Israel

More Reasons to Doubt the Covid Vaccines Really Deliver 90% Protection Against Death

The UKHSA’s latest vaccine surveillance report includes this table on page 11:

Fig 1

In essence, it claims ongoing efficacy against death from COVID-19 at about 88% following three vaccinations for the over 50 year-olds. Does this mean that in the absence of the vaccines we would expect deaths of the triple-vaccinated to be 8.3 times higher than it has been? Let’s assemble some data from Government sources and see if this can really be true.

Up until week 13 2022, the UKHSA used to report deaths from Covid by age and vaccine status. Fig 2 reproduces this last data table. The absolute numbers may have changed in the five weeks since then but the relative rates of death in the various groups had been fairly stable for the weeks prior to this and I suspect they still are.

Fourth Vaccine Dose Offers No Protection Against Infection After Just Two Months, Israeli Study Finds

A population-wide study from Israel published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that a fourth dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine ceases to have any efficacy against infection within just eight weeks (see chart above). Here is the abstract.

BACKGROUND

On January 2nd 2022, Israel began administering a fourth dose of BNT162b2 [Pfizer] vaccine to persons 60 years of age or older. Data are needed regarding the effect of the fourth dose on rates of confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and of severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

METHODS

Using the Israeli Ministry of Health database, we extracted data on 1,252,331 persons who were 60 years of age or older and eligible for the fourth dose during a period in which the B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant of SARS-CoV-2 was predominant (January 10th through March 2nd 2022). We estimated the rate of confirmed infection and severe COVID-19 as a function of time starting at eight days after receipt of a fourth dose (four-dose groups) as compared with that among persons who had received only three doses (three-dose group) and among persons who had received a fourth dose three to seven days earlier (internal control group). For the estimation of rates, we used quasi-Poisson regression with adjustment for age, sex, demographic group, and calendar day.

RESULTS

The number of cases of severe COVID-19 per 100,000 person-days (unadjusted rate) was 1.5 in the aggregated four-dose groups, 3.9 in the three-dose group, and 4.2 in the internal control group. In the quasi-Poisson analysis, the adjusted rate of severe COVID-19 in the fourth week after receipt of the fourth dose was lower than that in the three-dose group by a factor of 3.5 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.7 to 4.6) and was lower than that in the internal control group by a factor of 2.3 (95% CI, 1.7 to 3.3). Protection against severe illness did not wane during the six weeks after receipt of the fourth dose. The number of cases of confirmed infection per 100,000 person-days (unadjusted rate) was 177 in the aggregated four-dose groups, 361 in the three-dose group, and 388 in the internal control group. In the quasi-Poisson analysis, the adjusted rate of confirmed infection in the fourth week after receipt of the fourth dose was lower than that in the three-dose group by a factor of 2.0 (95% CI, 1.9 to 2.1) and was lower than that in the internal control group by a factor of 1.8 (95% CI, 1.7 to 1.9). However, this protection waned in later weeks.

CONCLUSIONS

Rates of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19 were lower after a fourth dose of BNT162b2 vaccine than after only three doses. Protection against confirmed infection appeared short-lived, whereas protection against severe illness did not wane during the study period.

While protection against severe disease did not appear to decrease during the six week follow-up, note that the fact that severe Covid illness was occurring in the triple-dosed at over three times the rate of the quadruple-dosed suggests that the protection of three doses against severe illness had already significantly declined. This is confirmed by other studies (e.g. here and here) and noted by the authors themselves.

Read the study here. My write-up of an earlier version can be found here.

Vaccine Rollout Correlates With 25% Spike in Cardiac Arrest Emergency Calls for Young Adults, Study Finds

Emergency calls for cardiac arrest and acute coronary syndrome in young people in Israel were significantly associated with the vaccine rollout, both first and second doses, spiking 25% higher than in earlier years, but not with COVID-19 prevalence, a study in the Nature journal Scientific Reports has found.

Using data from the Israel National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) from 2019 to 2021, the study looked at the volume of cardiac arrest and acute coronary syndrome EMS calls in the 16-39 year-old population. It found an increase of over 25% in both call types during January-May 2021, compared with 2019-2020, but no significant increase in calls correlating with COVID-19 infection rates.

The main finding of this study concerns with increases of over 25% in both the number of CA [cardiac arrest] calls and ACS [acute coronary syndrome] calls of people in the 16-39 age group during the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Israel (January-May, 2021), compared with the same period of time in prior years (2019 and 2020). Moreover, there is a robust and statistically significant association between the weekly CA and ACS call counts, and the rates of first and second vaccine doses administered to this age group. At the same time there is no observed statistically significant association between COVID-19 infection rates and the CA and ACS call counts. This result is aligned with previous findings which show increases in overall CA incidence were not always associated with higher COVID-19 infections rates at a population level, as well as the stability of hospitalisation rates related to myocardial infarction throughout the initial COVID-19 wave compared to pre-pandemic baselines in Israel. These results also are mirrored by a report of increased emergency department visits with cardiovascular complaints during the vaccination rollout in Germany as well as increased EMS calls for cardiac incidents in Scotland.

