Vaccine

Care Home Workers May Have to Sign New Contracts, Forcing Them to Get Covid Vaccines

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the Government is considering making Covid vaccination for care home workers mandatory. Details have since been given regarding what form this legal obligation could take, with reports suggesting that staff could be forced to sign new contracts. The Telegraph has the story.

Hundreds of thousands of care home workers could have to sign new contracts as part of a bid to force them to get the Covid jab, ministers have admitted.

Ministers are concerned that only around two-thirds of care home workers have agreed to receive a jab. …

Ministers feel compelled to act amid alarm at the low take-up of vaccines among staff in care homes, where many of those most at risk from Covid live.

Only around a quarter of care homes in London, and half in some parts of England, have reached the level of vaccination among staff and residents deemed safe by Government scientists.

However, there are concerns that any change could take months to implement because of a requirement to change the contracts of health care workers to make a jab a condition of work.

In a House of Commons debate, Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt said that new contracts would have to be signed for this change to be implemented.

Contracts would have to be rewritten if vaccinations were to be made compulsory.

Other officials have highlighted, however, that this would take a long time to put into place and would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

One Cabinet minister said it would take time by varying all existing contracts and “that might be tested in court”. The minister said there would have to be medical exemptions for those who could not be vaccinated, but there there had to be “some sort of intervention”.

Worth reading in full.

Judge Orders Dementia Sufferer Should Have Covid Jab Despite Her Son’s Objections

A judge has ruled that an 83 year-old dementia sufferer should have the Covid vaccine despite her son’s concerns. Her son was given Power of Attorney some years ago, and objected to her having the jab on the grounds that she might feel pain in her last moments if there were any side effects. He said she has “not got that long left anyway”. Cornwall Live has the story.

A Cornish judge has ruled that an elderly woman with dementia will be vaccinated, despite her son’s objections.

Judge Simon Carr, who is based in Truro, concluded that vaccination would be in the 83 year-old’s best interests, at an online hearing in the Court of Protection on Wednesday evening. 

The specialist court hears issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves are considered.

The woman, whose identity or location cannot be revealed, is living in a care home and agreed to her son having power of attorney, and making decisions on her behalf, some time ago, the judge heard.

Her son argued that she should not have the coronavirus vaccine as she “had not got that long left anyway”.

He said she should not have to end her life in pain if there were side effects.

The case was brought to court after the woman’s GP thought she should be given the vaccine and asked the judge to consider the case.

The judge concluded that, because the pensioner had been vaccinated against the flu for nearly 20 years, she had no general objection to vaccines.

I have no hesitation in concluding that it is very much in (her) best interests to have the vaccine.

A similar case unfolded last month when a judge ordered that “it is in [the] best interests” of an elderly dementia sufferer living in a care home to receive the vaccine, despite her daughter saying that “my mother wouldn’t want it”.

The Cornwall Live report is worth reading in full.

Is it Safe to Use the NHS Yet? Deciphering the Government’s Mixed Messages

In a guest post, Dr Ann Bradshaw, a retired senior lecturer in adult nursing at Oxford Brookes, says the Government is still giving off mixed messages about how open and safe the NHS is. Could this be putting people off using it? Is this why there were still 800 excess deaths at home in the week ending March 12th, 30% above the five-year average, even though deaths overall were 4.4% below the five-year average?

First, in March after my Covid vaccination the NHS offered me a mammogram. I readily accepted the invitation. Then my GP surgery offered me a pneumococcal vaccination from a “limited supply”. I had never heard of it so looked it up on the NHS website. Oh, I saw it is offered to everyone age 65. I was never offered it before. Never mind, I thought. In these pandemic days I will take anything offered.

But, wait a minute. 40% of Covid is caught in hospitals I had read, and what about GP surgeries? I asked a doctor friend what to do. He advised to wait until my booster. But will I miss my chance if the supply is “limited”? Decisions, decisions.

