Vaccine

Three Norwegian Health Workers in Hospital with “Unusual” Symptoms After Receiving AstraZeneca Jab

Concerns about the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine have intensified following reports of three Norwegian health workers suffering from blood clots and a low count of blood platelets after receiving the jab. Reuters has the story.

Three health workers in Norway who recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid are being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets, Norwegian health authorities said on Saturday.

Norway halted on Thursday the rollout of that vaccine, following a similar move by Denmark. Iceland later followed suit.

“We do not know if the cases are linked to the vaccine,” Sigurd Hortemo, a senior doctor at the Norwegian Medicines Agency told a news conference held jointly with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

All three individuals were under the age of 50.

The European medicine regulator EMA would investigate the three incidents, Hortemo added.

“They have very unusual symptoms: bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets,” Steinar Madsen, Medical Director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency told broadcaster NRK.

“They are quite sick…We take this very seriously,” he said, adding authorities had received notification of the cases on Saturday.

AstraZeneca was not immediately available for comment.

A number of European countries have halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine following reports of negative side effects relating to blood clots. AstraZeneca has highlighted that there have been “no confirmed serious adverse events associated with the vaccine”, but is supportive of ongoing investigations.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Ireland has temporarily halted its use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab following the above reports of blood clots in vaccinated people.

New Study Suggests Vaccination Makes You More Susceptible to COVID-19 in the Days After the Jab

Lockdown Sceptics reported last week on two studies that had found an increase in COVID-19 infection risk in the week after the first vaccine dose. A PHE study found a 48% increase in infection risk in the over-80s group 4-9 days after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine (see table below). And the American FDA Emergency Use Authorisation for the Pfizer vaccine found 40% higher “suspected COVID” in the first week after vaccination compared to the control group. As a potential explanation, Lockdown Sceptics noted that in trials the Pfizer vaccine was found to suppress lymphocyte count in the first few days after treatment (see chart above), potentially increasing susceptibility.

PHE study finds a 48% increase in infections 4-9 days after vaccination in the over-80s group treated with the Pfizer mRNA vaccine before January 4th

Now a new paper from Denmark has made a similar finding. Tracking every vaccination given to nursing home residents, it finds a 40% increase in infection risk in the 14 days following the first Pfizer dose (see table below). (Ultimately, it finds a 64% vaccine efficacy for nursing home residents a week after the second dose.)

New study finds a 40% increase in infection risk in the 14 days following the first Pfizer dose among nursing home residents in Denmark

Does this explain why there have been numerous reports of care home outbreaks shortly following vaccination? Could this be why Dr Hervé Seligmann found an elevated death rate among vaccinated people in Israel?

Is anyone in Government or the MHRA asking these questions, if only to rule out any problems?

Personally, I would be reassured to see the overall mortality rate of vaccinated and unvaccinated people over time. I cannot see why it is not routine to collect and publish this data, though it appears it is not. This would be the most straightforward way of establishing whether there is a potential problem that needs addressing in relation to short-term vaccine safety or there is not.

Will the Government publish this data to set our minds at ease?

Denmark Suspends Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine Over Blood Clot Fears

Denmark has halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine following reports of negative side effects relating to blood clots. The Telegraph has the story.

Denmark has temporarily suspended AstraZeneca Covid vaccine shots after reports of cases of blood clots forming, including one in Denmark, Danish authorities said on Thursday.

They did not say how many reports of blood clots there had been, but Austria has stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca shots while investigating a death from coagulation disorders and an illness from a pulmonary embolism.

They said six other European countries had halted the use of a vaccine batch from AstraZeneca.

“Both we and the Danish Medicines Agency have to respond to reports of possible serious side-effects, both from Denmark and other European countries,” the director of the Danish Health Authority, Soren Brostrom, said in a statement.

The vaccine would be suspended for 14 days, the health agency said. It did not give details of the Danish blood clot patient.

AstraZeneca has defended its shot, highlighting that there have been “no confirmed serious adverse events associated with the vaccine”, but is fully supportive of Denmark’s investigation.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: There have been no registered cases of blood clots related to AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine in Spain, according to the country’s Health Secretary, which will continue to use the shots.

Stop Press 2: Norway and Iceland have also stopped giving the AstraZeneca jab and a number of other countries, including Italy, have temporarily stopped using two different batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine, after reports in Italy of a “serious adverse event” linked to one batch and the death in Austria related to another batch. The Telegraph has more.

