More Than 220,000 Under-18s in England Have Already Been ‘Jabbed’

As the debate on the vaccination of children against Covid hots up, with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) expected to advise that 16 and 17 year-olds should be vaccinated “in the next few days“, it has been revealed that nearly a quarter of a million under-18s in England have been ‘jabbed’ already. The Evening Standard has the story.

Across the nation 223,755 under-18s have received a first dose, according to NHS data to July 25th.

The figures come as it emerged that the offer of a vaccine is expected to be extended to include all 16 and 17 year-olds.

In June, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi announced that a number of under-18s would be eligible for the jab if they had certain health conditions, lived with someone who is immunocompromised, or were approaching their 18th birthday.

He said at the time that the vaccine experts who advise the Government, the JCVI, did not currently recommend that children should be routinely given the jab, but that the matter was being kept under constant review.

However, the PA news agency has learned that some clinics have already begun vaccinating 16 year-olds at walk-up appointments, provided that they attend with their parent or guardian.

NHS data shows that 79,616 children have had both doses.

Worth reading in full.

America’s Delta Surge

New Covid infections are surging in America, driven by the Delta variant. The states which reopened in the spring, such as Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, and defied the predictions of catastrophic exit waves, are now seeing surges. Florida, too, which reopened last autumn, is seeing a spike in infections, and hospital admissions are rising.

Reuters takes a look at how states are responding – which is by doing remarkably little, with the appetite for restrictions even in Blue states now that the vaccines are rolled out seemingly much lower than in previous outbreaks.

News Round-Up

JCVI Could Recommend Giving 16 and 17 Year-Olds Covid Vaccine “In Days”, Says Nicola Sturgeon

16 and 17 year-olds in the U.K. could soon be called up to get vaccinated against Covid, according to Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish First Minister suggested that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) could offer new advice “in the next few days” on the vaccination of this younger age group. The Guardian has the story.

Just two weeks after the [JCVI] recommended against routine vaccination of children, the Scottish First Minister revealed that she “hoped” over-16s would get the go-ahead to receive it after all.

Two Government sources confirmed that the JCVI was looking again at widening its recommendation for children over 12. Jabs for this age group are currently limited to those who are clinically vulnerable or live with someone at risk.

Anthony Harnden, a member of the committee, said: “JCVI is in the process of finalising updated advice on the offer of vaccination of children and young people.”

Ministers are believed to have been in favour of older children getting access to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, but the JCVI said they should not routinely be available to children who do not have a specific risk factor.

One of the concerns that the scientists raised, linked to the Pfizer jab, was about inflammation around the heart, with the JCVI concluding that the benefits did not outweigh the risk to those who would be receiving the jabs. …

Professor Rowland Kao, a participant in the the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) and an Epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Per capita, older teenagers currently have the highest risk of Covid infection, and vaccinating 16 and 17 year-olds should reduce this.” …

Making a statement to the Scottish parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Sturgeon said she was “hoping” to get the updated advice from the JCVI “over the next day or so”.

During the subsequent question-and-answer session with MSPs, Sturgeon said: “The JCVI are our advisory body so they have to give us the advice they think is right and I respect that. I am hoping it will recommend going further on the vaccination of young people.

“I am particularly concerned if possible to get vaccinations to 16 and 17 year-olds, which is obviously important for those who will be, for example, going to college and university and mingling with older young people who are vaccinated. But we’ll see what that advice brings and we stand ready to implement that as quickly as possible.”

She later said she was hoping and “veering towards expecting” the committee to recommend further vaccination of people in the 12 to 18 year-olds age group, and in particular “hopeful that we will see some updated recommendations in relation, as a priority as a first part of this, for 16 and 17 year-olds”.

Worth reading in full.

Have 1,200 Experts Ever Been Proved Wrong So Quickly?

Guido Fawkes reminds us today that over 1,200 so-called experts signed ‘the Declaration’ – cooked up by the same people behind the John Snow Memorandum – warning of the terrible effect easing coronavirus restrictions on July 19th would have. The Declaration originally took the form of a letter in the Lancet, published on July 7th, in which 120 self-described ‘scientists’, many of them members of Independent SAGE, described ‘Freedom Day’ as “dangerous and premature”. They cited the SAGE modelling showing there would be 100,000 new Covid cases a day if the Government went ahead with its plans and set out the dire consequences for Britain and the rest of the world. “We believe the Government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19th, 2021,” they wrote.

