Day: 24 January 2022

Wales Would “Not Rule Out” Recruiting Unvaccinated NHS Workers Sacked in England Over Vaccine Mandate

Well that was unexpected. Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford – who has consistently erred on the side of totalitarian when responding to the pandemic – has said he would “not rule out” recruiting NHS workers from England who leave their jobs due to its mandatory vaccination policy. The BBC has the story.

Vaccines are not compulsory for NHS staff in Wales.

Mr Drakeford said a “vast majority” of care sector staff had also taken the “protections that vaccination offers”.

When asked if he would take on NHS staff from England, Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House: “We wouldn’t rule it out but it would depend on what anybody said in an interview when they were applying for a job.

“We’re not going to make vaccinations mandatory in our NHS,” he said.

“We haven’t in our social care services because we have succeeded by persuasion by getting the vast majority of people who work in our services to do the right thing and take up the protections that vaccination offers.”

NHS staff in England must have a first jab by February 3rd and be fully vaccinated by April 1st to continue in frontline roles.

The U.K.’s Department of Health said there were no plans to delay and it was “the right thing to do to protect patients”.

Mr Drakeford said: “I don’t expect us to go looking for people who have not been vaccinated but, if people apply, then they would be interviewed in the normal way.

“We’d look to see what lay behind their decision.

“We wouldn’t rule them out but we certainly won’t be going out there looking for them.”

Come on Boris, when you’re being outflanked on freedom by Mark Drakeford you know you’ve gone wrong somewhere.

Worth reading in full.

WHO Claims We’re Only at “Halfway Mark” of Pandemic and Warns Against Treating Covid Like Flu

The World Health Organisation has said we are only at the “halfway mark” of the pandemic and warned against treating Covid like flu, days after the Government said it intended to do just that. MailOnline has the story.

David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy for Covid, said the comparisons were irresponsible because they suggest coronavirus “has suddenly got incredibly weak”.

He told Sky News: “It can also mutate and form variants and we’ve seen several but we know there are more not far away. 

“So quite honestly, we are not saying that this should be considered to be like flu or indeed like anything else – it’s a new virus, and we must go on treating it as though it is full of surprises, very nasty and rather cunning.”

The official called on leaders to “stay focused on the job” as he claimed we were only at the “halfway mark” of the pandemic. 

Parallels between coronavirus and influenza are being drawn in the U.K. now that Omicron is causing around the same number of deaths as a bad flu season.    

Boris Johnson last week signalled his intention to lift isolation rules for Covid sufferers, highlighting that people with flu don’t legally have to quarantine. 

And Health Secretary Sajid Javid pointed to the U.K.’s falling case numbers and relatively low hospital rates as he said “we need to learn to live with Covid in the same way we have to live with flu”.

Asked about the comparisons, Dr. Nabarro told Sky News: “I keep wondering what the people who make these amazing predictions know that I and my colleagues in the WHO don’t know.

“You see, what people are seeing from around the world and reporting to the WHO is this is still a very, very dangerous virus, especially for people who have not been vaccinated and who’ve not been exposed to it before.”

Did you spot the factual error there, saying Omicron was causing the same number of deaths as a bad flu season when deaths in the most recent week were well below average?

Dr. Nabarro’s comments also make no sense in the U.K. context, as he refers to “people who have not been vaccinated and who’ve not been exposed to it before”, which refers to almost zero percent of the U.K. population.

Will they ever let the emergency end?

Worth reading in full.

2021 Less Deadly Than 2015, ONS Data Show

Many lockdown sceptics have recently been sharing statistics from the ONS showing that just 17,371 people died of Covid in England and Wales up to the end of September 2021 where COVID-19 was the only cause of death recorded on the death certificate. This compares to 148,536 official Covid deaths in the same period (also for England and Wales, as are the estimates below) where COVID-19 was mentioned as a cause of death somewhere on the death certificate. Separately, the Government dashboard reported 126,384 deaths recorded as occurring within 28 days of a positive Covid test in the same period, while the ONS reported 117,247 excess deaths.

