Day: 14 January 2022

Vaccine Effectiveness Against Hospitalisation Plummets in Omicron Surge, Data Shows

The most striking point from this week’s UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report – with data for the four weeks ending January 9th – is the sharp decline in unadjusted vaccine effectiveness (calculated from raw data, so not adjusted for potential confounders such as risk factors and testing behaviour) against hospitalisation (see above). The decline is particularly sharp for under-50s, with 18-29 year-olds dropping to 38% (meaning the hospitalisation rate was 38% lower among the vaccinated (two or three doses) than the unvaccinated). The sharpness of the drops coincides with the age groups with the lowest third-dose coverage (see below), which suggests it may be a waning effect accelerated by Omicron and offset by boosters.

Third doses in England (UKHSA)

Another possible explanation is that it is an artefact of the high number of incidental hospital admissions in recent weeks, with more than half of Covid hospital admissions being treated primarily for something else. Given vaccines offer little to no protection (or worse) against infection, they will offer the same lack of protection against incidental hospital admission as Omicron spreads in hospitals or is found in those admitted for other reasons. The difference by age may arise because infection rates in those under 50 are currently much higher than in those over 50. In truth, it is likely to be a bit of both, but without data specifically on those being treated primarily for Covid it’s difficult to get to the bottom of which is making the biggest difference.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection continued to decline in older age groups and in under-18s this week, presumably due to the waning of the third and second doses. It is negative in all over-18s, meaning the infection rate is higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated; in the 18-70s it is lower than minus-100%, meaning the vaccinated are more than twice as likely to have an infection. It did however rise slightly in the 18-50s this week, from a very low base. UKHSA continues to claim this extraordinary data is a result of confounders such as different risk factors and testing behaviour between vaccinated and unvaccinated. However, the agency still has not published any data on these confounders (e.g. testing behaviour and co-morbidities by vaccination status), despite being asked repeatedly, nor made any attempt to estimate adjusted vaccine effectiveness based on this data. If you would like to ask it to do this you can email its head Mary Ramsay here (Twitter here).

Parties at Number 10 Suggest Boris and His Team Thought Covid Restrictions Were Pointless. So Why Did They Impose Them?

I’ve written a comment piece for Mail+ about the recent spate of revelations about Downing Street parties, pointing out that it isn’t just Tory politicians and their staff who’ve been ignoring the Covid restrictions.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it isn’t just Conservative politicians and their senior aides who ignored the restrictions they expected the rest of us to comply with.

A photograph emerged last night of Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Opposition, drinking a beer with Labour staff in a constituency office in Durham when Tier 2 measures were in place. Given that Starmer has consistently called for even tougher Covid restrictions in England – much like those imposed by Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader – this is another example of flagrant hypocrisy.

Mind you, Drakeford himself is no angel. In November of last year he was photographed dancing in a crowded room at a Diwali celebration without a mask, breaking his government’s own rules making them compulsory in all indoor spaces.

And let’s not forget Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London. In October, he berated Boris for not following Drakeford’s lead and imposing a mask mandate and condemned those who refused to voluntarily wear face coverings as ‘selfish’. A few days later he was photographed at a crowded party with Liverpool footballer Mo Salah with no masks in sight.

This begs the question: Why have all these advocates of lockdowns and related restrictions been flagrantly ignoring the rules?

It’s not a straightforward example of ‘do as I say, not what I do’ – something we’ve grown used to from the political class – because these leaders supposedly had a vested interest in following their own rules. After all, weren’t they worried about catching the virus? They told us these measures were for our own protection.

The only explanation I can think of is that they knew some of these rules were pointless. We now know that many of the non-pharmaceutical interventions governments made around the world to try to control successive waves of Covid infections made little or no impact on the overall ebb and flow of each variant. Just look at Sweden, which didn’t impose a lockdown in 2020 and had one of the lowest excess death rates in Europe that year.

More recently, Boris himself proved the doom-mongers of Sage wrong when he ignored their apocalyptic predictions of what would happen if he didn’t impose tighter restrictions – 5,000 deaths a day, said Professor Lockdown. The Omicron variant, like the previous ones, has proved self-limiting and begun to fade without the Government doing much at all.

