David Livermore

A Curate’s Egg of a Public Inquiry

by David Livermore The U.K. Government has published Draft Terms of Reference for its Inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic. Final Terms will be published once the chair, Baroness Hallett, has "consulted with the public, including with bereaved families and other affected groups". Baroness Hallett is a retired Court of Appeal judge and crossbench peer. She acted as coroner for the victims of the 7/7 bombings, and the BBC once claimed she was the "eighth most powerful woman in England". When her role was announced she was quoted as saying: The pandemic has affected us all, some much worse than others. I am acutely conscious of the suffering it has caused to so many.I shall do my utmost to ensure the Inquiry answers as many questions as possible about the U.K.'s response to the pandemic, so that we can all learn lessons for the future. I hope I can add some constructive suggestions. For, like the proverbial curate’s egg, I find the Draft Terms ‘Good in Parts’. And the bad bits are mostly gaps, not incipient putrefaction. We’re promised that the Inquiry will: Examine the COVID-19 response and the impact of the pandemic… and produce a factual narrative account. Including:• In relation to central, devolved and local public health decision-making and its consequences .• preparedness and resilience;• how decisions were made,...

The Futility and Hazards of Boosterism

by Professor David Livermore The Government’s answer to Omicron is boosters, boosters and more boosters. Everyone over 18 is eligible. Early queues exceeded five hours; December 18th saw 904,000 boosted. Israel is doling out fourth shots to the over-60s and Germany plans to follow suit. Please don’t lump me with the anti-vaxxers as I roll my eyes. The present vaccines are invaluable for preventing severe COVID-19 – probably via a T-cell mechanism – in anyone of late middle age or above, or with vulnerabilities. But those of us who broadly support vaccination must be honest: Spring’s fond notion that we could mass vaccinate our way out of the pandemic, as with measles or polio, is a busted flush. The dash for boosters only underscores the point. The core problem is that the vaccines give only brief protection against infection. Moreover, they are ‘leaky’, and SARS-CoV2 can outflank them. Clinical trials suggested that the doubly vaccinated initially enjoyed 90% protection against infection. But, with ageing vaccination and circulating Delta, this eroded by summer’s end. Omicron is even more evasive. At a December party in Oslo, where 98% of 117 guests had been double vaccinated, 74% caught COVID. Boosters restore protection to 71-76%, but this doesn’t last long. Early UKHSA evidence is that it’s down by 15-25% within 10 weeks. Worse, by...

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