Side effects

Australia to Stop Manufacturing AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine, Blaming “Negative Press” for Lower Uptake

Australia is set to stop manufacturing the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine because fears over side effects mean the jab is “not going to be utilised” as much as others. Health officials have pinned the blame for these fears on “negative press”. The Mail Australia has the story.

The federal Government in November last year contracted Australia biomedical firm CSL to produce 50 million doses of the vaccine at its manufacturing hub in Melbourne.

At the time worldwide vaccine development for the coronavirus was in its fledgling stages and policymakers prioritised domestic production as a necessity during the crisis.

But just one month after its launch in March 2021, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) pulled the pin on younger Australians receiving the dose due to the extremely rare risk of fatal blood clots – about one in 1.6 million. …

ATAGI flip-flopped on their health advice recommending the AstraZeneca jab only to over-50s, before ratcheting up the warning to over 60s – with the age bracket less susceptible to developing blood clots.

Then as the Delta outbreak started ravaging NSW and Victorian in the winter months the medical body suggested it should be considered for over-18s living in a hot spot area.

But by that stage the reputation of the safe and effective vaccine was tarnished and many Australians decided to wait for Pfizer and Moderna supplies to filter into the country from abroad.

“Obviously we don’t want to manufacture something that is not going to be utalised and we will have a number of other options moving into the future,” Associate Professor Paul Griffin from the University of Queensland told 9News.

“It obviously has received a lot of negative press although it’s a vaccine that has proven highly effective and very safe.”

Some of that ‘bad press’ came from a very unlucky source back in June with Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young adding to the disinformation and later being accused of “fear mongering”.

“I don’t want an 18 year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got Covid, probably wouldn’t die,” she said after the Prime Minister urged younger people to consider taking the AstraZeneca jab.

Worth reading in full.

Sweden Suspends Use of Moderna Covid Vaccine in Under-30s Due to Concerns about Side Effects

Swedish health authorities have suspended the use of the Moderna Covid vaccine in people aged 30 and under due to concerns about side effects, including inflammation of the heart muscle. The Independent has the story.

The reason for the pausing is “signals of an increased risk of side effects such as inflammation of the heart muscle or the pericardium” – the double-walled sac containing the heart and the roots of the main vessels, Sweden’s Public Health Agency said in a statement. “The risk of being affected is very small.” 

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist, said they “follow the situation closely and act quickly to ensure that vaccinations against Covid are always as safe as possible and at the same time provide effective protection” against the disease.

In July, the European Medicines Agency recommended authorising Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorised for people under 18.

Moderna’s vaccine was given the green light for use in anyone 18 and over across the 27-nation European Union in January. It has also been licensed in countries including Britain, Canada and the U.S., but so far its use hasn’t been extended to children. To date, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for children under 18 in Europe and North America.

Hundreds of millions of Moderna doses already have been administered to adults. In a study of more than 3,700 children ages 12 to 17, the vaccine triggered the same signs of immune protection, and no Covid diagnoses arose in the vaccinated group compared with four cases among those given dummy shots.

Sore arms, headache and fatigue were the most common side effects in the young vaccine recipients, the same ones as for adults.

U.S. and European regulators caution, however, that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear linked to a rare reaction in teenagers and young adults — chest pain and heart inflammation.

The Swedish health authorities said that the heart symptoms “usually go away on their own,” but they must be assessed by a doctor. The conditions are most common among young men, in connection with, for example, viral infections such as Covid. In 2019, approximately 300 people under the age of 30 were treated in hospital with myocarditis.

Data point to an increased incidence also in connection with vaccination against Covid, mainly in adolescents and young adults and mainly in boys and men.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Vaccines for Children Would Not Be Approved before Full Investigation in Normal Times, Says Government Advisor

These – undoubtedly – aren’t normal times. If they were, the Covid vaccine would not have been approved for healthy children until it had been fully investigated, says Professor Adam Finn. He adds that parents are justified in waiting until more is understood about the risks of vaccinating children before getting their teenagers ‘jabbed’. The Times has the story.

Professor Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, says that in normal times, the vaccine would not have been recommended for widespread use in children until the long-term consequences of rare side effects had been fully investigated.

Parents are justified in waiting until the risks are clearer before getting their teenagers vaccinated and the NHS needs to spell out the uncertainty over long-term effects better, he argues on this page.

