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A year of COVID vaccines: how the UK pinned its hopes on the jab – and why those hopes are under threat

The UK has been rolling out COVID vaccines for a year. It’s been quite a ride.



A year ago, Margaret Keenan made history. On December 8 2020, she became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside of a clinical trial. Ninety-year-old Keenan described it as the “best early birthday present”. It was a moment of shining hope in what had been a dark year of deaths, lockdowns and disrupted lives.

Before the vaccines, death rates from COVID were very high, especially in older adults, with rates between 5% and 15% in people over the age of 75 years. Other than pursuing a zero-COVID elimination strategy – an exceedingly difficult task in a globalised world with such an infectious virus – the only other option was to control and delay the spread of the coronavirus until vaccines arrived.

Read more: Zero COVID worked for some countries – but high vaccine coverage is now key

There was no guarantee in the early days of the pandemic that an effective vaccine could be developed in time to make a difference. However, we have seen not just one but several vaccines developed. Better yet, most of these vaccines are highly effective at protecting against severe disease and death from COVID.

The UK was among the first countries in the world to start vaccinating its population, and a herculean effort was mounted to immunise the elderly and vulnerable adults, as well as health and care workers. From a standing start, the NHS rapidly ramped up vaccine deployment, aided to a large extent by the efforts of thousands of GPs, community health professionals and volunteers.

In the early months, the UK out-vaccinated most of the rest of the world. The pace of the rollout was phenomenal. The highest number of new vaccinations reported in one day in the UK was 844,285 (March 20 2021) - the equivalent of vaccinating the entire population of Liverpool.

However, rates of immunisation have slowed, and other nations, such as Spain, Japan and Canada, have overtaken the UK. One year on, though, it is still an amazing achievement. Almost 90% of people aged 12 and over in the UK has had at least one dose.

In the first ten months of the vaccination programme, it is estimated the UK immunisation programme saved 127,500 lives and averted more than 24 million infections.

But the journey has not been smooth.

Our World In Data, CC BY

Vaccine scares

Not long after the first jab was administered at University Hospital in Coventry, controversies and issues began to emerge. One of the earliest was concerns about the vaccine dosing interval.

The interval between the first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine was meant to be three to four weeks. But faced with a rapidly spreading third wave of infections driven by the new alpha variant, the UK government decided to delay second-dose jabs to 12 weeks to maximise vaccine coverage and to “protect the greatest number of at-risk people overall in the shortest possible time”. The decision created a furore as it went against the vaccine manufacturers’ advised schedules.

There were concerns that vulnerable people who had only received a single dose would be less protected and that immune protection would not last as long. Fortunately, it was the right call and those fears have not transpired. Indeed, studies suggest the longer interval improved the vaccines’ effectiveness.

There were also safety concerns about the vaccine, and two examples stand out.

First, in February 2021, it emerged that there was the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) following vaccination with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This led to many countries restricting the use of the vaccine to older adults where the risk was lower. In the UK, people under the age of 30 were offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

CVST, however, remains a rare event. Despite 25 million first doses of the vaccine being administered, to date, only 154 cases have been reported to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority.

Second, there were concerns about the elevated risk of myocarditis (inflammation and damage to the heart muscle) particularly in males aged 12 to 29 following the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. However, the actual risk of myocarditis was again very small and the benefits of vaccination far outweighed the risk. What’s more, the risk of myocarditis was much greater with COVID infection (220 per million) than from vaccination. In the US where the vaccine is more extensively used in younger adults, the incidence of myocarditis after vaccination was reported to be four per million doses.

Nonetheless, safety concerns and uncertainties of the risks and benefits of immunising children have led the UK to adopt a much more cautious approach to rolling out vaccines to the entire population, particularly to younger age groups where cases of severe COVID are rare. Some have argued that caution is needed because, in the long run, the loss of public trust in national vaccination programmes could take a long time to regain.

However, the caution of rolling out vaccination to school-aged children meant an opportunity was missed to immunise children over the summer. Belatedly, the UK’s chief medical officers advised the government to vaccinate children aged 12-15 years in September. This meant most children were susceptible to infection at the start of the school year. For many, the vaccines would come too late.

