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.

EU Jab Export Ban Could Delay Britain’s Vaccine Rollout by Two Months

Britain’s vaccine rollout could be delayed by two months if EU members states decide to ban exports of the jab later this week. The Sun has the story.

Britain’s Covid vaccine rollout faces a two-month delay if EU members states go ahead with a jab export ban.

The ban, set to be debated next Thursday, would derail the UK Government’s roadmap to reopen the economy.

And according to analytics firm Airfinity, the move would not provide a significant boost to beleaguered vaccine rollouts in the European Union.

Research shows that the number of doses kept within the bloc would speed up European Union vaccinations by “just over a week”.

Yet, an export ban of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine made in Belgium and Germany would delay every British adult receiving a first jab until August 5th, reports the Guardian.

And a further ban to all jab exports, including those from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, would delay the rollout target even further to August 27th, the report says.

The British Government, as well as Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, has urged the EU not to go ahead with this export ban, warning of the consequences on the world’s vaccine rollout efforts.

Britain has received around 10 million vaccine doses from plants in the EU since the rollout started in December.

Reports say that Number 10 is expecting around 60 million more in the coming months.

Today, the UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned Brussels that the “world is watching” ahead of their decision next week. …

Meanwhile, Pfizer has urged the EU to back down on its threats to block vaccine exports to the UK as essential ingredients are made in Yorkshire.

The drug giant warned that production could “grind to a halt” if Britain retaliates, sparking further jab chaos on the continent.

Yorkshire-based firm Croda International has been delivering “fatty molecules” to Pfizer’s EU factories since signing a five-year contract in November.

Pfizer, and its partner BioNTech, have told the EU that Britain can strike back against any export ban by withholding vital materials, reports The Telegraph.

But the EU yesterday doubled down on its threat to block millions of vaccine doses to the UK.

While those most vulnerable to Covid have already been vaccinated in the UK, this delay would no doubt lead the Government into extending its “roadmap” out of lockdown. Meanwhile other countries, which are far behind the UK in their vaccine rollouts, are unlocking already.

Worth reading in full.

Record Day for Covid Vaccinations in UK with 51% of Adults Now Jabbed

The UK has set a new record for the number of people jabbed in one day, pushing the total number of adults vaccinated to over 50%. ITV News has the story.

The UK has set a new record for the number of Covid jabs given, the second time the record has been broken in two days.

The record number – 711,156 first and second doses – means that the major milestone of vaccinating half of the adult population has been reached.

Government data up to the end of March 19th suggests that 26,853,407 people aged 18 and over have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine – around 51% of the population – while 2,132,551 second doses have been administered. A separate milestone has been passed in Wales, where one in 10 of the total population is likely to have had both doses of the vaccine.

Boris Johnson was amongst those to receive a Covid vaccine on Friday, with all over-50s in England now eligible to book a jab.

Given the continuing success of its vaccine rollout, why is the UK still under strict lockdown? Other countries which have been slower in getting their populations jabbed are unlocking at much faster paces in order to preserve the aspects of life beyond that of merely existing. Steve Baker, writing in the Sun, is quite right to ask: “Why are restrictions tougher than they were last Summer – before we had the Covid vaccine?”

The scientists tell us that the vaccines save lives, yet our success at rolling it out is not translating into a return to normal life.

Following a recent warning of a “significant reduction” in vaccines next month, some suggested that lockdown could be extended even further. Rejecting this suggestion is not enough – with the most vulnerable now already vaccinated against Covid, we should be leaving lockdown sooner.

The report on the UK’s vaccine rollout is worth reading in full.

France Limits AstraZeneca Covid Jab to Over-55s

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) yesterday declared the AstraZeneca Covid jab “safe and effective” to use, but the sustained fear over rare but serious cases of a brain blood clot disorder means a number of countries are still treading cautiously. France, for example, has limited the rollout of this jab to the over-55s. The Guardian has the story.

France has said only people aged 55 and over should receive the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, and three Scandinavian countries have reserved judgment until next week, a day after Europe’s health regulator declared the shot safe and effective for all age groups.

As politicians launched an urgent effort to convince citizens of the vaccine’s safety, the French health regulator said the shot’s use should resume “without delay”. France was among more than a dozen EU states to suspend the shot this week.

But Dominique Le Guludec, the head of the regulator, said it should be provisionally reserved for people aged 55 and over until further information was available, on the basis of rare but serious cases of a brain blood clot disorder known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST).

Le Guludec said 25 people who had received the AstraZeneca shot had fallen ill with the disorder in Europe, and nine aged under 55, most of them women, had died. The cases needed further investigation, she said.

In a statement yesterday, the EMA said it “cannot rule out definitively” a link to the rare clotting disorder. The Telegraph reported:

The European Medicine’s Agency has said they “cannot rule out definitively” a link to a rare clotting disorder.

The agency will update its guidance to include an explanation about the potential risks on both the patient leaflet and in the information for healthcare professionals, the chief of the EMA said.

But Emer Cooke said in a briefing the “clear” conclusion of the review was that the vaccine “benefits in protecting people from Covid with the associated risk of death or hospitalisation outweighs the possible risks”.

For a number of European countries, including Norway, Denmark and Sweden, the EMA’s findings were not reassuring enough. More from the Guardian:

Norway, whose expert panel said on Thursday it was “convinced” of a link between the shot and the rare brain blood clots, Sweden, which reported one death from clotting and heavy bleeding, and Denmark said they needed more time before making a decision.