He fears that if some children eventually suffer lifelong health risks without being told of known concerns, trust in other vaccination programmes and wider Government health advice will be undermined. …

Given the huge uncertainty over the extent of the risks, Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, is concerned that parents and children have not fully understood the concerns that gave the JCVI pause and led to months of agonising over whether children should be offered the jab.

Finn insists that doctors need to be transparent about the “extremely uncommon” risks. He says that expert disagreement over possible side effects “cannot be an argument to downplay important information or to present the evidence as clearly pointing only in one direction when it doesn’t”.

An NHS leaflet to be given to children says only that “most people [suffering heart inflammation] recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments”.

Writing with Guido Pieles, the consultant cardiologist who advised the JCVI, Finn explains that U.S. cardiologists are seeing signs of scarring in the hearts of otherwise healthy teenagers who suffer rare post-vaccine inflammation.

While they say that it is “perfectly possible that these changes will resolve completely over time”, they warn that such scarring is known to carry a risk of “life-threatening arrhythmias or sudden cardiac arrest”.

As coronavirus vaccines are so new, it is not yet known if the same serious long-term dangers will result. However Finn and Pieles said that “in normal times a rare, new and poorly understood process of this kind would be painstakingly studied over a longer period before any decisions were made”.

Given the pandemic, they acknowledge that many believe “we currently don’t have the luxury of time for more evidence”, making it much harder to issue authoritative advice.

Finn and Pieles suggest that parents consider waiting six months or so until the longer-term consequences of heart changes start to become clear, saying: “This is not a decision that needs to be rushed, and choosing to wait for more evidence is perfectly legitimate.”

Worth reading in full.

Why isn’t This Simple Step to Reduce the Risk of Blood Clots After Vaccination Not Followed?

There follows a guest post by Daily Sceptic reader Tim Cooper.

At the end of June the preprint of a paper was published, showing that accidentally injecting vaccine into a blood vessel, rather than into the muscle, could be a factor in the incidence of clotting events (VITT, etc.) associated with the AstraZeneca-type vaccines.

This concept has been mulled over in academic circles and on social media, But the issue has rather gone off the boil, possibly since these types of vaccine are not currently being widely used in developed countries (although they are still being used elsewhere).

It may be about to hot-up again though. A new paper has now been released which shows that a similar phenomenon could be associated with mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s and suggesting that faulty injection technique could be behind the adverse events.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of intramuscular injection (as used for the Covid vaccines) “may be preferred because muscles have larger and more numerous blood vessels than subcutaneous tissue, leading to faster absorption”.

When delivering intramuscular injection, nurses are often trained to ‘aspirate’ the needle by pulling back on the plunger, with the absence of blood indicating that they haven’t hit a blood vessel. For some medicines, the product insert specifically states that “special care should be taken to prevent injection into a blood vessel”.

In general terms, though, no hard-and-fast rule exists about avoiding injection into blood vessels, because, some argue, there is no clear evidence that it matters either way – though NHS guidelines from 2006 recommended that aspiration should always be used in intramuscular injections.

Currently for Covid vaccines, U.K. health authorities do not insist on it, with Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi relying on Public Health England guidance to state that: “There is no need to pull back on the plunger … because there are no large blood vessels at the recommended injection sites.” (14:08)

In America, the CDC guidelines are frankly disturbing. They appear to acknowledge the issue by stating that if you aspirate and get a flash of blood, the process should be abandoned. But then they add: “This is a waste of expensive vaccine that could be avoided by simply not aspirating.” Ah, the close-your-eyes-and-pretend-it’s-not-there approach to vaccine safety.

Why Has There Been a Rise in Non-Covid-Related Heart Attacks Since the Vaccine Roll-Out?

There follows a guest post by the academic economist who regularly contributes to the Daily Sceptic.

We have known for some time that the vaccines can lead to myocarditis, a condition that causes the heart muscle to swell. Myocarditis is typically a serious illness and in its worst cases can cause cardiac arrest and death. There are also some indications that the risk for myocarditis from the vaccine may be higher in younger people and especially in younger men – a group that is not seriously at risk from COVID-19.

This was clearly not an effect picked up by the clinical trials. We already know that the clinical trials have proved misleading when it comes to protection against infection – and there are also indications that the trials may have been misleading on how well the vaccine prevents hospitalisation and death. Since the vaccine was launched, independent macro-level data has consistently proved more scientifically reliable than micro-level trial data.