Stop Press 3: Romanian authorities have temporarily stopped vaccinating people with one batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine as an “extreme precaution” while deaths in Italy are investigated, but are continuing to use other doses from the company. Channel News Asia has more.

Guy de la Bédoyère: Why I’ve Had the Jab

We’re publishing an original piece today by Guy de la Bédoyère about why he decided to get vaccinated. Guy wrote a book about the development of the Polio vaccine, so he’s something of an expert on the subject, although he’s no vaccine evangelist. Indeed, he and his wife decided not to give their children the MMR (although they now deeply regret that decision). However, when it came to the Covid jab, it was a no-brainer. Here is an extract:

I live in a country where many businesses that I care about are going to have no control over what they are required to do by the state. Some of those businesses deal with other countries where they will have even less influence. We also face dealing with foreign businesses which can also impose conditions beyond the UK’s control. Two of my sons live abroad (Vietnam and Mexico). My choice then is predicated in no small part on whether I and my wife will be physically able ever again to travel to see them, or them to see us. If being vaccinated opens that door then so be it.

British Airways and other airlines have been a large part of our lives and we wish to support them. In the end, just as it did for Peter Hitchens, this clinched it for me, though I never really had any doubt. No point in cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Seeing our son, granddaughter, and grandson in Hanoi is a great deal more important to us than fussing about a vaccine which we are not obliged to have anyway. Thanks to Covid we haven’t even met one of the children yet.

I could complain all I liked about the injustice of being prevented from taking a flight if I hadn’t been vaccinated but it’s not a battle I could ever win, and – more to the point – I don’t have the time to waste fighting a battle I wasn’t interested in fighting in the first place. The inconvenience of not having a vaccine would far outweigh the inconvenience of having had it.

As with all Guy’s pieces, this one’s worth reading in full.

Spain to Launch Vaccine Passports for Travellers

Travellers into Spain will be required to present digital vaccine passports from May, the country’s Tourism Minister has announced. The Mail has the story.

Sunny Spanish holidays could be back on for Britons within weeks as the tourism minister revealed a vaccine passport system was planned for the middle of May. 

It comes after Greece announced plans to reopen to holidaymakers from mid-May and Cyprus said it would welcome fully-vaccinated Britons from May 1st.

But those hoping to jet off for the Early May bank holiday are set to be barred by UK authorities because Boris Johnson has said he won’t allow overseas leisure travel until at least May 17th. 

Spain’s tourism minister Reyes Maroto told a radio station on Wednesday: “We could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport (when the tourism fair FITUR starts on May 19th).”

Under the Government’s roadmap for England, this would mean that holidaymakers could fly freely to Spain – providing they had their jabs and the country hadn’t be [sic] added to the dreaded “red list” from which entry to the UK is banned over Covid variant fears. 

This would prevent those who do not take the vaccine from being able to travel to Spain, among other countries. But even those who are fully vaccinated may not be permitted to holiday abroad by mid-May. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who promised in January that he would personally stand “on the barricades” if all of our freedoms were not returned in March, said: “I am hopeful [about holidaying in May] but, as with everything to do with this virus, you can’t say for certain.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Greece will open its borders to British holidaymakers on May 14th. Britons who have either had both doses of the vaccine or can produce a negative test will not face any restrictions. Greece’s refusal to exclude the unvaccinated is a sign that post-lockdown(s), countries may be reluctant to restrict tourism for fear of limiting their economic recoveries.

Grant Shapps Grilled by Julia Hartley-Brewer About Breaking Promise

In January, Grant Shapps said that if the Government did not fully unlock the country by early March after the most vulnerable groups were vaccinated, he would personally stand “on the barricades to get [all of] our freedoms back”. This date has passed, and restrictions are to remain in place for at least another three months, but Mr Shapps has lost his nerve.

He appeared on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s talkRADIO show this morning and was forced to listen to his promise to stand up to the Government two months ago if it continued to keep hold of Britons’ liberty. Mr Shapps claimed his promise had not been broken as we are now “starting to get our freedoms back”. He insisted that he “stand[s] by what we were saying before”, and then went on to contradict what he said before.

“If there hadn’t been a roadmap, if we were saying these cases are coming down but we’re not going to tell you how we’re going to get out of lockdown, then you and I would be out there.”