In the absence of adequate mitigation measures, such as more mask-wearing, isolation of contacts and better ventilation in schools, infections spread rapidly in schools in England over the next few months. By mid-November, rates of infection were highest in young children and secondary school children.

Read more: Vaccinating teenagers is beneficial, even if their vulnerability to COVID-19 is low

Vaccination uptake rates in the under 18s still lag behind the adult population quite considerably, with less than half of 12- to 15-year-olds having received their first dose so far.

Vaccine disparities

Despite the enthusiastic roll out of vaccines by the NHS in early 2021, disparities in the coverage and uptake of vaccines emerged. This particularly affected minority ethnic groups, people living in deprived areas and those with severe mental illness or learning disabilities.

Issues with the accessibility and acceptability of vaccines for these groups are possible explanations. In the pursuit of achieving high population vaccine coverage, this may come at the cost of bypassing underserved groups and risks further entrenching health inequalities.

Vaccine hesitancy is also more likely in these groups. There are several reasons for vaccine hesitancy, including vaccine safety concerns and misperceptions about the risk of getting COVID and of becoming seriously ill. To this end, the NHS, local authorities and community-based organisations have made considerable effort to contact and promote vaccine uptake in many of these groups where uptake is low. But it remains a persistent issue.

Social media, as well as some mainstream media, have also had a negative influence on vaccine uptake through misinformation, disinformation or the spread of conspiracy theories. At the extreme end, an anti-vaccination movement has emerged, some with links to anti-lockdown and COVID-denialists views. Some of their activities have become increasingly aggressive, including targeting schools, children, parents and health professionals.

Separately, to protect vulnerable patients and care home residents, the government has made it mandatory for health and social care workers to be vaccinated in England. This has been a controversial decision, not least from an ethical and civil liberties perspective. Apart from concerns about the loss of personal choice in the matter, there are also concerns that such an approach may backfire, undermining trust in the establishment, potentially increasing marginalisation and vaccine scepticism.

Read more: Why the UK shouldn’t introduce mandatory COVID vaccination

Vaccine passports

A person’s vaccination status has not just been used as a requirement for certain occupations, it has also been used as a qualifier for international travel and entry to sporting events, music festivals and theatres. The so-called vaccine passport is not a new idea, having parallels with the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, created by the World Health Organization for diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, plague and typhoid.

Vaccine passports have enabled many of these events to take place and have made international tourism possible once again. While many countries have taken up the idea of vaccine passports, there is no universal vaccine passport accepted by all of them, and debates continue as to which vaccines qualify and the number of jabs needed.

There have also been questions about whether they actually work, fears about the loss of privacy and concerns that they discriminate against those who can’t or won’t be vaccinated. In particular, low- and middle-income countries are disadvantaged as they have lower vaccine coverage.

Global vaccine inequity

Indeed, the global disparities in access to vaccines is stark. Over 54% of the world’s population has been vaccinated, but only 6% of the population in poor countries. Achieving high levels of vaccine coverage in rich countries would allow a degree of normality to return to them – but it would be a fragile normality.

While infections spread uncontrolled elsewhere in the world, there is a possibility that new variants of the virus will emerge, some of which might carry genetic mutations that allow it to evade vaccine immunity. These variants could easily be imported back into rich countries. This risk appears to be materialising in the form of the latest variant of concern, omicron, that emerged in late November. Initially reported in southern Africa, it has now been detected in many countries around the world.

If the aim is to achieve more enduring security, infections have to be tackled elsewhere, and this requires fairer distribution of vaccines. This echoes UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ message back in May 2020 that, “None of us is safe until we all are.”


The other worrying trend that has emerged since Keenan had that first COVID jab back in December 2020, is waning vaccine protection, especially in older adults. Thankfully, vaccine protection against severe disease and death appears to remain high. That said, a small drop in vaccine protection could still lead to many infected people ending up in hospitals.

This led to the UK government recommending booster doses of the vaccine in September, initially for the elderly and the clinically vulnerable. Boosters will top up protection and help to prevent infections, especially for the most vulnerable.

