Nothing to See Here

Has the novel vaccine for a novel coronavirus led to a novel case of hiding something bad in plain sight? We are constantly told by the authorities and mainstream media that the novel coronavirus vaccines are exceptionally effective and safe. Yet at the same time there is a constant drip feed, now running more like a torrent, of reports of numerous and sometimes serious side effects from the vaccines. Dan Astin-Gregory of the Pandemic Podcast recently received, but failed to publish, a “113 page report documenting the tragic accounts of people who had sadly died following the COVID-19 vaccination”. Mr Astin-Gregory’s heart is clearly in the right place, but the mind needs data. An anecdote of anecdotes? Without seeing the report, it is impossible to make any assessment of it.

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The Flea Is Airborne

The Covid Inquisition has had a rather hard time of it lately. As UK test positives, hospitalisations and deaths have plummeted, they have had in recent weeks to rely on scariants and foreign outbreaks in Brazil and India to maintain fear levels, but over the last few days a game changer has emerged: the virus is airborne. WHO have marginally up-rated their assessment of risk from aerosol transmission, triggering a raft of tweets from the Inquisition saying we told you so, but the real bombshell is a pre-print that puts some E notation numbers and extra computer generated colours on the Milk Curdler’s earlier three colour crayon box model #CovidRiskChart. The Inquisition now know that H, or your airborne infection risk parameter, for a brief, silent masked outdoor encounter is 2.33E-05. Prolonged shouting without masks in a poorly ventilated crowded room, on the other hand, pushes your H up to 1.00E+02. If shout turns to shove, your H jumps even higher, to 2.33E+02. Cripes.

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Another Day, Another Perspective

What’s in a baseline? We now have all cause mortality data for the first quarter of 2021 for England and Wales, and so it is time to add this data to one of the many charts Dr No has squirreled away in his covid dossiers. This chart shows quarterly standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) from Q1 2000 to Q1 2021, the last two decades. They are calculated using the indirect method, using all 2000 mortality data as the standard. Each point represents that quarter’s SMR compared to all 2000 all cause mortality, adjusted for population size and age distribution, with values above 100 meaning observed mortality was higher than expected using the 2000 baseline, and values below 100 meaning it was less than expected. Quarters 1 to 4 are identified by the colours shown in the key. What do we see?

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Hot Stiff Bias Cools Off

Early on in the pandemic, Dr No coined the phrase hot stiff bias to describe the habit of doctors of the covid tendency to attribute any death that might, however vaguely,  be due to covid, as being definitely due to covid. It is a covid specific form of the more general hot stuff bias, in which doctors tend to attribute illness and deaths to ‘hot’ diseases, the ones that are currently ‘hot’ topics. It is a practical expression of there’s a lot of it about, the old medical standby for when one doesn’t have a clue, but wants to sound as if one does. An easy concept to understand, hot stiff bias is typically hard to quantify, but the latest ONS data does gives us a clue. It seems that as the weather warms up, covid hot stiff bias cools off.

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Life, Loss and Liberty

The vexed question of domestic covid immunity passports remains in the balance. The general tone and drift of the government is that they are going to happen. Yesterday’s ID card munching journalist is today’s prime minister, ordering passport trials to go ahead. A recent Roadmap Review published by the government noted that covid immunity passports are ‘likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes’, and that they ‘could have an important role to play…as a temporary measure’. At the same time, retailers and the hospitality sector have recoiled against the idea, even though the majority of their customers want them. Rather late in the day, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has come out with a mealy mouthed ‘can have a role, but important to strike the right balance’ type statement that merely adds more mud to the already turbid waters. A while back, the Royal Society produced a similar sitting on the fence report. On twitter, covid immunity passport nuts queue up to post ‘TBH, I don’t really want to eat in the same places as anti vaccine loons’ and ‘the only people refusing [vaccines] are idiots, if two-tier society means less idiots around me I’m fine with that’. Truly, we are already a nation divided — and about to be ruled.

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Yellow Cards, Red Face or Green Light?

Isn’t it curious how describing deaths brought forward by a short interval by covid as dry tinder garners disapproval, while the MHRA’s breezy description of Yellow Card deaths associated with covid vaccination as spontaneous combustion — most likely would have died anyway, dear boy — goes quite un-remarked. Be that as it may, Dr No has taken a look at the MHRA’s Yellow Card Scheme for reporting adverse drug reactions, after some discussion in a recent post about a BMJ Rapid Response which suggested significant underreporting of covid vaccination side-effects. What can the Yellow Card Scheme tell us about adverse reactions to the covid vaccines? Is there any evidence for or against significant under-reporting of adverse reactions?

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Covid Passports and the Model Individual

“Model individuals will be commended in accordance with regulations, and extensive publicity will be conducted through the news media to create a trustworthy and glorious public opinion atmosphere.”State Council of the People’s Republic of China (2014)Heartening as it is to hear some political opposition to covid passports, even if some of the opponents are a mixed bag of chancers and free-loaders, it still seems — assuming the polls are right — the majority of the Britons favour the introduction of covid passports for a wide range of broadly defined social activities. Expressed opposition, on the other hand, is low, never more than one in four of those polled. If the public gets what it wants, which seems likely, given the Tories’ penchant for policy that pushes on open doors, then Franklin’s ‘Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety’ will have finally achieved in full its true modern meaning.

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Your Country Needs You

The deadline for submitting evidence to the covid immunity passports review is fast approaching. Responses must be filed by 11:45pm on 29 March 2021. Don’t be put off by the formal language of a ‘call for evidence to inform the review into COVID-status certification’, this is also an ‘open consultation’. The government says it is keen to ‘ensure that the [review] recommendations reflect a broad range of interests and concerns’ and that it will ‘welcome views from all respondents’. So if you have a view on covid passports, email it to certification.cfe@cabinetoffice.gov.uk. For good measure, you might also send a copy of the email to your MP. You can find his or her email address here.

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Obvs Innit

If you asked a group of people whether making wearing front seat belts in cars compulsory helped save lives, many would answer in the affirmative. Ask how they know the answer, and many will say some variant of obvs innit: it’s obvious, it stands to reason, it’s common sense. The law, when it came in, in January 1983, was hugely controversial, but the controversy wasn’t about effectiveness, it was about liberty. It was the first time the government had passed a law that sooner or later would affect just about everyone, requiring them to do something not to protect others, but to protect themselves. Since we were at the time, and still are for matter, free to drink ourselves to death, or smoke ourselves to death, it was argued we should also be free to smash ourselves to death. The state had no business interfering in personal decisions; doing so marked the beginning of the nanny state, from which there would be no turning back. Promoters of the law claimed that up to a thousand lives be saved every year, and there would be important secondary benefits, including reduced demand on the NHS.

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Crossing the Invisible Rubicon

Orwell’s boot stamping on a human face — forever — might be apt for the later stages of authoritarianism, but it isn’t for the earlier stages, when Elliot’s not with a bang but a whimper fits better. If we put aside revolution and invasion, nations don’t convulse into authoritarianism, the authorities start with baby steps, which then get bolder as time goes by, until in time they become a march. It is Martin Niemöller’s first they came for the communists, then they came for the incurables. Unpopular groups are marginalised and criminalised. Enabling acts, acts which enable other laws to be made without parliamentary scrutiny, are used to ram through decrees even when, as is often the case, the party in government has a working majority. And then, before long, steps are taken to provide the means to silence those who oppose the government.

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