I prefer my August Silly Season to be of the fun variety. Donating $85 billion-worth of military hardware to the Taliban – and airlifting dogs out of Kabul while leaving behind people who are likely to be summarily executed in short order – is a devastatingly depressing way to round off the summer. Dunkirk this wasn’t.
Elsewhere in the world, cognitive dissonance is rife. Despite being previously lauded for virus eradication and suppression strategies, countries like Australia and Vietnam are seeing rapid increase in cases of Covid-19. Despite these approaches being patently futile, these regions have now seen stringent restrictions imposed, including the absolutely pointless imposition of face masks while outside, even when walking alone. Police have taken enforcement action that borders on masochistic cruelty. In certain parts of Vietnam you are not even allowed to go outside to buy food, with people having to rely on soldiers to drop off food parcels.
Do you remember the John Snow Memorandum, published in The Lancet in October 2020 and actively promoted by the zero-Covid crowd? It stated that “Japan, Vietnam, and New Zealand, to name a few countries, have shown that robust public health responses can control transmission, allowing life to return to near-normal, and there are many such success stories”. I am not sure about you, but having to beg the military to remember to throw a food parcel at my door is not “near-normal”, nor can I mark these down as successes. It is almost as if there is a news blackout on the fact that the likes of Sweden, Norway and Denmark – which took a light-touch (but by no means uniform) “we’re in this together” approach to the Covid crisis – have essentially got through the last 18 months without destroying their economies or ripping the fabric of society asunder. Schools have remained mostly open and children unmasked. Oh, and without overburdening their healthcare systems or suffering material excess mortality. I wonder why? Denmark has in fact declared that Covid is no longer a “socially critical disease” and is dropping all restrictions as of 10 September.
Closer to home, the madness continues unabated. The government quietly announced that it was going to proceed with vaccine passports – also known as Covid-status certificates – despite there being no quantifiable or rational reason to do so. This flies in the face of a damning report by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee: the “decision to launch the Covid-status certificate function on the NHS app for international travel, without notifying and consulting Parliament, could be construed as contempt for Parliament and this Committee”. The report is well worth a more detailed perusal, as it outlines just how pointless – and costly – these vaccine passports are likely to be. They introduce a form of medical segregation that is likely to have some terrible societal consequences. Why is government not listening to Parliament? The obvious answer is that the Coronavirus Act 2020 has stripped Parliament of its powers, but why is this situation allowed to persist? After all, Parliament sat through two world wars and the duration of the Spanish ‘flu – truly devastating times.
What is more, recent data continue to indicate – as many had suggested right at the start of this debacle – that immunity acquired from infection is longer-lasting (and potentially more robust) than immunity conferred by vaccination. If vaccine-induced immunity lasts less than six months and there is a material increase in cases of myocarditis following the vaccine especially in the young, surely we should be pausing, rather than accelerating the rollout? Myocarditis is not just a minor inconvenience: a previous study in the Japanese Circulation Journal found that over time “the overall early mortality of all patients with myocarditis was 38 per cent in spite of aggressive treatment during hospitalisation”. And with the majority of adults vaccinated, why does the government’s own data show non-Covid cases of cardiac arrest running at over ten times higher than the equivalent period last year? Nothing to see here: it looks like the government wishes to press ahead with coercive tactics such as banning the unvaccinated from attending nightclubs.
Those that play along with the vaccination game in order to travel – or, like Michael Gove, to throw some shapes on the dancefloor – might consider that Israel has already automatically rescinded “green pass” rights from those that have not yet had their first Pfizer booster jab. If it was that good (remember “the magic begins”?), why does one need a 3rd vaccination within the space of 12 months? Hardly a compelling proposition. In any case, a group of researchers have just published the following research paper that concludes that “the introduction of vaccine passports will likely lower inclination to accept a Covid-19 vaccine”.
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On 23 August, the Senior Editor of the BMJ, Peter Doshi, reiterated a call he made earlier in the year to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to “slow down and get the science right—there is no legitimate reason to hurry to grant a license to a coronavirus vaccine”. His piece makes for sobering reading – it does not seem that originally planned and adequately controlled safety studies are being carried out as initially promised. This worries me.
If we listen to the wrong voices, the next few months are going to be daunting. Yet we must remember that every autumn – since time immemorial – we have seen a rise in mortality from respiratory disease. The run-in to Christmas will be no different. So let us reject the absurd doom-laden forecasts generated by over-zealous computer modellers.
Instead, let us hold on to our humanity and ensure that we live our lives to the full. Unilateral, undemocratic and unworkable restrictions are – demonstrably – not the answer.
Dr Alex Starling is an advisor to and non-executive director of various early-stage technology companies. Follow him on Twitter: @alexstarling77