Day: 13 March 2021

How Worried Should We Be About the New Variants?

Dr Mike Yeadon is back! Today we’re publishing an original piece he has co-authored with a colleague from PANDA (Pandemics – Data and Analytics), a multidisciplinary group seeking to inform policy responses to the pandemic. Its scientific advisory board includes the three signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration. Dr Yeadon, along with Marc Girardot, looks at the new variants and asks: Are they likely to evade our existing immune responses, whether that immunity was acquired via infection or vaccination? Their conclusion is 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. Here’s an extract:

SARS-CoV-2 is a large virus with approximately 30,000 RNA bases (10,000 amino acids). Currently, the greatest difference between any ‘mutant variant’ and the original Wuhan sequence is limited to 26 nucleotide mutations. The genomic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 in circulation on different continents is fairly uniform. We know that the mutation rate in SARS-CoV-2 is slower than other RNA viruses because it benefits from a proofreading enzyme which limits potentially lethal copying errors. To date, these mutations have caused changes in less than 0.3% of the entire virus sequence. All variants are therefore currently 99.7% similar to the original Wuhan viral sequence.

To date, no robust scientific evidence proves that any of the variants identified are more transmissible or deadly than the original. By definition, variants are clinically identical. Once there is a clinical difference then a new ‘strain’ of virus has emerged. Prior knowledge of viral mutation shows they usually evolve to become less deadly and more transmissible. This optimises their chance of spreading, as dead hosts tend not to spread viruses, and very ill hosts have reduced mobility and thus limit contact with others.

This is very well-researched piece that deals with one of the main arguments for perpetuating the lockdown. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Cases and hospitalisations continue to plunge in Florida, in spite of the state having the largest number of confirmed cases of the B117 variant of any US state. The Daily Mail has more.

Postcard from Itoshima

We’re publishing a new postcard today in our ongoing series – “Around the World in 80 Lockdowns”. This one is from Itoshima in Japan. As the author points out, restrictions were voluntary during the first state of emergency in Japan, it only lasted six weeks, and then there were practically none until January 15th of this year when a second state of emergency was declared – and now that’s been ended everywhere apart from Tokyo. In spite of this, Japan’s total death toll is only 8359. Here’s an extract:

I’m not sure about the lockdowns in other countries, but during our state of emergency the Japanese government didn’t have the legal authority to restrict people’s actions. They essentially asked people to stay home, work from home and limit their movements, and generally the public has been extremely co-operative. This is because Japan has been traumatised by the Government having too much power in the past so now the Government tries to first rely on citizens complying voluntarily before resorting to force. We didn’t have any fines for not wearing face masks or opening businesses until much later.

The first state of emergency was only for about a month and half and Japan successfully flattened the curve, but it was simply because of the citizens’ discipline, obedience and social pressure. Regardless of no forced restrictions, businesses and individuals voluntarily followed the request, which led to less compensation from the Government because they didn’t force us to stop working.

Worth reading in full.

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?

Manchester Students Pass Vote of No Confidence in Vice-Chancellor Who Built Fences Around Halls

Students at the University of Manchester have passed a vote of no confidence in its Vice-Chancellor amid criticism of the institution’s handling of Covid. The Mail has the story.

Dame Nancy Rothwell is facing opposition over the university’s handling of Covid during the academic year – which included the erection of six-foot-high security fences around students’ halls of residence. 

Some 89% of the students who took part in a referendum said they agreed that the student body had “no confidence” in the Vice-Chancellor, who earns £260,399 per year, and her senior management team.

The vote is non-binding but it will now have to be considered by the University’s Board of Governors.

Students tore down the fencing built to keep them confined in their halls of residence last November. A month before this, a student was found dead at his halls. The university said the death was neither Covid nor lockdown related, but the student’s father begged to differ.

Worth reading in full.

Turkey to Welcome Brits Without Jab from May

Turkey is set to join the list of countries willing to accept travellers who have not had the jab – provided they can produce a negative Covid test – when international travel returns in May. The Sun has the story.

Turkey is set to allow sun-seeking jabbed Brits to go on holiday once international travel opens up in May.

The Turkish are poised to let travellers in who have not yet been vaccinated provided they have been tested.

PCR tests in the holiday hotspot are now as low as 30 euros and available in their mega-resorts, alongside cheap Covid insurance packages.

Turkey has also seen a successful vaccine rollout, with 10 million locals jabbed.

And from today people who work at hotels and tourism facilities have been given priority for the jab.

Over 2.5 million Brits every year, and the Sun understands that officials are close to signing off plans to allow Brits to arrive from May 17th.

A well-placed source said: “Turkey is ready and willing to let the British come in as soon as possible, and as safe as possible.

“The tourism industry is massive for Turkey, and they have done everything they can to make people safe and keep the disease at bay…

“Officials from Turkey and the UK have been working together, and I would expect to hear an announcement soon.”

Of course, all of this depends on whether or not we’re allowed to travel at all by May.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday Brits will have a better understanding on when to book plans this summer from April 12th, when he will publish the review of the Global Travel Taskforce’s recommendations.

But he said he was “hopeful” foreign breaks would go ahead.

As previously reported, countries may be reluctant to restrict tourism when travel reopens for fear of limiting their economic recoveries. While Spain is set to launch vaccine passports for travellers, other countries – including Greece – have announced that they will place no restrictions on those able to produce a negative test.

Worth reading in full.

Adults Have Failed Children on Masks and More

Molly Kingsley has written a stinging piece in the Telegraph on the failure of many adults to speak up for children over the last year of madness. She is one of the three founders of the UsForThem organisation which campaigns against intrusive social distancing measures in schools.

Too many in positions of responsibility for children have stayed silent in the face of clear harm to those children. This was drummed home to me earlier this week watching an interview of Vicky Ford – our Children’s Minister – by Julia Hartley-Brewer: a seven-minute annihilation which epitomises perfectly the dearth of courageous advocacy for children. Challenged to explain why there has been no controlled trial for masks in classrooms, Ford could not. Challenged to explain what advice had changed to justify the extension of the mask mandate to classrooms, Ford could not. Challenged to explain what had changed to make schools less safe without masks this term than they were last term – again, Ford could not. In each case the answer was simply “we are following the medical advice”. At no point did she attempt to articulate that advice, or, in fact, to give any indication that she could explain or indeed had even seen it herself.    

Vicky Ford is not alone. There is a long list of adults and organisations with a duty to children – be that legal, fiduciary, professional or simply moral – and in some cases who are paid to carry out that duty. Some have spoken, but many more have acquiesced…

Over the last year, we have, in the name of protecting the elderly and vulnerable, somehow managed to reverse one of the key tenets of medical ethics: first do no harm. We’ve introduced, and we continue to introduce, interventions not only without proper, or indeed any, evaluation as to harms; but worse, we do so in the knowing presence of potentially serious, and escalating, harm.

It was announced last night that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson faces a legal challenge over the wearing of face masks in schools, especially in relation to the “devastating” effects for deaf children.

Very much worth reading in full.

News Round-Up