Sunetra Gupta

The Contrarian Prize

I’ve been nominated for the Contrarian Prize which was set up “to recognise individuals in British public life who demonstrate independence, courage and sacrifice”.

I’m on a shortlist of four nominees, the others being Suzanne Moore, Will Knowland and the saintly Sunetra Gupta. You can read about all four of us here.

The winner is due to be announced by Michael Crick at 7.30pm so will update you then.

Stop Press: Toby won!

The Push for Vaccination of Children and Vaccine Boosters Despite the Lack of Evidence They Prevent Infection or Transmission is Approaching a Religious Mania

As the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) gives the go-ahead for third-jab boosters for the most vulnerable, political pressure is mounting on it also to approve a wider rollout of boosters as well as inoculations for 12-15 year-olds.

Asked if the JCVI should get a “wiggle on” about decisions on boosters and jabs for children, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told Sky News: “Speaking as a parent myself, I think parents would find it incredibly reassuring to know that they had a choice as to whether their child would be vaccinated or not.”

Former Health Secretary and current Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt tweeted: “The latest study from King’s College London showed vaccine effectiveness dropping after six months, so why are we hanging around?”

Is it really appropriate for ministers and MPs to be putting pressure on a Government advisory body to give the answers they want to hear? How is that following ‘the Science’?

For its part, the JCVI has indicated that it wants to wait for more evidence, and also appears to have a split of opinion among its members. However, the Government may have successfully forced the issue, with the Guardian reporting that the committee held a long discussion on children’s vaccination on Thursday, followed by a vote, and that a decision may be announced as soon as Friday.

Previously, JCVI Chairman, Professor Anthony Harnden, had said he thought it “highly likely” there will be a booster programme, with decisions “over the next few weeks”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there are questions about which variant to target with the boosters, and identifying who really needs one.

What we don’t want to do is boost people and then find we have a new variant and we can’t boost them again because we’ve boosted them too soon – and those people might not have needed the booster in the first place. So there’s a lot of very complicated modelling and data analysis that is going on about this at the moment.

JCVI member Professor Adam Finn is clear that the “main objective” of vaccination should be to protect against serious illness, and that the evidence of waning immunity against infection is something to monitor not an urgent call to action.

I think the ZOE study, and a couple of other studies we recently had, do show the beginnings of a drop off of protection against asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic disease. But other studies are showing maintenance of good protection against serious illness and hospitalisation.

In May he told the Today programme that children should not be immunised if at all possible as a matter of principle.

In normal times, just as in pandemic times, we simply wouldn’t want to immunise anybody without needing to. It’s an invasive thing to do, it costs money, and it causes a certain amount of discomfort, and vaccines have side effects. So if we can control this virus without immunising children we shouldn’t immunise children as a matter of principle.

Try As They Might, Lockdown Proponents Can’t Escape the Blame for the Biggest Public Health Fiasco in History

Politicians, journalists and academics are wrong to blame the public for the failure of lockdowns since “the population [has never] sacrificed so much to comply with public health mandates”, say two of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD). Writing in the Telegraph, Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya – professors of medicine at Harvard and Stanford respectively – say that lockdown proponents need to acknowledge that eschewing focused protection and quarantining entire populations indiscriminately has led to the “biggest public health fiasco in history”.

A year ago, there was no evidence that lockdowns would protect older high-risk people from Covid. Now there is evidence. They did not.

With so many Covid deaths, it is obvious that lockdown strategies failed to protect the old. Holding the naïve belief that shutting down society would protect everyone, governments and scientists rejected basic focused protection measures for the elderly. While anyone can get infected, there is more than a thousand-fold difference in the risk of death between the old and the young. The failure to exploit this fact about the virus led to the biggest public health fiasco in history.

Lockdowns have, nevertheless, generated enormous collateral damage across all ages. Depriving children of in-person teaching has hurt not only their education but also their physical and mental health. Other public health consequences include missed cancer screenings and treatments and worse cardiovascular disease outcomes. Much of this damage will unfold over time and is something we must live with – and die with – for many years to come.

The blame game for this fiasco is now in full swing. Some scientists, politicians, and journalists are complaining that people did not comply with the rules sufficiently. But blaming the public is disingenuous. Never in human history has the population sacrificed so much to comply with public health mandates.

The professors are very critical of lockdown zealots like Neil O’Brien MP who have attempted to slur respected scientists – such as Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta (the third author of the GBD) – for not toeing the line on lockdown. This, they say, has stifled the public debate on the most effective way to deal with Covid.

A few academics have jumped on the bandwagon. Dr Depti Gurdasani at Queen Mary University, for example, accused Dr Gupta of pseudoscience, suggesting that she should be deplatformed and Oxford University should act against her. Unfortunately, such behaviour intimidates other academics into silence, undermining scientific debate.

Last spring, the pandemic was waning due to a combination of immunity and seasonality, and many lockdowners claimed that lockdowns had succeeded. Still, it was obvious to any competent infectious disease epidemiologist that it would be back, and in June, Dr Gupta said she expected a resurgence of Covid in the winter months. This didn’t prevent journalists and politicians from falsely claiming that she thought the pandemic was all over.

The fact is that with a lower herd immunity threshold in the summer than in the winter, immunity can drive a pandemic on its way out during the spring but then resurge next autumn, and that is what happened. A year into the pandemic, one would think that politicians and journalists writing about Covid would have bothered to acquire some basic knowledge of infectious disease epidemiology.

Their article is very much worth reading in full.

Isolating People Won’t Protect Them From Pathogens in the Long Run

Today we’re publishing an original piece by John Tamny, a Vice President at FreedomWorks, editor of RealClearMarkets, and the author of the newly released book, When Politicians Panicked: The New Coronavirus, Expert Opinion, and a Tragic Lapse of Reason. In the following extract, he describes how the opposite of isolating people in their homes – opening the world up and making it easier for people to bump into each other – has helped reduce our vulnerability to disease.

Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta, one of the authors of The Great Barrington Declaration, has long argued that globalisation’s genius has been understated. It’s not just that the division of labour has enabled relentless specialisation among the world’s workers, it’s not just that people ‘bumping into each other’ have spread ideas and processes that have driven even greater economic advancement that has easily been the greatest foe of disease and death, globalisation has also fostered a great deal of physical, in-person interaction among productive, specialised people increasingly possessing the means to see the globe.

As a consequence they haven’t just seen the world. In a health sense, they’ve spread viruses around the world. With more and more of the world’s inhabitants moving around the globe, so have viruses. The spreading hasn’t weakened the global population, rather it’s strengthened it. Immunity is most notably achieved naturally, and it’s achieved much more quickly when people are constantly interacting with other people.

worth reading in full.