Will Jones

America’s Delta Surge

New Covid infections are surging in America, driven by the Delta variant. The states which reopened in the spring, such as Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, and defied the predictions of catastrophic exit waves, are now seeing surges. Florida, too, which reopened last autumn, is seeing a spike in infections, and hospital admissions are rising.

Reuters takes a look at how states are responding – which is by doing remarkably little, with the appetite for restrictions even in Blue states now that the vaccines are rolled out seemingly much lower than in previous outbreaks.

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U.S. Congressmen’s Report: The “Preponderance of Evidence Proves” the Virus Leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology

A report from Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the U.S. Congress has said the “preponderance of evidence proves” the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology “sometime before September 12th, 2019”.

The Telegraph summarises some of the main points of evidence.

The Republican report cited what it called under-reported information about laboratory safety protocols.

It detailed a request in July 2019 for a $1.5million overhaul of a hazardous waste treatment system, which was less than two years old. That request included maintenance on an “environmental air disinfection system”.

It raised questions about how well such systems were working in the months leading up to the outbreak, the report said.

The report said: “Such a significant renovation so soon after the facility began operation appears unusual.”

According to the report, satellite data in October showed a jump in visits to hospitals in Wuhan, along with a rise in people searching the internet for symptoms that could be linked to the virus.

It suggested the virus spread through Wuhan shortly before the Military World Games was held there in late October 2019.

In November, that event became an “international vector spreading the virus to multiple continents around the world” as athletes returned home, the report said.

The conclusions of this report are in line with earlier evidence set out on Lockdown Sceptics regarding the timeline of suspicious events and the smoking gun genetic evidence. This includes:

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the tenth of the regular round-ups of Covid vaccine safety reports and news compiled by a group of medical doctors who are monitoring developments but prefer to remain anonymous in the current climate (find the ninth one here). By no means is this part of an effort to generate alarm about the vaccines or dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. It should be read in conjunction with the Daily Sceptic‘s other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At the Daily Sceptic we report all the news about the vaccines whether positive or negative and give no one advice about whether they should or should not take them. Unlike with lockdowns, we are neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine; we see our job as reporting the facts, not advocating for or against a particular policy. The vaccine technology is novel and the vaccines have not yet fully completed their trials, which is why they’re in use under temporary and not full market authorisation. This has been done on account of the emergency situation and the trial data was largely encouraging on both efficacy and safety. For a summary of that data, see this preamble to the Government’s page on the Yellow Card reporting system. (Dr Tess Lawrie recently wrote an open letter to Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, arguing that: “The MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans,” a claim that has been “fact checked” here.) We publish information and opinion to inform public debate and help readers reach their own conclusions about what is best for them, based on the available data.

  • There have been international reports of adverse events following COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia (reporting the deaths of 131 health care workers post Sinovac vaccine), India and Canada (reporting 22 cases of heart inflammation).
  • Further reports of Bell’s Palsy developing following vaccination, including a featured case report in the BMJ. Immunologist Dr. J. Bart Classen has written in the Journal of Medical – Clinical Research & Reviews on the risk of Parkinson’s disease following Covid vaccination, especially AstraZeneca (summarised here).
  • A study in the Lancet suggests that antibody responses wane rapidly and are low within two months of vaccination (though the authors note that protection via cellular immunity may remain).
  • A report on ‘breakthrough’ cases from NBC Boston, reporting 5,100 cases in Massachusetts and 80 subsequent deaths. 
  • The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said that it supports the recommendations of the JCVI on not vaccinating children below the age of 18 unless they have underlying health conditions.
  • The inventor of mRNA technology, Dr. Robert Malone, has spoken of his fear that current data shows a worrying trend of possible ADE (Antibody-Dependent Enhancement) as the vaccine may cause the virus to be more dangerous in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.
  • Lawyers have warned that ‘ethical veganism’ is a protected belief that would be among those that would have to respected in any effort to introduce mandatory vaccination in workplaces, the Telegraph reports
  • Chief Midwife for England, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, has penned a letter to midwives, obstetricians and GP practices, asking them to recommend COVID-19 vaccines to pregnant women.  This follows some surveillance data that suggests some increased risk to pregnant women from the Delta variant. A study interim report published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that while 13% of the 827 vaccinated women in the study suffered a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), this is not an elevated number. Dr. Peter McCullough has written in TrialSiteNews detailing some serious concerns with the study, stating: “The effect of the vaccines on early pregnancy losses (<20 weeks) is concerning and remains to be determined.” To date the Yellow Card system has reported 600 adverse events relating to pregnancy conditions including 10 deaths and 381 spontaneous abortions.
  • A Spanish preprint study in the Lancet suggests that the safety profiles of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are similar in terms of blood clotting. It also suggests that the risk of blood clotting is greater for those infected with SARS-CoV-2.
  • A preprint study in Medrxiv reports no difference in viral loads when comparing unvaccinated people to those who have ‘breakthrough’ infections post-vaccine, suggesting “that if vaccinated individuals become infected with the Delta variant, they may be sources of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to others”. 
  • Report in the Telegraph that AstraZeneca may end its future development of vaccines after offering its COVID-19 vaccine at cost to contribute to the pandemic effort. Pfizer, on the other hand, has reported record profits and is discussing increasing the costs of booster shots, according to the Guardian.
  • Statistician Mathew Crawford has argued that the CDC’s definition of a safety signal prevents it from picking up safety problems with the Covid vaccines, essentially because it compares the Covid vaccines to one another rather than to an established baseline.
  • VAERS – the American version of the Yellow Card reporting system – released new data on July 23rd bringing the total to 518,581 reports of 2,426,531 adverse events following Covid vaccines, including 11,940 deaths.
  • EudraVigilance – the equivalent of the Yellow Card reporting system in the EU – has logged (up to July 31st) 779,048 reports of 1,940,012 adverse events, including 20,595 deaths.
  • Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: Gemma O’Shea (35); Natalie Simpson (38).

