Some of the research I have been doing over the past 3 years for my forthcoming book on societal disruption and collapse seems too urgent to sit on until June this year. The poor state of public discussion about the Covid pandemic is a reason why I am sharing a section from Chapter 5 of the book. I believe my approach reflects how research analysts like myself used to approach matters of public concern before discussions became polarized (and somewhat hysterical) during the pandemic. I hope more of us will take that approach in future and then be heard, rather than shadow banned and demonised by people who used to behave better.
“As Covid is here to stay, it is worthy of some closer consideration of its impacts on society.
With a relatively low infection fatality rate in the near term, the initial impacts of the disease itself do not constitute a threat of societal collapse. However, at the time of writing, pathways have been identified for how the pandemic could contribute to such a collapse. The first of these is the nature of the virus itself and how it could turn out to be causing long-term damage to health and vitality, as well as suppressing immunity in general and even being carcinogenic. The second of these pathways is the currently uncertain longer-term effects of some novel vaccines, which have already been associated with significant negative health effects. Then there are the wider effects of the policy responses including massive disruption to government finances and the authoritarian turn of mainstream media, big technology platforms, and sections of the general public, as well as the backlash against all of that – together creating a combustible mix. As this is such a polarized and polarizing topic it’s rare that the relevant information is brought together in one place, so I will briefly attempt that here so that the nature of the risk from Covid can be appreciated.
When Covid broke out in China, one of the policies in some cities was to round up and kill people’s cats, due to a worry that they can carry coronaviruses. Subsequent protests have meant this policy has always been dropped, but only to reappear at various times. In early 2022, officials in the city of Langfangs ordered the killing of all pets of anyone infected with Covid. Again, the policy was dropped after protests (Daily Mail, 2022). Echoing some of that attitude towards pets, yesterday (November 22nd) the Daily Express newspaper ran a story about the UK, with the headline: “Covid horror as estimated over 350,000 cats infected with virus which ‘can be fatal’”. The story itself was about evidence of past non-fatal infections of cats with Covid in Britain. It also mentioned that other forms of coronavirus can be fatal to cats. The story provoked comments such as: “cull all cats” (Daily Express, 2022). The same story soon appeared in other UK newspapers and websites.
Death rates are still above normal in many countries of the world. The medical experts don’t know why. It could be from the long-term complications from past Covid infections, or it could be from the impacts of novel vaccines, or it could be from the delayed treatments due to lockdowns. Or perhaps it is from a mixture of these causes, or even from some other factor altogether. Even writing those two sentences induced in me a feeling of trepidation. I find myself readying for the annoyance or even aggression from some people. Which is odd: people did not behave so stridently on public health issues before 2020. I think the decay in normal scientific dialogue and policy scrutiny is a significant lasting damage from the last few years. It is why I am not going to let it lie. Instead, I hope we can all learn more about why people became so badly informed and aggressive towards others who reached conclusions different to their own. Only then might we avoid making matters worse when future public health crises occur. And if the excess mortality does not return to normal, then we are already within an ongoing health crisis right now.
It is why in this essay I am returning to the scientific facts which prove the medical authoritarian orthodoxy on Covid has been scientifically wrong. Not just wrong in hindsight, but now more widely recognised as wrong by experts and scientists who ignored some of the earlier concerns. This recent science can’t be ignored unless someone is no longer interested in the science on public health.
Some countries recently stopped administering Covid vaccination to children. Sweden ceased recommending it for healthy children under the age of 18. Now Denmark won’t allow children to be jabbed for Covid, and they don’t recommend it either for anyone under 50, unless they are vulnerable.
These countries’ decisions make good sense, for several reasons. First, the disease is not dangerous to healthy children in the short term. For instance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) noted in August 2022 that only 0.5% of global deaths with a positive Covid test were under 25 years of age. Second, although long Covid is a significant and growing concern, a large study found that the vaccines were only about 15% effective at preventing that condition. It means we urgently need to explore other ways of combatting long Covid, whereas a simplistic focus on vaccines would undermine that.
