Day: 21 June 2021

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the sixth 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 fifth 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. (Dr Tess Lawrie recently wrote an open letter to Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, arguing that: “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 claim that has been “fact checked” here.) 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.

  • Dr Robert Malone, the inventor of mRNA and DNA vaccine technology, has expressed concern about the safety profile of the current Covid vaccines and the censorship of discussing the issues, and called for them to be properly investigated as a matter of urgency. See also his appearance on Bret Weinstein’s podcast (deleted from YouTube) along with Steve Kirsch, who has written of his concerns about the vaccines here.
  • The UKMFA has written an open letter objecting to a report on BBC Newsround (a children’s television news programme) by Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, about vaccine efficacy and safety.
  • Researchers at RCSI have published a study in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis in which they show that COVID-19 patients had higher levels of pro-clotting VWF molecules and lower levels of the anti-clotting ADAMTS13. This has yet to be applied to clots in vaccinated patients but may have implications.
  • A study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology noted the occurrence of corneal transplant rejection after vaccination with COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.  
  • In Public Health England’s latest Variants of Concern Technical Briefing, the fully vaccinated have a 0.64% chance of death after testing positive for the Delta Variant whereas unvaccinated individuals have a 0.096% chance of death – a seventh of the risk. However, this is likely to be primarily a result of the much younger age profile of the unvaccinated.
  • Dr. Diego Rubinowicz, a Urologist in Palm Beach County Hospital, has observed increased PSA levels in vaccinated men, leading to possible misdiagnosis of prostate cancers.
  • EudraVigilance – the equivalent of the Yellow Card reporting system in the EU – has logged reports claiming 15,472 people have died and 1,654,407 have suffered injuries following receipt of the Covid vaccines in the EU.
  • VAERS – the American version of the Yellow Card reporting system – released new data on June 11th bringing the total to 358,379 reports of adverse events following Covid vaccines, including 5,993 deaths and 29,871 serious injuries between December 14th 2020 and June 11th 2021.
  • Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: Vanessa Newton (45); Lucy Taberer (47); Sophia Gomes (43).

Summary of Adverse Events UK

According to an updated report published on June 17th (covering the period up to June 9th), the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 949,287 events, based on 276,867 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,332.

  • Pfizer (15.6 million first doses, 10.8 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 372 doses, 2.9 adverse reactions (i.e., symptoms) per card. 
  • AstraZeneca (24.6 million first doses, 17.7 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 211 doses, 3.6 adverse reactions per card.
  • Moderna (0.56 million first doses) has one Yellow Card in 130 doses, 2.8 adverse reactions per card.

Did the Conservatives lose the Chesham and Amersham By-Election Because of ‘Shy’ Sceptics?

A reader called Alex Body has shared a letter they’ve written to Thérése Coffey MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, about the role that lockdown scepticism may have played in the Conservatives’ recent by-election loss in Chesham and Amersham.

Dear Ms. Coffey,

In the wake of the Chesham and Amersham by-election I wanted to write to you to make sure you are not taking your seat for granted.

Whilst much has been reported about the impact of planning law on this particular election result, my analysis is much different.

This seat has not had a turnout of less than fifty thousand since 2005. The turnout in this election was less than forty thousand. The difference in voters between the 2021 and 2019 elections was over eleven-thousand votes. Enough to give the Conservative candidate a majority.

Please understand that there are now millions of people in the UK who are unrepresented by any major party due to the across-the-board support for draconian and hugely damaging pandemic restrictions. Whilst many traditional Conservatives will simply abstain in the next election, please bear in mind that if you continue to support these destructive measures that have brought misery, anxiety, despair and death to so many I, like many others, will actively campaign against your re-election.

The UK recently recorded the lowest age-adjusted deaths on record, and it is now obvious that the vulnerable are protected from this virus. End these restrictions now, or there is no doubt in my mind your party will suffer a crushing defeat at the next election, where millions of your traditional voters will stay at home.

You may be aware of the concept of a ‘Shy Tory Voter’. Please be prepared for the ‘Shy Lockdown Sceptic’. There are millions of us, and we feel it is impossible to support a party that disregards the autonomy and liberty of its citizens.

You still have time to change tack, and I implore you to do so.

With very best wishes,

Alex Brody

Does the Current Rise in Infections Prove the Virus isn’t Seasonal?

We’re publishing an original piece today by a retired Professor of Forensic Science and Biological Anthropology and an epidemiologist with a PhD from a Russell Group university asking whether the recent rise in infections from the Delta variant invalidates the hypotheses that SARS-CoV-2 is a seasonal virus. After all, if it was, you’d expect it to be declining in the U.K. and across other northern latitudes. But they suspect infections have peaked and are about to start falling. Here is an extract:

Does the recent rise in infections in the U.K. – despite mass vaccination and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) – presage a substantial third wave in the summer? Does this rise effectively falsify the seasonality hypothesis?

