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Is a vaccine trade war brewing? The breakdown of supply chains and squabbles over jab efficacy proves a dangerous combination


January 27, 2021   6 mins

There’s an old Jewish joke that Woody Allen told in Annie Hall. There are two old people at a restaurant, and one says “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah; and such small portions!”

That is slightly how I feel about reports coming out of the EU saying that 1) the Oxford/AstraZeneca doesn’t work and 2) complaining that they haven’t been given enough of it.

We’re all desperate for the vaccine to arrive, and to release us all from this year-long limbo. The desperation is making us jumpy: people are panicking, convincing themselves that this vaccine doesn’t work, there are side-effects, the rollout is taking too long. It’s not true; the vaccines work, they’re safe, and here in Britain, at least, the rollout is going remarkably smoothly. But the tension is real.

It’s not just in the UK. In the last couple of days, a vaccine trade war has been threatening to break out: AstraZeneca not supplying the EU with all of the vaccine it promised, and the EU threatening to sit on its own supplies of the Pfizer vaccine in response. People in the biotech industry have muttered to me about the possibility of this conflict shutting down supplies of raw materials. Vials, reagents, nucleotide bases and so on are all made in different places, and if countries stop cooperating, it suddenly gets much worse for everyone.

And where all this started was a bitter little row about whether or not the Oxford vaccine works in older people. On Monday, it was reported in the German newspaper Handelsblatt that the Oxford vaccine was only 8% effective in people over 65. 

This is simply false. The 8% figure is biologically implausible and entirely without sourcing, and Oxford University, AstraZeneca and the German health ministry have all said that it is wrong. It’s really important to stress this, because there are already people who should know better out there saying silly things about the vaccine being more risky than the disease. The vaccines work; they work in all age groups; if you get offered one you ought to take it.

There is, it is true, very little clinical data on the Ox/AZ vaccine in older people. That is because they were recruited later to the trial and in smaller numbers. But there is good clinical data in younger age groups. And you can analogise from those younger groups to the older ones by “immunobridging”. 

To do this, the Oxford/AstraZeneca trial looked at other measures: whether the numbers of neutralising antibodies, T-cells, B-cells and so on go up after the dose. You do that in older people as well as younger people. With some diseases and vaccines – notably flu – the immune response is much weaker in older people than in younger people; but with Covid, or at least with the Ox/AZ vaccine, the immune response remains surprisingly consistent.

The trouble is that you don’t know whether these proxy measures really correlate with protection. Often they do, but without clinical data you don’t know.

So you “bridge” from a group in which you have both the clinical data and the immunogenicity data — in this case younger people — to a group in which you only have the immunogenicity data – in this case older people. You assume (with good reason, because it has worked so often in the past) that that will give you a reasonable picture. And that isn’t an 8% efficacy.

My understanding is that the figure is one of, essentially, two things: someone taking a figure from a very wide uncertainty interval; or someone simply reading a number wrongly. The later is what’s being floated by the German health ministry. They apparently suggest that 8% of the total number of participants in the trial were between 56 and 69, and that someone has misinterpreted that as the efficacy level in over-65s.

That seems an implausibly basic mistake to me. It does fit with the numbers in the December Lancet paper: 56-to-69-year-olds made up 974 out of a total of 11,636, or 8.37%, of the total. But as far as I can tell the thinking is literally just “they said 8%, here is an 8% in the paper, are they the same?” It’s not even the right age group. 

Besides, a Handelsblatt journalist denies that’s what’s going on, and the newspaper has doubled down on its claim, quoting a “high-ranking official” saying “It is impossible to mix up the numbers. According to the data we have so far, the effectiveness in people over 60 is less than ten percent.”

My preferred hypothesis is that someone has looked at some clinical data in the over-65s, with a very small number of cases and therefore a very wide confidence interval, seen 8% at the bottom end of that confidence interval, and leaked that. It must be unpublished figures, because the Lancet papers had no “over-65s” group, and besides, they only had five cases in over-55s, which is not really enough to give any sort of estimate. But even so, it doesn’t make sense since the “immunobridging” data lets us be confident that it is reasonably effective in older groups. 

So the 8% figure appears to be bunk. But it’s interesting bunk, because it fits into a wider tension between AstraZeneca and the EU, with the UK either caught in the crossfire or engaged in the conflict itself, depending on who you ask. 

The German newspaper Bild reports that the European Medicines Agency will not approve the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the over-65s, out of fears that it will be less effective. And at the same time, there are manufacturing problems at a Belgian factory making the vaccine on license. The EU may get 60% fewer vaccine doses than it asked for; around 31 million instead of around 80 million by March.

(“This vaccine is terrible!” “Yeah, and such small portions.”)

In an interview for La Repubblica, Pascal Soriot, the CEO of AstraZeneca, explains some of this. The production of viral-vector vaccines like the Ox/AZ one is a biological process, like fermentation, not a straightforward chemical engineering. Slightly different processes will end up with different outcomes. The Belgian plant, which makes the batches of vaccine to be taken somewhere else and put into vials, found that its batches were coming out with a lower-than-expected yield of the active ingredient, the adenovirus, in the solution. 

For the record: it would make sense for the EMA not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine in older people, since they have loads of the Pfizer vaccine and good data that it works in older people, and not so much of the AstraZeneca one and no clinical data. The cost-benefit equation is different in the UK, because we have loads of the AZ vaccine and (for the reasons discussed above) good reason to think it will work in older groups. 

But the shortage has led to a row about whether AstraZeneca ought to deliver some of the doses it produces in its UK factory to the EU. At the moment, all the UK-produced doses will remain in the UK; in response the European Commission is tightening controls on exports of the vaccines it does have, such as Pfizer. The Commission says it won’t sue, because that takes time, but they’re not happy. 

Rob Blackie, a strategist who works with biotech firms, thinks that AstraZeneca will have been behind the decision to keep UK-produced doses here: “I don’t think it’s a government decision,” he says. “The implication of lots of things people have said is that the drug companies are in control. My assumption was that it would be strange to do anything so nationalistic, because the problem of pissed-off governments is so big.” But a biotech industry source speculated that there was probably significant pressure from the UK government, because it has bet so heavily on AstraZeneca.

Suggested reading
Is a vaccine trade war brewing?

By Aria Babu

Soriot, in his La Repubblica interview, says that AstraZeneca’s contract with the UK was signed three months before its contract with the EU, and that their contract with the EU simply demands that they make their “best effort” to provide as many doses as possible. But, clearly, emotions are running high – hence the strange German claims about 8% efficacy (Soriot sounds baffled by it) and the simmering threat of a trade war.

It’s not just about the EU stopping exports of Pfizer. If this develops into a full-blown vaccine trade war, then entire supply chains could end up getting disrupted. My biotech source agreed that this is not an implausible outcome. AstraZeneca has a stockpile of the raw materials for its vaccine, but some of those materials keep better than others, so it may become difficult if supply dries up. Even small delays in the vaccine rollout could cost thousands of lives, so this matters.

Avoiding a vaccine trade war, then, seems a really good idea. AstraZeneca says it can produce 300 million doses a year in its Wrexham plant – that’s 25 million a month. Elsewhere it says it should be producing two million a week already. If these numbers are anything like accurate, then it seems unlikely that the main bottleneck in vaccine distribution will be the manufacture. 

According to Soriot, the contract with the British government called for the doses from the Wrexham plant to go to the UK first: “As soon as we have reached a sufficient number of vaccinations in the UK, we will be able to use that site to help Europe as well.” But that implies that the UK government could offer to give some to Europe first; as my biotech industry source says, “In vaccine manufacturing, possession is nine-tenths of the law. If the vaccine vials are sitting in the UK, we can choose to how use them.”

I can understand the UK being wary — vaccines are made in batches, millions of doses at a time, not on a production line; so if one batch goes wrong, you lose a hefty chunk of your supply. But enlightened self-interest seems to suggest that we keep the EU sweet rather than start a war, so if we do have spare vaccine, handing some of it over with a smile on our face seems a wise idea. The food actually isn’t terrible, but it would be good if we can give them larger portions.


