HART

Why Boris Must Halt the Child Vaccine Programme

There follows a guest post by Dr Ros Jones, a retired consultant paediatrician and member of HART.

If, a year ago, someone had asked if we should give children a brand-new vaccine with no long-term safety data for a disease that barely affects them, they would have been laughed out of court. But here we are today, considering doing exactly that and not even with the pretence that it is for their own safety. It is because adults think it is okay to ask children to take a medicine which may cause them harm to protect us. Yet the adults clamouring for this have all been vaccinated already. 

Two weeks ago, 40 UK doctors wrote to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) calling for a halt to any proposals to widen the temporary emergency authorisation for COVID-19 vaccines to include children on the grounds of major safety concerns. We now learn that this is such a complex ethical question that the JCVI will pass the responsibility to the Prime Minister. The entire management of the pandemic has been politicised to the detriment of open scientific and ethical debate and it is totally inappropriate for child health to become a potential political football.  The urgency for such debate has increased by the approval, first in North America and now Europe, for vaccination of 12-to-17-year-olds, and Pfizer’s application is currently lodged with the MHRA. So what is the medical, ethical and legal basis for such a move?

The medical case for children

Children are mercifully at incredibly low risk for COVID-19, with the vast majority having mild to no symptoms, few hospital admissions and even fewer requiring intensive care. There were nine Covid-associated deaths in under-15s in the whole of 2020, all with prior life-limiting conditions and accounting for 0.3% of all cause deaths in this age group. Any adolescent at extremely high risk may already receive a vaccine and this should not inform policy for an entire age group. Long Covid has also been raised as a concern, but in children it is milder and shorter-lived than in adults, with studies reporting complete recovery.

Safety

So if the disease is extremely mild for children, what of potential adverse effects of vaccination? Tragically, in recent weeks we have seen reports of thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), an extremely rare condition, occurring in a significant number of young adults following vaccination, with cerebral venous strokes, some fatal. VITT was not detected in any of the trials but the MHRA now quotes the incidence following AstraZeneca vaccination as 1 in 77,000, stating ‘the data shows there is a higher reported incidence rate in younger adult age groups compared with older groups’. Doctors advising an individual on benefits and risks are left to guess how much higher but AstraZeneca vaccine was withdrawn for under 30s and latterly under 40s, and the Oxford children’s trial was suspended. Pfizer appears to have similar thrombotic problems though possibly at a lower rate and this is likely to be a class effect involving the spike protein. With Pfizer, the Israel Health Ministry have confirmed that myocarditis is occurring  at a rate of 1 in 41,730 for the 2nd dose in young men aged 16-30s, but highest in 16-19s. These are not trivial side-effects: they are potentially fatal or life-changing and appear to be occurring at a rate which is higher than that of severe outcomes for childhood Covid infections. This is without considering any as yet unknown longer-term adverse effects and bearing in mind that only 1,134 children were vaccinated in the Pfizer trials. Following the tenet “First do no harm”, routine vaccination of children against COVID-19 is contra-indicated.

End the Mask Mandates Now: Launch of the ‘Smile Free’ Campaign

We’re publishing today a new piece by Dr Gary Sidley, a retired Consultant Clinical Psychologist and member of HART, to coincide with the launch of the ‘Smile Free’ campaign that he and colleagues have started to campaign for the repeal of mask mandates in the U.K.

Dr Sidley’s core argument is: “Never mind that masks don’t work, masking the healthy harms us all socially and psychologically: all mandates must end on June 21st.”

Here’s the opening:

The Government requirement for healthy people to wear a face covering in a range of indoor community settings, purportedly to reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has arguably been the most insidious of all the coronavirus restrictions.

Anyone reluctant to wear a face covering risks being challenged by others: “It’s only a mask”; “It’s no big deal”; “If it prevents just one infection, it’s worth it”. These comments are based on the premise that healthy people have nothing to lose from donning a mask when moving around their communities, but they fail to recognise an important truth: Masking the healthy is not, and has never been, a benign intervention.