I phoned the GP hoping for reassuring advice. The surgery is bound, I thought, to tell me all the social distancing measures in place to keep me safe. Perhaps I will be told to wait in a socially distanced queue outside and the nurse would meet me in the car park with the syringe for the jab? But no such advice. Instead, the receptionist said: “Oh don’t worry, we are not as full as we were before the pandemic.” But what of all the hacking coughers in the waiting room, I wondered? And anyway, hasn’t the Government told us for weeks: “Beware of the silent symptomless spreaders”. The Government’s constant warnings ring in my ears “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”. “Don’t you know there is a lockdown on?” The lockdown is still on in March, so the Government must still be worried, and therefore so am I. “But if I postpone until after my booster”, I asked the surgery receptionist and surgery manager, “will I still get it?” “That depends on our limited supplies,” they replied. Decisions, decisions.

And what of the mammogram? Will I be socially distanced in the waiting room? Will the radiographer have clean hands? Will the equipment carry Covid specks? The Government warnings ring again, loudly in my ears. Hospitals are breeding grounds. How many secret Covid spreaders will I encounter? To put my mind at rest I Googled “mammogram” and “Covid”. Oh no – apparently, mammograms after Covid vaccinations can give false positives. So that’s out. Easy decision this time. Or is it? What if I have a hidden lump?

And don’t even mention the dentist. Other people’s mouths and the hygienist’s breath are bound to give me Covid. 

Ah, you might say. But you have been vaccinated against Covid. Surely you are safe? And my answer is: have you not read the NHS website? You are not safe. The NHS message is that GPs and dentists and routine scans “are open”. The message is not that they are “safe” and my GP’s website confirms this. Even a jab does not make me safe. “You cannot go back to life as normal”, it says. 

Making decisions means getting inside the mind of Government. On the one hand Government obviously believes I can’t be safe from Covid because all the restrictions remain – and there are no excuses for the vaccinated, whether jabbed once or jabbed twice. Restrictions are for everyone to keep us all safe, to protect the NHS and save our lives. Aren’t they? On the other hand, the Government says the NHS is open for routine business. But is this, I wonder in a moment of cynicism, just to save face – to avoid the criticism that people are not being treated for non-Covid illnesses? I am very confused. Am I safe for normal life and routine NHS treatment or not safe for normal life and routine NHS treatment?

Quarter of Over-80s in England Likely to Have Received Both Vaccine Doses

A quarter of England’s over-80s are likely to have received both their doses of the Covid vaccine, according to NHS England figures. The Express and Star has the story.

A quarter of people in England aged 80 and over are now fully vaccinated against Covid, new figures suggest.

An estimated 25.5% of people in this age group had received both doses of the vaccine as of March 21st.

In some regions the proportion is even higher, with an estimate of 26.1% for south-west England and 30.6% for north-east England and Yorkshire.

They also suggest 3.5% of people aged 75 to 79 have had both doses, along with 1.5% of the 70 to 74 and 65 to 69 age groups.

A small number of younger adults in England are now fully vaccinated, including 2.8% of 50-54 year-olds and 1.7% of those aged 16 to 49.

Meanwhile, an estimated 87.0% of people aged 50 and over in England have now received their first dose of vaccine, including 80.0% of 55 to 59 year-olds and 65.0% of 50 to 54 year-olds.

The speed of the vaccine rollout has not, however, quickened our exit from lockdown. MPs have just voted to renew the Coronavirus Act for a further six months, and Matt Hancock has said he “cannot answer” whether the Act will be retired then or rolled on again.

The report on England’s Covid vaccine progress is worth reading in full.

Denmark Remains “Uncertain” About Saftey of AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine

Denmark has extended its suspension of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for three weeks, while officials continue to investigate reports that it causes blood clots. The country initially halted its use of the vaccine on March 11th, along with a host of other countries which have since decided to resume their AZ jab rollouts following the European Medicines Agency’s announcement that it is “safe and effective”. Sky News has the story.

