Day: 1 July 2021

Almost 90% Of English Parents “Definitely” or “Probably” Would Allow Their Children to Get Covid Vaccine

If the vaccination of children against Covid is given the green light in England, almost nine in 10 parents will be happy for their own children to be included in the roll-out, according to a new survey released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Well over 30% of parents said they were “unsure but probably yes” in favour of vaccination. The Guardian has the story.

The survey of more than 4,400 parents with children under 16 and attending school found 88% said they would definitely or probably agree to vaccinate their child, with just 12% saying they would not favour vaccination.

The survey was conducted in April and May, before the Pfizer vaccine was given approval by the U.K. medicines regulator for children aged 12 to 15 at the start of June. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to advise the Government later this summer on whether to allow children over 12 to be vaccinated.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, told the BBC: “JCVI are very aware of the issues surrounding both the pros and the cons of vaccinating their children, which we will talk about in due course, but actually what we need to be absolutely sure is that these vaccines benefit children in some way… so we are looking at this data very carefully.”

But Professor Calum Semple, a member of SAGE, said not enough was known about possible side-effects if children were given Covid jabs.

“Vaccines are safe but not entirely risk-free. We are aware in adults about clots, and there’s some safety data from America showing rare heart problems associated with some of the vaccines. So until that data is really complete for children, I’m not persuaded that the risk-benefit for children has been clarified,” Semple told the BBC, speaking in a personal capacity.

He added: “There’s [a] very nuanced debate going on here but at the moment I don’t think there’s enough evidence to support vaccinating children.” …

The ONS survey found parents with children at secondary school were the most enthusiastic for vaccines, with 53% saying they would definitely support vaccination and just four per cent saying they definitely would not. Nearly 35% of parents said they were “unsure but probably yes” in favour.

Among the parents of primary school-age children, 43% were definitely in favour and 46% were “unsure but probably yes” in favour of vaccination. Just three per cent said they were “definitely” opposed, while a little more than seven per cent were recorded as “unsure but probably no”.

According to the ONS, the most common reasons given by parents opposed to vaccination were that not enough research had been done, or they wanted more information about long-term side-effects or had concerns over vaccine safety.

Worth reading in full.

SAGE Modeller: “We Got Everything Wrong.”

Okay, that’s a slightly misleading headline because the SAGE modeller in question, Dr Mike Tildesley, who works as a sooth-sayer at the University of Warwick, didn’t actually say that. In an interview with Freddie Sayers for UnHerd, he says he and his colleagues who’ve been producing models for SAGE under-estimated the efficacy of the vaccines and over-estimated the extent to which people would return to normal after restrictions were eased. And for that reason, they almost certainly over-estimated the impact that unlocking on June 21st would have had on infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Indeed, we know their models were wildly pessimistic because if you compare the number of hospital admissions the models were predicting for round about now they are about three times higher than actual hospital admissions – and that’s the number they were predicting if the Government didn’t unlock on June 21st. Regular readers will recall that Glen Bishop pointed out in Lockdown Sceptics that the Government’s court astrologers had underestimated the efficacy of the vaccines when it published the models it was relying on when it postponed the unlocking a few weeks ago.

Here are some choice quotes from Mystic Mike Dr Tildesley:

Underestimated vaccine efficacy

I think the vaccine efficacies throughout have been slightly underestimated, shall we say, by the modelling groups, we are actually find that the vaccines are much more effective than previously we thought they would be. Now when these models are parameterised, the vaccine efficacy data came through from Public Health England, so we’re not making up these values, we are using the best estimates of values that are coming through from those on the ground that have their estimates of them.

Overestimated behavioural change

I suspect this is something else that perhaps some of these models have slightly overestimated as to what we might expect that we’ll do in terms of the R numbers. This is partly because of people’s behaviour. So just because controls have relaxed, it looks like looking at the data that actually people haven’t gone back to ‘normal’ in terms of what we might have expected prior to the pandemic. So people are still being a little bit more cautious. Maybe they’re not going to the pub in the way that they were, say, back in January 2020. And that, obviously has some implications upon these forecasts that when these models were done.

