Day: 9 January 2022

Double Vaccinated Have Double the Infection Rate, Data From Iceland Shows

The double-vaccinated are almost twice as likely to be infected as unvaccinated people, data from Iceland shows. This is the same pattern as found in data from the U.K. Thorsteinn Siglaugsson has written about the trend in Morgunbladid, the main national newspaper in Iceland, and put up a translation on his website.

After December 20th, the 14-day incidence of COVID-19 infection by vaccination status took a very unexpected turn in Iceland. The infection rate per 100,000 of fully vaccinated adults with booster is now eleven times higher than on December 20th, and the infection rate of double-vaccinated adults seven times higher. At the same time, infections among unvaccinated people have grown by a factor of 2.6 only. Among children, we see a similar change: a tenfold increase among the fully vaccinated while the rate among the unvaccinated is 2.4 times higher than on December 20th.

This change can hardly be explained away by changes in behaviour, such a sudden and decisive change of behavior between groups is impossible. It is also unlikely that testing has suddenly increased this sharply among some groups and not others. We know the protection against infection from vaccination wanes rapidly, but it is out of the question that it should drop so suddenly. The most likely explanation is the new Omicron variant. Foreign data also indicate that the currently available vaccines have little or no effect against Omicron infection.

The data published on covid.is are weighted; the different size of the groups is adjusted for. This means we can use them to conclude regarding probability of infection. At present, triple-vaccinated people are only 30% less likely to get infected than unvaccinated adults, and for vaccinated children the difference is only 15%. This small difference decreases rapidly in both groups. The biggest news, however, is that double-vaccinated people are now 90% more likely to get infected than the unvaccinated. This suggests that the protection provided by two doses of vaccine is in fact less than none, it is the opposite.

After Siglaugsson’s article was published on January 8th, the Icelandic Chief Epidemiologist claimed the finding was an artefact of the official data overestimating the number of unvaccinated people. However, Siglaugsson suggests the overestimate would have to be an implausible 90% to bring the infection rates level.

Worth reading in full.

Mike Hearn has discussed negative vaccine effectiveness and how it turned up previously in the Swine Flu vaccine on the Daily Sceptic here.

SAGE Gloomsters Admit They Were Wrong About Omicron

The scientific modellers who warned that Britain had little option but to impose severe restrictions or face tens of thousands of deaths from Omicron were last night in retreat – although they haven’t yet admitted they were wrong about every previous variant as well. MailOnline has more.

First, modellers who advise the Government said winter deaths from the highly transmissible variant would be “substantially” lower than they had originally believed, then Independent SAGE, a group of Left-leaning scientists who have pushed for lockdowns, distanced themselves from the need to impose further curbs.

Before Christmas, epidemiologists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine produced a series of dire scenarios in which they warned Omicron could lead to between 25,000 and 75,000 deaths by the end of April.

Dr. Nick Davies said that he and his team were working on revised scenarios that will soon be presented to scientific advisers and senior civil servants.

Tory MP William Wragg, a member of the party’s Covid Recovery Group, said the U-turn provided evidence that many in the scientific community had been too gloomy about the threat from coronavirus.

“Once again, it appears that certain scientists and experts so quick to spread gloom and panic at the arrival of Omicron are having to come to terms with a reality that is far from the catastrophe they were predicting,” he said.

“It all shows that Boris Johnson and his Cabinet were right to avoid condemning us to another lockdown with the dismal effects on people’s livelihoods and liberties.”

The School of Hygiene’s team built its original models – published on December 11th – on the assumption that Omicron was as naturally lethal as the Delta strain, meaning it would kill the same proportion of unvaccinated people who had not been exposed to Covid before.

Dr. Davies argued that while South African doctors were already finding Omicron appeared to be less severe, the reports were “anecdotal” so the School of Hygiene’s supposition was “a reasonable assumption to make at the time”.

Over the past month, however, considerable evidence has built up that Omicron is less dangerous. This includes statistical studies by Imperial College London, Edinburgh University and the U.K. Health Security Agency, as well as research from South Africa and Denmark. Laboratory studies have also found Omicron is less adept at infecting the lungs.

Dr. Davies said the December model had assumed that once a patient ended up in hospital with Omicron, their chance of needing intensive care and dying was the same as with Delta – which has proved to be incorrect.

“We now know that doesn’t seem to be at all the case, as people are ending up in hospital with Omicron, but they are not requiring critical care [to the same extent as with Delta],” he said. “The deaths number will come down very substantially [compared with original estimates].”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to Gordon Rayner in the Telegraph, questions are now being asked about why SAGE’s modellers – and England’s Chief Medical Officer – were so dismissive of the evidence from South Africa three weeks ago showing Omicron was “very, very mild” and wouldn’t result in a big uptick in hospital admissions.

