The alarmist claims of Neil Ferguson and his modelling team at Imperial College have fuelled vaccine scepticism and led to needless lockdowns being imposed all over Europe, according to several leading scientists. The Telegraph‘s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has more.
The Covid modellers at Imperial College have begun to back down. About time too. Over the past few weeks, they have made extreme claims about the omicron variant that cannot be fully justified by fundamental science, let alone by clinical observation.
Academic etiquette restrains direct criticism, but immunologists say privately that Professor Neil Ferguson and his team breached a cardinal rule by inferring rates of hospitalisation, severe disease, and death from waning antibodies, and by extrapolating from infections that break through the first line of vaccine defence.
The rest are entitled to question whether they can legitimately do this. And we may certainly question whether they should be putting out terrifying claims of up to 5,000 deaths a day based on antibody counts.
“It is bad science and I think they’re being irresponsible. They have a duty to reflect the true risks but this is just headline grabbing,” said Dr Clive Dix, former chairman of the UK Vaccine Task Force.
Needless to say, these headlines have spread as fast as omicron itself. Britain is the Covid laboratory of the developed world, and what Imperial says right now has global resonance. Its dire warnings are contributing to some European countries imposing full or partial Christmas lockdowns.
Governments are so alarmed by the possibility that healthcare systems might collapse under pressure that they have neglected the opposite risk – and much more probable outcome – that omicron will largely bounce off a population where almost everybody has cell immunity from vaccines or past infection, and in the case of Britain where most vulnerable people have been triple jabbed for good measure.
“To talk of 5,000 deaths a day is a very high number. It is risky to push apocalyptic scenarios that are highly unlikely to happen,” said Professor Francois Balloux, Director of the UCL Genetics Institute.
“What I am more worried about is a loss of trust in governments and public institutions for crying wolf. The mood is changing everywhere.”
Worth reading in full.