Australia

Data From Iceland and Australia Confirm: Vaccine Effectiveness Is Overstated

Back in March, I wrote a post noting that excess mortality data from Europe and Israel were hard to reconcile with claims of 90% vaccine effectiveness against death. However, I also noted that some countries data were consistent with very high vaccine effectiveness against death.

The two examples I gave were Australia and Iceland – both countries with very high vaccination rates. By the end of 2021, each country had double-vaccinated 77% of its population, compared to only 70% in the U.K. and only 63% in the U.S. (see below).

At the time I wrote the post, Iceland had only seen a minor uptick in excess mortality, while Australia had not seen any at all – despite both countries experiencing major outbreaks in the winter/spring of 2022. If countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Israel had seen deadly post-vaccination waves, why hadn’t Iceland and Australia? That was the puzzle.

Covid in Australia – a Doctor’s Perspective

There follows a guest post by a doctor in Australia, who prefers to remain anonymous, about his experience of the pandemic Down Under.

I entered General Practice 34 years ago in rural New South Wales. Needless to say, the changes since then have been immense.

In 1988, most GP’s admitted and cared for patients in hospitals, did regular house calls, delivered babies, performed surgery and practiced anaesthetics. Now, other than in remote rural locations, very few provide any of these services. As many patients inform me, most GPs seem to want to only look at their computers, order tests, prescribe drugs, give immunisations and refer to the specialists.

Twenty years ago, I underwent specialist training in Sports and Exercise Medicine, and now work purely in that area. I remain, however, registered as a General Practitioner. The Australian health system has plenty of similarities with the British system, though has a number of features which differentiate the two. In Australia, the vast majority of GPs work in the private system, working as contractors to health centres, being employed by private practices, running practices themselves, or in a dwindling number of cases working as solo GPs. Very few work as employees of the public sector or NGOs.

Each state has a Health Department, which can impose different regulations on GPs, such as Covid vaccination requirements, and runs the public hospitals in that state; the Federal Government also has a Health Department which oversees the registration of doctors, pharmaceutical benefits scheme and health budgets. Registration is governed by the Australian Health Professional Regulation Agency (AHPRA) via the Medical Boards. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) controls drug and device availability. There are both Federal and State Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) dictating policy settings. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is a lobby group representing less than 15% of doctors, but has political sway. Continuing education and training is provided by the Colleges – in the case of General Practice, this is both the Royal Australian College of General Practice (RACGP) and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACCRM).

Early on after the advent of the Covid vaccination program, the TGA banned prescription of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for Covid infections, partly as they were seen as possible threats to vaccine uptake. Recently, the prescription of hydroxychloroquine for Covid infections again became legal, though only in Queensland.

EU Excess Mortality Suggests that Vaccine Effectiveness Has Been Overestimated

One piece of evidence that vaccine effectiveness against death has been overestimated is that some countries’ post-vaccination waves were as or more deadly than their pre-vaccination waves – when going by excess mortality. These countries include Israel, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.

Take Israel, for example. Despite having gone through two previous waves of Covid, and having double-vaccinated 55% of its population, the country saw a major third wave in the autumn of 2021. During this wave, excess mortality was higher than it had been in the winter of 2020-21.

Israel then saw another wave of Covid in January of 2022, during which excess mortality again peaked at higher level than it had done last winter. And this was after the country had begun rolling out fourth doses. It’s hard to reconcile the overall pattern with claims of, say, 90% effectiveness against death.

But perhaps I’m cherry-picking. What if the patterns of excess mortality in the five countries mentioned above are explained by some as-of-yet unknown idiosyncratic factors (as opposed to lower-than-claimed vaccine effectiveness)?

It’s hard to imagine what those idiosyncratic factors might be. What’s more, the five countries have something in common – they all experienced below-average excess deaths in their pre-vaccination waves. As a result, there may have been more very frail elderly people alive when their post-vaccination waves hit.

Another way to adress the charge of cherry-picking is to zoom out, and look at data for a larger grouping. Here’s monthly excess mortality for the EU-27 as a whole. (Four years of data from 2016-2019 were used to calculate the baseline, rather than the usual five.)

When it Comes to Managing the Pandemic, is Australia Bottom of the International League Table?

We’re publishing a guest post this morning by Steve Waterson, Commercial Editor of the Australian. He is concerned that a myth is quickly growing in Australia that the country managed the pandemic rather well. As he points out, that’s only true if you ignore the curfews, the house arrest, no visitors, toilet paper battles, five-kilometre limits, an hour a day of exercise, closed borders, internationally and internally, closed pubs, restaurants, shops, parks, gyms, beaches and golf courses.

At a Sydney restaurant last month I found myself sitting next to a woman I’d never met before, the wife of one of the other guests.

We’d already endured the unattractive, passive-aggressive, American-style formulation of “I need you to check in”, from one of the staff, who then “needed” us to wear a mask for the five metres and six seconds between the entrance and our table.

