Day: 12 October 2021

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the 13th of the round-ups of Covid vaccine safety reports and news compiled by a group of medical doctors who are monitoring developments but prefer to remain anonymous in the current climate (find the 12th one here). By no means is this part of an effort to generate alarm about the vaccines or dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. It should be read in conjunction with the Daily Sceptic‘s other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At the Daily Sceptic we report all the news about the vaccines whether positive or negative and give no one advice about whether they should or should not take them. Unlike with lockdowns, we are neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine; we see our job as reporting the facts, not advocating for or against a particular policy. The vaccine technology is novel and the vaccines have not yet fully completed their trials, which is why they’re in use under temporary and not full market authorisation. This has been done on account of the emergency situation and the trial data was largely encouraging on both efficacy and safety. For a summary of that data, see this preamble to the Government’s page on the Yellow Card reporting system. (Dr Tess Lawrie in June wrote an open letter to Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, arguing that: “The MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans,” a claim that has been ‘fact checked’ here.) We publish information and opinion to inform public debate and help readers reach their own conclusions about what is best for them, based on the available data.

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on October 7th, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,222,566 events based on 370,574 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,698.

  • Pfizer (22.9 million first doses, 19.6 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 189 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 41,486 people vaccinated (552).
  • AstraZeneca (24.9 million first doses, 24 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 106 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 22,698 people vaccinated (1,097).
  • Moderna (1.4 million first doses, 0.7 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 84 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 73,684 people vaccinated (19).

Overall, one in every 132 people vaccinated (0.76%) have experienced a Yellow Card adverse event. The MHRA has previously estimated that the Yellow Card reporting rate may be approximately 10% of actual figures.

Vaccine Passports to Be Checked at England Rugby Matches

Vaccine passports are alive and well, despite the Government’s scrapping of its plans, with certification set to be required at upcoming England rugby matches. In order to attend, fans will need proof either of having been vaccinated against Covid, of recently testing negative or of recently having recovered from the virus. Given plans to scrap free Covid testing, options available to fans may soon become even more limited. The Telegraph has the story.

The Rugby Football Union announced on Tuesday that the visits of Tonga, Australia and world champions South Africa next month would witness the use of so-called Covid passports.

The fixtures, set to be England’s first in front of a packed Twickenham since last year’s Six Nations, will see spot checks carried out to ensure adults attending are either fully vaccinated, have taken a negative test up to 48 hours earlier, or have natural immunity.

Welcoming back “capacity crowds”, the RFU said: “There will be more checks prior to entry than normal for everyone attending, whether as a fan or here to work. Please arrive early and allow more time than usual to access the stadium.”

England last played in front of a packed Twickenham on March 7th 2020 when they beat Wales 33-30 in a thrilling Six Nations game.

That was the final weekend before the tournament was effectively suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

And it’s not just rugby:

Formula 1 medical driver Alan van der Merwe was on Tuesday night facing being banned from the climax of the season after it emerged he had refused to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Van der Merwe and anyone else unjabbed who would otherwise travel to a Grand Prix were in danger of being prevented from attending the final three races in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

Proof of vaccination is currently required in the former two countries, while it is also expected to be necessary for access to the paddock at the latter race.

That could see some of the hundreds of personnel that normally travel to a Grand Prix banned from attending unless granted an exemption to do so.

That would include any unvaccinated drivers, although a source told Telegraph Sport it was thought all of them had been double-jabbed.

Van der Merwe and F1 doctor Ian Roberts both missed Sunday’s Turkish GP after testing positive for Covid. …

He [said]: “I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices.

“That I will not choose convenience over my own health does not mean I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all just want to be healthy.”

Worth reading in full.

House of Commons Covid Report Gets Some Things Right, Most Things Wrong

On Monday evening two House of Commons select committees – the Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee – published a joint report on the Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that was predictably damning. It was published in time to make the following day’s front pages – “Britain must learn from ‘big mistakes’ on Covid, says report”, reported the Times on its front page – but not in time for newspaper reporters or broadcast journalists to properly assess its findings. Not that that stopped all the usual suspects from using it as a stick to beat the Government with. For instance, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the BBC that the “damning” findings showed that “monumental errors” had been made and called for the public inquiry – scheduled for next spring – to be brought forward.

The authors of the report say in the Executive Summary that the reason they’ve published it now, when there are still a large number of ‘known unknowns’ as well as ‘unknown unknowns’, is because we urgently need to learn from what the Government got right and what it got wrong so we are better prepared for the next pandemic, which might come along at any moment. But if it’s too soon to say what was a mistake and what wasn’t, that argument collapses. Indeed, a premature report that draws the wrong conclusions, e.g. that the Government didn’t lock down in March of last year early enough, which is one of the main findings of this report, is worse than useless since it may encourage future Governments to repeat the same mistakes.

I’ve now read the report – yes, all 145 pages – so you don’t have to.

GP Phone Consultations Being Recorded as Face-To-Face Meetings

Official figures suggest that 10 million NHS GP appointments still aren’t taking place face-to-face each month, but the actual number could be higher still, with phone consultations being recorded as proper meetings. The Telegraph has the story.

In recent weeks, ministers, including the Prime Minister, have intervened to promise patients access to face-to-face appointments, amid mounting concern about the difficulties some are facing.

Before the pandemic, about 80% of consultations took place in a doctor’s surgery. However, the latest monthly figure is just 58%, with little change since officials vowed in May to give all patients the right to a “face-to-face” appointment.

Now, the Telegraph can reveal that even this figure exaggerates the number of consultations which are actually taking place in person.

NHS officials said that because of the way some local systems were set up, some appointments were automatically being logged as face-to-face slots, regardless of how they were actually delivered.  

