Day: 24 April 2021

More People Died in U.S. States Which Locked Down Than Those Which Did Not – Here’s Why

Last week I wrote that U.S. states which locked down over the winter had a higher Covid death toll on average than those which did not.

Some people argued that I should have only looked at deaths over the winter rather than in total for it to be a fair comparison. I disagree. That would mean places which had a high death toll in spring would look better just because they had already been hit hard, lost a lot of people, and built up some immunity. Also, in lockdown theory, lockdowns only defer deaths, they don’t prevent them, so any state which didn’t lock down in winter should have suffered then any deaths deferred by earlier measures. Thus the fairest comparison for understanding whether lockdowns are necessary to prevent a catastrophic death toll – the central claim at stake – is the total number of deaths, not just those in one season.

Today I’m updating the figures. At the same time I’ve done a fresh review of the measures different states took (using these two handy websites which have collected them all together) to ensure I’m putting each state in the correct category.

Nineteen states issued an actual stay-at-home order this winter. While most of these (except for Oregon and New Mexico) were advisory, they all made clear that people should stay at home as much as possible and were accompanied by other severe restrictions such as business closures and bans on gatherings. A further 14 states, though not issuing a stay-at-home order, imposed similar strong restrictions that served the same basic purpose. These I’ve classified as the winter lockdown states (they include Washington, D.C.).

The other group of states imposed much lighter restrictions, such as business capacity limits (often around 50%) or gathering limits (such as 50) but did not issue a stay-at-home order, close businesses or ban private gatherings. There are 18 of these – the 11 I included last time, plus seven I’d overlooked, including Arizona and Mississippi. These two states in particular are up in the top six states states for Covid deaths per million so I was concerned this would shift the average for the no-lockdown states above the lockdown states. However, the no-lockdown states still come out lower (albeit with a smaller gap) – 1,730 vs 1,736. (Death and population data from Worldometer.)

As noted before, we shouldn’t get too hung up on the precise numbers here, which will be affected by various factors such as the population density and demographics of the state and the precise way the state counts Covid deaths. The important point is the big picture: the fact that in one big country with lots of different regions responding to an epidemic in different ways, there was no obvious relationship between interventions and outcomes. In particular, those which didn’t lock down did not suffer “hundreds of thousands” more deaths (or the population-size equivalent) than those which did, contrary to what all the mathematical models predicted. Their epidemics peaked and declined in the same way as lockdown states.

This point becomes even clearer when we focus in on the six states which kept restrictions to a minimum this winter – Florida, Georgia, South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah and Nebraska. These states had 1,629 Covid deaths per million on average, well below the 1,736 average of the lockdown states.

Thousands of People “Unite for Freedom” in London

Thousands of people gathered in London today in opposition to lockdown and to the idea of vaccine passports. Banners held by those in the “Unite for Freedom” protest read “no new normal”, “no health passport” and much more. Footage from the march gives an idea of the sheer number of people who attended.

The Mail has more.

TV presenter Beverly Turner has joined thousands of activists marching through central London in a “Unite for Freedom” protest to demand a ban on vaccine passports.

Demonstrators, also including London Mayor candidates Piers Corbyn and Laurence Fox, made their way through the capital earlier today as they waved banners and placards daubed with a range of slogans including “no new normal” and “no health passport”.

The crowds did not appear to be adhering to social distancing guidelines and were not wearing face masks.

The protest comes amid discussions over “Covid-status certificates” being considered by ministers… despite concerns from Boris Johnson’s own MPs that they will be “intrusive, costly and unnecessary”. 

Earlier this month, Britain’s equalities watchdog warned the Government that vaccine passports could be unlawful, create a “two-tier society” and discriminate against migrants, ethnic minorities and the poor.

The supporters of the movement are protesting against new Covid measures including what they call “coerced vaccinations”…

The Metropolitan Police took to Twitter earlier in the day with a series of posts that read: “We have a policing operation in central London today as a result of a number of demonstrations. 

“Anyone coming into London for a protest must make sure their gathering is lawful, with a risk assessment carried out by the organiser…

“Officers are on site and are engaging with those taking part.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Hector Drummond has questioned the lack of media coverage of the protest in London, accusing the BBC of “blatant politicisation”.

More Than Half of U.K. Population Has Received First Dose of Covid Vaccine

More than half of the U.K. population has now had the first dose of a Covid vaccine, according to Government figures. Data shows that the number having received their second dose is nearing the 12 million mark, strengthening the case for the lockdown to come to an end. Despite this, the dominant Government narrative suggests that the current phase of lockdown could be in place for more time than has been anticipated in the roadmap, not less. Metro has the story.