While several studies have found severe myocarditis to be a rare adverse effect of the vaccines, the study authors note that myocarditis is often missed, and in fact has been found to be likely responsible for 12-20% of unexpected deaths in adults under 40 in normal times.

Fourth Vaccine Dose Gives No Protection Against Infection After Just Eight Weeks, Israeli Study Finds

Protection against infection from a fourth Pfizer vaccine dose wanes to zero in just eight weeks, an Israeli study published in the NEJM has found.

The researchers looked at the records of all 1,252,331 people over 60 in Israel eligible for the fourth dose during the Omicron wave (January 10th to March 2nd 2022). They excluded various groups, including those with prior test-positive Covid to avoid confounding with natural immunity.

They compared infection rates and severe cases in the four-dose group to the three-dose group, and also to an “internal control” in the form of the four-dose group in the first week after the jab (excluding the first two days). They provided estimates of rate ratios (a measure of vaccine effectiveness) adjusted for age, sex, demographic group, and calendar day (to take into account the varying prevalence over the epidemic wave).

They found that although some fleeting protection against infection appeared to occur, it peaked two to three weeks after the injection (blue dots in the chart below) and was gone by the eighth week.

Vaccine Effectiveness and Excess Mortality in Singapore

In several previous posts, I’ve noted that excess mortality data from Europe and Israel suggests that vaccine effectiveness against death has been overestimated. For example, the chart below plots excess mortality over time in Israel:

The shaded area corresponds to the period of time by which more than 80% of over 60s were doubled vaccinated. Comparing it to the area that isn’t shaded, the overall level and pattern of excess mortality is almost identical.

In fact, if you showed someone the shaded and unshaded areas, and asked them to guess which one represents the pre-vaccine rollout period, and which one represents the post-vaccine rollout period, they wouldn’t be able to tell.

Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that vaccine effectiveness against death is zero. But it is hard to reconcile with claims of, say, 90% effectiveness against death. And excess mortality data from Singapore appears to tell the same story.

Covid Deaths in the Vaccinated Rise While Those in the Unvaccinated Fall, UKHSA Data Show

I’ll start off this week with data not from the latest UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance Report, nor even from the U.K. – the first chart for today shows the excess deaths in Israel since 2017 for those aged 65 or over. Just something to think about and I’ll come back to it at the end.

In this week’s UKHSA report the story is much the same as prior weeks – infection rates are still highest in the triple vaccinated except for individuals aged under 18 or over 80; the data for those aged under 18 continue to shift towards decreasing vaccine protection, while there’s not much change in vaccine performance for those aged over 80. At least infection rates are declining across the board as this January’s Omicron wave recedes into history.

Using the rates data above to estimate vaccine effectiveness against infection again shows the vaccines to be performing poorly, with all vaccinated bar those under 18 now showing substantially increased risk of infection (and thus also onwards transmission). Strikingly, the triple vaccinated aged 18-70 have around triple the risk of infection compared to the unvaccinated.

Vaccines Have Failed to Prevent the Spread of Covid, Israeli Study Concludes

An Israeli study has looked at how much difference a fourth Covid vaccine dose makes compared with a third dose.

The study was restricted to triple-jabbed healthcare workers, and more specifically to those whose antibody levels were in the bottom 40% of the antibody levels in the cohort (a group comprising around 29% of the cohort). Of the 1,050 eligible healthcare workers, 154 were given a Pfizer fourth dose and 120 Moderna. The rest formed a triple-jabbed control group.

Measuring antibody levels, the researchers found an increase by around 10-fold following the fourth dose, restoring antibodies to the peak levels they hit following the third dose, though no higher.

The study was originally intended just to measure antibody levels and other indicators of immunogenicity. However, the Omicron surge in the country was so large that despite being a small study, enough infections occurred within the study groups to allow an estimate of vaccine effectiveness. The participants were PCR tested each week. The researchers reported that ‘breakthrough’ infections were common and, though mild, had high viral loads. During the study period, 25% of the control groups (triple-dosed) tested positive compared with 18-20% of the four-dose groups. This gave a fourth-dose versus three-dose vaccine effectiveness against PCR-positive infection of just 11-30% – though the small population size led to wide confidence intervals ranging from minus-43% to 55%.

Among the four-dose groups, there were 52 ‘breakthrough’ infections, of which 39 (75%) were classed as symptomatic. The vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease was estimated at 31-43%, though again with wide confidence intervals.