My old-man mutterings about a time when people began such requests with “Would you mind …” or “Could I trouble you to …” were interrupted by my cheery new dining companion. “You shouldn’t really be complaining,” she smiled. “Australia has done better than anywhere else in handling the pandemic.”

Heroically resisting the urge to up-end the table, I made a few polite observations in response, until my wife gave me her “nobody needs another rant from you” look and piloted the conversation into more tranquil waters.

It’s barely two years since the Covid lunacy first infected us, but already its history is being rewritten. In newspaper columns and on television, opinion-laden pundits are patting the enforcers and the obedient on the back, reassuring themselves with this dazzling myth that we managed our pandemic with admirable wisdom and efficiency.

Lacklustre politicians are understandably keen to embrace and promote this view, starting with the Prime Minister’s mantra that we “saved 30,000 lives”. Did we, though? Figures emerging from the few places that didn’t impose life-changing restrictions on their populations suggest they made next to no difference.

At best we tacked an extra couple of months on to the lives of some very old people in nursing homes, then immediately cancelled whatever benefit that afforded them by turning their last weeks into a lonely, bewildering, miserable slide towards the grave when they were forbidden to see family and friends and were attended by carers dressed like astronauts. They’re mostly dead by now, but I trust they slipped away with a message of gratitude on their lips.

Florida Saved U.S. From “Looking Like Canada or Australia”, Says Governor Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said his anti-lockdown policies in Florida helped prevent America from looking “like Canada or Australia”. The Telegraph has the story.

Addressing an enthusiastic crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – a proving ground for all presidential contenders – Mr. DeSantis touted his handling of the pandemic as Florida’s Governor.

Describing his anti-vaccine [sic], anti-mask agenda, he celebrated his defiance of “health bureaucrats”.

“We led early on when the weight of the world was coming bearing down,” he said to cheers from the crowd, some of whom wore capes and carried flags reading “DeSantis Land”.

He added: “I really believe had Florida not led the way, this country could look like Canada or Australia”, referencing the two countries’ strict coronavirus restrictions during the pandemic.

At another point, he said: “People look to Florida as a citadel of freedom who are chafing under authoritarian rule all over the world.”

Senator Ted Cruz also stressed his opposition to public health authoritarianism and alarmism in his address to the conference.

Panic Merchants, Be Gone… Covid is Just Another Virus

From the very start of the pandemic, a small but critical minority of us has argued that irrespective of the paths taken to get there, the end state will be living with COVID-19 as an endemic virus. The key question was never: how do we eradicate this virus? Rather: what is the level of risk that we are prepared to accept and live with?

Unfortunately, like cascading dominoes, governments all over the world engaged in herd behaviour to lock down their countries based on apocalyptic modelling projections.

Models are neither science nor data but a set of assumptions that generate their own tautological conclusions. The Spectator has a brutal set of charts showing the wildly inaccurate projections of most models by various British teams that vastly overestimated the harms with regard to cases, hospitalisations, ICU occupancy and deaths.

The actual data was massively better than the best-case scenarios of the original Doherty Institute modelling of March 2020.

The serial parties in No. 10 suggest the people at the very top of the British government knew the risks were low but terrified the populace into blind compliance with draconian curtailments of liberties just because they could.

At best, non-pharmaceutical interventions so beloved by governments keen to indulge their inner bossiness have had only a modest effect on the life cycle of each outbreak. Successive waves powered by new variants seem to rise and fall according to similar patterns – independent of the timing and duration of restrictions.

Australia: Another Country Where Covid Infections and Deaths Have Been Far Higher Since the Vaccine Rollout

There follows a guest post by Ramesh Thakur, Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University and former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is based in Ocean Shores, NSW, Australia.

What does the Australian experience teach us about the efficacy of Covid vaccines? Why, for instance, have infections and ICU admissions been hugely higher after vaccination campaigns really got under way? Australia hit 50% of the population double-vaccinated (meaning a much higher percentage of the adult population) on October 10th 2021, and 70% in mid-November. On October 10th our total Covid-related deaths were 1,448. On February 15th 2022, with 79% of the total population fully vaccinated, the total number of deaths was 4,726. So the number who died with Covid after we hit 50% vaccination is 2.3 times higher than the number before that point.

To come to the same conclusion from a slightly different angle – Our previous highest Covid mortality rate was 0.85 daily new deaths per million people, on September 3rd 2020. On that date, vaccines had not yet been developed anywhere in the world. The rate was exceeded on January 11th this year with 0.97 daily new deaths per million people, when we had 77.5% of the total population fully vaccinated. The rate peaked on January 30th at 3.39 daily new deaths per million people: four times higher than the pre-vaccination peak. At this time 78.3% of the population was fully vaccinated.