A more recent response to a Freedom of Information request in January gives a figure of just 6,183 deaths, again where COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned on the death certificate, this time up to December 31st 2021. The reason for the difference in these two figures is likely to relate to the definition used – the first figure (17,371) came from a dataset on pre-existing conditions that has been published throughout the pandemic (so didn’t actually need an FOI request to provide the data) and the definition is stated in the dataset. The definition and source of the second figure (6,183) is not stated.

Either way, the figures are an order of magnitude lower than official Covid deaths – for example, 17,371 is just 12% of the official ONS tally of Covid deaths of 148,536 – and some sceptics have inferred from this that up to 90% of the official Covid deaths are not really Covid deaths, or at least were likely to have happened around that time anyway, and thus that the pandemic death toll has been hugely overstated.

Government Scraps Covid Tests for Travel – But Only For the Vaccinated, Despite Government Data Showing the Vaccinated Have Higher Infection Rates

Holidaymakers who are double-vaccinated will no longer have to take any Covid tests for travel abroad, Boris Johnson has said. The Telegraph has more.

Speaking on a visit to a hospital, the Prime Minister said that day two lateral flow tests – which are currently required for fully vaccinated people entering the U.K. – would be ditched, saving a family of four around £120. The changes are expected to come into effect at 4am on February 11th.

It follows the ending of pre-departure and PCR tests for vaccinated travellers earlier this month and will be seen as a major filip for the travel industry in advance of the February half-term break. …

Holiday firms have already reported a surge in bookings for half term after the easing of restrictions and in anticipation of further lifting of curbs.

Speaking ahead of a Covid-O cabinet committee meeting on Monday, Mr Johnson said the country was moving through the Omicron wave and “things are starting to get better”.

“On travel, to show the country is open for business, we will see changes that people no longer have to take tests if they are double-vaccinated,” he said during his visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire. …

Bookings to all holiday destinations have already jumped by 67% on average compared with December 2021, according to analysts Skyscanner.

Some international and long-haul beach and sun destinations are seeing demand return to levels above that in 2019 before the pandemic, according to the company.

The destinations with the fastest growing bookings are Maldives (up 125%), Mexico (up 110%), Costa Rica (72%), Colombia (48%), and Tanzania (39%).

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “When it happens, it will be a terrific boost for the travel sector and crucially for consumers. It will mean cheaper holidays and business trips and the end of the testing nightmare the industry has faced for nearly two years.”

But why only the double-vaccinated? Nobody now pretends that two vaccine doses provides any kind of protection against Omicron infection. The UKHSA estimates vaccine effectiveness of two doses against Omicron after six months of just 0-10%. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has stated that two doses are “not enough for Omicron… We have seen with a second dose very clearly that the first thing that we lost was the protection against infections”. Government data show infection rates in the double vaccinated have been considerably higher than in the unvaccinated across most age groups for some months. Where then is the evidence behind this continued restriction on the unvaccinated? It has no scientific basis, plainly is now solely to add coercive pressure to the unvaccinated to get the jab, and should be dropped.

Worth reading in full.

New York Times Mentions ‘Original Antigenic Sin’

Several datasets have shown what appears to be negative vaccine effectiveness against infection – of higher infection rates among the vaccinated than among the unvaccinated. While this was phenomenon was initially ascribed to the use of incorrect denominators when estimating infection rates, it’s now too widespread to ignore.

One possible explanation for negative vaccine effectiveness is original antigenic sin – a property of the immune system’s response to some viruses.  

When the immune system encounters a novel pathogen, it responds to the pathogen’s antigens. Original antigenic sin means that when it encounters a related version of the pathogen, it may respond to the antigens carried by the original version. The result is weaker immunity.

If original antigenic sin exists for the Covid vaccines, then vaccinated people might actually have weaker immunity against certain variants – either now or in the future – because the vaccines have ‘programmed’ their immune systems to target the Wuhan strain.

While a number of sceptics and other ‘non-mainstream’ commentators have mentioned original antigenic sin in this context, we haven’t heard much about it from ‘mainstream’ commentators.

