Day: 6 November 2021

News Round-Up

Exclusive: UKHSA Admits it is Monitoring Current Vaccine Effectiveness But Not Publishing It. What Has it Got to Hide?

The UKHSA has admitted for the first time that it is undertaking internal analysis “every week or two” to monitor the current real-world performance of the vaccines but not publishing the results.

In an email seen by the Daily Sceptic, Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UKHSA, admits that her agency is continuing to undertake regular analysis of vaccine effectiveness but, despite publishing a weekly Vaccine Surveillance report, is not publishing the estimates.

The Vaccine Surveillance reports have recently been criticised by the U.K Statistics Authority and others for including data which shows infection rates in the vaccinated running at more than double the rate in the unvaccinated. Critics have argued this gives a misleading impression that the vaccines are ineffective or worse. They say it is really a result of problems with the population estimates and systemic differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

The UKHSA has responded by altering the presentation of its data to draw attention to these limitations and make clear that, in its view, the data should not be used to estimate vaccine effectiveness.

However, it has not published an update of its own estimates of vaccine effectiveness using data more recent than May 2021. This means it has not updated its estimates with data from the summer and autumn, a period when its raw data shows infections in the vaccinated outpacing those in the unvaccinated.

In a recent post I encouraged readers to contact Dr Ramsay to ask her to publish an update of her agency’s study of vaccine effectiveness. In a reply to one reader, seen by the Daily Secptic, Dr Ramsay made the stunning admission:

New York City to Offer Children $100 for Getting Vaccinated

New York City officials will soon hand children $100 if they go and get vaccinated, with Mayor Bill de Blasio commenting that the cash incentive “buys a whole lot of candy”. The policy will begin next week when vaccines will be administered in the city’s primary schools. The Telegraph has the story.

It marks an expansion of a previous policy enacted in July, when New York began offering a $100 reward to adults after the number of people wanting jabs began to slow.

“Good news, kids are eligible for the $100 vaccine incentive”, Mayor Bill de Blasio told a press conference on Thursday.

“So, we really want kids [and] families [to] take advantage of that. Everyone could use a little more money around the holidays. But, most importantly, we want our kids and our families to be safe”.

Officials hope the cash reward will encourage children to get vaccinated quickly ahead of the upcoming holiday season when infections are expected to spike.

America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month cleared the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine to children ages five to 11 years-old. The decision makes as many as 28 million children in America eligible to get vaccinated.

Separately, it was disclosed that thousands of American spies and intelligence officers could soon face dismissal for failing to comply with their Government’s vaccination deadline.

President Joe Biden has issued a string of vaccine mandates telling federal employees, contractors and health care workers that they must get vaccinated.

Worth reading in full.

Sadiq Khan’s Mask Mandate on London Transport is Not Based on Science

We’re publishing a guest post today by Rob Tyson, one of the organisers of Smile Free, a group that campaigns against mask mandates in the U.K. Rob points out that Sadiq Khan’s mask mandate on Transport for London doesn’t appear to be based on a single scientific study.

Britain’s well-established, pre-Covid pandemic plan, endorsed by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty as late as March 19th 2020 before being abandoned four days later, contains an interesting sentence relating to the wearing of face masks in the community (an intervention the plan did not recommend):

Although there is a perception that the wearing of facemasks by the public in the community and household setting may be beneficial, there is in fact very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use in this setting. Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good respiratory, hand, and home hygiene behaviour in order for them to achieve the intended benefit. Research also shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours when wearing facemasks for prolonged periods reduces over time.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that no nation on earth can demonstrate ‘widespread benefit’ of forced masking on infection control after a year of mandates, no-one in authority wants to disabuse the public of this perception.

Rather, they want to continue and even intensify this irrational behaviour.

Indeed it is striking how Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) – which runs the London tube, trains and bus network – justify their forced masking requirement.

“Following the science” this ain’t.

Vaccine Efficiency in Preventing Transmission Dramatically Declines Over a Six Month Period, Research Shows

The Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines have been discovered to offer poor long-term effectiveness against contracting Covid. Although vaccine effectiveness remained high in preventing hospitalisation and death, protection against the transmission of Covid over a six month period dropped from around 85% for all three vaccines to 58% for Moderna, 43% for Pfizer, and to as low as 13% for the Janssen jab. RT has the story.

