Day: 19 July 2021

Unvaccinated Brits to Be Barred From Large Venues Later This Year Following Government U-Turn

Just six months ago, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi ruled out the introduction of “discriminatory” vaccine passports in England. “That’s not how we do things,” he said.

It didn’t take long, however, for the Government to tell nightclubs and other large venues that it was their “social responsibility” to check their customers’ Covid status. “Covid status” gave the impression that a negative test or recent recovery from the virus would be enough for entry to be granted as opposed to just full vaccination.

It has taken even less time for ministers to go one step further. With so few nightclubs having decided ‘voluntarily’ to introduce checks, Zahawi has announced that they will be forced to do so from late September. And this time, nothing short of full vaccination will open the door for entry, barring unvaccinated Brits from all such venues.

The Vaccines Minister said that Covid checks would be “discriminatory” if they were just based on vaccination only four days ago. So why the sudden change of mind?

Sky News has more.

Nadhim Zahawi said proof that people are fully vaccinated against coronavirus will be required for them to be allowed into nightclubs and other “crowded venues” from that point.

Until then, Covid passes – which show if you are vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus – will be required, although these are not mandatory for venues to operate.

In the Commons this afternoon, Mr Zahawi said: “By the end of September everyone aged 18 and over will have the chance to receive full vaccination and the additional two weeks for that protection to really take hold.

“So at that point we plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.

“Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”

Mr Zahawi promised that the plans would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and that there would be “appropriate” exemptions for people with a medical condition that means they cannot be vaccinated.

“We will always look at the evidence available and do all we can to ensure people can continue to do the things they love,” he added.

Worth reading in full.

Lancet Study Shows Real World Patients Are up to 400% More Likely to Suffer Adverse Events Than Drug Trials Show

Dr Sebastian Rushworth has written today about the serious problem of the underestimation of side-effects in drug trials, which he says should “shake the very foundations of evidence based medicine”.

His article reports on the results of a study recently published in the Lancet Healthy Longevity, funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, which seeks to establish the extent to which drug trials underestimate side-effects by comparing trial data to real world data. The study focuses in particular on blood pressure drugs known as RAAS blockers, which Dr Rushworth explains were chosen because of the number of trials that have been done by different companies. There is no reason the results should not apply equally to other drugs, he says, including Covid vaccines (for which there have been an unprecedented number of adverse event reports despite the trials showing them to be safe).

The results are shocking. The difference was not marginal but out by a factor of three or four.

The real world patients were between 300% and 400% more likely to experience a serious event than the participants in the trials! That is in spite of the fact that the trials, as mentioned above, were using a broader definition of what constituted a serious event. If the trials were representative of reality, then they should have a higher rate of events than is seen in the real world data. Instead they have a rate that is several times lower!

The difference was just as large in trials specifically involving older people, so age differences can’t be the full explanation, he says (though he allows part of it may be that participants in the trials of older people may be healthier and younger than real world patients).

His main explanation, however, is darker. Are the drug companies simply under-reporting adverse events, both in the drug and placebo treatment groups?

Man Calls for Introduction of Arm Bands That Show Wearer Has Weakened Immune System and Would Like to Keep Distance

It was revealed last week that the BBC is offering white lanyards to staff who are returning to the office but would like to continue ‘social distancing’. The Corporation has since exceeded itself by publishing an article highlighting “calls” for the introduction of wearable symbols showing that the wearer has a weakened immune system and would like to keep a distance.

There’s just one call mentioned in the article, actually, from a man who would like the system to become an “accepted way of people identifying themselves”.

Neil Collingwood, 64, from Leek, Staffordshire, said the ending of England’s lockdown rules on July 19th was not good news for people less able to fight off Covid. 

Even people with two vaccine jabs were not completely without risk, he said. 

He has made a prototype armband.

It “is bright orange and uses the universal symbol for first aid”, Mr Collingwood explained. 

He has it in mind for adults with weakened immune systems, or who are immuno-suppressed, and less able to battle infections naturally. …

“There are about half a million people in the U.K. whose immune systems are not effective,” he said. 

Recent studies suggest they do not receive as much protection from Covid vaccines as other people.

Mr Collingwood, who has chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, a form of blood cancer, as well as type one diabetes, leaves the house only to exercise and occasionally take photographs as part of his work as a historian and author. …

“I’ve already had people who have refused to get out of my way,” he said, “with one person shouting ‘grow up it’s not going to kill you.'”

“Some of the people in my situation may be 10 or 12 years old, they will never – as things stand – be able to have normal lives,” said Mr Collingwood. 

“I probably don’t have all that long left, but I’m damned if I want to sacrifice what time I have got left because of stupidity, and the fact we are not being considered as a very important vulnerable group.”

Worth reading in full.

COVID-19 Mortality Rate Among Children Is Even Lower Than Previously Thought

We’ve known since the early weeks of the pandemic that age is the single best predictor of COVID-19 mortality, and that the risk of death for young people is vanishingly small.