One Billion Taxpayer Dollars to Save the Great Barrier Reef – But There’s No Evidence It’s Dying

The near vertiginous rise in the growth of coral over the last five years across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef should put the tin hat on the ubiquitous Armageddon predictions of the imminent collapse of the reef – at least for the time being. According to the latest survey by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AMS), coral cover rose by 27% in the northern reef. Massive growth of 26% and 39% were recorded in the central and southern areas respectively.

As late as October 2020, the BBC was telling stories about the Reef losing half its coral and citing a study that said it was due to “warmer seas driven by climate change”. No doubt the recent heartening news of recovery will delight Extinction Rebellion supporter and Guardian activist George Monbiot. He was one of the first to start the coral doomsday ball rolling by telling his readers in 1999 that the “imminent total destruction of the world’s coral reefs is not a scare story”. Forecasting that most of the coral in the Indian Ocean will die by 2000, he suggested that one of the world’s great ecosystems “is now on the point of total collapse”.

Tropical coral thrives in waters between 24°C and 32°C. It is highly adaptable but seems to dislike sudden changes in temperature, often caused by natural weather oscillations such as El Niño events. Under such conditions it can die back and bleach, but as recent evidence shows, it quickly recovers when normal localised conditions return. Global warming started to run out of steam a couple of decades ago and there has been a standstill for at least seven years. However, minor long term temperature changes are unlikely to cause many problems for highly resilient coral. The resilience is clearly shown below in the latest AMS figures for the northern Reef.

The recovery was just as dramatic in the central part of the reef.

Sea Temperatures at the Great Barrier Reef Haven’t Increased in 150 Years, Newly Uncovered Data Show

This is the latest piece by freelance journalist Chris Morrison, who we’ve just appointed our Environment Editor. Chris started in financial journalism in the late 1970s and for nearly 20 years ran a company – Evandale Publishing – that he set up himself and eventually sold.

An 1871 dataset of sea temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has been compared to recent measurements logged at the same reef areas. No differences in temperature were found by Dr. Bill Johnson, leading him to conclude: “Alarming claims that the East Australian Current has warmed due to global warming are therefore without foundation.”

The 1871 temperatures were taken by the SS Governor Blackall steamship on a voyage around the Australian east coast to observe a total eclipse of the sun in the north of the continent. Hourly measurements were made between 6am and 6pm every day in the voyage from Port Stanley, north of Sydney, to Cape York and repeated on the journey back. Dr. Johnson, a former research scientist at the New South Wales Department of Natural Resources, allowed for the considerable seasonal variations in temperature across the reef but concluded that nothing much had changed. He said there was no evidence that the system regulating temperature had broken down “or is likely to break down in the future”.

Needless to say, such stories do not tend to appear in the media, most of which is firmly wedded to the notion that human-caused global warming is destroying the coral reefs around the world.  In October 2020, the BBC reported that the Great Barrier Reef had lost half of its coral since 1995, citing a report that said it was due to “warmer seas driven by climate change”. But Professor Peter Ridd, who has spent 40 years observing the reef, noted recently that it was in robust good health. Coral growth rates have if anything “increased over the last 100 years”. The graph below, compiled by Ridd from Australian Institute of Marine Science records, illustrates recent growth.

Two Years Later, Australia to Reopen to (Vaccinated) Tourists

After two years of borders shut tight in support of a doomed Zero Covid strategy, Australia is to welcome vaccinated tourists again by March, with the Government set to announce a reopening date as early as Monday. The Daily Mail has the story.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said allowing the return of vaccinated holidaymakers and business visitors was a “priority” and the Federal Government was “very close” to announcing the re-opening.  

“We are going through the process of preparing to open, and we will continue to talk to the health professionals, so as soon as they say yes, we will work with the states and territories and we will re-open our international borders to tourists,” she said.

A meeting of Cabinet’s National Security Committee on Monday will discuss the re-opening with a senior Government source reportedly confirming this would likely be within the next three weeks.

Vaccinated Australian citizens have been able to travel through the country’s international border since November 1st, while skilled migrants and foreign students were welcomed back in mid-December.

But with case numbers in Australia and abroad falling, focus is now shifting to non-essential travel such as holidays.

Covid cases and hospitalisations have been on a downward trend in recent weeks in almost all states except Western Australia. …

The first tourists will arrive by plane with the return of cruise ships likely to be much later as agreements with state governments that control ports need to be reached.

The Government also recently relaxed testing requirements for those flying into Australia with negative rapid antigen tests within the previous 24 hours now accepted along with PCR tests within the previous three days.

Ms Andrews said she could not guarantee the international border would not close again but the Government would make every effort to ensure it stayed open. 

“I was very keen to reopen our borders to the economic cohorts and also to international students on December 1st, but then we were hit with Omicron and that was delayed by two weeks,” she said.

“We are prepared to deal with what comes our way, and hopefully once the borders are open, they remain open.”

Now they just need to abandon their superstition in thinking vaccination makes a difference to infection rates, and of course drop all the testing…

Worth reading in full.