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on July 21st, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,102,228 events based on 331,240 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,517.

  • Pfizer (20.4 million first doses, 12.9 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 215 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 43,777 people vaccinated (466).
  • AstraZeneca (24.7 million first doses, 23.2 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 110 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 24,263 people vaccinated (1,018).
  • Moderna (1.3 million first doses, 0.3 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 118 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 162,500 people vaccinated (8).

Does This Data From Public Health Scotland Show that Vaccine Effectiveness Against Death is Just 46%?

How well do the vaccines protect from death? The two most recent weekly reports from Public Health Scotland give us death data by vaccination status, and by subtracting one from the other we can work out how many Covid patients died in the week July 9th-15th. The results are shown below.

We see that 38 people died with Covid that week, 37 of whom were over 50. Twenty-eight (74%) were fully vaccinated (18 of whom were over 80 and 24 were over 70). Thirty-three (87%) had had at least one dose. Just five (13%) were unvaccinated.

To fully interpret these we need to know how many people were vaccinated in each age group. The problem with obtaining this information is that the official Scottish statistics appear to use the same method as the NHS for estimating vaccine coverage, which gives figures which exceed the likely more accurate estimates of Public Health England by around 5%.

Positive Covid Tests Drop Week-on-Week for 10th Day in a Row

Positive Covid tests fell again today, both compared to yesterday and compared to last Saturday, making it the tenth day in a row reported infections have dropped week-on-week. MailOnline has more.

Covid cases have fallen week-on-week for the tenth day in a row, in another sign of hope as the pandemic appears to be shrinking — but experts warn the drop off could be down to less [sic] people getting tests.  

Department of Health bosses posted 26,144 infections today, down 17.8% on last Saturday’s figure of 31,795.

And the number of people dying with the virus has fallen to 71. The number of victims decreased 17.4% from 86 last Saturday.

The baffled Government scientists, whose gloomy predictions continue not to materialise, have now come up with another reason why positive test reports might be dropping: people are avoiding being tested because they don’t want to self-isolate.

I suppose some will be, with holidays approaching. But the ONS breakdown by age also suggests there’s a difference in the infection rate between people under 16 and over 16, with the latter having peaked while the former had not as of July 24th. That in itself is a bit confusing, as children under 16 don’t live on their own, but it does suggest that some of the drop in positive tests reported by PHE might be because parents have stopped testing their children.

Doesn’t It All Seem So Very Odd?

There follows a guest post by retired dentist Dr. Mark Shaw on the strangeness of this ongoing ‘pandemic’.

I was booked in for a telephone consultation with a new representative from my pension company recently.  We introduced ourselves and somehow couldn’t avoid the subject of Covid. I didn’t want to get too involved in a potentially awkward discussion but couldn’t hold back from highlighting the illogic in so much of the Government’s response to the disease. I sensed he too wanted to remain neutral so it was both a relief and quite surprising to hear him respond with: “I have to agree – it all does seem so very odd.”

