Day: 29 August 2021

News Round-Up

Are the Vaccines Declining in Effectiveness Against Serious Disease?

Reported positive ‘cases’ have been increasing slightly in the U.K. recently, though the trend appears to be flattening.

United Kingdom

Interestingly, the rise has been concentrated outside England, which has been declining in the last week or so.

England

Scotland has seen the most striking rise, linked it appears to the return of children to school on August 18th.

Scotland

The Scottish surge in ‘cases’ is linked to a surge in testing – it seems that parents have not been testing their children over the summer, and the requirement to do so for school has picked up a load of hidden infections (presumably these children and their families have not been isolating over the summer either).

“Good Idea” to Bar Unvaccinated Children From Attending School, Says Dr. Fauci

The Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden says it is a “good idea” to ban unvaccinated American children from going to school, adding that “we’ve done this for decades and decades” with other vaccines. MailOnline has the story.

[Dr. Anthony] Fauci said it was a “good idea” for schools to force children to get their Covid vaccinations amidst discussions on the booster shot roll-out, while adding that doing so would hardly be the first time. 

The Chief Medical Adviser for the White House cited the growing prevalence of the highly-contagious Delta variant, as well as the fact that students already need a variety of booster shots for school, as reasons to further vaccinate children from the coronavirus.

“I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea,” Fauci said Sunday in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.

“We’ve done this for decades and decades, requiring polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis. So this would not be something new requiring vaccinations for children to come to school.”

Fauci, who has become a target of criticism by members of the Republican Party over the last year, told CNN that said criticism is “just a reflection of the politicisation of what should be a purely public health issue and it’s really unfortunate”.

The Covid tsar spoke as new research published in the Lancet Infectious Disease journal showed that the Delta strain of Covid could double the risk of hospitalisation among those who have not been vaccinated. 

Worth reading in full.

Former New York Times Reporter and Lockdown Sceptic Alex Berenson Banned From Twitter

Leading lockdown sceptic Alex Berenson, a former New York Times science reporter, has been permanently suspended from Twitter following a tweet pointing out some of the limitations of the Covid vaccines last week. The New York Post has more.

Berenson’s account was banned Saturday after “repeated violations” of the rules, a Twitter spokesperson told NBC News in a statement.

Berenson, a one-time New York Times reporter, addressed the suspension in a Saturday night post to his Substack page, blaming his removal from Twitter on a recent post where he was critical of the coronavirus vaccine.

“It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine,” the tweet read.

“Think of it — at best — as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS.”

Berenson, in his Substack post, defended the tweet in question as “entirely accurate”.

In a statement to The Post, the Yale-educated writer and novelist blasted Twitter’s decision.

“We have reached a dangerous moment. Social media companies that have audiences which dwarf any other are now actively censoring reporters at the behest of governments,” he said.

“I will continue to fight to get out the truth and am considering all legal options.”

You can read Berenson’s account of what happened on his Substack account here.

Judge Files Complaint Against Portuguese Government For its ‘Criminal’ Mismanagement of the Covid Crisis

A Portuguese judge has filed a criminal complaint against the Portuguese Government, including the President of the Republic, for their mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis and infringement of the constitution.

A small crowd gathered outside the office of the Procuradoria Geral da República (Attorney General) when the complaint was submitted last week, but there’s been scant coverage of it in the mainstream media.

Portuguese speakers can read the 51-page Google doc setting out the complaint here.

Hundreds of Thousands Have Not Come Forward for Second Jab in England

Most of the media focus on vaccines has centred around the ‘jabbing’ of children in recent weeks, but official data suggests that it is adults the Government should be worrying about given that hundreds of thousands of them have failed to come forward for their second dose. The Guardian has the story.

Experts have repeatedly emphasised the need to receive both doses of the coronavirus vaccines as the second jab greatly increases protection against Covid.

But figures from Public Health England (PHE) suggest take-up of second doses is levelling off in older age groups, and is lower than for first jabs. The data, which extends to August 22nd, also shows take-up of first doses has essentially plateaued in almost all eligible age groups except the very youngest, and falls with age.

While nearly 21.4 million people aged 50 and over in England have had their first dose, just under 19.9 million have had their second – a difference of almost 1,500,000. That’s despite people aged 50-54 being invited for their first jab since March 17th, more than 23 weeks ago. In December, a 12-week gap between doses was recommended, which was cut to eight weeks for those aged 50 and over in May, a move later expanded to all eligible for the jabs.

Some over-50s may only recently have had their first jab and hence not yet be eligible for their second, but the appearance of reluctance to receive second doses is supported by other data.

According to figures from the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, about 23.9 million second doses of the AstraZeneca jab had been given in the U.K. as of August 18th. This is far less than the 24.3 million first doses administered by May 26th – 12 weeks earlier – and the 24.5 million first doses given by June 23rd, eight weeks before. As noted by the Independent, this means between 400,000 and 600,000 Britons eligible for a second AstraZeneca jab have yet to come forward. …

Dr. Michael Head, a Senior Research Fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, [says] there were probably many reasons behind the figures. “This may include concerns over side-effects and also factors such as having been away on holiday over August or feeling that the second dose isn’t necessary,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

NSW to Record Patients as Dying “With” Instead of “From” Covid

New South Wales (NSW) health officials have admitted that not all of the state’s ‘Covid deaths’ have actually been caused by Covid and say they will start recording patients as dying “with” instead of “from” the virus. Better late than never, I suppose. The Mail Australia has the story.