Out of the country’s 66,650,000 people, 33,388,637 have received the jab, according to Department of Health figures released today.

A total of 11,623,671 have received their second shot, equating to 17.4% of the entire population.

The total number of vaccinations given in the U.K. now stands at 45,012,308.

Only people aged 16 and over are currently able to get the jab, meaning the proportion of the eligible population to be immunised is even higher.

Today’s update from the Government revealed another 40 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, falling by more than a third in a fortnight.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows weekly infections in England dropped by a fifth last week to 90,000, despite the reopening of pubs and restaurants.

Worth reading in full.

Israel Investigating Link Between Pfizer Vaccine and Heart Problem in Men Under 30

The Israeli Health Ministry has raised concerns that there could be a link between the Pfizer Covid vaccine and heart complications, particularly among younger men. There are currently 62 recorded cases in Israel of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which occurred in the days after vaccination. Pfizer responded saying it has not seen similar reports in other countries where the vaccine has been rolled out, though this could be because few other countries have vaccinated as many young people as Israel. The Times of Israel has the story.

Details from an unpublished Israeli Health Ministry report into the side effects of the Pfizer vaccine have raised concerns that there could be a link between the second shot and several dozen cases of myocarditis… particularly in men under 30, Channel 12 reported Friday.

The concerns come from an intermediate report that was presented to ministry heads and to Pfizer in recent weeks, the TV report said. Excerpts from the leaked report stressed that investigators had not conclusively proved a link, but that they had significant concerns.

The report said that out of more than five million people vaccinated in Israel, there were 62 recorded cases of myocarditis in the days after the shot. It found that 56 of those cases came after the second shot and most of the affected were men under 30.

The report said that 60 of the patients were treated and released from hospital in good condition. Two of the patients, who were reportedly healthy until receiving the vaccination, including a 22 year-old woman and a 35 year-old man, died.

“The findings were presented to the Pfizer company who replied that they had not had similar reports in the rest of the world and would examine the data,” an excerpt from the report said, adding that the details had also been sent to the U.S. FDA and CDC, who were also investigating.

The report was authored by senior ministry officials led by Professor Dror Mevorach, head of one of the Covid units at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.

The authors surmised that “one possible reason for lack of similar findings in other countries was the low rate of vaccinations among young people”.

“There is specific concern regarding the frequency of the occurrence observed in men under 30 in the days immediately after the second shot,” they wrote. “At this stage, according to initial findings that still need to be verified, there is an impression that the number (of cases) is higher than would be expected, especially for those under 30.”

The report found that of those who received the second dose, 1 in 100,000 had possible side effects of myocarditis; however, this number rose to 1 in 20,000 among those aged 16-30.

“We cannot yet tell if there are more cases than normal or if there are similar numbers annually and the proximity is just a coincidence. Efforts to collect more data are continuing,” the report said.

This news comes as the E.U. gets closer to signing off on a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech to buy up to 1.8 billion doses of their Covid vaccine. The bloc has come to prefer this vaccine to that produced by AstraZeneca due to a number of factors, some of them political.

The Times of Israel report is worth reading in full.

Try As They Might, Lockdown Proponents Can’t Escape the Blame for the Biggest Public Health Fiasco in History

Politicians, journalists and academics are wrong to blame the public for the failure of lockdowns since “the population [has never] sacrificed so much to comply with public health mandates”, say two of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD). Writing in the Telegraph, Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya – professors of medicine at Harvard and Stanford respectively – say that lockdown proponents need to acknowledge that eschewing focused protection and quarantining entire populations indiscriminately has led to the “biggest public health fiasco in history”.

A year ago, there was no evidence that lockdowns would protect older high-risk people from Covid. Now there is evidence. They did not.

With so many Covid deaths, it is obvious that lockdown strategies failed to protect the old. Holding the naïve belief that shutting down society would protect everyone, governments and scientists rejected basic focused protection measures for the elderly. While anyone can get infected, there is more than a thousand-fold difference in the risk of death between the old and the young. The failure to exploit this fact about the virus led to the biggest public health fiasco in history.

Lockdowns have, nevertheless, generated enormous collateral damage across all ages. Depriving children of in-person teaching has hurt not only their education but also their physical and mental health. Other public health consequences include missed cancer screenings and treatments and worse cardiovascular disease outcomes. Much of this damage will unfold over time and is something we must live with – and die with – for many years to come.