One exception was an op-ed written by three virologists, two of whom resigned from the FDA when the Biden Administration approved booster shots for 16 and 17 year olds without consulting a key advisory panel. In the op-ed, Philip Krause and colleagues point out that “boosting on the original antigen could be counterproductive”.

More recently, original antigenic sin found its way into the New York Times – America’s ‘newspaper of record’. “Some experts have raised concerns,” the article notes, that getting boosters too often “may even be harmful”. And one “plausible” reason why is “original antigenic sin”.

The article goes on to quote Harvard vaccine scientist Amy Sherman as saying, “We have enough clues that it could be a problem.”

There’s certainly no proof that original antigenic sin exists for the Covid vaccines. But the evidence is growing. And it’s summarised in this detailed piece for the Epoch Times by Todd Zywicki. He concludes:

More evidence will be needed before one can raise definitive concern about the risk of OAS with respect to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. But theory, laboratory evidence, and clinical analysis all point to this as a rapidly emerging risk of the current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, and one that could be exacerbated by widespread application of booster shots,

As to the alternative explanation that’s been put forward for higher infection rates among vaccinated people – that they take more risks – Zywicki offers a comprehensive rebuttal:

Reams of data and studies demonstrate that not only are these suppositions groundless, they are also exactly opposite to reality. Studies demonstrate what everyday experience during the pandemic tells us – that vaccinated individuals are much more likely to fear SARS-CoV-2 more than unvaccinated and more likely to take precautions against potential COVID-19 infection.

Original antigenic sin ought to be getting a lot more attention from public health authorities. In the meantime, Zywicki’s article is worth reading in full.

Macron Says, “No Vaxx, No Citizenship” as France Unveils New, Stricter Vaccine Passports

We’re publishing today a piece by Josie Appleton on the introduction in France today of the beefed-up vaccine passports and how they signify the almost mystical role the vaccines have taken on during the pandemic. Josie – who is author of Toxic Sociality – Reflections on a Pandemic and Officious – Rise of the Busybody State – sees in this an undermining of medical ethics that only harms vaccination itself.

Here’s a taster:

The vaccine passport is a citizenship test for a morally and politically vacuous age. It is entirely passive – it is the simple act of consenting to a medical procedure, after which you are crowned with a civic virtue. This is a citizenship test that occurs on the level of what the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls “bare life”; that is, it is a question of merely biological existence, rather than a question of how a life is lived. Receiving a vaccine pass is mute; there are no words, there is no oath of allegiance to party, country or leader. You offer your body and receive a QR code in return: this is the nature of the new social contract between citizen and state. “Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate” is the mantra for reconstituting authority and society in an age where this authority cannot be grounded on a substantial social basis.

The vaccine is being treated as a mystical state or collective substance that incorporates people into the collective body. Vaccination now is like a sacrament, a transubstantiation ritual; through the vaccine we are receiving the body of the state into our body and therefore joining the community.

One casualty in this is vaccination itself. Considered scientifically, a vaccine – as with any drug – is not a protective talisman or means for membership of a community. It is a medical product with particular qualities and uses, and particular side effects and risks. It may be useful for some groups but not others, and in some contexts but not in others. The rational use of a drug is as important as the drug itself, to ensure that it is directed towards the appropriate ends.

The ideological weaponisation of vaccines distorts these cost-benefit judgements. The vaccine is forced upon people who have little or no need of it, such as children and those with natural immunity, while ignoring those who have need of it. (The older and more vulnerable someone is, the less they are affected by vaccine passports.)

This episode is violating the very basis of health and medical ethics. Through vaccination passports and mandates, it has become acceptable to force someone to take a medical treatment, even a treatment that is not really in their medical interest. When Jean Castex boasted that the vaccine passport led to a rise in people getting their first vaccination, the interviewer pointed out “but they were forced”. Castex shrugged. In normal times, medical force is unacceptable; medical force means the Nazis. When France began vaccinating a year ago, it insisted upon consent forms and pre-vaccine interviews to ensure that people were really consenting. Now, the use of force has become entirely acceptable, it has become ethical in fact. It is the duty of the state to get people to do their duty.

Worth reading in full.

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