But this begs another question: If they knew the rules were pointless, why did these political panjandrums advocate for them in the first place? My conspiracy-minded friends will say it’s because they were doing the bidding of an international cabal of rich, powerful men who had a vested interest in locking everyone down, whether because they would benefit financially – hello, Jeff Bezos – or because it helped advance their sinister political agenda known as ‘the Great Reset’. But I think the truth is less exciting.

I believe the reason the Government imposed three lockdowns – and countless restrictions in between – was because it calculated it was better to be seen to be doing something to try to suppress the virus rather than just ‘letting it rip’. Boris must have known over 100,000 Britons would likely die as a result of the pandemic and there was little he could do about that, but at least it would be harder for his political opponents to hang those deaths around his neck if he locked us all in our homes. And the reason his opponents criticised him for not going even further is because they hoped to do precisely that.

The one good thing to emerge from these scandals is that it will make it harder for the political class to play the public for fools again. If senior politicians ever impose another plethora of pointless, incomprehensible restrictions – whether Tory or Labour – I hope we’ll all pay about as much attention to them as they do.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office in December 2020 for Kate Josephs, head of the Government unit responsible for drawing up Covid restrictions. The Telegraph has more.

“If All Adults Were Vaccinated The Pandemic Would be Over,” Says Devi Sridhar – Yet Data Shows the Large Majority of Infections and Deaths Are in the Vaccinated

sridharisblack.png

Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, has claimed that the only thing preventing the pandemic being over is the fact that some adults have not been vaccinated. The anthropologist told the Telegraph:

Governments are frustrated. If all adults were vaccinated who were offered it, [the] pandemic would be over. ICUs are full of people who chose not to get vaccinated, then regret it later. Is that fair to doctors and nurses? And to those who need care for heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions?

Her comments appear in a Telegraph article by the newspaper’s Gates-funded Global Health Security team highlighting how governments are “wielding increasingly bigger sticks in an effort to push vaccination rates skyward – from the threat of prison time to withholding free Covid healthcare and the rise of ‘no jab, no job’ policies”.

In what sense, though, would the pandemic be over if the last 18.7% of over-18s in England were vaccinated? According to Government data, infection rates in over-18s are currently higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated, and 73% of total infections in the month ending January 9th were in the vaccinated, so it certainly wouldn’t end transmission or infection. The latest data also shows that 63% of hospitalisations and 70% of deaths with Covid in the month ending January 9th were in the vaccinated (one or more doses). So vaccinating everyone wouldn’t even halve the number of hospital admissions and deaths, let alone eliminate them. While the latest data for ICUs does show a majority of Covid ICU patients in December were unvaccinated, it needs to be borne in mind that the situation is reversed for deaths, and also that ICU occupancy is relatively low and declining at present, meaning there is no pressure on ICUs to blame on the unvaccinated.

The truth is, the pandemic is already over, as there has been no need for emergency measures outside high-risk settings since spring 2020 (if there even was then). Omicron makes this all the more true, to the point that even many lockdown proponents are admitting it’s over. Forcing the last 19% of adults to get vaccinated has no bearing on this fact, and the drive to universal vaccination regardless of once-honoured principles of autonomy and fairness is fast becoming a vindictive outlet for pent-up frustration and grief for the suffering and loss we have all endured under government over-reaction these past two years.

What Kind of ‘Experts’ Didn’t Foresee This Lockdown Devastation?

We’re publishing today a piece by a Daily Sceptic reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, on the failure of ‘experts’ to foresee the many harmful consequences of lockdown. Here’s an excerpt.

To me, as a layman, I find it utterly astonishing that the conventional experts became so suffocated and obsessed by one risk that they managed to ignore all the empirical observations and experience of their lives that might have told them that ripping up the way human society functions, and how we build up resistance to disease, might possibly generate massive problems from mental breakdowns to economic decline and cancer to reduced immunity. Forgive me for saying so, but I’d have thought that was pretty obvious. If expertise prevents an expert from seeing that, or at least standing up and saying so, then what value is the expertise? …

The sheer recklessness of what has been done in the name of annihilating Covid (which didn’t happen anyway) is difficult to measure. One thing was clear from the outset: the ‘experts’ really didn’t have a clue and I’d suggest to a large extent they still don’t. The best thing about Boris Johnson’s Partygate is that not only has it terminally undermined the Government’s authority and basis for locking us all down, but also it has flagged up the sheer idiotic stupidity of some of the rules that – even if one believed an initial lockdown had some benefit – were manifestly not going to make a difference.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Passes to be Scrapped Within Two Weeks

The Health Secretary has said Covid passes will be scrapped in England this month as the country’s Omicron wave continues to collapse. MailOnline has more

Sajid Javid is said to have told MPs [yesterday] that he shared their “instinctive discomfort” at the certificates, which 100 Tories voted against.

