Day: 10 August 2021

News Round-Up

Vaccines Don’t Stop Transmission and Won’t Give Us Herd Immunity, So Let’s Stop Mass Testing, Experts Tell MPs

A panel of experts has told MPs that there is no way of stopping Covid from spreading through the entire population because the vaccines don’t prevent infection and transmission, especially given the Delta variant, adding that we should stop worrying about community testing. “What matters is the burden of patient hospitalisation and critical care,” says a Consultant Paediatrician at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. “And actually there hasn’t been as much with this Delta variant.” The Telegraph has more.

Scientists said it was time to accept that there was no way of stopping the virus spreading through the entire population, and monitoring people with mild symptoms was no longer helpful.

Professor Andrew Pollard, who led the Oxford vaccine team, said it was clear that the Delta variant could infect people who had been vaccinated, which made herd immunity impossible to reach even with high vaccine uptake. …

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Covid, Sir Andrew said: “Anyone who is still unvaccinated will, at some point, meet the virus. 

“We don’t have anything that will stop transmission, so I think we are in a situation where herd immunity is not a possibility and I suspect the virus will throw up a new variant that is even better at infecting vaccinated individuals.”

Until recently, it was hoped that increasing the number of Britons jabbed would create a ring of protection around the population. As late as last week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said one of the reasons it had advised that 16 and 17 year-olds should be vaccinated was because it may help prevent a winter Covid wave.

However, analysis by Public Health England has shown that when vaccinated people catch the virus they have a similar viral load to unvaccinated individuals and may be as infectious.

Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia and an expert in infectious diseases, told the Committee: “The concept of herd immunity is unachievable because we know the infection will spread in unvaccinated populations and the latest data is suggesting that two doses is probably only 50% protective against infection.”

Professor Hunter, who advises the World Health Organisation on Covid, also said it was time to change the way the data was collected and recorded as the virus became endemic.

“We need to start moving away from just reporting infections, or just reporting positive cases admitted to hospital, to actually start reporting the number of people who are ill because of Covid,” he added. “Otherwise we are going to be frightening ourselves with very high numbers that actually don’t translate into disease burden.”

On Tuesday, Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, confirmed that third dose booster shots would be given from next month. However, Sir Andrew argued that, if mass testing was not stopped, Britain could be in a situation of continually vaccinating the population.

“I think as we look at the adult population going forward, if we continue to chase community testing and are worried about those results, we’re going to end up in a situation where we’re constantly boosting to try and deal with something which is not manageable,” he said.

“It needs to be moving to clinically driven testing in which people are willing to get tested and treated and managed, rather than lots of community testing. If someone is unwell they should be tested, but for their contacts, if they’re not unwell then it makes sense for them to be in school and being educated.”

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the 11th 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 10th 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.

  • Public Health Scotland is reporting deaths (from all causes) within 28 days of a vaccine. So far, 5,523 deaths have been reported since February.
  • The Times of Israel reports that 14 Israelis who have received both vaccines and a third booster shot have later been infected with Covid.
  • Professor Peter Schirmacher, the Director of the Pathological Institute of the University of Heidelberg, has expressed deep concerns after conducting over 40 autopsies on people who have died within two days of their Covid vaccination. These concerns, particularly regarding damage to the brain and organs, are further echoed by pathologist Dr Ryan Cole in this presentation
  • The Jerusalem Post reports on a multicentre Israeli study led by Professor Zohar Habot-Wilner from Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center, which finds Covid vaccines may be linked to specific eye inflammation disorders, specifically anterior uveitis and Multiple Evanescent White Dot Syndrome.
  • A study from the U.S. CDC shows 9,246 adverse events reported among adolescents aged 12 to 17, including 863 serious events, 14 deaths and 397 reports of myocarditis. Vaccine has published a report on six cases of myocarditis post-vaccination.
  • Associate Professor Michael Palmer and Professor Sucharit Bhakdi explain the dangers of the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2 and its implications in the development of vaccines.

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on August 6th, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,120,009 events based on 337,064 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,547.

  • Pfizer (20.5 million first doses, 13.8 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 208 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 42,803 people vaccinated (478).
  • AstraZeneca (24.8 million first doses, 23.6 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 110 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 24,219 people vaccinated (1,024).
  • Moderna (1.3 million first doses, 0.4 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 118 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 162,500 people vaccinated (8).

More Than 75% Of All U.K. Adults Fully Vaccinated Against Covid

Another milestone has been reached in the U.K.’s Covid vaccine roll-out, with more than three-quarters of all adults having had two ‘jabs’. This comes less than a month before the offering of ‘booster shots’ to millions of Brits, which will likely change the definition of the term ‘fully vaccinated’. BBC News has the story.

A total of 39,688,566 people have now received both doses, while another seven million have only had a single dose, according to the latest figures.