Julia was having none of it. She pointed out the fact that more of the over 70s have been vaccinated than we had expected, and at a quicker rate too. The effectiveness of a single dose of the vaccine is also greater than was originally presumed. So, she asked, “how could you possibly say you stand by what you said in January”? Mr Shapps’ response featured a lot of political talk – highlighting that “everybody… has contributed enormously to what has been a very difficult and painful year” – and a reutterance of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, which contradicts his previously stated position. His words were littered with the phrases “all being well” and “earliest dates”.

“The goalposts always move, don’t they. They’re going to keep moving forever.” Julia asked – in a question which rather answers itself – “do you understand why lots of people don’t trust the Government anymore?”

She seemed to give up completely when Mr Shapps said “I want you to have your civil liberties back, but I don’t want you to have them back in a way that kills other people”. Will this ever end?

Worth watching in full.

Is the MHRA’s Yellow Card Reporting System Fit For Purpose?

Since December 2020 the UK public has been unwittingly involved in a huge experiment that will reveal the clinical effects, both positive and negative, of the Pfizer/BioNTech (PF)1 and Oxford University/AstraZeneca (AZ)2 COVID-19 vaccines. Despite the absence of thorough animal trials of these products and lack of any human data beyond Phase 2 trials lasting a matter of months, they have been approved by the MHRA and are now being deployed in a programme of mass vaccination. As part of its statutory functions, as well as its legal and moral duty, the MHRA is responsible for monitoring the effects of these vaccines to ensure that their benefits to patients outweigh any risks.3

There are a number of reasons for anticipating that these particular vaccines pose more risk to the general public than traditional vaccines. Traditional vaccines contain products against which the immune system directly generates antibodies. These may, for instance, be inactivated forms of an otherwise harmful virus. Whatever their nature, they are not intimately associated with living human cells. In contrast the PF and AZ vaccines operate by hijacking the protein-producing machinery of human cells causing them to produce and display the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The immune system then raises antibodies against these proteins, thus providing protection against the real virus. However, the workings of the immune system are extremely complex, and it is not a simple matter to predict its manifold responses to the presentation of viral spike proteins on the surface of human cells located in multiple tissues throughout the body. A further reason for caution in deploying the novel vaccines is that during the development of vaccines against other coronaviruses it has repeatedly been found that vaccinated animals suffer more severe disease responses when challenged with the coronavirus itself, a phenomenon known as Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE).4, 5 We do not know whether ADE will be a problem with the COVID-19 vaccines because the relevant animal experiments have not been performed.

Given these very real risks, it is incumbent on the MHRA to put in place a professional, robust and transparent research programme in real time for quantifying the effects of the novel coronavirus on human health, allowing a rapid policy response if deleterious effects are detected. In order to do this, it is essential that the research programme is founded on sound experimental design. The objective must be to ensure that, if they occur, we can demonstrate and quantify causal relationships between the vaccine treatment and any beneficial or adverse effects.

A fundamental principle of experimental design is that if we wish to demonstrate a causal relationship between a treatment and an effect, we must have, as well as the treatment, a control against which to compare it. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines our control population must comprise individuals who are part of the same community to whom the vaccine is being administered, but who are willing to forgo the vaccination. Within our experiment we will need to take account of factors other than vaccine treatment that could lead to a different outcome for vaccinated and control populations. Therefore, when documenting our vaccinated and control populations at the beginning of the trial, it will be essential to record as many characteristics of the individuals involved that could affect their response to vaccines. These might include sex, age, comorbidities, height, weight, ethnicity, pre-existing conditions, e.g. diabetes, etc.

The next step in the experimental design should be to decide on the nature of the measurements that we wish to make on our experimental and control populations. The primary information we are interested in is the health of the participants in the experiment. If we wish to involve a very large number of individuals in our trial, it will clearly not be feasible to make use of medical symptoms that can only be diagnosed by a physician. Therefore, for this wider trial, a list of symptoms seen in earlier trials, easily recognised and scorable by the general public, should be created, together with a common scoring system for these symptoms. Such symptoms would include headaches, fever, vomiting, chills, fatigue, muscle ache, swelling, rash, etc. The participants would be responsible for scoring their own outcomes for each health criterion, and the language used would be comprehensible to a lay audience.

