Day: 22 September 2021

News Round-Up

Vaccines Failing Against Serious Disease, Data From Israel Suggests

There follows a guest post by the academic economist who contributes regularly to the Daily Sceptic, who has looked in more detail at data from vaccine pioneer Israel and found indications that the vaccines are not protecting against serious disease and death as well as is generally thought.

Israel remains the gold standard when it comes to macro data for vaccine efficacy. As many know, it started its vaccine program early and its roll-out was remarkably quick. Over 60% of the population is fully vaccinated, while rates of vaccination in vulnerable groups are upwards of 90%.

It is no secret that despite these numbers, Israel is experiencing another wave of the virus. This can be seen clearly in the positive test rate data (data from Our World in Data).

We have all come to accept that the vaccines have little impact on infection – this even though we were once told it was 95% effective against infection. But no matter – be sure to throw that down the memory hole. The latest ‘mandatory science opinion’ is that the vaccine prevents cases from evolving into severe cases that require hospitalisations and, eventually, death.

Given the data in Israel we can now test this hypothesis.

Let’s start with hospitalisations. If the vaccine is preventing hospitalisations, then the rate of hospitalisations per positive test rate should have fallen dramatically relative to history. Has it? Here is the data.

Covid Vaccine Consent Form for Children Falsely Claims Jab Will Bring More Freedom

Health officials have been forced to change the Covid vaccine consent form being given to children because it wrongly tells them that getting ‘jabbed’ will free them from having to wear face masks and to follow social distancing – despite these rules being the same for all people regardless of vaccination status. The U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) euphemistically referred to this untruth as a “small typo”. The Telegraph has the story.

The “easy read” forms, distributed to children aged 12 to 15, claim having a vaccine will free them from Government rules that apply to the unvaccinated. In fact, the same rules apply to all children regardless of vaccination status. …

Consent letters are being sent to parents and guardians, but children are deemed competent to make their own decision if families do not agree. [Advice on what concerned parents can do to stop this can be found here.]

The “easy read” consent form for children from the UKHSA and NHS says: “You don’t have to keep following the Government’s rules if you have been vaccinated, but they will help you to stay safe. This includes social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands carefully and often.”

Molly Kingsley, from parents’ campaign group Us For Them described the advice as “exceptionally wrong”.

After being contacted by the Telegraph, officials said the form would be corrected to say: “You should keep following the Government’s rules if you have been vaccinated.”

The amendments say such rules include “wearing a face covering and washing your hands carefully and often”. …

While some of the Government’s rules apply differently to adults who have been vaccinated, no such distinctions have been made for children.

Worth reading in full.

Ex-Chinese Communist Party Insider Claims China Spread Covid at Military Tournament in October 2019

A Chinese Communist Party (CCP) defector claims that the Chinese Government deliberately spread Covid at an international military tournament in Wuhan two months before the World Health Organisation was notified about the first case of the virus. He says that some athletes at the event came down with Covid-like symptoms but that those he approached with his concerns – including figures in the Trump administration – seemed uninterested. The Mail Australia has the story.

Ex-CCP insider Wei Jingsheng said the World Military Games in October 2019 could have acted as the virus’ first superspreader event. …

Mr. Jingsheng claimed it was no coincidence some of the 9,000 international athletes who gathered for the event reportedly became sick with a mystery illness.

“I thought the Chinese Government would take this opportunity to spread the virus during the Military Games, as many foreigners would show up there,” he told the new Sky News documentary What Really Happened in Wuhan.

The whistleblower claimed he had heard of the Chinese Government carrying out an “unusual exercise” during the games.

“[I knew] of the possibility of the Chinese Government using some strange weapons, including biological weapons, because I knew they were doing experiments of that sort,” he said.

His claims were supported by the former Principal China Adviser to the U.S. State Department Miles Yu.

He said French, German and American athletes were among those to fall ill at the tournament with Covid-like symptoms, but were never tested for the virus.

“We see some indications in our own data… that there was Covid circulating in the United States as early as early December, possibly earlier than that,’ ex-U.S. State Department Covid investigator David Asher said.

Mr. Jingsheng also claims he took his concerns about the unfolding situation to senior figures within the Trump administration in November 2019 but was ignored.

The long-time democracy campaigner, who has served time in prison for “counter-revolutionary activities”, said he made the approach as whispers of a “new SARS virus” began circulating on WeChat and other Chinese social media platforms.

“I felt they were not as concerned as I was, so I tried my best to provide more detail and information,” he said.

“They may not believe that a Government of a country would do something like that (cover up a virus), so I kept repeating myself in an effort … to persuade them.” …

The Chinese dissident would not disclose which political leaders he spoke to but insisted they were senior government figures and had the ear of then-President Donald Trump.

“I’m not sure if this politician wants me to talk about him right here,” he said.

“But I want to say he is a high enough politician, high enough to be able to reach the President of the United States.”

Worth reading in full.

Government Borrowed £5 Billion More than Expected in August

Government borrowing last month came in £5 billion higher than was expected and was the second highest figure for August on record, pushing the national debt up to £2.2 trillion. The Times has the story.

Public sector net borrowing was £20.5 billion in August, down £5.5 billion on last year, the Office for National Statistics said, but above the £15.6 billion that economists had expected. …

At 97.6% of GDP, the debt is now at its highest since March 1963.

A sharper fall in borrowing had been expected as the economy opened up, more workers came off furlough and tax receipts recovered. Rising inflation ended those hopes, as debt interest payments increased by £2.9 billion to £6.3 billion, the highest ever for August.

