Day: 25 October 2021

News Round-Up

And Finally…

In the latest episode of London Calling, I bet James Delingpole £50 there won’t be a national lockdown in England before Christmas, nor will there be a lockdown of the unvaccinated. In addition, we discuss driven shooting, David’s Law, the new series of Succession and our old friend Michael Gove.

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

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the 15th 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 14th 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.) Boris Johnson has now said that the vaccine “doesn’t protect you against catching the disease, and it doesn’t protect you against passing it on”. 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.

  • The U.S. CDC has set up a monitoring system for reporting COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases – as of October 18th 2021 there have been 41,127 breakthrough cases reported, 10,857 of whom died.
  • Dr Scott McLachlan reports an excessive number of healthy babies born to mothers who’ve had the vaccine during pregnancy dying within 48-72 hours of birth.
  • The latest U.K. Covid figures by vaccination status, up to week 41 (17th October), report higher cases of Covid per 100,000 people in double-vaccinated than unvaccinated.
  • Sweden has suspended the Moderna jab indefinitely after vaccinated patients developed myocarditis, whilst a case of Pfizer vaccine-associated-myocarditis is reported as the cause of death in a 22 year old man in Korea.
  • VAERS – the American version of the Yellow Card reporting system – released new data on October 15th bringing the total to 818,044 reports of adverse events following Covid vaccines, including 17,128 deaths and 122,833 serious injuries.
  • DAEN Australia – the equivalent of the Yellow Card reporting system – has logged (up to October 10th) 67,063 reports of adverse events, including 589 deaths. Australia has recorded 1,432 Covid deaths to date.
  • Children (Under 18) Adverse Events U.K. – up to October 13th, MHRA report a total of 1,297 adverse event reports, comprising 1,056 Pfizer, 233 AstraZeneca, 5 Moderna and 3 unspecified. Myocarditis reports remain 10 in a million for this age group. No information is provided on fatalities.

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on October 21st, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,236,485 events based on 375,493 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,715.

  • Pfizer (22.9 million first doses, 19.9 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 187 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 40,603 people vaccinated (564).
  • AstraZeneca (24.9 million first doses, 24.1 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 106 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 22,616 people vaccinated (1,101).
  • Moderna (1.5 million first doses, 1.2 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 89 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 78,947 people vaccinated (19).

Overall, one in every 131 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.

Daily Cases Continue to Fall

Daily Covid infections in Britain have fallen again and deaths are also down, easing the pressure for the Government to implement ‘Plan B’. MailOnline has more.

The Department of Health reported 36,657 new cases in the past 24 hours, down a quarter on the figure last week and the second day in a row there has been a week-on-week drop. Cases had risen for 18 days prior to Sunday.

Many experts predicted that the October half-term – which for many schools began today – would drag infection rates down and act as a miniature ‘firebreaker’.

There were also 38 coronavirus deaths registered today, down around 16% on the toll last Monday. U.K.-wide hospital data isn’t due until tomorrow.

A technical issue means the promising statistics do not include data from Wales, which is recording on average 3,200 daily cases and nine deaths per day. The trajectory of the epidemic is likely to remain unchanged, even with the inclusion of Wales’ infection numbers.

Yet, Sir Keir Starmer became the latest figure to call for the Government to revert to Plan B today and bring back a suite of Covid curbs.

It comes amid an escalating row about how Britain’s epidemic will unfold in the coming months and whether compulsory face masks, working from home and vaccine passports are necessary.

Independent scientists told MailOnline they expect that a combination of the booster vaccine rollout and rising natural immunity in children will lead to a ‘substantial and rapid’ fall in cases, hospitalisations and deaths in weeks.

The topic has also divided No 10’s own scientific advisory panel SAGE, with several key members publicly lobbying for more restrictions to safeguard the NHS from being overwhelmed in the coming months.

But many of the scenarios forecasted by the group’s modelling teams have daily cases plunging over the coming weeks to as low as 5,000, even if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked. The unusually optimistic modelling has given ministers the confidence to reject growing calls for them to revert to Plan B.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Telegraph’s Sarah Knapton has more about the (for once) optimistic modelling in the Telegraph.

Scottish Hospitality Venues Closing Early Due to Vaccine Passport Scheme

Following the recent enforcement of Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme, members of staff have had to turn away potential customers at the door if they fail to show the correct documentation required for entry. This has led to a severe decrease in footfall, with some businesses electing to close early. BBC News has the story.

Venue staff refused entry to revellers without vaccine passports more than 550 times, and some staff were abused, the Scottish Hospitality Group said.

It said some venues decided to close early and footfall was down by up to 40%.

The Scottish Government said the scheme was a “proportionate” health measure.

Ministers say it will encourage more people to get vaccinated against Covid and ensure late-night venues can remain open during a “potentially very difficult” winter.

The vaccine certification scheme was introduced on October 1st but there was no enforcement during a 17-day “grace period” as venues adjusted to the new requirements.

The Scottish Hospitality Group, which opposes the scheme, said the first real test this weekend had been “one of unmitigated disaster”.

“The Scottish Hospitality Group has been warning the Government for weeks that their vaccine passports scheme is not ready, but the Government’s attitude has been to tell us to ‘get on with it’ whilst offering no safety net of support for businesses or our hard working staff”.

Worth reading in full.

China to Begin Vaccinating Three Year-Olds

Worried by the recent emergence of localised outbreaks, a growing number of local authorities in China have decreed that children between the ages of three and 11 must receive the vaccine. The decision has been made in light of China’s zero-tolerance policy towards any further outbreaks, coupled with the rapidly approaching Beijing Winter Olympics, set to take place in February next year. The South China Morning Post has the story.