Given that particular potential risks of the COVID-19 vaccines have already been identified (e.g. ADE) it would also seem imperative to include symptoms commonly associated with these conditions, even though they may not have been detected in earlier trials. To complement these measurements, it would also seem wise to undertake some targeted measurements of health outcomes that require more sophisticated analysis in a random subset of the participants in the vaccinated and control cohorts. An example might be estimates of lymphocyte counts that are already known, from Stage 2 trials, to be significantly reduced by the PF COVID-19 vaccination.6 Finally, it should be recognised that a number of the potentially adverse effects, e.g. ADE, may take several years to manifest. Therefore, from the outset, the reporting of symptoms by a cohort of participants should be planned for a timescale of 10 or more years, with more intensive reporting in the earlier period of the trial.

In summary, an appropriate experimental design for studying and measuring the health effects of COVID-19 vaccines on the UK population would comprise matched vaccinated and control populations documented for relevant characteristics that reported relevant health outcomes systematically over a continuous period of years. This large-scale trial would be supplemented with a smaller trial involving a random subset of individuals measured for critical tests requiring more sophisticated laboratory protocols.

Having outlined the framework needed comprehensively to monitor and measure the effects of the COVID-19 vaccines on the health of the UK population, we can now consider the programme that has been put in place by the MHRA and ask whether it is adequate for the task. The MHRA programme centres around the Yellow Card scheme that has an entirely descriptive brief, to compile a list of suspected adverse events from individuals who have been vaccinated either with the PF or the AZ product.

As a means of providing data to establish a causal relationship between vaccination and an adverse event, the Yellow Card scheme is fundamentally flawed. It does not yield data from a control group against which to compare the vaccinated group. In this situation all that can be established is a temporal association between vaccination and an adverse event and there is no means of establishing causation. Using this approach, it can always be argued that any association that is found is merely a coincidence. The Yellow Card scheme, because it is not founded on fundamental principles of good experimental design, is therefore not fit for the purpose of increasing our understanding of either the beneficial or the adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines. It is not providing the protection from the possible harmful effects of COVID-19 vaccination that the UK public deserves.

Aside from this fundamental flaw, the Yellow Card scheme does not even generate a reliable summary of suspected adverse events that follow after vaccination. The reason for this is that it relies on a voluntary app-based reporting system which places the onus either on medically unqualified patients, carers and parents, or on qualified but more distantly connected medical staff to make a connection between vaccination and an adverse health event, and thereafter to file a report on this suspected connection. It takes little critical scrutiny to realise that a system based on these principles will be subject to huge underreporting either by individuals who are not medically trained to make such connections, or by medically trained staff who lack a close temporal connection with vaccinated individuals. A simple illustration of this fact is that in the Phase 2 COVID-19 vaccine trials, where individuals were comprehensively monitored for adverse events, the reported rates for symptoms such as headaches and fatigue were of the order of 30% – 50%, whereas under the Yellow Card scheme they were of the order of 0.3% – 0.5%. Only 1% of these events are being reported by the Yellow Card scheme. Not only is there huge underreporting, but we also anticipate considerable bias in a voluntary reporting scheme; those who believe that vaccines may do harm will be motivated to make a report, while those who are predisposed to dismiss a connection between vaccination and harm will not take the trouble.

Further barriers to accurate reporting of suspected adverse events are associated with the functioning of the Yellow Card app itself. In the first place, this does not demand basic information on the individual who has experienced the adverse event. Data like age, sex, height, weight, ethnicity, date of vaccination are all optional. This means that serious interrogation of the data to determine the effects of these factors in later analyses is precluded. Secondly, the app is set up in such a way that considerable medical experience is required to register an adverse reaction. There is no drop-down menu of possible adverse events to choose from. Instead, the reporter must type in a medical term that can be recognised by the system, which then provides a list of subsets of that medical condition to choose from. Thus, if the term headache is entered, some 50 different types of headache are listed, one of which must be chosen. Needless to say, this is likely to deter all but the most confident or medically informed from ever filing a report. Finally, experience has shown that the app itself is completely unreliable. After successfully filing a single report, it proved impossible to file a subsequent report because the app would not accept data on the nature of the adverse reaction. This level of malfunction is completely unacceptable in an official Government app.

Given that the Yellow Card scheme is so comprehensively flawed, is there yet something that can be salvaged from the data that it has provided? I have indicated that in general it is true that mere descriptive data on the frequency of adverse events following vaccination is insufficient to allow any causal relationship to be drawn between vaccination and the adverse event. All that can be established is an association, and the existence of a causal link can be easily dismissed. In this vein the latest report from MHRA6 and a summary of earlier data in the BMJ7 concludes that the COVID-19 vaccines have not played a role in the death of any vaccinated patients.

