Norway

Norway Study Finds ZERO Vaccine Effectiveness Against Death for Covid Hospital Patients

A new pre-print study from Norway looking at differences in outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated hospital patients has found that being vaccinated makes zero difference to the risk of dying once hospitalised for COVID-19.

“There was no difference in the adjusted odds of in-hospital death between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in any age group,” the researchers write. They also observed no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated in the length of hospital stay for patients not admitted to ICU. These findings are adjusted for age and other risk factors so are not simply due to the vaccinated being older or at higher risk (though, as always, the validity of the adjustments may be questioned). The findings also only include patients admitted primarily due to Covid, so aren’t confounded by patients admitted for other reasons who also tested positive at some point.

The researchers did however find that vaccinated patients aged 18-79 had “43% lower odds of ICU admission” and an estimated 26% shorter hospital stay than unvaccinated patients.

It is curious that vaccinated patients were 43% less likely to need ICU but no less likely to die. Did the antibodies from the vaccines just mean that those who were going to fight it off did so a bit more quickly and easily, but the vaccine antibodies weren’t actually able to save anyone who wasn’t going to survive anyway? That appears to be the researchers’ conclusion:

Our results suggest that once hospitalised the risk of death among vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in Norway is similar. However, for survivors the disease trajectory is milder in vaccinated patients, with reduced need for hospital care and organ support.

Norway Ends Lockdown After 561 Days of “Toughest Measures” in Peacetime

Mass celebrations and street brawls followed Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s lifting of all lockdown measures – including the need to prove your vaccination status – at 4pm on Saturday, having given less than 24 hours’ notice. Despite urging continued vaccine uptake, the PM insisted the country would not implement strict Covid measures “unless they are professionally justified”. MailOnline has the story.

The Prime Minister’s unexpected unlocking kicked off boozy celebrations the following afternoon which lasted late into Saturday night, with an impromptu rave in Stavanger, a mass brawl in Tønsberg and no less [sic] than 50 fights reported to police in Oslo.

Neither vaccination status nor a negative test result was required for any venue, leading to blockbusting queues outside nightclubs and restaurants packed with dinner reservations as people returned to their favourite hangouts in droves.

Queues for the clubs in Trondheim were so long that several people fainted while waiting to get inside.

Police in the city reported a generally good-natured atmosphere, with revellers singing the national anthem in the streets.

In Tønsberg, police were called after a group of around 10 young men started scrapping outside a nightclub near the pier. Fortunately nobody was seriously injured and the police arrested a 20 year-old man. 

The chaos on the streets provoked an angry response from some, including nightclub manager Johan Hoeeg Haanes in Oslo, who said the Prime Minister could have given more warning.

“That’s exactly what I predicted would happen,” he told the VG newspaper. “It was a life-threatening situation in the city because they [the Government] didn’t give us at least a few days advance notice. This was a dangerous situation, as police said all places were packed.”  

However, others were grateful to be getting back to business despite the challenges for staff.

Worth reading in full.

Norway to Introduce Covid Vaccine Passports – Will Britain Follow Suit?

Norway is the latest country to announce that it will introduce domestic Covid vaccine passports. Reuters reports:

Norway will introduce verifiable vaccine certificates from early June, allowing holders to use them for admittance to events held in Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday.

Around a quarter of Norway’s population has so far received a first dose of a vaccine against Covid, while 6.8% has received two doses.

In Hong Kong, a Government mobile app is being used to enable vaccinated people to visit bars and nightclubs – or, rather, to prevent unvaccinated people from doing the same. At restaurants, unvaccinated people must sit in designated areas, away from those who have received a vaccine. Likewise in Germany, people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid (as proved by some form of certification) will soon be permitted to engage in certain activities from which others will be barred.

Will the British Government follow suit, as it did after Italy introduced its first lockdown last February? The voices of those thousands who protested against the introduction of vaccine passports in London last month might not have been listened to, but will that of the SAGE psychologist who said on Tuesday that such a scheme could lead to people refusing to get vaccinated against Covid?

We already know that a number of “anti-Covid” measures – such as mask-wearing and caps on numbers attending large events – are likely to stay in place beyond the “end” of lockdown. The Government is said to have told football’s UEFA that crowd sizes at upcoming events will be limited to 45,000. How likely is it that these 45,000 people will have to show proof a Covid status certificate on entry to prove they don’t have Covid? MailOnline reports that the potential use of domestic vaccine passports remains unclear:

Covid vaccine passports have already been confirmed for when foreign travel resumes on May 17th but exactly how they’ll be deployed domestically remains unknown.

