Day: 25 April 2021

U.K. Sends Medical Supplies to India to Aid Efforts against Covid

The U.K. Government is sending more than 600 medical devices – including ventilators and oxygen concentrators – to India as the country is suffering from a surge in Covid cases and a shortage of medical oxygen. BBC News has the story.

More than 600 pieces of medical equipment are being sent to India as the country faces a record surge of coronavirus cases, the U.K. Government has said.

The assistance package includes 495 oxygen concentrators – which extract oxygen from the air to give to patients – as well as ventilators.

India is seeing thousands of deaths a day amid oxygen shortages…

The first shipment of equipment will leave the U.K. on Sunday and is due to arrive in the Indian capital, New Delhi, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

In total, the U.K. will send nine airline containers of supplies this week, including 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators.

Local media reports say oxygen concentrators are in high demand in India, as they can meet some patients’ need for extra oxygen without adding to the strain on hospital oxygen supplies.

For the fourth day in a row, India has reported a record number of new infections, with almost 350,000 cases in the last 24-hour period and 2,767 deaths.

Many hospitals in Delhi are refusing to accept new patients because they cannot guarantee oxygen supplies. Oxygen tanks are being transported across the country, sometimes with a police escort, and flown in from nearby countries to meet demand.

The Prime Minister tweeted: “We stand side by side with India in the shared fight against Covid.”

https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1386340882086047753

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: London mayoral candidate Laurence Fox has suggested that Britain’s surplus Covid vaccine supplies should be sent to India “now that 99% [of people in the U.K.] are protected”.

Millions Are Skipping Their Second Doses of Covid Vaccines in the U.S.

A number of U.S. states recently warned that they were running out of people willing to take a Covid vaccine. New reports suggest that a fairly significant proportion of Americans who have received their first dose of a vaccine are unwilling – or believe there is no need – to take a second. Reasons include a fear of the side effects and the belief that one dose offers enough protection against Covid. The New York Times has the story.

Millions of Americans are not getting the second doses of their Covid vaccines, and their ranks are growing.

More than five million people, or nearly 8% of those who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, have missed their second doses, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than double the rate among people who got inoculated in the first several weeks of the nationwide vaccine campaign.

Even as the country wrestles with the problem of millions of people who are wary about getting vaccinated at all, local health authorities are confronting an emerging challenge of ensuring that those who do get inoculated are doing so fully.

The reasons vary for why people are missing their second shots. In interviews, some said they feared the side effects, which can include flu-like symptoms. Others said they felt that they were sufficiently protected with a single shot.

Those attitudes were expected, but another hurdle has been surprisingly prevalent. A number of vaccine providers have cancelled second-dose appointments because they ran out of supply or didn’t have the right brand in stock.

Walgreens, one of the biggest vaccine providers, sent some people who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get their second doses at pharmacies that only had the other vaccine on hand.

Several Walgreens customers said in interviews that they scrambled, in some cases with help from pharmacy staff, to find somewhere to get the correct second dose. Others, presumably, simply gave up.

Many states anticipated that vaccine hesitancy rates would increase as the rollout progressed and are now implementing a number of schemes to try to ensure that uptake remains high.

In Arkansas and Illinois, health officials have directed teams to call, text or send letters to people to remind them to get their second shots. In Pennsylvania, officials are trying to ensure that college students can get their second shots after they leave campus for the summer. South Carolina has allocated several thousand doses specifically for people who are overdue for their second shot.

Worth reading in full.

Mental Health Patients Missed Out on Care Because of Lockdowns

The loss of face-to-face treatments has made mental health patients feel as though they “were missing out on care” over the past year of lockdowns, according to new research. For some patients, video calls made matters worse. The Observer has the story.

Mental health patients found their conditions deteriorated during the pandemic because the NHS switched from in-person help to support by telephone, video and text messages, new research reveals.

Many reported a lower quality of care, according to a study by University College London; others had trouble accessing medication, had appointments cancelled or felt the loss of face-to-face help meant they “were missing out on care”.

Researchers led by Dr Brynmor Lloyd-Evans found that, for many patients, the switch to remote care heightened the isolation and loneliness they were already feeling because they could no longer see friends and family.

