Day: 1 September 2021

EFL Launches ‘Education Campaign’ to Persuade Footballers to Get ‘Jabbed’

Almost a third of English Football League players have not been – and don’t plan to be – vaccinated against Covid, according to new research. This comes amid reports that the EFL is launching an ‘education campaign’ aimed at getting more footballers ‘jabbed’ and has asked Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, to take part. The Telegraph has the story.

Telegraph Sport can reveal that the Premier League and EFL have been collecting data this season on the number of footballers in their competitions to have been inoculated against Covid amid mounting fears many are refusing to be immunised, putting themselves, others and the integrity of the game at risk.

Telegraph Sport has been told data collected by the EFL last month shows around 70% of players at its 72 clubs had received at least one dose of vaccine or were intending to get jabbed. …

The EFL findings are largely in line with Government data showing around 70% of 18 to 29 year-olds had received at least one dose of vaccine.

But football wants and needs a much higher rate of take-up among players in order to limit the impact of any Covid outbreak on them and the game itself amid a rising number of cases this season.

Telegraph Sport can disclose that the findings by the EFL have prompted it to launch an education campaign aimed at convincing more footballers to be vaccinated and it has approached Jonathan Van Tam… to be part of that.

As revealed last month, Van Tam addressed the captains of the 20 Premier League clubs on August 2nd as part of a drive to encourage them and their team-mates to get jabbed ahead of the new season.

Van Tam told them they could not “outrun” Covid and he and Premier League medical advisor Mark Gillett addressed some of the myths around vaccination that have been circulating among players and causing some of them to stall.

The precise impact of that meeting is unclear but several managers subsequently admitted not all of their players had been jabbed. …

Telegraph Sport has been told that some EFL clubs would like to impose mandatory vaccinations on footballers – as some businesses have done with their employees – but fear a revolt were they to do so.

The Professional Footballers’ Association has made it clear that, while it supports immunisation efforts, it would not agree to forced jabs.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Here’s ‘Crid’s’ cartoon on the vaccination of professional footballers.

Vaccine Passports are Unnecessary, Unsupportable and Totalitarian

I’ve written a comment piece for Mail+ today about why the PM should shelve his plans for vaccine passports. I think that’s unlikely, given that Nicola Sturgeon has just announced Scotland will be introducing them for large indoor and outdoor venues later this month, but let’s hope Boris grows a pair. Here is an extract:

We now have strong evidence that the Covid vaccines don’t hugely prevent you getting infected or infecting others. If they did, Israel and Iceland would not currently be in the midst of their biggest waves so far. After all, both countries have been world leaders when it comes to vaccinating their populations against COVID-19, with 72.9% of Iceland’s population being double jabbed and 60.6% of Israel’s.

The number of daily Covid deaths in both countries is lower than it was in earlier waves, suggesting the vaccines reduce the risk of dying from the disease. But the early trial data suggesting they cut the risk of infection by more than 90% seems inaccurate.

Vaccine passports do not stop people in nightclubs from infecting each other, but they might lull customers into a false sense of security, persuading them to throw caution to the wind.

Another problem with Boris’s proposal is that the protection the vaccines give you starts to wear off after about six months, hence the Government’s recent order for 35 million booster shots from Pfizer. It’s one thing asking people to get double-jabbed in return for a vaccine passport, quite another to insist they’ll have to renew those passports by getting a booster every six months.

I doubt the NHS’s computer system would be able to cope. Earlier this week, more than 700,000 people were affected by technical glitches, meaning they weren’t able to download an NHS ‘Covid Pass’ in spite of being double-jabbed.

Worth reading in full.

Drivers Face New Taxes to Help Make Up Cost of Move to Electric Cars

Who will foot the bill for the Government’s ‘green revolution’? The taxpayer, of course. Reports suggest that drivers face new taxes to help make up £30 billion of the ginormous cost of moving to electric cars. The Times has the story.

Traffic jams could paralyse the road network in coming years, a report said this week, with low-emission vehicles, which escape fuel duty, making it cheaper to drive. The report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a think tank, recommends the introduction of road pricing. Motorists would be taxed on the size of their vehicle and the time they used the roads, with higher charges during peak hours.

The report said that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is facing a black hole of £30 billion in lost taxes because people in electric cars no longer pay fuel duty or vehicle excise duty. Asked whether the Government was considering road pricing, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said that Johnson would not “seek to place burdens on hardworking families”, but added that taxes needed to reflect the rising number of electric cars.

