Here’s what she wrote.
Dear Sir Graham,
Firstly I wish to thank you again for your ongoing hard work in arguing for a more proportionate response to dealing with COVID-19. The concerns I wish to raise with you today relate to the vaccination program and the proposition of vaccination certificates.
As you know I am a GP. I am horrified by the talk of ‘No Jab, No Job’ policies and vaccination certificates.
The GMC are very clear that “all patients have the right to be involved in decisions about their treatment and care” and that “doctors must be satisfied that they have a patient’s consent… before providing treatment or care”. They also state “doctors must… share relevant information about the benefits and harms of proposed options and reasonable alternatives, including the option to take no action”.
Following interim analysis of the ongoing clinical trials, emergency use authorisation has been granted by the MHRA for both the Pfizer BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines. They are as yet unlicensed. The clinical trials are due to continue until 2023. I find it alarming that much attention is paid to the headline figures of relative risk reduction (RRR) with no mention of the absolute risk reduction (ARR). The RRR of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is 95.1% (CI 90.0%-97.6%, p=0.016). Dig a little deeper into the data and you learn that the ARR is only 0.7% (CI 0.59%-0.83%, p<0.001) and the number needed to vaccinate in order to prevent one infection is 142 (CI 122-170).
The WHO published a bulletin written by John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, in October 2020. He quotes an infection fatality rate (IFR) for Covid of 0.00-0.57% and in those under the age of 70 it stands at 0.05%.
Given the minimal risk healthy people under the age of 70 face, and the very small absolute risk reductions noted in the clinical trials, I have to ask why are we so desperate to vaccinate the whole population? For healthy, working age people Covid poses less of a risk than seasonal flu. It has never been proposed that we vaccinate the entire adult population against flu; we target the populations most at risk.
The speed at which these vaccines have been developed is truly remarkable. However, I have grave concerns that they are being rolled out on such a scale and at such pace. I am not sure whether you are familiar with the work of Joel Smalley MBA (a member of HART) but he has done some very interesting analysis of mortality data. Whilst correlation (between vaccination administration and rises in mortality) absolutely does not mean causation, the striking patterns he has highlighted suggest to me that now is the time to pause and reflect on the data we have so far. We know from the clinical trials that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine causes a drop in lymphocytes around seven days post administration; theoretically at least this could pose a risk of intercurrent infection, especially in frail patients.
Both vaccines in current use in England employ novel technology, namely mRNA (Pfizer BioNTech) and Adenovirus vector (AZ). Human challenge studies have only recently begun. We do not currently know anything about the medium and long term safety of these vaccines. There are concerns about Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE) reactions whereby vaccinated individuals may develop more severe disease upon exposure to the wild virus. Theoretical concerns have also been raised about potential cross reactivity with Syncytin-1 which could have effects on placental development and therefore fertility. Until these areas have been studied we cannot advise patients fully. This has significant implications for the informed consent process.
There seems to be some enthusiasm for “vaccination passports” among the population, whether for domestic use or international travel. These have been compared to Yellow Fever certificates that are required for individuals travelling to certain destinations. In reality there is no comparison. The mortality rate for Yellow Fever is in the region of 30%, transmission of Yellow Fever is confined to a relatively small number of countries and there are long term safety data available regarding the licensed vaccine.
Uptake of the Covid vaccine has been notably lower amongst certain ethnic minorities. The reasons for this are as yet unclear, but any policy requiring proof of vaccination has the potential to lead to indirect discrimination.
Professor Chris Whitty has said that doctors and care workers have a “professional responsibility” to get vaccinated. Given that reduction of transmission is not an outcome that is being measured in the clinical trials that are still ongoing, I do not agree with him. Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights states: “Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.”
On November 4th 2020 Theresa May MP made a speech in the House of Commons. She was referring to the closure of places of worship when she said, “My concern is that the Government today making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship, for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused by a Government in future with the worst of intentions, and that has unintended consequences.” I fear the same could be said for the introduction of vaccination passports.
Personally I have declined this vaccine because of the concerns outlined above. I hope this decision does not mean I am unable to work, visit a restaurant or travel.
Dr Helen Westwood
Here is Nadhim Zahawi’s response, passed on to Dr Westood by Sir Graham Brady.