Day: 2 August 2021

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the tenth of the regular 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 ninth 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 the Daily Sceptic‘s other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At the Daily Sceptic 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.

  • There have been international reports of adverse events following COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia (reporting the deaths of 131 health care workers post Sinovac vaccine), India and Canada (reporting 22 cases of heart inflammation).
  • Further reports of Bell’s Palsy developing following vaccination, including a featured case report in the BMJ. Immunologist Dr. J. Bart Classen has written in the Journal of Medical – Clinical Research & Reviews on the risk of Parkinson’s disease following Covid vaccination, especially AstraZeneca (summarised here).
  • A study in the Lancet suggests that antibody responses wane rapidly and are low within two months of vaccination (though the authors note that protection via cellular immunity may remain).
  • A report on ‘breakthrough’ cases from NBC Boston, reporting 5,100 cases in Massachusetts and 80 subsequent deaths. 
  • The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said that it supports the recommendations of the JCVI on not vaccinating children below the age of 18 unless they have underlying health conditions.
  • The inventor of mRNA technology, Dr. Robert Malone, has spoken of his fear that current data shows a worrying trend of possible ADE (Antibody-Dependent Enhancement) as the vaccine may cause the virus to be more dangerous in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.
  • Lawyers have warned that ‘ethical veganism’ is a protected belief that would be among those that would have to respected in any effort to introduce mandatory vaccination in workplaces, the Telegraph reports
  • Chief Midwife for England, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, has penned a letter to midwives, obstetricians and GP practices, asking them to recommend COVID-19 vaccines to pregnant women.  This follows some surveillance data that suggests some increased risk to pregnant women from the Delta variant. A study interim report published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that while 13% of the 827 vaccinated women in the study suffered a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), this is not an elevated number. Dr. Peter McCullough has written in TrialSiteNews detailing some serious concerns with the study, stating: “The effect of the vaccines on early pregnancy losses (<20 weeks) is concerning and remains to be determined.” To date the Yellow Card system has reported 600 adverse events relating to pregnancy conditions including 10 deaths and 381 spontaneous abortions.
  • A Spanish preprint study in the Lancet suggests that the safety profiles of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are similar in terms of blood clotting. It also suggests that the risk of blood clotting is greater for those infected with SARS-CoV-2.
  • A preprint study in Medrxiv reports no difference in viral loads when comparing unvaccinated people to those who have ‘breakthrough’ infections post-vaccine, suggesting “that if vaccinated individuals become infected with the Delta variant, they may be sources of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to others”. 
  • Report in the Telegraph that AstraZeneca may end its future development of vaccines after offering its COVID-19 vaccine at cost to contribute to the pandemic effort. Pfizer, on the other hand, has reported record profits and is discussing increasing the costs of booster shots, according to the Guardian.
  • Statistician Mathew Crawford has argued that the CDC’s definition of a safety signal prevents it from picking up safety problems with the Covid vaccines, essentially because it compares the Covid vaccines to one another rather than to an established baseline.
  • VAERS – the American version of the Yellow Card reporting system – released new data on July 23rd bringing the total to 518,581 reports of 2,426,531 adverse events following Covid vaccines, including 11,940 deaths.
  • EudraVigilance – the equivalent of the Yellow Card reporting system in the EU – has logged (up to July 31st) 779,048 reports of 1,940,012 adverse events, including 20,595 deaths.
  • Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: Gemma O’Shea (35); Natalie Simpson (38).

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on July 21st, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,102,228 events based on 331,240 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,517.

  • Pfizer (20.4 million first doses, 12.9 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 215 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 43,777 people vaccinated (466).
  • AstraZeneca (24.7 million first doses, 23.2 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 110 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 24,263 people vaccinated (1,018).
  • Moderna (1.3 million first doses, 0.3 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 118 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 162,500 people vaccinated (8).

“This Is Not the Country That I Grew Up In”: Australian Widow Arrested for Exercising Near Home

Following reports of the Australian army being deployed to ensure citizens are abiding by strict lockdown rules, an elderly Sydney resident has written to the Australian about being arrested for exercising near her home. Police officers interpreted this as an offence because the resident, a widow, was wearing a sign and walking in an area she rarely visited. Her letter, republished below, highlights the lengths to which the Australian authorities are going to snuff out the faintest flickers of protest.

I am a 78 year-old widow who chose to exercise in the Sydney central business district (CBD) on Saturday. I wore a sign saying: “Not happy, Gladys.” I was alone, I am fully vaccinated and I was wearing a mask.

