Vaccine efficacy

Vaccine Effectiveness Against Hospitalisation Plummets in Omicron Surge, Data Shows

The most striking point from this week’s UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report – with data for the four weeks ending January 9th – is the sharp decline in unadjusted vaccine effectiveness (calculated from raw data, so not adjusted for potential confounders such as risk factors and testing behaviour) against hospitalisation (see above). The decline is particularly sharp for under-50s, with 18-29 year-olds dropping to 38% (meaning the hospitalisation rate was 38% lower among the vaccinated (two or three doses) than the unvaccinated). The sharpness of the drops coincides with the age groups with the lowest third-dose coverage (see below), which suggests it may be a waning effect accelerated by Omicron and offset by boosters.

Third doses in England (UKHSA)

Another possible explanation is that it is an artefact of the high number of incidental hospital admissions in recent weeks, with more than half of Covid hospital admissions being treated primarily for something else. Given vaccines offer little to no protection (or worse) against infection, they will offer the same lack of protection against incidental hospital admission as Omicron spreads in hospitals or is found in those admitted for other reasons. The difference by age may arise because infection rates in those under 50 are currently much higher than in those over 50. In truth, it is likely to be a bit of both, but without data specifically on those being treated primarily for Covid it’s difficult to get to the bottom of which is making the biggest difference.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection continued to decline in older age groups and in under-18s this week, presumably due to the waning of the third and second doses. It is negative in all over-18s, meaning the infection rate is higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated; in the 18-70s it is lower than minus-100%, meaning the vaccinated are more than twice as likely to have an infection. It did however rise slightly in the 18-50s this week, from a very low base. UKHSA continues to claim this extraordinary data is a result of confounders such as different risk factors and testing behaviour between vaccinated and unvaccinated. However, the agency still has not published any data on these confounders (e.g. testing behaviour and co-morbidities by vaccination status), despite being asked repeatedly, nor made any attempt to estimate adjusted vaccine effectiveness based on this data. If you would like to ask it to do this you can email its head Mary Ramsay here (Twitter here).

“If All Adults Were Vaccinated The Pandemic Would be Over,” Says Devi Sridhar – Yet Data Shows the Large Majority of Infections and Deaths Are in the Vaccinated

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Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, has claimed that the only thing preventing the pandemic being over is the fact that some adults have not been vaccinated. The anthropologist told the Telegraph:

Governments are frustrated. If all adults were vaccinated who were offered it, [the] pandemic would be over. ICUs are full of people who chose not to get vaccinated, then regret it later. Is that fair to doctors and nurses? And to those who need care for heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions?

Her comments appear in a Telegraph article by the newspaper’s Gates-funded Global Health Security team highlighting how governments are “wielding increasingly bigger sticks in an effort to push vaccination rates skyward – from the threat of prison time to withholding free Covid healthcare and the rise of ‘no jab, no job’ policies”.

In what sense, though, would the pandemic be over if the last 18.7% of over-18s in England were vaccinated? According to Government data, infection rates in over-18s are currently higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated, and 73% of total infections in the month ending January 9th were in the vaccinated, so it certainly wouldn’t end transmission or infection. The latest data also shows that 63% of hospitalisations and 70% of deaths with Covid in the month ending January 9th were in the vaccinated (one or more doses). So vaccinating everyone wouldn’t even halve the number of hospital admissions and deaths, let alone eliminate them. While the latest data for ICUs does show a majority of Covid ICU patients in December were unvaccinated, it needs to be borne in mind that the situation is reversed for deaths, and also that ICU occupancy is relatively low and declining at present, meaning there is no pressure on ICUs to blame on the unvaccinated.

The truth is, the pandemic is already over, as there has been no need for emergency measures outside high-risk settings since spring 2020 (if there even was then). Omicron makes this all the more true, to the point that even many lockdown proponents are admitting it’s over. Forcing the last 19% of adults to get vaccinated has no bearing on this fact, and the drive to universal vaccination regardless of once-honoured principles of autonomy and fairness is fast becoming a vindictive outlet for pent-up frustration and grief for the suffering and loss we have all endured under government over-reaction these past two years.

Fact-Checking the BBC’s ‘Fact Check’ of The Doctor Who Challenged the Health Secretary on Vaccine Mandate

The BBC has published another of its questionable ‘reality checks‘, this one by the aptly-titled “disinformation reporter” Rachel Schraer. Her target is doctor Steve James, who directly challenged Health Secretary Sajid Javid on the science behind the impending vaccination mandate when Mr. Javid visited the hospital where he works last week. Schraer, whose medical and scientific credentials are unclear, has taken it upon herself to assess Dr. James’s claims in a piece entitled “Fact-checking the doctor who challenged the Health Secretary“, saying the claims are “not exactly what the evidence shows”. However, the evidence she picks for this ‘fact check’ is very selective, and she overlooks several studies that do indeed back up what the brave doctor was saying.

