by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 11
November 2020
Video
11:53

Prof Tim Spector: hopes of a vaccine will lead to more lockdowns

The epidemiologist and ZOE app founder shares his concerns
by Freddie Sayers

Podcast version:

One of the most interesting sources of data for the progress of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the ZOE app — downloaded by over 4.3 million people, who input symptoms and test results every day.


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Its founder is Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist from KCL, and the app is now funded by the Government and Number Ten receives daily data from it. He received an OBE for services to fighting the pandemic earlier this year.

The ZOE app made headlines recently for demonstrating quite conclusively that the number of daily infections was already levelling off and even coming down in some areas of England at the end of October, prior to the second national lockdown. It painted a very different picture from the apocalyptic scenarios described in the Prime Minister’s briefing.

Professor Spector was refreshingly outspoken when I interviewed him yesterday. He said

  • Had the Government followed data from the ZOE app they would not have gone into a second lockdown, which he believes was unnecessary
  • The Government is tilted too much in the direction of caution and has lost a balanced sense of proportion
  • He is worried that they will use the new vaccine news as a “carrot” to keep us locked down for the next three months, when he believes it will likely take most of the year to get enough people vaccinated
  • He understands people’s concerns about such a new vaccine, and ZOE will be tracking any side effects from vaccinated people via its app

 

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david bewick
david bewick
2 years ago

The lack of balance described between lockdown and cost of lockdown is, in my view, borderline criminal. For the government and the media to reinforce the lack of balance with their messaging and coverage takes it to another level.

I’m now constantly staggered that anyone, never mind so called public health experts that turn up on the telly (I won’t name anyone!) can even begin to build a case for lockdowns. The virus is now endemic and behaving with rather obvious seasonality.

worldsbestbrewer
worldsbestbrewer
2 years ago
Reply to  david bewick

It’s more than borderline criminal. There are, or were lawyers and docs collaborating to bring crimes against humanity against some of these ‘leaders’ who have had alternatives based on sound data from before day 1.
I watched Hancock tell lies in the house about ‘herd immunity being a falsehood’ to promote his ‘suppression and lockdown’ strategy, despite being appraised of alternatives with absolutely watertight data. That is criminal in itself, probably with protection of the house to prevent any litigation. And that’s only one of many.

stephenfelce44
stephenfelce44
2 years ago
Reply to  david bewick

Do not agree either with David Bewick or Graham Smith replying to him.

There is no such thing as balance because all the measures fail to get the disease under control and no longer a danger. There is not even an unstable equilibrium.

IMO it is criminal to pretend there is.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 years ago

What is wrong with these people who incessantly push for lockdowns? By their own admission, the only conceivable purpose is to slow down the rate of infection. Essentially, what they are doing is prolonging whatever misery is inflicted on those affected, whether it’s lost businesses for merchants, a lack of socialization and learning for children, or isolation for the elderly. If you wanted to inflict as much harm to as many people as possible, you would be hard pressed to come up with a more effective means than lockdowns.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Very well articulated

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Well said. Why is no one doing serious holistic counting of impacts. How will this incarceration impact our future leaders, the Coronnials ?

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Not enough hospital beds?

Rachel Wells
Rachel Wells
2 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

The Government spent millions building 3 entirely new Covid hospitals and yet managed not to calculate the staffing they would require should they actually be called into action. So beds ain’t the problem!!!

stephenfelce44
stephenfelce44
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I think I will give up after replying to Alex Lekas, saying why I do not agree with him. I seem to be out of line with a lot of the comments here and it is getting frustrating.

Unherd thinking demands that we abandon the inflated level of importance given to the economy and jobs over the virus. The problem is that all the world economic systems are incapable of putting a freeze on everything until we can live safely without one and having everyone emerge from that with nothing changed other than the conquered health risk from the day it started.