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

It seems to me that we are already in a vaccine trade war. Hilariously, I learned on the Duran podcast last night that Germany, which is home to a number of vaccine-producing facilities, is now negotiating to buy a lot of the Russian vaccine because the EU’s vaccine ‘roll-out’ has been so inept.

What on earth possessed Merkel to think that the EU could distribute a vaccine across Europe? It has zero logistical capacity or capability. Its people exist to gain political power and make laws that hamper business. That is their expertise – they are not capable of anything useful or practical.

For over 20 years the EU has been wicked but not necessarily deadly, unless you count Greek suicides and perhaps those stirred to uprising in Ukraine by insane EU commissioners etc. But now, the EU’s relentless incompetence is actually killing people in its heartlands.

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

That’s what struck me right from the beginning of Covid, we had a pandemic affecting the whole of Europe, national governments attempting to control it varying degrees of success, meanwhile from the suprenational behemoth, nothing. Truth be told, Brussels doesn’t actually do very much, it regulates, restricts, hinders, not because it doesn’t want to act, mainly because it can’t act. it is is constitutionally useless.

Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
3 years ago

I have found I learned a great deal more about “Brussels” by listening carefully to those out side of the UK/Europe debate who have to deal with Europe. It does exactly what you say. It is essentially a control and compliance function. We all know those things are vital but they never speed up the process of achieving your objective at best and at worse they slow it down for reasons merely of control not for quality or security. It is as you say a matter of what they do and ALL they do.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Several EU countries including Germany & France were prepared to put in bulk orders for the AZ vaccine a month after the UK did. Then by all accounts the EU stepped in, said no, let us sort this out. They then took 2 months more to sign what was essentially the same deal – AZ have a fixed price. 2 extra months of sorting out partner sites for production etc were wasted by a power grab.

Apart from the appalling human cost it’s interesting that the EU elite overrode even Germany and France’s wishes. I know what the solution will be though: further EU integration, always is.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

‘ … it’s interesting that the EU elite overrode even Germany and France’s wishes.’

I have no way of knowing the truth of the matter, but according to the news media that I have read, Mrs Merkel was a/the prime mover in requiring national initiatives to procure vaccine to be discontinued, and control being transferred to an EU agency.

If that is correct, then it seems that it was not the EU that overrode Germany and France’s wishes, but the German Chancellor who did the overriding.

As she did, for example, over permitting the mass immigration of refugees/migrants a few years ago.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Interesting – obviously difficult to know the full truthh of this, back room deals etc.

If the EU or the individuals countries had ordered ealier we’d all be in a better state now – that’s the sad thing.

Sadly read the likes of the BBC and there’s it’s usual lies by omission, to criticise the EU is not allowed. If it was the other way around one can imagine how they’d behave.

Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Yesterday on the BBC “Thanks for the great detail, Adam” Of course, Adam [Fleming] was completely oblivious to the existence of Novasep and the problems there.

Colin Reeves
Colin Reeves
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Other reports suggest the delay was to accommodate the French, who were developing their own vaccine at the Pasteur Institute. It didn’t work, and their second bet, the Sanofi vaccine, is not likely to be in production this year, even if it works. Reported on France 24 yesterday: , the Sanofi vaccine, is not likely to be in production this year, even if it works. Reported on France 24 yesterday: “It’s a sign of the decline of the country and this decline is unacceptable,” François Bayrou, a close political ally of President Emmanuel Macron, said Tuesday.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Reeves

Latest I’ve heard is Sanofi’s going to have a stab at making Pfizer’s vaccine instead.
“Embarrassment in France over its failures in the race for a coronavirus vaccine has deepened after the national pharmaceutical giant said that it would produce 125 million doses of its rivals Pfizer and Biontech’s product.
Sanofi’s facilities in Frankfurt will be used by Biontech, which is based in Germany, this summer after the French company failed to develop a working treatment quickly and came under pressure from President Macron to step in to relieve the vaccine shortage in Europe.”
The Times

Geoff Cooper
Geoff Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

..without even feeling that it might have been appropriate to ask for the German people’s permission first!

Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Hans Werner Sinn has said that the EU doesn’t have the power (competence) to override member states and that it was a big mistake.

Paul Blakemore
Paul Blakemore
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

I’ve also read that a huge EU order was placed for the (French-made) Sanofi (with GSK) vaccine, which is taking much longer to develop than expected. It has also been suggested that Macron has been delaying the pace of the vaccine roll-out in France in order to allow this to become available. Then again the French people, it appears, are even more sceptical about vaccines than the Americans…

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Blakemore

They aren’t only suspicious of vaccines; the French are pretty suspicious of soap too.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Frau Merkel Wanted to be ”Vaccine Mother Theresa” has failed..There have been several nights of riots in Amsterdam ,I predict the same in other EU27 signatoires.What i find perverse is EU remainiacs thinking UK should ripup their deals with Astra Zeneca and Pfizer ,and yet stick to 1975 CFP which has decimated UK Fishing communities..??

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I am all for having the jab but if it came to the Russian version I would pass!

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  SUSAN GRAHAM

Novichoc?

Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
3 years ago

It seems to me pretty clear that the main purpose of this row is to distract attention from the EU Commission’s gross incompetence when it came to vaccine procurement. That said, Chivers is of course correct, and for both humanitarian and diplomatic reasons as soon as we have any spare supply we should offer it to countries within the EU – I suggest we begin with Ireland, which has clearly been left at the back of the queue within the EU’s own very clear pecking-order…

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

The massive problem is that they’re digging a bigger hole for themselves and everyone else. The politics of it can wait for another day.

Threatening to arbitrarily impose trade embargos around vaccines may have already put back vaccine production plans by months. If you were Pfizer, AZ, Moderna or one of the other soon to be approved vaccines would you now invest in EU operations?
You might find yourself unable to sell the product you produce, forced to sell it at below cost to the EU, or unable to source raw materials due to t*t for tat trade embargos. You would certainly be urgently seeking legally binding assurances about commercial operations etc.

The EU has a lot of high tech industrial capacity to help produce the vaccines or their components. It will be sad not just for them but everyone else if they continue down this road – I also fear that some damage is already done.

Duncan Mann
Duncan Mann
3 years ago

Wasn’t aware of the EU’s internal pecking-order – is this in the public domain? Given the very high infection rates in Ireland of late, it seems unfortunate, to say the least, if Ireland is at the back of the queue, relative to EU countries with lower infection rates.

Elise Davies
Elise Davies
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Mann

Here’s the EU’s internal pecking order

1. Germany

2. France

3. Everyone else

Hope this helps

Mike Finn
Mike Finn
3 years ago

Why specifically to countries “within the EU”? Surely to countries that would most benefit from a vaccine which is easily stored and distributed, given this is what the AZ vaccine excels at compared to the Pfizer one which has the higher efficacy. If the UK is having to bail out the much bigger EU then they really have made a dog’s dinner of things!

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Finn

Given the speed at which dogs dinners tend to complete, I think a different analogy would be more appropriate Ă°ĆžÂ€â€

Mike Finn
Mike Finn
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

A well made point, but sadly I cannot concur… the visual spectacle of a dogs dinner is just too entertaining for me!

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
3 years ago

I suggest that – if we have spare supplies – we prioritise our friends and allies, not countries like Ireland that stab us in the face.

Colin Reeves
Colin Reeves
3 years ago

Absolutely. We should prioritize the smaller EU nations that often only get the crumbs: Ireland, Hungary, the Batic states, the Czechs and Slovaks… Help them to realize that things are better outsie the EU.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Reeves

Nonsense! The whole of the EU conspired to humiliate us and did so very effectively. Boris’s deal over fishing turns out to be a complete sell out, and in five years when we can renegotiate it, the EU can impose sanctions on us if they don’t do what they want. SEND NOTHING TO THE EU.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

If Mr Sheehan above is any guide, the Irish still think in the face of all the evidence that the EU is their saviour, so perhaps we’d better leave them to it.