Ministers are also keen to ditch widespread working from home guidance when the current Plan B measures are reviewed on January 26th. It could mean that compulsory masks on public transport and in shops will be the only remaining curb.

Britain’s Covid cases have fallen week-on-week for the past eight days in a row, with 109,000 new positive tests on Thursday. Hospital admissions have also flatlined.

At a meeting with Tory MPs yesterday, Mr Javid hailed the “encouraging signs” – but warned that hospitals remained under “significant pressure”, the Times reports.

Currently, people in England need to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow to enter large events and nightclubs.

A Whitehall source told the newspaper: “There was always a very high threshold for the policy and it looks increasingly likely in a couple of weeks that threshold won’t be met. The way cases are going it will be hard to justify renewing.”

Boris Johnson faced his biggest Tory revolt since the start of the pandemic over the introduction of Plan B measures last month, with nearly 100 Conservatives defying the party whip to vote against them.

The PM’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost dramatically resigned in protest over the rollout of the curbs. Yesterday he slammed the “Covid theatre” of masks and passes, and called lockdown a “serious mistake”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has done a U-turn, announcing that all Covid restrictions will be lifted in Wales in two weeks in spite of describing England as an “outlier” last week because it had fewer restrictions than Wales. MailOnline has the story.

Mark Drakeford today confirmed all major coronavirus restrictions will be lifted in Wales in two weeks as he faced accusations of “overreacting” to the Omicron wave.

The Welsh Government will reopen nightclubs, end the rule of six in pubs and lift the 50-person limit on outdoor events.

Mr Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, had warned just one week ago on January 7th that the Omicron “storm is fully upon us” as he predicted the peak would not arrive for “another 10 to 14 days”.

He also slammed Boris Johnson’s decision not to impose similarly tough restrictions in England as he branded the neighbouring country an “outlier”.

But speaking this morning, Mr Drakeford said case numbers are now “coming down very rapidly” as he rejected accusations of a U-turn.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Sign this petition which specifically calls for mandatory face masks in shops and on public transport to be scrapped.

Stop Press 2: Daily cases have fallen below 100,000 in the U.K. for the first time since before Christmas. MailOnline has more.

No-Vaxx Djokovic Visa Cancelled Again in “Punitive” Late Move By Australian Government

The Australian Government has cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying the world tennis No. 1, who is unvaccinated for COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community. The following story is drawn from reporting in the Telegraph.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to again cancel Djokovic’s visa. Here is his statement in full:

Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.

This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on Jan 10th, 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.

In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.

The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I thank the officers of the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force who work every day to serve Australia’s interest in increasingly challenging operational environments.

Novak Djokovic arrived in Melbourne airport on January 5th claiming a vaccine exemption because of a positive PCR test result on December 16th. Border agents rejected his exemption, saying a recent infection was an insufficient justification, cancelled his visa and placed him in a detention centre. Djokovic went to court and a judge overturned the visa decision on procedural grounds because border officials at the airport failed to give him the agreed time to respond.

However, on the day of his claimed positive test in Serbia, he is known to have attended a ceremony to honour him with stamps bearing his image. The next day he attended a youth tennis event, not wearing a mask at either event. He has also admitted to a mistake on his Australian travel declaration, in which a box was ticked indicating that he had not, or would not, travel in the 14 days before flying to Melbourne. Social media posts and reports show him flying from Serbia to Spain during that period.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the sacrifices made by Australians during the pandemic must be respected.

New Emails Reveal Scientists Stifled Lab Leak Discussion to Protect “Science in China”

Back in June, Buzzfeed obtained a large cache of emails sent to and by Anthony Fauci. These included some amusing tidbits, such as when Fauci told his correspondent, “The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material.”

However, by far the most interesting item was an email sent by Professor Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute (see below).

Professor Andersen, a leading virologist, said of the virus that “some of the features (potentially) look engineered”. He added that he and several colleagues “all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory”.