A third reason for not vaccinating children for Covid is because that vaccination doesn’t significantly slow or stop infection and transmission. That matters if a vaccination programme is aimed at stopping children passing on a disease which does not harm themselves. A team from Imperial College London published their findings in The Lancet early in 2022, which showed that the impact of vaccination on community transmission of variants of SARS-CoV-2 appeared to be not significantly different from among unvaccinated people. Reviewing a range of studies, infectious disease specialist Dr. Franco-Paredes wrote in the same medical journal that because transmissibility is not reduced by vaccination a range of policy ideas should now be rethought.
A fourth reason for changing tack on child vaccination is the risk of significant side effects. That is why a team of top scientists recently wrote in the peer-reviewed journal European Society of Medicine that for “young healthy adults, some of the risks and disadvantages afforded by [Covid] vaccination prevail over the medical benefit..” They reached their conclusion even before new official data on adverse reactions. Alarmingly, a court case revealed in early October 2022 that the US government had kept private the data informing itself that about 800,000 citizens needed medical attention after their Covid jabs.
Taken together, this data and research is confirming the concerns expressed by some top scientists since the earliest phases of the pandemic and has been leading some high-profile champions of Covid vaccination to change their stance. That includes one British doctor publishing a peer reviewed study arguing that the risk-reward benefit is not good enough for anyone but the elderly or vulnerable.
For all these reasons, Sweden, Denmark and the other countries that are stopping child vaccination for Covid, are making reasonable decisions on both public health grounds and the rights and protection of children. As I am British, what happens in the UK catches my attention. Last week I heard from a friend that a school in Cumbria is wanting to vaccinate her young children. As I know the latest science, I wondered how could a still-novel medical procedure, without health benefit for the child, and now a known risk of short-term injury, yet with no long-term health information (either positive or negative), still be offered through schools in the UK? How could this not be regarded as a classic case of ‘going too far’ with a limited tool of diminishing effectiveness? How could individual officials, themselves with children, not recognise how the latest science demonstrates that such a policy might harm some children for no benefit to others? Might they also sense the potential damage to trust in health authorities and medical services from continuing with something that the available science no longer supports?
Overcoming the barriers to scientific and ethical policy
I hope more officials come to their senses soon, and it is for that reason that I am sharing this essay. Unfortunately, the power of the pharmaceutical industry in shaping our understanding of this issue means that some readers might think that because I am critical of Covid vaccination for children that I think this disease is not a significant issue. The mass-media’s engineering of division and disgust on these issues means that some readers might already be wondering whether I am reckless, selfish, arrogant, far right, and suchlike. So, to help diffuse such corporate-inspired personal reactions, I will quickly restate my views on Covid. It is because I think Covid is such an important issue that I have paid attention, applied my research skills and sometimes given my views in essays that I share for the people in the more radical corners of the environmental movement who read my output. Over the past year I have encouraged what I believe to be a smarter approach that empowers people to self-isolate if symptomatic without risking income or employment, that requires organisations to enable ventilation and air filtration, ensures people have the basic micronutrients for good immunity, supports and studies early treatments, including both repurposed drugs and the use of non-drug therapies that have proven useful in specific national contexts, such as across South-East Asia.
The fact that some people scoff at any mention of herbs, reflects the white supremacy embedded in Western medicine. That is why it systematically ignores and denigrates the experience and effectiveness of other approaches that are used by billions of non-white people today. In particular, the herb Sambiloto has been used against high fevers, including Covid, in official treatment protocols in East Asia. The WHO does not even mention it on their website. And yes, non-white people can scoff at herbs as well – because the condition of over-modernity is pervasive and many enthusiasts for that worldview are not white. Interestingly, I’ve been told by some of my friends in Africa that their experience is that if something doesn’t help white people self-actualise or diasporas to get more money and status in the West, then it’s not likely to be prioritised as a racism issue in the West. That may be why the epistemological and institutional racism in Western medicine goes unchecked.