Anyone remotely sceptical may already know that, prior to June 2020, public health organisations and their experts did not endorse masking healthy people in the community as a means of reducing viral transmission and that, in the real world, mask mandates or the lack thereof appear to have made no discernible difference to the spread of coronavirus.

Famously, the decision of Texas to ditch their mask mandates was called “Neanderthal thinking” by President Biden – only for the Lone Star State to witness declining cases ever since.

Worth reading in full and get involved with the campaign here.

Health Experts Express “Grave Concerns” over Proposals to Vaccinate Children Against Covid

Over 40 health experts have expressed their “grave concerns regarding all proposals to administer Covid vaccines to children” in an open letter sent to the Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The letter was organised by Dr Ros Jones, a member of the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART), and warns against a “repeat of any past tragedies which have occurred especially when vaccines are rushed to market”. The Telegraph has more.

In a joint letter, [the health experts] warned it is “irresponsible, unethical and unnecessary” to jab children and urged the medicines watchdog not to “repeat mistakes from history”.

Their intervention came as Matt Hancock announced that Britain had bought enough Pfizer vaccines to inoculate all children over the age of 12.

The Health Secretary said the Government would be “very, very careful and sensitive” about whether to roll out the vaccination programme to children, but stressed that research showed the jabs were safe. 

He told MPs on Monday that a decision was likely to be taken within the next two months while the rollout continued through younger age groups.

[The letter reads:] “Extreme caution has been exercised over many aspects of the pandemic, but surely now is the most important time to exercise true caution.

“We must not be the generation of adults that, through unnecessary haste and fear, risks the health of children.”

The letter has been signed by over 40 medics, scientists and doctors including Professor Karol Sikora, Dean of Medicine at Buckingham University, and Lord Moonie, a former consultant in Public Health Medicine.

It argues that while there are clear benefits of a vaccine for the elderly and vulnerable, the balance of benefit and risk for youngsters is “quite different” since healthy children are at “almost no risk” from Covid.

The letter goes on to say that children do not need the vaccination to support herd immunity, adding that recent modelling suggests the U.K. has now achieved the herd immunity threshold.

“All medical interventions carry a risk of harm, so we have a duty to act with caution and proportionality,” it says.

“This is particularly the case when considering mass intervention in a healthy population, in which situation there must be firm evidence of benefits far greater than harms”.

A new petition, flagged up in today’s News Round Up, says that children should not be given Covid vaccines until Phase Three trials are complete.

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

‘We Should Hang Our Heads in Shame Over the Way We Have Treated Children in Lockdown’

Professor of Psychology Ellen Townsend, a member of HART, has appeared on Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan’s podcast Planet Normal to tell them how harmful lockdowns have been to the nation’s children.

For Professor Ellen Townsend, it’s simple: “We’re putting adults first when we should be putting children first.” The result, according to the University of Nottingham academic, is “a real disaster” for young people and an approach she feels the country will come to regret, citing widely-reported mental health concerns and a sharp increase in youth unemployment.

Speaking to The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, Professor Townsend tells columnists and podcast hosts, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, why she believes it’s now vital for the Government to implement a “trauma-informed recovery approach” to ease young people out of lockdown. The emphasis, she says, should lie on mental recovery rather than catching up on school work: “If we don’t have mental health and wellbeing, the learning is just not going to take place.” And a second plan is needed for the “morally questionable” way in which she believes the Government has induced fear in the young: “If I were to induce any kind of emotion in the lab, for example, I would ethically expect to make sure that people left the lab feeling as good or better than they did when they came in… I’d have an exit plan. What worries me about what has happened is there doesn’t seem to be an exit plan to de-escalate the fear.”

Worth listening to in full (no subscription required).

HART’s Covid Report Attacked in the Times

HART’s must-read report “COVID-19: an overview of the evidence“, written about in Lockdown Sceptics on Thursday, has been making waves today. Former Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Sumption praised it in the Telegraph this morning, and then this afternoon Times Science Editor Tom Whipple did his best to bury it under smears of being anti-vaccine and “extremely irresponsible”.