P Hine
P Hine
3 years ago

Yes, EU have been incompetent and if you had a made a complete mess of your procurement, then best to try and shift the attention to someone else with a well reasoned view (typical of how the EU operates – Brussels’ core competence is creating these well reasoned self serving political statements and their weakness is doing anything at speed or, indeed, even at all).When are Europeans going to hold the EU bureaucracy to account? I doubt they would block exports, that would give them some awful PR and isn’t in their interests either short or long term. For me excess supplies should go the the poorer nations FOC with the developed world paying 3 times the normal price for their supplies to offset this subsidy.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago

I’m not so sure about this as you are. Ireland under Varadker and also later, allowed themselves to be the useful idiot to EU schemes to humiliate the UK. I listen to Irish radio, and it is not too many weeks ago – maybe five, that I heard a senior Irish politician crowing about how much better Ireland had done than England in suppressing covid. He was positively contemptuous about us and our infection levels. We got no thanks for baling them out during the financial crisis. Let them rot.

If we have spare vaccine, send it anywhere else than the EU is my advice.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

“But enlightened self-interest seems to suggest that we keep the EU sweet rather than start a war…”
I agree, but when dealing with unscrupulous people always extract a price for you kindness. Keeping them sweet is not enough – they are not family, so let’s not allow them to pretend that they are.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Quite. It’s impossible to keep the EU sweet. Sour is in its DNA.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago

Possibly because it is run by Sauerkrauts?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

I think you should get your coat 🙂

David McKee
David McKee
3 years ago

Mr. Chivers is right. We do need to explore the EU’s self-generated predicament with them. And on a completely unrelated point, we need to re-examine the border checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

We need to be very hard-nosed about this. And I think that will not be difficult thing for us to do. The EU conducted its negotiations with us in a grotesquely insulting manner. It will be a very long time before I forget about Mrs. May’s humiliation at Salzburg in September 2018. There is zero goodwill in Britain towards the EU, and with very good reason. I thought the EU would have cause to regret that one day. I am only surprised ‘one day’ has come so quickly.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  David McKee

David, I fully agree with you on the Salzburg summit. That was truly the moment I flicked over into the Leave camp.

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
3 years ago
Reply to  David McKee

Well said.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

One part of me thinks that Britain should show itself to be the bigger party and share its vaccine stock as soon as it can afford to do so, as a trade war is clearly in no-one’s interests. International cooperation is much more beneficial, lives are saved, and, as a nice side effect, brand “Britain” gets a little polish.

Another part of me wonders why on earth after the last 4 years, we should be in any way friendly or magnanimous to the EU and help it out of its own self-made mess. Over the last 4 years, it did not waste one opportunity to demean, humiliate and punish Britain – extracting concessions from us while giving nothing back. And revelled in it. People I know in Austria – otherwise friendly, pleasant people – quite openly said how much they were enjoying watching Britain self-combust.

The EU should simmer in its own hot mess a while. There’ll be no mea culpa from the Commission, mind. There never is.

I also think Ireland should be the very first country we help out. The disparity in vaccination between north and south would cause an invisible barrier between north and south which would restrict movement and potentially brew up into a security issue.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Perhaps we should send any surplus vaccine to Ireland, after all blood is thicker than water. Then let them deal with handing it over to the rest of the EU. That way we are covered.

Andrew Hall
Andrew Hall
3 years ago

Treating EU bullying behaviour with ‘kindness’ can only reinforce it. I’m hoping UK rejection of EU attempts to gain full diplomatic status in the UK will undermine their global aspirations – the EU is bent on gaining UN recognition as a state entity. With a London embassy working remorselessly to undermine Brexit and promote UK Eurozone membership Brussels would find plenty of turncoats willing to take their silver.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Hall

Already around 80% of lords are EU beneficaries via EU taxpayers,Pensions,lobbyists..

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
3 years ago

The article says “AstraZeneca not supplying the EU with all of the vaccine it promised” but later it referred to the contract with the EU requiring “best effort”. I would have thought the latter was more likely and a more normal arrangement in a commercial contract.

Whoever thought the EU was keen on free trade has been disabused by this. To restrict exports from an EU member state factory owned by an obverseas based international group is unacceptable. I am sure other manufacturers around the world will take note and adjust their investment decisions accordingly.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Smith

The acute embarrassment of the panoply of Brussels bureaucrats not to mention Her Royal Highness the President overrides any niceties like free trade, and sends the blame and bullying machine into overdrive.

Neil Papadeli
Neil Papadeli
3 years ago

The political benefit of helping the EU out of a predicament born of their own bureaucracy is priceless. Both here and elsewhere. I’ve been keeping tabs on the EU vaccine effort at the excellent politico news site and its been a steady diet of over-caution, ineptitude, selfishness and missed opportunities. Furthermore, the political fallout of the EU mess will run and run. The EU is simply not designed nor equipped to handle the regular international crises that arise (Greece & Euro 2010+, Ukraine, Med migrants, COVID 19 vaccine). It has failed and cost lives at each crisis. It is a bureaucratic entity, well suited to trade negotiations, ill-suited to DARPA style ‘resolve it now!’ operations.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

Perhaps the EU could start by admitting that it delayed the vaccine orders by 2 months (past when France, Germany were ready to sign). That it’s political power grab delayed setting up of EU partner sites and further investment.

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

Simple solution. Publish the EU / AZ contract . Either there is a breach of contract or these is not. My money is on no breach. Otherwise the EU would have threatened legal action. If the EU interfere in the Pfizer supply contract to the UK that would certainly be illegal. And the EU official doing it would be personally liable. They have no protecting for deliberately breaking the law.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Astra Zeneca Already produced A precis on twitter.Unusal eu loving twitter have left it on up until Now (10/10pm 27/1/21) before meghan &harry want to censor anyone criticising ”globalism” UN, WHO,EU,Biden etc..

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
3 years ago

“We’re all desperate for the vaccine to arrive…”
Yeah, sure. All of us.

Mark S
Mark S
3 years ago

You’d need a heart of stone not to smile at this beautifully crafted op-ed. Well done Mr Chivers. That was terrific!

Malcolm Powell
Malcolm Powell
3 years ago

Are we certain the EU would take vaccine from us if we offered it. Wouldnt they see this as humiliating

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

The Eu appear to be itching for a trade war with the UK. If it is not this it will be something else very soon.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Might the Uronazis be behind the Wrexham incident?

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago

Our (UK’s) interests are best served by de-politicising this issue, making some vaccine from AZ available to the EU (even though the contracts and therefore the law may not entitle the EU to any or much), and doing our best to be seen as helpful and co-operative, though (importantly) WITHOUT being perceived as a roll-over. Obviously and as remarked below, the EU’s vaccine management has screwed up. Tempting though it is to rub their noses in it, we should bank lots of brownie points by being a bit helpful. Those brownie points will come in very useful, and anyway, shouldn’t we be trying to co-operate at this worst of times ? Don’t let the EU drag us down to their mud-wrestle.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Yes, I also think Britain should show itself to be cooperative. You’d think by helping the EU we’d get Brownie points but – sorry to be a remorseless cynic here – what in the last four years makes you think that the EU would ever repay the favour?

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Yes, sadly you may be right. What is that old saw about doing people favours being a bad idea ?

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

You probably mean “no good turn goes unpunished “

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

no good deed goes unpunished and

the road to hell is paved with good intentions, which is why the nanny state is destructive.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Yes, and we should have given the Nazis some of our spitfires. At base, the EU is no different or better than the Nazis or Napoleon, and they must be handled accordingly. It’s all very sad, because I was once a huge enthusiast for the EU.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

What complete twaddle. These riff raff EU people having spent four years trying as hard as possible to destroy the UK and humiliate its people now, having messed up the vaccine procurement issue, demands that we supply them with a vaccine they have not even approved yet and also threatens to embargo supplies of vaccine we have already pad for from Phizer. FCK them. Your C of E style vicar’s solution of turn the other cheek NEVER EVER works with bullies. A punch on the nose is a FAR better way of dealing with them.

