Day: 15 June 2021

JCVI to Advise Government Against Vaccinating Children Over Safety Concerns

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is to recommend against the vaccination of under-18s until there is more safety data, according to the Telegraph.

Experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are expected to make a recommendation against the vaccination of under-18s in the immediate future.

The committee is understood to be preparing an “interim” statement for release as soon as the end of the week following a meeting on Tuesday.  

At a meeting, members are understood to have voiced serious ethical concerns about vaccinating children, given that they rarely suffer serious illness from Covid.

The statement is set to say more time is needed to assess studies of vaccine rollouts in other countries where children are being vaccinated – including the US and Israel – before deciding whether such a programme should be launched in the U.K.

A Whitehall source said: “Nobody is going to green light the mass vaccination of children at this stage. Scientists want to see more data from the U.S. and elsewhere before taking a firm stand either way. Nobody is going to make a final decision at this point. The JCVI will want to weigh up the benefits against the risks before vaccinating children, and it wants more data.”

Under-18s very rarely suffer serious disease with COVID-19 and younger people are also affected more strongly by some of the rare-but-serious vaccine side-effects such as blood clots, meaning the risk-benefit calculation is less likely to be favourable. With data on children, who were not included in the trials, very sparse, this is the right advice. Let’s hope the Government follows it.

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

“You Can’t Run Society Purely to Stop the Hospitals Being Full” – Cabinet Member Jacob Rees-Mogg Says Lockdowns Must End

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that the Government must stop taking charge of people’s lives “purely to prevent them seeing the doctor”. Speaking to Conservative Home, the Tory MP said:

Ultimately the NHS is there to serve the British people, not the British people there to serve the NHS. And therefore – we may need to spend more money on hospitals – but you can’t run society purely to stop the hospitals being full otherwise you’d never let us get in our cars and drive anywhere or do any of the other things that people want to do.

So there has to be some proportionality within that, that the Government doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives purely to prevent them seeing the doctor.

Actually otherwise we’d never be allowed in our kitchens would we, where a disproportionate number of accidents in the home take place, or our bathrooms, so we’d become very hungry and very smelly on that basis.

This is one of the first signals of discontent among members of the Government about the interminable lockdowns the U.K has experienced since March 2020. Let’s hope more of the genuine liberals and conservatives in the Government will come out against lockdowns and the emerging public health tyranny.

Listen to the full interview here.

A Doctor Writes: Chris Whitty’s Slide Show Yesterday Was a Blatant Exercise in Biased Data Selection

The following is a guest post from Lockdown Sceptics’ in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS.

In early November, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty were summoned before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and questioned about their presentation of data to justify a second lockdown. Following their appearance, the government was obliged to ‘correct’ a number of misleading graphics which portrayed the situation as being far more serious than it actually was. The Government was officially criticised by the U.K. statistics watchdog for the misleading presentation.

After last night’s Downing Street press conference I expect Greg Clark, the Committee Chair, will be scheduling a repeat appointment.

Professor Whitty’s presentation was a blatant example of data selection. At the risk of image overload, I will run through a few points he made and quite a few more that he somehow overlooked. This is by no means a comprehensive critique – to be frank, I don’t have time and I doubt the readers have the patience to go through all the egregious errors and data manipulation that went on last night. We will have to leave that to the Science and Technology Committee.

Let’s start with hospital admissions. The official slides measure admissions per 100K population. Here it is, showing an alarming rise in admissions in the North West of England in Graph One.

16% of Pregnant Women in U.S. Have Been Vaccinated Against Covid

Just over 15% of pregnant women in the U.S. have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Black and Hispanic mothers are up to four times less likely to have been vaccinated than white and Asian mothers. The CDC believes that vaccine hesitancy (or refusal) is likely caused by there being limited safety data available on the new vaccines. The MailOnline has the story.

Vaccination rates diverge significantly by race: 25% of Asian pregnant women and 20% of white women were vaccinated compared to 12% of Hispanic women and only six per cent of black women…

The CDC researchers expect vaccination coverage among pregnant women to increase as vaccine access continues to improve and more information on the shots’ safety becomes available.

When Covid vaccines went through clinical trials, they were not tested in pregnant or breastfeeding women despite their increased risk of severe illness or death.

Such a practice is common in clinical trials because researchers don’t want to risk the health of expecting women.

But it left these women with limited information on safety risks that the vaccines may have posed. 

Regulators said the evidence on these vaccines did not raise safety concerns, yet without data specifically on pregnant women, they could not make guarantees.

Despite the limited data, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorised the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in early December, the agency said that pregnant women could choose to get vaccinated.