I was stopped by police and asked what I was doing. I said I was exercising within 10km of my home. They told me I was not allowed to wear a sign while exercising. Both they and I were very respectful but I was arrested on the grounds that, as I did not normally exercise in the CBD, and was wearing a sign, I was protesting and not exercising.

This is not the country that I grew up in. And the really sad thing is that there will be so many who have been intimidated into cringing cowardice and who will just say of me: “Stupid old biddy, serves her right for not just being obedient.”

Mary M. Ancich, Birchgrove, Queensland

Did the New York Times Suppress the Lab Leak Theory?

There’s a fascinating article in UnHerd by Ashley Rindsberg, author of The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’ Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History. He asks why the New York Times was so quick to dismiss the lab leak theory last year and concludes it may have been because of its Chinese interests.

In the opening months of the pandemic, the lab leak hypothesis was actively discredited by the media and scientific establishment, with anyone associated with it smeared as “racist”. The question we have to ask now is how, and why, did this happen?

To a great extent, I believe the answer lies with the world’s most powerful news outlet, the New York Times. At the start of the pandemic, the Times set the news and policy agenda on the lab leak hypothesis, discrediting it and anyone who explored it. The Times did so while taking money from Chinese state-owned propaganda outlets, such as China Daily, and while pursuing long-term investments in China that may have made the paper susceptible to the CCP’s strong-arm propaganda tactics in the first months of the pandemic.

As someone who has spent years researching the history of the Times, I was struck by the paper’s markedly pro-China bent at the start of the pandemic. It opposed Trump’s travel ban to and from China as “isolationist”. It all but ignored the unparalleled success of China’s arch-enemy, Taiwan, in containing the virus. It downplayed China’s economic war against Australia, whose prime minister early on questioned the CCP story on the pandemic’s origins. And it celebrated China’s success in battling COVID-19, taking the CCP’s absurd mortality numbers at face value, reporting in August 2020 that 4,634 Chinese people died from the virus and, six months later, that there were 4,636 total deaths. That in a country of 1.4 billion people only two people died of Covid-19 in the half a year defies logic and common sense. Still, the Times legitimised the CCP numbers by printing them as hard fact.

Of course, over the past year newspapers across the world have fallen for the CCP’s distorted COVID-19 narrative. And there is no evidence to suggest that the CCP did put pressure on the Times. But when it came to the lab leak debate, the Times was relentless. Starting in early 2020, when little was known about the virus – and nothing about its origins – the Times adopted a stridently anti-lab leak stance. In its first report on the topic, a February 17th, 2020 article covering comments made by Sen. Tom Cotton, the Times stigmatised lab leak as a “fringe theory”. Once the story was published, its reporter took to Twitter to describe it as “the kind of conspiracy once reserved for the tinfoil hatters”.

Only one week prior, another outlet made strikingly similar claims. In an editorial, the CCP-owned China Daily thundered that Cotton’s decision to spread “malicious rumours” shows “how irresponsible some are in their haste to attack China”. The Times, echoing China Daily, also cast the lab leak hypothesis as a “rumour”.

Over the months, the Times’s coverage grew even more strident – and more in line with Chinese propaganda. In February 2020, it gave a platform to zoologist Peter Daszak, publishing an opinion piece by him which claimed that the pandemic was caused by “road-building, deforestation, land clearing and agricultural development”. Daszak argued that “discovering and sequencing” viruses like COVID-19 in labs like the one in Wuhan should be a priority.

The Times, which used Daszak as a key source in over a dozen articles, has never mentioned that Daszak’s organisation funded the Wuhan lab, in particular research into bats and coronaviruses, a flagrant conflict of interest. Crucially, there was no mention of this when a reporter interviewed Daszak this February, following his return from a heavily criticised WHO investigation into the virus’s origins. (Danszak later recused himself from the investigation because of the conflict of interest.)

But the Times also never revealed that Daszak was a favoured source for another outlet: China Daily. The state-owned media organisation, along with Xinhua and sister outlet Global Times, repeatedly quoted Daszak to assure readers of China’s full cooperation in the search for the virus’s origins — and to discredit the possibility of a lab leak.

Worth reading in full.

Britain’s Daily Covid Cases Fall to a Five-Week Low

The number of new daily Covid cases in the U.K. fell to 21,952 today, the lowest it’s been in five weeks. Meanwhile, deaths are up slightly compared to last Monday and hospitalisations are down. MailOnline has more.