Norway’s Institute of Public Health said it “took note” of the EMA finding but felt it was “premature” to come to a final conclusion, saying it would issue its own guidance late next week.

Sweden said it would “examine the information” and hoped to decide within days “on the best way to use this vaccine in the future”. Søren Brostrøm, head of the Danish health authority, said it needed “time to get to the bottom of this… We need to look for causal relations and see if there are other explanations”.

Finland said it was suspending the use of the jab while it investigates two possible cases of blood clots.

Worth reading in full.

“No Change” to Roadmap, Prime Minister Says

The Prime Minister has said there is “no change” to the next steps of the roadmap out of lockdown, despite the expected slowdown of the vaccine rollout next month. Sky News has the story.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Boris Johnson said: “Our progress along the road to freedom continues unchecked.

“We remain on track to reclaim the things we love, to see our families and friends again, to return to our local pubs, our gyms and sports facilities and of course our shops.”

Addressing the drop in supply next month, Mr Johnson said: “We’ve always said in a vaccination programme of this pace and scale some interruptions in supply are inevitable and it is true that in the short-term we’re receiving fewer vaccines than we had planned for a week ago.”

He added: “We will receive slightly fewer vaccines in April than in March, but that is still more than we received in February.”

In the press conference, Boris Johnson also addressed concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine causing blood clots, quoting the European Medicines Agency’s statement that the vaccine is “safe and effective” to use. He confirmed that he will be getting an AZ jab on Friday.

Given that those most vulnerable to Covid will have already had a jab by the time the rollout slows down next month, would it not be wise to quicken the pace of the Great Reopening, rather than just keep the existing timetable in place?

Worth reading in full.

EU Medicines Agency Says AstraZeneca Vaccine is “Safe and Effective”

The AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is “safe and effective” to use, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Many European countries suspended use of the vaccine pending a review by the agency into concerns about it causing blood clots. Italy and France said on Tuesday that they would “quickly resume” their countries’ rollouts once the green light was given. Sky News has the story.

The European Union’s medicines agency has said the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is “safe and effective” to use following an investigation into reports of blood clots in a small number of recipients.

The decision by the EMA comes after more than a dozen European countries – including Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Sweden – halted the vaccine’s rollout over fears regarding the claims.

The EMA said the benefits outweigh the risks – and the vaccine is not linked to an overall risk of blood clots.

However, the agency’s safety committee has also said it can’t rule out a “small number of cases” of a rare clotting disorder that have occurred after vaccination. …

The WHO added its weight behind the debate ahead of the EMA’s announcement, urging countries to continue using the jab.

“As of now, we do not know whether some or all of the conditions have been caused by the vaccine or by other coincidental factors,” said Hans Kluge, the WHO’s European director.

“At this point in time, however, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh its risks – and its use should continue, to save lives.”

The agency has said that it cannot “rule out definitively” the vaccine’s link to a rare clotting disorder. The Telegraph reports:

The European Medicine’s Agency has said they “cannot rule out definitively” a link to a rare clotting disorder.

The agency will update its guidance to include an explanation about the potential risks on both the patient leaflet and in the information for healthcare professionals, the chief of the EMA said.

But Emer Cooke said in a briefing the “clear” conclusion of the review was that the vaccine “benefits in protecting people from Covid with the associated risk of death or hospitalisation outweighs the possible risks.”

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has also today stressed the safety of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, pointing to the fact that just five cases of a rare blood clot on the brain have occurred among the 11 million people in the UK who have taken it.

Worth reading in full.

Indian Government Halting Vaccine Exports is the Cause of UK’s Rollout Slowdown

The approaching “significant reduction” in the UK’s supply of Covid vaccines is a result of a temporary export ban by the Indian Government, according to the Indian manufacturer of the AstraZeneca jab. The Telegraph has the story.

The United Kingdom’s vaccination efforts will be paralysed from next month because the Indian government is temporarily holding exports, according to the CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), Adar Poonawalla, whose company is manufacturing the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine.

“It is solely dependent on India and it has nothing to do with the SII. It is to do with the Indian Government allowing more doses to the UK,” Mr Poonawalla told the Telegraph, who confirmed that five million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine had already been delivered to the UK in early March.

The second batch of five million further doses that the SII has pledged to the UK will only be delivered once the company is given the green light by New Delhi, which is deliberating how to slow a concerning resurgence in new daily Covid cases, according to a source.

In addition to debating whether to implement new localised lockdowns, the Indian Government is considering whether it needs to stockpile more vaccines to expand its vaccination programme, which has so far been limited to those over the age of 60 and those over the age of 45 with comorbidities.

British MPs’ criticism of the Indian Government’s alleged use of force against peacefully protesting farmers was not behind the delay, according to a source, with exports to other countries also being held.

The SII would still commit to delivering the remaining five million doses as soon as possible, a source told the Telegraph, and this commitment would not “take months”.

“There was never a commitment to supplying doses to the UK in any stipulated time. We just said we will offer our help,” said Mr Poonawalla.

Mr Poonawalla earlier this year warned that the SII’s vaccine exports would depend on its evolving domestic commitments in India.

Some are already warning that Britain’s return to freedom could be delayed by the slowdown of the vaccine rollout, but the case against this is strong.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: One in five over-80s in England are likely to have had both vaccine doses as of March 14th, according to NHS figures. Some 1.6% of people aged 75 to 79 are also estimated to have had both doses, as well as 0.8% of people aged 70 to 74.