So, can we get any numbers on macro-level heart failure? Yes, in fact, we can – and the results are disturbing. The Government publishes a weekly report on excess mortality in England and it includes a breakdown by cause. One of these causes of death is heart failure. Usefully, the data also tells us how many of the deaths from heart failure were due to COVID-19. Using this data, we can calculate excess deaths from heart failure not caused by COVID-19. Let us compare the period in which the vaccine has been active, to the period in which it was not.

Here we see that excess deaths from heart failure that were not caused by COVID-19 are more than 12 times higher in 2021 than they were in 2020. Could these be myocarditis deaths induced by the vaccine? Possibly. There is no way to be totally sure. But the results are worrying and merit further investigation.

One statistical trick we might use to tease out causality is to take the ratio of COVID-19-induced excess heart failures to non-COVID-19-induced excess heart failures and compare this to the number of people vaccinated under-30 – i.e., the group most vulnerable to vaccine-induced myocarditis. (Note: there is no age-specific data on non-Covid-related heart attacks.)

New Zealand Woman Dies After Receiving Pfizer Covid Vaccine

The whole of New Zealand was plunged into lockdown following the reporting of a single Covid ‘case’ earlier this month. But the main response to today’s reporting of a death in the country linked to the Pfizer vaccine appears to be highlighting just how safe the jab really is. Sky News has the story.

The Covid Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB) did note that there were other medical issues occurring simultaneously, which may have influenced [the woman’s] death following her vaccination.

“This is the first case in New Zealand where a death in the days following vaccination has been linked to the Pfizer Covid vaccine,” the Ministry said in a statement, without giving the woman’s age.

The Ministry added the vaccine monitoring panel attributed the death to myocarditis, a rare but known side effect of the vaccination.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can limit the organ’s ability to pump blood and can cause changes in heartbeat rhythms.

Last month, New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (Medsafe) issued a safety alert on myocarditis to raise awareness of the side effect.

All cases of deaths following vaccinations are referred to the CV-ISMB for review.

The board’s Chairman, Dr. John Tait, said: “We want to ensure that the outcomes from this investigation are widely available for others to learn from.

“The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective in protecting against serious illness and death from Covid and we remain confident about using it in New Zealand.”

The Health Ministry has reassured people that the benefits of the jab continue to “greatly outweigh” the risk of Covid and vaccine side effects.

In response, Pfizer said it recognised there could be incidences of myocarditis after vaccinations but such side effects were extremely rare.

Worth reading in full.

Two Die After Taking Moderna Vaccine From Now-Suspended Batches

Two men in their 30s have died in Japan after being given a dose of the Moderna Covid vaccine from batches that have since been suspended following the discovery of contaminants. Reuters has the story.

The men in their 30s died this month within days of receiving their second Moderna doses, the [Japanese Health] Ministry said in a release. Each had a shot from one of three manufacturing lots suspended on Thursday. The causes of death are being investigated.

Japan halted the use of 1.63 million Moderna doses shipped to 863 vaccination centres nationwide, more than a week after the domestic distributor, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, received reports of contaminants in some vials.

“At this time, we do not have any evidence that these deaths are caused by the Moderna Covid vaccine,” Moderna and Takeda said in a statement on Saturday. “It is important to conduct a formal investigation to determine whether there is any connection.”

The Government has also said no safety or efficacy issues had been identified and the suspension of the three Moderna batches was a precaution. …

The contaminants found in some vials in Japan are believed to be metallic particles, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing Health Ministry sources.

Worth reading in full.

U.S. Health Officials Reviewing Reports That Moderna Covid Vaccine Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Condition Than Previously Thought

Days after the U.S. Government announced its plans to begin a Covid booster vaccine roll-out, the Washington Post has revealed that American health officials are reviewing reports that the Moderna vaccine may be linked to a higher risk of a heart condition in younger adults than was previously thought – especially in young men. Reuters has the story.

The review was focused on Canadian data that suggests a higher risk from the shot than the Pfizer vaccine, especially in men below the age of 30, according to paper.

The Washington Post report quoted a source saying it was too early for the regulators to reach a conclusion, and that additional work was needed before any recommendation was made.

“While we won’t comment on internal meetings or discussions, we can say that FDA is absolutely committed to reviewing data as it becomes available to us,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. Moderna did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

The possible review comes just two days after U.S. health officials said that Covid vaccine booster doses will be available to Americans from September 20th, over concerns that initial vaccinations may offer lower protection in the face of rising infections due to the Delta variant.

