowledges that "while COVID-19 is a formidable threat," the apparently low fatality rate compared to earlier estimates "is a welcome piece of evidence."

"Decision-makers can use measures that will try to avert having the virus infect people and settings who are at high risk of severe outcomes," he writes. "These measures may be possible to be far more precise and tailored to specific high- risk individuals and settings than blind lockdown of the entire society."

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