Dr. James told Mr. Javid: “The vaccines are reducing transmission only for about eight weeks with Delta. For Omicron, it’s probably less.”

‘Disinformation reporter’ Schraer responds:

While vaccines remain very good at protecting against becoming severely ill with Covid, the protection they give against catching it and passing it on does wane more quickly.

Dr. James was referring to a study that found a vaccinated person with Covid was just 2% less likely than an unvaccinated person to pass it on, 12 weeks after a second Oxford-AstraZeneca jab – he acknowledges his reference to “eight weeks” was an error.

But the same study found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which NHS staff are likely to have had, endured better. Vaccinated people had a 25% lower risk of infecting others than unvaccinated people after 12 weeks.

Well, 25% is not very much, and this is not the only study which looks at this, with others finding even smaller effect. A study in the Lancet found no difference in household secondary attack rate depending on whether the index case was vaccinated, and correspondingly no difference in viral load. A study by the U.S. CDC also found no difference in infectiousness and concluded: “Clinicians and public health practitioners should consider vaccinated persons who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 to be no less infectious than unvaccinated persons.” UKHSA and others have also found viral load no lower in the vaccinated. These studies are all pre-Omicron, which is likely to be even more able to evade vaccines.

Government Guidance to GPs on Vaccine Safety Omits Pfizer Trial Data Showing Twice as Many Cardiovascular Deaths in Vaccinated

When Daily Sceptic reader Ian Price experienced an alarming adverse reaction to his first AstraZeneca jab he decided that he did not want to risk a second dose. However, his GP had other ideas and told him he should have Pfizer for his second dose. Despite being presented with worrying safety data from Pfizer’s own trial results, the GP would not agree to an exemption. Ian writes:

I am pro-vaccine but anti-mandate. However, I have recently discovered via correspondence from my GP that the Department of Health is not ‘following the science’ in the guidance it gives to GPs on vaccine safety.

By way of background, I declined the second vaccine following an adverse reaction to the first AstraZeneca vaccine received in March 2021. I remain partially vaccinated which means that I fall into the category of citizens described by Sir Tony Blair as “idiots”. Resenting the increasing stigmatisation of the unvaccinated, I discovered via Google search that there was such a thing as a vaccine exemption. After all, even Blair acknowledges that it is possible to have a “health reason” for not being jabbed. So I called the NHS number and had a form posted to me. I filled it in and dropped it off at my GP’s surgery.

“I’m struggling a bit with the Covid exemption form,” wrote my GP to me in a text on December 1st. “I am not sure I am comfortable with precluding you from the option of a second injection.” He was about to go away but offered a phone consultation on his return. Puzzled by his framing of the issue as being about not limiting my options, I agreed to the follow-up call.

In our long discussion on December 29th, his advice remained that I should take the Pfizer vaccine. I explained that I felt my risk from Covid was negligible and I was not convinced that it was greater than the risk from a second vaccine. He remained reluctant to issue an exemption but agreed to look into it further and come back to me. His subsequent text message read as follows: “I have re-read the guidance extensively on issuing of vaccine exemptions and unfortunately it can only be issued if there is a medical contraindication to receiving an alternate vaccine.”

He was good enough to attach a link to the guidance document from the Department of Health and Social Care. I looked at this document and found a further link to the Green Book Chapter 14a. As outlined in my letter to him below, the paragraph on the safety of the Pfizer vaccine reads as if the scientific evidence is reassuring. The paragraph cites two published papers that describe safety studies of the Pfizer vaccine: Walsh et al, 2020 and Polack et al, 2020. Both studies demonstrated very limited evidence of systemic events – “generally mild and shortlived”. Reading this paragraph, as a layman, I would conclude that there is no cause for concern.

Double Vaccinated Have Double the Infection Rate, Data From Iceland Shows

The double-vaccinated are almost twice as likely to be infected as unvaccinated people, data from Iceland shows. This is the same pattern as found in data from the U.K. Thorsteinn Siglaugsson has written about the trend in Morgunbladid, the main national newspaper in Iceland, and put up a translation on his website.

After December 20th, the 14-day incidence of COVID-19 infection by vaccination status took a very unexpected turn in Iceland. The infection rate per 100,000 of fully vaccinated adults with booster is now eleven times higher than on December 20th, and the infection rate of double-vaccinated adults seven times higher. At the same time, infections among unvaccinated people have grown by a factor of 2.6 only. Among children, we see a similar change: a tenfold increase among the fully vaccinated while the rate among the unvaccinated is 2.4 times higher than on December 20th.