Well, according to the Government’s own data, percent positivity in England is reported at 2.7 for the most recent available day (June 15th), having more than doubled from 1.3 on June 15th. Infections – number of positive tests reported – present a more complicated picture. They leapt to around 9,000 per day in England from 17th to June 18th, having almost plateaued at about 6,500 the week before. However, this jump occurred after the Government’s announcement of June 14th and may already be about to decline. The percentage change in the 7-day case rate has shown a steady fall since June 7th.

Worth reading in full.

“Your Obedience Is Prolonging This Nightmare”: Protesters March in London against Delay to “Freedom Day”

Protesters have gathered in London today to demonstrate against the Government’s delay to the lifting of lockdown restrictions. People held signs reading “Lockdown is a crime against humanity” and “Your obedience is prolonging this nightmare”. Eight arrests have been made at the protest, according to the Metropolitan Police.

The MailOnline has more.

Maskless anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protesters have clashed with police in central London as they demonstrate against the delay of “Freedom Day” by blocking roads and hugging strangers in defiance of Covid rules…

Protestors offering “free hugs” and demanding an end to all Covid restrictions held signs reading “your obedience is prolonging this nightmare” and “our kids aren’t lab rats” as they marched through the streets…

Loud horns blown by the protestors were seen to spook a group of half-a-dozen police horses who had been drafted in to help control the crowd in Parliament Square.

The protest comes as Boris Johnson seemed to dismiss the prospect of easing the remaining coronavirus rules early, as he refused to rule out future lockdowns. He warned the nation should brace for a ‘rough winter’ whilst visiting a laboratory in Hertfordshire today.

The Prime Minister has delayed ‘Freedom Day’ by four weeks to July 19th – but a two-week review will take place on July 5th to see if the return to normal can be moved forward. Mr Johnson said ‘Delta’ variant cases, hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care are still rising and the country must therefore be ‘cautious’.

Worth reading in full.

“You Can Never Exclude the Possibility that There Will be Some New Disease,” Says Boris Johnson as he Warns of “Rough Winter” Ahead

Despite talking of the U.K.’s long, slow lockdown easing as “irreversible”, the Prime Minister today told reporters that an anticipated resurgence of Covid, flu and other diseases means there may be a “rough winter” ahead. Noting that hospitalisations and ICU numbers are up around 30%, Boris Johnson said:

You can never exclude the possibility that there will be some new disease, some new horror we haven’t budgeted for or accounted for… but I think it’s looking good for July 19th to be that terminus point. Things like flu may come back this winter, we may have a rough winter for all sorts of reasons – but that is all the more reason to reduce Covid cases now, give the NHS the breathing space it needs now.

His comments suggest that the reason for the hugely costly decision to defer ‘freedom day’ for a month was to “reduce Covid cases” and “give the NHS the breathing space it needs”. That raises the alarming possibility that restrictions might be re-imposed whenever some pessimistic, unverified modelling suggests the NHS might come ‘under pressure’ during the winter – despite the fact that the NHS comes ‘under pressure’ almost every winter.

There are many criticisms that could be made of this, including that there is no real-world evidence that lockdowns make any significant impact on the course of a COVID-19 epidemic, and that it shows a very narrow and warped sense of priorities when it comes to managing public affairs and public health.

But besides that, even on its own terms it makes no sense to “give the NHS breathing space” by continuing or re-imposing restrictions. Since the main reason experts are so worried about flu this year is they are concerned that lockdowns and social distancing have successfully suppressed flu and other pathogens and left people unexposed to them and thus more vulnerable. In addition to this, Matt Hancock warned last week that the backlog in the NHS of people in need of elective procedures such as hip, knee and eye operations is now estimated to be as high as 12.2 million, resulting in the NHS facing the “biggest pressure in its history”.

But where is this pressure coming from? By the Government’s own admission, the backlog is caused by people staying away from the health service. So how can re-imposing restrictions and stoking panic be the solution to pressure caused by the very restrictions and panic that led people to avoid seeking medical treatment? The only way to break out of this vicious circle is to accept that lockdowns cause more problems than they solve.

Plans for “Booster” Covid Vaccine Roll-Out Coming Within Weeks

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that plans for a “booster” Covid vaccine roll-out in the autumn will be set out in the coming weeks. BBC News has the story.

The Health Secretary said ministers were waiting for results from trials of different combinations of vaccines.

It comes after doctors and NHS trusts said planning for a booster rollout must start now as it will involve bigger challenges. 

They said many questions needed answering, including how long immunity from the original Covid jab lasts.

The issue of whether children will be vaccinated also still remains, health leaders said.