In a mean-spirited piece that makes no effort to engage with the arguments of the report, Whipple rounds up the usual suspects to heap opprobrium on anything that deviates from the establishment line or raises awkward questions.

Originally headlined “Scientists condemn report claiming vaccines caused second wave deaths”, it now reads “Scientists condemn report questioning role of vaccine in second wave deaths”, presumably after someone pointed out to the editors that the report never makes such a claim but only raises questions based on patterns in data. The report clearly states that “we cannot infer causation from correlation”.

Whipple writes:

Among arguments about the harms caused by lockdown the 50-page document also states that the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine coincided with a large number of deaths and this may not have been a coincidence. “When something in data is this unusual, we have to ask questions, no matter how uncomfortable they may be,” it states, in a chapter written by a “quantitative analyst” called Joel Smalley. “It would be extremely unscientific and even negligent not to investigate whether the rise in deaths during this period is linked in some way to the vaccine rollout.” He suggested the Pfizer vaccine had not been tested sufficiently on older people.

Jeremy Brown, from UCL and a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said this was “ridiculous”. He pointed to the now extensive real-world data showing the vaccines were safe and reduced deaths. “It is quite conclusively true that the vaccine offers protection in the real world,” he said. Far from killing people, he said, “if you’ve been vaccinated you have around an 85% lower chance of ending up in hospital”.

The rise in deaths was caused by infections, he said, rather than vaccines.

He added that academics should not be endorsing the idea vaccines may be causing mass death. “The only way out of this mess is the vaccine so anything that undermines that is distinctly unhelpful,” he said.

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, added that to make the link “shows a blatant disregard for the facts” and “is irresponsible in the extreme”.

HART this evening published a response that clarifies they are not making claims so much as raising questions.

While scientists quoted in the article have dismissed HART’s suggestion that there is a possible link between vaccination and COVID-19 infections, it is worth highlighting that earlier this month a study led by Public Health England found a “notable” rise in COVID-19 infections in the over-70s immediately after receiving a vaccine.

We are not asserting that vaccines are the only possible cause of “second wave” cases and deaths. We are not asserting that the vaccines are, in and of themselves, dangerous or deadly. There are many factors at play here. For example, the increased contact from the vaccination programme or from possible relaxation of social distancing following vaccination have been suggested as possible causes for the correlation. It has also been shown that lymphocyte levels fall in the first three days after Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination. The phase two trial of AstraZeneca showed a transient neutropenia in 46% of patients in the vaccine arm (compared to 7% in the control arm). Whether this suppressed immunity sufficiently accounts for increased susceptibility is uncertain. These observations have no bearing on the efficacy of the vaccines which is a separate issue.

They draw attention to a number of studies that show a spike in infections in the days following vaccination: the FDA Pfizer report that found a 40% increase in the vaccinated versus placebo arm in the first week of the trial; an Israeli study reporting a doubling in daily incidence until about eight days after the Pfizer vaccine had been given; a Danish paper showing a 40% increase of COVID-19 in the vaccinated in the first two weeks; and a Public Health England study that noted a 48% increase in Covid in the first nine days after vaccination.

Lord Sumption Praises HART’s ‘Overview of the Evidence’

Lord Sumption has written an impressive piece in the Telegraph criticising the Government’s application of the so-called “precautionary principle” (assuming the worst when there is little evidence) and highlighting that the extreme measures taken in the hope of reducing the Covid death toll should have been based on “good reasons backed by evidence” which they weren’t, obviously.

The “sunk cost fallacy” is a well-known source of distortion in human decision-making. A decision is made which has destructive implications. The limited benefits and immense collateral damage gradually become apparent.

It is next to impossible for those involved in the decision to change their minds. No one wants to admit that it might all have been for nothing, even if that is the truth. They have invested too much in the decision to reverse out of the cul-de-sac. So they press on, more to avoid blame than to serve the public interest. This is what has happened to governments across Europe and to the dug-in body of specialists who advise them. Their recipe is simple: if lockdowns haven’t worked, there is nothing wrong with the concept. We just need more of them.