“People with pre-existing mental health conditions experienced serious disruptions to their access to, and the quality of, mental healthcare as a result of the pandemic. The opportunities and challenges of remote mental healthcare were an important aspect of our findings,” Lloyd-Evans and colleagues write in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

“While for some people telephone and digital support provided continuity of care, for others there were issues around access to technology, maintaining therapeutic relationships remotely, and digital interfaces exacerbating difficult feelings or symptoms associated with their mental health.”

After interviewing 49 people with mental health conditions in London about their experience during Covid’s first wave, the researchers found key issues included “inadequate access to mental health services”, “difficulties in day-to-day functioning” and “struggles with social connectedness”.

One patient said: “Lockdown has made me feel very angry. I feel the professionals used it as an excuse to stop offering appointments. I was seeing her every week and it’s been cut to every three weeks [by telephone].”

Another said of their therapist: “She did text me a few times: we keep conversation [by] texting but it is not good enough really.” Another, who was offered video calls rather than in-person help, said: “For my paranoia, they make it worse, so I tend not to do them.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, which recently said England is “in the grip of a mental health crisis“, believes the extent of the crisis “will likely get a lot worse before it gets better”.

Over one million more treatment sessions were given to adults between April and December last year (1,078,539), an increase of 8% on 2019. There were also 159,347 urgent crisis referrals made for adults, an all-time high, and an increase of 2% on 2019.

The Observer report is worth reading in full.

TV’s Favourite SAGE member and Lockdown Cheerleader is a Hardline Communist Once Known as “Stalin’s Nanny”

Ian Gallagher and Peter Hitchens have written a couple of good pieces in today’s Mail on Sunday about Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology at UCL and a leading member of SAGE. She is one of the most zealous advocates of lockdown, believing restrictions should remain in place long after the U.K. population has been vaccinated. Most readers of Lockdown Sceptics will be aware that Prof Michie is a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, but Gallagher has uncovered some interesting tidbits.

There are some things that Prof Michie – whose first husband was Andrew Murray, once a key adviser to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – is rather less inclined to discuss, including money. Perhaps because she has so much of it. Indeed, she is the blue-blooded descendant of an earl who, along with her brother, sold a family heirloom – a Picasso painting called L’Enfant Au Pigeon – to Qatari royals for £50 million in 2013. This didn’t stop her once urging fellow Communists to support Jeremy Corbyn at a presentation with the words: “We, the working class…”

Peter Hitchens also has some interesting details:

The super-rich Communist Susan Michie is so militant that her fellow Marxists once searched her baby’s pram for subversive literature.

They lifted the tiny infant out of the way, to check that the future Professor of Psychology was not smuggling ultra-hardline propaganda into a crucial conference.

No wonder that fellow students at Oxford a few years before had called her “Stalin’s nanny”.

Why is this woman advising a Conservative Government?

Both pieces are worth reading in full.

Weary of the MSM Bias? A New Way to Have Your Say

Tired of the constant smearing and silence from the mainstream media such as the BBC when it comes anti-lockdown points of view? If so, you’re not alone. Dr David Seedhouse, Professor of Deliberative Practice at Aston University and a member of HART, is concerned not just at what this skewed public discourse means for policy but what it means for democracy and our country’s capacity to make good decisions. Writing in the Conservative Woman, he says:

Over the past year momentous decisions affecting whole populations have been taken by small groups of scientists and politicians behind closed doors, immune to challenge. Well-reasoned, evidenced views that do not fit the constantly shifting official stance have been ignored, and there have been orchestrated ad hominem attacks on dissenters. We have been talked down to, herded like infants and forced by ad hoc laws to behave in ways that strip us of our dignity.

Just as bad as the poor decisions is the poor decision-making that condemns us to keep repeating the same mistakes.

The one thing Government diktats have shown these past months is that we are terrifyingly powerless. We have no effective means of questioning or educating government ministers and policy-makers, even when they spout the most dreadful nonsense. It turns out that public debate – and the very occasional opportunity to vote for our ‘representatives’ – is demonstrably a pretence.

At least now that we know the truth we can deceive ourselves no longer: the Western political system is closer to despotism than meaningful democracy. We have no say in what happens to us because to those who cherish power, we simply don’t matter.