“We are currently trialling which combinations of jabs are the most effective,” Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast. 

“In the next few weeks, when we get the clinical data through on what’s the most effective combinations to have… then we’ll set out all the details for the booster programme for the autumn.”

Among the ongoing trials is the U.K.’s Cov-Boost trial, which is testing different combinations of third doses across England. 

A senior Government source said the U.K. would also benefit from new vaccines from Novavax and Valneva, which are awaiting approval from the U.K.’s medicines regulator. 

So far, nearly 60% of U.K. adults have had two jabs of the vaccine, meaning they are fully vaccinated, and more than four in five adults have had their first dose.

People have been rushing to get their vaccines in recent days, with more than one million jabs booked on Friday and Saturday in England after vaccinations opened to all over-18s.

Worth reading in full.

Fewer Than 1 in 200 Travellers From “Amber List” Countries Are Testing Positive for Covid

Thousands of holidays have been ruined by the Government placing countries – most recently, Portugal – on its travel “Amber List”, forcing travellers who didn’t cancel their plans to fork out for at least two PCR tests and to quarantine for 10 days upon their return. But new data shows that fewer than one in 200 travellers from Amber List countries are testing positive when back in Britain. This discovery has led to more calls for restrictions to be eased before more harm is done to the already battered travel industry. The Times has more.

An analysis of the latest figures from NHS Test and Trace, which are updated every three weeks, also shows no “variants of concern” were detected from any passenger returning from one of the 167 countries on the Amber List.

Only 89 of 23,465 passengers who travelled to the U.K. from these destinations between May 20th and June 9th tested positive for the coronavirus – a rate of 0.4%. There were no positive cases from 151 of these countries…

Nobody travelling from countries on the quarantine-free “Green List” – which includes 11 destinations at present – tested positive during the same period and there were no variants of concern found.

Last night Conservative MPs and travel experts said the data revealed that the border restrictions were too strict as they increased pressure on ministers to significantly expand the green list when they meet on Thursday.

They also said the data strengthened the case for allowing travellers who have had both jabs to be exempt from quarantine, a policy which a senior cabinet minister has appeared to support…

Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, said it was time ministers started to take advantage of Britain’s successful vaccine programme.

“Vaccination and testing are making international travel safer just as surely as they make things safer within our borders,” he said. “It’s time British people were able to reap the benefits of the vaccines and for us to get the travel industry moving again.”

Any easing of restrictions is likely to focus on those vaccinated against Covid (possibly just on those who have had both doses of a vaccine), leaving those who – for medical or other personal reasons – have not been vaccinated stuck at home.

Worth reading in full.

Transmission of COVID-19 Is Influenced by Temperature, Humidity and UV Radiation, Study Finds

The issue of COVID-19’s seasonality has been covered extensively on Lockdown Sceptics. Back in February, Glen Bishop noted that a model developed by Imperial College researchers – which predicted there would be an additional 130,000 deaths this summer – assumed that transmission does not vary by season.

In a follow-up article, I reviewed eight separate studies that found evidence for the seasonality of COVID-19. Indeed, it would be rather surprising if COVID-19 wasn’t seasonal given what we know about other human coronaviruses, i.e., that they are – in the words of one recent study – “sharply seasonal”. 

However, doubts have been expressed about whether COVID-19 is in fact a seasonal disease. Such doubts are based on the observation that countries like Chile and South Africa saw epidemics burgeon during their summer months, and that Britain itself is now seeing a rise in cases.

But as the biologist Francois Balloux notes in a recent Twitter thread, the fact that some countries have seen infections rise during the summer is not inconsistent with seasonal factors playing a role in transmission. It just means they aren’t the only factors involved. (One also has to consider viral evolution, population immunity and human behaviour.)

A new study by researchers from Yale and Columbia (which was published in the journal Nature Communications) offers particularly strong evidence for the seasonality of COVID-19. The authors looked at the relationship between seasonal factors and the R number across US counties between March and December of last year.

They ran a statistical model of the R number, with temperature, specific humidity and UV radiation as predictors. The model controlled for a range of other factors, including spatial, demographic and socio-economic variables.

The authors found that each of the three seasonal factors was independently associated with R. They then calculated the fraction of R that was attributable to seasonality, and obtained a value of 17.5%. Interestingly, specific humidity was the most important of the three, contributing 9.4%. 

The authors’ findings indicate that “that cold and dry weather and low levels of UV radiation are moderately associated with increased SARS-CoV-2 transmissibility”. However, they were unable to examine possible differences in seasonality across different variants, leaving this as a topic for future research.

Overall, their study provides some of the best evidence yet for seasonality. And it gives one more reason to be sceptical that the current rise in cases here in Britain portends a major epidemic. 

News Round-Up