[NSW Health’s] Dr. Jeremy McAnulty made the admission during Sunday’s Covid briefing as the state recorded 1,218 new cases of coronavirus. …

Dr. McAnulty said the change in language was because it was “very difficult to know” whether someone with Covid died from the virus, or another health complication.

“We know when elderly people die, they can have a range of comorbidities, and also, being old increases your risk of death,” he said.

“Covid may often play a role in the death, but it may not. Sometimes, some of our cases who have sadly died appear to have recovered from Covid, and then they have died of something [else].

“We report people who have died ‘with’ Covid, unless there is a very clear alternative.”

He added that it was difficult for doctors who were looking after patients to know exactly how much the virus contributed to their death. …

Earlier this month, Ady Al-Askar a forklift truck driver from Liverpool collapsed in his shower after contracting Covid from his wife Yasmin who works in aged care. 

The 27 year-old was isolating with his wife in their unit in Sydney’s southwest and barely showed any Covid symptoms before his untimely death. 

However, heart conditions reportedly run in the Al-Askar family, and his cousin, Khalid Thijeel, told the Mail Australia he believed it was this that cost the man his life, not the virus. …

Paramedics who responded to the emergency reportedly confirmed that Ms Al-Askar suffered heart failure, whereas the hospital and Dr Chant specified that Covid was a contributing factor in his death.

A few weeks later, Osama Suduh from Sydney’s Covid-hit south-west, became the state’s youngest recorded victim of Covid – though he died of meningitis.

Worth reading in full.

It is Time to Stop Obsessing Over Covid Figures

There’s a good piece in the Mail on Sunday today questioning whether it’s sensible for the Government to continue updating the Covid dashboard every day, given how obsessed we’ve all become with the data. In January, the dashboard attracted 76 million views in a single day!

They’re the figures that have ruled our lives for the past 18 months; decided our freedoms; deepened our fears.

The Covid dashboard published on the U.K. Government website has offered the public a window into the state of the U.K.’s epidemic, displaying daily Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths, both nationally and regionally, since April 2020.

Some people have avoided looking at the figures – published at 4pm every day, including weekends. But a surprising number of us have become secretly addicted to poring over them.

Back in January, the dashboard attracted 76 million views in a single day. In more recent months, the dashboard has offered a source of celebration, thanks to the addition of the vaccination tally.

Scientists and politicians alike agree the U.K.’s Covid dashboard has been a resounding success, allowing the public to draw their own conclusions about the level of threat the virus poses to them.

It’s also been a crucial yardstick for how stretched the NHS is, providing exact figures of how many Covid patients are in each hospital around the country.

But now, with nearly eight in ten Britons protected against getting seriously ill, thanks to the vaccine, are daily Covid figures still necessary?

After all, as Health Secretary Sajid Javid said of the virus earlier this summer: “We cannot eliminate it, instead we have to learn to live with it.”

There is growing concern from experts that the endless figures do more harm than good. Some have declared the tally of daily infections “completely meaningless”.

“It shouldn’t really matter how many people are catching the virus – as long as they are protected,” says Professor Jackie Cassell, public health expert at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

Other scientists have warned of the psychological impact of constant reminders of how many people are still catching Covid.

Worth reading in full.

Britain’s Top Universities Chartering Planes to Fly in 1,200 Chinese Students to Claw Back £1.3billion in Overseas Fees

Top U.K. universities are chartering flights to bring Chinese students into the country next month in an effort to overcome travel restrictions. Britain’s 220,000 Chinese students account for nearly a fifth of all tuition fee income and universities are terrified of losing it. MailOnline has more.

More than 50 universities, including Imperial College London, Bristol and Exeter, have already chartered four flights, bringing in some 1,200 Chinese students, the Times reported.

Mainland China has scrapped all direct commercial flights to the U.K. but students can travel to London via Hong Kong, which is on the U.K.’s green list for travel.

More flights are now being arranged in order to meet demand, the paper reported, citing Into HE, an international education organisation assisting in hiring the flights.

Preparations include airport transfers between Heathrow and the university campuses, along with accommodation and food for the students, who currently have to isolate for 10 days upon arrival in the U.K.

The charter flights come amid fears that income from overseas students – worth more than £1billion to U.K. universities – could dip amid ongoing coronavirus travel restrictions.

There are some 220,000 Chinese students studying in the U.K., the Times reported, with students from China providing nearly a fifth of all tuition fee income. Across the prestigious Russell Group, one in every 10 students is Chinese. After China, India is the country from which most overseas students at U.K. universities hail.

The availability of flights to the U.K. has been impacted by coronavirus, particularly over concerns about the Delta variant, prompting some universities to extend online learning and introduce multiple start dates in a bid to accommodate international students struggling to get to the U.K. in time for the beginning of term.

Experts have also warned that the focus on catering to international students risks overlooking the needs of British students, who pay nearly four times less in fees than international students.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up