“We need to ensure that the tax system encourages the uptake of electric vehicles and that revenue from motoring taxes keeps pace with that change,” the spokesman said. “We will set out our further plans in due course.” …

The report said that drivers would spend a third more time in traffic jams because of the move to electric cars, costing the economy an estimated £121.5 billion annually.

Worth reading in full.

Victoria Playgrounds Were Closed to Stop Parents Meeting, Not to Stop Covid Spreading Among Children

Much has been written on the damage of playground closures on young children during lockdowns. To add insult to injury, a Victoria health official has admitted that playgrounds in the state weren’t closed because children were spreading Covid – for which there was (and still is) no evidence – but to stop parents from being able to meet. The Mail Australia has the story.

Victorian children who have spent months living in fear of becoming infected at their local playground have finally been told there was no real evidence they were going to catch Covid playing on the swings. 

In a stunning admission sure to enrage Melbourne families, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton admitted  on Wednesday the parks were banned for the last month to get at parents. 

It is not the first time Professor Sutton has taped-up Victorian playgrounds because of their supposed threat to children. 

Last year he closed them for months during Victoria’s second deadly wave, which killed more than 800 after leaking out of his own bungled hotel quarantine scheme. 

On Wednesday, the Professor told long suffering Melbourne parents the actual reason he closed playgrounds in the first place was because of them. 

“My advice on playgrounds originally was because we saw that people were using it as a loophole to have de facto meetings across households, neighbourhoods, families,” he said. 

“In allowing playgrounds to open again, absolutely with the wellbeing and considerations of kids in mind, but we’re going to have QR codes as a mandated requirement.”

Melbourne parents had pleaded with Premier Daniel Andrews to introduce such a scheme back on August 16th, when he announced for the second time the only avenue of enjoyment many kids had would be banned. 

Their calls had fallen on deaf ears at the time as Professor Sutton claimed he was acting on evidence that playgrounds were a serious transmission risk to children who played at them. 

“We are investigating a potential transmission in a playground,” he claimed.

“It is not definitive and maybe we will not be able to make it definitive but it looks like there has been transmission in a playground.”

He backed-up the cruel plan with news the Delta variant of Covid had been spread between children walking home from school.  

The next day, playgrounds across Melbourne were taped off under threat of serious fines if children attempted to use them. 

On Wednesday, Professor Sutton said he would allow just one parent or guardian to attend playgrounds with their kids. 

He warned those parents not to even contemplate removing their masks while there. 

“You will not be removing your mask to eat or drink because that’s when transmission occurs, It’s been said across Australia this virus moves with people. If we don’t have those human interactions, we can’t infect others'”

When pressed again for any scrap of evidence to support transmission of the virus at playgrounds, Professor Sutton could provide none. 

“We have suspicions about transmission maybe occuring at playgrounds, but you don’t have to jump to specific instances to know how transmissions have occured [sic] indoors and outdoors between adults, between kids round the world,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

Justifications for Lockdown Have Implications That Most People Would Not Accept, Say Philosophers

Although nationwide lockdowns are unprecedented in modern history, there’s been remarkably little public debate about whether they are justified ethically. Vague appeals to ‘protecting the NHS’ will not do, especially since the U.K. Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011 says that halting the spread of pandemic influenza virus would be “a waste of public health resources”.  

In a paper due to appear in the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Samuel Director and Christopher Freiman examine the two main justifications that have been given for lockdown. And they find both of these justifications wanting. In particular, they argue that each one has implications that most people would not accept.

The first major justification for lockdowns is that we have to minimise lives lost (or perhaps life years lost). In other words: we should adopt whichever policy minimises the total number of deaths, and since lockdown is the policy that achieves that, we should implement lockdowns.

As an example of this justification, the authors quote the former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said, “We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life. The first order of business is to save lives, period. Whatever it costs.”

Yet upon reflection, this justification makes very little sense. For example, it would imply that governments should drastically reduce speed limits to prevent all road deaths – at the cost of time, convenience and economic efficiency. (Or perhaps they’d have to ban cars altogether.)

As I’ve previously noted: “Society has functions other than simply extending people’s lives for as long as possible. If it did not, we’d spend a much higher fraction of GDP on healthcare, and we’d ban alcohol, smoking and extreme sports.”

The second major justification for lockdowns is that we must defer to experts. In other words: we should adopt whichever policy the experts advocate, and since the experts advocate lockdown, that is what we should do.

Aside from the fact that many experts were against lockdown – not to mention the difficulty of even defining ‘expertise’ in this area – insisting that we must defer to experts has implications that many people would reject.