I mention this because overcoming biases and blind spots are important to improving our approach to Covid – which is as important as ever. Some people want to say Covid is now less important, due to deaths-with-a-positive-PCR-test declining in many countries. Some officials therefore even say that the pandemic is over. Some of the most stridently authoritarian spokespersons are now busy being self-righteous on other issues, so don’t give much attention to Covid anymore. However, new data shows us that Covid remains important. First, excess deaths are spiralling. There are a few scientific studies that indicate those unusual deaths could be due to the impacts of long Covid. There is circumstantial evidence that the excess deaths could be due to the effects of lockdowns, other environmental factors, or novel medical procedures that began in 2021. Some of these other factors might even be influencing our susceptibility to long Covid. As we care about public health, we need to challenge any censorship of discussion or any attempts to make some theories inadmissible. Rising concern about long Covid provides no basis whatsoever for vaccinating children, given that scientific analysis currently finds it doesn’t prevent it. Worse, falling back on failed strategies would be a recipe for a longer-term disaster. Those of us who criticise the mass use of sub-standard vaccines are not against future vaccine development for this disease; rather, we need a more independent and transparent regulatory context, more time for effectiveness and safety assessments, and less oppressive media so that scientists with differing views can all be heard.
Our children were failed by the experts
We should never have arrived at this situation of the mass vaccination of children for Covid. The recent research is simply confirmed what were already seeing by August 2021. Back then I was concerned about an over-emphasis on vaccination and was aware of those vaccinologists who were warning us that novel vaccines might not work, or could even be counterproductive. It was the roll out to kids that stirred me to action, and I prepared a Research Paper for friends who were talking to government ministers in Wales and the UK. I also sent it to the British MPs that I knew. Their response was to cite the official guidance of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH). That is a professional body that one would expect to put children’s health first. Their official advice would be relied on by busy people who do not have the relevant research skills and would face public shaming if taking unorthodox positions on public health. That is why it was so dangerous in September 2021, when the President of the RCPCH wrote to its members explaining their support of vaccinating children from 12 to 15 years old in the UK against Covid. She wrote “if vaccination means that 12-15 year olds can have a greater chance of attending school – and staying at school this winter, then we would support its use.” That meant because the RCPCH thought that schools might more likely be ordered closed if children were not vaccinated, that they should get vaccinated. They had concluded that British children should be given a medical procedure of little to no benefit to them, with the risks it entails, including unknown long-term risks, because of a possible future policy decision (on school closures), all of which requires discounting the science on vaccinations not significantly curbing transmission. That is a classic example of circular reasoning and not, therefore, scientific. Even if it had been scientific, their explanation was an example of putting children’s rights and wellness lower than the interests of adults, and therefore ethically contestable. What confirms the insubstantial nature of their discussion and recommendation is that it ignored the high levels of natural immunity in children from past infection, which means many of them would not transmit the virus anyway. Instead, their opinion could be regarded as enabling the extension of an approach that had been dressed up in moral rhetoric to make public officials fearful of ‘heresy’. The moral tones being used around the Covid issue meant the policies were going way too far.