The blame game for this fiasco is now in full swing. Some scientists, politicians, and journalists are complaining that people did not comply with the rules sufficiently. But blaming the public is disingenuous. Never in human history has the population sacrificed so much to comply with public health mandates.

The professors are very critical of lockdown zealots like Neil O’Brien MP who have attempted to slur respected scientists – such as Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta (the third author of the GBD) – for not toeing the line on lockdown. This, they say, has stifled the public debate on the most effective way to deal with Covid.

A few academics have jumped on the bandwagon. Dr Depti Gurdasani at Queen Mary University, for example, accused Dr Gupta of pseudoscience, suggesting that she should be deplatformed and Oxford University should act against her. Unfortunately, such behaviour intimidates other academics into silence, undermining scientific debate.

Last spring, the pandemic was waning due to a combination of immunity and seasonality, and many lockdowners claimed that lockdowns had succeeded. Still, it was obvious to any competent infectious disease epidemiologist that it would be back, and in June, Dr Gupta said she expected a resurgence of Covid in the winter months. This didn’t prevent journalists and politicians from falsely claiming that she thought the pandemic was all over.

The fact is that with a lower herd immunity threshold in the summer than in the winter, immunity can drive a pandemic on its way out during the spring but then resurge next autumn, and that is what happened. A year into the pandemic, one would think that politicians and journalists writing about Covid would have bothered to acquire some basic knowledge of infectious disease epidemiology.

Their article is very much worth reading in full.

How to Understand Big Pharma: They’re Not Evil, But They Do Want Money

As concerns about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to grow and more and more countries move away from it, a comment appeared below the line this morning from “sophie123” that offers insight into the role big pharmaceutical companies are playing in the crisis and the psychology behind the actions of their employees that we thought was worth putting up here.

I work for Big Pharma. I am senior enough to know the executive team pretty well. Some very well.

They are not all good people, by any means – you don’t climb up the greasy pole by being filled with altruism to fellow man. But there’s no overarching evil plot to foist dangerous medicines on people. That is overly simplistic.

What I do see, that has contributed to the situation we are in and I have no doubt is any different at any of the other big pharma companies (execs at which I also know many of):

1) In the UK and US at least, a degree of complicity with what politicians want them to do (because governments ultimately can control pricing, taxes/tax breaks, regulation, all of which impact on stock price, and hand out gongs in the UK). This has many repercussions, and no doubt vaccines that might have been pulled under normal circumstances have continued to be used as a result. Political interference in a space politicians know little about combined with pharma spinelessness in the face of this interference can be very toxic.

2) A desire to be seen as “better” than the other Big Pharma companies. They are not all in cahoots with each other, and some are direct commercial competition. They work on mutual interests together to lobby government (primarily how to stop the US implementing price controls) but there’s as much politicking between CEOs as there is with governments. They mostly hate each other and love it when another company screws up in some way, not necessarily for competitive commercial reasons, but because it makes their failures in the eyes of institutional shareholders look less bad in comparison.
But anyway, they’re not some evil cabal cooking up plots to poison the world together. They are superficially cordial but actually all hate one another.

3) Stock price performance is seen as a measure of their success, and it will trump anything else. So any new information that might damage the share price, if it can be stalled or quashed, will be. Only when it’s absolutely necessary will there be a facing of the facts and transparency. Different companies draw the line in different places here. It’s not evil though. I’d liken it to being in denial, like a wife whose husband is working late every night, has a dubious explanation for the lipstick on his collar, denies to herself that anything could be amiss until she catches him and his lover in bed together and can’t ignore it any longer.

The head-in-the-sand approach can be pervasive throughout organisations, especially if there is a “shoot the messenger” culture (which there often is, as like I say, to climb the greasy pole you need to be a bit of an arsehole and shooting messengers is a common enough arsehole trait). So if side effect data start emerging that is not favourable, everybody is hoping and praying it will turn out to be nothing, and start to talk themselves into “it’s nothing”, and only when the evidence becomes incontrovertible is anything done. And then often too slowly. In a good company culture though, the right steps should be taken and personally I have never seen any egregious breaches of appropriate escalation. In the past, that certainly hasn’t always been the case, and many fines have resulted.

