I wrote earlier in the week about the latest vaccine data from Public Health England (PHE) and how it shows that in the last month reported infection rates have been higher in the double vaccinated than in the unvaccinated for those aged 40-79 – up to 38% higher in some age bands.
Usually, data like this that casts the vaccines in a bad light is not reported by major media outlets – they tend to stick only to reporting on the press releases from actual studies rather than presenting implications from real-world data, which means they typically include whatever spin and ‘adjustments’ the researchers have added.
Unusually, this time Robert Peston decided to report on the new PHE data for ITV News. Inspired it seems by the fact that he has just had Covid despite being double-vaccinated, he wondered how many others had experienced similar, and was surprised to find in the data that it was actually very common.
He remarks: “I am surprised these statistics have received so little attention and have occasioned so little debate.”
Why is he surprised, though, when the fact is PHE has been publishing statistics like these for months showing that the infection rate in the vaccinated has been rising. Most journalists haven’t reported on them before, including Peston (who seems unaware of them, given that he is discovering this data for the first time), so why would they start now? Particularly when the vaccine surveillance report they come from specifically warns readers against using the raw data to estimate vaccine effectiveness and refers them to the published studies summarised higher up. Nothing to see here, is the message.
If Peston was unsure why other journalists weren’t reporting on this data, he soon found out, as the Twitterati piled on him for daring to cast the vaccines in a negative light. Many accused him of failing to recognise that this was just because the large majority of people over 40 were vaccinated, so of course they had more infections – which only made themselves look foolish as Peston was clearly quoting rates by vaccination status (the proportions of the vaccinated and unvaccinated who were infected), so this was accounted for. The statistics show the double vaccinated have higher rates of infection than the unvaccinated – that was his point.
However, despite being 100% correct, Peston was soon grovelling before the Twitterati, begging forgiveness for implying the vaccines were not up to the job.
I am wholeheartedly in favour of vaccination. But Covid, even for the vaccinated, is not a trivial illness. And it is also not trivial if the vaccinated population spreads Covid to the unvaccinated or the immuno suppressed. So what I hoped to do was show that even for a vaccinated population, mask wearing and social distancing are important. I am very very sorry if that implication was not clear enough. I have just recovered from Covid. So please accept this is my passionately held conviction
It’s a shame that when a television journalist finally covers the leakiness of the vaccines it’s because he wants to argue that we should continue with social distancing and mask-wearing to protect the immuno-compromised – a recipe, of course, for forever-restrictions. What Peston fails to mention is that the failure of the vaccines to prevent infection means that vaccine passports, vaccination of children, coerced vaccination, and any policy based on the idea that the vaccines protect others is fundamentally flawed and should be abandoned. Has the Government finally recognised this with its binning of vaccine passports?
Peston was right that this data should be much more widely reported on and debated. Perhaps if the press and broadcasters could return to objective reporting on vaccines rather than supinely parroting the official lines, essentially turning themselves into propaganda arms of the state, then we would have these reports and debates. That would certainly be a big improvement on the current circular absurdity, where the politicians dictate what messages people hear, then make policy based on what the public tell pollsters they want, and crucial debates are suppressed as supposedly being a danger to public health.