A new Covid scandal

The Chief Medical Officer for England (along with his colleagues from the other UK nations) has ordered a change to the existing vaccination programme. People who have already had the first dose of the Pfzier vaccine have been told that they will now get the second dose in 12 weeks not three. [1]

This takes place against a backdrop of rapidly rising case numbers and reports of the NHS once again being overwhelmed.

Whitty (England’s Chief Medical Officer) justifies this on Public Health grounds. Of course, we understand, the exigencies of Public Health sometimes run contra wise to those of individuals (a fact which they never admit when trying to shut down those who are opposed to vaccinations). Public Health thinks in terms of numbers and the population as a whole. It is not concerned with each individual as individual – and any rights they might have. On this basis Whitty is taking a gamble – splitting the dose so that those who’ve already had the first dose now wait 12 weeks for the next dose so that others can have a first dose earlier. The idea is that enabling more to be given a first dose will reduce either overall case numbers or the severity of illness in those who get Covid or both. They don’t know this is the case. They are taking a gamble. They are taking this gamble against the real prospect of the NHS being overwhelmed in parts of the country in 2 weeks time.

Incidentally, Whitty lies when he talks about this:

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer of England, and his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland stood by their decision, although they acknowledged that it would “distress patients who were looking forward to being fully immunised”

Of course even if they had followed the manufacturer’s treatment regime then no one could have been sure of having been “fully immunised”. The efficacy was 95% based on the Stage 3 trials with 2 doses 3 weeks apart.

Public Health is public health and the rational calculations of individuals are a different matter. Nonetheless we live in a society which purports to be a democracy and you shouldn’t treat people like cattle. Even if your aim is to “save the NHS”.

  1. The new regime has not been tested. Whitty is in fact abandoning the principle that a vaccination programme should be based on validated Stage 3 trials.
  2. Pfizer has been 100% clear: “Data from the phase 3 study demonstrated that, although partial protection from the vaccine appears to begin as early as 12 days after the first dose, two doses of the vaccine are required to provide the maximum protection against the disease, a vaccine efficacy of 95%. There are no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days”. Read that carefully; people may not have any protection at all after 3 weeks.
  3. Worse; because the 95% efficacy figure for the Pfizer vaccine is based on two doses three weeks apart even when the people whose second dose appointment has just been cancelled get a second dose after 12 weeks they will not know what likelihood of being protected they actually have. This case has not been trialled. They will therefore not be able to make rational decisions about whether they should continue to shield or not. They won’t have the information. This is like a vaccination programme for cattle; you just hit them with the vaccine and don’t give them the basis on which they can make their own decisions. (They can’t think). But this is exactly what Whitty is doing with people. Hitting them with some vaccine and denying them any meaningful information about how effective it might or might not be; the whole point of the trials is to provide this information. This is not ‘public health’. It is a desperate and unscientific ruse to try to get them off the hook caused by their failing to provide capacity in the NHS for the long-predicted second wave. This is yet another in the long list of scandals of which the initial attempt by Whitty, Johnson and Vallance to secretly go for herd immunity was the first. It is a sign of the times that any of these people are still anywhere near public office.
  4. And yet worse; it is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that two doses at 12 weeks apart will confer immunity with an efficacy of less than 95% – perhaps even much less. The gamble may fail even on its own terms. Whitty and his colleagues may already be setting up the population for another avoidable catastrophe.

Update

This is from the Guardian:

Prof Harnden told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that patients he had dealt with accepted the decision, explaining:

When it was explained to them that the vaccine offers 90% protection for one dose, and the priority was to get as many people vaccinated in the elderly and vulnerable community as possible, they understood. I think the country is all in this together. And, I think we really, really want to pull together to try and do the best strategy possible. [1]

See above – the statement from the manufacturer. There is no evidence from Stage 3 trials of the Pfizer vaccine that this is true for their product. The 90% claim if it relates to the Pfizer vaccine is plucked out of thin air. If Professor Harnden (a scientist on an official government advisory body) is talking about the Pfizer vaccine we can also safely say he has been lying to the ‘patients’ (actually people – they are using the word ‘patient’ about healthy people waiting to be vaccinated as part of their narrative manipulation) he is talking about – almost certainly people in their eighties. Using corporate speak like “try to do the best strategy possible” doesn’t make a botched and unethical switching of a course of vaccination on people mid-stream ethical. It remains a breach of trust and medical ethics.