This change can hardly be explained away by changes in behaviour, such a sudden and decisive change of behavior between groups is impossible. It is also unlikely that testing has suddenly increased this sharply among some groups and not others. We know the protection against infection from vaccination wanes rapidly, but it is out of the question that it should drop so suddenly. The most likely explanation is the new Omicron variant. Foreign data also indicate that the currently available vaccines have little or no effect against Omicron infection.

The data published on covid.is are weighted; the different size of the groups is adjusted for. This means we can use them to conclude regarding probability of infection. At present, triple-vaccinated people are only 30% less likely to get infected than unvaccinated adults, and for vaccinated children the difference is only 15%. This small difference decreases rapidly in both groups. The biggest news, however, is that double-vaccinated people are now 90% more likely to get infected than the unvaccinated. This suggests that the protection provided by two doses of vaccine is in fact less than none, it is the opposite.

After Siglaugsson’s article was published on January 8th, the Icelandic Chief Epidemiologist claimed the finding was an artefact of the official data overestimating the number of unvaccinated people. However, Siglaugsson suggests the overestimate would have to be an implausible 90% to bring the infection rates level.

Worth reading in full.

Mike Hearn has discussed negative vaccine effectiveness and how it turned up previously in the Swine Flu vaccine on the Daily Sceptic here.

Doctors Warn Sacking the Unvaccinated Will Make NHS Staffing Crisis Worse

The Government has been warned by doctors and trade union leaders that the impending deadline for NHS staff to be vaccinated or lose their jobs will result in making the NHS staffing crisis worse. MailOnline has the story.

Trade union leaders have warned the Government that mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for NHS workers will make staff shortages worse.

Last month, MPs approved mandatory vaccinations for NHS and social care staff by April this year.

The Government decided that all NHS staff in England who have direct contact with patients must have their first dose of a Covid vaccine by February 3rd, so they can receive their second dose before the March 31st deadline. 

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for the policy to be delayed “with immediate effect” to avoid a shortage of key workers.

It comes after Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London, who has worked in the ICU since early 2020 treating Covid patients, told Sajid Javid why he did not believe he should have to be vaccinated after being infected. 

Meanwhile, social care isolation rules have been relaxed following concerns over staff being off sick and problems discharging patients from hospital.

There are already fears of staff shortages as 39,142 NHS workers in hospital trusts in England were absent for COVID-19 reasons on January 2nd, NHS England data shows.

This was up a staggering 59% on the previous week and more than three times up from the start of December, when there were 12,508 workers absent. 

Hospitals in Lincolnshire declared a staffing emergency, while bosses at United Lincolnshire Hospitals warned that so many doctors and nurses were now absent from shifts that patient care was “compromised”.

It was announced earlier this week that hundreds of troops are being sent into London hospitals to fill in for NHS staff who are isolating because of Omicron.

But the TUC warned that the mandatory vaccination policy will worsen the staffing crisis, making it impossible for NHS trusts to maintain safe staffing levels in the coming weeks.

With over 90% of NHS staff double vaccinated while more than 60% have had a third dose, the mandate is unlikely to make a significant impact on transmission, particularly given how poorly the vaccines prevent infection with Omicron and how many NHS staff will already have been infected or exposed to the virus (surely all of them, exposed many times over). The rationale for such an illiberal and disruptive policy is therefore lacking. As Consultant Anaethetist Steve James told Sajid Javid yesterday: “The science isn’t strong enough.”

Sir David Nicholson, a former chief executive of NHS England who now chairs the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust, warned that his trust could lose hundreds of staff from the mandatory vaccination policy.

Vaccine Effectiveness Plummets to as Low as Minus-151% as Omicron Cancels Out Boost From Third Doses

Omicron bites hard in the UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report this week, as unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection (calculated from the raw data) plummets across all age groups in the month ending January 2nd 2022. The revival in some age groups from the third doses has now been almost completely cancelled out, as all age groups above 18 years go negative again. Those in their 40s hit a new low of minus-151% (negative vaccine effectiveness means the vaccinated are more likely to be infected than the unvaccinated; a vaccine effectiveness of minus-100% means the vaccinated are twice as likely to be infected as the unvaccinated). There is a sharp drop for under-18s for the first time as well, with unadjusted vaccine effectiveness more than halving in a fortnight, collapsing from 79% to 38% (there was no report last week due to the Christmas holiday).

To underline the pointlessness of vaccine passports and mandates for preventing spread, I have plotted in the chart below the proportions of infections in the unvaccinated and vaccinated for the month ending January 2nd (in this chart ‘vaccinated’ includes all who have received at least one dose; in the other charts in this post ‘vaccinated’ means at least 14 days after a second dose). It shows that 72% or nearly three quarters of infections in that four-week period were in the vaccinated (65% in the double or triple vaccinated) and only 22% in the unvaccinated. That is certainly not an epidemic of the unvaccinated; almost the opposite, in fact.