Why July 19th should go ahead as planned

Looking at the data, looking at possible admissions and deaths, there’s nothing at the moment that really worries me. And I think if we are going to get back to normal, we’ve really got to do it over the summer, when the virus is less likely to transmit anyway. Otherwise I think we’re going to be in a situation where it’s going to be really hard. So I’m hopeful 19th of July does go ahead as planned.

Worth watching in full.

Stop Press: The Telegraph‘s Science Editor Sarah Knapton has written a story based on the UnHerd interview.

Face Masks Cause Children to Inhale Dangerous Levels of Carbon Dioxide at SIX TIMES the Safe Limit, Study Finds

New research published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) has found that wearing a face mask causes children to inhale dangerous levels of carbon dioxide that becomes trapped behind the mask.

The peer-reviewed research letter from Dr Harald Walach and colleagues found that the air masked children inhaled contained more than six times the legal safe limit for closed rooms as set down by the German Federal Environmental Office. The safe limit is 0.2%, whereas the air the masked children inhaled contained over 1.3% carbon dioxide.

The effect was worse for younger children, with one seven year-old child inhaling air with 2.5% carbon dioxide, over 12 times the safe limit.

The study looked at two types of mask, FFP2 masks and surgical masks, and found no significant difference between the two.

The authors explained that this alarming result likely explains the complaints from children who wear face masks for long periods.

Most of the complaints reported by children can be understood as consequences of elevated carbon dioxide levels in inhaled air. This is because of the dead-space volume of the masks, which collects exhaled carbon dioxide quickly after a short time. This carbon dioxide mixes with fresh air and elevates the carbon dioxide content of inhaled air under the mask, and this was more pronounced in this study for younger children.

This leads in turn to impairments attributable to hypercapnia. A recent review concluded that there was ample evidence for adverse effects of wearing such masks. We suggest that decision-makers weigh the hard evidence produced by these experimental measurements accordingly, which suggest that children should not be forced to wear face masks.

With face masks shown to have little to no impact in reducing infection or transmission, this suggests the policy is all pain and no gain and should be abandoned without delay.

Read the study in full here.

England Fans Told They Won’t be Allowed into Quarter-Final Match Stadium – Even if They Have a Ticket

Officials have gone a step further in preventing England fans from seeing the Euro 2020 quarter-final match against Ukraine in Rome this weekend, telling supporters who have recently arrived in Italy that they won’t be allowed in the stadium – even if they have a ticket. Sky News has the story.

A statement issued by the Italian Embassy in London on Thursday said that due to current coronavirus restrictions in the country, “anybody who has been in the U.K. in the previous 14 days, irrespective of their nationality or residency, will not be admitted to the stadium, even if they have a ticket”.

Italy is on the U.K.’s “Amber List”, and all U.K. arrivals in Italy currently have to isolate for five days.

The statement continued: “Only those who can prove that they have arrived in Italy at least six days previously, have observed five days of quarantine, and have taken a post-quarantine Covid test with a negative result will be allowed into the Stadio Olimpico.

“Being exempt from quarantine in Italy for any legal reason, will not translate into permission to enter the stadium. For example, travellers who are transiting through Italy for less than 36 hours or visiting briefly for work reasons are not required to quarantine, but they will not be permitted to enter the stadium.”

Anyone found to be not in quarantine “will be punished”, officials said.

“Fans based in the U.K. should therefore not travel to Italy to attend the match on Saturday at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome,” they added. …

The fresh travel warning comes after the FA said on Wednesday that it “will not be selling any tickets via the England Supporters Travel Club for this fixture” due to U.K. and Italian travel restrictions.

Worth reading in full.

Why Is the Government Making Testing for Travel More Difficult Than It Needs to Be?

A reader has got in touch to highlight the Government’s confusion over testing requirements for people travelling to Spain. Visitors must either show proof of vaccination (with two doses) or of a recent Covid test to be granted entry to the country. The reader hopes to travel to Spain with their 16 year-old child, ruling out the vaccine option. This is where they noticed an error on the Gov.uk website, which says:

[Arrivals must show] documentation issued within 48 hours prior to arrival in Spain, certifying that you have undertaken a Covid test, e.g. PCR, TMA, LAMP or NEAR, and tested negative. Antigen tests are not currently accepted. [Emphasis added]

The website tells readers to “see Spain Travel Health page for specific details regarding the documentation you must present to accredit your Covid test results and proof of vaccination”. But when you do this, you find that antigen tests are, in fact, accepted, so long as the providers are approved by the European Commission.