Boris MUST stop referring to them as ‘friends’. They are anything but.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Generous thinking, but have your boats ready for Dunkirk…

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

I suspect this vaccine will be similar to the flu vaccine – hardly worth the bother.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
3 years ago

It’s a handy reminder for anyone pro exit in France or Italy to highlight the bad faith of the top dogs of the EU and the natural tendency for the Germans to look after Germany first. ‘Look! They’re telling lies about the Brits again…’ Doesn’t take much to set the streets on fire. Look at Floyd over the water.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

“And where all this started was a bitter little row about whether or not the Oxford vaccine works in older people.” No, that wasn’t where it all started. That’s a symptom not the cause, I’d have thought that such a distinguished ‘science writer’ would have worked that out. Also somewhat amusing that his suggested solution is that the UK take a hit to protect the EU from the consequences of its own actions, but the EU is so wise, efficient and benevolent compared with those terrible Little Englanders. Hilarious

Neil Papadeli
Neil Papadeli
3 years ago

The political benefit of helping the EU out of a predicament born of their own bureaucracy is priceless. Both here and elsewhere. I’ve been keeping tabs on the EU vaccine effort at the excellent politico.eu news site and its been a steady diet of over-caution, ineptitude, selfishness and missed opportunities. Furthermore, the political fallout of the EU mess will run and run. The EU is simply not designed nor equipped to handle the regular international crises that arise (Greece & Euro 2010+, Ukraine, Med migrants, COVID 19 vaccine). It has failed and cost lives at each crisis. It is a bureaucratic entity, well suited to trade negotiations, ill-suited to DARPA style ‘resolve it now!’ operations.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago

Thank you Mr Chivers for introducing me to “immunobridging”. Perhaps your investigations could answer a question for me. As the virus is so much more deadly in the 70+ age group why was this demographic so under represented in the drug trials and/or the published data?

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

My understanding is that drugs are tested on volunteers and these have to be healthy and relatively young so that they can cope with any unforeseen nasty side effects.

jamesryoung941
jamesryoung941
3 years ago

I think another factor is that the over 70s are mostly shielding, so their exposure to the virus is much lower than somebody in their 20s.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

My neighbour took part from the outset. My neighbour is 76.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

According to AZ’s CEO, it was because Oxford considered it unethical to start trials with older age groups before younger and more healthy volunteers had been seen to cope with any side effects. They are now trialling with older people.

Jacques René GiguÚre
Jacques René GiguÚre
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

In Canada, is still trying to recruit over-75 volunteers while they have already finished most of the under-75 s they had enough volunteers.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Thank you all for your replies.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

The bigger point here is that the neoliberal orthodoxy around trade has always been ludicrously blind to strategic imperatives, a shocking lacuna which the pandemic has driven home with a vengeance.

Clarifying, but will we learn?

techfell
techfell
3 years ago

We don’t know the agreements the EU made with AstraZeneca, they have not been made public. We don’t even know the agreements between the individual countries and the EU.

One thing that is being speculated is that it was the EU who specifically requested AZ to have the EU order for the Oxford vaccine manufactured by Sanofi; this is the company that is having trouble ramping up the production.

Were that true it could be very embarrassing. There are other plants in the EU that could have produced some of the quantity, including in Italy where one of Oxford universities partners in the development is based.

willy Daglish
willy Daglish
3 years ago

This isn’t a silly mistake, it is deliberate disinformation sponsored by the European Commission to distract from its own incompetence with the added bonus of attacking the UK for its Brexit lese majesté

Geoff Allen
Geoff Allen
3 years ago

Its a month since the UK left the EU – and can’t you tell, they are falling to pieces,Germany wanting to go it’s own way and France with it’s idiotic President no better than Trump saying the actually vaccine from AZ is no good – Maybe Macron will suggest drinking bleach like Trump suggested to the American people.
I’m not sure I also understand where the Greek EU Health Minister is coming from- somebody should tell her that first come first served is staple to the UK people- nobody should jump queues and should wait their turn. The most amazing thing is the way they lecture the UK on the Northern Ireland protocol and the preservation of peace- and then go and impose Article 16 without any consultation with either the UK or Irish Government. Maybe someone needs to teach Ursula von der Leyen some diplomacy skills and man management.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Allen

The time is approaching when you guys are going to have to struggle to make a point without the lame, and provably false (with a modicum of research) TRUMP! references. I eagerly wait for the OBiden examples-in all fairness, of course. I will not hold my breath.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Allen

Trump said the AZ vaccine is no good? And when did he suggest drinking bleach?

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

But isn’t the issue with AZ’s Brussels plant?

Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

No, it is not AZ.

It is independent company Novasep, appointed a manufacturing partner by AZ last summer.

jill dowling
jill dowling
3 years ago

“The food in this place is really terrible.” “That must be why you haven’t ordered any then. I’ll have your share.”

Douglas Scott
Douglas Scott
3 years ago

Hopefully the end result of all this will be to shatter the naïve mentality where everything with the word “vaccine” in the name is treated as equivalent accepted without question or vetting the protocols. Some of these things are not even tested against placebo!

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Scott

Some of these things are not even tested against placebo!

This is not correct. Vaccines are tested against a control, which may be a true placebo, which is to say something completely inactive, such as saline solution, or an alternative treatment of known safety profile, such as a vaccination for some unrelated disease. Confusingly, the scientific literature sometimes refers to any control as a placebo.

The Oxford and Pfizer vaccines were both tested against a true placebo: saline solution.

I doubt that there has been a vaccine trial in modern times for which there was not a randomised control trial against a control.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

Slightly off-topic, but has anyone else noticed a dramatic decline in stuff about nanobots and so on in vaccines lately? Have the loonies got hold of a few doses, pored over them every which way in hi-tech university labs, and found nothing? Or did they just give up on that line, knowing all along the self-replicating DNA-editing hydrogel nanobots (I kid you not, see Dr. Carrie Madej!) existed only in their minds?

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins
Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

confusion perhaps but real issues remain, in regard to these highly experimental and rushed, therefore, poorly tested vaccines – some of which are not vaccines but never used before genetic treatments. enough to cause concern in those who think first and twice.

Suspicions grow that nanoparticles in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trigger rare allergic reactions…. link to follow… from sciencemag.org

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Athena Jones

The vaccine is not required.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

Then don’t take it!

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

My point precisely.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

Excellent , more for those of us who want one. Good luck

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Yes, indeed. Like me.

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

confusion perhaps but real issues remain, in regard to these highly experimental and rushed, therefore, poorly tested vaccines – some of which are not vaccines but never used before genetic treatments. enough to cause concern in those who think first and twice.

Suspicions grow that nanoparticles in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trigger rare allergic reactions…. link to follow… from sciencemag

simon taylor
simon taylor
3 years ago

While I would have no qualms about holding the EU over a barrel regarding their incompetence- I would not like to with hold vaccine from European citizens

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  simon taylor

And would they feel the same about you?

J J
J J
3 years ago

I think we should allow vaccine manufactured in the UK to be exported to the EU.

But only after we have filled in the necessary EU export / import forms and the appropriate fees have been paid.

I believe it could take some time…..

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Nationalism lives! All it took was a vaccine.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

The UK should offer to vaccinate the Irish.

Andrew Crisp
Andrew Crisp
3 years ago

Who says the vaccine is safe? This roll-out is a trial. By their own literature Pfizer says the results will not be definitive until 2023.

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Crisp

If you don’t want the vaccine fine by me as long as you lock yourself away and don’t bother the NHS if you get the wretched disease.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

While you don’t drink, smoke, eat fat or, for that matters, get out of the house or use potentially hazardous electrical equipment.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Long before this Chinese Plague the most dangerous place in England was an NHS facility.
Have we all forgotten how they were, and perhaps still are, awash with such goodies as C-difficile & MRSA?