Unfortunately, things have not changed, even a year later. Despite there being irrefutable evidence since mid-2021 that the vaccines do not have any lasting impact on reducing infection and transmission, the relevant WHO committee fudged this issue in their August 2022 update. They wrote that the “vaccine impact on transmission within households prior to the emergence of Delta was reported to be about 50%. However, the impact of vaccination on reducing transmission in the context of the more transmissible delta variant appears to be lower and even lower for Omicron.” Obviously, prior to Omicron is irrelevant to public health, and prior to Delta is even more irrelevant. So, the only reason for the WHO mentioning irrelevant data is to cite a 50% figure instead of the policy-relevant figures for current variants. Then they use transmission reduction as the justification for risking children’s health by recommending the injections they don’t benefit from. They wrote “vaccination that decreases SARS-CoV-2 transmission in this age group may reduce transmission from children and adolescents to older adults, and may help reduce the need for mitigation measures in schools. However, during the current Omicron dominant period, vaccine impact on transmission is only modest and short-lived.” The second sentence negates the first sentence, yet the first sentence makes a claim on policy utility based on that negated ‘fact’. Such nonsense suggests the WHO committee was unscientifically retaining the idea that children should be vaccinated to protect the wider community, or to protect their education from governments closing schools to (somewhat dubiously) protect the wider community.
A year before that, I thought my review of the research relevant to child vaccination would not be accepted as credible by people too busy to assess it properly for themselves. Three medical professionals had checked all the information and confirmed its content. Yet none of them would agree to put their name on the paper, as they worried about the backlash. One even asked, rhetorically, “will you pay my legal fees” when the backlash comes? I don’t think I was just unlucky with the character of the medical doctors I knew. They were responding to a culture of shame and shame-aversion that had been created by corporate power. That is something that risks our collective ability to respond to any matter of current affairs, but that would be the subject for another essay.
Worrying new data on potential counterproductive effects
Unfortunately, the most recent data shows the potential problems with vaccination could be worse than I had assessed a year ago. It indicates not only that Covid vaccination doesn’t work well against hospitalisation and death, but it might even be counterproductive against the disease. It is important to look at data about the latest variants, and that means the academic publishing process has a handicap in being helpful for our understanding of a fast-moving phenomenon. Therefore, we must turn to data coming directly from official sources. Unfortunately, although some the health authorities helpfully publish such data, they do not point to some of the awkward signals in their data, while mass media ignores it and bigtech censors those who raise the alarm. That is why you are in a tiny minority to be reading these words. So let’s look at some of that data now.
UK data from the Office of National Statistics for the year until the end of January 2022 showed that confidence about the effectiveness of vaccines against hospitalisation and death was premature. Although being doubly vaccinated reduced likelihood of death for most of 2021, after Omicron arrived the death rates in the doubly vaccinated but unboosted rapidly grew to higher than in those who had never been vaccinated (across all age groups). This was graphically represented by the ONS until early April 2022 when they removed the graphs, so we can see them using the wayback engine for their website at the end of March 2022. Is this an anomaly? Official data from USA finds something similar. Vaccinated Californians had a higher rate of hospitalizations (severe illness) than those who were unvaccinated but had prior immunity from a past infection. The government did not do that analysis of its own data, but it is easy to do for yourself. That is enough reason for us to keep watching this issue – and one of the best places to observe this issue is Australia, because it still collects and releases decent data.
Official government statistics report that 24 out of every 25 Australian adults received a two-dose Covid vaccination in 2021, mostly with mRNA. More than 7 out of 10 adults have received a booster. These vaccinations were prior to any significant levels of Covid in the country. In 2022 deaths from Covid are far higher than ever before, despite the new variants being less virulent (which shouldn’t be ignored because they are more infectious). In October 2022 the state of New South Wales reported only four of 75 deaths were of unvaccinated people, with 62 deaths being of people who had received at least one booster. As 72%, or 7 of 10 adults are boosted and only 1 of 10 deaths are of unboosted people, then that shows no reduction of risk of death from being boosted. Instead, the rate would need to be more than 3 of 10 deaths amongst unboosted for there to be any discernible benefit from being boosted. Instead, this data could even be interpreted to indicate Australians are 3 times more likely to die if boosted than not. Age stratification of the data would not change that, as all but one death was over 65, and high vaccination rates occur throughout the population. Therefore, not only is this evidence of there being no benefit from these particular Covid jabs, but there is evidence of their counter-productiveness even on Covid-related hospitalisation and death. Some top vaccinologists had warned us of this risk in 2020. Despite its own data, the same NSW report uses the same old official sentences that Covid vaccines reduce risk of hospitalisation and death.