A number of the rapid antigen tests listed on the European Commission website are available in the U.K.

The reader even went to the trouble of contacting the Spanish health authorities to confirm that arrivals with proof of a negative result from an antigen test will be allowed entry. The response confirms that the information on the U.K. Government’s website is incorrect.

The diagnostic tests valid for travel to Spain are the NAAT (for instance, PCR, TMA or LAMP) and antigen tests, taken during the 48 hours prior to arrival in Spain.

So why is the Government telling Brits that proof of antigen testing is not accepted for travel, but that more time-consuming and, importantly, more expensive methods of testing are? The reader who contacted us seems to be on to something: “Our Government is doing everything it can to make life as awkward as possible for unvaccinated people.”

Why Have Professionals Outsourced Their Decision-Making to Scientists?

We’re publishing an original article today by Dr Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University, about the descent into unreason prompted by an over-reliance on scientific advice. She begins by lamenting the fact that her autistic son has been sent home from school – again.

When I went to pick up Joseph from school, I was received at a side gate by two members of staff, the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator, and the Deputy Head who also happens to be the Head of Science. Overseeing the exclusion of a disabled child on the grounds that a classmate or young teacher had received a positive result in a notoriously inaccurate test for the presence of a virus whose lethality for children and young teachers is statistically zero, were the two staff members in whom the school entrusts the promotion of respect for and aptitude in science, and the welfare of its disabled children – in a state of madness like ours, such ironies proliferate.

There they were, the advocates for science and disability, ready to escort the children out of the classroom by the shortest possible route; seven-year-olds who had carelessly gambolled in the front door that morning were now deemed such biological hazards that they could not be suffered to pass through the school corridors as they departed.

There they were, the school’s specially appointed guardians of reason and humanity, standing outside in the northern sunshine with masks covering their faces.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Pushes Gap Online As Clothing Retailer Announces Closure of All of Its British Stores

Following 15 months of draconian lockdown restrictions, Gap has announced the closure of all its 81 stores in the U.K. and Ireland, with an estimated loss of over 1,000 jobs. The U.S. clothing retailer is also considering reducing store numbers in both France and Italy and blames “market dynamics” for massive losses last year. MailOnline has the story.

Phased closures will start in August and continue through to September, the U.S. chain revealed.

It comes after a year of coronavirus lockdowns battering the U.K. high street, with other popular chains including TopShop going under. …

[Gap said in a statement]: “In the United Kingdom and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business.

“The e-commerce business continues to grow and we want to meet our customers where they are shopping. We’re becoming a digital-first business and we’re looking for a partner to help drive our online business.

“However, due to market dynamics in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, we shared with our team today that we are proposing to close all company-operated Gap Specialty and Gap Outlet stores in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in a phased manner from the end of August through the end of September 2021.

“We are thoughtfully moving through the consultation process with our European team, and we will provide support and transition assistance for our colleagues as we look to wind down stores.” …

For the year from February 1st, 2020, Gap’s U.K. retail sales fell by 9.5% to £195.1 million. Its operating losses were at £40.7 million. …

Founded in 1969 and headquartered in San Francisco, the firm has struggled in recent years and like most retailers saw store footfall slump during the pandemic. …

It comes just months after high street giant Debenhams confirmed the last of its stores would close for the final time.

The department store launched a post-lockdown fire sale before the chain shuttered its stores, marking the end of a 242-year presence in Britain’s towns and cities.

The outlook for Britain’s high street is dire. More than 11,000 outlets permanently closed in 2020 and the Local Data Company expects that this will be followed by 18,000 more closures in 2021.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

Why Lockdown Doesn’t Work: The Surprising Fact that Halving Your Frequency of Exposure Barely Cuts Your Infection Risk

A common criticism of lockdown sceptics who draw attention to the copious data that restrictions and social distancing make little or no difference to infection rates is that we are denying “germ theory”. By which is meant that we are denying the fact that viruses are transmitted from sick people to those they come into contact with and hence that reducing those contacts will significantly reduce the infection rate.