The expansion of the vaccination campaign comes as parts of China take new clampdown measures to try to stamp out small outbreaks. Gansu, a north-western province heavily dependent on tourism, closed all tourist sites on Monday after finding new Covid cases. Residents in parts of Inner Mongolia have been ordered to stay indoors due to an outbreak there.

The National Health Commission reported 35 new cases of local transmission had been detected over the past 24 hours, four of them in Gansu. Another 19 cases were found in the Inner Mongolia region, with others scattered around the country.

China has employed lockdowns, quarantines and compulsory testing for the virus throughout the pandemic and has largely stamped out cases of local infection while fully vaccinating 1.07 billion people in its population of 1.4 billion.

In particular, the Government is concerned about the spread of the more contagious Delta variant by travellers and about having a largely vaccinated public ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. Overseas spectators have already been banned from the Games, and participants will have to stay in a bubble separating them from people outside.

Worth reading in full.

Australian Cartoonist Sacked after Linking Mandatory Vaccination to Tiananmen Square

After releasing a cartoon on Instagram attacking the Australian Government’s push for mandatory vaccination, cartoonist Michael Leunig (pictured above) was later informed by the Age daily newspaper that he would no longer be working for them in his capacity as a Political Cartoonist. The cartoon was rejected for publication before Leunig released the material on social media, causing a backlash from pro-mandate accounts, while prompting the newspaper’s editor to inform Leunig that he was disconnected from the audience. RT has the story.

Speaking to The Australian on Monday, Leunig said that while the editorial team has censored about a dozen of his works this year, the last straw appeared to be an anti-mandate cartoon which was a play on the iconic ‘tank man’ photo. Leunig’s cartoon shows a man staring down a tank, with its main gun being replaced by a syringe.

The original photo depicts a lone Chinese protester standing before a line of tanks during the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square.

While his cartoon was rejected by The Age, Leunig published the drawing on Instagram, triggering backlash from the proponents of vaccine mandates.

Shortly after the controversy erupted, Leunig, who worked at the newspaper for over 20 years, was told that his services as a Political Cartoonist were no longer needed. Gay Alcorn, Editor of The Daily Age, reportedly told the artist that he was “out of touch” with readers before notifying him of his dismissal. While Alcorn praised Leunig as “brilliant” in a comment to The Australian, he confirmed that his works would no longer appear on the editorial page. The newspaper still plans to commission lifestyle cartoons from Leunig, however.

Leunig accused the newspaper of “wokeism and humorlessness“, defending the cartoon as an accurate reflection of the times.

Worth reading in full.

Rishi Sunak to Announce £6 Billion Spending Package to Fight Growing NHS Backlog

In an effort to turn the tide on the expanding NHS backlog, estimated to encompass a record 5.7 million people on the waiting list, with an additional 100,000 being added every month, Rishi Sunak is set to announce a £6 billion spending package to help solve the crisis. In turn, roughly £2.3 billion will be earmarked for diagnostic services in an attempt to treat patients who have yet to receive access to NHS services. The Guardian has the story.

In an effort to get a grip on the crisis, the Chancellor will unveil plans for investment in NHS capital funding this week to help deliver about 30% more elective activity by 2024-25 compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is equivalent to millions more checks, scans and procedures for non-emergency patients.

“We are committed to getting health services back on track and ensuring no one is left waiting for vital tests or treatment,” said Sunak. “This is a game changing investment in the NHS to make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to get patients the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future.”

Dr. Layla McCay, Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation, said health leaders would welcome the funding, but added that it still “falls short” of what is needed “to get services completely back on track”.

McCay also warned that the funding would only deliver results if there were “the right number and mix of workers”. She said: “Recruitment is ongoing but with 80,000 vacancies across the NHS and fully qualified GPs per patient having dropped by 10% over the past five years, this is a long-term issue that cannot be fixed quickly.”

The waiting list is now rising by about 100,000 a month as more people who did not seek or could not access NHS treatment over the past 18 months visit a GP and are referred to hospital. The number of patients waiting more than two years has risen to nearly 10,000.

Worth reading in full.

Are We Starting to See the Impact of Lockdown on Mortality?

The ONS announced on Friday that there were 44,474 deaths registered in England in September, which is about 4,000 more than in August, and 19.4% more than the five-year average.

19.4% is a non-trivial number, which makes this report slightly concerning. Last September, for example, the number of deaths registered in England was only 7% more than the five-year average.

If we look at the breakdown in the chart below, we see that Covid was the third leading cause of death. Interestingly, however, several other causes of death were above their five-year averages. This is in contrast to the situation in August, where eight out of nine other causes were below their five-year averages.

Notably, the age-standardised rates of death from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and from ischemic heart disease, were both above their five-year averages. Given that these are not respiratory conditions, the disparities are unlikely to be due to misattribution of deaths that were really caused by Covid.

The age-standardised rates of death from chronic lower respiratory diseases, from ill-defined conditions, and from colon and rectal cancers, were also above their five-year averages; although in the latter case, the disparity was negligible.

September’s overall age-standardised mortality rate was 11.2% higher than the five-year average, and was approximately equal to the value for March, which coincided with the final part of the second wave. This chart from the ONS shows the age-standardised mortality rate for the first nine months of the year, each year, going back to 2001:

Although the picture is basically the same as last month, cumulative mortality to date was slightly higher, as compared to previous years. However, the first nine months of this year were still less deadly than the corresponding period in 2015.

September witnessed the highest level of mortality since the end of the second wave. More interestingly, it was the first month of the year in which several causes of death other than Covid were above their five-year averages. After months of disruption to healthcare access and provision, are we now seeing the impact of lockdown on mortality?