Health regulators in June had added a warning to the literature that accompanies mRNA vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer to flag a rare risk of heart inflammation seen primarily in young males.

Data from a Government agency’s safety monitoring system in that month suggested a rate of 12.6 cases of heart inflammation per million in 12 to 39 year-olds. …

If new information changes the risk-benefit profile of Covid vaccines, the FDA will update the public accordingly, the agency said in an email. …

Roughly 142 million shots of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in arms, according to U.S. Government data as of Thursday.

Worth reading in full.

COVID-19 Vaccination and the Death of Informed Consent

by George Santayana

Informed consent is one of the cornerstones of modern medicine and the foundation of the patient/doctor relationship. The principle of informed consent is a core part of the Nuremberg Code on human research ethics and states that consent for any medical treatment must come from the patient themselves who needs to understand both the benefits and risks. Likewise, the opposite, which we might call “informed refusal”, is just as important and a patient can refuse treatment or withdraw consent at any time.

The “informed’ part of informed consent can occur in a number of ways such as provision of written materials (the piece of paper you throw away when you open a packet of headache tablets) or a discussion with your doctor. Regardless, the information given to a patient needs to be accurate, balanced and cover both the benefits and risks.

Consent must also be given freely and without undue influence or coercion. Of course, a clinician can express their opinion and offer advice as to what course of action a patient might take, but ultimately the decision to proceed (swallow the pill, take the test, have the operation) resides with the patient.

Informed consent places the individual patient at the heart of clinical practice and given that they are the person receiving the treatment and taking any associated risks that intrinsically feels like the right thing. And so it used to be for vaccinations, where it was up to the individual whether they wished to have a specific vaccination or not. Yes, there were some specific situations where vaccination was deemed necessary (e.g. travelling to certain regions of the world) but in these situations the focus was on protecting the individual themselves. But then COVID-19 came along and suddenly this patient-centred view of the world was replaced by governments and the mainstream media with one where a treatment benefit was not just to the individual receiving the treatment but also to society… a change, which as I will discuss here, inexorably leads to the destruction of informed consent.

To understand why, let’s start by considering the benefit of a vaccination to an individual.

One of the peculiar things about vaccines as treatments is that their benefit is not the same as their effectiveness. This is because a vaccine works by generating immune “memory” of a specific pathogen. The effectiveness of the vaccine is therefore dictated by how good the immune response is to the immunisation and what type of immune memory it creates. The effectiveness is also to some extent dictated by the pathogen itself. So, for a virus like smallpox, vaccination was highly effective not least because the pathogen proved unable to evolve to evade vaccine induced immunity. In contrast, the parasites that cause malaria or sleeping sickness have evolved mechanisms to evade the immune system and so vaccinations against these pathogens have proven to be highly elusive. SARS-CoV-2 sits somewhere in the middle in that it appears susceptible to immunity from vaccination but can mutate and evolve variants that might be able to overcome this immunity.

However, having immune memory is of no benefit to the patient per se. The benefit to the patient only comes if, subsequent to vaccination, they become infected with the pathogen. At this point, because of the immune memory created by the vaccination, they raise a more robust, rapid and effective immune response, meaning that they will either not become ill, or if they do become ill, it will be with a milder form of the disease. In other words, infection by the pathogen is a pre-requisite of gaining the benefit from the vaccination, a benefit that only occurs if, in the absence of the vaccination, they would have developed significant disease. Vaccination is therefore a lot like insurance; you gain no benefit from having the insurance policy documents sitting in your filing cabinet; they only become useful when the thing you are insuring against actually happens.

This benefit of vaccination is captured in the concept of “number needed to vaccinate” or NNTV (i.e., how many individuals need to receive a vaccination in order for one of them to avoid developing serious disease). NNTV is therefore driven by two things: the prevalence of the pathogen within a population and the severity of the disease caused if someone was to be infected by the pathogen. The NNTV is why we don’t routinely vaccinate individuals against diseases such as yellow fever that are not prevalent in the U.K. and why we focus flu vaccinations on vulnerable individuals for whom the disease carries significant risk.

For SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, the seriousness of the disease is largely age related, meaning that the NNTV is also age-related. As a result, we might only need to vaccinate a few hundred over-60s for one to avoid having a serious case of COVID-19 while we would need to vaccinate thousands (if not tens or hundreds of thousands) of the under-20s to achieve the same outcome.