Stop Press 2: Daily Covid cases across Britain have fallen for the fourth day in a row and are down 6.7% compared to last Sunday. MailOnline has more.

Natural Immunity to One Variant Protects Against Severe Disease From Another

We already have evidence that natural immunity provides better protection against infection than the vaccines. And since you can’t get severe disease if you don’t get infected, this implies that natural immunity also provides better protection against severe disease.  

Of course, if you did get severe disease the first time around, it may not be much consolation to know that you now have strong protection against that outcome. However, the fact that natural immunity provides strong protection against severe disease should still be considered good news.

Even if you had severe disease once, it’s reassuring to know you’re less likely to have it again. And since different variants of Covid have different properties, it’s possible that a bad bout of Covid caused one variant might protect against a worse bout caused by another.

But what degree of protection are we talking about? A recent study from Qatar, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has some answers.

Using a large national database, the researchers identified cases of severe, critical and fatal disease caused by primary infections and reinfections from March of 2020 to April 2021. Individuals who’d been vaccinated were excluded from the analysis.

Primary infection was defined as the first positive test; secondary infection as the first positive test obtained at least 90 days after the primary infection. To compare like with like, the researchers matched individuals with reinfections to those with primary infections by age, sex, nationality, and week of the test date.

Of the 1,304 reinfections, 32% were caused by the Beta variant; 4% were caused by the Alpha variant; and 16% were caused by the original Wuhan strain. The remaining 48% were of unknown status.

However, given that Alpha and Beta were overwhelmingly dominant by the time Qatar experienced its second wave, and the fact that natural immunity typically lasts for more than a year, it’s likely that the vast majority of the “unknown” reinfections were caused by either Alpha or Beta.

Results are shown in the table below. The reason why the totals are much greater in the right-hand column is that the researchers matched individuals in a ratio of 1:5 to get a larger sample size.

The results are presented as odds, but percentage are easier to understand. Looking at the final row, the percentage of reinfections that led to severe, critical or fatal disease was 0.3%, whereas the corresponding percentage of primary infections was 3.1% – about ten times higher.

This suggests that natural immunity to the original Wuhan strain reduces the risk of severe disease from Alpha or Beta –  conditional on infection – by about 90%. And if you assume that Alpha and Beta are more virulent than the original Wuhan strain, the risk reduction is even greater.

Widespread natural immunity is more than capable of defanging Covid. Which is why it should have been part of our strategy from the very beginning, along with focused protection for high-risk groups. In Britain, it actually was part of our strategy… until the Government went for lockdown instead.

A BBC Complaint

A reader has shared with us the complaint he submitted yesterday to the BBC about the way in which Radio 4 presented the news that Britain’s Covid death toll has reached 150,000 – a figure which is also on the front of most of today’s papers. I think his irritation is one which a lot of Daily Sceptic readers will share.

The 1800 News on Radio 4, Saturday January 8th 2022 began with this headline:

“More than 150,000 people now have died of Covid in the UK since the start of the pandemic two years ago.”

This clearly stated that the deaths of 150,000 people had been as a result of contracting Covid. This is at best misleading, at worst a falsehood. The truth is stated on the BBC website, which said, correctly, “More than 150,000 people in the UK have now died within 28 days of a positive Covid test since the pandemic began.”

This isn’t a question of semantics. It’s a really important point and a crucial distinction between accurate news reporting and ‘number theatre’ (as Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter calls it). I can include two of my neighbours who died ‘with Covid’ and went down in the Covid total, even though one in fact died from the leukaemia that had kept him in hospital (where he caught Covid) for two years as he deteriorated, and another from liver cancer, also catching asymptomatic Covid in hospital.

On the 1800 News the Health Correspondent Katherine da Costa made no attempt to contextualise the figure of 150,000 in terms of annual normal deaths in the UK (this might in fact have strengthened her piece), interviewed a family member of a victim without clarifying the actual cause of death, and ignored the much larger number of people who have died of other causes.

Although Ms Da Costa did not repeat the inaccurate headline, she did not qualify her reference to the number of deaths by making it clear, as the news website did, that these were of people who had died within 28 days of testing positive. It was also quite evident that the interviewee had no framework of reference for the 150,000.

There is a stark contrast here with the coverage by Nick Triggle which always contextualises the figures and makes it clear what they actually are, without seeking to sensationalise as the inaccurate headline in the 1800 did.