Transforming ignorant disgust into informed dialogue
Back in December 2021 I realised something was fishy with the way the data on the effect of Covid vaccinations on hospitalisations was being presented. We had already seen observants of the orthodoxy pivot from saying the virus stops with you when you are vaccinated to statements like “everyone knows vaccination is important for reducing hospitalisation and death.” Looking at the data mid 2021 it was already clear that the non-manipulated and non-creatively presented data was indicating no more than a 50% reduction in hospitalisations within the short period of vaccine effectiveness. Initially the argument that the jabs might become useless after a few months was dismissed by the orthodoxy, and then it was accepted and boosters were launched. I therefore wrote about the statistical wizardry that was being used to exaggerate vaccine effectiveness in the reduction of hospitalisation. The subsequent research and data sets that I mentioned earlier not only confirms that analysis but suggests I understated the risks. As you might imagine, my moderate critiques were not acceptable to many of my peers in the environmental movement. In concluding this essay, I want to turn to that reaction, because if more people can openly change their minds and act differently now, it will have more of an effect than someone like me simply repeating myself.
Over the past year I was vilified by many of my peers for raising concerns, and for arguing we needed an approach far better than relying on pharma products and lockdowns. Some of that hostility was on social media. I was told to be more responsible as a professor, show more respect for the sick, stop being such a privileged white man, stop supporting Nazis, stop bringing the climate movement into disrepute. An organisation I founded published an opinion distancing themselves from me, and allowed character criticisms of me on associated social media platforms, despite their own rules against personal abuse. Managers of organisations in my field privately said they agreed with me but did nothing to address the medical aggression that was being expressed within their sphere of influence. Then colleagues of a client of mine blocked the release of a videoed discussion between me and African artists, because of my views that African countries had been the best in the world at limiting the initial effects of Covid. Wringing hands over Africa’s limited access to Covid vaccines was the appropriate response amongst white do-gooders at the time.
When I argued against the Canadian state’s threat to freeze bank accounts of working-class protestors who were resisting state coercion of their own bodies, I was described by some as supporting Nazis. Even famous green commentators chimed in with their malignant denigration of working-class protesters. Private correspondence from colleagues in my field included one telling me I was a bully for defending my position and another saying the peer-reviewed science referenced in one of my blogs was only 0.000225% of all peer-reviewed papers on Covid. That was a particularly creative and diligent critique, I thought, if a little neurodiverse. I mention just a few of these ‘highlights’ of the push back that occurred over the past year to highlight that once a topic has been framed by corporations as having one smart and moral way and anything contrary to that is disgusting, people can be quite creative and abusive with communications that are, in part, projecting their own identity as a moral conformist. If we are ready for it, there is a lot to learn about how easy we can be manipulated with fear, incomplete information, the hiding of data and expert analysis by media and bigtech, and an industrial-scale encouragement to be disgusted at anyone with views or behaviours not conforming to the corporate-state agenda. As I studied some of these processes with psychologists, I understood that it can arise when people want to avoid difficult emotions and uncertainty, rather than it being anything to do with me (apart from my face being especially annoying, of course).
Aside from those people who become a little uptight in their criticisms, there are many other people who seek to disagree with criticism of the orthodoxy by using research and data. They can easily find quotes from government websites and published papers to justify different conclusions. However, to do that, they would be ignoring the need to be up-to-date with the data being analysed. As you now know, that is because vaccine effect wanes dramatically in relation to the Omicron variant (which has been around for a year). Using old data to refute analysis based on recent data sets would be neither scientific nor prioritising public health. To do so risks treating people’s lives as simply material for defending one’s identity, status and worldview – a form of sociopathy which appears to be spreading amongst a professional class increasingly detached from the realities and challenges of the general public.
