Misinformation

ONS Slapped Down by UK Statistics Watchdog For Misleading Claim that Unvaccinated Have “32 Times” Risk of Covid Death

Ed Humpherson, Director of U.K. Statistics Authority the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), has written to Emma Rourke, Director of Health Analysis at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to criticise the agency for a report it put out in October claiming that: “Between January 2nd and September 24th 2021, the age-adjusted risk of deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) was 32 times greater in unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated individuals.”

As James Wells, a statistician who served as head of the ONS UK trade team until 2019, pointed out when he wrote to the OSR to complain about the report earlier this month, this statistic uses data from January 2nd to September 24th 2021, which includes the bulk of the winter deaths at a time when almost no one was vaccinated. This skews the implied vaccine effectiveness, as a fair comparison would only include periods when a significant proportion of the country was vaccinated.

How Could the Head of the NHS Have Got the Covid Hospital Admissions Figures So Wrong?

We’re publishing a second post about today’s wildly misleading claim by the CEO of NHS England that the number of patients being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is currently 14 times greater than it was this time last year, this one by the Daily Sceptic’s in-house doctor. He is a hardened former NHS consultant and it takes a lot to shock him – but even he was taken aback but just how inaccurate this statement was.

Earlier today, Amanda Pritchard, the CEO of the NHS, made a statement to the effect that there were currently 14 times as many patients being admitted to English hospitals with COVID compared to this time last year. The purpose of this article is not to point out that this statement is factually incorrect – it’s so obviously incorrect that there have already been plenty of other commentators running fact checks.

Rather, I aim to quantify how incorrect that statement was and consider why the person running the NHS could have made such an egregious error of fact. So far, I have not seen a formal retraction or explanation from Ms Pritchard.

Firstly, the figures as we see them on the official NHS dashboard. In graph 1 I have plotted the number of patients admitted to hospital each day and the number of diagnoses of Covid made in hospital from April to November. The brown line is 2020 and the blue line 2021. It can clearly be seen that currently there are fewer patients being admitted and diagnosed in hospital with Covid than at this time last year. The only point at which one could possibly stand up an argument that there were 14 times as many patients being admitted in 2021 compared to 2020 would be the middle of August. In mid-August 2020 there were roughly 40 patients per day being admitted to English hospitals with Covid. In mid-August 2021 there were about 650 a day – this is approximately 14 times the 2020 figure.

My guess is that someone panicking in NHS England looked at Graph 1 (which they clearly have access to) and trotted out the line that Pritchard was referring to the numbers in August, giving the pathetically mendacious excuse that “these are the latest data we have”.

YouTube to Advance its Crack-Down on Vaccine “Misinformation”

YouTube says it will soon remove any content that argues the Covid vaccine can cause serious side-effects and is unsafe to use. Matt Halprin, the Global Head of Trust and Safety at the Google-owned company, is alarmed by the presence of “vaccine misinformation” across the world. For example, vaccine scepticism relating to concerns over infertility will be struck from the platform. Guardian has the story.

From Wednesday, the video streaming site, which has already banned Covid jab falsehoods, will take down content that claims any approved vaccine is dangerous and causes chronic health defects. Under previous guidelines, the platform demoted – effectively hiding from view – videos that spread misinformation about non-Covid vaccines or promoted vaccine hesitancy.

Last year, YouTube implemented a ban on Covid vaccine misinformation videos, which has led to 130,000 pieces of content being taken down since then. YouTube, which is owned by Google, has removed a total of 1m videos for spreading general Covid falsehoods since the pandemic broke out.

Matt Halprin… said vaccine misinformation was a global problem and had spilled over from the spreading of falsehoods about Covid jabs.

“Vaccine misinformation appears globally, it appears in all countries and cultures,” he said.

Halprin added that falsehoods around the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which has been wrongly attributed to causing autism, were an example of the misinformation YouTube will target.

“There is still a lot of challenges around MMR and people arguing whether that causes autism. And as we know, the science is very stable that vaccines do not cause autism,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

NHS Admits 25% of Patients With Covid Were Admitted For Something Else

We’re publishing a guest post today from our in-house doctor, a senior clinician in private practice who used to work for the NHS. This one’s a bit of a shocker.

On Thursdays, the NHS releases the weekly summary data in relation to Covid patients. Normally this is a more granular version of the daily summaries – it has some hospital level detail and figures on non-Covid workload for comparison. Usually interesting but not especially informative.

Yesterday was an exception. Placed down at the bottom of the page, almost like a footnote, was a ‘Primary Diagnosis’ Supplement. Graph 1 shows the information contained in that spreadsheet. I find it astonishing. In essence it shows that since June 18th, the NHS has known its daily figures in relation to ‘Covid inpatients’ were unreliable at best and deliberately untrue at worst.

The yellow bars are what the NHS has been telling the nation were Covid inpatients. The blue bars are the numbers of inpatients actually suffering from Covid symptoms – the difference between the two are patients in hospital who tested positive for COVID-19 but were being treated for something different – where Covid was effectively an incidental finding but not clinically relevant.

