Day: 25 August 2021

Government Plans to Vaccinate 12 Year-Olds

The NHS has drawn up plans to start vaccinating 12 year-olds from the first week schools go back. The Telegraph has more.

Health officials have said children would not need parental consent to be jabbed under the programme of vaccination in schools.

On Wednesday, NHS trusts were told to prepare for the “possible rollout of a 12 to 15 year-old healthy child vaccination programme commencing September 6th”. Emails sent by NHS England’s regional offices, seen by the Telegraph, say trusts should draw up plans by 4pm on Friday.

The timetable – with the first jabs administered in less than two weeks – comes despite the fact that the Government’s advisers on vaccination have not so far recommended such a roll-out. On Wednesday night, the Department of Health and Social Care insisted no decision to roll out jabs for 12 to 15 year-olds had been taken.

Until now, Government advisers have said there is insufficient data to support such a move, but further research on the safety of jabs in this age group is about to be published, feeding into their review of the evidence.

In June, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the Pfizer jab for 12 to 15 year-olds in Britain. Last month, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced that youngsters between those ages would only receive vaccines if they suffered from particular health conditions.

Jabs are currently being offered to those aged 16 and 17 following a recommendation from the committee earlier this month. They are only being offered one dose, with the JCVI yet to make a decision on whether or when a second should be given.

The caution is linked to concerns over a rare side effect called myocarditis – a type of heart inflammation – which is more likely to be triggered by second doses, and the NHS plans for the rollout to younger children also suggest that only one Pfizer dose should be given.

The emails from one of NHS England and NHS Improvement’s regional offices, sent to trusts on Wednesday, say: “In preparation for the possible announcement of a 12 to 15 year-old healthy child vaccination programme commencing September 6th, we have been tasked by our national team to request some additional detailed planning information from all systems.”

Trusts are asked to provide details of how they could vaccinate at least 75% of children aged 12 to 15 by November 1st.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Telegraph columnists Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan discuss this new development in their latest Planet Normal podcast.

When Will Neil Ferguson Admit He Got it Wrong?

We’re publishing another critique today, this one by Glen Bishop, of the new paper in Nature by Neil Ferguson and others claiming that a lockdown in Sweden would have resulted in a two- to four- fold reduction in mortality. Hard to credit they’re still banging this drum, given that Ferguson’s team originally predicted the absence of a lockdown in Sweden would have resulted in up to 90,000 deaths by July 2020. The real number was 5370. When will Ferguson admit he simply got it wrong?

In the latest episode of the Imperial modelling saga, Imperial have dusted off old modelling techniques and cherry picked the time scale and countries in a study to try to disparage the Swedish success, the Achilles heel of the lockdown lobby. In the paper published in Nature, Imperial propose a counterfactual model, whereby the Danish, Swedish and British responses to coronavirus are transposed to the other two countries respectively, to compare the effectiveness of each approach in reducing covid mortality when accounting for the heterogeneities between the countries.

Imperial’s team models the respective change in R value through the first months of the pandemic using the death data from each country. Interestingly, it implies that the R0 value of the virus in March 2020 in the U.K. was around 4.5, far higher than previous estimates of 2.5 to 3. These changes in the R-value are then applied to the other countries. The problem is that the Imperial team then retrospectively model the pandemic for each hypothetical scenario using the same flawed modelling techniques which have consistently been wildly inaccurate. Despite Professor Ferguson misleading Matt Ridley at a select committee hearing to suggest Imperial had not produced estimates for Sweden, his Imperial team had in fact predicted between 30,000 and 42,000 deaths in Sweden with social distancing lockdowns and up to 90,000 deaths by July 2020 if the pandemic was left unmitigated. By July 2020 the actual figure was 5370, an order of magnitude below Imperial’s predictions.

Research on the Covid Origins Has Stalled, Scientists Warn

We have reached a crucial point in the study of Covid origins, with “the window of opportunity” for proper investigation closing, scientists have warned. Despite this, research efforts appear to have stalled. BBC News has the story.

Researchers asked by the World Health Organisation to find the cause of the initial outbreak say the process has stalled, in scientific journal Nature.

And further delay could make crucial studies “biologically impossible”. 

They are calling on political and scientific leaders to expedite those studies “while there is still time”.

Dutch Virologist Professor Marion Koopmans, a member of the WHO team, told BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science programme the risk of pandemics was increasing. 

“Because of the way the world is changing – population increase, crowding and more interaction between humans and animals, we need to learn where things go wrong and how we can avoid that in the future,” she said.

The WHO team visited Wuhan in January and published a report in March recommending:

~ searching blood banks in China and other countries for antibodies to the virus in blood donated in the months preceding the December 2019 outbreak 

~ taking samples from farmed wild animals such as mink and racoon dog that might be the “intermediate host” that allowed the virus to jump species

But since farmed animals have a limited lifespan and blood banks store donations for a fixed period, the researchers are worried that valuable biological information may already have been lost. 

The politically contentious issue of whether the virus might have escaped from a laboratory in China had also made some of the work more difficult, Professor Koopmans said.

All the lines of inquiry were relevant, she said, “but when accusations get mixed with the scientific questions, things become quite difficult”.

In their report, however, the team concluded while it was impossible to determine how the virus had infected the first humans, “all available evidence” suggested it had a natural animal origin and was “not a manipulated or constructed virus”.

Worth reading in full.

