Day: 8 September 2021

News Round-Up

Government Hopes to Begin Booster Vaccine Roll-Out in Next Fortnight

The NHS is ready to launch a booster Covid vaccine roll-out in the next fortnight and is waiting for the ‘green light’ from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – not that the group’s advice on the vaccination of children has been duly welcomed. The i has the story.

The JCVI is meeting on Thursday to review the latest data on the effect of giving a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people who have already had two.

Ministers and NHS bosses had been hoping to start the boosters rollout on Monday this week before the committee delayed its final decision on which groups should be offered a third jab.

They are now expecting an announcement within days – allowing the health service to call up elderly and vulnerable people for a jab almost immediately afterwards. 

A senior Government official told i: “The NHS is ready to move very quickly once a decision is made, the main delay would be contacting everyone who is eligible.”

There is a chance the campaign will be able to start as soon as next week, although the week after is currently seen as more likely.

The planned NHS timetable would see as many as 35 million jabs given out in the next three and a half months, similar to the rate of the original vaccines rollout, allowing for it to be complete by Christmas. Unlike at the start of this year, there are no significant restrictions on the supply available to the U.K.

It remains unknown whether everyone over-50 and all the clinically vulnerable will be eligible for a booster, or whether they are going to be restricted to the oldest groups and those most at risk from a coronavirus infection.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was “confident” that the booster programme would be launched this month but that the Government was waiting for advice from the JCVI for final details.

He said: “I’m very confident there will be a booster programme but in terms of who actually gets it and when, we’re waiting for final advice, which could come across certainly in the next few days from the JCVI. We need to see that advice. I’m confident that we can start the booster programme this month.”

The JCVI will advise on issues such as whether people should get the same type of coronavirus vaccine as previous doses or different ones.

Worth reading in full.

Nadhim Zahawi Won’t Rule Out Vaccine Passports in Pubs

The Vaccines Minister insisted vaccine passports will not be imposed on “essential services” in a clash with MPs today but refused to rule out their introduction at pubs and restaurants. The Sun has the story.

Nadhim Zahawi defended the introduction of vaccine passports which he said would “reduce transmission and serious illness”.

Boris Johnson is already facing a major rebellion over the plans, with more than 50 Tories expected to mutiny.

Covid papers will be needed to enter nightclubs and other large indoor venues from later this month.

Mr. Zahawi didn’t rule out their use becoming more widespread.

He sparred with raging MPs during a heated debate at the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The vaccines minister was pressed by Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner on where people will have to show Covid papers.

He replied: “I can assure her that there are some essential services which will not need for people to show Covid vaccine certification.

“These settings that have stayed open throughout the pandemic, such as public sector buildings, essential retail, essential services and public transport.”

Mr. Zahawi insisted it “pains” him to introduce vaccine passports and it’s a decision “we do not take lightly”.

He said it is “something that goes against the DNA of this minister and his PM but we are living through difficult times, unprecedented times”. …

But fuming Tory MPs lined up to angrily denounce the Government’s plans.

William Wragg accused the minister of talking “a load of rubbish” and said he was trying to “defend the indefensible”. …

Mark Harper, Chairman of the Covid Research Group, said vaccine passports are “a pointless policy with damaging effects”.

He added: “I’m afraid the Minister is picking an unnecessary fight with his own colleagues. I say to him the Government should think again.”

Worth reading in full.

Third Man Dies in Connection To Contaminated Moderna Vaccine Doses in Japan

The suspension of over two and a half million doses of the Moderna Covid vaccine in Japan following the discovery of contaminants in a number of batches did not come soon enough, with yet another death having been reported after vaccination of a potentially dodgy dose. This time, a man approaching his 50s died just one day after receiving his second dose. The Guardian has the story.

The 49 year-old man had his second shot on August 11th and died the following day. His only known health issue was an allergy to buckwheat, the Health Ministry said on Monday. As with the previous two deaths, the ministry said it had yet to establish if the latest fatality was linked to the vaccine.

The shot came from one of the three batches that were part of a recall of 1.63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine on August 26th, but not from one of the batches found to have fragments of stainless steel in them. The three batches were manufactured in Spain under contract by Moderna.

The company said: “This is a tragic event, and the loss of life is something that we take very seriously. We offer our sincerest condolences to their loved ones.”

Last week Moderna issued a joint statement with local distributor Takeda Pharmaceutical, saying: “The rare presence of stainless steel particles in the Moderna Covid vaccine does not pose an undue risk to patient safety and it does not adversely affect the benefit/risk profile of the product.”

Early last month, two men in their 30s with no underlying health conditions died within days of getting their second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Contaminants believed to be pieces of rubber fragments from vial stoppers that entered the vaccine liquid due to incorrectly inserted needles were found in Okinawa, Gunma and Kanagawa in late August and early September. No problems were reported among those injected with the contaminated vaccines, which came from different batches to the previously recalled ones.

Worth reading in full.

Recent Coverage of Lab Leak Theory Was Driven by Right-Wing Media

In a recent article, I noted that many left-wing commentators are still reluctant to concede that Covid might have escaped from a lab. Why? It’s not because the lab leak theory is ‘racist’, or that it makes China – America’s ‘enemy’ – look good.

Rather, it’s because the theory makes ‘experts’ look bad, and – more importantly – makes the right look good. After all, right-wing Republicans have been claiming that a lab leak was possible since early last year. (At the time of course, they were denounced as ‘conspiracy theorists’.)

Donald Trump entertained the theory in April of 2020. If evidence eventually proves him right, the man’s critics (of whom there are plenty in the mainstream media) will have a lot of egg on their face.

While my article relied on anecdotal reports of the left’s dislike for the lab leak, a new study confirms that recent coverage of the theory has been driven by right-wing media.

David Rozado tracked media coverage by counting the number of times relevant terms (‘lab leak’, ‘laboratory leak’ etc.) were mentioned in 12 media outlets. He then computed, for each week since the start of 2021, total mentions as a percentage of all words published that week. This was done separately for each of the 12 outlets.

Rozado’s main figure is shown below. Each colour corresponds to a different outlet: turquoise is Fox News; faded green is the New York Post; grey is the Wall Street Journal; and orange is the Washington Post – the only left-leaning outlet that has covered the lab leak extensively. (For further details, see p. 8 of Rozado’s paper.)

The chart confirms that media coverage of the lab leak was all but absent until May of 2021, when it rose dramatically. A disproportionate share of the recent coverage is accounted for by just two right-wing outlets: Fox News and the New York Post.

In an attempt to explain the trend in media coverage over time, Rozado superimposed lines corresponding to certain key events, such as the publication of the WHO’s report on its visit to Wuhan.

Noting that the coloured bars start to get taller after the publication of Nicholas Wade’s essay on May 5th, Rozado notes “this particular event could have triggered increased media coverage of the lab-leak hypothesis”.

However, it seems more likely that an event on May 14th is what triggered the increased media coverage, namely the publication of a letter in Science signed by 18 experts, calling for a new investigation into the origins of Covid. “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” the letter said.

Whichever event or events led to the rise in media coverage, Rozado’s paper provides a valuable insight into the media’s coverage of the pandemic. And it’s worth reading in full.