Prof. Harnden is not the only one apparently lying to get this through. The Department of Health has put out a statement saying:

Throughout this global pandemic we have always been guided by the latest scientific advice. Having studied evidence on both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccines, the JCVI has advised the priority should be to give as many people in at-risk groups their first dose, rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible Everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection [2]

Again – you just have to read the manufacturer’s statement above to see that this line “that the second dose completes the course” is not true. (In other words, a lie). To complete the course you have to take the second dose three weeks after the first – not 12. The US lead doctor on Covid-19 has publicly stated that the best time for the second dose is, as per the manufacturer’s instructions, after 3 weeks. [3]

It is difficult to explain the unscientific and medically unethical position of the Department of Health. At this point it may simply be an appetite for reckless and dangerous decisions and nothing more.

Update 2 (2-1-21)

I like this quote from a US Professor of virology; it seems to apply both to a new and bizarre idea of PHE to mix vaccines [4] as well as to the idea of breaking the recommended dose regime for Pfizer:

Criticism erupted following the publication of a New York Times report which quoted the virologist Prof John Moore from Cornell University in the US, who said “there are no data on this idea whatsoever” and that British officials “seem to have abandoned science completely now and are just trying to guess their way out of a mess” [4]

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2021/jan/02/coronavirus-live-vietnam-reports-first-case-of-new-covid-variant-latest-updates?page=with:block-5ff03ace8f08b66486e2c749
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/oxford-universityastrazeneca-vaccine-authorised-by-uk-medicines-regulator
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/covid-vaccine-doses-pfizer-fauci-b1781455.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/02/england-health-officials-defend-contingency-plan-to-mix-covid-vaccines

The dramatic crisis in the NHS

There is no doubt a real crisis. The videos and articles in the Guardian and Independent by exhausted junior doctors describing a service at breaking point – in London – are probably not faked.

However. It seems that to some extent this crisis has been manufactured. Why, for example, is it only now – nearly one year into a global pandemic that it has occurred to the government to solve the staffing crisis in the Nightingale hospitals by using Army reservists? [1] Even without this they have had months in which to train auxiliary nurses or bring them in from other countries. Another benefit of the Nightingale hospital system (temporary field hospitals) is that these hospitals can be dedicated to Covid-19 patients, thus keeping them out of general hospitals where they are infecting everyone else. Without belittling the enormous skills which both nurses and medics have – once you focus on one condition (Covid-19) then in many cases the treatment becomes predictable and routine. In many cases basic care could be administered by supervised auxiliary nurses carrying out a limited and specific set of procedures. There is no rational reason why there is not capacity to treat thousands of patients in temporary field hospitals.

Continue reading “The dramatic crisis in the NHS”

Do we need lockdowns?

The debate about lockdowns tends to get quite polarised. On the one hand some people insist that they are “following the science” and that lockdowns are necessary to get the R number down and “protect the NHS”. On the other hand others argue that they are an excessive restriction of basic freedoms and that they are not cost-free. On this side of the argument people point to the huge economic fall-out from lockdowns as well as other ‘collateral damage’ such as problems with mental health.

The pro-lockdown position in the UK is essentially driven by public health officials. (Having initially gone for ‘herd immunity’ they quickly got cold feet and backtracked when the first deaths started occurring). They study the R number and make predictions (with more or less accuracy) about NHS bed occupancy. The point of lockdowns is to prevent the NHS overflowing. It turns out that the NHS has very little surge capacity.

Continue reading “Do we need lockdowns?”

The Panopticon

I thought this was a nice example of the panopticon. “We’re looking out for you… whether you see us or not”. I.e. they can see you but you can’t see them. The machine of the Panopticon. Foucault’s analysis was spot on.