Duncan Mann
Duncan Mann
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

A fair point, if a bit overblown. This arose as a result of a privatisation drive, whereby private contractors cut corners on hygiene standards. The problem peaked in 2006, and much effort and treasury was invested in dealing with the problem, now largely resolved. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peop

jamesryoung941
jamesryoung941
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

You’ve broken every convention by saying “Chinese plague”. It’s racist, as has been pointed out many times.
You can, however, refer to the “British strain”, “South African strain” or “Brazilian strain”. Because that is different. Somehow.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  jamesryoung941

Around 192 countries……Isolation Hospitals abolished by ALL Political parties in 1970s &1980s like Beechings Axe on 8,500 Miles of track has been a Bad mistake..

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

I think there’s more of moral issue here. Personally I’d advise all adults to have the vaccine, most of us have had loads of vaccines anyway – and not suffered from them. In fact millions of us in the UK alone would be dead without vaccines.

But for us well under 60s there’s minimal risk of severe Covid, it’s on a scale with accidents, other ‘random’ illnesses that strike people down.

And as far as not passing it on to others goes we’ve never enforced this with any of the other nasty viruses that go around and kill 1000s every year. We barely enforce dangerous driving laws, christ we even let extremely dangerous terrorists out of prison – who then to noone’s surprise go on to murder people.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

You want everyone to conform to what you ‘think’ is right for them. People need to choose for themselves. They shouldn’t feel like there’s ‘a gun to their head’. If you are given this, then you shouldn’t worry about those who don’t get it. I can bet that this will be like the flu vaccine. Viruses mutate and change. By the time they get this sorted out, it will already be out of use but it won’t stop them from jabbing you with it.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Crisp

Every new medical innovation is ‘a trial’ for decades.
The vaccines have been through the standard 3 Phases of clinical trials.

The more important questions are: will they work (data suggests so), will they give long lasting protection (unknown), will new strains rapidly make them useless (possible), and will they stop transmission of the virus (not totally, but a lot is a general guess).

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

It’s all about creating another vaccine for something that will eventually wane. They are coming to find useful drugs that are already available that helps. Why not work towards that? I don’t agree with the author that this injection is safe. He doesn’t know it is safe anymore than I can prove it isn’t. People need to be free to make their own decision on what enters their body and encouragement to look after one’s health better.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

Another vaccine, as if they’re terrible things? I’d rather a vaccine than catch a disease and be given drugs to help. The difference is that a vaccine merely primes the immune system. Drugs are a much more blunt instrument.

The author is effectively quoting the vast bulk of expert scientists when saying the vaccine are safe. These scientists beleive they are safe because the vaccines have been through multiple standard trials.

He can’t prove it’s safe anymore than he can prove the moon landing took place. If it’s all a big conspiracy then we’re all screwed anyway.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Just because you hear that vaccines are safe; doesn’t make it safe for everyone. Do you want to be the collateral damage? I sure as heck don’t. We have no way of knowing that this fast-tracked vaccine is safe and we won’t for several more years. Again, because someone has a different opinion, one is labelled conspiracy. Sad for the notion of ‘free speech’.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

You leave me almost without words. Your post is sheer stupidity. This disease has now killed more than 100,000 of our people. Have you any conception of how many people that is. Picture a cup final crowd in the good old days when they crammed them in. It is a vast and terrible number. Nobody was harmed by the vaccine trial of about thirty thousand people. In Brazil where a lot of the testing happened, about three people died. One was murdered. One was run over and one died of an unconnected health issue. More people died in the placebo group who didn’t get the vaccine.

Monty Marsh
Monty Marsh
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

So what’s your problem Elizabeth? No-one is forced to accept a vaccine against their will. All you need to do is say no. Why are you even telling us about it?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

“People need to be free to make their own decision on what enters their body.”
Are we free to choose whether SARS-CoV-2 enters our bodies?

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Yes

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

How safe is Covid 19?

You must be completely mad.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Crisp

“Who says the vaccine is safe” – the investigators in the respective trials, the FDA, the EMA (these two have not approved the AZ one just yet – though it is establishing efficacy which has been the delay, not safety), the MHRA, the JCVI, amongst others.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Crisp

“Life” is a trial.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Crisp

Ha ha ha ha – How safe do you think catching Covid-19 is you twerp?

It is killing tens of thousands a month in the UK alone right now. One day last week 1800 covid related deaths were reported and the average is over a thousand a day. There are right now 32000 in hospital with it.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago

Astra Zeneca didn’t ‘promise’ an amount of vaccine delivery. The contract deliberately – given the late authorisation of their vaccine (which has still not happened) – says only they will use ‘best efforts’ to deliver.

Mike Finn
Mike Finn
3 years ago

Given the logistical benefits of the AZ vaccine and our high confidence of efficacy in all ages, it would seem potentially counterproductive to prevent older people from receiving it in the EU if that would delay their access to a vaccine. Clearly the Pfizer vaccine is preferable wherever possible in all age groups as it has a higher proven efficacy, but that is not the only variable at play here.

Henry Longstop
Henry Longstop
3 years ago

You are probably correct, the 8% is likely the bottom end figure on a wide confidence interval on a relatively small sample population. Politics and ‘spin’ then probably took over to follow an agenda.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine of course, which managed to spin a 0.7% absolute risk of contracting Covid in its vaccination trials as a 95% efficacy. Thats how its done.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Henry Longstop

the 8% is likely the bottom end figure on a wide confidence interval on a relatively small sample population

I agree. The control group in the Lancet report had around 2% cases. So out of say 230 participants in each branch over 70, one would expect roughly 4 cases in the control branch. The only possible (positive) efficacy figures would be 0,25,50,75 or 100%, corresponding to 4,3,2,1 or 0 cases in the vaccine branch. Let’s suppose the true probability of infection without vaccination is 1.74% and with vaccination is 1.6%, corresponding to an efficacy of 8%. Then the expected number of infections in the two branches is 4.0 versus 3.68. But the standard deviation of the latter figure is sqrt(230*0.016*0.984) = 1.9. So the two sigma range (roughly 95% confidence) would be 3.68 +/- 3.8: in other words, anything from 0 to 7.48.

Now suppose that there were in fact no cases at all among the 230 vaccinated over 75. The obvious best estimate for efficacy would be 100%. But it’s consistent with an efficacy of only 8%, in the sense that it’s within the 95% confidence interval for an efficacy that low. That’s not to say that 8% is the best estimate, merely that it is not outside the bounds of probability.

I don’t know the exact figures, of course, and the Lancet article is entirely correct in saying that Vaccine efficacy in older age groups could not be assessed. And the reason for that is that the numbers are so small that it is impossible to tell the difference between an efficacy of 100% and one that “could be at around 8 percent” with the usual 95% confidence interval, as I have just illustrated. If this is what happened — and it is entirely my guess — then it would of course be a deliberately dishonest presentation of the results.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

“Then the expected number of infections in the two branches is …”
Efficacy isn’t really about the number of infections.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Efficacy isn’t really about the number of infections.

It’s about the number of bad outcomes after the two treatments, whatever your definition of “bad” might be. The Lancet paper studied “specific symptoms associated with COVID-19” together with “a weekly self-administered nose and throat swab for NAAT testing” “to test for asymptomatic infections”. I used the word “infection” as a shorthand for that, possibly not completely exactly. The statistical analysis is independent of the word you use for the “good” and “bad” outcomes.

What’s the concern with the use of the word “infection”? That it’s not quite exact enough, or are you suggesting that actually the paper is talking about something completely different, and if so, what?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

If it’s about bad outcomes, why are you dragging asymptomatic infections into it?

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

On that point, I am quoting what the paper in the Lancet said. If you want to quibble with their definition of what a bad outcome is, take it up with the authors — the email address is in the paper.