Two weeks on from ‘Freedom Day’, their predictions aren’t holding up terribly well.

According to Public Health England, the number of new daily cases fell to 21,691 today, another five-week low. So the 1,200 signatories of the Declaration exaggerated the number of daily cases that would follow ‘Freedom Day’ by 500%.

The Lancet letter also predicted that hospital admissions would soar as a result of Boris’s recklessness:

The link between cases and hospital admissions has not been broken, and rising case numbers will inevitably lead to increased hospital admissions, applying further pressure at a time when millions of people are waiting for medical procedures and routine care.

Perhaps they should have thought twice before inserting that word “inevitably” because the latest data shows hospital admissions falling. “Another 731 admissions were recorded by officials on July 30th, the latest date available – down 15% on the week before,” reports MailOnline.

And it wasn’t just these 1,200 ‘experts’ who were sounding the alarm. Let’s not forget that Keir Starmer also described Boris’s plan to ease restrictions as “reckless”.

And, of course, our old friend Neil Ferguson said on July 18th that it was “almost inevitable” that daily cases would climb to 100,000 a day if Boris went ahead with the unlocking the following day and added that “the real question” was whether they would reach 200,000 a day or more and warned of a “significant burden on the healthcare system”. Out by 1000% – which is actually pretty modest by Ferguson’s standards.

As Guido Fawkes says: “Guido can’t remember a time 1,200 so-called experts were proven so wrong in one fell swoop…”

Boris’s decision to go ahead with ‘Freedom Day’ is the first time I can think of in the past 16 months when he’s stuck to his guns in the face of wildly apocalyptic claims from various ‘experts’ about the consequences of “letting it rip” (their phrase for giving us our freedoms back). On every previous occasion, because he’s done exactly as these gloomsters have asked, they haven’t been proved wrong. Admittedly, locking down three times hasn’t stopped the U.K. from having one of the worst Covid death tolls in Europe, and Sweden’s excess deaths in 2020 were lower than ours in spite of not locking down. But the crystal ball gazers have always been able to argue that things would have been so much worse if we hadn’t locked down. Yet this time – finally – Boris ignored their doom-mongering and, as a result, they have been proved spectacularly – and humiliatingly – wrong.

Will this experience stiffen Boris’s backbone the next time he’s prevailed upon by the Government’s scientific advisers, sundry public health experts and the chin-wobblers in the Cabinet to lock down again, which really is inevitable? We can but hope.

An Interview With Philippe Lemoine

Philippe Lemoine is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Cornell University, with a background in computer science. He’s also a blogger, a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, and a lockdown sceptic. During the pandemic, he’s written several detailed articles about the efficacy of lockdowns. I interviewed him via email.

On December 4th, you published an article on your blog titled ‘Lockdowns, science and voodoo magic’, which criticised the well-known paper by Flaxman et al. That paper (which has been cited more than 1,300 times) concluded, “major non-pharmaceutical interventions – and lockdowns in particular – have had a large effect on reducing transmission”. Could you briefly summarise your criticisms?

