Absolute risk reduction for vaccines in UK

I bothered to crunch some numbers on coronavirus vaccine efficacy, based on the UK’s latest published data which covers week 45 of 2021. I should note that this data comes to me from Eugyppius’ very excellent substack.

The UK Health Security Agency notes at the outset of the report that using the raw data contained in the weekly reports to calculate vaccine efficacy is problematic. Unfortunately, they then go on to give us their own take on vaccine efficacy, which is basically to say the vaccines are highly effective, based on published studies which date from May 2021, a time when efficacy from S Antibodies was riding high. Needless to say, in a world of waning vaccine efficacy and dominant Delta, these studies are next to useless.

Their caveats are well taken. Without controls, we don’t know very much about the populations of vaxxed versus unvaxxed, so it’s difficult to say we are comparing like with like. Still, given the time issues and the fact that massive public health decisions are being taken in real time, one must work with even flawed data, and try to read what it says. So here goes:

Cases, deaths and case fatality rates in Weeks 41-44 of 2021 for the United Kingdom

The top box shows the cases of new infections for Weeks 41 – 44 by age bracket and vaccination status. The middle box shows deaths for the same cohort, and for the same categories. This is data straight from the report. The bottom box shows the case fatality rate, i.e. the proportion of deaths among cases, for the two main categories (vaxxed and unvaxxed).

Right away, alarm bells should be ringing here. Case Fatality Rates, though following known trajectories with respect to age, seem high. Really high. For the over 80s the data suggests a CSF for the unvaxxed of over 30%, for the vaxxed almost 13%. We have known since the Diamond Princess that SARS-CoV-2 just isn’t that deadly. So this suggests we are looking at a very small subset of some unknown Infection Fatality Rate, or that the virus has evolved in a super-deadly direction. Hmm.

The last column of the bottom box is what I want to focus on though. It shows the absolute risk reduction – i.e. the percentage point reduction in fatality risk associated with being vaccinated. Again, all the caveats apply, and the fact that case fatality rates seem strangely high suggests these numbers are an upper bound. But the picture that is painted is so stark, it should be looked at and listened to by anyone pushing for more vaccination and boosters.

For anyone aged under 50, the absolute risk reduction from taking the vaccine is less than a quarter of a percentage point. For anyone under the age of 18, the absolute risk reduction is less than a quarter of a hundredth of a percentage point. To put this number into some kind of context, consider that the CDC reports the risk of death from the vaccine itself to be 0.0022%, virtually identical to childrens’ absolute risk reduction from the vaccine, i.e. the benefit.

The idea of pushing a medical procedure with unknown long-term risks and with short-term risks as high as if not higher than the benefits is, to say the least, neither rational nor medically ethical.

Open Letter to Christie Morreale concerning future COVID measures (in French)

Madame le Ministre,

Vos remarques de ce week-end passé sur des possibles mesures à entreprendre vers une obligation vaccinale contre le COVID-19 en Belgique m’ont interpellé.

Tout d’abord, des telles mesures iraient à l’encontre de droits fondamentaux, plus précisément la chartre des droits fondamentaux de l’Union européenne, Article 3:

« Dans le cadre de la médecine et de la biologie, doivent notamment être respectés: le consentement libre et éclairé de la personne concernée… »

Mais il existe également des raisons bien plus pratiques et immédiates pour mettre en cause l’approche vaccinale contre le COVID-19: Il ne fonctionne pas aussi bien que promis. Partout dans le monde, y compris la Belgique, nous constatons que le nombre de cas « percée » ne cesse pas d’augmenter. Pire encore, là où le taux de vaccination est le plus élevé, on retrouve également un taux d’infection plus élevé.

Les chiffres de Sciensano met la situation au clair (Page 28 du rapport de 11 novembre 2021):

Au  cours  de  la  période  du  25  Octobre  2021  au  7  novembre  2021,  un  total de  2285 personnes ont été hospitalisées pour le COVID-19 en Belgique. Parmi elles, 670 n’étaient pas vaccinées, 31 l’étaient partiellement, 1289 l’étaient entièrement

Donc plus que la moitié d’hospitalisations COVID-19 dans la période la plus récente concerne des personnes dites « totalement immunisées ».

Face à une nouvelle vague, la population wallonne est fatiguée d’une politique sanitaire de plus en plus contrainte – port de masque, confinement, CST [COVID Safe Ticket]…  qui s’avère complétement inefficace – le taux d’infection globale en Belgique étant inchangé depuis la meme période de l’année dernière, malgré toutes nos sacrifices.

