Everyone knows that B.C. doesn't have sufficient testing capacity to determine the number of COVID-19 cases.
That's led the media to focus greater attention this year on hospitalizations and deaths due to the disease.
But new research published online on the Lancet website raises serious questions about how accurate the mortality figures truly are.
It echoed concerns stated earlier this year by Dr. Tara Moriarty, director of the Moriarty Lab and an associate professor in the University of Toronto faculty of dentistry.
She suggested that there is a "possible 5-fold under-detection/under-reporting" of COVID-19 deaths in B.C.
The new Lancet paper examined all-cause mortality reports for 74 countries and territories and 266 subnational locations.
All of these jurisdictions reported weekly or monthly deaths from all causes during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and for up to 11 previous years.
"Excess mortality over time was calculated as observed mortality, after excluding data from periods affected by late registration and anomalies such as heat waves, minus expected mortality," the paper states. "Six models were used to estimate expected mortality; final estimates of expected mortality were based on an ensemble of these models."
It turns out that B.C.'s ratio of excess mortality was two to less than five times greater than expected, given the number of COVID-19 deaths.
This put the percentage of excess deaths higher than in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, which were between one and two times higher.
That differential elicited a scathing response from UVIC nursing professor Damien Contrandriopoulos.
"Please note that, according to The Lancet, #BC is in the same league as Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Turkey, Iran etc. when it comes to assessing Covid-related mortality," he tweeted.
(Kazakhstan was at 3.8, Saudi Arabia was at 3.7, and B.C. was at 2.17. Quebec's score was 1.05 compared to 1.53 for Ontario, 1.68 for Alberta, 1.74 for Saskatchewan, and 1.76 for Manitoba.)
In 2021, Contrandriopoulos cowrote a paper that slammed the B.C. government's delay in recognizing airborne transmission of COVID-19. It was published by Wellcome Open Research
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was among those funding the recent paper in the Lancet.
"Although reported COVID-19 deaths between Jan 1, 2020, and Dec 31, 2021, totalled 5.94 million worldwide, we estimate that 18.2 million (95% uncertainty interval 17·1–19·6) people died worldwide because of the COVID-19 pandemic (as measured by excess mortality) over that period," the paper states.
The authors call for strengthening death-registrations systems around the world, which they argue will lead to improved monitoring of this and future pandemics.
"In addition, further research is warranted to help distinguish the proportion of excess mortality that was directly caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection and the changes in causes of death as an indirect consequence of the pandemic."
This story was updated with specific numbers for certain jurisdictions and the headline was adjusted after the following tweet was put out by Daniel A. Walker.