Day: 13 September 2021

And Finally…

In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I rage about the decision to vaccinate kids, lament the weaponisation of Emma Raducanu by culture warriors, celebrate Stanley Tucci’s victory over Meghan Markle in last night’s Emmy Awards, wonder if Boris Johnson is just a fat version of Tony Blair and share our fear of being recognised at the supermarket check-out counter — although most strangers who approach us are very nice.

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

Fury as Government Green Lights Vaccines for Healthy Kids

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said in a House of Commons speech tonight that the vaccination of healthy 12-15 year-olds would go ahead from the beginning of next week – and confirmed that children, not their parents, would have the final say about whether to get jabbed. MailOnline has more.

Mr. Zahawi also reiterated the safety of the vaccine for children, saying the decision to offer the jab to 12 to 15 year-olds had followed advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and had been “unanimously approved” by the U.K.’s Chief Medical Officers.

“We will now move with the same sense of urgency we’ve had at every point in our vaccination programme,” he added.

It comes as parents, experts and teaching unions today warned of tension in schools after the U.K. signed off on plans to offer Covid jabs to healthy 12 to 15 year-olds – which will see children get the final say on whether they are vaccinated.

Around three million under-16s are due to start getting their jabs from next week after Chris Whitty endorsed the move today, claiming it would help prevent outbreaks in classrooms and further disruptions to education this winter.

Doses will be largely administered through the existing school vaccination programme and parental consent will be sought.

But children will be able to overrule their parents’ decision in the case of a conflict if they are deemed mature and competent enough, which has caused fury.

Angry parents fumed against the move to leave the decision with young children who “can’t even decide what they want for tea, never mind” a vaccine, which carry small risks of side effects such as heart inflammation.

Professor Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading who is in favour of jabbing children, warned that giving youngsters the final say could lead to pupils being bullied by their peers into taking the jab.

He told MailOnline: “It will cause rows I think… You may end up in a situation where a minority, it will probably be the unvaccinated, get bullied and excluded by other children.”

Earlier headteachers revealed they had already received letters from pressure groups threatening legal action if schools take part in an under-16 vaccination programme.

The teachers’ union NAHT demanded urgent reassurance medics will be responsible for concerns about consent and vaccination rather than being left to schools, which could lead to tension with parents.

Children’s rights campaign group Us for Them said it needed a “cast-iron guarantee” from the Government that all parents would get the final say on whether their child is vaccinated.

Professor Whitty revealed today that children will be able to override their parents’ decision if they pass a “competence assessment” by the medical professional charged with administering the vaccine.

Under decades-old medical law used for other routine vaccines, youngsters get the final say if they are judged to have sufficient intelligence to be able to fully understand – and therefore consent to – vaccination.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Sarah Knapton, the Science Editor of the Telegraph, points out that Chris Whitty’s recommendation was distinctly lukewarm, which is bound to create confusion among parents.

Nearly a Third of Arrivals between March and May Suspected of Having Broken Quarantine Rules

Close to a third of people arriving in England and Northern Ireland between the months March and May are believed to have broken quarantine rules, but the Government can’t say exactly how many cases have been proved. BBC News has the story.

More than 300,000 cases were passed to investigators between March and May, according to figures seen by the BBC.

The Government was not able to say how many of these were found to have broken the rules or could not be traced. 

The Home Office has said it aims to pay home visits to all travellers suspected of not following the rules. …

From March 17th to May 31st more than a million people arrived in England and Northern Ireland from ‘Amber List’ countries. 

Figures for this period obtained under Freedom of Information laws show a total of 301,076 cases were referred to investigators for checks on whether they were self-isolating.

During this time, the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus – first detected in India – was spreading rapidly through the country.

Call handlers employed by the Department of Health and Social Care were tasked with contacting arrivals to check they were obeying the self-isolation and testing rules. 

Cases where the contact ended the call, refused to co-operate, indicated they would break the quarantine or testing rules, or could not be contacted after three attempts were referred to investigators at the Border Force Criminal Justice Unit and the police. 

Officers would then attempt to visit the contact at home to check they were following the rules. 

After April 26th, the Home Office hired private contractor Mitie to carry out home visits to international travellers required to isolate, from contacts supplied by NHS Test and Trace.

“We visit over 99% of the cases referred to this service by NHS Test and Trace,” a Government spokesman said. …

Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, said the quarantine system “very much relied on the honesty of people to do the right thing, rather than any type of meaningful enforcement”.

Worth reading in full.

Chief Medical Officers Say All U.K. Teenagers Should Be Vaccinated against Covid

The U.K.’s four Chief Medical Officers have advised that all healthy teenagers should be vaccinated against Covid, while admitting that “in those aged 12-15, [the virus] rarely, but occasionally, leads to serious illness, hospitalisation and even less commonly death”. The decision will trigger the launching by the Government of a vaccine roll-out for 12-15 year-olds, despite ministers being warned by the JCVI of the risk of side effects. The Telegraph has the story.

Professor Chris Whitty and his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said the benefits of vaccinating young people and reducing transmission of the virus outweighed potential costs of side effects for children and disruption to school timetables.