Such an admission would have been noteworthy coming from any virologist, but what made this one particularly revealing is that – mere weeks later – Andersen co-authored a paper stating, “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible”.

That paper then became the definitive ‘refutation’ of the lab leak theory, even though it accomplished no such thing. As Nicholas Wade has written, “Dr Andersen and his colleagues were assuring their readers of something they could not know.” So why did Andersen’s view shift so dramatically in such short space of time? We still don’t know.

What we do know is that Andersen was far from the only top scientist who entertained the lab leak theory.

The Demolition of the Principles of Good Clinical Practice

I was fortunate enough to have studied at Leeds University Dental Institute. For me, the most important lessons were in the ethics and principles of clinical practice. These foundations exist to protect the public and ensure that they can trust us to provide any necessary care.

So what in particular did I learn and what would have prevented me from being allowed to qualify and have a licence to practice?

I had to study physiology, anatomy and pathology in great detail and be continually tested on these subjects before moving on to practical surgical and technical skills. One of the key considerations I had to have in mind when making the transition from theory and applying this to practice was to understand that not all specifically diagnosed cases are the same and that the health status of a patient is never fixed. It can be ever-changing and dynamic, so a clinician needs to be reactive to this.

We were also taught about perspective when assessing a patient. I was once pulled up by the Professor in Radiology for dwelling too long on one particular area of a radiograph in my determination to reach a diagnosis. The valuable lesson was that by doing this, I risked finding artefacts and missing the bigger picture. When it comes to safety, airline pilots, sea vessel captains and motorists should know the perils of focusing too much in one area, especially in an emergency. For Covid the bigger picture includes the latest data that shows  99.9987% of the under 20s and 97.1% of the elderly survive Covid.

Examination questions were very often designed to see how well we could accommodate these variables in order to tailor-make individual treatment plans. The complete antithesis of providing safe, effective healthcare would have been to rush in and provide a blanket ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment plan for every patient.

Not understanding and applying these principles would likely prevent you from qualifying as a dentist or a doctor. 

Apart from individualising treatment and monitoring for beneficial and adverse effects, further prescribing principles focused on the following: patient safety, identifying the most vulnerable, informed consent and prescribing within the limitations of your knowledge, skill and experience.

So, in the context of Covid, how well – how correctly and ethically – have we applied these basic principles in tackling the disease?

News Round-Up

Two More Downing Street Parties Come to Light

The Telegraph has an exclusive: Two leaving events for No 10 staff were held on eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, at which Her Majesty was forced to grieve alone due to Covid rules.

Downing Street staff drank alcohol into the early hours at two leaving events the night before Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral, The Telegraph can reveal.

On the evening of Friday April 16 2021, Britain was in a period of public mourning. Union flags on Government buildings across Westminster hung at half mast to mark the passing of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, the previous week.

With the country in step two of a strict lockdown roadmap, which barred indoor mixing, mourners were told not to leave flowers due to the Covid threat. A book of condolence was set up online to “reduce the risk of transmission” from physical signings.

In a private chapel in Windsor Castle the Prince’s coffin lay overnight. The next day the Queen, her face covered by a black mask, would say farewell to her husband of 73 years. With social distancing rules in force, she sat alone.

The atmosphere in Downing Street that Friday evening, however, was quite different. Advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events to mark the departure of two colleagues.

One was James Slack, Mr Johnson’s director of communications. He had served two Tory prime ministers, a rare carry-over from the Theresa May days, but was leaving after four years to become deputy editor at The Sun newspaper. The other was one of Mr Johnson’s personal photographers.

Eye-witnesses have talked to The Telegraph about what happened. It is alleged that excessive alcohol was drunk, while at points, guests danced. The gatherings stretched late into the night – well beyond midnight, according to one source.

They were, according to one who was there, undeniably parties.

Worth reading in full.

Will this be the final nail in Boris’s coffin? He wasn’t actually present at either of these parties – he’d already left for Chequers – but 30 members of your staff attending a party the day before Prince Philip’s funeral isn’t a good look, with the Queen having to mourn alone thanks to the Tier 2 restrictions. (This was in April, 2021.)

I was fairly bullish about Boris’s survival prospects, but less so now. How many more of these events are going to come to light? Conservative MPs will be worrying that the longer he remains in office, and the more revelations there are about No 10 rule-breaking, the more toxic the Party’s brand will become.