For the first five months of the year, debt servicing costs rose by a total of £10.7 billion to £27.6 billion and the ONS warned that worse was to come. “The recent high levels in debt interest payments are largely a result of movements in the retail prices index to which index-linked gilts are pegged,” it said.

RPI inflation jumped in August to 4.8%, a decade high, but the monthly debt servicing cost was based on the average of RPI between May and June, when it was lower. Economists expect RPI to reach about 5.5% by the end of the year.

Samuel Tombs, U.K. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said debt interest costs are likely to be £13.5 billion higher than the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Government’s fiscal watchdog, predicted in March.

Despite the sharp rise in debt servicing costs, the public finances were stronger for the first five months of the year than the OBR forecast at the March budget. For the financial year-to-date, borrowing was £93.8 billion, £31.8 billion below forecast.

The better-than-expected receipts reflect stronger income tax, VAT and corporation tax revenues and a big reduction in pandemic support schemes. Furlough and self-employed support cost £4.5 billion in August, compared with the same month the previous year, and £34 billion less in the year to date.

The OBR will update its projections on October 27th, when the Chancellor will set out his departmental spending plans and unveil new budget measures. The fiscal watchdog is likely to reduce its £234 billion forecast for borrowing for the year to March 2022.

Worth reading in full.

Women Are Consistently More Pro-Lockdown, Study Finds

Scanning the British media, you’d be hard-pressed to find an obvious gender difference in attitudes to lockdown. There are both men and women represented among prominent lockdown proponents, as well as among prominent lockdown sceptics.

Which makes a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year all the more interesting. Vincenzo Galasso and colleagues analysed data from a survey carried out in eight OECD countries (including Italy, the U.K. and Australia) in March–April of 2020.

The survey measured respondents’ concern about the pandemic, their attitudes to lockdown measures such as closing schools and ‘non-essential’ businesses, and their self-reported compliance with government restrictions (see here for a full list of measures).

What did the researchers find? Across all eight countries (with the exception of Austria in the second wave), women were more likely than men to be concerned about the pandemic. They were also more likely to support lockdown measures, and reported greater compliance with government restrictions.

These findings are shown in the chart below. Note: “Overall agreement” corresponds to a measure of agreement with lockdown measures, while “Overall Compliance” corresponds to a measure of self-reported compliance. The units on the y-axis are percentage points.

As the chart indicates, the gender differences were not huge: women were about seven percentage points more pro-lockdown than men. But they were robust, and not explained by demographic characteristics like age, education or occupation type.

The finding that women are more pro-lockdown is somewhat surprising, given that COVID-19 appears to be more lethal for men. After all, you might expect groups that are at higher risk to be more in favour of restrictions.

The authors suggest that women’s greater compliance with government restrictions could help to explain the gender gap in risk of death from COVID-19, though I suspect any contribution is small. Women mount stronger immune responses to most pathogens, and this almost certainly explains why COVID-19 is more lethal in men.

Interestingly, the two Western states at the extreme ends of the ‘containment spectrum’ – New Zealand (the most restrictive) and South Dakota (the least) are both led by women. This illustrates that moderate gender differences in attitudes only go so far in explaining actual differences in policy.

The researchers’ finding is nonetheless interesting, and their paper is worth reading in full.

The Staggering Inadequacy of NHS Scotland

We’re publishing a guest post today by a parent who lives in a village just outside Edinburgh who had a terrible experience with NHS Scotland yesterday. His six month-old son developed serious breathing difficulties, he called 111, was told an ambulance was on its way and then, 45 minutes later, a dispatcher called to tell him the ambulance wouldn’t arrive for another 12 hours. Here is the opening section:

It happened quickly and out of the blue. We’ve three young children – a six year-old, three year-old and our six month-old ‘lockdown baby’. Any parent with children in an education or nursery setting will tell you that from September to June they spend 80% of that time with a cold, cough, sneeze or sniffle. On occasion, it can be much worse. Our eldest once had scarlet fever and had to be rushed to hospital while he was having a sleepover at his grandparents. He was fine but they’ve never quite recovered. After your first sprog, you tend to roll with the punches and are able to tell if something is seriously wrong and make plans accordingly.

We were not, however, prepared for the events of this week. Having inherited a lurgy from his siblings, the baby hacked his way through the past seven days. His temperature soared now and then but we brought it down with sleep, Calpol and Ibuprofen.

On Monday we realised it was getting worse. His breath came in short gasps; he was managing only every third inhalation to get oxygen into his tiny lungs. We live in Scotland so it was also the September holiday weekend, meaning the older children were around our feet until the babysitter arrived. By evening, we decided that if the baby could get a long sleep it might nail whatever he was struggling with internally. He didn’t. When he refused to eat, drink and had a dry nappy we knew the game was up.

I’m 40 now but when I was a child I had bad asthma – meaning regular visits to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. I grew up in a town 15 miles from Ninewells and when anyone in our household became ill we could telephone our local GP who would – if required – visit our house. It didn’t matter whether it was day or night. This was the case for both adults and children; my father when he crumpled with appendicitis and we children when suffering a fever.

As a rule, I have a soft spot for things from the past. I like old cars with roaring petrol engines. I admire the quality craftsmanship of Edwardian and Victorian furniture. I love gothic fiction. Yet I am also a progressive in its true sense. I’m receptive to new ideas and fascinated by technology. I listen to others’ opinions even if inside I’m thinking “what total crap”.

My experience this week, however, has confirmed that the health service in Scotland is gasping its last breath. Rather like my son could have done had we not taken matters into our own hands.

worth reading in full.