There is an alternative. Collectively citizens are vastly better informed and capable than a closed circle of politicians and their fixated ‘expert advisers’, but our governments have no desire whatsoever to draw on our insights and wisdom. Nevertheless, we have the technology to engage hundreds of thousands of citizens in transparent, balanced, educated decision-making. We do not need to defer to self-interested politicians bound to political parties, protected by an establishment elite who see no need to change anything.

To address this problem, David and his colleagues have developed a new online democratic tool to allow people of all views to have their say.

We would welcome your involvement in this project. If you agree to participate:

1) You will join a private group on this website; 

2) Over a one-week period you will be invited to offer your opinion on a key issue in the pandemic;

3) At the start of the week you will be able to agree or disagree with a proposal for debate, and offer your reasons (this will take no more than five minutes or so);

4) During the week you will be able to read others’ responses and discuss as much or as little with others as you wish;

5) During the week balanced educational materials for and against the proposition will be available on the website;

6) You will be able to witness a debate (live or recorded) with advocates for and against. If we can arrange it, you will be able to question them;

7) At the end of the week you will be able to respond again to the key issue;

8) We will review the results and changes in opinion and make a report available to all participants. We will endeavour to publish the results widely in public fora and academic channels;

9) You can choose to be anonymous or not at your profile page. We will not publish any personal details outside the private group;

10) We comply with GDPR requirements and will not use your information for any other reason than stated above.

As soon as we have sufficient recruits we will begin. We are seeking participants from any and every background. All opinions are welcome. Nothing will be censored, hidden, or withheld. Everyone’s views and the patterns of their choices will be immediately available to all participants, and there are filters to enable those who wish to ‘deep dive’ into the data to do so.

They acknowledge that by itself this is unlikely to make an immediate impact, but are happy to start small and add to the growing chorus of concern about where Western democracies are headed. They say: “The more people we can include, and the more often we can demonstrate the difference between echo-chamber politics and collective wisdom, the greater the chance we have of living in a truly democratic society”.

To participate, email “I agree to be a member of this project” or similar to Dr David Seedhouse at david@values-exchange.com.

Read the full article about this project at Conservative Woman.

Pregnant Women Should Be Prioritised for Covid Vaccines Regardless of Age, Says Oxford Professor

Only last week, the Government advised that pregnant women should be given Covid vaccines, although preferably the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine rather than AstraZeneca because there was more observational data available about the effect of the first two thanks to the vaccine roll out in America. Now, an Oxford Professor of Foetal Medicine has said that the vaccination of mothers-to-be should be prioritised so they don’t have to wait until the vaccine becomes available to people in their age group, such are the risks of COVID-19 for mothers-to-be and their unborn children. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

Pregnant women should be fast-tracked for Covid jabs because the disease greatly increases the risk of health problems for mums-to-be, a leading medic has said.

A study led by a top Oxford expert found that the virus raises the risk of serious maternal complications by more than 50%, including a fivefold risk of mothers needing intensive care.

It doubles the risk of premature birth and newborn illness and also significantly raises the chance of the mother dying, according to a study of more than 2,000 expectant women.

The call for pregnant women to be put at the front of the queue differs from guidelines by the U.K.’s vaccine advisers, who say mums-to-be should be offered a jab when other people their age get one.

Until now, only pregnant women with underlying health conditions or those with high risk of exposure to the virus were eligible.

The latest study was led by Oxford University’s Professor of Foetal Medicine Aris Papageorghiou, who said: “Fortunately, there were very few maternal deaths [in the study]; nevertheless, the risk of dying during pregnancy and in the postnatal period was over 20 times higher in women with Covid than in the non-infected pregnant women.”

The findings show that of some 1,400 pregnant women without Covid, one died. But in 700 pregnant women with Covid, 11 died – with the majority said to be virus-related. Professor Papageorghiou added: “Our study unequivocally shows that women who are pregnant and become infected with Covid have much worse [health] outcomes than their counterparts not infected.”

He added: “What is often missed is that we are talking here about two individuals, the mother and the child. Covid in a pregnant woman increases complications that can lead to premature birth, which is the number one contributor to newborn death and long-term disability.”