Unlike the benefit, the safety risks associated with SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations are not age dependent and include rare, serious adverse events including death. So, the balance of benefit and risk for their use also varies with age and is vastly different for a diabetic man in his 60s compared to a healthy young woman in her 20s. From the perspective of the benefit to the individual, there is therefore no way we should be considering vaccinating healthy young people using these vaccines. The likelihood of serious adverse effects may be small but then so is the likelihood of avoiding serious COVID-19 and so there is a very real possibility that a mass vaccination campaign of young people will produce more harm than benefit. In fact, the original strategy was to focus COVID-19 vaccinations on the over-50s for precisely this benefit/risk reason.

But somewhere along the way, COVID-19 vaccinations stopped being solely about the benefit to the individual and started to be about the benefit to society (i.e., the goal of achieving herd immunity). A brief reminder: herd immunity occurs when a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to a given pathogen in such a way that the likelihood of encountering an infectious person drops, as does the likelihood of an infectious person being able to pass the infection on to another individual who also becomes infectious. As a result, herd immunity protects individuals who are naïve to an infection simply because they are unlikely to ever encounter an infectious person and at the same time it means that an infection can no longer spread effectively through the population and may even die out.

Vaccinations can produce herd immunity and in the case of smallpox were so effective that they led to the elimination of the disease itself. But from an informed consent perspective there is one huge difference between vaccination campaigns that have historically produced herd immunity and that being pursued for COVID-19 and that is that historically the diseases concerned were of significant risk to those receiving the vaccination. For example, measles is a significant risk for young children and so we vaccinate young children. But young children often grow up to be adults and carry their measles immunity with them and so, as a result, measles herd immunity emerges as a consequence of measles vaccination… it is absolutely not its aim.

Achieving herd immunity is also when vaccine effectiveness comes into play, and this is because the vaccine must not only reduce the individual’s likelihood of developing serious disease but also produce “neutralising” immunity in the sense that infected, immune individuals are not infectious to others. As a result, the inclusion of “benefit to society” as a consideration for vaccinations against SARS-CoV-2 raises the bar as to what an effective vaccine looks like and it is becoming clear that the current Covid vaccinations almost certainly don’t jump over that bar. However, important as they are, I don’t want to focus on these technical aspects but instead come back to what the “benefit to society” addendum to vaccine benefit means for informed consent.

As soon as we aim to achieve herd immunity through vaccination, then we need to ensure that a sufficient proportion of the entire population are vaccinated. As discussed above, this happens naturally as a consequence of some vaccinations against childhood diseases but for SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 the benefit is to the more elderly population and not children and young people. As a result, to achieve herd immunity we need to vaccinate individuals who will receive minimal benefit from the treatment itself. We could treat this as a form of medical altruism and say, “We know that you won’t benefit personally, but for the good of society please have this treatment.” If we were to use this as the point of persuasion for individuals to have the vaccination, then this would not necessarily be a problem; people give blood as an altruistic act for the medical benefit of others all the time and encouraging them to do so isn’t unethical. However, it becomes an issue in this case because you need lots of young people (and the population in general) to be vaccinated in order to cross the magic threshold for herd immunity and purely relying on a sense of community or selflessness may not be sufficient to achieve the levels of vaccination required to achieve this societal benefit. So, to tackle this problem, and to use a horrendous Americanism, the population need to be incentivised to be vaccinated.

Let’s be completely clear: whatever form these incentives take they are coercion, and so utterly contrary to the principle of informed consent. This would be bad enough if the vaccinations were completely safe, but the fact that they carry even the small possibility of serious and even life-threatening risks makes this coercion even more egregious. Effectively, the benefit to the patient is no longer confined to the treatment itself, but whether they might win a prize, or be able to travel, or go to a nightclub, or watch a football match. Informed consent has been lost in a haze of rewards for the vaccinated.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. This is because it is a relatively simple logical step to move from seeing unvaccinated refuseniks as individuals to be cajoled or bribed into being vaccinated to treating them as a threat to the herd-immunity-through-vaccination project. Once we’ve taken this step, then the unvaccinated become hazards to the vaccinated; immune dementors who could suck the immunity from the rest of the population… or more specifically, variant factories whose every breath carries the risk of a new mutant virus able to evade vaccine-induced immunity.