A letter in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that zero Swedish children aged 1–16 died of COVID-19 up to the end of June 2020. And only 15 were admitted to the ICU, of whom four had a serious underlying health condition.

Of course, England is a much larger country than Sweden, and it’s been a whole other year since those Swedish data were collected. So how many English children have died of COVID-19?

In an unpublished study, Clare Smith and colleagues sought to identify the number of COVID-19 deaths among people aged under 18 between March 2020 and February 2021. They examined data from the National Child Mortality Database, which was linked to testing data from Public Health England and comorbidity data from national hospital admissions.

The structure of their dataset allowed the authors to distinguish deaths that were plausibly from COVID-19 and deaths that were merely with COVID-19.

3,105 under 18s died from all causes in England during the relevant time period. Sixty one of these involved people who had tested positive for the virus. However, the authors determined that only 25 were actually caused by COVID-19. And of the 25, 76% had a serious underlying health condition.

Given that an estimated 469,982 under-18s were infected with the virus up to February of 2021, the survival rate in this age-group (the inverse of the IFR) was 99.995%. What’s more, 99.2% of total deaths were caused by something other than COVID-19.

Smith and colleagues’ findings underline just how small a risk COVID-19 poses to young people, and hence – I would argue – why a focused protection strategy was preferable to blanket lockdowns.  

As early as 10th April 2020, Martin Kulldorff – co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration – published an article on LinkedIn titled ‘COVID-19 Counter Measures Should be Age Specific’.

Based on the data that were then available, he estimated one would need to stop 3.5 million children being exposed in order to prevent the same number of deaths as one could prevent by shielding 1,000 people in their 70s. He argued, therefore, that Covid counter-measures must vary by age.

A similar argument was made by George Davey Smith and David Spiegelhalter in a piece for The BMJ last May. These authors called for “stratified shielding”, while noting that this would “require a shift away from the notion that we are all seriously threatened by the disease”.

According to the medical researcher Russell Viner, who spoke to Nature, “There’s a general feeling among paediatricians that probably too many children were shielded during the first wave.” And the epidemiologist Elizabeth Whittaker said that efforts to shield children “have probably caused more stress and anxiety for families than benefit”.

In addition to “stress and anxiety”, there’s also the learning losses associated with months of online teaching. All this compared to the marginal impact closing schools had on the spread of COVID-19.

When we look back at the response to Covid, serious questions will have to be asked about the costs of lockdown, not only to society in general, but to young people in particular.

The BBC versus Donald Trump

The first original essay we’re pubishing on the Daily Sceptic is by Dr Freddie Attenborough, a former lecturer in sociology and a Lockdown Sceptics regular. Freddie’s contributions to the site have been among the very best – he wrote the essay about how Britain responded to the 1957-58 Asian Flu epidemic that you can read here, as well as this angry tribute to those laid low by the lockdowns on 1st January.

His latest essay – which you can also read at his newly-minted substack account – is about the BBC’s double standards when it comes to ‘misinformation’. On the one hand, it publishes ‘fact checks’ that supposedly expose the crackpot conspiracy theories being peddled by ‘Covid deniers’; but on the other it regularly pumps out hysterical, pro-lockdown propaganda that, by any rational measure, is also ‘misinformation’. Here is an extract:

In March 2021, the BBC reported that one of their investigative teams had, “Been tracking the human toll of coronavirus misinformation”. During this investigation they claimed to have found links to “assaults, arsons and deaths”. Worryingly, experts also told them that, “The potential for indirect harm caused by rumours, conspiracy theories and bad health information could be much worse”. Sounds like an interesting investigation, doesn’t it? Public service output at its finest, you might think. Just the kind of article we’d all like to read.

Alas. Not quite.

The problem with the BBC is that it simply can’t help itself. Having teed an ostensibly interesting story up in this open, investigatory journalistic type of way, its authors then proceed to devote a good-ish chunk of what follows to that most favourite of all BBC pastimes, namely, implicating Donald Trump in the act of mass murder. As with the butterfly so beloved of chaos theory (you know the one: that little blighter who’s always flapping his wings and causing tsunamis to crash into the coast of Bangladesh) no sooner have the BBC shown us Trump tweeting about the FDA’s preliminary research into hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against Covid than the magic of non-deterministic linear physics kicks in and people all over Nigeria and Vietnam suddenly start mopping up the old bleach-based products like vacuum cleaners.

In the end, then, the only interesting thing about this article is the way it reminds us just how little time and attention the BBC have paid to exploring the link that surely must exist between Covid ‘misinformation’ (as they themselves insist on calling it) and the huge rise in cases of psychosomatic disorder – health anxiety in particular – that we’ve witnessed in the UK since the dawn of the Age of Lockdown (2020-present). Let me explain what I mean.

And to do so, let me start by asking a question: what might disinformation likely to precipitate new, or to heighten existing, levels of anxiety amongst those suffering from psychosomatic disorders look like? How, in other words, might we define such a thing? Well, perhaps we might say that it would be information that unduly exaggerated the risks associated with Covid. Perhaps we might go further and say that it would represent the risks associated with Covid in a highly misleading and/or a sensationalist way. Come to think of it, perhaps we might end up concluding that it would look rather like the BBC’s recent article, “Long COVID funding to unearth new treatments.

