Day: 7 July 2021

Infections Surge Among the Vaccinated While Those in the Unvaccinated Plateau, Data Shows

One of the few places that publishes daily information on the infection rate in vaccinated and unvaccinated people is the ZOE Covid Symptom study. Above is today’s estimate for the U.K., based on the data submitted by users through the ZOE app, and it shows something very striking. While the infection rate in vaccinated people has been trending well below that in the unvaccinated for months, in the last two weeks the rate in the vaccinated has surged while that in the unvaccinated has plateaued.

We don’t know what is causing this. The vaccinated group is older than the unvaccinated group, which will skew its infection rate lower as older age groups have a lower infection rate anyway (see below). The currently slowing growth in the younger age groups and the increasing growth in the older, more vaccinated age groups is likely to be a reflection of the same underlying infection patterns as those in the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.

Even the Deeply Religious Aren’t Immunised Against Fear of Infection

We’re publishing an original article today by Sean Walsh, a former philosophy lecturer, on how the Government’s mechanisms of fear have been able to reach into the souls of the most observant Catholics, overcoming their trust in God. Here is an extract:

For a Catholic the Mass is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. It culminates in a divine speech act, mediated via the priest in loco Christi, which brings us into the Real Presence of Our Lord via the Eucharistic celebration. This Sunday, as last Sunday, congregants will be thanking the Lord, in His presence. And as ever, He will be joyful in receipt of that gratitude, even though most of those offering it will be hiding their face from Him, in an act of cowardice which is, at best, a bit rude.

Our Lord offered Himself up to the rest of us in act of supreme sacrifice… the members of my parish, encouraged by the bishops, will lower the mask for about three seconds: enough time to swallow the Host, cover the face again, and then re-engage with the secular protocols of social distancing.

Because they are worried that in the presence of Jesus Christ himself, they might catch a virus.

How has it come to pass that the Government’s mechanisms of fear have been able to reach into the soul of the most observant – and most of my fellow parishioners have always struck me that way – in such a way that neutralises the instincts and teachings of the Nicene Creed? Why is it that at point of contact with Our Lord they are scared?

Worth reading in full.

Fully Vaccinated Britons Can Travel to “Amber List” Countries Without Quarantining From July 19th, Government Due to Announce

The Sun is reporting that the Government is due to announced a change in travel quarantine rules that will mean fully vaccinated Britons won’t have to self-isolate when returning from “Amber List” countries from July 19th, widening the divide between those who have had both vaccine doses and those who have not (and will not).

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will unveil the rules change on Thursday.

It means hassle-free holidays to Spain, France and Greece will be back on for millions, all of which are on the Amber List.

A source told the MailOnline: “Border Force do have to make some technical changes and they had asked for a bit longer to get the new systems in place. But they can see the writing on the wall on this and they have accepted it will be the 19th.”

But travellers must take a test before they come back to Britain and another gold standard PCR test on the second day of return.

It is understood those who cannot be jabbed will also be exempt from quarantine – children travelling with double-jabbed parents would swerve the 10-day isolation with extra testing.

Ministers had been warned that delaying the boost for vaccinated holidaymakers would be a body blow to the summer travel season.

Holidays expert Paul Charles said: “It would be pointless introducing it in mid-August as the summer travel season will have been lost almost entirely – along with tens of thousands of jobs.”

Many European countries are also only allowing in Brits who have had both jabs.

Both Portugal and Malta are only welcoming fully-vaccinated Brits, along with France while Spain now requires a negative test, or proof of both jabs, from all U.K. arrivals.

Brits heading to Cyprus will need to have two Covid tests unless they are fully vaccinated from tomorrow.

However, Germany has recently lifted restrictions for Brits who are fully vaccinated, after initially closing their borders to the U.K. due to the Delta variant.

While just the Balearic Islands, Malta and Madeira are on the “Green List” [as well as the “Green Watchlist”, meaning they are “at risk” of being demoted at any time] as holiday hotspots, it is hoped that more destinations could also be added.

All passengers – vaccinated or not – will have to continue wearing face masks on a number of major airlines after ‘Freedom Day’.

Worth reading in full.

Thousands More Women Report Changes to Periods After Covid Vaccination

By late June, Britain’s medicines regulator had received reports from almost 4,000 women who have suffered period problems after taking a Covid vaccine. Since then, around 9,000 more women have reported changes, according to Sky News.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has so far received more than 13,000 reports from women across the country who have experienced changes to their period after having the vaccine.

Experts say there is no evidence to believe the coronavirus vaccine affects fertility, but there are reports that some women are refusing to get the jab.

Dr Viki Male, a Reproductive Immunologist at Imperial College London, said women should feel confident getting the jab and that reports of changes are not unexpected, as similar reactions have been observed with the flu vaccine.

She told Sky News that 25% of women who contract Covid also see changes to their period.