Anne Bedish, a Telegraph reader, viewed her own patient record online, and was surprised to see that all the telephone appointments she had in the past year had been recorded as “face-to-face” consultations.

The 68 year-old, who suffers from a number of health problems and was on the Government’s clinically vulnerable list, had 12 phone appointments in the past year, which she found had been classed as “face-to-face” visits.

When she contacted Glenlyn Medical Practice, in East Molesey, Surrey, to question the miscategorisation, they confirmed that the appointments had been by telephone, but the record went unchanged.

NHS Digital, which publishes national data on GP appointments every month, suggested this pattern could occur far more widely, because of the way data has been recorded.

Officials said: “We do acknowledge that there may be data quality issues with the data and instances where the data may not be a true representation of what may be happening in all practices. …

Officials said this was most likely to happen if appointments had been set up in advance as a “block booking of appointments” and was most likely to affect cases early on in the pandemic.

However, neither of these were the case for Mrs Bedish, whose most recent appointments occurred less than a month ago.

Worth reading in full.

Hundreds of Thousands of U.S. Troops Still Not Fully Vaccinated Despite Looming Deadlines

Depending on the service, U.S. troops have up to a couple of months or as little as just three weeks to get fully vaccinated before they are ordered out, but reports suggest that hundreds of thousands have still only had one dose of a Covid vaccine or no doses at all. RT has the story.

In August, members of the U.S. military services were informed that immunisation against Covid would be required as part of new directives from President Joe Biden. According to data analyzed in a Washington Post report, however, inoculation rates among America’s more than two million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are lagging in many areas.

Deadlines for individual services vary, but many are facing a situation where only weeks remain to get thousands of personnel to agree to being jabbed. The Marine Corps and Navy are both facing November 28th deadlines, but the former has a 72% vaccination rate, while the latter has a much higher 90% rate. The Air Force, on the other hand, has just three weeks to get approximately 60,000 personnel fully jabbed. 

The rate in the active-duty Army stands at 81%, though it’s the Army Reserve and National Guard that have truly lagged. Those branches, which number over 500,000 people, have vaccination rates of approximately 40%. Those on active-duty are facing a December 15th deadline, but Guard and Reserve members do not have to comply until June 30th. …

Some have questioned the military’s long deadlines, especially for the Guard and Reserve, and whether they will impact readiness. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) called the June deadline “jarring” and said it would leave room for thousands of troops to “not be deployable”. …

Military officials have previously stated that no soldier will be allowed to be on federal orders and to leave their home station without being vaccinated first. 

It remains to be seen how many soldiers will actually defy the vaccine mandate – or what would happen to them if they do – but other industries are already seeing the impact, with hospitals and airlines reportedly facing staffing issues stemming from employees unhappy with vaccine mandates.

Worth reading in full.

Preventing Covid Infections Among Healthy Children Is Pointless

Thanks to school closures, children missed out on in-person teaching, as well as regular face-to-face interaction with their friends, for the best part of a year.

The main rationale for closing schools was to help ‘flatten the curve’ of total infections, and thereby prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. (We’ve known since early on in the pandemic that children’s risk of death from Covid is vanishingly small – lower even than their chance of dying from seasonal flu.)

However, evidence suggests that neither lockdowns in general, nor school closures in particular, were necessary to prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed; and the harms from school closures were substantial.

Once the Government conceded it was time for schools to reopen, there came a new justification to keep them closed: protecting teachers. Yet studies have repeatedly shown that teachers are not at elevated risk of death from Covid.

Even after schools finally did open up, pupils faced a rigamarole of mask mandates, regular testing and stints of mandatory self-isolation. Since the vast majority of vulnerable people (and most teachers) had been vaccinated by this point, it’s unclear exactly why things couldn’t just return to normal.

As far as one can discern, the specific rationale seems to be: ‘something to do with case numbers and/or long Covid’. Why we should care about case numbers in an age-group that faces a higher risk of death from season flu has not been explained.

As to long Covid, the latest data suggest that only a tiny number of children (less than 2%) continue to report symptoms 12 weeks after infection. One study found that symptoms were no more common among children who’d had the virus than among those who’d never been infected.

Despite all this, demands for more restrictions in schools can still be heard. On 3rd September, scientists associated with Independent SAGE, as well as various other individuals and organisations, co-signed a letter in The BMJ Opinion calling for the Government “to protect children, our wider communities, and the NHS”.

Their “nine point plan” includes such measures as: reinstating face coverings; offering vaccines to all 12–15 year-olds; and reinstating contact tracing “with a strict policy on mandatory isolation”.  

But according to Chris Whitty, “roughly half” of children have already have Covid, and it’s reasonable to assume that “the great majority” are “going to get it at some point” because “this is incredibly infectious”.

Now that almost all vulnerable people have been vaccinated, why are we trying to stop children getting the virus if “the great majority” of them are going to get it at some point anyway? Offering the vaccine to those with an underlying health condition makes sense, but apart from that, why do anything at all?

In fact, shouldn’t we actively encourage young people to get the virus, so as to build up more population immunity before the winter?

No, Covid is Not Unusually Deadly for Pregnant Women

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) was in the news yesterday encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated against Covid by quoting new data showing that “nearly 20% of the most critically ill COVID-19 patients are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated”. According to their website:

Since July, one in five COVID-19 patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first jab.

Pregnant women have been treated with a therapy, called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by COVID-19 that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.

Out of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 on ECMO in intensive care, pregnant women make up almost a third (32%) – up from just 6% at the start of the pandemic, March 2020.

The numbers from ICNARC back up the claim that pregnant and recently pregnant women have been admitted to ICU with a positive Covid test in greater numbers during the Delta surge than previously.

News Round-Up