Worth reading in full, as is Freddie’s recently published collection of essays about the pandemic Notes From the Blunderground.

All U.K. Children Could Be Offered Covid Vaccines by the End of the Year

The Government will announce its plans for the vaccination of children against Covid later today and is expected to say that only clinically vulnerable children and those living with vulnerable adults will be included in the national roll-out – for now. It hasn’t taken long for reports to emerge suggesting that all children could be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. The argument is that it will be difficult to reach herd immunity if children remain unvaccinated. The Telegraph has the story.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to announce that only vulnerable youngsters between the ages of 12 and 15, and 17 year-olds within three months of their 18th birthday, will be offered a jab amid concerns there is too little data on safety and efficacy in young people.

But the JCVI is expected to leave the door open for more children to be vaccinated once trials conclude later this year, the Telegraph understands.

In June, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the Pfizer jab for 12 to 15 year-olds in Britain following early trial results in teenagers, but there is still no data for younger children. 

Pfizer is expected to release results on trials for five to 11 year-olds in September and two to five year-olds by November, with the company expecting regulator approval within a month of releasing positive data. AstraZeneca is also conducting trials in children aged six to 17, with the British team likely to release results before the end of the year.

On Sunday, experts warned that it may be difficult to reach herd immunity in Britain if children are not vaccinated. Nearly one in five people in the U.K. are under 16 and, despite everyone being offered a vaccine, around 12% of adults have not had a first jab.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College, a member of SAGE, told the BBC: “In the absence of vaccinating it’s inevitable that we’re going to have very high numbers of cases in teenagers, and we will not be able to reach herd immunity without significant immunity in people under 18.”

The JCVI is expected to keep the situation under review and will be watching the results from trials closely. 

Scientists are particularly concerned that vaccination may damage the developing immune system of younger children. Different age groups may require different doses, further complicating the roll-out, and companies must show it will not make children who get Covid more ill – which has happened with other vaccines in the past. 

Experts are also worried that the benefits to children may not outweigh the risks, making vaccination ethically dubious and leaving the Government vulnerable to legal challenges.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Government will continue to be guided by the advice of the JCVI, and no decisions have been made by ministers on whether people aged 12 to 17 should be routinely offered Covid vaccines.”

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

The Daily Sceptic

The name of this website is about to change from Lockdown Sceptics to the Daily Sceptic. I intended this change to coincide with the bonfire of the coronavirus restrictions – the long-awaited terminus – but ‘Freedom Day’ has turned out to be a damp squib. Not only have many of the restrictions remained in place, but it’s been made clear by Chris Whitty and others that any freedoms we’ve been granted today will be snatched away as soon as the NHS comes under pressure again.

I always imagined I’d retire Lockdown Sceptics one day – turn it into an archive that would serve as a record of a dark period in our history – but after almost 16 months of continuous activity, it has developed in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I don’t just mean it averages 1.5 million page views a month and has almost 15,000 email subscribers, as well as a staff of seven. It has also attracted a community of regular contributors and commentators, either above the line, below the line, or in the forums, as well as a team of tireless moderators. Together, we’ve created a kind of intellectual home for tens of thousands of people, and I get regular emails from people all over the world telling me that if it wasn’t for Lockdown Sceptics they would have gone mad.

So instead of shutting down the site, I’ve decided to turn it into the Daily Sceptic. All of the original content we published will still be there, organised under the headings you can see on the right-hand vertical, and the focus will be on the lockdowns and associated restrictions for the time being. But the subject matter will be a bit broader. I wanted to create something more permanent, something that wasn’t contingent on lockdowns continuing forever, but which was imbued with the same irreverent, antic spirit as the original site, and the same rigorous, analytical approach.

So the Daily Sceptic will include sceptical articles by disaffected journalists and academics – including citizen journalists and independent scholars – about a range of public policies that are supposedly based on science or data or evidence, where ‘the Science’ is being invoked as a source of unassailable authority, but which often appear to be rooted in a covert political agenda. The idea is to challenge the new powerful class of government scientists and public health officials – as well as their colleagues in universities, grant-giving trusts, large international charities, Silicon Valley and the pharmaceutical industry – that have emerged as a kind of secular priesthood during the pandemic. And to challenge them on their own terms, much like the group of citizen journalists who successfully rehabilitated the ‘lab leak’ hypothesis after it had been designated a ‘conspiracy theory’ in the pages of the Lancet. (Scientific and medical journals will also be in our sights.)

Peak of the Delta Surge Elusive for England, While Scotland’s Decline Continues

It appears that the anticipated peak of the current surge in England has not yet arrived, and the recent slowdowns may have been temporary.

U.K. positive Covid tests by date reported

As of today, ZOE data is now beginning to show the uptick in infections that Government data has shown over the past week, reversing what had appeared to be (including to ZOE lead scientist Tim Spector) the early signs of a declining trend.