On March 11th, Denmark joined Norway, Austria, Italy and Iceland to suspend the use of the vaccine after reports of blood blots.

Originally the rollout of the coronavirus jab was paused for 14 days as a precautionary measure but Danish officials said on March 25th that this has been extended by three weeks as they conducted their own investigations. …

“Right now, we believe that our basis for making a final decision on the further use of the Covid vaccine by AstraZeneca is too uncertain,” Soeren Brostroem, head of the Danish Health Agency, said.

He said: “Many studies have been launched, but we do not yet have any conclusions. That is why we have decided to extend the break.”

Hesitancy remains due to suspicion that the AZ jab may be linked to “very rare blood clot cases”.

The Danish Health and Medicines Authority took the decision to stop using the jab after reports that a 60 year-old woman died with blood clots in several parts of her body a week after she received the vaccine.

A second person died in Demark after getting the jab, but health authorities said that they have no evidence the vaccine was responsible for either death.

The decision “was made on the basis of presumed side effects”, Tanja Erichsen of the Danish Medicines Agency said.

“I would like to emphasise that I am not talking about ordinary blood clots,” Ms Erichsen said.

“It is not about blood clots in the arms, legs and lungs.

“It can’t be ruled out that there is a connection between the vaccine and the very rare blood clot cases.”

A recent survey of 1,053 Danes suggests that, regardless of the result of these further tests, concerns about the vaccine are now widespread in Denmark. Far more Danes would decline to get an AstraZeneca Covid vaccine than would refuse to get a Covid jab altogether, showing that hesitancy is not simply the product of general vaccine scepticism. Reuters reports:

One in three Danes would decline to get a Covid shot using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, local media outlets TV 2 and Politiken reported late on Wednesday, citing a recent survey. …

The survey, conducted by Megafon among 1,053 persons, showed 33% of Danes would decline to get a shot with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. However, only 7% would decline regardless of which Covid vaccine they were offered.

The Sky News report is worth reading in full.

AstraZeneca Downgrades Its Efficacy Claims Following Criticism From US Health Agency

AstraZeneca has downgraded its estimates of the efficacy of its Covid vaccine by 3% following recent criticism from a US health agency that results from a trial used “outdated information”. The pharmaceutical company hopes that this small revision will enable its vaccine to receive US approval in the coming weeks. The Mail has the story.

AstraZeneca today claimed its Covid vaccine blocked 76% of symptomatic infections in a major US trial, after downgrading its estimate slightly in the face of unprecedented public criticism.

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant was accused of cherry-picking data by US watchdogs, who were “concerned” that the firm provided an “incomplete view” of the jab’s efficacy by releasing early results of the study.

But the recalculated figure was only marginally lower than the original 79% it bragged about on Monday. The data was based on the final results of the exact same 32,000-person trial.  

AstraZeneca’s Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President of Biopharmaceutical Research and Development, said the results were “consistent” with the interim results that sparked controversy.

He added the data “confirms our Covid vaccine is highly effective in adults, including those aged 65 years and over”.

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) expressed concerns over the use of “outdated information” in trial results in a statement earlier this week. The Mail reported:

The Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), an independent committee overseeing the trial, has “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data”, the US NIAID said in a statement.

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” it said, adding that the DSMB had informed AstraZeneca of its concerns.

AZ scientists have commented that this statement was highly “unusual” given that such discussions are usually held behind closed doors, but have also expressed hope about the vaccine receiving US approval in due course.

The small revision to the efficacy rate will go a long way to putting the vaccine back on track for US approval, with the firm hoping it will be given the green light in the coming weeks. Britain’s regulators gave it the sign off in December.

The Mail’s report on this downgrading is worth reading in full.

A Dentist Writes…

Dr Mark Shaw, a retired dentist who’s contributed before to Lockdown Sceptics, has written a guest post about his decision not to have the jab.

At University it was drummed into our heads not to make assumptions. Base clinical decisions on rigorously tested clinical evidence that had endured analysis, audit and surveillance over a sufficiently long duration.

