On Thursday, Public Health England (PHE) released a surveillance report (criticised here) claiming that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca Covid vaccines are up to 90% effective in preventing symptomatic infection in the over-65s.
Two days later, on Saturday, PHE released a new study, the headline for which is the reassuring news that the vaccines appear to work almost as well against the Indian variant. Included in the report, however, are quite different effectiveness figures for the AstraZeneca vaccine. It states: “Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 60% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 [Indian] variant compared to 66% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 [British] variant.”
This 66% effectiveness against the British variant is much closer to the vaccine effectiveness reported in the AstraZeneca trial (70%) and is likely to be much closer to truth. The vaccine will be less effective still in the over-65s, and so the new figures are well below the 90% effectiveness in the over-65s claimed by Thursday’s PHE study. Much of the data from Thursday’s study also came from a period when the British variant was dominant.
Where, though, are the science journalists jumping on this blatant inconsistency in key data coming out of Government and asking probing questions? On Thursday, many outlets cheerfully reported a Government study showing 90% effectiveness in the over-65s for the AstraZeneca vaccine. On Saturday, the same outlets dutifully reported the next study from the same Government body showing the same vaccine is only 66% effective across all ages.
What has happened to journalism in this country, that this passes without question? What, for that matter, has happened to science? Does anyone care about getting to the truth, or is it just about conforming to the narrative? Is the country too invested in the vaccine-saviour narrative to be able to ask awkward questions about the inconsistent claims coming out of Government?
Stop Press: Ross Clark in the Spectator notes the disappointing effectiveness figures for the AstraZeneca jab and the worrying reports of severe side-effects and deaths and asks, is it time to retire the AstraZeneca vaccine?
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