However, before accepting this conclusion let us remember that a particular demographic in the UK has, over the same time period (December 9th 2020 to February 14th 2021), been vaccinated with two different COVID-19 vaccines, PF and AZ. From the Yellow Card data, we have information on the number of doses of each of the two vaccines given, and the corresponding number of deaths following vaccination. Our null hypothesis is that the vaccination of individuals has no effect on the background rate of a particular suspected adverse event, for example death. If our null hypothesis is true, the rate of death following vaccination should be the same whether the PF or the AZ vaccine is employed. We can test this null hypothesis making use of the information from the Yellow Card reporting scheme. The test is crude, because the information available in the Yellow Card report does not break down the data according to particular age groups or other relevant factors. Nonetheless, as a preliminary investigation this approach can be informative, and depending on the result, may indicate whether more rigorous analyses are warranted.

The data used were those freely available from the Yellow Card report published on February 25th 2021 covering the period December 9th 2020 to February 14th 2021 .7 According to the report, approximately 8.9M vaccinations (first and second doses) had been given using the PF vaccine, and 6.9M with the AZ vaccine. The number of suspected deaths associated with these vaccinations were 197 (PF) and 205 (AZ). From these data we can draw up the following table to test our null hypothesis that the rate of death is independent of the type of vaccine administered.

VaccineAliveDeadTotal
PF88998031978900000
AZ68997952056900000
Total157959840215800000
Table 1.
Contingency table for testing null hypothesis that rates of death following vaccination are independent of the vaccine administered

The result of a contingency χ2 test on these data indicates that the frequency of suspected death events differs highly significantly between the PF and AZ vaccines (χ2(1) = 8.7662, p<0.005). Our null hypothesis that there is no effect of the vaccine type on the rate of death is rejected. For every death associated with a PF vaccine injection, there are 1.34 deaths associated with an AZ vaccine injection.

Care is required in concluding uncritically from this result that vaccination has an effect on the rate of death of participants in the vaccination programme, since we have not had access to data that would allow us to compare the two groups who were given the PF and AZ vaccines. We are assuming in our analysis that the two groups do not differ in some systematic way which would affect their background rate of death, and this may not be true. However, the size and significance of the effect we have demonstrated indicates that it is important to pursue this question further to determine why death rate differs so markedly for the groups receiving PF and AZ vaccines in the UK to date.

The same form of analysis can be extended to determine the influence of the type of vaccine administered on suspected adverse reactions that are far more common than death. This has been summarised together with the previous analysis for a number of suspected adverse reactions that have a relatively high prevalence (Table 2).


Suspected Adverse Event
Ratio PF:AZχ2(1)P
Death1:1.348.77< 0.005
Tremor1:7.091640.7< 0.001
Vomiting1:3.05946.0< 0.001
Fever1:3.204836.7< 0.001
Headache1:4.024169.4< 0.001
Table 2.
Ratio of suspected adverse reactions following vaccination with PF and AZ vaccines, and results of χ2 testing null hypothesis of no effect of vaccine type on frequency of suspected adverse reactions.

Again, this shows highly significant differences between the vaccines in the rate of suspected less serious adverse events occurring shortly after vaccination. Such analyses should be useful for making recommendations on vaccine choice to minimise the incidence of less serious suspected adverse reactions in the vaccination programme.

We can conclude that the Yellow Card reporting scheme can provide some limited information that may be useful for alerting the UK public to possible adverse effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. However, the initial conception of the scheme as a purely descriptive rather than as an experimental undertaking means that it cannot address the real issues that are of crucial importance to the UK public. These issues are whether there are causal relationships between vaccination with the PF and AZ vaccines and serious adverse effects such as death, and if so, what are the size of these effects. To address these issues an experimental protocol such as that outlined earlier in this article is required, and should be implemented with immediate effect. Without data generated by such an approach it will not be possible to establish scientifically sound policy for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The author is a scientist who has been involved in university teaching and research in biology and scientific enquiry for 35 years.

1 Regulatory approval of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19

2 Regulatory approval of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca

3 Report of the Commission on Human Medicines Expert Working Group on COVID-19 vaccine safety surveillance

4 Arvin, A.M. et al. (2020). A perspective on potential antibody dependent enhancement of SARS-CoV-2. Nature 584, 353-363.