However, this criticism fails to recognise that risk of infection is not proportional to frequency of exposure. It doesn’t take into account the counterintuitive fact that halving your exposure, say, doesn’t halve your risk of infection, not even close.

Consider the case of John, who is one of the unfortunate few who is highly susceptible to infection, so that whenever he is exposed for a non-trivial length of time he has a 0.8 (i.e., 80%) chance of being infected. Suppose that under normal circumstances he attends four places in a week where he might be exposed outside his home, maybe the supermarket, his workplace, the pub and the barber or doctor.

What is his probability of being infected during the week? It’s one minus the probability of him not being infected. The probability of him not being infected at the supermarket is 1-0.8=0.2 (to keep things simple we assume that in all four contexts he visits he is exposed to the virus). Then the probability of him also not being infected at the pub is 0.2×0.2=0.04. Then add in two more contexts where he has to avoid infection, so multiply by 0.2 twice more, and you get the answer: 1-(0.2 x 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.2)=0.998, or 99.8% risk of infection. In other words, John’s chances of getting through the week when attending four places of exposure without being infected is almost nil.

Now suppose that due to restrictions, John halves the number of places he goes where he is exposed, dropping the pub and workplace maybe but still going to the supermarket and the doctor or barber. So he halves his risk of infection, right? Wrong. That’s not how risk works when the event is a binary one (getting infected or not) that you are trying to avoid. That’s because you only have to get infected once to ‘lose’, but you have to avoid it every time to ‘win’. John’s probability of being infected during the week now is 1-(0.2 x 0.2)=0.96. So halving his amount of exposure during the week reduced his risk of infection from 99.8% to 96%, i.e., it just made it slightly less certain.

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the seventh 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 sixth 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 the 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 reporting the facts, not advocating 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.

  • An article in the peer-reviewed journal Vaccines discusses the balance of benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccines. Based on analysis of data from Israel and Europe, the study finds that for every three Covid deaths vaccines prevent they cause two deaths through adverse reactions, leading the authors to question the lack of clear benefit of the current vaccination policy. The journal has subsequently published an “expression of concern” about the paper to notify readers that it is reviewing the numerous complaints it has received about the article.
  • A preliminary review of VAERS reports (the U.S. equivalent of Yellow Card reports) has found that 86% of the first 250 deaths reviewed were correctly reported as involving an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
  • There have been reports of “breakthrough” infections among the fully vaccinated in a Cornwall care home, though all were reportedly asymptomatic. Massachusetts has reported 4,000 infections among the fully vaccinated, also said to be mainly asymptomatic or mild with a low viral load. Half of Israelis in the most recent outbreak are also reported to have been fully vaccinated.
  • Further reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome linked with the vaccines, particularly AstraZeneca, in India and the UK.
  • The American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports has released a study that looks at “acute-onset central serous retinopathy after immunisation with COVID-19 mRNA vaccine”, finding that there may be a causal link in a 33 year-old male case study. 
  • Reuters reports on the recent decision of the FDA to add warnings of possible heart inflammation following vaccination with Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines and JAMA reports on 23 cases of heart inflammation among members of the U.S. military following vaccination with mRNA vaccines, which was “higher than expected among male military members after a second vaccine dose”.
  • The Mirror reports on a case of a 48 year-old male writer and filmmaker who died of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, raising questions over access to the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme for the families of victims of vaccine injury who have died as a result of the vaccine.
  • Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: the latest victim is Lucy Taberer, a 47 year-old mum of three.

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on June 24th (covering the period up to June 16th), the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 970,696 events, based on 285,219 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,356.

  • Pfizer (16.8 million first doses, 10.9 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 375 doses, 2.8 adverse reactions per card. 
  • AstraZeneca (24.6 million first doses, 19.6 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 196 doses, 3.6 adverse reactions per card.
  • Moderna (0.73 million first doses) has one Yellow Card in 140 doses, 2.8 adverse reactions per card. (It’s possible the continuing very high rate of Yellow Cards with Moderna is to do with skin reactions.)