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John Ioannidis

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.”

Earlier this year, Dr John Ioannidis, was recognised as the most highly cited Greek researcher and currently ranks 87th in the international list of “Highly Cited Researchers” released by Webometrics.

“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In the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, Ioannidis surveyed 23 different seroprevalence studies and found that “among people 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 also 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.”

In an article on American online magazine The Atlantic, author David Freedman writes: “[Ioannidis is] what’s known as a meta-researcher, and he’s become one of the world’s foremost experts on the credibility of medical research.He and his team have shown, again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies—conclusions that doctors keep in mind when they prescribe antibiotics or blood-pressure medication, or when they advise us to consume more fibre or less meat, or when they recommend surgery for heart disease or back pain—is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong.”

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