The content of my post is an explanation of a statistical manipulation which might be the source of the infamous “could be at around 8 percent” claim: if so, it is a dishonest use of statistics. The precise definition of outcome is not what I’m interested in as far as this posting goes.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Henry Longstop

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘a 0.7% absolute risk of contracting Covid,’ but the vaccines aren’t intended to stop SARS-CoV-2 infecting you, though that would be a benefit if it turns out they do. The idea is to reduce deaths, serious cases, hospital admissions, and so on, and Pfizer’s appears to do the job:
“Primary efficacy analysis demonstrates BNT162b2 to be 95% effective against COVID-19 beginning 28 days after the first dose;170 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were evaluated, with 162 observed in the placebo group versus 8 in the vaccine group”

“There were 10 severe cases of COVID-19 observed in the trial, with nine of the cases occurring in the placebo group and one in the BNT162b2 vaccinated group.”

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

astonishing how anyone can believe such pap…..

but the vaccines aren’t intended to stop SARS-CoV-2 infecting you,……

since covid DOES NOT MAKE THE VAST MAJORITY SICK, as in no symptoms and the very sick are very sick with co-morbidities, the ‘vaccine’ is a useless as well as dangerous risk.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago
Reply to  Athena Jones

I wait for the doom and gloom to arrive as per your predictions and assurances and I wait for evidence that the vaccine is having no effect on infections and deaths as per your anti vaccine rhetoric. I can only assume that you are quite happy and in fact wish for people to become very ill and die

Rob Alka
Rob Alka
3 years ago

My 1st injecton here in the UK was Pfizer. My second injection is vaguely stated as in about 12 weeks time

I don’t know whether the UK Pfizer will be repeated in 12 weeks time or 24 weeks or 52 weeksl

I don’t know whether America will twist Pfizer’s arm to prioritise having enough vaccine in the US even if that means delaying further the US vaccine

I don’t know if that re-prioritisation of Pfizer supplies to America will prevail even if Pfizer is being manufactured by their factory in Belgium rather than in the UK or US (after all, ships and planes have freeze storage)

I don’t know if Pfizer’s production in Belgium will be re-diverted to the EU just to keep the EU sweet

I don’t know if, following a 1st injection of Pfizer, whether a 2nd injection of Astra Zenica (which operates differently) adds any extra percentage of immunity or, worse still, inteferes with the 1st vaccination

I don’t know what percentage of immunity is offered by Pfizer’s 1st injection (because that’s all the vaccination immunity I might obtain

All I know is the information spewed out 24/7 by the media, none of which addresses the above don’t knows

Douglas Murray wrote a book called The Strange Death of Europe. His second book was the Madness of Crowds which in effect extends his first book into the Strange Death of Europe and the West, which includes the US

All these viruses! Corona Virus. Trump Virus. Biden virus. Democracy Virus. Peter Principle Virus. Parkinson’s Law Virus. Murphy’s Law Virus. Together they’ll finish off the West.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

I see that there is a different type of Vaccine war taking place in the States with Anti Vaxers ( and anti everything) closing down a vaccination centre?

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
3 years ago

15 March: Here we go again…
(Bonus marks, Mr Chivers for not allowing Woody Allen to be cancelled, at least by this article.)

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

According to MIT Technology Review, ‘This is how America gets its vaccines’, the US vaccination program isn’t exactly going smoothly either:
“Operation Warp Speed injected enormous sums into developing vaccines but left most of the planning”and cost”of administering them to states, which are now having to cope with the fallout. The reliance on chronically underfunded health departments has exposed a threadbare digital ecosystem in which manual data entry, unscalable though it is, is often the fastest way to fix things that break.
Compounding the problem, local leaders have repeatedly complained about inconsistent vaccine supplies. The lack of top-down coordination and communication has led to thousands of appointment cancellations and countless doses tossed in the trash.”
Personally, I find it disgusting and criminal that such a wealthy nation is not only hoarding vaccines, but tossing them in the trash when so many others are going almost without.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

YOU are a Chinese troll masquerading under a normal-sounding British name. Please Go Away, and stop polluting our discussion with your perverted rubbish.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

AAAAh ye-es, but solly, no. Aahhaand MIT Technology Review is gleat an well-known honolable Chinee pervee plopaganda outlet.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Idiot.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Well…I replied to this post with the word “idiot”, and, unherd blocked it…the word seemed an appropriate response to the moronic caricature that he employed, and that unherd accepted…

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

any vaccine not injected into a human is a bonus and the covid lot most of all

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

“Operation Warp Speed injected enormous sums into developing vaccines but left most of the planning”and cost”of administering them to states, which are now having to cope with the fallout.”

The above betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the US federalist system. The federal government can and did inject enormous sums into vaccine development. It also smoothed the way between agencies associated with its development. But the US federal government doesn’t get to dictate to states how to distribute the vaccine, that is a state role. What works in one state won’t work as well in others. As to coping with the fallout, yes New York and California as usual are having issues. Any guesses as to why? While other states are getting shots in arms in huge numbers.

There is no requirement that states toss vaccine supplies in the trash. If they do, it’s due to their own incompetence.

Please at least make a stab at understanding what the US federal government can and cannot do. It does not have the authority to order governors how to distribute vaccines.

Robert Montgomery
Robert Montgomery
3 years ago

“Not true, the vaccines work and are safe”. Stopped reading right there bc NONE of the manufacturers claim the vaccines “work” as in prevent infection. In fact they are at pains to point out that ” the vaccine MAY NOT prevent infection or transmission. In the Pfizer trials group a number of people contracted the virus AFTER receiving the first dose and were excluded from the triall. At risk candidates for trial participation were excluded, so only healthy adults were included. There has simply not been enough time to claim the vaccines are safe, again Pfizer stage 3 TRIAL dies not finish till 2023. People have died within days of receiving the vax. Interesting how quickly the chorus claimed that was “coincidence” but someone dying within 28 days of testing positive, no matter what other health issues definitely died “of covid”

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

someone dying within 28 days of testing positive, no matter what other health issues definitely died “of covid”

Not correct and not comparing like with like. In England, there are two measures in use: PHE and ONS. PHE figures are deaths in hospital from any cause within 28 days of a positive test. That’s essentially an NHS management statistic, and it’s available daily, so it’s popular with media and government: regrettably so, in my view. Presumably that’s what you’re referring to. ONS figures are based in death certificates, in which the cause of death has been certified by a medical practitioner with Covid as underlying or contributory cause of death. These figures take time to compile and are usually released weekly.

People have died within days of receiving the vax. Interesting how quickly the chorus claimed that was “coincidence”

Are you claiming that it was not? In particular, are you claiming that the number of deaths within some number of days of receiving the vaccine was statistically significantly higher than random? If so, please show your working.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

“ONS figures are based in death certificates, in which the cause of death has been certified by a medical practitioner …”
These figures are no more reliable than the PHE ones. Doctors are frequently attributing Covid as a cause of death (or contributing factor) on the basis of nothing more than a guess or they happen to feel like it. This is happening even when there is a negative test result. It’s a farce.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Hmm. Can you name five of the criminals whom you claim to be in breach of the Perjury Act 1911, punishable by 7 years penal servitude?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

I don’t know why they aren’t doing complete and thorough autopsies on all suspected COVID deaths. After all, we all know this virus is harmless, and just think of all the musicians who’d jump at the chance of instantly rebranding as morticians.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

What I have written is true. I have a letter from a Chief Exec of a District Hospital detailing their policy on Covid deaths, and one from H.M. Coroner ditto. As I recall Dr. Shipman was both murderer and ‘certifying. . . medical practitioner’. His Death Certificates were false, and so are a vast number currently being issued in NHS Hospitals.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Please quote those letters you mention. Oh, and Dr Shipman was indeed a criminal, in fact a mass murderer, but he never certified any of his victims as dying of Covid-19.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

What has Shipman to do with C-19, nothing.
Rather like Bodkin Adams before him he simply falsified death certificates for his own advantage.
AY maintains that is still happening, so can you categorically deny it?