Boris Johnson described the milestone in the vaccine roll-out as a “huge national achievement”. …

At the peak of the roll-out more than 752,000 jabs were given in a day on March 20th, although the rate has since slowed.

The U.K. reached the milestone of getting 50% of adults double jabbed on June 3rd and 25% of adults had received both doses by April 27th.

A further 32,250 first doses and 17,028 second doses were given across the U.K. on Monday.

The latest data also shows there were 23,510 new cases of Covid as well as a further 146 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test.

Worth reading in full.

Fake Science: The Misinformation Pandemic in Scientific Journals

Another cluster of fake scientific papers has been discovered, this time primarily about electronic medical devices and software. A group of three researchers has published an exposé of papers in which ordinary terms like artificial intelligence and facial recognition are replaced with bizarre alternatives auto-generated from a thesaurus. This appears to be an attempt to hide plagiarism, AI-driven paper auto-generation and/or “paper mill” activity, in which companies generate forged research and sell it to (pseudo-)scientists who want to get promoted.

GENUINE TERMAUTO-GENERATED REPLACEMENT
Big dataColossal information
Facial recognitionFacial acknowledgement
Artificial intelligenceCounterfeit consciousness
Deep neural networkProfound neural organization
Cloud computingHaze figuring
Signal to noiseFlag commotion
Random valueIrregular esteem
Examples of machine generated substitutions

Often these papers originate in China, where the CCP has mandated that every single medical doctor must publish research papers to get promoted (i.e. in their non-existent spare time). If you’re new to this topic, my previous article on Photoshopped images and impossible numbers in scientific papers provides some background along with an entertaining begging letter from a Chinese doctor who got busted.

Most of the bad science covered on the Daily Sceptic is of the intellectually dishonest kind: an absurd assumption here, ignored evidence over there. Sometimes professors – like those at Imperial College London – turn out to be incapable of using computers correctly and are presenting internal data corruption in their models as ‘evidence’, a problem I wrote about in my first article for this site. While these papers are extremely serious for public trust in science, especially given the huge impact they have had, there are even worse problems lurking in the depths of the literature. The biggest is probably 100% fake papers that report on non-existent experiments, often in obscure areas of Alzheimer’s research or oncology.

Almost a Quarter of U.S. Hospitals Are Forcing Staff to Get Vaccinated Against Covid

As much as some state leaders are attempting to stop the move to mandatory Covid vaccination for hospital workers (and for employees in other sectors), close to 25% of U.S. hospitals are requiring their staff to get ‘jabbed’ as a condition of employment. More than 96% of doctors have already been vaccinated, according to the American Medical Association, and 45% of those who have not plan to be. MailOnline has the story.

According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), around 1,500 hospitals have set vaccine mandates, reported CNN. 

The vaccine requirements are controversial and have received backlash from employees, unions and even some governments. 

Federally, it is legal for employers to demand their staff to get vaccinated, though individual states can – and have – passed laws banning vaccine mandates in the workplace. 

The first major hospital system to institute this type of mandate was Houston Methodist Hospital system in Texas.

The hospital’s decision was met with backlash from employees, and 117 filed a joint lawsuit against the hospital.

Their effort was in vain with the lawsuit thrown out and more than 100 employees were either fired or resigned.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, in New York City, also set a similar mandate, giving all of its employees until September 1st to get the shots or be terminated. …

These types of mandates are not legal everywhere, however.

In seven states, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah, employers are not allowed to force their employees to get the vaccine to keep their jobs.

Advocates of mandatory vaccination for hospital workers employ the usual trick of comparing Covid to other viruses such as polio and smallpox.

“I cannot imagine passing any worse law than [banning vaccine mandates],” John Goodnow, CEO of Benefis Health in Great Falls, Montana, told CNN.

“Imagine if that would have been passed back when we were fighting polio, or smallpox before that.”

Benefis attempted to put a vaccine mandate in place in April, but its attempt was blocked by state legislators.

Worth reading in full.

Assembling Covid Jigsaw Pieces Into a Complete Pandemic Picture

We’re publishing an important piece today by Anthony Brookes, a Professor of Genomics and Health Data Science at the University of Leicester, in which he explains why the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads across different populations in waves separated by three or four months. His theory is similar to that put forward by Dr Will Jones, namely, that the overall immunity levels in most populations are quite high, but need to be ‘topped up’ each time a new variant appears, causing infections to rise and then fall. Importantly, the decline in infections has little or nothing to do with non-pharmaceutical interventions – which is why daily cases started to decline before the second and third lockdowns were imposed in the U.K. and why the easing of restrictions on July 19th hasn’t caused an ‘exit wave’ – or the vaccine roll-out, since vaccines don’t appear to have much impact on infection or transmission.