Do you get frustrated when you so often hear assumptions being made that are presented as facts? The Government and MSM frequently refer to the number of Covid cases and deaths plummeting as a result of lockdowns and vaccination – not because this might, much more plausibly, be due to the natural falling from a peak or wave that respiratory viral infections always follow. Do you get frustrated when you hear that the current health, education, justice, social and economic issues (and just about every other dilemma under the sun) are being blamed on the Coronavirus but not on the Government response to it?

Policy makers are guilty, not just of this spin and deceit, but also of carrying out a fatal gambler’s mistake. The punter places a bet which fails, so he optimistically places another to try to at least recoup the value of the last stake. A sensible gambler might stop, pause and re-evaluate the situation and ensure that he or she can afford to pursue a certain strategy financially and healthily. An irresponsible person carries on regardless. The Government’s whole response to the Coronavirus situation smacks of this behaviour: “We’ve gone this far, we must continue to look credible despite the errors and dire consequences – so let’s carry on, keep deceiving and frightening the public until our credibility is restored by eliminating the virus.” The vaccine was the ace in the Government’s pack because a tired public (even ardent lockdown sceptics) were ready to accept anything just to get out of this horrendous mess. I have already mentioned just how unethical this project is in one of my previous articles.

Children in Line for Covid Jabs From August

Children in the UK could start getting the Covid vaccine from August, much earlier than expected. Ministers are awaiting safety data on a child vaccine study before making their final decisions. The Telegraph has the story.

Children will start getting the Covid vaccine as early as August under provisional Government plans to push for maximum immunity from the virus, the Telegraph can reveal.

Two sources involved in preparations said that was the soonest point at which Britons under the age of 18 would be given the jabs – months earlier than expected.

Safety data on the critical child vaccine study being run by Oxford University – on which ministers are waiting before making their final decisions – is expected shortly, with its conclusions due in June or July.

Israel, the country with the highest proportion of vaccinated citizens, is already giving jabs to 16 and 17-year-olds after deeming it safe.

The plan is not without its opposers, but its supporters are likely to receive much more of a hearing.

Supporters of the plan see the mass vaccination of children as a way to minimise the spread of infection, but critics note the relatively low risk Covid poses to youngsters and the still-emerging safety data.

If the current rate of roughly three million first doses a week is handed out in August, it is possible that most of the 11 million school-age children could be vaccinated before the autumn term. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said “no decisions have been made on whether children should be offered vaccinations”. 

Oxford University’s ongoing child vaccine study is testing the AstraZeneca jab on 300 children aged six to 17. It is currently expected that parents will have to give consent for their children to be vaccinated but how inconceivable is it that no choice will be granted on the matter, given that the Government hopes to make vaccination mandatory for care home staff (as a start)?

Exemptions are expected if a rollout to children is given the final sign-off. It is also likely that parents would have to give consent – currently the position for teenagers in Israel.

Some are already demanding that vaccination should be mandatory for children, including Sean O’Grady, the Associate Editor of the Independent.

I would vaccinate every child old enough to receive it, as a condition of receiving a state education. …

Given the fact that we are still nowhere near herd immunity for the current coronavirus variants, and await with trepidation new – and potentially even more deadly – mutations; this is a moment for determined action. …

Of course, in the end, we do not want to live in a country where gangs of officials grab unvaccinated children or adults, wrestle them to the ground and forcibly inject them. But we do want to live in a country where rights are balanced by responsibilities, and where mutual obligations need to be fulfilled. 

Incentives and penalties, taxes and fines, court orders and conditions of employment – restrictions on liberty – are commonplace in our daily lives; for the protection of the community as a whole. If we want to drive the wrong way down a motorway, then there are legal consequences for doing so.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Prime Minister has likely ruffled the feathers of some EU leaders by declaring that “the reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends”. The Sun has the story.

Boris has spent days trying to dial down the rhetoric and pleading with European leaders to abandon their threat to slap an export ban on vaccines.