Il est plus que temps, Madame le Ministre, de changer notre approche – et non pas de renchérir.

Bien à vous,

Graham STULL

cc HARDY Maxime, LEGASSE Dimitri, DISABATO Manu, DURENNE Véronique, VANDORPE Mathilde, DELPORTE Valérie

On lockdowns, masks, vaccines and vaccine-mandates

Lockdowns don’t work (very well)...

Even to the extent the idea of forcing healthy people to hide away in their homes to avoid getting sick ever could work, as of today we are well past that point. The virus is now endemic. Everyone will get exposed to SARS-CoV-2, many will develop symptomatic infection (Covid), of which the vast majority will develop natural immunity and recover fully. A small number, mostly those past normal life expectancy, will die. That’s kind of sad, but not really.

…but they do cause harm.

Lockdowns ruin our economies, drive people (especially the young) into depression and anxiety. They concentrate economic power among large companies and Big Tech. They reduce the flow of goods and services in our economies and make us poorer. They inhibit the sick from seeking genuinely beneficial medical care when needed. They disproportionately impact the disadvantaged, especially children.

Masks don’t work (very well)…

Especially when imposed on people who would otherwise not wear them. This is because the virus doesn’t transmit asymptomatically, so the best advice is for sick people to stay home (always good advice). To the extent we have any idea how it transmits, it’s thought to be through aerosolised particles so tiny that nothing short of a hazmat suit will make much difference. Or it could be through the manifold animal reservoirs that now exists in every patch of woods from New Brunswick across the Bering Straight and all the way to Brittany. We don’t really know – after all SARS-CoV-2 has never been isolated. But from the epidiomological data we can be pretty sure masks make little to no difference.

…but they do cause harm.

They inhibit human contact and expression. They hamper children from developing cognitive skills. They deaden our souls by robbing us of the ability to smile at strangers we pass in the park. Finally, they cost money and resources to make, and they pollute our landscapes.

Vaccines’ don’t work (very well)…

They provide some short term immunity through S antibody production, which wans to almost nothing after 11 months. Boosters may revitalise the protective effect, and therefore be effective for a small number of vulnerable people, as a stop-gap measure. But mutations of the virus will almost certainly make the current vaccines redundant the longer this ‘pandemic’ drags on. They may also inhibit the production of more durable N antibodies or suppress the production of T- and B-cell immunity, which is the true key to ending COVID. The best we can hope for by doubling down on mass vaccination is an endless cycle of booster shots, piling ever more toxins into our bodies and enriching Big Pharma in a sad, dystopian spiral of medical dependency and immuno-suppresion.

…but they do cause harm.

They cost billions of euros/dollars/pounds to produce, diverting resources away from the productive economy and therefore from the truly vulnerable. Short term adverse effects, while low in absolute terms, are relatively high – and by ‘relatively’ I mean an order of magnitude higher than for all other vaccines currently approved. These include fatigue, nausea, myocarditis, and my personal favourite: sudden death. Long term effects, in particular concerning immuno-suppression in the case of mRNA ‘vaccines’, are unknown, but there are at least theoretical pathways to imagine they could cause harm on an apocalyptic scale.

Vaccine mandates/passports don’t work...

Either it is the case that the vaccines don’t work (see above), in which case the mandates are senseless, or it is the case that they do, in which case the mandates are redundant. Even leaving aside this obvious conclusion, there is a more pragmatic point: Mandates are self-defeating in the signalling they send to the vaccine hesitant, who will naturally start to wonder why, if this jab is so good for them, the authorities feel the need to coerce them into taking it.

…but they do cause harm.

They set truly dangerous precedents regarding medical autonomy and patients rights, not to mention personal privacy and liberty. These are important concerns at all times in human history, but in the age of digitalisation, the only ones who would not shy away from the dangers of medical-based IDs of this kind are fools and tyrants. There is a deeper social point: Vaccine compulsion divides us – along ideological lines, along racial or ethnic lines, or even in terms of exacerbating existing socio-economic inequalities. We are already far too divided. Worst of all, it creates the belief that the human body in its natural state is unclean, sullied and requires a State-sanctioned ceremony to be purified.

My review of ‘The Truth’ by Stanisław Lem

The Truth and Other StoriesThe Truth and Other Stories by Stanisław Lem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished the title short story, The Truth, with tremendous thanks to a Polish friend of mine, who recommended it to me.

Humbly and with embarrassment for my Anglo-centricity, I am forced to admit I would otherwise never have read Lem, nor was I even truly aware of his existence as a writer – despite his having written the book behind the classic sci-fi film Solaris.