The PM has ruled out using them for going to the pub or supermarket but the Government is currently trialling a similar system for larger events such as concerts, sports matches and club nights.

Stop Press: The NHS mobile app, which is in line to be used as a vaccine passport for overseas travel, may not be ready in time for when holiday restrictions (partially) ease on May 17th, according to Metro.

“We Have to Compare Sweden to Its Neighbours” Isn’t a Convincing Argument

In a recent post on Lockdown Sceptics, I argued that the case for lockdown basically collapsed in May of 2020, when Sweden’s epidemic began to retreat. Sweden was the only major Western country that didn’t lockdown in 2020, yet it saw age-adjusted excess mortality up to week 51 of just 1.7% – below the European average.

A common reply is that, although Sweden did better than the European average, it did worse than its neighbours. Here its neighbours are taken to be the other Nordic countries: Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Looking at age-adjusted excess mortality, it’s true that the other Nordics did better than Sweden. All four saw negative excess mortality up to week 51.

Does this mean lockdown sceptics are wrong to cite Sweden as evidence that the benefits of lockdowns are vastly overstated? No, I don’t believe it does.

First, the economist Daniel Klein and his colleagues have identified 15 different factors that may account for the higher death toll in Sweden as compared to the other Nordics. These include the greater number of frail elderly people alive at the start of 2020 (the ‘dry tinder’ effect); the larger immigrant population; and the lack of adequate protection for care home residents in the early weeks of the pandemic. 

Second, as the researcher Philippe Lemoine has pointed out, the epidemic was already more advanced in Sweden by the time most European countries introduced lockdowns and social distancing. The other Nordic countries therefore had a head start in responding to the deadly first wave. This is particularly important because, when the first wave struck, the best ways of treating COVID-19 were not yet well understood.

I would add that, with the exception of Denmark (which saw a moderate second wave), the other Nordics are small, geographically peripheral countries for which a containment strategy was actually workable. As I’ve noted in Quillette, all the Western countries that have managed to keep their COVID-19 death rates low (Norway, Cyprus, Australia, etc.) benefited from pre-existing geographical advantages. And all imposed strict border controls at the start (something the UK Government’s scientific advisers cautioned against).

Third, as the legal scholar Paul Yowell has argued, the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are similar to the Nordics in terms of climate and population density, and once you include them in the comparison, Sweden no longer stands out. Lithuania actually had higher age-adjusted excess mortality than Sweden last year, despite imposing a strict winter lockdown.

Finally, as Yowell also points out, the ratio of Sweden’s COVID-19 death rate to Denmark’s isn’t that much higher than the ratio of Denmark’s to Finland’s. And this is despite the fact that Denmark has taken a more restrictive approach than Finland. One could therefore take the comparison between those two countries as evidence against the efficacy of lockdowns.

What’s more, this exercise could be repeated with other pairs or trios. For example, despite taking a slightly less restrictive approach than Spain and Italy, France has reported fewer deaths from COVID-19 (as well as lower excess mortality). Of course, these kinds of comparisons don’t tell us very much. But that’s the point. We shouldn’t only compare a country to its immediate neighbours.

And when researchers have analysed European countries and US states in a systematic way, they haven’t found evidence that lockdowns substantially reduce deaths from COVID-19.

Three Norwegian Health Workers in Hospital with “Unusual” Symptoms After Receiving AstraZeneca Jab

Concerns about the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine have intensified following reports of three Norwegian health workers suffering from blood clots and a low count of blood platelets after receiving the jab. Reuters has the story.

Three health workers in Norway who recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid are being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets, Norwegian health authorities said on Saturday.

Norway halted on Thursday the rollout of that vaccine, following a similar move by Denmark. Iceland later followed suit.

“We do not know if the cases are linked to the vaccine,” Sigurd Hortemo, a senior doctor at the Norwegian Medicines Agency told a news conference held jointly with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

All three individuals were under the age of 50.

The European medicine regulator EMA would investigate the three incidents, Hortemo added.

“They have very unusual symptoms: bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets,” Steinar Madsen, Medical Director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency told broadcaster NRK.

“They are quite sick…We take this very seriously,” he said, adding authorities had received notification of the cases on Saturday.

AstraZeneca was not immediately available for comment.

A number of European countries have halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine following reports of negative side effects relating to blood clots. AstraZeneca has highlighted that there have been “no confirmed serious adverse events associated with the vaccine”, but is supportive of ongoing investigations.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Ireland has temporarily halted its use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab following the above reports of blood clots in vaccinated people.