5 Halstead S.B., Katzelnick, L. (2020). COVID-19 Vaccines: Should We Fear ADE? Journal of Infectious Diseases 222. DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jiaa518

6 Mulligan, M.J. et al. (2020) Phase I/II study of COVID-19 RNA vaccine BNT162b1 in adults. Nature

7 Coronavirus vaccine – weekly summary of Yellow Card reporting Updated March 4th 2021

8 Covid-19: First UK vaccine safety data are “reassuring,” says regulator BMJ 2021;372:n363

Is Dr Geert Vanden Bossche Right That “Vaccination Amidst a Pandemic Creates an Irrepressible Monster”?

Dr Geert Vanden Bossche describes himself as an independent virologist and vaccine expert who was formerly employed at GAVI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This week he wrote an open letter appealing to “all authorities, scientists and experts around the world, to whom this concerns: the entire world population” to immediately halt mass Covid vaccination, claiming there is compelling evidence that the mass rollout will dramatically worsen the consequences of the pandemic.

Entitling his letter, “Why mass vaccination amidst a pandemic creates an irrepressible monster”, he writes:

Basically, we’ll very soon be confronted with a super-infectious virus that completely resists our most precious defence mechanism: The human immune system.

From all of the above, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how the consequences of the extensive and erroneous human intervention in this pandemic are not going to wipe out large parts of our human population. One could only think of very few other strategies to achieve the same level of efficiency in turning a relatively harmless virus into a bioweapon of mass destruction.

He concludes:

If we, human beings, are committed to perpetuating our species, we have no choice left but to eradicate these highly infectious viral variants. This will, indeed, require large vaccination campaigns. However, NK cell-based vaccines will primarily enable our natural immunity to be better prepared (memory!) and to induce herd immunity (which is exactly the opposite of what current COVID-19 vaccines do as those increasingly turn vaccine recipients into asymptomatic carriers who are shedding virus). So, there is not one second left for gears to be switched and to replace the current killer vaccines by life-saving vaccines.

I am appealing to the WHO and all stakeholders involved, no matter their conviction, to immediately declare such action as THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY OF INTERNATIONAL CONCERN.

Dr Bossche makes a number of dubious assumptions in his doom-laden prognosis and his solution (despite his striking confession that COVID-19 is a “a relatively harmless virus”) is yet more vaccines, just of a different kind. The Zero Covid-like aim is to “eradicate these highly infectious viral variants”.

Dr Clare Craig of HART comments:

Dr Bossche is wrong on vaccines driving variants that evade the natural immune response. I’m also yet to be convinced the Kent variant was any more infectious than the original. The ONS Survey had it falling before Lockdown 3 was announced. At peak cases ONS reckoned 61% of COVID cases in England were new variant, 33% in Northern Ireland, 22% in Scotland and only 5% in Wales – yet all had a winter wave.

We await detailed scientific rebuttals of the various claims in the paper. But the current feeling among a number of sceptical scientists we are in touch with is that the paper greatly exaggerates the capacity of viral variants to evade the human immune system. Upon encountering a virus like SARS-CoV-2, a large repertoire of T-cell epitopes is produced which are capable of dealing with most variants.

UPDATE: Dr Mike Yeadon and Marc Girardot have written a scientific rebuttal to Dr Bossche’s claims, arguing that the recent downward trends in cases and hospitalisations across the globe indicate that the virus has probably not mutated in a way that makes it much more dangerous and that a healthy immune system is very capable of dealing with these new forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Read it here.

Vaccine Hesitancy Varies More with Age than Ethnicity, ONS Finds

The debate on vaccine hesitancy has so far focused primarily on ethnicity, but new findings by the ONS suggest that variation by age is also significant. The new figures reveal that whilst a black person is roughly six times more likely to express vaccine hesitancy than a white person, someone aged 16 to 29 is 17 times more likely to be unsure than someone aged 80 or over. Here are the key findings on age:

In the first phase of the vaccine rollout in the UK, the Joint Committee of Vaccinations and Immunization (JCVI) advised on priority groups that included those aged 50 years and over. Our analysis of older age groups is consistent with this advice, with additional groups covering those aged 16 to 29 years and 30 to 49 years.

Among adults aged 16 to 29 years, 17% reported hesitancy towards the coronavirus vaccine, compared with 1% of adults aged 80 years and over. The same proportion of adults aged 70 to 74 years and those aged 75 to 79 years reported vaccine hesitancy (both 1%).