The Tyranny of the Risk Averse

We’re publishing a guest essay today by Nick Comilla, a writer based in New York, about why so many apparently sensible, intelligent people have embraced the restrictions on their freedoms that states have imposed the world over. He thinks a clue may be found in the work of psychologist Sarah Schulman, who writes about why students seek emotional safety rather than stimulating debate on campus and why victimhood has become so appealing. In a nutshell, this is Nick’s hypothesis: “Quite simply, it seems to me that the Covid hysterics are taking up the mantle of victimhood and then construing any resistance to their pathology as abuse, when really it’s the opposite.” Here is an extract:

Last winter, a familiar refrain I noticed in New York amongst myself and many others was “stay safe”. It became the new “have a good night”, it was instinctual and communal. I even started saying it without realising it. It is meant as a compassionate slogan, but it’s also an imperative. You’re being told to do something: stay safe, which suggests the possibility of danger or threat. But why were we suddenly all saying that to each other? I chalked it up to the strangeness of those times: a new ‘Covid wave’, extreme uncertainty, the city still felt emptied out, and crime was up. “Stay safe” and the little things we could do for each other were like linguistic pacifiers, offering us a reprieve from the endless media reminder that we were in ‘unprecedented’ and ‘uncertain times’ and that, despite this, we were ‘all in this together‘.

I started to think about the other phrases that encapsulate an overabundance of caution which masquerades as compassion. And at what point does overemphasising caution become its own form of harassment? Certainly, we are seeing rising incidents of shunning and neuroticism since the start of the pandemic. These are notions favoured by the laptop-class: people who want to live in March 2020 in perpetuity, clamouring for more lockdowns and ‘stimulus’. Some people in the United States seem convinced – quite literally – that they are going to die. This is a problem. They perceive themselves as being in great danger when they aren’t, and view others as a threat in an overstated way. This is dangerous. I noticed that they also seem to take a strange sort of glee in telling others what to do – adult hallway monitors run amok. There was something fundamentally pathological about the sheer pleasure people – usually women and men who seemed off the deep end into over-socialisation – took in events being cancelled for ‘the greater good’. When LCD Soundsystem announced, due to public pressure, that they were abruptly cancelling the last three shows of their reunion performance here in NYC everyone started talking about ‘the greater good’. Those who voiced their disappointment in various comment sections were ostracised, while those who were sanctimoniously, righteously having their ‘concern for safety’ met seemed pleased to have their virtue reaffirmed. To be clear, I don’t necessarily think they enjoy the ongoing restrictions: I think they enjoy the righteousness of their perceived sacrifice.

The chorus they kept repeating was ‘this was a tough call, but it’s the right thing to do!’ and ‘see you when it’s safe’. The issue is that for these people, it will never be safe. And they are holding the rest of us hostage in the meantime. What struck me as odd was that if anyone dared to complain about this over-zealous and overstated concept of risk, if anyone pointed out that these people were beginning to make life seriously miserable, the neurotics would double down and accuse us of that which they were guilty of: ‘Stop throwing a fit’, ‘Oh poor you, little baby, you can’t go to a concert’. Sadomasochistic glee. Anyone who has spoken out against restrictions knows that the social ostracising is rampant: you’re either accused of ‘lacking empathy’ or of actively ‘wanting people to die’. It is bizarre to me that a civil conversation can’t be entered into under the shared assumption that neither of us want people to die and that you can be simultaneously against lockdowns and in favour of reducing suffering in general.

Worth reading in full.

End Covid Vaccination Campaign, Says Ex-Head of Vaccine Taskforce

Covid should be treated as an endemic virus similar to flu, and ministers should end mass-vaccination after the current booster campaign, Dr. Clive Dix the former Chairman of the U.K.’s vaccine taskforce has said. The Guardian has the story.

With health chiefs and senior Tories also lobbying for a post-pandemic plan for a straining NHS, Dr. Clive Dix called for a major rethink of the U.K.’s Covid strategy, in effect reversing the approach of the past two years and returning to a “new normality”.

“We need to analyse whether we use the current booster campaign to ensure the vulnerable are protected, if this is seen to be necessary,” he said. “Mass population-based vaccination in the U.K. should now end.”

He said ministers should urgently back research into Covid immunity beyond antibodies to include B-cells and T-cells (white blood cells). This could help create vaccines for vulnerable people specific to Covid variants, he said, adding: “We now need to manage disease, not virus spread. So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

A rare moment of sanity at a time when policy seems increasingly to be driven by something other than the evidence. May it signal a change in the wind.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up