HART

Higher Infection Rates in Vaccinated Not an Artefact of Wrong Population Data, New Analysis Shows

Back in October, when the critics rounded on the UKHSA for publishing vaccine data that didn’t fit the narrative, front and centre of their complaints was the claim that they were using poor estimates of the size of the unvaccinated population, and thus underestimating the infection rate in the unvaccinated. Cambridge’s Professor David Speigelhalter didn’t hold back, writing on Twitter that it was “completely unacceptable” for the agency to “put out absurd statistics showing case-rates higher in vaxxed than non-vaxxed” when it is “just an artefact of using hopelessly biased NIMS population estimates”.

To the UKHSA’s credit, while it conceded other points, it never gave in on this one, sticking to its view that the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS) was the “gold standard” for these estimates. It pointed out that ONS population estimates have problems of their own, not least that for some age groups the ONS supposes there to be fewer people in the population than the Government counts as being vaccinated.

How can we know which estimates are more accurate? A group of experts has applied analytical techniques in order to estimate the size of the unvaccinated population independently of ONS and NIMS figures. Using three different methods, experts from HART found that estimates from all three methods were in broad agreement with the NIMS estimates, whereas the ONS estimate was a much lower outlier.

Lockdown Summit of Experts and Analysts Challenges the Narrative on Lockdowns, Testing, Masks and More

The Question Everything Lockdown Summit took place in London yesterday and featured contributions from many of the lockdown sceptics that have featured prominently on this site over the past year, including Professor David Paton, Professor David Livermore, Dr Clare Craig, Toby and myself. The full video recording (nine hours) is now up on Dan Astin-Gregory’s YouTube channel to watch at leisure. The schedule ran as follows, with time stamps within the links.

What SAGE Gets Wrong: The Evidence that Almost Everyone is Exposed During a Surge and Most Are Immune

During a Covid surge, what proportion of the population is exposed to an infective dose of the virus, which they either fight off with no or minimal symptoms or are infected by? This is one of the most important questions scientists need to answer.

It’s closely related to the question of whether lockdowns work. If lockdowns work then, as per SAGE and Imperial orthodoxy, the restrictions successfully prevent the virus from reaching most people, who remain unexposed and susceptible – and hence in need of vaccination to protect them when the protective restrictions are lifted. If lockdowns don’t work, however, then they don’t prevent the virus spreading, and thus the majority of people will be exposed to it as it spreads around unimpeded by ineffectual restrictions.

Another related question is: What proportion of exposed people are infected? Using ONS data we can estimate that around 10-15% of the country tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 over the autumn and winter. How many were exposed to the virus to produce this number of infections? Was it, say, 10-20%, with half to all of them catching the virus? Or was it more like 80-90%, with around 10% being infected? It’s a question that makes all the difference in our understanding of the virus and how to respond to it.

If almost all are exposed during a surge, and relatively few of them are infected, then a number of things follow. First, most people have enough immunity to fight off the virus when exposed to it, and only a small minority become infected. Second, the surge ends when enough of that small minority who are particularly susceptible to this virus or variant acquire immunity through infection, i.e., when herd immunity is reached. Third, there won’t be another surge or wave until there is a new virus or variant which evades enough of the existing population immunity to require herd immunity to be topped up via a further spread of infections.

If, on the other hand, very few are exposed during a surge, and most of them are infected, none of these things is true. It means: Most people have little immunity and are highly susceptible. A surge which infects 10-20% of the population has exposed not much more than that. The surge does not end because of herd immunity but because of restrictions. And there will be another surge as soon as restrictions are eased or behaviour changes and the unexposed begin to be exposed again. SAGE orthodoxy, in other words.

The evidence, however, is strongly supportive of the first position – ubiquitous exposure – not the second, limited exposure.

“Open a Window”: How Many Are Dying Because This is Still the Best ‘Treatment’ the NHS Offers to Those Suffering With COVID-19 at Home?

The highly recommended HART bulletin this week has a piece on how the NHS is failing Covid patients by not offering any adequate early treatment, despite the now plentiful evidence of the clinical effectiveness of a number of safe, repurposed drugs.

Nearly a year and a half after the country was locked down to protect the NHS, how is the NHS performing in managing the very condition that so threatened it?

If you suspect that you or a member of your household is suffering from COVID-19 the advice is to get a test and contact NHS 111 for advice. When you do this you are asked a series of questions designed to ascertain how seriously ill you are. If you report “red flag” symptoms such as severe breathlessness or oxygen saturations below 90% quite rightly you are advised to call 999. But what about the less severe cases? The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance to clinicians on how to assess and manage patients with COVID-19. Patients not severely ill and requiring hospital admission are managed in the community. The guidance advises symptomatic treatment such as a teaspoon of honey or linctus or even morphine sulphate tablets to suppress coughing. This in itself is bizarre advice, given that the British National Formulary (BNF) only recommends morphine for treatment of cough in palliative care with a ‘reminder of the risk of potentially fatal respiratory depression’.  Paracetamol or ibuprofen is recommended for fever. For breathlessness it advises to keep the room cool and open a window. For agitation and anxiety it even recommends a trial of a benzodiazepine (a tranquiliser medication) despite this potentially leading to respiratory depression.