The former Supreme Court judge points to the “Overview of the Evidence” published by the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) last week, which he thinks is an impressive document. “We cannot contribute to the science, but we can at least understand it,” he writes. “Those who are unwilling to do even that much have no moral right to demand coercive measures against their fellow citizens.”

The HART overview concludes that lockdowns “must never be repeated”. They “serve no useful purpose and cause catastrophic societal and economic harms“. It calls for a return to the pandemic plans prepared over a decade for just this sort of event by the UK and other governments and endorsed by the WHO. They were based on two principles. Avoid coercion and don’t go for one size-fits-all measures like lockdowns when the risks affect different groups differently. They recommended balanced public health guidance, no border closures and targeted action to assist those who are most vulnerable. These principles were abruptly jettisoned a year ago. They were replaced by an untried experiment, which there was neither time nor research to consider properly.

Lord Sumption says that the HART paper covers three core points which the proponents of lockdowns have never been able to answer. These are: the availability of international comparisons which show no relationship between the stringency of lockdown and the level of Covid infections or deaths; the unwillingness of governments to confront the collateral costs of locking down; and the fact that the burden of the lockdown has fallen mainly on those who are the least vulnerable to COVID-19.

Worth reading in full.

Here’s the Evidence Lockdowns Do More Harm Than Good

The Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) is a group of highly qualified UK doctors, scientists, economists, psychologists and other academic experts, including sceptical stars whose pieces have been featured or flagged up in Lockdown Sceptics such as Dr John Lee, Dr Clare Craig, Dr Malcolm Kendrick, Joel Smalley, Prof David Livermore, Prof David Seedhouse, Prof David Paton and Dr Gary Sidley.

The team has now produced its most devastating piece of work to date. The new report, entitled “COVID-19: an overview of the evidence“, was sent to MPs today to encourage them to vote against the renewal of the Coronavirus Act in the coming week. With over 50 pages of meticulously referenced evidence from specialists in their fields, it shows beyond doubt why the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been ineffective and disastrous and a new approach is required.

“The data is in,” it declares on the cover. “Lockdowns serve no useful purpose and cause catastrophic societal and economic harms. They must never be repeated in this country.”

Here’s the full contents to whet your appetite:

  • COVID policies and harm to children – Professor Ellen Townsend; Dr Karen Neil
  • COVID-19 vaccination in children – major ethical concerns – Dr Ros Jones
  • Vaccine passports – an ethical minefield – Dr Malcolm Kendrick
  • Asymptomatic spread – who can really spread COVID-19? – Dr John Lee
  • Economic impacts – the true cost of lockdowns – Professor David Paton; Professor Marilyn James
  • Mutant strains and the futility of border closures – Dr Gerry Quinn
  • ‘Zero Covid’ – an impossible dream – Professor David Livermore
  • Masks – do the benefits outweigh the harms? – Dr Gary Sidley
  • Psychological impact of the Government’s communication style and restrictive measures – Dr Damian Wilde
  • Lockdowns – do they work? – Professor Marilyn James
  • Mortality data and COVID-19 – Joel Smalley
  • The ONS Infection Survey: a re-evaluation of the data – Dr Clare Craig; Dr Paul Cuddon
  • Promising treatment options – Dr Ros Jones; Dr Edmund Fordham
  • Care homes – we must do better for the most vulnerable in society – Dr Ali Haggett
  • Ethical considerations of the COVID-19 response – Professor David Seedhouse

Read it here, share it on social media, and why not send it to your MP? The more who do, the more likely they are to peek inside.

Stop Press: The report has been endorsed by Sir Graham Brady MP, who said:

The World Health Organisation said last year that lockdowns should be seen as a last resort because of the massive harms that they do. This report is a helpful review of the evidence showing the devastating consequences of lockdown in terms of missed diagnoses, deferred treatments and the crisis in mental health, especially for children and young people. It makes grim but important reading.