Going into winter, there is the added threat of other seasonal infections. Many of these infectious diseases had initially been kept at bay by COVID measures. But with the relaxation of these measures since the summer and more population mixing, this enables the spread of these diseases as well as COVID.

This will place considerable pressure on overstretched health services dealing with a backlog of health activity due to COVID as well as continued high levels of COVID infections. Maximising vaccine protection against COVID to reduce the effect on health services is therefore vital. However, it will be difficult for the NHS to mount a similar immunisation programme to the one we witnessed in early 2021.

Omicron – a worrying development

Just as the world should have been getting ready to celebrate the first anniversary of the COVID vaccine rollouts, omicron came along to spoil the party.

The recent emergence of this latest variant of concern is worrying. It has many mutations that make it potentially more infectious and able to evade immunity from vaccines and previous infection – indeed, reinfection rates appear to be three times that of the delta variant. It is spreading rapidly in South Africa and beyond, including in vaccinated people.

This new threat prompted the UK government to extend booster jabs to all adults. Whether the boosters will provide enough protection against the new variant is not certain. To date, the government has relied on vaccine protection as the “wall of defence” against COVID. Against omicron, the current vaccines might not be enough, and further public health measures could be needed to buy time until newer vaccines can be developed.

Vaccines offer the best protection, but as good as they are, no vaccine gives total protection. Looking to the future, the threat of new variants of the virus emerging has not gone away. Whether we need more vaccine boosters will depend on how lethal the infections are, whether there is vaccine escape (that is, the immunity from vaccines is less effective against infection), and how long immunity from past infection or vaccination lasts.

Like the seasonal flu vaccines, regular COVID vaccines may be needed, and the vaccines themselves may have to be adapted to protect against the latest variant. Don’t be surprised if annual COVID vaccinations, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable, become a regular feature.

But, before we get too downhearted, let’s pause for a moment to celebrate this past year of COVID vaccines – 8.24 billion doses administered globally – and the countless lives they have saved.

Andrew Lee has previously received research funding from the National Institute for Health Research. He is a member of the UK Faculty of Public Health and the Royal Society for Public Health.

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Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion

The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of…
The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.



The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of the gains the budget airline had made earlier in the week. The new slide came after it announced a £213 loss for the last quarter of the year covering the Christmas period, taking losses for the Covid-19 pandemic period to £2.2 billion. The airline also told investors it is still burning through £150 million in cash every month as it struggles to build capacity back up.

The short-haul airline that makes most of its income shuttling holidaymakers and business travellers around Europe said it is still only operating at around half of its pre-pandemic capacity. However, it is hopeful that pent-up demand and an end to travel restrictions mean it will return to pre-pandemic levels by summer and enjoy much brisker trade than of late over the Easter and spring period.

easy jet plc

But before then the airline company will again have to absorb deep losses over the current quarter, which is traditionally its weakest of the year. Even a strong summer period, think most analysts, will be insufficient to see the company return to profit this year. EasyJet’s value is still less than half of what it was in February 2020 before the coronavirus-induced market sell-off that hit later that month and saw markets dive into March before starting to recover. The share prices of rival budget airlines Ryanair and WizzAir have recovered much more strongly in comparison to EasyJet’s and are now close to their pre-pandemic levels. There have been concerns around whether EasyJet could survive the pandemic but investors contributed £1.2 billion last autumn to bolster its balance sheet.

The EasyJet share price is closing the week at around £6.15 compared to over £15 before the pandemic. However, there is now hope the worst may be behind the airline and it can begin its, potentially long, journey back to health. Chief executive John Lundgren attempted to soften the announcement of another hefty loss with a bullish statement on where things go from here for his company:

“Booking volumes jumped in the UK following the welcome reduction of travel restrictions announced on January 5, which have been sustained and given a further boost from the UK government’s decision this week to remove all testing requirements.”

“We believe testing for travel across our network should soon become a thing of the past. We see a strong summer ahead, with pent-up demand that will see easyJet returning to near-2019 levels of capacity, with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well.”

