Dr. Jenny Harries

Vaccine Boosters Needed Every Six Months for the Foreseeable Future, Says U.K. Government Health Agency

Millions of Britons could need Covid boosters every six months for the foreseeable future, Dr. Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Monday. She suggested the most vulnerable “relevant groups” in society will still need regular top-up jabs. MailOnline has more.

Britain is still in a “period of uncertainty”, she said, despite all restrictions being lifted more than a month ago. Experts are unable to predict when a new variant may occur and how it could affect immunity from vaccines, she said. 

Around eight million over-75s, care home residents and immunocompromised over-12s in England are eligible for fourth doses this spring. Fifth, and potentially even sixth jabs, will be rolled out to a wider group this autumn. 

Dr. Harries was asked at a Public Accounts Committee today whether boosters would continue to be dished out every six months. Refusing to deny they could be topped up again after this fourth round of doses, she said: “For relevant groups, as per the evidence we have. The spring booster campaign we have is for those who are over 75, care home residents and those who are immunocompromised.” 

Dr. Harries said: “The pandemic is not over so for the next 18 months, two years or so I think it will be a settling down period. There are a couple of issues about when we might get a new variant and we can’t predict that with any certainty. The Omicron wave was the fastest wave we have seen with a lot of uncertainty until our evaluative teams were able to assess how well vaccines were performing against it. The other issue is what [type of vaccine] we want to procure.”

Health advisers are currently in discussion over whether to invest in vaccines tailored specifically to new variants or buy more standard jabs.

Every six months? Better be sure there are no adverse effects from repeatedly taking this drug, then.

Worth reading in full.

Test and Trace Boss Tells Public Not to Socialise Unless Necessary

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Dr. Jenny Harries, the Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency as well as the Head of the NHS Test and Trace scheme, said that the public must not attend social gatherings if they “don’t particularly need to” in order to restrict the transmission of the Omicron variant. Harries also called on all those eligible to receive booster jabs to go and get one and play their part in the fight against Covid. WalesOnline has the story.

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that people could do their bit by reducing the number of social contacts they have.

She said that even if our “vaccines appear to be effective, but we find that the variant is more highly transmissible, having lowish grade infection, but in very large numbers of the population, (it) could still be a significant impact on our hospitals.

“And of course, our behaviours in winter and particularly around Christmas we tend to socialise more so I think all of those will need to be taken into account.”

Asked about working from home, she said: “We’ve seen that not everybody has gone back to work and I’d like to think of it more in a general way, which is if we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay.

So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jobs which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: As of today, the Government has brought back mask mandates to a wide array of public settings. A full list can be found here.

Stop Press 2: The crackdown on non-mask wearers on the London tube has begun. MailOnline has more.

Stop Press 3: The Government has rebuked Dr. Harries and distanced itself from her remarks. According to the Telegraph:

Boris Johnson insisted “we’re not going to change the overall guidance, we don’t think that’s necessary”, when he was asked about comments by Dr. Jenny Harries, the Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency, who had urged people to avoid socialising “unless you need to” in the run up to Christmas.

Downing Street also heavily distanced itself from her remarks, with the PM’s official spokesman stressing: “It’s not our advice to the public currently. You’ll know the measures we set out at the weekend. The UK HSA is an arms-length body of Government, and Jenny Harries provides advice to the Government, she is not a Government minister. The public should follow the guidance as set out by the Government and indeed the Prime Minister at the weekend.

Government Officials Continue to Tell Half the Story on Covid Statistics

The U.K. Statistics Authority says it is concerned by the misrepresentation of Covid data by the Government and its head, Sir David Norgrove, points out that “we’ve intervened more during the pandemic and made more comments than in the years before”. It is, of course, expected that mistakes are to be made on occasion, but it’s concerning that time and again these mistakes are being repeated, and with damaging consequences. The Telegraph has published a good piece on this.

“With statistics, it’s usually cock-up rather than conspiracy,” [Sir David] added. “They are under pressure and they get themselves into a hole and we have to help dig them out.”

Yet despite this, nothing seems to be changing.

At a press conference from Downing Street on Wednesday evening, Dr. Jenny Harries, the Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency, took the public through slides showing that there were currently 7,891 people in hospital with Covid in the U.K.

What she failed to mention is that this figure does not only include people admitted with Covid, but also those who test positive for coronavirus while in hospital for another condition.

Hospitals were instructed to distinguish between the two groups earlier this year, but so far it has not filtered down into the official figures.

In fact it is only possible to find the data by scrolling to the very bottom of the “Hospital Activity” page of the NHS website. Even then, the figures are woefully out of date.

At the most recent count for England on October 12th, 26% of the overall cases were not primarily Covid.

If that was extrapolated to Dr. Harries’ British data, it would mean that more than 2,000 people included in the Government’s press conference figure are actually in hospital for other causes.

A similar problem can be seen in the daily reported death figures published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard. On Tuesday, many experts seized on 223 reported deaths to argue that Britain should enact ‘Plan B’ restrictions.

But the reported death data does tend to jump around depending on the day of the week and reflects deaths over several days. Look at the figures by “date of death”, and it is clear to see the situation is largely plateauing.

Dr. Jason Oke, a senior statistician at the University of Oxford, pointed this out earlier this week, saying: “As we have said right from the beginning, we need to focus on deaths by date of occurrence, not deaths by date reported. 

“Reporting Tuesday’s numbers – always the highest – in isolation, tends to exaggerate things, and gives no indication of current trends, which has if anything been slowly falling through September and October, [and] no guarantee of future trends of course.”

Regular readers of the Daily Sceptic won’t be surprised by this report on the misrepresentation of data, especially given our in-house doctor’s repeated highlighting of “a remarkable consistency in [officials] grossly overestimating the numbers of Covid hospital admissions“, and more – but the Telegraph story is still worth reading in full.

Covid May No Longer Be “The Most Significant” Threat to Health, Says Head of U.K. Health Security Agency

With talk ramping up about the danger posed by seasonal influenza this winter – especially given the impact lockdowns and social distancing are likely to have had on immunity – the Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency has acknowledged that Covid is no longer the “most significant” threat to health. The Sunday Telegraph has the story.

[Dr. Jenny Harries] said today that Covid was possibly no more dangerous than flu, as she warned that there would be a lower immunity to the illness this year.

She said: “It is important to remember that for an average flu season it’s about 11,000 deaths a year, it’s somewhere between four (thousand) to 22,000 over the last four to five years.

“So we are starting to move to a situation where, perhaps Covid is not the most significant element, and many of those individuals affected will of course have other comorbidities, which will make them vulnerable to serious illness but other reasons as well.”

It comes as the NHS launched its biggest ever flu vaccination drive amid fears flu deaths could be the worst for 50 years because of lockdowns and social distancing.

More than 35 million people will be offered flu jabs this winter, amid concern that prolonged restrictions on social contact have left Britain with little immunity.

Officials fear that this winter could see up to 60,000 flu deaths – the worst figure in Britain since the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic – without strong uptake of vaccines.

There is also concern about the effectiveness of this year’s jabs, because the lack of flu last year made it harder for scientists to sample the virus and predict the dominant strains.

Meanwhile Dr. Harries added that the dominance of the Delta variant globally has seen other coronavirus variants “become extinct”, but warned we still need to “stay alert”.

“With the dominance of Delta, it does look as though many of the other variants which have been detected are becoming extinct, and a number of variants under investigation have risen slightly, we’ve seen cases, and they’ve become extinct,” she told The Andrew Marr Show.

However she cautioned that it was imperative to “stay alert”, as she said it was “still very early days of a new virus”.

Worth reading in full.