Unfortunately, the corporate-state merger that got us into this mess in the first place is even more dominant today. That is why none of the new research that I have mentioned in this essay is being discussed properly. That means the unscientific, unethical, and potentially dangerous, policies continue and few people with influence are calling for a reassessment of what has happened to the state, medical authorities and the public sphere. If the Australia data is repeated elsewhere then past support for Covid vaccinations of children and admonishing those who challenged that policy may have had real consequences on the future health of many young people – the extent of which we don’t yet know.
It means there is urgent action to take. I accept now that some people will remain incapable of logical thought as they look upon people writing essays like this through a red mist of disgust and panicked self-righteousness. But most people are not like that, and want to keep learning and be useful in their societies. It is powerful if someone changes their mind and says they want to see a change in policies. If it is just people like me repeating ourselves, we don’t get far. After all, many of us have already been ‘cancelled’ by being made to seem morally repugnant and, in many cases, shadow banned on social media. So, people who have not previously challenged the orthodoxy in public have a key role to play.
Could that be you? If you don’t have time to look into all the references in my essay, and don’t know whether to accept the analysis, then I understand. In that case, do consider your level of confidence in what you have been told by authorities and the media sources you have trusted in the past. Take a moment to think of all the claims you have heard from them over the last few years. Because the claims from the health authorities that have been withdrawn, dropped, changed or shown to be false include: vaccination will stop transmission so you are stopping the pandemic by getting vaccinated; we need to reach a certain rate of vaccination and then we will have herd immunity and Covid disappear; the injected material stays local to the injection site and is cleared from the body rapidly (although those two statements were mutually exclusive when they were made); two doses makes you ‘fully vaccinated’; vaccination is not intended for children; any side effects are minor and transitory; vaccines have been thoroughly tested for efficacy and safety. Yes, each of those claims is no longer valid, amongst many others from authorities and legacy media sources. I believe this evidence of past mistakes or lies means that rather than existing in a limbo where you do not resist the orthodoxy despite no longer having confidence in it, that you make a decision to prioritise resisting any risks to children’s health.
If, like me, you are coming to realise how dangerous long Covid is then you will want effective public health measures. You will want to see a public health dialogue not based on corporate interests and not infected by partisan political posturing. You will want to see people recognise their past mistakes and their need to learn why that happened. You will want to intervene publicly when you see vitriol directed at people for questioning the corporate-produced narratives on public health.
So, what to do? If you are British, please consider writing to the RCPCH about their stance on child vaccination, then circulating your letter on email and then putting it on social media with hashtag #GoneTooFar. If you are from another country that has not suspended Covid vaccinations for children, then you could write to an equivalent organisation that is the peak professional organisation for paediatrics. Also please consider writing to the mission of your country in Geneva, where both WHO and UNICEF are based, and ask them to raise questions within those institutions about the problems of using dated science and the untenable compromises with child rights and protections. All those missions are listed here.
A child might thank you for it one day.
My writings on Covid encourage a better agenda for responding to pandemics in future, based on solidarity with people rather than treating them as passive consumers of pharmaceuticals who are seen as potentially dangerous to each other. They were the result of looking for signals in the data, using both logic and critical deconstruction of framings used by authority. They are available here.
It is a rather sad vindication, but as time passes, every lyric in my protest song ‘Something’s Needling Me’ gets more scientific backing.
During the pandemic many people appear to have had their capabilities for logic and ethics vaporised in the heat of fear and the distortions of reality from elite interests. Consequently, from a serious public health perspective, the conversations about the pandemic are mostly silly. That does not mean there are really serious and damaging outcomes for individuals and societies. Millions of lives were lost and many might have been saved with smarter actions and more free flowing information. Now millions more lives are being risked due to the impacts of policies on supply chains and the cascading impacts on the poor worldwide. But given how much misinformed piety and pseudo professionalism is on show, it can be helpful at times to simply laugh at the orthodoxy on the pandemic. Here are some examples.