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

I’m not saying that falsification of death certificates never happens. I’m saying that if and when it happens, it’s a serious crime and a serious breach of professional code. (It was AY who mentioned Shipman, and he had, as you say, nothing to do with C-19). So the assertion, often made here and elsewhere, that there are numerous cases (“a vast number” was the phrase) where death certificates are routinely filled in falsely is a very serious assertion that needs evidence, and I’m challenging people making that assertion, and claiming to have, or to know of, or to believe in the existence of, evidence for those serious assertions to produce the details of such cases known to them. In particular, I have asked AY for details of the evidence he claims to possess. It is, after all, the duty of every citizen in possession of evidence of a serious crime (and issuing a false death certificate is a crime under the Perjury Act 1911 punishable by seven years penal servitude) to bring it to the attention of the authorities. So we may presume that people in possession of the evidence have done so, and it would be interesting to hear how the cases are proceeding.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

That “evidence” will be very hard to come by, as it is currently immersed in the world of assisted dying or whatever we now call it.
Shipman seems to have thought he was God, and had little if any pecuniary interest. Adams on the other hand was venal and should have been hanged.
However as George V’s Doctor did away with him, this is a very difficult area.
What AY seems to be suggesting is that Doctors are been leant on to confirm a C-19 death, to further the political narrative. Is that really possible in Boris’ Britain?

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

That “evidence” will be very hard to come by

That may well be true. But since there are people commenting here and elsewhere who feel confident in making certain claims, and in asserting the existence of the evidence for those claims, then we may reasonably ask them to produce that evidence.

In particular, AY is asserting not merely that doctors are being leant on, but very specifically “[Shipman’s] Death Certificates were false, and so are a vast number currently being issued in NHS Hospitals”.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

I think we will just have to trust to in the Hippocratic Oath.
Surely no one would dare defy that in this day and age, the very zenith of human civilisation?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

On, reflection Bodkin Adams was bad enough but Shipman has destroyed any faith in the Hippocratic Oath that I may still have harboured.

Thus the fact that doctors maybe falsifying death certificates does not, sadly, come as a complete surprise.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

the fact that doctors maybe falsifying death certificates

I don’t say that it’s impossible or that it never happened in the past or that it does not happen today. I’m simply saying that an assertion as a “fact” that it’s happening on a grand scale requires a certain amount of evidence: evidence which has not been presented in spite of numerous requests here and elsewhere.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Well, some evidence at least …

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

“What AY seems to be suggesting is that Doctors are been leant on to confirm a C-19 death, to further the political narrative. Is that really possible in Boris’ Britain?”
Not quite what I am saying. However, just for clarification it is Policy that a person can be recorded as a Covid death, EVEN where there is a negative test result, if the certifying physician considers the deceased might have had Covid. No evidence is required to override the negative test and that is basically the point.

So if Mrs Lake decides to stab you with the bread knife, the paramedics rush you to A&E where you cough and then expire (RIP) they could record you as a Covid death ignoring the bread knife sticking out of your back (or front if Mrs L was really furious with you !). This does have one advantage – not for you of course as you have snuffed it – as Mrs L wont be charged with Murder and spend the next 11 years in Holloway, but will be able to swan around the world spending the insurance and generally having a good time.

This policy has grossly inflated the number of deaths and in one case of which I am aware removing that particular death from Covid would have reduced the statistics by around 2.5% on that particular day. As to Shipman the point I was making was that he issued false death certificates and I regard those issued overriding negative test results without a confirmatory test are basically no better. Shipman himself – having talked to the prosecuting QC – was a wicked man and killed because he felt like it. Worse, he couldn’t stop once he began (I believe it is easy to kill once you have done it once) and the forged Will was his way of being found out and being stopped. The forgery was so crude there was no other logical explanation for it.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Thanks for that erudite explanation.
Shipman seems to have wanted to be caught, perhaps to luxuriate in the notoriety?
He did however skilfully provide for his wife.
Incidentally I keep a Roman Gladius at hand in case Mrs Lake is overcome by some homicidal urge.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Shipman did want to be caught because he just couldn’t stop killing. That was Sir Richard’s belief anyway. I was rather shocked, when I asked him how many people he had murdered, to be told quite matter of fact that it was at least 180. While concerns were raised – undertakers had never know as many people die in chairs, which is quite rare – these were ignored. The forged Will was so clumsy and crude it was bound to be discovered and set in train an investigation. Sir Richard thought this was his way of stopping. Shipman for all his wickedness was not a stupid man.

As to Mrs Lake I would advise the employment of a food taster and the purchase of sliced bread !

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Would you be able to put them on here so we could see. It is important the people can read these. Or can you give the names of the people and hospital in question. It would be useful to follow up on this. Thank you.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

Nor have they claimed the vaccines “work” as in restore youth and vitality by promoting spiritual balance and removing blockages to the flow of qi.
They may be lying, concealing facts, or whatever, but the claim being made is these vaccines will reduce deaths, serious cases, hospital admissions and so on. Teenagers appear to infect and get infected, but rarely suffer much. If vaccines can get us all to respond more like teenagers, I think that’ll be a good thing. It’d be nicer still if they stopped the virus dead in its tracks, zero infections so no transmission, but that’s probably in the future, if ever.

That said, I thought exactly the same as you about the “coincidence” of death following vaccination versus the cause of death being COVID if within 28 days!

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

People have died within days of receiving the vax. Interesting how quickly the chorus claimed that was “coincidence”

This is what two of those reports actually say.

There were four non-COVID-19 deaths reported across the studies (three in the control arm and one in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 arm) that were all considered unrelated to the vaccine, with cause of death assessed as road traffic accident, blunt force trauma, homicide, and fungal pneumonia.

Two BNT162b2 recipients died (one from arteriosclerosis, one from cardiac arrest), as did four placebo recipients (two from unknown causes, one from hemorrhagic stroke, and one from myocardial infarction).

I’m not aware of this “chorus”, but interesting that there’s a counter-chorus here suggesting that, say, being murdered after vaccination is somehow not a coincidence. Is anyone seriously suggesting that these figures are, statistically speaking, distinguishable from random?

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago

actually, we are not all desperate for the vaccine to arrive. a lot of us do not want it and are dubious about the medical nazis pushing it.

these vaccines are highly experimental and poorly tested and that means they cannot be called safe.

odd how someone with co-morbidities dies of covid and after vaccination, if they die, it is the pre-existing conditions. these vaccines are potentially criminal medical negligence for a virus which is no threat to the vast majority.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Athena Jones

Good thing it’s not mandatory, eh?

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Athena Jones

odd how someone with co-morbidities dies of covid and after vaccination, if they die, it is the pre-existing conditions

I’m not sure what. the basis for either part of this is supposed to be. The ONS go to great lengths to disentangle “caused by”, “involving” and “with”. But that’s not the point I want to raise now: it’s the second part. If we look at the Lancet paper on the safety and efficacy of the Oxford vaccine, there is a discussion of the deaths among the 23,838 people enrolled in the trials.

There were four non-COVID-19 deaths reported across the studies (three in the control arm and one in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 arm) that were all considered unrelated to the vaccine, with cause of death assessed as road traffic accident, blunt force trauma, homicide, and fungal pneumonia.

Are you suggesting that these deaths were really due to the vaccine, and were misattributed?

Again, looking at the NEJM paper on the Pfizer vaccine, there is a discussion of the deaths among the 43,252 enrolled:

Two BNT162b2 recipients died (one from arteriosclerosis, one from cardiac arrest), as did four placebo recipients (two from unknown causes, one from hemorrhagic stroke, and one from myocardial infarction). No deaths were considered by the investigators to be related to the vaccine or placebo.

Are you suggesting that these deaths were really due to the vaccine, and were misattributed?