Of course another problem is the fashion, herd thinking again, that everything that mentally affects us can be explained away as if giving it a quasi medical name (usually an acronym, like ADHD but not actually that one) says it is OK not to be OK and not to just grit out teeth and get on with it.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
2 years ago

Every time things go wrong you hear only 1 name: Imperial college. How long before people realize they f* it up over and over again.

jay Draper
jay Draper
2 years ago

I’m afraid Prof Spector ‘lost me’ when he supported mandatory vaccination.
One doesn’t need to be an ‘anti taxer’ to be seriously concerned about
any form of ‘mandatory’ health interventions.

jud.gou
jud.gou
2 years ago
Reply to  jay Draper

There would still be severe outbreaks of measles and Ebola would not have been brought under control if everyone felt the way you do. Sometimes you have to trust the advice and decide to do it not just for yourself but for other people.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
2 years ago
Reply to  jud.gou

Do you? Do we live so as to do things for other people? Even when they might be bad for us? The answer is NO to all the questions.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

So if people don’t do things for other people why did this app show :

“The ZOE app made headlines recently for demonstrating quite conclusively that the number of daily infections was already levelling off and even
coming down in some areas of England at the end of October”

This is autumn in the UK when people huddle indoors together, usually sharing flu viruses.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
2 years ago

I don’t quite understand what you are getting at.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

Winter is coming. The numbers ought to be going up (because of increased household transmission as people stay indoors and this virus is supposed to prefer colder temperatures).

The case numbers were maybe, possibly levelling off before the imposition of further restrictions.

It is pretty certain that the case numbers vary according to people’s behaviour e.g. :

“Mobility network models of COVID-19 explain inequities and inform reopening” Nature Nov

“SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence and transmission risk factors among high-risk close contacts: a retrospective cohort study” Lancet Nov 2

The logical explanation for the maybe, possibly levelling off of numbers is that people’s behaviour changed before formal restrictions were imposed. Altruism in action.

Population immunity at this time is irrelevant.

Barry Sharp
Barry Sharp
2 years ago
Reply to  jud.gou

I need strong evidence that any vaccine works before I would take it. I do not believe that a properly tested, evidence based, peer reviewed vaccine is anywhere near ready. In any event mandatory vaccination is a huge (and I think unacceptable) step to take.

Robin Taylor
Robin Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  jud.gou

Vaccine was not the main factor in bringing Ebola under control but more that “the affected countries now have the experience and tools to rapidly identify cases and limit the spread of the disease” [https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebo…].

I am not ‘anti-vax’ but I do avoid taking drugs unnecessarily and, given the risks to humanity from the massive overuse of antibiotics, we would be far safer if more people did the same.

Every drug has side effects and varying levels of effectiveness. I like to be well informed before deciding whether to take a drug. One of the considerations would be the relative risks from the disease itself and, for the overwhelming majority of people, Covid-19 is not a dangerous disease (Ebola, by contrast, has a much higher IFR). Covid-19 is also a disease where we could build naturally acquired herd immunity relatively quickly.

The speed with which Covid vaccines are being developed and planned for release should cause concern. Without the benefit of time, it is not possible to know the true extent of side effects or effectiveness. Remember, we have had vaccines for flu for many years but our health services still often get overwhelmed by flu cases in Winter. And we are still learning about these vaccines: for example, a study of US Dept of Defence personnel during the 2017-2018 influenza season found those who received the flu vaccine had significantly higher risk of contracting coronavirus [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih…]. Not particularly encouraging in the present circumstances.

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
2 years ago
Reply to  jud.gou

Okay, then. You stand against medical freedom and in favor of medical tyranny.
Why not just get vaccinated and be ‘safe’ yourself and let others take risks as they see fit?

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
2 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Mitchell

I am all for it. Let Darwin deal with the anti vaxxers

Robin Taylor
Robin Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  jud.gou

Vaccine was not the main factor in bringing Ebola under control but more that the affected countries developed the experience and tools to rapidly identify cases and limit the spread of the disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

I am not ‘anti-vax’ but I do avoid taking drugs unnecessarily and, given the risks to humanity from the massive overuse of antibiotics, we would be far safer if more people did the same.

Every drug has side effects and varying levels of effectiveness. I like to be well informed before deciding whether to take a drug. One of the considerations would be the relative risks from the disease itself and, for the overwhelming majority of people, Covid-19 is not a dangerous disease (Ebola, by contrast, has a much higher IFR). Covid-19 is also a disease where we could build naturally acquired herd immunity relatively quickly.

The speed with which Covid vaccines are being developed and planned for release should cause concern. Without the benefit of time, it is not possible to know the true extent of side effects or effectiveness. Remember, we have had vaccines for flu for many years but our health services still often get overwhelmed by flu cases in Winter. And we are still learning about these vaccines: for example, a study of US Dept of Defence personnel during the 2017-2018 influenza season found those who received the flu vaccine had higher risk of contracting coronavirus (although not Covid-19 which did not exist at the time).. Not particularly encouraging in the present circumstances.

elidwek0
elidwek0
2 years ago
Reply to  jay Draper

I expect they cannot force anyone, but schools won’t accept kids that aren’t vaccinated and places of work won’t allow workers to attend if they aren’t vaccinated.