His “personal opinion” was that pregnant women should now be prioritised for Covid vaccination, given that older age groups have already received their first jab. He said: “I believe pregnant women should constitute a high-risk group by virtue of their pregnancy.”

In most areas the NHS is now vaccinating 45-to-49 year-olds. Health bosses insist they will not deviate from the plan of working down through five-year age bands, meaning most pregnant women will have to wait.

Initially, the Government – acting on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – said the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should be given to pregnant women “where available” but that the AstraZeneca vaccine could also be administered. This was in spite of the JCVI’s own admission that “more research is needed” on the AZ vaccine because pregnant women were not included in the vaccine trials. Earlier this week, however, NHS England told GPs at sites that are only administering the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to cancel all appointments for pregnant women and direct them to sites where alternative vaccines are available.

Worth reading in full.

News Round Up

Leading Scientists Call For End to Lockdown Restrictions

Twenty-two leading scientists and health experts, including Lockdown Sceptics contributors David Livermore, David Paton and Anthony Brookes, have put their names to a letter calling on the Government to end all restrictions on June 21st, including mask wearing and social distancing, and to stop mass testing of healthy people and abandon its vaccine passport proposals. The Mail on Sunday has more.

Leading scientists are calling on the Government to remove all coronavirus restrictions and allow people to ‘take back control of their own lives’ when the ‘roadmap’ to freedom ends in June.

With real-world data showing vaccines reduce the risk of death by 98 per cent and hospitalisations by more than 80 per cent, the experts say Covid-19 is being turned into a ‘mild’ disease in Britain, akin to the flu.

In an open letter to The Mail on Sunday, they criticise ‘confused and contradictory’ messages from Ministers and scientific advisers about the virus, which they say are exaggerating the real threat.

The 22 signatories include Professors Carl Heneghan and Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University, Emeritus Professor Hugh Pennington from the University of Aberdeen and Professor Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University.

“We are being told, simultaneously, that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true,” the scientists write. “We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines.”

You can read the letter in full here.

The full list of signatories is as follows:

  • Professor Ryan Anderson, Translational Science, Medicines Discovery Catapult
  • Dr Colin Axon, Mechanical Engineering, Brunel University
  • Professor Anthony Brookes, Genomics and Bioinformatics, University of Leicester
  • Professor Jackie Cassell, FFPH, Deputy Dean, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
  • Professor Angus Dalgleish, FRCP, FRCPath, FMedSci, Oncology, St George’s, University of London
  • Professor Robert Dingwall, FAcSS, HonMFPH, Sociology, Nottingham Trent University
  • Professor Sunetra Gupta, Theoretical Epidemiology, University of Oxford
  • Professor Carl Heneghan, MRCGP, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, University of Oxford
  • Professor Mike Hulme, Human Geography, University of Cambridge.
  • Dr John Lee – formerly Pathology, Hull York Medical School
  • Professor David Livermore, Medical Microbiology, University of East Anglia.
  • Professor Paul McKeigue Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor David Paton, Industrial Economics, University of Nottingham
  • Emeritus Professor Hugh Pennington, CBE, FRCPath, FRCP (Edin), FMedSci, FRSE, Bacteriology, University of Aberdeen
  • Dr Gerry Quinn, Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster
  • Dr Roland Salmon, MRCGP, FFPH, former Director of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (Wales).
  • Emeritus Professor John Scott, CBE, FRSA, FBA, FAcSS, Sociology, University of Essex
  • Professor Karol Sikora, FRCR, FRCP, FFPM, Medicine, University of Buckingham
  • Professor Ellen Townsend, Psychology, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Chao Wang, Health & Social Care Statistics, Kingston University and St George’s, University of London,
  • Professor John Watkins, Epidemiology, Cardiff University
  • Professor Lisa White, Modelling and Epidemiology, University of Oxford.

Stop Press: Lucy Johnston, the Health Editor of the Sunday Express, has more on the letter. In addition to asking the Government to drop all restrictions on June 21st, the signatories have demanded that schoolchildren stop being told to wear masks on May 17th.

Stop Press 2: The Sunday Telegraph has splashed the letter on its front page.