They also recommended that ministers “present the risk-benefit decisions in a way that is accessible to children and young people, as well as their parents”. 

“A child-centred approach to communication and deployment of the vaccine should be the primary objective,” they said.

Boris Johnson, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, will give a press conference on Tuesday in which the Prime Minister is expected to announce he has accepted his chief medical officers’ advice and the rollout for 12 to 15 year-olds will begin.

A similar roll-out for children aged 16 and over is already running.

In a letter to Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, and other health ministers in devolved parts of the U.K., the medical officers warned that “in those aged 12-15, Covid rarely, but occasionally, leads to serious illness, hospitalisation and even less commonly death”.

“The risks of vaccination (mainly myocarditis) are also very rare,” they said. …

They… warned that individual choice to receive the vaccine or not should be respected.

“It is essential that children and young people aged 12-15 and their parents are supported in their decisions, whatever decisions they take, and are not stigmatised either for accepting, or not accepting, the vaccination offer,” they said, adding that information on the jabs should be communicated in a “child-centred” way.

Worth reading in full.

Number 10 Plays Down Idea That Vaccine Passports Are Dead and Buried

Less than a day after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the scrapping of plans for vaccine passports later this month, Number 10 has clarified that passes could still form a “first-line defence” against a winter wave of Covid. Reports confirm the fears of some Tory MPs that we’ve not heard the last of vaccine passports yet. The Times has the story.

Number 10 says checks on the vaccine status of people going to nightclubs and other crowded events remained a crucial part of the Government’s winter Covid plan due to be unveiled by the Prime Minister tomorrow.

They will no longer be introduced automatically at the end of this month, however, after pressure from Tory MPs and the hospitality sector.

When he outlines options to deal with a potential third wave this winter Boris Johnson is expected to warn that mandatory facemasks could be reintroduced and work from home guidance reinstated. He will also make clear that checks on vaccine status could still be a legal condition of entry to large events. …

In an interview with Times Radio yesterday Sajid Javid… described vaccine passports as a “huge intrusion into people’s lives”. He said: “You have got to be really, really certain that’s what you want to do. We have looked at it and whilst we will keep it in reserve I am pleased to say that we will not be going ahead.”

Javid added that with more than 80% of the population vaccinated he was not sure it was a necessary tool to increase uptake.

Downing Street insisted, however, that vaccine passports remained an integral part of the Government’s plan to reduce transmission in the winter if hospital admissions continued to rise. …

The decision [to scrap plans to introduce vaccine passports at the end of this month] means that Covid measures in England again deviate from those in Scotland, where a motion on introduction of passports was passed in the Scottish parliament on Thursday. A decision is expected in Wales next week. Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Guido Fawkes has compiled a video of Government ministers flipping and flopping over vaccine passports. As Julie Hartley-Brewer pointed out, it would be funny if the issue wasn’t so serious.

COVID-19 and ‘Politician’s Logic’

Freddie Sayers, the host of UnHerd’s ‘Lockdown TV’, has written an interesting piece for The Telegraph. Commenting on the Government’s insistence that we must vaccinate 12–15 year olds – in defiance of its own expert panel – he notes that a “dangerous new wisdom is forming, which views action as always better than inaction”.  

“In this view,” Sayers continues, “long-standing rules and institutions of liberal democracies have been demoted to fussy obstacles that prevent us from replicating the successes of the command-and-control governments of Asia.”

He then makes the important but often overlooked point that “action can be every bit as damaging as inaction”. If only politicians had taken this into account last year, the response to the pandemic might have looked very different.

When I asked Philippe Lemoine why lockdowns were implemented with so little regard for costs, he suggested that politicians didn’t want to “leave themselves open to the accusation of not having done anything to curb the epidemic”. They had to do something, even if that something ended up causing more harm than good.

This fallacy was popularised by the much-loved British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister. In the episode ‘Power to the People’, Sir Humphrey Appleby is talking to his predecessor Sir Arnold Robinson about the Prime Minister’s plans to reform local government.

Sir Arnold says, “He’s suffering from politician’s logic,” to which Sir Humphrey replies, “Something must be done; this is something; therefore we must do it.” In other words: ‘Something must be done; lockdown is something; therefore we must do it.’

The incentives that gave rise to ‘politician’s logic’ in this case are obvious. While the ‘benefits’ of lockdown are immediate and visible, the costs may take months or even years to materialise. (By ‘benefits’, I mean the reduction in social and economic activity that is believed to reduce viral transmission.)

Furthermore, even if lockdown’s impact on mortality turns out to be marginal, politicians can claim that things would have been far worse if not for their tough and far-sighted decisions.

After all, we can’t observe the counterfactual of what would have happened in the absence of lockdown. And the politicians themselves? They may well be out of office by the time the full costs of lockdown become apparent.

Incidentally, the fact that ‘politician’s logic’ is a fallacy obviously doesn’t imply we should never do anything. In the case of the pandemic, there was something else we could have done, namely focused protection.

Let’s hope that when the next pandemic arrives, there are a few people around who remember the lessons of Yes, Prime Minister. Just because this is something, doesn’t mean we have to do it.

News Round-Up