Covid vaccine effectiveness against both infection and death was studied in three U.S. approved jabs – the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA shots, and the Janssen viral vector vaccine.

Having analysed data from 780,225 U.S. veterans of different ages and sexes between February and October, researchers came to a disturbing conclusion. Vaccine protection against Covid infection dropped from 89.2% at its highest to a low of 13.1%, according to a joint study by the Public Health Institute, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the University of Texas Health Science Center, published in the Science journal on Thursday.

While effectiveness against infection in March was 89.2% for Moderna, 86.9% for Pfizer, and 86.4% for Janssen, by September there were massive declines to 58%, 43%, and 13% respectively.

The emergence and dominance of the Delta strain of the virus during the time of the study may have played a role, researchers said, adding that vaccine protection waned across all studied age groups.

Worth reading in full.

Mental And Physical Health of Young Children Damaged by Lockdown, Welsh Study Shows

A survey conducted in 2020 by Cardiff University has uncovered that primary school age children reported a substantial increase in ‘emotional difficulties’ compared with an identical survey conducted two years prior. In addition, those from disadvantaged backgrounds reported having emotional and behavioural problems at twice the rate of wealthier families, with the research also unveiling that, during this period, children were on unhealthier diets as well as getting less exercise. The Guardian has more.

A biennial survey conducted by investigators at Cardiff University found that primary school-age children reported a sharp increase in ‘elevated or clinically significant emotional difficulties’ in early 2021, compared with the same survey conducted in 2019.

The survey between April and June found that 27% of children in year six showed significant emotional difficulties, compared with just 17% in 2019, while reporting little change in behavioural difficulties. Children from poorer backgrounds were nearly twice as likely to report emotional and behavioural difficulties compared to those from affluent families.

Kelly Morgan, a Social Science Research Fellow at Cardiff, said the impact of the pandemic was likely to leave a “lifelong footprint” on the mental health of children as they grew older, based on evidence from previous international studies.

“From our findings, children and their families were extensively affected over the course of the pandemic”, Morgan said. “We know that it was illegal for children to meet others to play at some points, but also that children were deeply concerned about the health of their family and others”.

The survey highlighted the important role schools have played during and after the pandemic. Of the children surveyed, 90% said they felt cared for by their teachers and 80% said there was at least one adult in school they could talk to.

Professor Graham Moore, who led the study, which was funded by the Welsh Government and examined data from 1,863 children in 76 schools, said it showed that good relationships were maintained between teachers and their pupils. “These connections remained consistently strong among the children we surveyed, demonstrating the vital role education professionals have played for young people during the pandemic”.

“It’s plausible that if teachers and support staff hadn’t done such a good job of connecting with their pupils in this way, we would be dealing with an even greater mental health crisis among our children”, Moore said.

The study revealed that in terms of diet and exercise, the 10 and 11 year-olds surveyed were ‘consistently less healthy’ during the pandemic than in previous years. The proportion of children eating daily portions of vegetables dropped from 52% in 2019 to 41% in 2021, while those eating fruit every day dropped from 59% to 47%.

Worth reading in full.

The Mail Asks Serious Questions About Fraudulent Research

A few days ago journalist Barney Calman published a thorough and well researched article about the problem of academic research fraud. Although the contents will seem familiar to any long time reader of the Daily Sceptic, it’s great news that much bigger audiences are now being exposed to information about the scale and nature of the problems inside scientific institutions.

In July the Daily Sceptic published an article by me entitled, “Photoshopping, fraud and circular logic in research“. It discussed the problem of Asian paper forging operations colloquially nicknamed “paper mills”, the Chinese Government policies that incentivise forging of scientific research, and cited former BMJ editor Richard Smith’s essay on the problem of fictional clinical trials. For classical journalists to write about a topic typically requires them to find an insider or specialist willing to put their own name on things – indeed, one of the major weaknesses of newspapers vs blog sites like this one is their reluctance to do original research into scientific topics. Scientists willing to put their names on allegations is the permission journalists need to cover a story like this – and now the Mail has it:

Speaking on the Mail on Sunday’s Medical Minefield podcast, Smith – who was involved in the investigations that exposed Malcolm Pearce – said:

“It’s shocking, but common. Many of these fraudulent studies are simply invented. There were no patients. The trial never happened.”

Research coming out of countries where doctors are commonly rewarded with pay rises for publishing their work – such as Egypt, Iran, India and China – is more likely to be faked, investigations show. 

“In China, doctors can only get promoted if they score enough ‘points’, by getting published,” says John Carlisle, an NHS anaesthetist who spends his spare time hunting for fraudulent medical studies.

Calman cites many examples of serious research fraud:

  • Malcolm Pearce, who created a non-existent pregnant women he claimed to have saved from an ectopic pregnancy and who forged a drug trial.
  • Werner Bezwoda, who falsely claimed he had cured women with breast cancer by giving them bone marrow transplants.
  • Eric Poehlman, the only one ever jailed for research fraud, who fabricated studies into weight gain and the menopause.
  • Woo Suk Hwang, who became a national hero in South Korea after claiming a breakthrough in stem cell research that never actually happened.
  • Joachim Boldt, who forged a staggering 90 studies into drugs for regulating blood pressure during surgery. “These trials had been published over many years in leading journals, but it turned out they had never happened,” says Ian Roberts, Professor of Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Again, when they were excluded from the review, it showed the treatment was not effective. British surgical guidelines had to be changed. It made me realise, if someone can get away with fabricating 90 studies, the system isn’t working.”

The story also discusses how the scientific system has been unable to reach agreement on the effectiveness against COVID-19 for both hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, largely due to how high profile trials showing efficacy keep turning out to be fraudulent.

There’s much more and the entire article is, of course, worth reading in full.

Analysis

Smith zeros in on the core problem: the scientific system is entirely trust based. If someone emails a Word document containing a table of results to a journal, then it’s just assumed that the trial did in fact take place as written. The document itself is supposed to be reviewed, although as we’ve previously discussed here peer review is sometimes claimed to have happened when it very obviously couldn’t have. But nobody checks anything deeply. Peer reviews, when they properly happen, take the intellectual honesty of the submitter for granted.

This system was probably okay at the start of the 20th century when science was a small affair dominated by hobbyists, companies and standalone inventors. It’s easy to forget that Einstein, perhaps the most celebrated scientist of all time, came to the attention of the world only after developing new physics in his spare time whilst working as a Swiss patent clerk. But after the end of World War Two governments drastically ramped up their spending on academic research. Throughout the 20th century science didn’t just grow, it grew exponentially (nb. log scale):

Source: Lutz & Bornmann, 2014

In the second half of the 20th century, the number of papers published annually was doubling about every nine years, with the end of the war being a clear inflection point.

A century ago there was very little incentive for a scientist to lie to a journal. There was no point because there wasn’t much money in it. Academic positions were rare, the communities were small, and there were few enough interesting claims being published that they’d attract attention and be discovered if they weren’t true. But in 2021 it’s all very different. Annual production of new scientists by academia alone is vast:

The benefit of using the PhD as the yardstick for number of scientists is that it has a more standard definition across countries than measures such as the number of professional researchers and engineers.

The effect Chinese policies have had on science can be clearly seen in this graph, but even before China more than doubled its PhD production the trend was strongly upwards.

Underlying this system is an implicit assumption that the number of discoveries waiting to be made within a given time window is unlimited. Giving scientists money is seen as an uncontroversial vote winning position, so nobody in government stops to ask whether there are actually enough answerable scientific questions available to absorb the increased research budgets. If there aren’t then people become tempted to either make up answers, as in much of the COVID ‘science’ that is written about on this site, or make up questions, hence the proliferation of un-rigorous fields like the study of “white tears“.

Did Barney Calman get wind of this story by reading this site? It’d be nice to think so. If you’re out there Barney, why not drop us a line and say hello? There are plenty more investigations like that one in the archives of the Daily Sceptic, such as “Fake Science: the misinformation pandemic in scientific journals” and “436 randomly generated papers published by Springer Nature“, which examine the use of AIs to generate fake scientific papers, or “The bots that are not“, which shows that virtually all academic research into the existence of bots on Twitter is wrong. It’s of vital importance that our society becomes more aware of the flaws in the research system, as it’s the only way to break the cycle of governments and media taking so-called scientific claims for granted.