What does not feature in the guidance is early treatment of COVID-19 in the community. Drug treatments such as dexamethasone and remdesivir are recommended for hospital patients. There are a number of established medicines such as ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, zinc and famotidine which have been advocated for early treatment. The evidence in favour of ivermectin, in particular, is growing rapidly as this meta-analysis by HART member Professor Norman Fenton and his colleague Professor Martin Neil shows.

Similarly, early administration of inhaled budesonide (an asthma drug) has been shown to reduce the likelihood of needing urgent medical care and reduced time to recovery while a peer-reviewed study in the USA showed fluvoxamine (a common antidepressant drug) prevented clinical deterioration in outpatients with clinical COVID-19.

The U.K. has been quick to roll out COVID-19 vaccines that are still undergoing their clinical trials yet seems reluctant to explore the possibility of cheap treatments with long established safety records. Surely this begs the question why?

Read the bulletin in full here and sign up to receive the next one here.

Lockdown Summit to Take Place on July 17th – Register Now

Toby and I will be joining HART members Professor Karol Sikora, Professor David Paton, Professor Norman Fenton and Dr Clare Craig among a host of other experts at the sceptical Question Everything summit in London on Saturday July 17th. The event, entitled Lockdowns – Is Now the Time for a Better Solution?, will feature panellists and speakers from science, social science, law and industry, including Luke Johnson, Dr Peter McCullough and Francis Hoar. The global response to COVID-19 will be scrutinised and proposals for the future discussed in a one day summit which will be live-streamed to the public. The aim is to explore how the world can responsibly return to normality without further harmful lockdowns.

The event, the first in a series, will consist of a full programme of nine sessions across the morning and afternoon. Some sessions will see expert speakers give short keynote presentations on the scientific, political, legal, economic and social issues, interspersed with longer moderated panel discussions. The main thrust of the day is to critically assess lockdowns and to explore how the world might be better prepared for future pandemics without resorting to extreme measures of unclear efficacy. The format will encourage discussion and there will be two open Q&As which will make for a fascinating and educational day.

More information can be found on the Question Everything website, where you can also register to receive full details about the event and watch the summit via live stream.

Why Boris Must Halt the Child Vaccine Programme

There follows a guest post by Dr Ros Jones, a retired consultant paediatrician and member of HART.

If, a year ago, someone had asked if we should give children a brand-new vaccine with no long-term safety data for a disease that barely affects them, they would have been laughed out of court. But here we are today, considering doing exactly that and not even with the pretence that it is for their own safety. It is because adults think it is okay to ask children to take a medicine which may cause them harm to protect us. Yet the adults clamouring for this have all been vaccinated already. 

Two weeks ago, 40 UK doctors wrote to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) calling for a halt to any proposals to widen the temporary emergency authorisation for COVID-19 vaccines to include children on the grounds of major safety concerns. We now learn that this is such a complex ethical question that the JCVI will pass the responsibility to the Prime Minister. The entire management of the pandemic has been politicised to the detriment of open scientific and ethical debate and it is totally inappropriate for child health to become a potential political football.  The urgency for such debate has increased by the approval, first in North America and now Europe, for vaccination of 12-to-17-year-olds, and Pfizer’s application is currently lodged with the MHRA. So what is the medical, ethical and legal basis for such a move?

The medical case for children

Children are mercifully at incredibly low risk for COVID-19, with the vast majority having mild to no symptoms, few hospital admissions and even fewer requiring intensive care. There were nine Covid-associated deaths in under-15s in the whole of 2020, all with prior life-limiting conditions and accounting for 0.3% of all cause deaths in this age group. Any adolescent at extremely high risk may already receive a vaccine and this should not inform policy for an entire age group. Long Covid has also been raised as a concern, but in children it is milder and shorter-lived than in adults, with studies reporting complete recovery.

Safety

So if the disease is extremely mild for children, what of potential adverse effects of vaccination? Tragically, in recent weeks we have seen reports of thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), an extremely rare condition, occurring in a significant number of young adults following vaccination, with cerebral venous strokes, some fatal. VITT was not detected in any of the trials but the MHRA now quotes the incidence following AstraZeneca vaccination as 1 in 77,000, stating ‘the data shows there is a higher reported incidence rate in younger adult age groups compared with older groups’. Doctors advising an individual on benefits and risks are left to guess how much higher but AstraZeneca vaccine was withdrawn for under 30s and latterly under 40s, and the Oxford children’s trial was suspended. Pfizer appears to have similar thrombotic problems though possibly at a lower rate and this is likely to be a class effect involving the spike protein. With Pfizer, the Israel Health Ministry have confirmed that myocarditis is occurring  at a rate of 1 in 41,730 for the 2nd dose in young men aged 16-30s, but highest in 16-19s. These are not trivial side-effects: they are potentially fatal or life-changing and appear to be occurring at a rate which is higher than that of severe outcomes for childhood Covid infections. This is without considering any as yet unknown longer-term adverse effects and bearing in mind that only 1,134 children were vaccinated in the Pfizer trials. Following the tenet “First do no harm”, routine vaccination of children against COVID-19 is contra-indicated.

