Small, but calculable, mercies

There is a tiny bit of good news on COVID in the last few days, in the advice given by the MHRA to avoid the Astra-Zeneca vaccine in younger patients because of the possible risk of blood clots. The good news is not that the vaccine has taken a hit, but that the decision shows there is still someone in authority, at least, with the nous and courage to buck the party-line propaganda narrative and do their job on principles of reason.

According to the Mail today, of 20 million who have received the vaccine, 79 have experienced clotting disorders and 19 have died. This is, assuming the stats are complete, undoubtedly a low rate. Whether it would increase once second doses are rolled out in a big way is another matter, but it’s unlikely to turn it from “very rare” to “common.” The MHRA guidance arises from the fact that the adverse reaction appears to be commoner in the young – someone has done a risk-benefit assessment. What a novelty.

But that someone is not the government or its propaganda machine. You’ll remember that hitherto the story has followed Bill Gates’s totally un-nuanced “Vaccines are Safe” sales pitch disguised as patrician wisdom. It’s all been about a safe British vaccine taking only nine months to produce, rather than admitting that the safety checks inherent in normal vaccine development were bypassed. It’s been about EU medics and governments denying the science to spite Brexit Britain by raising spurious doubts about blood-clotting. It’s been about getting everyone in the country vaccinated with the stuff, regardless of the lack of trial data on children and other groups (including the elderly for whom this has all been done, whose high death-rate after vaccination still raises some questions).

It’s been about Boris Johnson spouting off that we are three times more likely to be struck by a meteor than die from the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. This was as buffoonish as his ice-cream eating photo-opportunities even when he said it, and would in the light of the current evidence now imply that six or seven people have been killed by meteors in the last year. What with that and his recent weasel-words at a press-conference to cover up his planned vaccine passport scheme, our Prime Minister has shown himself willing to lie with impunity, even when there is no need. He should remember Charles 1 eventually lost his head for such dissembling.

But now it’s all about damage limitation to that risk-free fiction, which is in such marked contrast to the “There’s a lion in the street” attitude to COVID itself, necessitating totalitarian controls on everybody to prevent even one death. And so the government spokesmen assure the public that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any risks, and that you should certainly have your jab if summoned (presumably ignoring MHRA guidelines if they have been breached in your case). A family is wheeled out to say that although their father died from the vaccination, everybody else should still have it. Bereavement trains you in epidemiology nowadays.

In simplistic terms of [all deaths from COVID] v. [all deaths from vaccination] this calculus may even be true, though we must question official projections of ongoing “waves” of COVID when over 90% of the at-risk groups have protective antibodies. But the messaging is actually intended further to erode any sense of individual risk-management or understanding, and to produce compliance to a centralized political policy.

The limiting case which demonstrates this is young children, the number of whom who have died from COVID is essentially zero. Indeed none have died in Britain without other serious underlying pathology. Not one. To vaccinate children at all with a zero rate of severe illness or death is totally unethical. To do so with a vaccine insufficiently long-term trialed for risks like autoimmune susceptibility and fertility is even more criminal, since these theoretical complications are well-documented. But to inject our children with something that stands a greater than four in a million chance (remember there is a bias towards younger sufferers, according to the MHRA) of giving them serious clotting disorders, purely for the sake of protecting the older population from the virus, is a crime against humanity. There are nearly fifteen million kids under 18 in Britain – over sixty would, statistically, suffer from the iatrogenic clotting as a result of vaccination, and maybe fifteen would die. None of that fifteen million, excluding those known to be at-risk, would gain any benefit from vaccination: fifteen joyful and innocent children would have been killed for no reason.

A similar calculus could be done, if the data were to hand, for the rest of the under-40s advised not to have the Astra-Zeca vaccine by the MHRA, but assured it’s safe as houses in the official press releases. It’s notorious that fewer than 400 people under 60 died from COVID in Britain in 2020 without other underlying conditions. The vast majority of those would have been in the upper end of the age bracket. So those under forty are already at infinitesimal risk from COVID – if indeed most of them are not already immune by now – and vaccination just introduces a quantifiable extra risk without much benefit.

The rational, and politically responsible, thing to do would be to use the daily press-conference, and the Pravda press, to publish a simple calculator chart for those without underlying health issues: age X: death/serious complication rate from COVID Y%, and risk of clotting disorders from Astra-Zeneca vaccine Z%. If Z is greater than Y don’t have the vaccine.

By all means one could help the public to choose by contextualising the risks: “Y” is about the same as dying in a train accident: “Z” that of winning the lottery, or vice versa. As long as they avoided Johnson’s previous unicorn-shit about meteor strikes. Even modestly educated people are capable of deciding if one number is greater than another, and translating that into real life.

So why, instead, is the message “Don’t worry – there’s a slight mid-course correction but the vaccine is essential for all and still perfectly safe, even though it’s not”? It could be because they assume ordinary people are stupid. More worryingly, it could be part of the campaign to make them stupid by manipulating their emotions and muddling the information they get.

Thinking populations are more difficult to control than mindlessly compliant ones. And in our post-modern Foucault world, remember, to academics and politicians everything is about power and control, not the free actions of individuals created in the image of God.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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1 Response to Small, but calculable, mercies

  1. Peter Hickman says:

    Spot on, Jon.

    As you report, the risk of getting a blood clot attributable to the AZ vaccine is 4 in one million, and the risk of dying from such an AZ-induced clot is 1 in one million. The risk of dying from Covid-19 is said to be much greater, but that depends on age.

    It does not, however, depend on age only. It depends also on the risks of both coming into contact with and subsequently contracting the disease. It doesn’t matter how risky Covid-19 is if you never come into contact with it.
    So to calculate the risk of dying from Covid-19 for the unvaccinated we need to multiply the infection fatality rate (IFR) for their age-group by a factor which reflects the rate of contact of such individuals with infectious persons. Even this will exaggerate the risk, because most contacts with infected people do not result in transmission of the disease (secondary household transmission has been estimated to be 16.6%).

    The (falling) prevalence of Covid-19 is currently ~0.2% (1 in 500 people).
    The (falling) daily incidence of infections in England is currently ~0.0047% (1 in 21,000 people).
    These figures suggest to me that the majority of unvaccinated people are unlikely to meet the disease, even if we don’t reach herd immunity on Monday (!).
    Low incidence and low prevalence, taken together with low IFRs, indicate that the unvaccinated are not at greater risk dying from Covid-19 than from vaccination.

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