Times Article on the First Lockdown Omits One Very Important Point

On January 1st, the Times published a longish essay titled ‘What if we had done nothing about Covid?’, which focuses on Britain’s first lockdown.

It’s far from the worst thing written during the pandemic, as the author does try to consider both sides of the argument (i.e., pro- and anti-lockdown). However, he ends up leaning heavily toward the pro-lockdown side.

For example, he writes things like, “If we had done literally nothing, the economic impact from loss of life alone would have been catastrophic,” and, “There would probably not be enough workers left to run the NHS, let alone deal with the backlog of cancelled operations or the tidal wave of long Covid.”

The author does admit that “even if the government did nothing, we would have adjusted our behaviour” – though apparently not by enough to avert a huge death toll.

However, he omits one very important point: infections were almost certainly falling when Britain’s first lockdown began. While lockdown may have helped them to fall slightly faster than otherwise, it didn’t cause the initial fall. How do we know this?

First, infections began falling around the same time in Sweden, which didn’t lock down (see below). Neil Ferguson’s team predicted there would be 90,000 deaths in Sweden, but in the end there were less than 6,000. This shows that their model (which the author of the Times pieces takes very seriously) was simply wrong.

No Need for Fourth Vaccine Dose, Says JCVI

Fourth Covid vaccines doses are not currently needed, Government scientific advisers have said, as protection against severe disease from three doses is holding up. The Telegraph has more.

On Friday night, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced that booster jabs continue to provide high levels of protection against severe disease from omicron in older adults, including the most vulnerable.

The committee’s analysis found that, three months after receiving a third jab, protection against hospitalisation among those aged 65 and over remains at around 90%.

Ministers have been exploring the possibility of a fourth jab for several weeks after Israel, considered a global pioneer in Covid vaccination, launched such a programme last month.  

But Prof Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI’s Chairman of Covid immunisation, said: “The current data show the booster dose is continuing to provide high levels of protection against severe disease, even for the most vulnerable older age groups. For this reason, the committee has concluded there is no immediate need to introduce a second booster dose, though this will continue to be reviewed.”

No mention of effectiveness against infection or transmission. Yet it is the vaccines’ supposed efficacy against transmission that is the basis of the vaccine mandates that will see many shortly lose their jobs. If the JCVI no longer thinks the vaccines are effective against transmission it should say so and advise the Government to end its hounding and harassment of the unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Times abandons liberalism in a recent leading article which backs vaccine passports (no tests allowed) for sports events, theatres and indoor restaurants, saying it’s “time to get tough on the antivaxers”.

HART’s Covid Report Attacked in the Times

HART’s must-read report “COVID-19: an overview of the evidence“, written about in Lockdown Sceptics on Thursday, has been making waves today. Former Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Sumption praised it in the Telegraph this morning, and then this afternoon Times Science Editor Tom Whipple did his best to bury it under smears of being anti-vaccine and “extremely irresponsible”.

In a mean-spirited piece that makes no effort to engage with the arguments of the report, Whipple rounds up the usual suspects to heap opprobrium on anything that deviates from the establishment line or raises awkward questions.

Originally headlined “Scientists condemn report claiming vaccines caused second wave deaths”, it now reads “Scientists condemn report questioning role of vaccine in second wave deaths”, presumably after someone pointed out to the editors that the report never makes such a claim but only raises questions based on patterns in data. The report clearly states that “we cannot infer causation from correlation”.

Whipple writes:

Among arguments about the harms caused by lockdown the 50-page document also states that the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine coincided with a large number of deaths and this may not have been a coincidence. “When something in data is this unusual, we have to ask questions, no matter how uncomfortable they may be,” it states, in a chapter written by a “quantitative analyst” called Joel Smalley. “It would be extremely unscientific and even negligent not to investigate whether the rise in deaths during this period is linked in some way to the vaccine rollout.” He suggested the Pfizer vaccine had not been tested sufficiently on older people.

Jeremy Brown, from UCL and a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said this was “ridiculous”. He pointed to the now extensive real-world data showing the vaccines were safe and reduced deaths. “It is quite conclusively true that the vaccine offers protection in the real world,” he said. Far from killing people, he said, “if you’ve been vaccinated you have around an 85% lower chance of ending up in hospital”.

The rise in deaths was caused by infections, he said, rather than vaccines.

He added that academics should not be endorsing the idea vaccines may be causing mass death. “The only way out of this mess is the vaccine so anything that undermines that is distinctly unhelpful,” he said.

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, added that to make the link “shows a blatant disregard for the facts” and “is irresponsible in the extreme”.

HART this evening published a response that clarifies they are not making claims so much as raising questions.

While scientists quoted in the article have dismissed HART’s suggestion that there is a possible link between vaccination and COVID-19 infections, it is worth highlighting that earlier this month a study led by Public Health England found a “notable” rise in COVID-19 infections in the over-70s immediately after receiving a vaccine.

We are not asserting that vaccines are the only possible cause of “second wave” cases and deaths. We are not asserting that the vaccines are, in and of themselves, dangerous or deadly. There are many factors at play here. For example, the increased contact from the vaccination programme or from possible relaxation of social distancing following vaccination have been suggested as possible causes for the correlation. It has also been shown that lymphocyte levels fall in the first three days after Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination. The phase two trial of AstraZeneca showed a transient neutropenia in 46% of patients in the vaccine arm (compared to 7% in the control arm). Whether this suppressed immunity sufficiently accounts for increased susceptibility is uncertain. These observations have no bearing on the efficacy of the vaccines which is a separate issue.

They draw attention to a number of studies that show a spike in infections in the days following vaccination: the FDA Pfizer report that found a 40% increase in the vaccinated versus placebo arm in the first week of the trial; an Israeli study reporting a doubling in daily incidence until about eight days after the Pfizer vaccine had been given; a Danish paper showing a 40% increase of COVID-19 in the vaccinated in the first two weeks; and a Public Health England study that noted a 48% increase in Covid in the first nine days after vaccination.