For now, however, forward guidance for the immediate quarter remains cautious with the company admitting it has fallen short of its expectations to be at 80% capacity by this quarter, sitting at just 67%. However, with most analysts confident the company will eventually return to strength, and profit in the 2022-23 financial year, EasyJet shares could offer a good buying opportunity at current levels.

The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwal



Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwald, the Auschwitzes—all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers.”

- Rod Serling, Deaths-Head Revisited

In the politically charged, polarizing tug-of-war that is the debate over COVID-19, we find ourselves buffeted by fear over a viral pandemic that continues to wreak havoc with lives and the economy, threats of vaccine mandates and financial penalties for noncompliance, and discord over how to legislate the public good without sacrificing individual liberty.

The discord is getting more discordant by the day.

Just recently, for instance, the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board suggested that government officials should mandate mass vaccinations and deploy the National Guard “to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.”

In other words, lock up the unvaccinated and use the military to determine who gets to be “free.”

These tactics have been used before.

This is why significant numbers of people are worried: because this is the slippery slope that starts with well-meaning intentions for the greater good and ends with tyrannical abuses no one should tolerate.

For a glimpse at what the future might look like if such a policy were to be enforced, look beyond America’s borders.

In Italy, the unvaccinated are banned from restaurants, bars and public transportation, and could face suspensions from work and monthly fines. Similarly, France will ban the unvaccinated from most public venues.

In Austria, anyone who has not complied with the vaccine mandate could face fines up to $4100. Police will be authorized to carry out routine checks and demand proof of vaccination, with penalties of as much as $685 for failure to do so.

In China, which has adopted a zero tolerance, “zero COVID” strategy, whole cities—some with populations in the tens of millions—are being forced into home lockdowns for weeks on end, resulting in mass shortages of food and household supplies. Reports have surfaced of residents “trading cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples and sanitary pads for a small pile of vegetables. One resident traded a Nintendo Switch console for a packet of instant noodles and two steamed buns.”

For those unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, China has constructed “quarantine camps” throughout the country: massive complexes boasting thousands of small, metal boxes containing little more than a bed and a toilet. Detainees—including children, pregnant women and the elderly— were reportedly ordered to leave their homes in the middle of the night, transported to the quarantine camps in buses and held in isolation.

If this last scenario sounds chillingly familiar, it should.

Eighty years ago, another authoritarian regime established more than 44,000 quarantine camps for those perceived as “enemies of the state”: racially inferior, politically unacceptable or simply noncompliant.

While the majority of those imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, forced labor camps, incarceration sites and ghettos were Jews, there were also Polish nationals, gypsies, Russians, political dissidents, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.

Culturally, we have become so fixated on the mass murders of Jewish prisoners by the Nazis that we overlook the fact that the purpose of these concentration camps were initially intended to “incarcerate and intimidate the leaders of political, social, and cultural movements that the Nazis perceived to be a threat to the survival of the regime.”

As the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains:

“Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were political prisoners—German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats—as well as Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of ‘asocial’ or socially deviant behavior. Many of these sites were called concentration camps. The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”

How do you get from there to here, from Auschwitz concentration camps to COVID quarantine centers?

Connect the dots.

You don’t have to be unvaccinated or a conspiracy theorist or even anti-government to be worried about what lies ahead. You just have to recognize the truth in the warning: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This is not about COVID-19. Nor is it about politics, populist movements, or any particular country.

This is about what happens when good, generally decent people—distracted by manufactured crises, polarizing politics, and fighting that divides the populace into warring “us vs. them” camps—fail to take note of the looming danger that threatens to wipe freedom from the map and place us all in chains.

It’s about what happens when any government is empowered to adopt a comply-or-suffer-the-consequences mindset that is enforced through mandates, lockdowns, penalties, detention centers, martial law, and a disregard for the rights of the individual.

The slippery slope begins in just this way, with propaganda campaigns about the public good being more important than individual liberty, and it ends with lockdowns and concentration camps.

The danger signs are everywhere.