But he risked reigniting tensions with the continent last night as he boasted about how Britain stole the march.

He told MPs at the 1922 Committee: “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends.”

He later added: “Actually I regret saying it.”

Worth reading in full.

Care Home Workers to Face Mandatory Vaccination

Care home workers will be required by law to have a Covid jab, leaked Cabinet plans reveal. And this is just the beginning – the leaked paper notes that similar requirements are currently being considered for healthcare workers, such as those who work on hospital wards. The Telegraph has the story.

Care home workers will be required by law to have a Covid jab under a historic legal change agreed by Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, the Telegraph can reveal.

Leaked details of a paper submitted to the Covid Operations Cabinet sub-committee last week show that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have requested the change in law.

Ministers feel compelled to act amid alarm at the low take-up of vaccines among staff in care homes, where many of those most at risk from the virus live.

Only around a quarter of homes in London, and half in other parts of England, have reached the level of vaccination among staff and residents deemed safe by Government scientists.

If the law change is voted through, it is likely that the vast majority of the 1.5 million people who work in England’s adult social care sector would be legally bound to have a Covid vaccination.

The decision, in principle, is without modern precedent. One legal expert said the only comparable UK laws dated from the 1800s, when newborns had to be given smallpox jabs.

Legally forcing scores of workers to get a jab raises huge legal and moral questions. Ministers have previously called similar ideas “discriminatory”.

The Cabinet sub-committee paper warns that a “large” number of social care workers may quit if the change is made, and that successful lawsuits on human rights grounds could be possible. It makes clear that a similar legal requirement is being considered for some frontline healthcare workers, such as those on wards, but no decision on that has been taken.

The key line from this leaked document – which says the PM and Health Secretary intend to make the jab compulsory for care home workers – reads as follows:

The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State [Mr Hancock] have discussed on several occasions the progress that is being made to vaccinate social care workers against Covid and have agreed – in order to reach a position of much greater safety for care recipients – to put in place legislation to require vaccinations among the workforce.

The paper acknowledges that there would be a “high risk” of a successful legal challenge against the change if it was made by secondary legislation (which is quicker to pass).

The prospect of Covid “certificates” has led many to question the extent to which the Covid vaccine is voluntary. Surely this change would prove that the vaccine is mandatory (for some, at least) in all but name?

This looks like a clear breach of the Prime Minister’s promise, made on November 23rd, that no one would be forced to get a Covid vaccination. “There will be no compulsory vaccination. That’s not the way we do things in this country,” he told a news conference.

Worth reading in full.

PM “Under No Illusion” That Europe’s “Third Wave” Will Hit UK

Boris Johnson has stressed the importance of keeping the vaccine rollout at its current pace due to the risk that the ‘third wave’ of Covid infections across Europe will hit the UK as well. Sky News has the story.

Boris Johnson has been “reassured” EU leaders “don’t want to see blockades” on the export of Covid vaccines – as he warned a third wave of infections in Europe would likely hit the UK as well.

Amid a dispute over a possible block on exports of coronavirus jabs to the UK, the Prime Minister said he had been “reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don’t want to see blockades”.

He stressed the UK was “on course” to vaccinate the top nine priority groups – including all over-50s – by April 15th, while the Government would “bash on” with its roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions.

Mr Johnson said he had talked to EU leaders “repeatedly over the period”, adding: “We’re all facing the same pandemic, we all have the same problems.

“I think one thing worth stressing is that on the continent right now, you can see sadly there is a third wave under way.

“And people in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I’m afraid it washes up on our shores as well.”

That last sentence is poorly constructed. If a person is “under no illusions” that “previous experience has taught” them a particular lesson, that implies “previous experience” hasn’t taught them that lesson, when Boris clearly means the opposite. Tsk, tsk.

The Prime Minister’s garbled statement follows recent warnings that an increase in Covid cases on the Continent could prevent Brits from holidaying abroad this summer.

Worth reading in full.