So there will be penalties that might persuade people to get vaccinated.

I for one wouldn’t attend a cinema or theatre if they were not asking for everyone attending to show a certificate of vaccination.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago
Reply to  elidwek0

Revelations 16:13, Mark of the Beast

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

Well, yes, but we have known that for some time. Nor was lockdown 1 necessary beyond the first couple of weeks.

david bewick
david bewick
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

There is a case for lockdown 1 being unnecessary full stop. It is now known that the infection rate had turned before the lockdown and by April 11th deaths had peaked. Looking at what the SAGE papers hold on risk by age (6th March) and studies on children (PH Holland early April) and much other stuff it is staggering that the lockdown wasn’t lifted and schools re-opened late April when it should’ve happened. The poor recording of deaths which inflated the number and put an unusual hump on the right hand side of the Gompertz curve may have been part of the issue but it shouldn’t have taken Carl Heneghan to point it out. All in all the ministerial interrogation of a rather poor set of advisors has been lamentable.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
2 years ago
Reply to  david bewick

If they wanted to slow down infection they should have closed the schools and universities and left the shops open. The current wave is being driven by asymptomatic kids

Brian Newman
Brian Newman
2 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Agreed

harmony4healing
harmony4healing
2 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Kids DO NOT spread this virus. It has been established that children are not important vectors. It is nothing short of criminal to force our children to pay the price of their futures for an endemic, seasonal virus. That people blithely disregard the immeasurably negative impact this is having on our children is absolutely terrifying.

Jeremy Rolls
Jeremy Rolls
2 years ago

Thanks Freddie and Prof Spector for an excellent, well-reasoned session bringing some common-sense and balance as a counterpoint to the government’s fear-mongering, mad models and lack of perspective. The mortality data (which lags cases by 3-4 weeks) shows that in London certainly cases were peaking well before the re-imposition of lockdown and even potentially before London was forced en-block into tier-2. My personal view is that cases would have peaked, irrespective of those measures, because the virus is running out of people to infect. The recent vaccine news whilst welcome should not be used as any excuse to slow the return to normal (in fact the opposite).

Brian Newman
Brian Newman
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Rolls

There is no return to ” normal “

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian Newman

China and the West Pacific have, but then they had 0.3 to 3 deaths per million, abut 1/200th the amount in the West. Which seems to me very suspicious. Winning the war without a shot being fired comes to mind.

stephensjpriest
stephensjpriest
2 years ago

tory Chief has 203 proxy votes for MPs by the way

Beyond Crucial Update on Viral Issue – and Lockdown “Science”!
11 Nov 2020

YOU TUBE watch?v=mboEkVl9ooc
Title says it all. Please share this one as widely as possible, especially if you are interesting in saving the society of Ireland, the UK and Europe! (If not the world)
Ivor Cummins

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
2 years ago

We still have very small trials over a very short time.
Whilst it may be a saviour, personally I will let someone else be the guinea pig.

Frank Raschke
Frank Raschke
2 years ago

I still struggle to see the logic: ‘cases’ in London, Liverpool and others are not rising and even seem to fall, which gives a hint to herd immunity or some base immunity. if that is the case why do we need to be vaccinated at all against a strain, that will mutate and bypass any vaccination?

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
2 years ago
Reply to  Frank Raschke

A thousand dead people every few days is still a thousand people every few days. Herd immunity the natural way is very dearly bought.

Brian Newman
Brian Newman
2 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Sweden has shown it doesn’t work

Frank Raschke
Frank Raschke
2 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Hi Angela

a lot has been discussed regarding the actions taken. I take the view, that the actions taken in most of the world results in far bigger harm, including the cost to life. Waiting for the benefits of the vaccination role out is a moving target, very expensive.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago
Reply to  Frank Raschke

UNICF, the UN Children agency said this spring 1.2 Million third world children will die from the global slowing of economies by Western Lockdowns. So there is that, if a Western baby is worth half a Million Third World ones it should be some concern.

cajwbroomhill
cajwbroomhill
2 years ago

What would the new vaccines’ year and five year safety profiles show?
Long -term studies are not yet available.
Is more caution not justified?