Covid cases are lower today than they have been since June 29th, according to the official figures released today.

But the number of virus tests conducted also fell to their lowest levels since June 26, suggesting there are cases that have not been picked up.

The new figures follow data published on Friday, which suggested cases are still on the rise and as many as one in 65 people in England are currently infected.

Some experts think fewer people are coming forward for Covid tests to avoid isolation.

The figures also signal a slow in the week-on-week drop in infections, with cases dropping by 12% on seven days earlier.

Last Monday, cases had dropped by 37.5% compared to the previous week.

Meanwhile, there were just 24 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid tests were recorded, down from 65 yesterday, but an increase of 71.4% compared to last Monday.

Covid death figures released on Monday often lag, due to a delay in recording deaths over the weekend.

Updated hospitalisation figures for last Tuesday show a further 911 patients were admitted to hospital who tested positive for the virus, a drop of 1.6% compared to one week earlier.

Worth reading in full.

Unvaccinated Australians Will Be Barred From Major Sporting Events

Australians will soon need to have proof of full vaccination to visit major sporting venues as state premiers prepare the ground for the introduction of vaccine passports. The Premier of New South Wales said in a press conference on Monday: “Any incentives we can provide to encourage people to get vaccinated and stick to the health restrictions, that is our priority.” Mail Australia has the story.

Plans are already underway to make vaccine passports mandatory in New South Wales while a similar approach is being considered in Victoria.

Fans will need to have both Covid jabs to visit a stadium and watch big sporting events like the NRL, AFL, or cricket.

Venues NSW Chairman Tony Shepherd will put forward his proposal to the State Government in the next few weeks and hopes they will be approved by next year. 

“If you choose not to have the jab that is your civil right in a free country but the Delta strain is extremely transmissible and we need to do something to reopen our stadiums,” he told the Daily Telegraph

“The venues will have to say you can’t attend. Simple as that.” …

[Victoria] Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference on July 21st that officials would make an “informed discussion” about reopening games to vaccinated residents.

“[The vaccine] will be here September, October, November… then I think we can have an informed discussion and say: ‘Right, we’re at X%, here’s all the benefits that might flow from that’,” he said. 

The Premier said vaccinated fans being able to attend games would be part of a wider attempt to incentivise people to get the jab.

Worth reading in full.

Slowing Vaccine Take-Up Means 170,000 Moderna Doses at Risk of Expiry

The NHS is looking to redistribute thousands of Covid vaccine doses as slowing take-up rates among young Britons, who don’t appear to be moved by petty bribes, could result in doses being thrown away after reaching their expiry dates. The Guardian has the story.

An internal email seen by the Guardian warned of 170,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine at risk of expiry within the next fortnight, as doctors across England have raised alarm at the unpredictability of vaccine take-up among young people meaning more doses will go to waste.

The Government is to unveil a raft of new initiatives to increase vaccine uptake among young people, including discounts on car-hailing companies such as Uber and Bolt, as well as the delivery service Deliveroo.

It is understood the NHS has managed to redistribute 40,000 of the spare Moderna jabs. However, concerns have been raised about the number of jabs wasted as uptake slows among younger people eligible for the Moderna and Pfizer jabs.

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses, initially as a way to offer more people first doses because of limited supply, but studies have since shown that the larger gap could give longer protection.

One NHS doctor in the north-east, Dr Alison George, said colleagues had been forced to routinely discard Pfizer doses, rather than give second shots early to people who requested them. “We have very high rates of infection here and the local hospital is already under significant pressure with some elective surgery cancelled,” the GP said. …

Beccy Baird, a Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said it was getting more difficult to predict vaccine uptake.

“Uptake is getting lower as the cohorts get younger and matching the supply of vaccines to demand will get harder as demand becomes less predictable. This is made all the harder as the vaccines have a limited shelf life,” she said. …

“In the early stages of the rollout, you could be confident that wherever vaccines were delivered there would be sufficient demand for them. Now that a majority of adults have been vaccinated, and with uptake getting lower as the cohorts become younger, demand for the vaccine is more unpredictable, making it harder to know exactly where the doses are needed.” …

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now mostly distributed to the under-40s, who cannot receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Those vaccines have a shorter shelf life of up to one month in the fridge, compared with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which can last for up to six months.

Worth reading in full.