4) Boards are lazy. Their oversight is abysmal. They focus on trivialities and processes, rather than ensuring ethics are adhered to. Mostly they are interested in the quality of catering at board meetings and whether someone has printed off their boarding pass for their first class flight home, rather than board matters (they’re largely old, and don’t do electronic boarding cards).

5) Being a pharma industry person does not make you immune to Government/BBC fear tactics, sadly. They are as susceptible to the mainstream narrative as anyone else. Many people don’t seem to have even stopped and thought about this for more than a few minutes, and took the “deadly unprecedented virus to which we are all susceptible” at face value and look at you like you’re smoking something if you dare to suggest it may have been a tiny bit exaggerated.

6) They will only do things that make money, or might make them money in future. They are not charitable organisations. Drug development is risky and expensive, and shareholders want their returns. Sounds obvious, but it underpins everything and people seem to forget that at times.

Stop Press: The Times of Israel is reporting on a leaked Israeli Health Ministry report into the side effects of the Pfizer vaccine that raises “concerns that there could be a link between the second shot and several dozen cases of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, particularly in men under 30”. Sixty two cases of myocarditis have been found out of five million vaccinated with two deaths, but no direct link has been established, according to the newspaper. (See more on Lockdown Sceptics.)

Travel to “Green List” Countries May Still Be Barred by Foreign Office

The Foreign Office could refuse to sanction travel to countries on the Government’s “green” and “amber” lists since its travel advice is published independently of the “traffic light” system, throwing doubt on holidays to some destinations this summer. The Times has the story.

It emerged last night that even destinations on the green or amber list could be rendered off-limits because the Foreign Office publishes its own travel advice, independently of the traffic-light system. This is based on factors such as the risk of individuals getting trapped by coronavirus restrictions or the capacity and quality of the country’s health services.

Most tour operators will refuse to run holidays in countries to which the Foreign Office does not advise travel. Disregarding Foreign Office advice also invalidates most travel insurance policies.

The issue risks a repeat of last summer when the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Foreign Office published separate lists for safe overseas travel, with some countries appearing on one but not the other.

Fears that travel advice may diverge from the traffic light system led to industry leaders and MPs calling on the Government last night to ensure that the two were aligned.

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines U.K., which represents carriers such as easyJet and British Airways, said that Foreign Office advice on essential travel “should only be in place for destinations where the risk to travellers is unacceptably high”…

In a further complication, the Foreign Office is requiring cruise operators to sign a “memorandum of understanding” that requires them to agree to the cost and liabilities of repatriating any Britons if they become trapped by a Covid outbreak on a ship.

Industry sources said they were concerned that the paperwork could complicate the restart of international cruises for some companies.

Overseas travel is already set to be a far more complicated affair when/if it returns on May 17th than it was pre-lockdown, especially due to hefty testing costs that travellers – even those visiting “green list” countries – will have to meet. It is expected that the Government will not put any European countries on the travel “red list”, but only a handful of countries – including Israel, Gibraltar and Iceland – are likely to feature on the “green list”. If the Foreign Office decides not to sanction travel to these countries because of Covid then their position on the “green list” will become redundant anyway.

The Times report is worth reading in full.

New Oxford Study Confirms Spike in Infections Following Vaccination

We were greeted by good news yesterday. A new UK population study from the University of Oxford, based on the ONS Infection Survey, shows that in fully vaccinated people asymptomatic infections were down 70% and symptomatic infections by 90%. The Telegraph has the story:

In the first large real-world study of the impact of vaccination on the general population, researchers found that the rollout is having a major impact on cutting both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.

Sarah Walker, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford and Chief Investigator on the Office for National Statistics COVID-19 Infection Survey, said that Britain had “moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation” where the virus is circulating at a low, largely controllable level in the community. 

The new research, based on throat swabs from 373,402 people between December 1st last year and April 3rd, found three weeks after one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab, symptomatic infections fell by 74% and infections without symptoms by 57%. 

By two doses, asymptomatic infections were down 70% and symptomatic by 90%.

But is it all as it seems? I wrote last week about vaccine studies that have glaring issues that everyone, including the authors, seem content to gloss over. Sadly, the same appears to be true of this study.

Here’s one of the key figures. Look at diagram A in the top left. The dots represent the infection rate in seven different groups of people defined by how long before or after vaccination they are and whether they’ve had Covid before.

