In both the US and UK, leaders are sidelining their expert committees
After seven hours of evidence-sharing and discussion last Friday, acting chair of the American FDA Advisory Committee on Vaccines Dr Arnold Monto finally put the main question to a vote. Does the available safety and effectiveness data support a third booster dose of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine being offered to all individuals aged 16 and over?
Within two minutes, the results were in: of 18 votes, all from senior doctors with a specialism in vaccines, only 2 were in favour and 16 were against. The committee had resoundingly rejected the plan. In doing so, it was in line with the views of the UK’s Professor Sarah Gilbert and in fact the WHO. ...
The government no longer considers Covid-19 a critical threat to society
Denmark, a country whose approach earlier in the Covid pandemic was thought of as the opposite of Sweden, with early border restrictions and school closures, has now overtaken its neighbour as the most restriction-free country in Scandinavia.
An article in today’s Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish broadsheet, observes:
Nightclubs in Denmark have been open since last week, and as of September 10th, guests will no longer need to show their “Coronapass” which serves as proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. Despite having higher case numbers than Sweden, all the remaining restrictions will be lifted — the Danish government no longer considers Covid-19 a ‘critical threat to society.’ ...
The company is embarrassed by the most popular shared content on its site
“Transparency is an important part of everything we do at Facebook.” So begins the company’s first ever ‘Transparency Report’, covering Q1 2021, which details the most viewed posts, pages and shared links on the network.
Except when Facebook executives saw that the most shared link was a Chicago Tribune story about a doctor dying of a mysterious internal bleeding condition two weeks after his Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, they panicked. It was a credible mainstream source, but the article asserted that it was “possibly the nation’s first death linked to the vaccine”. Clearly, the reason for its popularity was as useful evidence for the anti-vax movement. Would Facebook be accused of spreading “misinformation”? ...
CNN's international correspondent talks exclusively to UnHerd from Afghanistan
Clarissa Ward is the Chief International Correspondent at CNN – used to reporting from the front lines of conflict zones and global events. But in the past few days she found herself, more unusually, at the centre of a culture war. In a clip from one of her broadcasts, some Taliban fighters on a Kabul street were chanting ‘Death to America’ but she observed that “they seemed friendly enough at the same time. It’s utterly bizarre.”
Politicians right up to Senator Ted Cruz jumped on to social media to condemn her remarks as another example of CNN being unpatriotic and out of touch. “Is there an enemy of America for whom @CNN WON’T cheerlead?” he asked. ...
The professor is treated with leniency, even when he gets it wrong
Something Professor Neil Ferguson said to Politico yesterday jumped out at me. Defending his prediction that Covid cases in this wave would reach 100,000 and possibly 200,000 (they seem to have peaked at less than 50,000), he mused, “I’m quite happy to be wrong if it’s wrong in the right direction.”
It seemed quite a significant reveal, that he openly considered overly pessimistic forecasts to be “wrong in the right direction,” and so I put it on Twitter. Perhaps predictably, it was widely shared — this single tweet has currently been read by 850,000 people.
Prof Neil Ferguson tells Politico: ...
Voters' reluctance to support reopening has a marked political bias
One of the stranger aspects of the past eighteen months has been the opinion polls showing relentless public support for lockdowns. Whatever the array of options, voters always seem to opt for the most risk-averse/authoritarian one.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise to see, in this morning’s Times, a YouGov poll showing that on Freedom Day, most people don’t want it to happen. 55% of people are think it is the wrong thing to do, and only 31% of people support it.
SPI-M member Dr Mike Tildesley considers whether June 21st could have gone ahead
SPI-M (the “Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling) is the government committee in charge of producing forecasts for the future direction of the pandemic in different circumstances. It was their report in early June, combining mathematical models from Imperial, Warwick and LSHTM, than persuaded Boris Johnson to delay the planned re-opening of society on 21st June to its current scheduled date of 19th July.
In the weeks since that report, two things have become clear: the raw case numbers have been rising very rapidly, but the hospital admissions have been much lower than expected when the PM made his decision. As of today, 1st July, just over 250 people per day are being admitted into hospital with Covid, compared to over 600 as forecast by SPI-M. ...
The freedom protests were a vignette of the strange political moment we are in
London’s Regent Street this past Saturday afternoon, as the “freedom march” was in full flow, was a neat vignette of the strange political moment we are in.
At the entrances of the air-conditioned stores, anxious attendants formed a cordon to protect the well-to-do shoppers who had accidentally chosen to refresh their summer wardrobe that afternoon. Neatly masked couples dashed between stores, hoping not to be noticed; I spotted one father with a central European accent ushering his boys into the safety of Hackett, only for the kids to break out into chants of “Freedom!” in imitation of the protestors on the march. Other children peered with fascination out through the glass at the noise and the coloured smoke on the street. ...