The point of course is that these deaths were investigated. They weren’t simply written off as due to pre-existing conditions. The investigations may have been incompetent or even dishonest but that requires some level of proof. In both cases, the numbers of deaths were so low, and so similar between the vaccine and control groups, as to make it highly likely that any additional risk of death from vaccination was undetectable at this level.

This is not to say that it is impossible that there is some very rare form of injury actually caused by these vaccines, or that some injury develops over a long period of time. Such things have been known, and are not ruled out by these tests. But the throwaway remark “if they die, it is the pre-existing conditions” is not only execessively cynical, it’s just wrong.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago
Reply to  Athena Jones

Well, just don’t have it then and let someone else have your dose. You will be happy and feeling virtuous and someone else will be happy. Simples

John Sheehan
John Sheehan
3 years ago

Plenty of demonising the EU here.
Of course France and Germany could have gone sooner on their own. But there are 27 EU member states, most of them with populations of 10m or less. The alternative to states going it alone would effectively have involved a bidding war, and smaller states would have been at a huge disadvantage. We saw something similar when U.S. states were in a bidding war for PPE last year thanks to the ineptitude of the Trump administration.
So for a common EU purchase the Union was able to use its market power in bidding for scarce vaccines for 450m people. As a newcomer to this kind of procurement, the EU faced a steep learning curve and had to secure agreement form member states about finances and other details. It probably had to do some persuading at a time (Summer 2020) when the prospects of a vaccine by end-year were perhaps regarded as less than certain.
Of course there were mistakes. Show me a government outside Asia-Pacific which has not made mistakes. As an Irish citizen I am glad that our health authorities (the HSE) with their ineptitude in financial matters and their low bargaining power (5m customers) were not doing the procurement. We would have likely got half the amount of vaccine at twice the price and several months later.

Simon Davies
Simon Davies
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

The Oxford AZ vaccine is being sold at cost price as a result of UK government stipulations so I don’t understand what effect EU bargaining power has in this situation.

Greg T
Greg T
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

Agreed about the typical EU bashing comments, but on this issue the EU’s approach was just clearly wrong or atleast didn’t have the correct focus.

If Ireland (which I think has one of the highest GDPs per capita on the planet) got completely shafted by Astra’s drug reps and payed twice as much as the UK did, you’d still only be paying 6 euros per dose.
What was needed was an agreement signed as early as possible so that drug manufacturers could set up additional manufacturing capacity without additional risk. The sums of money spent on vaccines is peanuts compared to the economic effects of this pandemic, as with lockdowns, acting early is key. Price was the wrong thing to worry about.

Jacques René GiguÚre
Jacques René GiguÚre
3 years ago
Reply to  Greg T

Ireland doesn’t have one of the highest income per capita. Just an accounting trick in booking international corporate profits with no benefits for the population or public finances.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Brussels decides Irelands Business rates…As it does 26 other States.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Greg T

Be careful with Irish GDP and financial figures, they are massively distorted by the funnelling of pan-European revenue from Google, Apple etc.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Indeed — it’s about as good an example of the uselessness of GDP as there is going.

John Sheehan
John Sheehan
3 years ago
Reply to  Greg T

“Price was the wrong thing to worry about.” I largely agree. Ireland’s high per-capita GDP is not the main thing: it’s Ireland’s (and many other EU members’) small size, which raised fears of being left with little or nothing once the big boys had got their bid in.

The inevitable drawback was that setting up a common purchase scheme among 27 independent states was always going to take time. All of this was during Summer 2020, when there was much more uncertainty about the timing and efficacy of vaccine research and development.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

Perhaps this would have been a consideration with other vaccines, but AZ are doing this on a non-profit basis – this is an obligation in the contract with Oxford University. Price just wasn’t an issue there, it was how fast you got there and how much you can snap up. The slow, bureaucratic EU was a ball and chain to Ireland, which could have been faster at least. Whether your officials would have been skilled enough to get you decent contracts is another matter. But you would have been further up the queue.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

The argument that the EU must be the central buyer for COVID vaccines otherwise small countries would lose out applies to all medicines. And food. And clothing. And cars. And TVs. And anything else you want to buy. Though somehow this has never been an issue before no matter how vital the product was.

I’m sure that there’s some helpful bureaucrat in Brussels that would be more than happy to become the central procurement department for the entire bloc for every necessity in life (and they would most definitely do so in a completely selfless and unpolitical manner).

John Sheehan
John Sheehan
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Total nonsense. The argument for a central EU purchase is made in the contest of an emergency in which sellers have potentially huge and welfare-damaging market power. So you need countervailing power.

This argument does not apply in normal situations where relatively competitive market conditions apply. And if they don’t apply, then the appropriate instrument is anti-monopoly regulation.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

Non-generic pharmaceuticals are ALWAYS sold in the context of a single seller.

And, again, Astra-Zenica is selling the vaccine at cost. The idea that the EU needed to take over purchasing in order to gain a price advantage is entirely absurd. It was a naked power grab.

Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

From pretty much the the outset, Oxford’s price condition (clearly accepted by AZ and hence Novasep and ISI) was that, whilst a pandemic was in progress, the vaccine would be supplied at cost price. This renders your argument futile, as does the fact that there are some 200 vaccines worldwide working their way through trials.

If you think this article and comments amount to EU demonisation, you should read some of the continental European papers, and some of the Irish press.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

In this case demonising of the EU seems valid, plenty of are also very annoyed at the actions of the UK or appropriate governments. The UK government has done many things wrong and lied a lot too.

The massive upfront commitment to vacines is however something that the UK government actually got right, both for the UK and for everyone else.
If countries like the UK & US hadn’t bet early and heavily on vaccines we’d all be 6 months further back.

The EU and it’s supporters boasted about it’s collective bargaining and cheaper vaccine shots, they failed to read the small print – signed later, later delivery. Israel paid over the odds for the Pfizer vaccine and commited early, result nearly 50 doses per 100 citizens given. The EU average is 2.2. A similar commitment by the EU would have cost them all of 4Billion extra – not even a days lockdown costs, and lives saved. And yes Pfizer would have struggled to scale that quickly, but they would be months ahead of where they are now in production terms.

Elise Davies
Elise Davies
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

“As an Irish citizen I am glad that our health authorities (the HSE) with
their ineptitude in financial matters and their low bargaining power”
But there’s no need to bargain, isn’t that the point? AZ have a fixed price. It’s simply a matter of EU ineptitude and a failure to act quickly enough. Why can’t you accept that?

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  John Sheehan

The facts are that the EU finds itself without enough vaccine. So the EU may have done a fantastic job, as you suggest, but the bottom line s that they have failed.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

I find this great fun, to be honest.
First, wealthy Western nations do their best to monopolise the supply of vaccines, the hell with the rest of the world. (Oxford/AstraZeneca appears to have reneged on its previous promise to allow its vaccine to be made by any country that wants to.) Now they’re at each others’ throats over which of them’s got most. And soon, they might, basically out of spite, mess up the supply chains needed to produce them in the first place. What a glorious spectacle! Looking forward to our Sinopharm vaccines arriving soon.

Jay Williams
Jay Williams
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Having had my Pfizer vaccine last week and not being totally happy having to wait 12 weeks for next one (because the evidence is not there for delaying) I now worry that there won’t even be a delayed by 12 weeks Pfizer vaccine for me to worry about.
Ah well. I’m still worrying about going out, not being able to holiday 25 times a year, go to any museum at any time I want to (oh. Did someone say they close at night….)
Madness is coming.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Buzz off with your pro-China nonsense. China created this mess and, thanks to weasels like you, is escaping all responsibility.

The UK is paying £500 million through the COVAX programme to provide vaccines in the developing world, far more than China. The UK gives more funding to WHO then China, despite having a minuscule population in comparison.

Go enjoy your authoritarian dystopia if you think the UK is so bad.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Re: “Glorious spectacle!”-you were born too late…by roughly 2000 years.