Here is the abstract of Prof Brookes’s article:

  • A series of SARS-CoV-2 variants have arisen, many of which possessed a transient selective advantage that led to a wave of infection that peaked some three-to-four months later. Several such variants have spread globally, though different successful variants have arisen simultaneously in a number of countries. The result is a three-to-four month wave pattern per country, which is also apparent globally.
  • Seasonality affects variant transmissibility. Colder seasons accelerate the growth and increase the size of waves, but the continually changing environment may also differentially affect the relative transmissibility of competing variants (i.e., negatively as well as positively), thereby helping to terminate previously dominant variants and promote the growth of new ones.
  • Overall there is a minimal positive impact from quarantine policy, isolation requirements, Test and Trace regimes, social distancing, masking or other non-pharmaceutical interventions. Initially, these were the only tools in the tool-box of interventionist politicians and scientists. At best they slightly delayed the inevitable, but they also caused considerable collateral harms.
  • Immunity created by SARS-CoV-2 infection, layered on top of pre-existing immunity due to cross-immunity to other coronaviruses, provides good protection against infection, severe disease/death, and being infectious. Immunity created by vaccination also helps protect against serious disease and death, but does little or nothing to provide protection against infection or being infectious (which completely negates the case for vaccine ID cards).
  • Population immunity stems mainly from natural infections, with vaccines adding only slightly to this (and only in recent months). Population immunity is created by societal waves of infection and is somewhat variant-specific. An emerging new variant is able to infect (or re-infect) some fraction of individuals and this serves to top up and broaden the scope of our population immunity to also protect against the new variant.
  • This empirical and data-driven understanding of the pandemic allows us to make predictions. Such predictions don’t look good for some of the U.K.’s new Green List countries. But in these and all other places the ongoing arms-race between viral mutations and growing human immunity will always eventually be won by the human immune system. The virus then becomes a low-level endemic pathogen in equilibrium with its human host species. If this were not the case all humans would have been wiped out by viruses eons ago!

Worth reading in full.

EuroMOMO Analysis Indicates That Europe’s Third Wave Was A Blip

Has Europe seen two mortality peaks or three? According to many news outlets, the continent experienced a deadly third wave of COVID-19 during the spring of 2021.

“Europe is enduring a grim spring,” said an FT article dated 4th April. “COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths are rising in many countries,” it goes on to claim. The article presents data suggesting that March saw elevated COVID-19 death rates in a number of European countries.

This characterisation is borne out by Our World in Data’s chart of the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths for the European Union – which is shown below. (The chart for Europe as a whole is highly similar.)

According to the chart, there was a peak of mortality in the spring of 2020, corresponding to the first wave (which afflicted countries such as Italy, Spain and the U.K). Then there was another peak of mortality in the winter, corresponding to the second wave (when countries such as Poland, Czechia and Hungary were also afflicted).

And the chart indicates there was an additional peak of mortality in the spring of 2021, corresponding to the third wave. This peak is lower than the first two, but still quite considerable. On April 13th, there were more than 2,800 COVID-19 deaths in Europe (compared to just under 3,600 at the peak of the second wave).

Yet as I’ve noted repeatedly, “confirmed COVID-19 deaths” can be misleading, since some of the people who die of COVID-19 (either shortly after a positive test, or with COVID-19 on the death certificate) would have died anyway. Excess mortality provides a far better gauge of the pandemic’s impact.

Estimates of excess mortality for 26 European countries are provided by researchers at EuroMOMO. The chart below plots excess mortality z-scores (numbers of standard deviations above or below the average) from week 1 of 2020 to week 27 of 2021. I’ve omitted the last three weeks of data, as these are subject to revision.

The first and second wave peaks are clearly visible: the former can be seen at week 14 of 2020, and the latter at week 3 of 2021. By comparison, the peak of the third wave (at week 16 of 2021) is barely noticeable.

It does technically rise above the red line, which the researchers oddly classify as a “substantial increase”. However, increases of this magnitude are seen every few months going all the way back to 2017. Hence the third peak cannot be regarded as a major epidemic wave.

Part of the difference between the two charts may be due to the composition of countries. For example, EuroMOMO does not cover Poland, Romania or Czechia. Having said that, the countries it does include make up the vast majority of Europe’s population, so this probably can’t account for much.

The EuroMOMO analysis indicates that Europe has seen two mortality peaks, not three. In terms of excess mortality, the third wave was just a blip.  

News Round-Up

And Finally…

In this week’s episode of London Calling, James and I have our usual argument about whether the mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis by the authorities is a conspiracy or a cock-up. I remain resolutely sceptical, while James is so far down the rabbit hole he thinks today’s anti-vaxxers who stormed the wrong BBC building are agent provocateurs sent into the field by a shadowy state agency to embarrass vaccine sceptics. In addition, we discuss my wildly ambitious plan to turn my substack newsletter about following QPR into a Fever Pitch-style bestseller and James’s brief career as the men’s fashion critic of the Times. (No, I couldn’t believe it either.)

You can listen to the episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.