Claudio Ronco, a 66-year-old Orthodox Jew and a specialist in 18th-century music, recognizes the signs. Because of his decision to remain unvaccinated, Ronco is trapped inside his house, unable to move about in public without a digital vaccination card. He can no longer board a plane, check into a hotel, eat at a restaurant or get a coffee at a bar. He has been ostracized by friends, shut out of public life, and will soon face monthly fines for insisting on his right to bodily integrity and individual freedom.

For all intents and purposes, Ronco has become an undesirable in the eyes of the government, forced into isolation so he doesn’t risk contaminating the rest of the populace.

This is the slippery slope: a government empowered to restrict movements, limit individual liberty, and isolate “undesirables” to prevent the spread of a disease is a government that has the power to lockdown a country, label whole segments of the population a danger to national security, and force those undesirables—a.k.a. extremists, dissidents, troublemakers, etc.—into isolation so they don’t contaminate the rest of the populace.

The world has been down this road before, too.

Others have ignored the warning signs. We cannot afford to do so.

As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, They Thought They Were Free:

“Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people‑—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the 'national enemies', without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.”

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.

They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.”

The warning signs were there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’”

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined: “[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderful years.”

In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, life was good.

Life is good in America, too, as long as you’re able to keep cocooning yourself in political fantasies that depict a world in which your party is always right and everyone else is wrong, while distracting yourself with bread-and-circus entertainment that bears no resemblance to reality.

Indeed, life in America may be good for the privileged few who aren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, but it’s getting worse by the day for the rest of us.

Which brings me back to the present crisis: COVID-19 is not the Holocaust, and those who advocate vaccine mandates, lockdowns and quarantine camps are not Hitler, but this still has the makings of a slippery slope.

The means do not justify the ends: we must find other ways of fighting a pandemic without resorting to mandates and lockdowns and concentration camps. To do otherwise is to lay the groundwork for another authoritarian monster to rise up and wreak havoc.

If we do not want to repeat the past, then we must learn from past mistakes.

January 27 marks Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a day for remembering those who died at the hands of Hitler’s henchmen and those who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Yet remembering is not enough. We can do better. We must do better.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the world is teetering on the edge of authoritarian madness.

All it will take is one solid push for tyranny to prevail.

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/28/2022 - 23:40

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Eli Lilly says FDA could deny expanded use of arthritis drug for eczema

Eli Lilly said on Jan. 28 the company expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to decline the approval of expanded use of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Olumiant as a treatment for adults with moderate-to-severe eczema.



Eli Lilly says FDA could deny expanded use of arthritis drug for eczema

(Reuters) – Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N) said on Friday it expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to decline the approval of expanded use of its rheumatoid arthritis drug as a treatment for adults with moderate-to-severe eczema.

“At this point, the company does not have alignment with the FDA on the indicated population,” the drugmaker said.

Olumiant, discovered by Incyte Corp (INCY.O) and licensed to Lilly, belongs to a class of drugs called JAK inhibitors, which came under regulatory scrutiny after Pfizer’s (PFE.N) arthritis drug Xeljanz showed an increased risk of serious heart-related problems and cancer in a February trial. read more

The path to approval for the drug has been arduous, with the FDA extending its review timeline repeatedly.

AbbVie’s (ABBV.N) rival eczema drug, Rinvoq, also faced similar regulatory hurdles before being finally approved by the FDA earlier this month, as well as Pfizer’s Cibinqo. read more

“While not specified by the company, we wonder if the FDA may be looking to limit the use of the product (Olumiant) to an even smaller subset of patients than what Rinvoq and Cibinqo were approved for,” Mizuho analyst Vamil Divan said in a client note.

An Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is pictured at 50 ImClone Drive in Branchburg, New Jersey, March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Lilly also said it has decided to discontinue its program for testing use of Olumiant in autoimmune disease lupus, based on early results from two late-stage trials.

The decision would adversely affect Lilly which continues to bet on upcoming regulatory decisions on the drug for treating COVID-19 for certain hospitalized patients and severe alopecia areata, a type of hair loss.

In the United States, the drug is already authorized for emergency use in hospitalized adults with COVID-19 and children aged two or older requiring supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation. Lilly awaits Olumiant’s full approval in certain hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with an anticipated regulatory action in the second quarter.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Shinjini Ganguli

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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