At the time, some scientists saw this as a major step forward for pregnant women – they could make their own healthcare decisions…

But the new data from the CDC suggest that many pregnant women in the U.S. chose not to get vaccinated, at least, not in the early months of the vaccine roll-out…

Why the low vaccination rate? The CDC researchers suggest that pregnant women may have been hesitant to get vaccinated due to the limited safety data available on the new Covid vaccines as well as potential access issues.

Older pregnant women were more likely to get vaccinated than younger women. Pregnant women between the ages of 35 and 49 had a 23% vaccination rate, compared to just a six per cent rate for ages 18 to 24.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown “Likely” to be Extended in Scotland, Says Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland is set to follow in England’s footsteps in delaying the easing of its lockdown. Nicola Sturgeon says that restrictions will “likely” be maintained for three more weeks from June 28th to “buy ourselves sufficient time” to fully vaccinate more Scots. The Independent has the story.

Speaking in Holyrood, the First Minister did not rule out the further relaxation of rules – moving to Level Zero – on June 28th but said the Scottish Government wanted to “buy ourselves sufficient time” to allow the vaccination programme to continue its work.

She suggested that Scotland would not return to “much greater normality” until later in July at the earliest.

“Given the current situation – and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further – it is reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from June 28th,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“Instead, it is likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from June 28th and use that time to [vaccinate] – with both doses – as many more people as possible.

“Doing that will give us the best chance, later in July, of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave.”

Ms Sturgeon said it was a “difficult and frustrating” development but “while this setback is not easy, it is worth remembering that we are living under far fewer restrictions now than was the case a few weeks ago”.

She added: “The current situation is not what any of us want – but equally it is not lockdown. And vaccination is – with every day that – helping us change the game.”

Level Zero is described as “near normal” but a number of restrictions still exist, including limits on the number of people individuals can meet socially in groups, and people are still advised to work from home where possible.

Worth reading in full.

Has the Time Come For a Boston Mask Party?

I have written a piece for the Mail today in which I say it’s becoming increasingly clear that the only way we’re going to get our freedoms back is if we take them back – and we should start with masks. Here’s an extract:

I’m sceptical that any of the lockdown measures reduce transmission of the virus – we’ve had three lockdowns and still have one of the highest Covid death counts in Europe – but the evidence that masks protect people who are wearing them is particularly thin.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Jenny Harries, the then Deputy Chief Medical Officer and now Head of NHS Test and Trace, cautioned against members of the public wearing masks, saying they could do more harm than good.

A scientific study in Denmark last year involving more than 6,000 people, in which half wore masks for a month and the other half didn’t, found those who didn’t wear them were no more likely to become infected than those that did.

Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Adviser to the U.S. President, admitted last year that store-bought masks were ineffective. In an email that came to light after a freedom of information request, he wrote to a friend that masks were “not really effective in keeping out [the] virus, which is small enough to pass through material”.

I have decided enough is enough – and I will simply refuse to wear them. If a security guard stops me entering a shop or building, I will explain that I am refusing to wear a mask as a protest against the continuing restrictions and that I will wait outside until they change their mind.

If I’m told to put on a mask when I get up to go to the lavatory in a pub or a restaurant, I’ll ask the waiter to explain why it’s necessary to wear a mask when I’m standing but not when I am sitting. If they fall back on the excuse that they’re just following the rules, I’ll point out that some rules are so silly they don’t deserve to be followed.

I’ve waited 15 months for my liberties to be restored and I’m not prepared to wait another month, even if I believed Boris’s assurance that life would return to normal by July 19th.

No, the only way to get our freedoms back is to take them back. And I will start by throwing out my masks on June 21st.

Worth reading in full.

How about this? A large group of anti-lockdown protestors take a trip to Boston, Lincolnshire on June 21st and hurl our masks into the River Withan? I suggested this on Mike Graham’s show on talkRADIO today.

As Lord Sumption said, “Sometimes, the most public-spirited thing you can do with despotic laws like these is to ignore them.”

Stop Press: Last year, the Czech Republic was universally praised for getting its infection rate under control in Prague by enforcing a draconian mask policy. See this USA Today article, for instance: “In this capital city of 1.3 million, among the first in Europe to decree mandatory universal mask-wearing almost four months ago, life has now returned to normal.” Fast forward to June, and now we’re seeing headlines like this: “Czech Republic: What’s behind world’s worst COVID infection rate?

Masks don’t work. Period.

Stop Press 2: Israel has dropped the requirement for masks in enclosed spaces. The Jerusalem Post has more.

All English Adults to be Offered Covid Vaccine by End of the Week

All adults in England are expected to be offered a Covid vaccine by the end of the week. The country lags just slightly behind Wales which opened up vaccine bookings for all over-18s on Monday. Sky News has the story.

Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS in England, said the health service hoped to “finish the job” of vaccinating people over the next month.

He told the NHS Confederation conference: “It is now very important that we use the next four weeks to finish the job to the greatest extent possible for the Covid vaccination programme…

“By July 19th we aim to have offered perhaps two-thirds of adults across the country double jabs.”

He also said that from today 23 and 24 year-olds would be able to book an appointment.

“I expect that by the end of this week, we’ll be able to open up the National Booking Service to all adults age 18 and above,” added Sir Simon…

Sir Simon also told the NHS conference that new treatments for people with Covid were expected in the coming months.

“We expect that we will begin to see further therapies that will actually treat coronavirus and prevent severe illness and death,” he said.

“Today I’m asking the health service to gear up for what is likely to be a new category of such treatments – so-called neutralising monoclonal antibodies – which are potentially going to become available to us within the next several months.”

The NHS England boss said community services would be needed to deliver the infusion to people before they are hospitalised, and typically within three days of infection.

The treatment aims to “neutralise” the virus in infected patients and prevent serious disease.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the fifth of the weekly round-ups of Covid vaccine safety reports and news compiled by a group of medical doctors who are monitoring developments but prefer to remain anonymous in the current climate (find the fourth one here). By no means is this part of an effort to generate alarm about the vaccines or dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. It should be read in conjunction with Lockdown Sceptics‘ other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At Lockdown Sceptics we report all news about the vaccines whether positive or negative and give no one advice about whether they should or should not take them. Unlike with lockdowns, we are neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine; we see our job as to report the facts, not advocate for or against a particular policy. The vaccine technology is novel and the vaccines have not yet fully completed their trials, which is why they’re in use under temporary and not full market authorisation. This has been done on account of the emergency situation and the trial data was largely encouraging on both efficacy and safety. For a summary of that data, see this preamble to the Government’s page on the Yellow Card reporting system. We publish information and opinion to inform public debate and help readers reach their own conclusions about what is best for them, based on the available data.

  • Questions have been raised by Trial Site News on whether Pfizer failed to perform industry standard animal testing prior to the start of human trials, following a worrying response to a Freedom of Information request from a group of Canadian physicians.
  • According to the FDA, in the Pfizer clinical trials on children aged 12-15, of the 1,127 children who received a first dose, no fewer than 86% experienced an adverse reaction. Of the 1,097 children who received a second dose, 78.9% experienced an adverse reaction. Several children also developed deep vein thrombosis (resulting in pulmonary embolism) post-vaccination. 
  • Does the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein trigger certain forms of cancer? An exploration of the data after autopsies found two of eight COVID-19 sufferers with undetected thyroid cancer.
  • Dr Tess Lawrie of the Evidence-based Medicine Consultancy wrote an open letter to Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), calling for the “cessation of the vaccination roll out while a full investigation is conducted” as “the MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans”.
  • A pre-print study from Cleveland, Ohio, reported in the Washington Examiner, finds that vaccination offers no additional protection from COVID-19 infection after a person has been previously infected.
  • The first post-mortem of a patient vaccinated against COVID-19, reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that the 86 year-old man had viral RNA present in all organs of his body.
  • The BMJ reports on a Norwegian review that finds the Pfizer Vaccine is “likely” responsible for the some of the deaths in the elderly post-vaccination.
  • Switzerland has approved the vaccination of children as young as 12 without their parents permission from July.
  • The BMJ reports further concerns regarding immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) after vaccination with AstraZeneca (also reported in the Daily Mail).  
  • A report from Australia of a probe launched by the medicines regulator after eight people developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome following an AstraZeneca vaccination.
  • Italy has halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the under-60s after the death of a teenager with blood clots following vaccination.
  • There have been further reports of heart inflammation following vaccination with the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). The Daily Mail reports on the CDC calling an urgent meeting over 226 cases of heart inflammation in teenage boys who have had the Pfizer or Moderna shots.
  • EudraVigilance – the equivalent of the Yellow Card reporting system in the EU – has logged reports claiming 13,867 people have died and 1,354,336 have suffered injuries following receipt of the Covid vaccines in the EU (as of June 5th).
  • Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: Laura Hamilton (39); Jennifer Rose (65).

Summary of Adverse Events UK

According to an updated report published on June 10th (covering the period up to June 2nd), the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 922,596 events, based on 267,671 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,295.

  • Pfizer (14.7 million first doses, 10.7 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 374 doses, 2.9 adverse reactions (i.e., symptoms) per card, one fatal reaction in 62,562 doses. 
  • AstraZeneca (24.5 million first doses, 15.7 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 205 doses, 3.7 adverse reactions per card, one fatal reaction in 46,581 doses.
  • Moderna (0.46 million first doses) has one Yellow Card in 140 doses, 2.8 adverse reactions per card, one fatal reaction in 115,000 doses.