“We know that sex hormones affect the immune system and the immune system affects sex hormones and we have some evidence that the flu vaccine, given a certain time in your cycle, can slightly dampen the amount of progesterone you have, and it’s the balance between oestrogen and progesterone that builds up and breaks down the lining of your uterus.

“So if these get slightly out of whack then we might expect to get a heavier period or a later period,” she said. …

Experts are concerned that increasing numbers of young women are hesitant about the vaccine or refusing to have it altogether, putting pressure on the Government’s plan to unlock the country as it relies heavily on high numbers getting vaccinated.

Dr Male said there is no scientific link between the vaccination and fertility issues and warned that women can be more susceptible to problems during pregnancy if they contract Covid.

Worth reading in full.

The Many Errors of Devi Sridhar

An anthropologist by background with no academic training in medicine, virology or immunology, Prof Devi Sridhar has nonetheless become a go-to person for the broadcast media during the pandemic, where she is allowed to pronounce unchallenged on all things to do with Covid, vaccines and lockdowns. This week, expert group HART has taken her to task for her misinformation about the safety of vaccinating children on Good Morning Britain. She told viewers categorically that “zero children have died because of the vaccine side-effects”, a claim at odds with the multiple reports on VAERS of fatal adverse events in children in the U.S.

Today, she told the BBC that vaccines give more robust and longer-lasting protection than from infection.

We’d rather people get immunity through a vaccine, as studies are showing that vaccine immunity is longer-lasting. You will have a more robust immune response from a vaccine than you do from natural infection.

She doesn’t specify which studies are showing this, but it is contradicted by the findings of researchers examining differing immune responses from infection and vaccination. A paper (not yet peer-reviewed) from a team at New York University in April looked in detail at the different types of immune response from vaccines and infection and found marked differences that did not generally reflect well on the vaccines. Here are some excerpts.

While both infection and vaccination induced robust innate and adaptive immune responses, our analysis revealed significant qualitative differences between the two types of immune challenges. In COVID-19 patients, immune responses were characterised by a highly augmented interferon response which was largely absent in vaccine recipients. …

Critically, induction of [interferons] by viral infection can radically reshape antigen presentation, cellular trafficking, and terminal differentiation of lymphocytes. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 potently induced [interferon] responses, but we did not observe evidence of [interferon] induction by the BNT162b2 mRNA [Pfizer] vaccine.

We observed the presence of cytotoxic CD4 T cells in COVID-19 patients that were largely absent in healthy volunteers following immunisation. … [T]hese features are indicative of protective immune responses and resolution of infection.

Other studies have indicated that the vaccines, unlike infection, do not produce mucosal IgA antibodies, which have been shown to play a crucial role in combating infection in the early stages.

Joe Biden Announces Door-Knocking Campaign to “Get Americans Vaccinated”

The Joe Biden administration has announced it is “intensifying efforts” to increase the take-up in its Covid vaccine roll-out by sending “outreach” teams to knock on doors and pressure people to “get Americans vaccinated”. The Epoch Times has the story.

Because millions of Americans are unvaccinated and due to the so-called ‘Delta’ Covid variant that’s spreading, Biden said that his administration will attempt to ramp up vaccination efforts.

“Do it now,” said Biden during a White House press conference, referring to getting vaccinated.

The President said that people will be “knocking on doors” to get “help to the remaining people” who aren’t vaccinated. It’s part of a community outreach program, he said, that is being set up as mass vaccination sites are being phased out.

Biden also spoke about how his administration plans to make the vaccine available in more healthcare settings.

Those initiatives include providing more assistance to thousands of pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities so they can distribute vaccines, Biden said. Vaccines will also be doled out at sporting events, summer events, and religious activities, he added.

“We’re intensifying efforts to meet people out where they are,” the President said.

Younger Americans, Biden added, seem particularly reluctant to get the vaccine. The President argued they’re more at risk of contracting the Delta variant and that the strain is responsible for most new Covid cases.

“Seems to me, it should cause everyone to think twice,” Biden said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration’s efforts will include “targeted by community door-to-door outreach to get remaining Americans vaccinated.” It’s not clear how the administration plans to accomplish this, and neither she nor Biden provided any more details.

The administration will first target communities with lower vaccination rates, she added. The door-to-door outreach efforts will get information about vaccines to people who haven’t received them yet.

The plan is part of the Government’s Covid response after the White House fell shy of its self-imposed July 4th deadline to get 70% of American adults at least one vaccination shot. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 67% of American adults have received at least one shot and more than 157 million are fully vaccinated.

Worth reading in full.

Sydney Extends Lockdown Due to Fears Over Delta Covid Variant

Australia’s largest city, Sydney, will remain locked down until at least mid-July, with restrictions having been extended by a week due to fears over the Indian Delta Covid variant. Empty Sydney beaches suggest that locals broadly support the extension of lockdown measures. One city resident told BBC News: “We have to knock [Covid] on the head so you have to go along with [lockdown].” BBC News has the story.