Medical officials ignoring early outpatient treatment from their frontline colleagues? Arrogantly silly.
Bigtech firms suppressing such information that might save lives? Ruthlessly silly.
Since April 2020 most media corporations have encouraged hostility towards open scientific dialogue and normal policy scrutiny. That has been accentuated by the way domestic partisan politics in North America has influenced media content globally and provoked censorship from Big Technology platforms. The sad result is that misinformed and emotionally activated people share misinformed and outrage-inviting commentary on the analysis of people who are demanding more open scientific dialogue and normal policy scrutiny. That creates a barrier to people discovering what is actually being said by people like me. Therefore I am listing my key writings on Covid in one place so it is easy to access them.
Africa has fared far better than the West in the direct impacts of Covid-19. With 16% of the world’s population, Africa has had only around 5% of the world’s Covid cases, with only about 7% of the population double-jabbed against the virus. Half of African countries have Covid mortality rates lower than 1 in 10,000 people – less than one-twentieth the rate in the USA.
So what can people in the West, of any political leaning, learn from the pandemic response in Africa?
Tragically, the impacts of policies against Covid have put tens of millions of people into poverty through their disruption to economies and supply chains. That shows how ‘Western panic’ may be exerting severe collateral damage around the world. So what can people outside the West learn about the dangers of ‘Western panic’?
In an invited contribution to the ‘Existing Otherwise’ art exhibition in Ghana I share reflections during a 15 minute ‘walk and talk’ video.
Has asymptomatic transmission of the virus been significant to this pandemic? The published research I have read indicates that asymptomatic transmission is not significant to the reproduction rate of the Covid virus and therefore not key to the pandemic.
Why does that matter? If not enough of us can get Covid from infected people with no symptoms to significantly affect the reproduction rate of the virus, then the orthodox policy agenda does not make sense. I’ll explain more about why in a moment. But first, some context.
It feels odd, personally risky, and somewhat reckless for me to write a blog on epidemiology. What a weird situation has arisen in society so that sharing tentative analysis on public challenges involves such intense emotions and potential consequences for relationships with friends, colleagues and even future employment or income. That is a situation which I do not want to acquiesce to, as open dialogue on public issues is an aspect of contemporary society that I value deeply.
Last summer when the data from Public Health England began to look a bit weak on Covid vaccine effectiveness, Sky News ran a segment commenting on some data in an official government report. It had been circulating on social media and fuelling ‘vaccine hesitancy’, according to some people. Perhaps it was time for a mainstream news outlet to reassure the public. And so Table 5 from a government report that summarised vaccination data from February to July 2021 made it on to telly. The data showed that of the over-50s who caught the Delta variant in the UK, around 13,700 had been vaccinated at least once; around 2,400 had not been vaccinated. That is “about 85% of those catching the virus being double-jabbed, which is a little higher than one would expect” said the Sky News reporter. But he reassured viewers that what matters is hospitalisations. “Of the vaccinated people, some 3.5% were hospitalised. Of the unvaccinated people, some 8.4% were hospitalised. In other words, the rate of hospitalisations per case was 2.4 times higher among those who were unvaccinated.”[i] That sounded like a reasonable way of presenting the data. It meant that one might wish to get vaccinated if elderly or within a vulnerable group, in order to halve one’s chances of going to hospital with Covid. I thought that level of risk reduction is not sufficient to mean that vaccination rates would affect hospital capacity significantly – especially not vaccination for younger generations who rarely end up in hospital anyway. It meant that although Covid vaccinations were not working well for stopping infections, and might soon be ineffective due to viral evolution, so long as they were safe, as far as staying out of hospital was concerned, there was some benefit in the elderly and the vulnerable getting jabbed. At the time I did not see the benefit in mass vaccination as the jabs were not preventing transmission, so herd immunity from the jab seemed a fantasy.
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