End the Mask Mandates Now: Launch of the ‘Smile Free’ Campaign

We’re publishing today a new piece by Dr Gary Sidley, a retired Consultant Clinical Psychologist and member of HART, to coincide with the launch of the ‘Smile Free’ campaign that he and colleagues have started to campaign for the repeal of mask mandates in the U.K.

Dr Sidley’s core argument is: “Never mind that masks don’t work, masking the healthy harms us all socially and psychologically: all mandates must end on June 21st.”

Here’s the opening:

The Government requirement for healthy people to wear a face covering in a range of indoor community settings, purportedly to reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has arguably been the most insidious of all the coronavirus restrictions.

Anyone reluctant to wear a face covering risks being challenged by others: “It’s only a mask”; “It’s no big deal”; “If it prevents just one infection, it’s worth it”. These comments are based on the premise that healthy people have nothing to lose from donning a mask when moving around their communities, but they fail to recognise an important truth: Masking the healthy is not, and has never been, a benign intervention.

Anyone remotely sceptical may already know that, prior to June 2020, public health organisations and their experts did not endorse masking healthy people in the community as a means of reducing viral transmission and that, in the real world, mask mandates or the lack thereof appear to have made no discernible difference to the spread of coronavirus.

Famously, the decision of Texas to ditch their mask mandates was called “Neanderthal thinking” by President Biden – only for the Lone Star State to witness declining cases ever since.

Worth reading in full and get involved with the campaign here.

Health Experts Express “Grave Concerns” over Proposals to Vaccinate Children Against Covid

Over 40 health experts have expressed their “grave concerns regarding all proposals to administer Covid vaccines to children” in an open letter sent to the Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The letter was organised by Dr Ros Jones, a member of the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART), and warns against a “repeat of any past tragedies which have occurred especially when vaccines are rushed to market”. The Telegraph has more.

In a joint letter, [the health experts] warned it is “irresponsible, unethical and unnecessary” to jab children and urged the medicines watchdog not to “repeat mistakes from history”.

Their intervention came as Matt Hancock announced that Britain had bought enough Pfizer vaccines to inoculate all children over the age of 12.

The Health Secretary said the Government would be “very, very careful and sensitive” about whether to roll out the vaccination programme to children, but stressed that research showed the jabs were safe. 

He told MPs on Monday that a decision was likely to be taken within the next two months while the rollout continued through younger age groups.

[The letter reads:] “Extreme caution has been exercised over many aspects of the pandemic, but surely now is the most important time to exercise true caution.

“We must not be the generation of adults that, through unnecessary haste and fear, risks the health of children.”

The letter has been signed by over 40 medics, scientists and doctors including Professor Karol Sikora, Dean of Medicine at Buckingham University, and Lord Moonie, a former consultant in Public Health Medicine.

It argues that while there are clear benefits of a vaccine for the elderly and vulnerable, the balance of benefit and risk for youngsters is “quite different” since healthy children are at “almost no risk” from Covid.

The letter goes on to say that children do not need the vaccination to support herd immunity, adding that recent modelling suggests the U.K. has now achieved the herd immunity threshold.

“All medical interventions carry a risk of harm, so we have a duty to act with caution and proportionality,” it says.

“This is particularly the case when considering mass intervention in a healthy population, in which situation there must be firm evidence of benefits far greater than harms”.

A new petition, flagged up in today’s News Round Up, says that children should not be given Covid vaccines until Phase Three trials are complete.

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

‘We Should Hang Our Heads in Shame Over the Way We Have Treated Children in Lockdown’

Professor of Psychology Ellen Townsend, a member of HART, has appeared on Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan’s podcast Planet Normal to tell them how harmful lockdowns have been to the nation’s children.

For Professor Ellen Townsend, it’s simple: “We’re putting adults first when we should be putting children first.” The result, according to the University of Nottingham academic, is “a real disaster” for young people and an approach she feels the country will come to regret, citing widely-reported mental health concerns and a sharp increase in youth unemployment.

Speaking to The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, Professor Townsend tells columnists and podcast hosts, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, why she believes it’s now vital for the Government to implement a “trauma-informed recovery approach” to ease young people out of lockdown. The emphasis, she says, should lie on mental recovery rather than catching up on school work: “If we don’t have mental health and wellbeing, the learning is just not going to take place.” And a second plan is needed for the “morally questionable” way in which she believes the Government has induced fear in the young: “If I were to induce any kind of emotion in the lab, for example, I would ethically expect to make sure that people left the lab feeling as good or better than they did when they came in… I’d have an exit plan. What worries me about what has happened is there doesn’t seem to be an exit plan to de-escalate the fear.”

Worth listening to in full (no subscription required).