A curiosity is that the rate of Yellow Cards went up for Moderna from an already very high level (higher than at any point for AstraZeneca) despite there being only 60,000 shots administered this week.

Key events analysis:

10,000 Fewer Patients in England Started Treatment for Breast Cancer in Past Year

Progress in reducing deaths from breast cancer has been put at risk because of lockdown and the prioritisation of Covid above all other diseases (as well as the reluctance of people to “burden” the NHS thanks, in part, to Government messaging), with more than 10,000 fewer patients in England alone having started treatment in the past year compared to the year before. The Guardian has the story.

According to an analysis of NHS England figures by Cancer Research U.K. (CRUK), about 38,000 fewer cancer patients began treatment between April 2020 and March 2021, compared with the same period a year earlier. Just under 28% of these were breast cancer patients, equating to about 10,600 people.

With CRUK noting that 2018 figures suggest about 15% of new cancers are breast cancer, it seems the disease has been disproportionately affected by the Covid pandemic, with the charity saying the majority of those who have missed out on breast cancer treatment are likely to be people who have yet to be diagnosed, with the vast majority in an early stage of the disease.

Cancer that is detected early is generally more treatable.

The charity said the cancers may not have been picked up in part because of the pause in breast cancer screening during the early part of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to another charity, Breast Cancer Now, almost one million British women, including about 838,000 in England, missed a breast cancer screening appointment during the height of the first wave of coronavirus.

However, CRUK said other factors behind the drop may include the reluctance of some to seek help for symptoms when the Covid waves were at their peaks, either because of concerns about burdening the NHS or because they were afraid of catching Covid.

The charity said the figures suggested progress in reducing breast cancer deaths could be at risk: while the disease is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the U.K., mortality rates have dropped almost 40% since the 1970s.

Dr Ajay Aggarwal, a Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS trust, whose own work has suggested diagnosis delays caused by the pandemic may lead to 3,500 deaths in England from four main cancers in the next five years, said the latest figures confirmed what was feared at the beginning of the Covid outbreak when cancer services were significantly disrupted.

“This also confirms work recently undertaken in south-east London, where during the first wave of the pandemic, across a region of 1.7 million people, there were 30% fewer diagnoses of breast cancer,” he said. “This is likely to worsen when considering the cumulative impact of the second wave.”

He said similar trends were being seen across a range of other cancers. “For those eventually presenting, the data suggests – and clinical experience – that patients are presenting with more advanced, complex disease, which is either incurable or associated with worse prognosis compared to if they had been diagnosed earlier.”

Worth reading in full.

Keeping Schools Open Had Only a Minor Impact on the Spread of COVID-19 in Sweden

Sweden was one of the few Western countries that kept schools open in the spring of 2020. Pre-schools, primary schools and lower-secondary schools (for those up to age 16) continued with in-person teaching, whereas upper-secondary schools switched to online instruction on March 18th.

Despite this, zero Swedish children died of COVID-19 up to the end of June. In fact, only 15 were admitted to the ICU, and four of these children had a serious underlying health condition. 

So keeping schools open didn’t cause any deaths among Swedish children. But did it increase the spread of COVID-19? Although evidence suggests that children are less infectious than adults, their level of infectiousness is not zero. In addition, teachers could transmit the virus to one another in the staff room, and parents could do so when picking their children up from school.

In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Stockholm and Upsala University examined the impact of keeping schools open on the spread of COVID-19 in Sweden. Their analysis focused on the period from March 25th to June 30th. 

The authors used rigorous methods to estimate the causal impact of keeping schools open on COVID-19 outcomes among parents, and among teachers. Specifically, they compared parents whose youngest child was in the last year of lower-secondary school (Year 9) to those whose youngest child was in the first year of upper-secondary school (Year 10). 

This method ensured that the two groups of parents were as similar as possible with respect to other possible causes of COVID-19 outcomes. But to be safe, the authors controlled statistically for characteristics like the age, occupation and region of the parents.

They found that there was only one additional positive PCR test per 1,000 parents among those whose youngest child was in the last year of lower-secondary school. They also looked at the number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19, but found this did not differ significantly between the two groups of parents. 

When the authors compared teachers from lower-secondary schools with those from upper-secondary schools, the differences were somewhat larger. However, the overall impact of keeping schools open on the spread of COVID-19 was small. The authors estimate that keeping schools open resulted in 620 more cases in a country that saw more than 53,000 up to mid June. 

They conclude that closing schools “is a costly measure with potential long-run detrimental effects for students”. And their results are “are in line with theoretical work indicating that school closure is not an effective way to contain SARS-CoV-2”.