The New South Wales Government said it had made the “difficult decision” as it battles the highly transmissible Delta strain.

A stay-at-home order was issued on June 26th.

Australia has recorded 910 deaths and fewer than 31,000 cases since the pandemic began. 

Clusters have emerged after some people who were later found to be infected left their homes for essentials.

The outbreak of around 330 cases is the worst in the city this year.

A stay-at-home order covering more than five million residents in the Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Central Coast areas was due to be lifted on Friday. It has now been extended to July 16th. Schools will also be closed next week.

The New South Wales Government said it recognised the “pain and stress” that lockdown was causing families and businesses.

Yet officials said the daily case rate – with 27 new cases recorded on Wednesday – and low levels of vaccination meant the restrictions needed to be extended.

Less than 10% of Australians are fully vaccinated. A lack of supplies, specifically of the Pfizer vaccine, means many Australians will not be able to get a jab until the final months of the year.

“What we want to do is give us our best chance of making sure this is the only lockdown we have until the vast majority of our citizens are vaccinated,” said Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where we are constantly having to move between lockdown and no lockdown.”

Worth reading in full.

Authors of Lancet Letter Welcome Investigation Into COVID-19 Origins, but Don’t Apologise for Calling Lab Leak a “Conspiracy Theory”

In February of 2020, 27 scientists wrote a letter to The Lancet, claiming studies “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife”. The authors stated, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

Fast forward to May of 2020. 18 other scientists – including some of the biggest names in the field – wrote a letter to Science stating, “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable” and we must “take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data”.

Now some of the authors of the Lancet letter have penned a new letter for that journal. As several commentators have noted, it’s a rather shameless piece of writing. This is particularly true given that the authors were already criticised for not declaring conflicts of interest.

They begin by describing the context of their original missive: “Unsubstantiated allegations were being raised about the source of the COVID-19 outbreak and the integrity of our peers who were diligently working to learn more about the newly recognised virus.”

Given the location of the first outbreak, and other circumstantial evidence, suggesting the virus might have leaked from a lab was perfectly reasonable. Yet the authors still refer to such suggestions as “unsubstantial allegations”, even though their own theory is just as “unsubstantiated”.

They claim that their peers – by whom they presumably mean scientists at the Wuhan Institute – were “diligently working to learn more about the newly recognised virus”. The implication here is that it was unfair for people to suggest they might have dropped the ball on lab security.

However, these scientists weren’t “diligent” enough to mention that a virus in their database whose genome is 96.2% similar to SARS-CoV-2 was identical to one that had been implicated in an unexplained 2012 outbreak of pneumonia. Nor have they been “diligent” enough to share their lab records with other scientists. Ironically, the authors later mention the importance of “transparent sharing of data”.

They go on to say: “We believe the strongest clue from new, credible, and peer-reviewed evidence in the scientific literature is that the virus evolved in nature, while suggestions of a laboratory-leak source of the pandemic remain without scientifically validated evidence that directly supports it in peer-reviewed scientific journals.”

News Round-Up

The Outbreak Point: Are Covid Outbreaks Triggered When the Viral Load in the Air Hits a Certain Threshold?

In recent posts I’ve been exploring the question of why COVID-19 (much like other seasonal viruses) has a Jekyll and Hyde-like nature, being puny for much of the year then exploding in short, sharp outbreaks for a few weeks at a time, usually though not exclusively in the winter. I argued in a post last week that seasonality appears to be driven largely by cycles in the human immune system (though there may be environmental factors such as UV radiation, temperature and humidity as well). The trigger for the somewhat irregular (and not necessarily winter) outbreaks appears to be the appearance of a new variant (or virus) that is able to infect slightly more people, amounting to just one in 18 additional people when estimated from the secondary attack rate. The end of the outbreaks then corresponds to the exhaustion of the small pool of newly susceptible people and the restoration of the temporarily disturbed herd immunity.

I noted that the difference between a surge and a decline amounted only to a small absolute change in the R growth rate, from 1.3 during a surge to 0.8 during a decline, and that the shift between these rates often occurs very abruptly. This means that infected people quite suddenly start infecting 1.3 other people before, around three and a half weeks later, just as suddenly switching back to infecting just 0.8 people. This change in R is reflected in a similar change in the secondary attack rate (the proportion of contacts an infected person infects), which varies between around 15% during surges to around 10% outside of them. I observed that this difference is small enough to be explained by a slightly increased susceptibility to a new variant and a subsequent restoration of herd immunity a short time later.

After writing this it occurred to me that with such a subtle trigger it would seem that outbreaks should be highly sensitive to the amount of social contact people have with one another, and thus to the imposing and lifting of restrictions (or to voluntary social distancing). Indeed, it is logic like this which presumably explains why SAGE members and other scientists persist in believing in the efficacy of lockdowns regardless of how much data emerges showing they don’t make any significant impact on the infection or death rate.

A recent set of SAGE minutes explains the logic of restrictions: