Day: 24 December 2021

Vaccine Effectiveness Drops to Minus-75% in 18-29 Years-Olds as Omicron Slices Through Vaccine Protection and Booster Effect Starts to Wear Off

The latest Vaccine Surveillance report from the UKHSA shows a sharp drop in unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection (calculated from the raw infection rate data) in 18-29 year-olds, down to minus-75% in the month ending December 19th, from minus-10% the previous week.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness fell in all age groups this week, particularly sharply in 30-39 year-olds, where it hit minus-98%. In 40-49 year-olds it fell to minus-131%. Negative vaccine effectiveness means the vaccinated are more likely to be infected than the unvaccinated. A vaccine effectiveness of minus-100% means the vaccinated are twice as likely to be infected as the unvaccinated.

With Omicron infections particularly prevalent in the young and the vaccinated, this drop is likely to be the impact of Omicron, combined with a waning of vaccine efficacy. The high relative rates of infection in the vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated undermine any argument for vaccine passports or mandates that depend on the idea that the vaccinated are less likely to be infected or pass on the virus. If anything, it’s the vaccinated who are a higher transmission risk to the unvaccinated rather than vice-versa.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation and death continues to hold at a high level on this data, and has even increased in recent weeks in line with what is presumably a booster effect – though a drop in vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation in 18-29 year-olds this week may portend a coming shift.

You Are a Third Less Likely to Catch Covid this Christmas Than Last Christmas and 80% Less Likely to Die From It. So Why the Panic?

We’re republishing the latest analysis by James Ferguson, a financial analyst, which argues – quite convincingly – that not only is Omicron considerably milder than Delta but also less transmissible.

Almost a year ago to the day, I noted that the reasons given for closing down Christmas celebrations in the U.K. last year had owed more to a basic mathematical error than the supposed increased transmissibility and virulence of the new alpha (Medway) variant.

This year, a similar threat from omicron appears to be scaring the politicos, but this again seems more a figment of the scare-mongers’ hysteria than scientifically-grounded evidence.

The willful damage that certain so-called scientists have serially inflicted on the economy needs to be queried. However, the propaganda machine likens any healthy skepticism to flat-earth advocacy.

Consequently, this note takes a leaf out of Steven Koonin’s excellent book on the climate debate Unsettled, and only interprets the Government’s own official data.

However, as you will see below, this interpretation comes out quite differently to the Government propaganda/BBC party line. Covid, as is the way with new viruses, is mutating into both a significantly less transmissible and substantially less virulent variant.

You are only about one third as likely to catch Covid this Christmas as last and, even if you do, you are now 80% less likely to die from it. So, why isn’t this the new narrative?

Same Government data, different headlines.

Head of UKHSA Says New Year’s Eve Events May Still Be Cancelled

Dr. Jenny Harries, the Head of the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that, although the Omicron variant appears to be milder than the Delta strain, New Year’s Eve festivities could still be banned in an attempt to curb its spread, citing her concern that an influx of positive Covid tests is leading to staff shortages. MailOnline has the story.

New Year celebrations could be axed to stave off staff shortages and protect the vulnerable even if hospitalisations stay low, a health chief warned today.

Jenny Harries, head of the UKHSA, said the “impact on society” of Omicron will be crucial despite mounting evidence that it is generally milder than the Delta strain.

Dr. Harries pointed to the “very high” levels of absence among workers, with an extraordinary one in 35 having contracted the variant in London.

She cautioned that it is still not clear whether the new version of the disease will be milder for older people, or how long people who do have to go to hospital will need to stay.

Asked whether ministers will be able to make a decision on Monday about whether restrictions will be needed before December 31st, Dr. Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Ministers will look at all of the data that we have available – and that isn’t simply what the epidemiology is saying, it’s how it’s impacting society.

“So, for example, we have very high rates of individuals off sick – we know that particularly in London, around one in 35 have currently got Omicron.

“Now that’s having an impact on the workforce. So these are not simply about hospitalisation rates.”

Worth reading in full.

Patrick Vallance’s Defence of SAGE Modelling Fails to Convince

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has come to the defence of SAGE and its modelling after some torrid headlines this week following a Twitter exchange between lead modeller Professor Graham Medley and Spectator editor Fraser Nelson in which Professor Medley revealed that SAGE had not been asked to model less disastrous scenarios.

Writing in the Times, Dr. Vallance appeared directly to contradict some of the statements made by Prof. Medley, leaving observers baffled as to which of the two is correct as it is unclear how both can be. Dr. Vallance claimed that modelling of other, less severe scenarios, had been done and presented to Government, while Prof. Medley said it had not, at least by his team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Dr. Vallance writes:

The modellers always have to make assumptions and do so across a wide range of possibilities, some optimistic and some pessimistic. They do not, contrary to what you might have heard, only model the worst outcomes. They will make assumptions about vaccine effectiveness, they will model different levels of viral transmission, mixing patterns and different levels of disease severity. The range of assumptions modelled can be very broad; for disease severity for Omicron one model explored a range from 10% of Delta severity through to 100%. For immunity a range of assumptions on vaccine efficacy, speed of vaccine rollout and vaccine coverage in different parts of the population were explored.

This claim is backed up by the minutes of the most recent SAGE meeting, published yesterday, although it doesn’t square with what Prof. Medley told Fraser Nelson. Prof. Medley, who chairs the SAGE modelling committee, said that lower virulence scenarios don’t “add any further information” and implied his committee – SPI-M – had not been asked to provide them.

Fraser asked Prof. Medley: “I guess the question is why LSHTM did not (like JP Morgan) include a scenario of lower virulence – given that this is a very-plausible option that changes outlook massively.”

Prof. Medley replied:

What would be the point of that? Not a snarky question – genuine to know what you think decision makers would learn from that scenario… If somebody draws a line on a graph it doesn’t add any further information. Decision-makers are generally only interested in situations where decisions have to be made… That scenario doesn’t inform anything. Decision-makers don’t have to decide if nothing happens… We generally model what we are asked to model. There is a dialogue in which policy teams discuss with the modellers what they need to inform their policy.

Postcard From Romania – Part II

We’re publishing a “Postcard From Romania” today, the second from a man calling himself Niculina Florea (a pseudonym). The picture above is of a Christmas tree made out of empty vaccine bottles, an attempt to persuade Romanian children to get vaccinated. For Romanians, being bombarded with hysterical state propaganda telling them to expect all sorts of privations in response to a mortal threat is nothing new. They experienced that often during the 42-year Communist dictatorship that ended with the fall of Ceaușescu in 1989 and have learnt to treat all such official campaigns with a large dose of salt. Here is an extract.

Romanian life goes on unabated for the most part. A long history of occupation and barbarian invasion, combined with the ruling class’ regular betrayal of the less privileged, caused the evolutionary gears to shift long ago. Opportunism and tactical cunning have been bred into the population. Romanians do not stand up, they bend; and they bend backwards not forwards, securely rooted so that they may face the prevailing wind without being torn asunder.

They are not opposed to vaccination; they just don’t get vaccinated. Your employer has demanded a covid certificate (though not yet a legal requirement)? Here is a fake one for your pleasure, sir! The authorities order positive cases to report for quarantine if symptomatic? Why doctor, I haven’t got so much as a cough! (just remember to clear your throat when the health authorities pay a visit.)

Meanwhile, the market for ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and a strong antiviral, arbidol, is flourishing. You’ll find these banned products in your local pharmacy, if you know how to ask. The regime beams daily TV reminders to the population of what fools they were – the dead – for treating themselves with outlawed medicines. The dead are, almost without exception, those who ignored the advice (i.e., diktats) of the state.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson Says Getting Boosted Follows the Teachings of Christ

Repeating the same message projected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Boris Johnson has tried to persuade members of the public to get their booster shots by telling them that doing so upholds the Christian principle of “loving our neighbour”, further saying that’s what “Jesus told us to do. It’s Christmas, do what he said”. The Prime Minister also showered praise on those who received the vaccine in order to protect others. The Guardian has the story.

Boris Johnson has invoked the teaching of Jesus Christ to urge the public to get a Covid booster jab, in a message issued to mark a Christmas he said would be “significantly better” than last year’s.

In a video statement filmed in front of a Christmas tree in Downing Street, the Prime Minister celebrated members of the public who were “getting jabbed not just for themselves, for ourselves, but for friends and family and everyone we meet”.

“That, after all, is the teaching of Jesus Christ, whose birth is at the heart of this enormous festival – that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves,” he said.

His words echoed the message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said earlier this week: “I would say, go and get boosted, get vaccinated. It’s how we love our neighbour. Loving our neighbour is what Jesus told us to do. It’s Christmas, do what he said.”

The Prime Minister said he could not say the pandemic was over, but pointed out that many people were able to celebrate with more family members this year than last.

“If this year you need a bigger turkey and there are more sprouts to peel and more washing up to do, then that is all to the good, because these rituals matter so deeply. And I hope that people will enjoy this Christmas this year all the more keenly because of what we had to miss last year,” he said.

There had been fears the government might impose limits on socialising over the festive period in a bid to slow the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but ministers decided to wait and monitor the data.

In 2020, some parts of the country, including London, the home counties and the east of England, were placed under tier-four restrictions just days before Christmas that meant a “stay at home” order was in place. Elsewhere, up to three households could gather, but only for a single day.

The NHS has accelerated the pace of booster vaccinations significantly since the arrival of Omicron, and in some parts of the country will continue to deliver jabs even on Christmas Day.

Johnson was baptised a Catholic but has rarely discussed his own religion. He married his wife, Carrie, at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral earlier this year. When ITV’s Robert Peston asked if he was a practising Catholic, Johnson replied: “I don’t discuss these deep issues.”

Worth reading in full.

Should We Lower the Voting Age to Six?

There follows a guest post by Dr. James Alexander, a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Turkey, responding to a recent suggestion of Dr. David Runciman, a Politics Professor at Cambridge, that the franchise be extended to six year-olds. In some respects, he argues, it’s not such a bad idea.

David Runciman is a Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge. I know him a bit, since he supervised me for the Political Philosophy paper when I was reading Part II of the Historical Tripos; and we have had some brief exchanges since then. I salute my old teacher – though he is not old: he is not much older than I am. Amusingly, he is also someone who was edited by Toby Young very early on, when he wrote a piece on Gascoigne the footballer for the Modern Review. Runciman is an extremely able writer about politics, with not only a handful of books but also a continuous stream of reviews for the London Review of Books and a podcast called Talking Politics to his name. Runciman in writing exhibits smoothness, acuity and skill; Runciman in speech exhibits, in addition, receptivity and geniality. He seems to enjoy politics, even when it may be the sort of politics he doesn’t like. I would assume that his views are fairly standard Late Cambridge stuff: liberal, tolerant, leftish, remainish, but I don’t know, and we don’t know, since Talking Politics holds onto the academic or BBC habit of preferring not to admit to an opinion when something more lofty or indirect is there to be had.

Recently Runciman has published an article in the Guardian advocating extending the franchise to everyone: and by everyone he means children: and by children he means everyone over the age of six.

This is interesting, and amusing. My own view is that Runciman may, consciously or unconsciously, be trying to reduce democracy to absurdity. Perhaps this will be Runciman’s greatest coup yet, his Modest Proposal. Instead of eating small children – recall Swift’s delicate attention to how to prepare them (fricassé and ragout) – we shall give them the vote. The formerly cooked shall now cook. In addition to Junior Masterchef we will have Junior Legislator. And why not? Since we live in an age in which men are women and women are men (if they say so), then why should children not be, in effect, adults? (Let us admit it: since adults are children, there is no reason why children should not be adults.)

I shall not argue against the arguments directly because I think that there is nothing wrong with such arguments when they are proposed in order to make us think: though they are to be handled cautiously when they come too close to politics. For the record, my eight year old son thought it was a very good idea. “When is the next election?” he immediately asked.