For example, it would imply that we should adopt free trade, open immigration, legalisation of some drugs, and perhaps even markets in human organs – since these policies all receive support from academic economists. Note: I’m not saying these are all necessarily bad policies; but they can’t be justified purely on the basis of what ‘the experts’ believe. 

According to the authors, the only justification that actually makes sense is that lockdowns have large “net welfare benefits”, i.e., their benefits in terms of lives saved outweigh all the costs they impose on society. However, as a matter of empirical fact, the authors doubt that lockdowns do have large “net welfare benefits”.  

For example, they entertain economist Bryan Caplan’s argument that the reduction in quality of life alone may have offset any lives saved by lockdowns. (Though of course, there’s not much evidence that lockdowns have saved lives in most of the countries where they’ve been tried.)

Director and Freiman’s paper provides a good overview of the debate over the ethics of lockdown, and is worth reading in full.

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the 12th 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 11th 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.

  • Further ‘breakthrough cases‘ in vaccinated people have been reported in Israel, India and Florida. A preprint study in the Lancet has found that: “Viral loads of breakthrough Delta variant infection cases were 251 times higher than those of cases infected with old strain”, indicating that fully vaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant. 
  • Further reports of myocarditis and heart conditions post-Covid vaccine have been acknowledged by the CDC. Case studies have appeared in Clinical Research and Cardiology and BMC Cardiovascular Disorders along with a media report in the Daily Mail.
  • The Times reports on rare blood clots caused by COVID-19 vaccines. NICE guidelines have been updated to reflect protocol for the treatment of Vaccine Induced Thrombocytopenia and Thrombosis (VITT) and further guidance is available from the NHS and Thrombosis UK.  Further Clinical Features of VITT appear in the New England Journal of Medicine while the Journal of Korean Medical Science publishes its first case study on intracerebral haemorrhage due to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome after vaccination against COVID-19. 
  • Results of the Moderna trial on children have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reporting local reactions after the first injection in 94.2% of participants and after the second injection in 93.4%.  Systemic adverse reactions were reported in 68.5% of the participants after the first injection and in 86.1% after the second injection; grade 3 events were reported in 4.4% and 13.7%, respectively, and one participant reported a grade 4 event. No cases of myocarditis were reported although the authors acknowledge that the sample size (2,489) was likely too small.
  • Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at Edinburgh University, is reported in the Herald as saying vaccinating young people will not protect adults.
  • Public Health England have published their SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England Technical Briefing 21. This continues to demonstrate a similar risk of death for the under-50s between the double vaccinated and unvaccinated (0.07% and 0.04% of Delta cases respectively), questioning the need to continue the vaccination drive in younger people.
  • A new analysis by TrialSite News finds that Covid vaccines have 98 times the rate of deaths reported to VAERS than flu vaccines. A comparison of the event rates reported for different vaccines and different adverse reactions provides “material evidence that the increase is not due mainly to an increase in the number of vaccinations given, nor to stimulated reporting”.
  • CNBC reports that two senior FDA officials responsible for reviewing COVID-19 vaccine applications – Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, respectively the director and deputy director of the Office of Vaccines Research & Review – have quit the agency, because they are unhappy about the CDC overruling them and moving forward with booster shots.
  • VAERS – the American version of the Yellow Card reporting system – released new data on August 13th bringing the total to 595,622 reports of adverse events following Covid vaccines, including 13,068 deaths and 81,050 serious injuries.
  • Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: Michael Mitchell (65); Pawel Panasiuk (45); Alex Evans (31); Lisa Shaw (44).

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on August 26th, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,165,636 events based on 351,404 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,609.

  • Pfizer (21.3 million first doses, 16.6 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 199 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 41,929 people vaccinated (508).
  • AstraZeneca (24.8 million first doses, 23.9 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 108 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 23,485 people vaccinated (1,056).
  • Moderna (1.4 million first doses, 0.7 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 100 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 50,000 people vaccinated (28).

Overall, one in every 135 people vaccinated (0.7%) have experienced a Yellow Card adverse event. The MHRA has previously estimated that the Yellow Card reporting rate may be approximately 10% of actual figures. On average there have been 47 deaths and 10,500 adverse event injuries reported per week.

News Round-Up

And Finally…

In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I express disbelief that Boris still wants to introduce vaccine passports, look forward to a return of the old Michael Gove following his night on the tiles in Aberdeen, think it’s a pity that Geronimo wasn’t entrusted to the safekeeping of Pen Farthing, marvel at the $83 billion of military hardware Joe Biden has just gifted to the Taliban and give White Lotus two thumbs up.

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