For example, on July 27th, the total number of beds occupied by Covid patients was reported as 5,021. However, until today, we were not allowed to know that only 3,855 of those were actually admitted with Covid as the primary diagnosis. There has been a fairly consistent over estimate of the true number by about 25% running back to mid-June – figures before that date are “not available”.

The BBC versus Donald Trump

The first original essay we’re pubishing on the Daily Sceptic is by Dr Freddie Attenborough, a former lecturer in sociology and a Lockdown Sceptics regular. Freddie’s contributions to the site have been among the very best – he wrote the essay about how Britain responded to the 1957-58 Asian Flu epidemic that you can read here, as well as this angry tribute to those laid low by the lockdowns on 1st January.

His latest essay – which you can also read at his newly-minted substack account – is about the BBC’s double standards when it comes to ‘misinformation’. On the one hand, it publishes ‘fact checks’ that supposedly expose the crackpot conspiracy theories being peddled by ‘Covid deniers’; but on the other it regularly pumps out hysterical, pro-lockdown propaganda that, by any rational measure, is also ‘misinformation’. Here is an extract:

In March 2021, the BBC reported that one of their investigative teams had, “Been tracking the human toll of coronavirus misinformation”. During this investigation they claimed to have found links to “assaults, arsons and deaths”. Worryingly, experts also told them that, “The potential for indirect harm caused by rumours, conspiracy theories and bad health information could be much worse”. Sounds like an interesting investigation, doesn’t it? Public service output at its finest, you might think. Just the kind of article we’d all like to read.

Alas. Not quite.

The problem with the BBC is that it simply can’t help itself. Having teed an ostensibly interesting story up in this open, investigatory journalistic type of way, its authors then proceed to devote a good-ish chunk of what follows to that most favourite of all BBC pastimes, namely, implicating Donald Trump in the act of mass murder. As with the butterfly so beloved of chaos theory (you know the one: that little blighter who’s always flapping his wings and causing tsunamis to crash into the coast of Bangladesh) no sooner have the BBC shown us Trump tweeting about the FDA’s preliminary research into hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against Covid than the magic of non-deterministic linear physics kicks in and people all over Nigeria and Vietnam suddenly start mopping up the old bleach-based products like vacuum cleaners.

In the end, then, the only interesting thing about this article is the way it reminds us just how little time and attention the BBC have paid to exploring the link that surely must exist between Covid ‘misinformation’ (as they themselves insist on calling it) and the huge rise in cases of psychosomatic disorder – health anxiety in particular – that we’ve witnessed in the UK since the dawn of the Age of Lockdown (2020-present). Let me explain what I mean.

And to do so, let me start by asking a question: what might disinformation likely to precipitate new, or to heighten existing, levels of anxiety amongst those suffering from psychosomatic disorders look like? How, in other words, might we define such a thing? Well, perhaps we might say that it would be information that unduly exaggerated the risks associated with Covid. Perhaps we might go further and say that it would represent the risks associated with Covid in a highly misleading and/or a sensationalist way. Come to think of it, perhaps we might end up concluding that it would look rather like the BBC’s recent article, “Long COVID funding to unearth new treatments.

Worth reading in full, as is Freddie’s recently published collection of essays about the pandemic Notes From the Blunderground.

Facebook Condemned For Trying to Ingratiate Itself With China by Censoring of Lab Leak Theory

Facebook was today accused by a Conservative MP of “showing its true and ugly colours” and smothering free speech to cosy up to China as it did a U-turn on its ban on posts debating whether Covid-19 could be man-made. Following Joe Biden’s call for further investigation of the theory, such speculation is no longer deemed to be “harmful misinformation” by the social media giant. MailOnline has more.

Mark Zuckerberg’s global policy chief Nick Clegg, the former British MP and Liberal Democrat leader, has also been branded “feeble” for allowing months of censorship on the social network.

Critics branded Facebook’s behaviour had been ‘contemptible’ and begged them to respect free speech rather than “ingratiating” themselves with states such as China, which has banned the website but remains a $5billion-a-year ad market.

British Conservative MP Peter Bone told MailOnline: “It does seem to me that Facebook is not an open platform for people to put their views on. It is an open platform for people to put their views on as long as they agree with Facebook.

“Their decisions are based on politics not on principle… if it is fashionable with the liberal elite it can go down. If it is liberal elite say it it must be OK, if it’s President Trump that says it it must be awful.

“The thing that Trump was saying is exactly the same as Biden is saying, but Trump was according to Facebook not allowed to say that. Whereas everyone loves Biden from Facebook therefore it must be right. It is one rule for one political view and another for another.”

And the liberal media in the US, who lampooned Donald Trump when he said a year ago said he had “a high degree of confidence” that the virus escaped from a lab, have finally conceded that he may have been right – after a year ridiculing the suggestion.

Facebook ruled in February it would “remove” any posts that claimed that coronavirus was “man-made” or that the virus was “created by an individual, government or country” – branding it “misinformation” and a “debunked claim” that required “aggressive action” from moderators.

But today the tech giant reversed its ban on its users discussing the theory, just hours after President Biden ordered his intelligence agencies to launch a probe into whether it was man-made after all – and report back in 90 days.

Worth reading in full.