Once we classify unvaccinated individuals as hazards, we can then deploy versions of the ‘passive smoking argument’ to move beyond coercion and into compulsion. Essentially the argument runs like this: we know that you as an (unvaccinated) individual have rights, but your (in)actions are also a hazard to broader (vaccinated) society and so we need to balance your rights as an (unvaccinated) individual with the rights of your fellow (vaccinated) citizens and as a result we must, reluctantly, remove your rights in order to protect the broader rights of others. This argument creates the necessary backdrop for policies to compel vaccination because it legitimises the removal of individual consent as a necessary evil to protect the broader (vaccinated) population.

However, unlike smoking in public, being unvaccinated is not something that can be switched on or off and so the only way to ensure that the unvaccinated hazard is contained is to separate it from the vaccinated population, which naturally leads to concepts such as vaccine passports and ‘No Jab, No Job’ policies. Voluntary fun activities like going to the pub or having a meal out – normal day-to-day existence – become harder and harder for those not having the vaccine, leaving many people with no choice but to take the medicine regardless of how they feel about it. And without choice how can there be consent?

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and so I believe it is with the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination policy. What starts out as a noble ambition to use COVID-19 vaccination as a tool to achieve a broader benefit to the population, logically ends up in the destruction of informed consent and the creation of medical apartheid. This is the inevitable consequence of shifting the focus of a medical treatment from the individual to broader society. It is also the thin end of a very unpleasant wedge because once we allow the principle that the state can have a direct stake in what is in the best interest of an individual’s health then where do we stop? Arguments that “the others” are a medical hazard to “us” have been deployed to justify some of the worse abuses of modern times and although I am absolutely not saying that current policies amount to anything like this, the resonance here should make even the most ardent proponent of vaccine compulsion uncomfortable. History teaches us that when governments, rather than individuals, decide on what is the best medical treatment this almost always leads to dire consequences – often for some of the most vulnerable in society. But with vaccine passports and NHS apps, it certainly feels like we’ve already started down this road and regardless of your views on COVID-19 vaccinations we should all be very worried about where this journey might lead.

George Santayana is the pseudonym of a senior executive in a U.K. pharmaceutical company.

The Heresy of Heresies

by Charlotte Niemiec

During the Great Plague of London in the 1600s, an increasingly panicked and ignorant Government battled to contain a disease that ripped indiscriminately through the populace and ordered the slaughter of all the city’s cats. With no understanding of the disease’s origins or how it spread, these unfortunate feline scapegoats were believed to be the vectors of disease. But while the cull – in context – can be forgiven, the consequences were catastrophic; it obliterated, in one fell swoop, the creatures whose instinct it was to keep the city’s rat numbers at bay. The rodent population boomed, along with the fleas that fed on them, giving the bacterium that caused the plauge –Yersinia pestis – a freer run than it had ever had.

The tale may be anecdotal but, almost four centuries later, it serves as a fitting analogy to onlookers of the current U.K. Government as it flails around in an attempt to get a handle on a disease not far off one hundred times less deadly.

Have we lost our heads? The Government has metaphorically (for now – the idea has in fact been mooted) culled the cats, abandoning logic and taking the most counterintuitive course of action available to it at almost every turn. To begin with, it shelved its ready-made pandemic plan in preference for a never-before-tried-or-tested lockdown regime. Not once, in the history of pandemics – including bubonic plague – have we quarantined healthy people. But for this disease, with its roughly 99.7% survival rate, it was done without question. And the people nodded.

To protect the elderly, our NHS turned them away from hospitals and returned them to their virus-infested care homes, slapping a DNR where it thought it could get away with it – presumably to reduce the pressure on a ‘national’ health service that all but closed its doors to anyone without the disease, while imploring those with symptoms not to pay them a visit. And the people clapped.

To safeguard the vulnerable, the Government commissioned the development of a ‘vaccine’, to be trialled, tested and injected at the speed of light. No matter the consequences – the suspicious post-jab deaths, the eyebrow-raising adverse reactions, the diminishingly small efficacy rate – we are told the jab is ‘safe’ and we all must have it ‘for the greater good’. And the people queued.

The media largely ran with the Government line (and the Government’s money), no matter that the more important, more explosive stories lay on the other side of the debate; were those that rooted out the insanity, that questioned the narrative, that protected our freedoms. And the people believed it.

To further ensure its fully-vaccinated majority really is ‘safe’, the Government will now insist on a ‘vaccine passport’ to protect it from the great unvaccinated. This contradictory move is necessary, it argues, regardless of the current evidence suggesting the vaccine does not prevent infection, does not prevent transmission, may not reduce symptoms and so, logically, a vaccine passport has no scientific or medical justification. The powers that be continue to rescind more and more of our freedoms. And the people cheer.