The symptoms of all PCR-positive infections were typically “negligible”, the researchers report, and in many cases the infections “would not have been tested or reported, without the active surveillance”. Yet they had relatively high viral loads (Ct around 25), so were presumably infectious. Thus, with a quarter of triple-vaccinated and a fifth of quadruple-vaccinated healthcare workers becoming infected and apparently infectious during the wave, the researchers conclude the vaccine programme is a failure as it is not preventing the spread of Covid: “The major objective for vaccinating [healthcare workers] was not achieved.” However, the apparent efficacy against severe disease and death means older and vulnerable people may benefit from a fourth vaccine dose, they say.

The study also looked at safety. It found that 80% of Pfizer recipients and 40% of Moderna recipients reported some kind of adverse reaction, though none were classed as serious. The adverse reactions are summarised in the chart below.

Larger studies on the efficacy and safety of the fourth dose, which has now been rolled out (having gone ahead without waiting for studies such as this one), are forthcoming, the researchers note.

Why Are Deaths in Highly-Vaccinated Denmark Approaching a Record High?

Denmark has become a standout sceptical hero of late, having lifted all restrictions at the start of the month and reclassified Covid as no longer “an infection critical to society”. The Government has even put out a fact check to counter misinformation about its approach – the right kind of fact check, countering actual misinformation.

The Danish shift in strategy was all the more remarkable in that it came at a time when reported infections and deaths in the country were at or close to an all-time high. Infections have since plateaued, underlining that it was the right move. However, given that the near-record deaths have come two years in and despite high levels of vaccination, it is worth digging into the data to see if there’s anything more they can tell us.

U.K. and Denmark (OWID)

The first thing that stands out is how high hospital admissions are, though as the Government says, many of these will be incidental admissions or mild cases. In addition, while hospital admissions are much higher in Denmark than the U.K., the number of patients in hospital is around the same (see below, plus the admissions (above) appear to be peaking), which presumably reflects mild cases with short stays.

Will a Shift in ‘the Science’ Give Trudeau a Way Out?

Let us start with a few charts. The first tracks the number of hospitalised patients for Covid per million citizens in four countries:

  • France, where restrictions remained fairly stringent through the Covid crisis.
  • The U.S., one of the first countries to re-open.
  • Sweden who never really shut down in the first place.
  • Israel, where the fourth booster dose has now been distributed to all over 60 years old for weeks.

Unfortunately, and in spite of vaccines, outside of Sweden (maybe Sweden has built up herd immunity?), new Covid-linked hospitalisations once again broke new record highs this winter (see above).

And unsurprisingly, as hospitalisations climbed, so did deaths. In January, Covid deaths turned out to be higher than anyone would have hoped.

Looking at the charts above, and at the risk of sounding callous, it is hard to avoid the conclusion of ‘all this for that?’. After all, the above four countries followed dramatically different confinement policies, travel restrictions, vaccine policies, etc., and yet, by and large, ended up delivering broadly the same outcomes, at roughly the same times, when it comes to either hospitalisations or deaths (number of cases are a bogus comparison as so much depends on individual countries’ testing, and reporting, protocols). Perhaps this is the conclusion that the Canadian truckers came to? After all, after months of lockdowns, and after vaccine mandates which pushed some 90% of Canadian to take the needle, this winter is seeing roughly as many Canadian Covid deaths as last winter.

These similar outcomes may help explain why ‘the Science’ that policymakers have professed to follow this whole time has now suddenly shifted. Because let’s face it: Covid today seems just as deadly as it did last winter (and this in spite of the vaccines), at least in the U.S., Israel, France (or almost any country that actively prevented its population from developing herd immunity) and yet, all of a sudden, Covid restrictions are melting away faster than morals at a bachelor party. In recent days we have seen:

ICUs Empty of Covid Patients

The number of patients being admitted to ICU for Covid in the U.K. (excluding Scotland) fell to as little as two in one day last month, according to data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC). MailOnline has more.

Although the figures may be slightly higher after being revised for a time lag, [ICNARC]’s Head Statistician said towards the end of January, admissions would still be “in the region of 20-30 per day”.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Sir David Spiegelhalter, said: “The Omicron wave saw a huge rise in cases, and a moderate rise in hospitalisations.

“Since more than half of ICU admissions have not been vaccinated, this suggests an intrinsically milder virus rather than just increased protection from vaccination.'”

In contrast to January last year, when more than 400 patients were admitted into ICU for Covid in one day at a peak of the new wave, recent figures seem to suggest that Omicron, in most cases, is a milder strain.

The new report from ICNARC also found that the “percentage of patients admitted to critical care with confirmed COVID-19 that were unvaccinated decreased from 75% in May 2021 to 47% in October 2021” but increased to 61% in December.

According to the latest ONS data, the risk of death involving coronavirus, when age-adjusted, is consistently lower for those who have had at least three vaccine doses compared with unvaccinated people. 

On February 3rd there were 478 patients in mechanically ventilated beds; this figure was above 4,000 in January last year.

One mystery is why Israel’s Omicron wave is proving a rougher ride in terms of ICU admissions and deaths compared to ours.

Worth reading in full.