Jay Bird
Jay Bird
2 years ago

I am a great supporter of the CovidZoe app and Professor Spector but I felt let down in this interview. I am not a government supporter but in this case they may have been right. I am amazed that prof Phil seems to have been suggesting that the levelling off is due to immunity or maybe seasonality. Surely the stats tell us cases were doubling ever 10-15 days and deaths likewise. There has been a levelling off in cases from Nov 5 and no doubt consequently deaths likewise from about Nov 20. This is a great relief and it is surely due to the tiered quasi-lockdown introduced in October. It didn’t just happen and looking at the graph showing 280 deaths on Oct 31 it was easy to predict around 560 today. Surely without intervention that would indeed have been around 1000 by Nov 25, 2000 by Dec 7, 4000 by Dec 21 and around the ridiculed 5000 on Christmas Day. If Prof Tim is arguing that the latest lockdown was unnecessary he needs to make it clear that this is because restrictions were beginning to work, not that they were unnecessary. But they may have done no more than level off- we need to bring infections and deaths right down. This is as necessary in the south as in the North. Hospital numbers here have risen greatly in the last two weeks I hear. Also, and remember I totally sign up to CovidZoe and it’s fantastic AI based data crunching, but it does only report on symptomatic reporters and 18-69!Year olds on its charts which leaves a big area for doubt re no symptomatic cases and 70+ year olds. Also how representative ate the 4 million responders. Perhaps if you can be bothered to sign up and report every day you are more likely to social distance and wear a mask. These issues could be distorting the findings considerably!
Thanks for a great interview with a key player.
J

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
2 years ago
Reply to  Jay Bird

To state that a place “surely” would see repeated doublings for many cycles – up to ~20x observed levels by Christmas – is to make the same mistake that oversimplified modeling did in the spring.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
2 years ago

You can find information online regarding the fast tracked vaccine for Sars1 causing Narcolepsy in some children across Europe, and even Guillain Barre syndrome in a few adults even in London. Vaccine subsequently quietly withdrawn. A small part of a per cent, but when you vaccinate a lot of people a very small per cent still equals a lot of people.

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
2 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

No doubt. Pending health catastrophe alert!

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
2 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

That’s why it was withdrawn. Also why extensive testing is being undertaken this time.

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
2 years ago

More sensible and reasoned discussion (which may rile fervent advocates either way) here: https://www.npr.org/2020/10

A vaccine may come – but a safe and reliable one before the waves peter out?

“Thomas McKeown the medical historian observed that if you plotted on the X axis time and on the Y axis, the number of people dying from any
given infectious disease – tuberculosis or measles or diphtheria or
whatever – and then you plotted the deaths, you have this sort of steep
New England sled run of a graph, you know, where the mortality is high
and then sort of drops precipitously. And then, there’s, like, a long
straightaway, you know, when you get to the bottom of the hill and the
sled is just sort of coasting along.

So in the case of tuberculosis, it was isoniazid. In the case of
diphtheria, it was, you know, antitoxin. In the case of measles, it was a
vaccine and so on. And what he found was that, ironically, that moment
when the specific treatment was invented typically was on the flat
straightaway of the sled run long after mortality had disappeared or had
declined substantially.”

stephenfelce44
stephenfelce44
2 years ago

“The Government is tilted too much in the direction of caution and has lost a balanced sense of proportion”.

I do not agree with this at all. The government is not nearly cautious enough.

It is all very well trying to protect the economy and jobs, but the end result is more cases and more deaths, the greater need for lockdowns, which in the end run counter to both.

Something they do not mention about the virus is that the value of R is not the only high level concern. Whatever the rate at which the cases are growing or falling, the more people who have become infected, the greater the risk for everyone else. Since the number of cases currently is high, the risk must be too even if R is beginning to drop again.

If R was very low and the number of cases, number of deaths also very low, I agree too much caution might be an argument that bears scrutiny, but even then I would have my doubts. But we are so far from that not have a long term lockdown, a very long one, worries me and I will continue to self isolate and have my own lockdown on my own for a long time to play safe whatever transpires in the next several months,with or without having had the vaccine.

Of course being old, retired and living alone but never feeling lonely, being very self-sufficient lockdown is easy.