It starts at the top with the group of people who are more than 21 days prior to being vaccinated and who haven’t had Covid before (and who may not have a vaccine booked or even be eligible yet for a vaccine). This group is the baseline so is given the value 1, and the number of infections in other groups are compared to this as a proportion. So the next group are those people who are less than 21 days before their first jab and who haven’t had Covid before, and they had 0.28 of the rate of infections that the first group had (once adjusted for various confounding factors such as location, age and sex).

This is the first oddity. Why do those less than three weeks before their first jab have around a quarter of the infections of those more than three weeks away from their jab? What is it about crossing that three-week threshold that has such a massive impact on infection risk, by far the biggest effect in the study?

The authors do offer a brief explanation, putting it down to “changes in behaviour due to either receiving the vaccination invitation letter or knowledge that individuals from their age or risk group are about to get vaccinated in their area”. But they offer no evidence of this mass change in behaviour triggered by the approach of the vaccination, and the vaccine invitation letter includes no advice to make any new effort to avoid people. In any case, it means the headline finding of the study should probably have been that being less than three weeks before your jab cuts infections by 72% – even more than being fully vaccinated!

News Round Up

MEPs Served With Notices of Liability Ahead of Vaccine Passport Vote

There follows a guest post by Oliver May, a staff journalist at a national newspaper group writing under a pseudonym.

MEMBERS of the European Parliament have been told they may be held liable for harm and death caused by the introduction of a Covid certification scheme.

Doctors for Covid Ethics, a group of doctors, scientists and lawyers from around the world, have served MEPs with Notices of Liability advising them that they may be held personally liable should they vote for the implementation of a Digital Green Certificate in the European Parliament next Wednesday.

Many fear vaccine passports will create a two-tier society, with only those able to certify that they’re un-infectious, whether because they’ve been vaccinated, recently tested or have recovered from COVID-19, being allowed to enjoy the freedoms they once had. Some lawyers have expressed concern that this is a form of coercion.

The COVID-19 vaccines are available under an Emergency Use Authorisation and, despite Governments insisting they are “safe and effective”, Doctors for Covid Ethics have expressed concern that the’ve been approved too quickly and the risks associated with being vaccinated for those under-60 with no underlying health conditions may be greater than the risk posed by SARS-CoV-2.

However, any implementation of a Digital Green Certificate scheme means those who have not had a Covid vaccine, and cannot otherwise certify that they’re un-infectious, could be discriminated against and kept out of “normal” society.

Israel has introduced a Green Pass system, which opens up society to everyone who has been vaccinated. Earlier this week, Michael Gove, together with England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam, travelled there to study the Green Pass and discuss its effectiveness with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Gove has repeatedly said the UK Government has “no plans” to introduce vaccine passports, as has Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi. But the UK Government has moved the goalposts over the past few months and, as reported in Lockdown Sceptics on April 20th, multiple jobs are now being advertised in London and Leeds in connection with vaccine passports, with NHSX [the tech arm of the NHS], saying they are: “Developing both digital and non-digital options to enable U.K. residents to assert their Covid status, including both vaccination history and test results.” The advert says applicants must be able “to start with us by Tuesday, May 4th, 2021”.

The European Union believes its version of the vaccine passport will facilitate safe, free movement within the bloc, adding that it is “non-discriminatory”, despite discriminating against those who cannot prove they’re un-infectious.

On March 25th, the European Parliament voted to fast-track the Digital Green Certificate via an emergency procedure by 468 votes to 203, with 16 MEPs abstaining.

Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Greens–European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, warned that the speeding up process could create “considerable distrust” among European citizens. That sentiment was echoed by Liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, who said that skipping the committee-level process was an “abuse of an emergency situation”.

The notice of liability issued to MEPs by Doctors for Covid Ethics reads as follows:

This Notice of Liability has been SERVED to you personally.

You may be held personally liable for harm and death caused by implementation of the proposal identified as REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable certificates on vaccination, testing and recovery to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic (Digital Green Certificate), Brussels, 17.3.2021 COM (2021) 130 final 2021/0068 (COD), which is designed to coerce widespread acceptance of experimental vaccination.

If you take further action supporting such implementation, and if you take no steps to mitigate your past actions supporting such implementation, you may be held personally liable for resulting harm and death…

Furthermore, you may be held personally responsible for supporting CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, defined as acts that are purposely committed as part of a widespread or systematic policy, directed against civilians, committed in furtherance of state policy.

Please respond to this NOTICE OF LIABILITY within 14 days from the DATE OF SERVICE to: DOCTORS FOR COVID ETHICS

The full letter and a list of its recipients can be found here.