I made two main points against that paper. First, the model assumed that only non-pharmaceutical interventions affected transmission, so any observed reduction in transmission could only be ascribed by the model to non-pharmaceutical interventions. Since in fact transmission went down quickly everywhere during the first wave, the only question was how much of that reduction would the model attribute to each intervention. But the fact that non-pharmaceutical interventions were jointly responsible for the entire reduction in transmission was not something the model inferred from the data, it was assumed at the outset by the authors when they defined the model. A consequence of this fact is that, when they compute a counterfactual scenario in which there weren’t any non-pharmaceutical interventions to estimate how many lives were saved by lockdowns and other restrictions, the authors just assume that cases would have continued to rise until the herd immunity threshold was reached and would only start to go down then. Although the authors did not deem it necessary to reveal this small detail, this meant that, in their counterfactual, more than 95% of the population was already infected by May 3, which is preposterous. Even one year and a half after the beginning of the pandemic, there isn’t a single country where the proportion of the population that has been infected even comes close to such a figure, not even in countries where restrictions were extremely limited. So when the paper finds that non-pharmaceutical interventions in general and lockdowns in particular saved three million lives in Europe alone during the first wave, they only reach that conclusion by comparing the actual number of COVID-19 deaths to the number of deaths in a ridiculous scenario where essentially everyone had been infected. Yet this preposterous estimate was taken seriously by the entire scientific establishment and, as you noted, the paper became one of the most cited studies on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second point I made is that, not only was this result based on totally unrealistic assumptions, but the authors failed to disclose a key result that completely undermined their conclusion. As I explained above, the model was bound to attribute the entire reduction in transmission that was observed in Europe during the first wave to non-pharmaceutical interventions, the only question was how much of it would be attributed to each intervention. Their headline result was that, apart from lockdowns, nothing else had any clear effect, which meant that lockdowns were responsible for the overwhelming majority of the 3 million lives that, according to this study, non-pharmaceutical interventions had collectively saved. However, Sweden was included in the study and never locked down, yet only a tiny fraction of its population was infected during the first wave. How is that possible if only lockdowns have a substantial effect on transmission? I knew this made no sense, so I downloaded the code of the paper to reproduce their analysis on my computer and take a closer look at the results. Their model allowed the effect of the last intervention, which happened to be a lockdown everywhere except in Sweden, where it was a ban on public events, in each country to vary. What my analysis of their results showed is that, in order to fit the data, the model had to find that banning public events reduced transmission by ~72.2% in Sweden but only by ~1.6% elsewhere. In other words, according to the model, banning public events had somehow been 45 times more effective in Sweden than anywhere else. Now, unless you believe there are magical anti-pandemic fairies in Sweden that somehow made banning public events 45 times more effective than elsewhere, this obviously never happened. Rather, what this means is that the model was garbage, which in turn means that we have no reason to believe the paper’s headline result that lockdown had a huge effect on transmission. There is a lot more in my piece about that paper, which I methodically demolish, but those are the main points.

New York City Introduces Vaccine Passports for Indoor Dining

Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York, has announced that later this month only those who’ve been double jabbed will be able to dine inside at restaurants, enter gyms or go to the theatre. The New York Times has more.

New York City will become the first U.S. city to require proof of vaccination for a variety of activities for workers and customers — indoor dining, gyms and performances — to put pressure on people to get vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday morning.

The program, similar to mandates issued in France and Italy last month, will start later this month, and after a transition period, enforcement will begin in mid-September, when schools are expected to reopen and more workers could return to offices in Manhattan.

“It’s time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good and full and healthy life,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference.

“Not everyone is going to agree with this, I understand that,” he said. “But for so many people, this is going to be a lifesaving act, that we are putting a mandate in place that is going to guarantee a much higher level of vaccination in this city. And that is the key to protecting people, and the key to our recovery.”

Mr. de Blasio has been moving aggressively to get more New Yorkers vaccinated to curtail a third wave of coronavirus cases. He is requiring city workers to get vaccinated or to face weekly testing, and he has offered a $100 incentive for the public.

About 66% of adults in the city are fully vaccinated, according to city data, although pockets of the city have lower rates.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: New York City Councilman Joe Borelli points out that this will mean 69% of blacks, 58% of Latinos and majority of Bronx residents won’t be able to eat in a restaurant or go to the gym.

Queues at Heathrow Are a Quarter Mile Long Thanks to ‘Pingdemic’

Departure queues at Heathrow Airport are up to a quarter of a mile long, thanks to the fact that 25% of staff have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid App. The Mirror has more.

Huge queues have built up at Heathrow Airport amid a suspected Covid outbreak among staff, it has been reported.

Frustrated passengers have been stuck waiting for hours at the London airport today.

Some reported tension within the queues, with people jostling and pushing just to get into the terminal.

The lack of social distancing has led to concerns among some that the virus could spread as crowded people wait to get on their flights.

Problems with the e-gates and sickness among Border Force staff are behind the delays, the Times reports.

You can read the Times report about the queues here.

Preg-CoV: New Trial to Study Potential Side-Effects of Covid Vaccination on Pregnant Women on Babies

A new clinical trial based in the U.K. will seek to determine the most suitable gap between the first and second Covid vaccine jabs for pregnant women, as well as the potential side effects on their unborn children. Those running the trial hope it will make pregnant women feel more comfortable about getting vaccinated. The Guardian has the story.