It worries me that most people’s situation is nothing like this and, so they are the victim of loose thinking, not only from the government but their advisers too. There is far too much guesswork going on and the only way of avoiding the consequences of that are draconian measures and that for a sustained interval.

Yes the economy and jobs will suffer more, no doubt about that. But what is the point of incremental measures which overall causes the same damage and more?

I am not sure that anything less that a countrywide tight lockdown for less than three months is going to achieve anything lasting.

But as usual the economy is considered more important than life itself. What an absurd position to take. We see this time and again, not only just over covid.

Gill Lintott
Gill Lintott
2 years ago

We must manage the virus or the NHS won’t cope. We are still seeing increasing levels of infections, hospital admissions and deaths. NHS waiting lists are growing. There is huge ramifications for the economy and people’s mental health. If we had gone into lockdown earlier than we maybe could have controlled both the virus and the economy, or at least be in a better position to do so. If the vaccine is approved then the NHS will pull out all stops to deliver it.

worldsbestbrewer
worldsbestbrewer
2 years ago

I understand that Spector wants to promote his app. If nothing else, it’s backing up historical data which shows the epidemic was over in the summer and that we are now following historical curves almost to the dot.
If anyone follows Ivor Cummins (You Tube Channel) who puts data together from govt web sites etc and should have a seat on Sage at the very least, you’d understand that none of the measures taken by lockdown, masked countries have beneficial effects.
As for vaccines – why on earth do we need a vaccine for a disease that 99.9 pcent of us don’t get or recover from. That we have a number of perfectly good prophylactics and treatments for. That is not tested to stop transmission and only tests for ‘less sever symptoms’ which is what they only do. In the spec small print. (Can’t 100pcebt speak for the Pfizer on eon the laat point).
Is it not an irony that the vaccine producers are having to deliberately give people the covid virus in the middle of a ‘catastrophic’ pandemic!

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago

We need a vaccine because people get a lot sicker with this little beastie than they do with flu and then they have to go to hospital and stay there longer than the average flu patient. Gory details here :

Risk for In-Hospital Complications Associated with COVID-19 and Influenza ” Veterans Health Administration, United States, October 1, 2018″“May 31, 2020
In particular :
“Compared with patients with influenza, patients with COVID-19 had two times the risk for pneumonia; 1.7 times the risk for respiratory failure; 19 times the risk for ARDS; 3.5 times the risk for pneumothorax; and statistically significantly increased risks for cardiogenic shock, myocarditis, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, disseminated intravascular coagulation, cerebral ischemia or infarction, intracranial hemorrhage, acute kidney failure, dialysis initiation, acute hepatitis or liver failure, sepsis, bacteremia, and pressure ulcers (Figure).”

and …. “and the duration of hospitalization was almost three times longer for COVID-19 patients (median 8.6 days; IQR = 3.9″“18.6 days) than that for influenza patients (3.0 days; 1.8″“6.5 days) (p<0.001 for all).”

The NHS has got enough to deal with, without being lumbered with a group of patients with long drawn out multi organ problems.

These patients are not going to go away just because Ivor Cummins’s graphs say so. The population continues to age. Crinklies have crap T and B cells because their germinal centres shrivel up. No long lasting innate immunity for the age group most at risk without a vaccine.

What good prophylactics and treatments ? Do you mean hydroxychloroquine ? I am afraid that was put to bed on Nov 5 with a paper published in the Lancet looking at 30,569 rheumatoid and SLE patients who were on low dose HCQ – Covid 19 mortality no different to matched bods not taking HCQ.

Vitamin D does not revive germinal centres in lymphoid organs nor the bone marrow.
Treatments ? oxygen, proning, dexamethasone, tocilizumab, anticoagulants – all supportive stuff really. Monoclonal antibodies on the horizon ?

elidwek0
elidwek0
2 years ago

The government chose to ignore the ZOE app because it’s data is unreliable.

Hardly any of its data is based upon swab tests. It’s mainly the subjective statements of how people feel on particular days and you have to trust they are not lying.

shinybeast1
shinybeast1
2 years ago
Reply to  elidwek0

Swab tests are completely unreliable but treated with more certainty than people’s own accounts of how they are feeling.why would you mistrust people but trust a wildly inaccurate swab?

Brian Newman
Brian Newman
2 years ago

The value of the lockdown is to prevent NHS catastrophe and unnecessary deaths.
Not locking down is medically unethical