Do I sense a point in time, a turning point, now where more and more people are thinking the same?

In the last 18 months:

Why Isn’t It “All Over Bar the Shouting”? Why Aren’t We Back to Normal Yet?

Positive Covid tests as reported by Public Health England declined again yesterday to 29,622 after two days of going up a bit. ONS data, also out yesterday, confirmed that infections have peaked and declined in the past 10 days among people over 16 – though, unexpectedly, also showed a surge among the under-16s that appears not to have been picked up by PHE. Is this because parents have stopped testing their children and reporting it to PHE now school is out and holidays are approaching? Some have suggested the ONS is picking up ‘cold positives’ from old infections. Either way, all eyes are on the data to see what will happen next.

But should they be? After all, what now are we waiting for? All the vulnerable and more are vaccinated, and the vaccines appear to give a decent enough protection from serious disease and death. Or even if they don’t, there’s nothing more that can be done, so we might as well go back to normal anyway and the virus will do whatever it does, and the vaccines will do whatever they do.

With all our delaying of lifting restrictions – planning to take an indefensible four months over it and in the event taking five, and then doing it half-heartedly, leaving strongly-worded guidance in place – it’s hard to believe that Florida ended all statewide restrictions in autumn 2020 and Texas and some other states did so in spring 2021. They saw no new surge after the winter – not until Delta arrived in the last few weeks, suggesting that it’s not lifting restrictions that causes surges (and thus it wasn’t imposing them that ended them) but new variants, presumably due to their partial immune evasion temporarily disrupting herd immunity.

But even so, Delta has shown that it’s nothing much to be afraid of, with the U.K.’s infection rate dropping following the lifting of restrictions on July 19th, having peaked by specimen date on July 15th at 60,665 positive tests. Scotland peaked over two weeks earlier at the end of June.

What more, then, is the Government waiting for? The only reason we were given for still being cautious was uncertainty over the threat from Delta, with Government advisers issuing warnings in the run-up to ‘Freedom Day’ of massive waves of infections and hospitalisations. We now know that this didn’t happen. Even if reported infections don’t continue to drop like they have in the last fortnight, we know that the threat was greatly overblown and the doomy models (which have always exaggerated the risk, as Sweden and South Dakota attest) can’t be trusted.

Is Christopher Snowdon an Anti-Vaxxer?

Christopher Snowdon is plainly an anti-vaxxer, however well he tries to hide it. “Existing Covid vaccines are simply not good enough at preventing transmission and infection,” he writes. Hasn’t he read the trial results, showing 95% efficacy against infection for the Pfizer vaccine and 74% for the AstraZeneca vaccine? Or the large population study from Israel showing Pfizer’s 92% efficacy? Or the study from Public Health England showing 67% and 88% vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant for AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines respectively?

On what does he base his bald assertion that they are “not good enough at preventing transmission and infection”? Clearly not the science. He doesn’t appear to feel it necessary to give a single scientific reference for a claim that flies in the face of all these respectable studies, leaving the baffled reader assuming he must have picked it up in some article he read on an obscure website somewhere, presumably by a pseudo-scientific sceptic in denial.

This, of course, is not the way to go about intelligently criticising someone’s viewpoint. Which is precisely my point. As it happens, I agree with Christopher that the current vaccines are not very good at preventing infection or transmission, particularly now the Delta variant is in town. But I’m also aware that that is not the current mainstream scientific position (though it is based on recent official data and reports). Rather, it is currently a claim being circulated among the very networks that Christopher pillories in his recent piece in Quillette, naming and shaming the “coronavirus cranks”.

It seems, then, that Christopher is not averse to a spot of ‘crankery’ himself. But how helpful really is all this name-calling, mudslinging and smear by association? Science does not advance by consensus, by everyone agreeing, or by closing down dissenters. Christopher himself is evidently sceptical of one of the key mainstream vaccine claims – that they are highly effective against infection and transmission – so inadvertently places himself within the ambit of his own polemic. Indeed, at one point he fires a shot at the ‘smileys’, as he calls sceptics, for being sceptical of the vaccines, arguing the jabs “have been tested in clinical trials and have demonstrated their safety and effectiveness beyond reasonable doubt in recent months”. Yet he himself goes on to doubt their effectiveness!

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