More Than Half a Million Young Adults Started Smoking to Help Cope With Stressful First Lockdown

Efforts to reduce the number of smoking Brits appear to have been partially undone last year as many young adults took to smoking – as well as to over-drinking alcohol – to help them cope with the stress and boredom of the first lockdown. The Sun has the story.

The number of 18 to 34 year-olds sparking up increased by 25% – an extra 652,000 people – a worrying study revealed.

And an extra 4.5 million people, mainly women, developed drink problems, researchers from University College London found.

The study showed a 40% rise in problem drinking across all age groups. Women were most affected, with a 55% increase.

Younger people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, were most likely to start smoking.

Dr. Sarah Jackson, from UCL, said: “Lockdown was a period of great stress for many people and we saw rates of smoking and problem drinking increase among groups hardest hit by the pandemic.

“People mistakenly believe smoking relieves stress, so some may have used tobacco or alcohol as a means of coping with increased stress or boredom.” …

Last year, the Office for National Statistics found the number of people who smoked had fallen dramatically over the past decade – from nearly 20% in 2011 to just under 14%.

In particular, the habit had fallen out of fashion among 18 to 24 year-olds.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Poland

We’re publishing a new postcard today, this one by a man who’s just returned from Poland with his wife and two kids. Sounds like life there is relatively normal, which is great news. Here’s an extract:

Getting there was relatively easy. The wife and I are double jabbed – I know some people think we have sold our souls by doing this, but if it means I can take my wife and kids to Poland to see the family, then to me it is a small price to pay.

Once we were there, it appeared Poland was treating Covid with the respect it deserves, which is essentially not much at all. The authorities do require quarantining from the U.K. if unvaccinated. However, this was brought in after the Delta variant got blown out of all proportion by our media. People from all other countries are exempt if they produce a negative test, which you can do at the airport.

Once through the border checks, life is pretty much as normal – there is no ‘new normal’. Masks are ‘required’ at airports, hotels and bigger establishments, but enforcement is sporadic and based on how zealous the person behind the counter is. In all other settings, masks are not worn and, unlike in the U.K., where if you choose not to wear a mask you are looked at with a mixture of disdain, smugness, disgust and pity, the Poles respect your decision and leave it at that.

In all other aspects of life, everything is as before. Everyone is getting on with their lives and enjoying themselves.

Worth reading in full.

You can read our other postcards by clicking on ‘Around the World in 80 Lockdowns’ at the bottom of the right-hand menu. They provide a great snapshot of how different governments around the world are dealing with the pandemic – all getting it wrong in their own way. The one by a university professor in Argentina is particularly good.

A Care Home Official Asks: “How Can I in All Conscience Sack Someone Who Has Done Nothing Wrong?”

There was a good letter in the Telegraph yesterday by a care home official in despair at the fact that unvaccinated carers must be booted out of their jobs later this year. It is estimated that six in 10 care facilities will be forced to sack some of their staff because they haven’t been ‘jabbed’, but this official rightly asks: “How can I in all conscience sack someone who has done nothing wrong?

SIR – I am chair of trustees of a private care home. In March 2020 we were given no option but to accept some residents with Covid back from hospital.

Despite all precautions, the disease rampaged through residents and staff. Many older people died, with only our loyal and loving carers at their side. Of staff, 90% caught the disease. They recovered and returned. We have been clear of Covid for over 15 months.

Now I am told I must sack staff who do not wish to be vaccinated. Their loyalty, skill and competence are not in question. How can I in all conscience sack someone who has done nothing wrong? This draconian rule only applies to care homes in England. Where is the justice in that?

I have been vaccinated and support vaccination but how is it reasonable to take people’s jobs because they do not wish to endure this invasive procedure? They cannot be made redundant because the job is still open.

This law hasn’t been thought through. It would have been better if we had been allowed to keep the staff we have and not employ any new unvaccinated staff. I am in despair about this injustice.

Barbara Korzeniowska

London W13

Where’s Cromwell When You Need Him? Australia’s Leaders Need to be Told: “In the Name of God, Go!”

We’re publishing another of Steve Waterson’s peerless rants today. Waterson is the Commercial Editor of the Australian and one of the country’s finest columnists. This one’s a humdinger.

It’s tedious for the youngsters, I know, but we of more advanced years love to reminisce about the olden days, when nobody was permitted to shirk from home and we had to try a little harder to get ahead. You’d put in the hours and a dab of sycophancy to climb the corporate ladder; even career criminals had to work their way up from petty crime to probation to a spell in prison.

We have it much easier these days: just ask Trong Duc Nguyen, the 31 year-old Cabramatta man who has gone straight to jail for two months after committing the hitherto unknown crime of travelling by train and bus from Sydney to Tenterfield. Small mercies, though; at least he didn’t travel the other way then write a mawkish song about it in New York.

Trong’s punishment this week for breaching a public health order was entirely reasonable, according to police, who said “it indicates the level of seriousness of the matter”. Lucky for Trong he didn’t have the virus. I may be mistaken, but I think that might carry the death penalty up Armidale way.

Enjoy this taste of what awaits us as the police state tightens its grip on our liberties. To drive home the seriousness of “doing the wrong thing”, the NSW Police Commissioner decided on-the-spot fines for health disobedience needed to be bumped up to $5,000.

My sense is that $1,000 was already enough to put people off going without their masks, but I suppose if you’re on $649,500 a year it does seem like a trifling sum. Doing the wrong thing isn’t a problem for his officers, however. “We have to shape the behaviour of people,” he told them in a recent video. “If you write a ticket and get it wrong,” he added, “I won’t hold you to account for that.”