Omicron has also had an impact on unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation, with sharp declines occurring particularly in the younger age groups with lower booster coverage. The decline in 18-29 year-olds is particularly steep, dropping to just 50%, meaning double vaccination is only halving the risk of hospitalisation (though keep in mind this is unadjusted vaccine effectiveness based on raw data, not taking into account any potential confounders in either direction).

Scottish Fertility Clinic Bans Unvaccinated Women From Using Services as Italy Announces Mandatory Vaccination for Over-50s

A top Scottish fertility clinic has withdrawn its services for unvaccinated women, leaving many people upset and leading to calls for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to address the fact that it may not be limited to just one clinic. EuroWeekly News has more.

Glasgow Royal Fertility Clinic said that “it has been nationally agreed that fertility treatment for unvaccinated women will be deferred with immediate effect.”

Citing Dr Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer for the Scottish Government, the update published just before Christmas said that “pregnant women should now be considered as a clinical risk group and part of priority group six within the vaccination programme”.

According to data published in the Scottish Intensive Care Society Report on October 13th, of 89 Covid positive pregnant women who were admitted to critical care between December 2020 and the end of September 2021; 88 were unvaccinated, one was partially vaccinated, and none were fully vaccinated.

The clinic said that said data, from unknown dates, also showed that “98% of pregnant women in ICU with COVID-19 were unvaccinated” and that “all the women who have died during pregnancy or up to six weeks after birth, 88% of them were unvaccinated.”

This has led the clinic, which is located in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, to withdraw its services to unvaccinated women and the “clinic will review this decision during February 2022 or earlier if appropriate.”

“Older women who have their treatment deferred will have the deferral time added back on to their fertility journey to ensure that they do not lose out on eligibility for treatment due to their age,” the clinic said.

Note that the ICU data above doesn’t take into account the proportion of pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant who were vaccinated at the time.

What happened to liberal societies not coercing experimental medical treatment?

The news comes as Italy announces that Covid vaccination will become mandatory for all over-50s from next month in an effort to tackle surging infections. The Telegraph has more.

As Three More Studies Show Negative Vaccine Effectiveness, When Will Health Authorities Face Up to What the Data is Telling Us?

The last two weeks have brought three new studies finding negative efficacy for two vaccine doses, meaning the vaccinated are more likely to be infected than the unvaccinated. These are study findings, not raw data, so have been adjusted for various biases and confounders, making it harder to dismiss them as anomalous or skewed.

The first is a pre-print study from Denmark, published on December 23rd, which looked at nearly all PCR-positive SARS-CoV-2 infections in Denmark from November 20th to December 12th and investigated them to see if they were likely to be the Omicron variant. By comparing the vaccination status of those infected, the researchers found a vaccine effectiveness against the Omicron variant of minus-76.5% for Pfizer and minus-39.3% for Moderna three months after double vaccination (see chart above), meaning the double-vaccinated were considerably more likely to be infected than the unvaccinated. They found the vaccine effectiveness against Omicron was significantly lower than against Delta, with Pfizer vaccine effectiveness at 53.8% and Moderna at 65% against Delta after three months. They reported that a third dose of Pfizer got vaccine effectiveness against Omicron back up to 54.6%, at least for a month. The full results are in the table below.

Vaccine Effectiveness Drops to Minus-75% in 18-29 Years-Olds as Omicron Slices Through Vaccine Protection and Booster Effect Starts to Wear Off

The latest Vaccine Surveillance report from the UKHSA shows a sharp drop in unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection (calculated from the raw infection rate data) in 18-29 year-olds, down to minus-75% in the month ending December 19th, from minus-10% the previous week.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness fell in all age groups this week, particularly sharply in 30-39 year-olds, where it hit minus-98%. In 40-49 year-olds it fell to minus-131%. Negative vaccine effectiveness means the vaccinated are more likely to be infected than the unvaccinated. A vaccine effectiveness of minus-100% means the vaccinated are twice as likely to be infected as the unvaccinated.

With Omicron infections particularly prevalent in the young and the vaccinated, this drop is likely to be the impact of Omicron, combined with a waning of vaccine efficacy. The high relative rates of infection in the vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated undermine any argument for vaccine passports or mandates that depend on the idea that the vaccinated are less likely to be infected or pass on the virus. If anything, it’s the vaccinated who are a higher transmission risk to the unvaccinated rather than vice-versa.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation and death continues to hold at a high level on this data, and has even increased in recent weeks in line with what is presumably a booster effect – though a drop in vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation in 18-29 year-olds this week may portend a coming shift.