Day: 10 October 2021

News Round-Up

Covid May No Longer Be “The Most Significant” Threat to Health, Says Head of U.K. Health Security Agency

With talk ramping up about the danger posed by seasonal influenza this winter – especially given the impact lockdowns and social distancing are likely to have had on immunity – the Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency has acknowledged that Covid is no longer the “most significant” threat to health. The Sunday Telegraph has the story.

[Dr. Jenny Harries] said today that Covid was possibly no more dangerous than flu, as she warned that there would be a lower immunity to the illness this year.

She said: “It is important to remember that for an average flu season it’s about 11,000 deaths a year, it’s somewhere between four (thousand) to 22,000 over the last four to five years.

“So we are starting to move to a situation where, perhaps Covid is not the most significant element, and many of those individuals affected will of course have other comorbidities, which will make them vulnerable to serious illness but other reasons as well.”

It comes as the NHS launched its biggest ever flu vaccination drive amid fears flu deaths could be the worst for 50 years because of lockdowns and social distancing.

More than 35 million people will be offered flu jabs this winter, amid concern that prolonged restrictions on social contact have left Britain with little immunity.

Officials fear that this winter could see up to 60,000 flu deaths – the worst figure in Britain since the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic – without strong uptake of vaccines.

There is also concern about the effectiveness of this year’s jabs, because the lack of flu last year made it harder for scientists to sample the virus and predict the dominant strains.

Meanwhile Dr. Harries added that the dominance of the Delta variant globally has seen other coronavirus variants “become extinct”, but warned we still need to “stay alert”.

“With the dominance of Delta, it does look as though many of the other variants which have been detected are becoming extinct, and a number of variants under investigation have risen slightly, we’ve seen cases, and they’ve become extinct,” she told The Andrew Marr Show.

However she cautioned that it was imperative to “stay alert”, as she said it was “still very early days of a new virus”.

Worth reading in full.

A Quarter of Football League Players Don’t Intend to Get ‘Jabbed’

Coverage of the vaccination rates within English football clubs rages on, with the papers and Government figures likely fuming that a quarter of Football League players don’t intend to get ‘jabbed’. Unsurprisingly, reports blame “conspiracy theories” for swaying the minds of the “vaccine rebels”. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

The proportion of footballers who have been double-vaccinated has increased from approximately 18% in August to 49% in the latest set of figures collated by the League.

But the number of players who have been immunised or plan to get the jab has gone up by only 5% over the past month, the Mail on Sunday has learnt.

“Approximately 75% of players this month across the EFL are fully vaccinated, have had a single jab or intend to be vaccinated, which is up from 70% in the last set of figures,” a source said.

It is understood that some players are reluctant to get vaccinated against the disease because their youth and level of fitness mean they are unlikely to suffer should they contract it.

They are also concerned by stories of people suffering heart inflammation after taking the vaccine, even though official medical agencies have reported such cases as “very rare”.

One theory circulating among players is that Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 might have been linked to the jab, despite no medical evidence to support the suggestion.

The latest figures emerge even though the EFL have stepped up efforts to “bust the myths” around the vaccine’s safety and to educate players on its benefits for individuals and society. Posters and leaflets containing such information have been distributed to clubs in the hope that they will be displayed in stadiums and training grounds.

The EFL are also working with the NHS to increase the number of mobile vaccination centres visiting clubs.

“Vaccinations will preserve the integrity of our competitions and we’re continuing to educate players and staff,” the source said.

The EFL and Premier League recorded a video with professor Jonathan Van-Tam last month in which the Government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer debunked some of the conspiracy theories.

It was circulated among players’ WhatsApp groups, with the Government hoping their willingness to get vaccinated would encourage other young people to follow suit as take-up stalled in the general population.

Worth reading in full.

New York Times Forced to Correct Article Claiming 900,000 Children Hospitalised by Covid – Real Figure Is 63,000

The New York Times has been forced to retract a claim by its reporter Apoorva Mandavilli that “nearly 900,000 children have been hospitalised with Covid since the pandemic began”. This figure isn’t just slightly off the mark – it’s 837,000 cases too high.

Mandavilli included this exaggeration in a piece on the vaccination of healthy children against Covid. It is bound to have swayed some minds. The National Review has more.

Mandavilli has been a controversial figure at the Times for her ideologically-colored pandemic coverage. In May, she tweeted: “Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not today.” She later deleted the tweet but not before adding: “A theory can have racist roots and still gather reasonable supporters along the way. Doesn’t make the roots any less racist or the theory any more convincing, though.”

The theory has not yet been disproved. To the contrary, it has picked up a number of prominent supporters in the scientific community, including former Times reporters Nicholas Wade and Donald McNeil. McNeil was the lead coronavirus reporter at the publication prior to his being fired and smeared by the Times for uttering a racial epithet in the context of discussing its moral valence and grace on an educational trip several years ago.

The correction is notable as the nature of the threat that coronavirus poses to children figures heavily in the continued and often partisan debates over vaccine and mask mandates in schools.

While Republicans such as Florida governor Ron DeSantis maintain that such decisions should be left up to parents, President Joe Biden and American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten have advocated for mandates, insisting that they’re necessary to protect students and staff alike.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Effectiveness Drops Again, Now as Low as Minus-86% in Over-40s, Latest PHE Data Shows

The latest Public Health England (PHE) Vaccine Surveillance report was released on Thursday, meaning we can update our estimates of unadjusted vaccine effectiveness from real-world data.

As before, the report itself states this is “not the most appropriate method” to assess vaccine effectiveness as it is not adjusted for various confounders (and they do not provide the data that would allow such adjustments to be made). ‘Fact-checking’ website Full Fact (funded by Big Tech) are currently trying to censor the Daily Sceptic because, they claim, this means it is ‘incorrect’ to use the data in the report to calculate vaccine effectiveness. This is not true, however: regardless of what PHE deems to be the “most appropriate method”, vaccine effectiveness is defined as the reduction in the proportion of infections in the vaccinated group compared to the unvaccinated group, and it is perfectly acceptable to estimate it from population data, as long as any limitations in the data are acknowledged.

It is certainly not ‘incorrect’ to use the latest population-based data to get an up-to-date estimate of unadjusted vaccine effectiveness as part of tracking how the vaccines are performing on the ground.

Perhaps the most important limitations in this data are that the high-risk were originally prioritised for vaccination and that those who have been previously infected may be more likely to decline vaccination. Both of these would artificially lower the estimate of vaccine effectiveness. However, a recent population study in the Lancet adjusted its vaccine effectiveness estimates to take account of no fewer than 22 different confounding factors, including these, and in almost all cases this resulted in very little change. For instance, here are the adjusted and unadjusted estimates against infection by age. (Note that the high values here are for the whole study period; what the study showed overall is that in more recent months vaccine effectiveness has been dropping fast.)