One in 10 Pubs and Restaurants Forced to Close Last Month Due to ‘Pingdemic’

Hospitality venues were relying on the easing of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ to make up for their lockdown losses, but they’ve found that one set of restrictions has simply been replaced by another. The Chief Executive of U.K. Hospitality reports that one in 10 pubs and restaurants have been forced to close over the past month because of staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic‘. One in five venues has also had to “significantly adjust their offer or services” to cope with the continued disruption to business. MailOnline has the story.

The ‘pingdemic’ has seen record numbers of people being alerted by the NHS Covid app to self-isolate in recent weeks, including 700,000 for the week to July 21st.

The Government rolled out exemptions for workers it deems to be employed in critical industries, such as those in the food sector, transport and waste collection.

Daily negative test results can enable such workers who have been alerted by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace as Covid contacts to continue working.

Kate Nicholls [of U.K. Hospitality] told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the last month one in 10 of our businesses have had to close their sites and more importantly one in five have had to significantly adjust their offer or services in order to cope with the pandemic.”

She added: “The ‘pingdemic’ has hit at the same time as the reopening, they haven’t had time to rebuild cash reserves and so they are in quite a fragile state and the hit to revenues as a result of the pingdemic is running at about 15 to 20% of revenues for those businesses that are affected.

“So it is a significant suppression just at the point in time when these businesses needed to start recovering from about 16 months worth of closure and restrictions.” …

It comes as desperate councils are offering lorry drivers bonuses of £3,000 in a bid to clear the backlog of bin collections caused by the ‘pingdemic’.

Rubbish has piled up in many areas in recent weeks – with up to 40% of some local authority workforces having to isolate.

Some residents have been told to cut down on the amount of food that they throw out as piles of uncollected waste grow. 

Others have been asked not to put their bins out unless they are full, with collection services in dozens of areas running significantly behind schedule.

Separately, a new report has warned more than 1.1 million jobs remain unfilled as the pingdemic crisis worsens the shortage of workers.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Health Secretary has finally agreed to make the NHS Covid-tracking app less sensitive. Until now, it pinged people who’d been in contact with an infected person at any point during a five-day period before they tested positive; henceforth, that will be reduced to two days. MailOnline has the story.

American Medical Association Advocates Removing Sex From the Public Portion of Birth Certificates

In a press release on 16th June, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced the policies that were adopted by medical leaders at the latest meeting of the AMA House of Delegates. These policies, we are told, “drive the future of medicine” and aim to “remove obstacles that interfere with patient care”.

The first policy listed is to “oppose work requirements for food stamps”. And the second is to “advocate for alternatives to immigration centers”. If you’re wondering why these particular policies were adopted by a medical organisation, you’re not alone. They sound like standard left-wing talking points to me. (This isn’t meant as a criticism of those policies; it’s just odd to see them in an AMA press release.)

However, the most noteworthy policy adopted by the AMA is to “advocate for the removal of sex as a legal designation on the public portion of the birth certificate”. Now, you might have assumed that a person’s sex was a fairly important piece of medical information – one that really ought to be recorded on their birth certificate. But apparently not.

According to AMA Board Chair-Elect Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, recording sex on birth certificates “fails to recognize the medical spectrum of gender identity”, and “risks stifling an individual’s self-expression and self-identification”. (Note that the AMA is the largest professional association for physicians and medical students in the United States, with annual revenues of over $300 million.)

The AMA’s move comes after the publication of a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine last December titled “Failed Assignments – Rethinking Sex Designations on Birth Certificates”. (The NEJM is arguably the world’s most prestigious medical journal. It boasts an impact factor of 75, compared to only 60 for The Lancet.)

The authors of that paper make a number of arguments in favour of removing sex from the public portion of birth certificates. I will respond to each of them in turn.

News Round-Up

Does This Data From Public Health Scotland Show that Vaccine Effectiveness Against Death is Just 46%?

How well do the vaccines protect from death? The two most recent weekly reports from Public Health Scotland give us death data by vaccination status, and by subtracting one from the other we can work out how many Covid patients died in the week July 9th-15th. The results are shown below.

We see that 38 people died with Covid that week, 37 of whom were over 50. Twenty-eight (74%) were fully vaccinated (18 of whom were over 80 and 24 were over 70). Thirty-three (87%) had had at least one dose. Just five (13%) were unvaccinated.

To fully interpret these we need to know how many people were vaccinated in each age group. The problem with obtaining this information is that the official Scottish statistics appear to use the same method as the NHS for estimating vaccine coverage, which gives figures which exceed the likely more accurate estimates of Public Health England by around 5%.