The Government is now cycling through its tactical playbook to tempt, threaten, manipulate or blackmail the ‘selfish Covidiot anti-vaxxers’ at any cost. Some of its members resort to insults, others promise ‘kebabs for jabs’. Still others threaten to take away our fun if we don’t do as we’re told. Most of those hesitant to ‘get a vaccine’ regard such blatant and patronising coercion as ever more suspicious and double down on their conviction. A more sensible course of action, but one that the Government has not provided, is evidence that the vaccine is safe in both the short- and long-term, for every subset of the population, whether pregnant, on other medication, an allergy sufferer, prone to blood clots or heart problems. Nor has it been able to offer a compelling reason for those unlikely to be seriously affected by the disease to get a medical treatment that won’t prevent them catching it or spreading it. And the people castigate these vaccine hesitant foot-draggers.

Despite pitching Covid as a global pandemic – and therefore a worldwide problem requiring mass vaccination to ‘get us out of the mess’ – the U.K. Government has shown little solidarity with its international counterparts by sharing the spoils of war and is instead insisting on the vaccination of those so far down this disease’s pecking order as to be laughable, if it wasn’t so horrifying. Children, who rarely – if ever – transmit or suffer with Covid, are next in the firing line, despite the risks. And the people rejoice.

Primary school science teaches us that we can ward or fight off respiratory viruses by maintaining healthy immune systems, aided by fresh air, exercise and nutrition. It stands to reason then that the Government thought the best response to the crisis was to confine citizens to their homes, criminalise serious exercise, ‘fix it’ so that only fast food companies could viably function by delivering negligible nutrients to your door and then implement an ‘eat out to help out’ scheme that encouraged us to consume even more fat, sugar and chemicals for the good of the economy. And the people complied.

Next, the Government mandated face masks. Roundly rejecting their use at the beginning of the spread, it instead ushered them in after the first wave was over, in the heat of last summer, as Covid was, it was hoped, on its way out. Until then, SAGE members had repeatedly insisted that masks did more harm than good, that there was no scientific evidence available to back up their efficacy – and certainly not homemade masks hastily constructed from withered t-shirts. But, as Laura Dodsworth points out in her book A State of Fear, as the panic subsided and the Government felt its control slipping away, the masks served to remind us to be fearful, that ‘there’s a global pandemic on, you know?‘. The line changed. Masks now ‘overwhelmingly’ helped to prevent transmission and a naked face in public was a loaded weapon. And the people ceded control.

* * *

Being generous, we could blame an incompetent Government blindsided by a ‘pandemic’ that hit just as it was popping the cork on finally ‘getting Brexit done’. But the actions it took went beyond naïvety and entered the realms of the Kafka-esque nonsensical. The last 18 months have been those of U-turns and false predictions followed by denials; hirings and firings of ‘experts’ paid to find or fabricate the evidence to fit the theory; promises to follow ‘the science’, to go by ‘data not dates’ – and then do the opposite. The mainstream media has refused to ask tough questions, social platforms have censored anything that doesn’t fit the fear narrative, scientists and medics and employees across the spectrum have lost their jobs and reputations for daring to speak out or refuse injection. The nurses on the ‘front line’ who worked around the clock last year without a vaccine will now be fired if they choose not to have one. This is their reward. The elites have flourished while the proles festered.

Much blame should be laid at the Government’s door for frightening its citizens and turning them into nodding, clapping, cheering automatons. But the people are not themselves entirely blameless, and tyranny does not operate in a vacuum. We are responsible for collectively swallowing the lies, the deceit, the buried evidence, the false predictions, the censored questions, the fairy tales told from Rose Gardens dreamed up in Barnard Castles in the air. Gullible en masse, we have refused to believe the evidence of our eyes, dropping last week’s headlines down the memory hole in favour of the latest scare, forgetting that the Government promised no further lockdowns, no vaccine passports, no jabbing of the under-18s, abandoning that most precious of resources: common sense. Why?

In the now oft-quoted Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith considers that:

In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it… the heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?

What then, indeed. If we are to regain control of our minds, to reassert our rights – to bodily autonomy, to question authority, to protest against tyranny – and claw back our freedoms and roam where we will, we must stand firm, speak out and reject the Party line. Because, as Winston determines: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

Charlotte Niemiec is a freelance journalist.