Yet The Truth, in its execution and in the concepts it evokes, is as deserving of a place among the great works of 20th Century sci-fi as anything written by Bradbury, Asimov or Clarke.

Nor does the genius of the story repose entirely on the strength of its ideas. The writing is more than competent – some passages touch on the beautiful. But what I really liked was how Lem uses the common narrative device of an unreliable narrator to reflect on a personal level the story’s (eponymous) philosophical question. In this way, he creates a perfect mirror between the metaphysical and the psychosocial.

Of course, in the end, it is the ideas that are the lasting mark of this story’s greatness. Here we come back to humility – in under ten thousand words, Lem manages to construct a plausible hypothesis that challenges our most basic assumptions about the universe and our place in it. That is enough to humble even the most widely read sci-fi enthusiast.

The Truth deserves more than just five stars. It deserves all of them.

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Sanity is just the average of all the different kinds of crazy.

I went out last night with a group of people from work. It was a late summer night, the weather was near-perfect, the bars were crowded and everyone was in a good mood.

But the one prevailing sentiment was this: “we should make the most of it now, before the next lockdown happens and we’re all stuck back in our houses for an indeterminant amount of time, until ‘they’ decide to release us”.

It impaired my enjoyment of the event by more than a little, to witness how this received wisdom has become an average thought, and therefore is a sane point of view.

Because by the standards of my own internal logic, it sound crazy to me that intelligent, educated people would so easily accept that, in a country where 80% of the population has been vaccinated, we are likely to endure further lockdowns over a virus which, even in the absence of any vaccine or therapeutics, has an infection fatality rate known to be below 0.4%, and for which proven treatments are available which can drive that IFR to much lower levels.

I didn’t bother to question the premise very much yesterday evening – it was not the time, and I was not so inclined. But if I had, I know that I would have been dismissed as ‘crazy’ – in today’s language, a ‘CovIdiot’, for questioning the efficacy of lockdowns, for which the evidence is at best scant. For questioning the value of wearing facemasks, for which the evidence is at best scant. For questioning the efficacy of vaccines in a country in which 25% of new PCR positive tests are among the fully vaccinated. For vehemently opposing vaccine passports on the grounds that there is no logical reason for them, much less a clear cost-benefit case.

I am crazy for thinking these things. I am crazy because it is a ‘belief’ to hold that reason defines what is and what is not true. Most of human history contradicts this assertion, so only a crazy person would persist in believing it.

But they are crazy too. They are crazy for believing in the dangerosity of a disease that mainly affects the old and comorbid, and for which valid therapeutics exists. They are crazy for sacrificing all of their basic freedoms to enrich Big Pharma and Big Tech, in the vain hope of avoiding an illness they will in any event almost certainly get, but will do them little actual harm.

The only difference between our brands of crazy is that theirs is much more common.

My review of Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik”

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The promotional quote on the cover my copy of Ubik is from Terry Gilliam. It reminds the would-be reader that “Philip K. Dick got there first.”

I took this as a warning more than a commendation. So often, we find the pioneers of great art lacking, when seen in the rear view mirror of progress. They have been copied, improved upon, and remain only as curiosities, historical artefacts who can better help us appreciate their predecessors.

Such will not be the fate of Philip K. Dick. His work remains timeless and inspiring today, even after all the copycats. One can barely imagine what it must have been like to read him in his heyday, the late 1960s, when even the whiff of such ideas had not yet been breathed into existence.

To be sure, there are weaknesses in the writing of Ubik. The prose is typical of mid-20th Century America, naive and blunt, almost to the point of disrespect for the English language. As if the very conventions of writing were a hindrance to Dick and the ideas that were dear to him. If Dick had had some other means of conveying those ideas – perhaps via the very instruments of telepathy he describes in the story – he would likely have made recourse to them.

But the ideas remain timeless, uncompromising in their complexity. Inspiring stories like The Matrix, but going further and deeper into the metaphysical. Asking questions of the reader, instead of providing the comfortable, Hollywood answers to which we have since grown accustomed.

I take the fact that Dick has yet to be outclassed by those who follow in his wake as a testament to his greatness. His apostles should take it as a challenge.




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On the afternoon of my very last exam

16,000 sheets of note
Of statement, prose and quote
Of problems posed, stuffed down my throat.

1,020 books of text
O’er which I pondered and perplexed
Tired, drained, or just plain vexed.