Last week, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, urged expectant mothers to get vaccinated as soon as possible, with evidence suggesting the Delta variant poses a significantly greater risk to pregnant women than previous forms of the virus.

A clinical trial called Preg-CoV has been launched to help determine the best gap between doses for pregnant women as well as exploring in greater detail potential side-effects and the impact on babies – something the researchers hope will offer reassurance. …

Asma Khalil, Lead Obstetrician for the trial and Professor of Obstetrics and Maternal Fetal Medicine at St George’s, said that while the U.K. Covid vaccination programme had been a success, uptake has been low among pregnant women.

According to research in her own hospital, “among pregnant women who’ve given birth between March this year until beginning of July, less than one third – 28% – of women who were eligible according to the guidance actually received [at least one dose of] the Covid vaccine” during pregnancy, said Khalil. …

“Pregnant women are still concerned because pregnant women were not included in initial Covid vaccine trials,” said Khalil.

In the first phase of the Preg-CoV trial, the team hope to recruit 600 pregnant women, aged between 18 and 44, from 13 sites across England.

Two groups of 200 unvaccinated pregnant women at different gestation times will be randomised both with respect to whether they receive a Moderna or Pfizer/Biontech jab and to whether they are given their second dose four to six weeks or at eight-12 weeks after the first dose. 

Participants will not know which Covid jab they are given… while a routine vaccination to protect against whooping cough will also be included in the schedule so that participants are not aware which dosing regime they are following.

A third group of about 100 pregnant women will be given one dose of a Covid jab at 28-34 weeks gestation, with the second dose of the same vaccine given after delivery, while the fourth group of 100 women will already have had their first dose of any Covid jab before or very early in pregnancy and will get the second dose of the same vaccine.

All the women will have follow-up visits and blood tests, and fill in an electronic diary to help the researchers monitor any potential vaccine side-effects. The team will also track outcomes for the babies up to 12 months of age to explore safety and impact on their development. …

“I think there will be some lessons learned from this pandemic,” said Khalil. “And one of them is that we should consider including pregnant woman at a relatively early stage for vaccine trials.”

Worth reading in full.

Ibiza Looking to Put Together Snitch Squad to Report on Lockdown Rule Breakers

Ibizan officials are considering hiring undercover operatives to attend secret parties that break lockdown rules and snitch on the organisers to the authorities. Organisers of illegal parties – who are being blamed for an increase in positive Covid tests – face fines of up to €600,000 (£513,000). The Guardian has the story.

The idea comes as the island, where the renowned nightlife and music scene has long drawn tourists from around the world, seeks to tackle a two-week Covid incidence rate that has soared to 1,814 cases per 100,000 of the population. With most nightclubs shuttered – except for those able to hold outdoor events where patrons are seated at all times – and gatherings in restaurants and bars limited to small groups, officials have blamed illegal parties for the spike in cases.

They have responded with an array of restrictions, from a ban on mixed-household gatherings between 1am and 6am to fines of up to €600,000 (£513,000) for those who organise illegal parties.

Even so, the parties have not stopped. “They’re not only an issue related to public order, which they have always been, but now they pose an obvious risk to people’s health,” a local official, Mariano Juan, told the newspaper Diario de Ibiza. “Police themselves say it’s difficult for them to infiltrate, as they are known to locals. So we have to look outside for help.” …

Local officials are now in talks with a company that is studying how best to put together a team who can help police in detecting these parties, said Juan. “It is not easy as the profile we’re looking for are foreigners between 30 and 40 years old, but we have been working on it for two weeks.”

Nevertheless, he was confident that the initiative would advance quickly. “I have no doubt that it will be up and running this summer… It’s a necessity to safeguard the health situation in Ibiza.” …

The idea has… been heavily criticised by the Socialist party, which leads the regional administration covering Ibiza. A spokesperson, Vicent Torres, called on the island’s officials to put forth “serious proposals that have legal backing” rather than “acting irresponsibly by launching ideas that we cannot agree to”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “I absolutely love this story,” says Guardian reporter Robyn Vinter, apparently welcoming the idea of hiring tourists to spy on each other.