20 years of 3-season blues
Autumn, winter, springtime views
Through classroom windows the world perused;
An idle gaze on days unused.

399 examinations
Stress, study and consternation.
Flashcards, fish and preparation.

Today I’ve sat 400: my very last exam,
and sit and wonder exactly what I am.
No more a student, and yet not more a man.

And though I’ve been deviser
Of 400 separate answer sets
(All more or less correct)
I am no more the wiser,
Nor any greater is my intellect.

They did not teach me how to love
Nor how to live,
How to rise above my petty self,
Nor how to give –
Nor even how to take;
No, not even doing good, for goodness sake.

I leave this final venue as a novice still,
A freshmen only, at the very bottom of my hill.
There are other tests that yet await.
This I know, will be my fate.

And whatever may, upon my final day of Judgement be,
One thing’s sure: the answers won’t be such
As would earn me a degree.

Happy Holidays, my son! (14th letter)

Dear Daniel,

School is over now, and though the weather isn’t very favourable, it is now time to enjoy the summer. I hope you have great plans. We are headed to the beach soon, and I do so wish you could be coming with us.

Daphne said goodbye to all her friends and is looking forward to the beach (and eating ice creams!). Let’s just hope the weather improves.

I really miss you.

Love,

Dad

Letter on Ivermectin to the COVID Expert Advisory Group of the Irish Health Services Executive

Below the text of a letter sent by email on June 16 to various members of the Irish HSE’s expert group on the decision to not recommend oral ivermectin or any other antiviral treatments in the context of the current COVID situation

Dear members of the COVID-19 EAG,

I read with some alarm the 5 February advice issued by HIQA concerning the use of interventions to prevent the progression of severe COVID-19 in an ambulatory setting.

The document appears to include information which is either not correct, incomplete, or has since lost topicality and therefore is in need of urgent update:


Very low certainty’ evidence was identified from a further two studies (both published as preprints) of two interventions: ivermectin plus doxycycline and sulodexide. Serious concerns were raised with regard to the high risk of bias, small sample sizes and short durations of follow-up within the trials. As such, results from these studies should not be used to inform decision-making with Advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team: Interventions in an ambulatory setting to prevent progression to severe disease in patients with COVID-19 Health Information and Quality Authority Page 11 of 16 respect to effectiveness. Neither study was considered applicable to the Irish healthcare setting due to differences in usual care provided in the trials.” (Pages 10-11)

as well as:


The EAG agreed that there is currently no evidence of benefit associated with the treatments considered within the present review and there is insufficient information on whether any of these may be safely used in the treatment of Advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team: Interventions in an ambulatory setting to prevent progression to severe disease in patients with COVID-19 Health Information and Quality Authority Page 12 of 16 COVID-19. Furthermore, some of the interventions investigated within the trials would not be considered applicable to the Irish setting due to differences in the standard of care and or on the basis of safety concerns.” (page 11-12)

Regarding safety concerns, I am sure you are all well aware of the fact that ivermectin, when administered in appropriate doses, has a safety track-record spanning many decades.

Concerning efficacy, note that the American Journal of Therapeutics has published, in May 2021, a “Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19” (Kory et al, 2021), which concludes that:

Meta-analyses based on 18 randomized controlled treatment trials of ivermectin in COVID-19 have found large, statistically significant reductions in mortality, time to clinical recovery, and time to viral clearance. Furthermore, results from numerous controlled prophylaxis trials report significantly reduced risks of contracting COVID-19 with the regular use of ivermectin. Finally, the many examples of ivermectin distribution campaigns leading to rapid population-wide decreases in morbidity and mortality indicate that an oral agent effective in all phases of COVID-19 has been identified.

This conclusion is echoed by Bryant et al*, still in pre-print, but expected to pass peer review in the coming days.
I would urge you to consider, as a matter of priority, updating your advice, taking into account the wider range of RCTs available, as well as the meta-analysis results published by the AJT. Furthermore, given the fast-moving nature of the pandemic, I would further urge you to be more flexible regarding your position on dismissing non-peer-reviewed evidence on this topic, even if this requires a more ‘hands-on’ approach to evaluating the evidence in question, in order to ensure academic rigour.

At the risk of sounding trite, lives may well depend on it.

Is mise le meas,
Graham Stull

* Bryant, Andrew & Lawrie, Theresa & Dowswell, Therese & Fordham, Edmund & Scott, Mitchell & Hill, Sarah & Tham, Tony. (2021). Ivermectin for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection: a systematic review, meta-analysis and trial sequential analysis to inform clinical guidelines.