What SAGE Has Got Wrong

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, give a Coronavirus Data Briefing in 10 Downing Street. Picture by Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street.

Today we’re publishing a blockbuster of a piece by Dr Mike Yeadon about what SAGE has got wrong (which is quite a lot, it turns out). To recap for those who aren’t already familiar with Mike’s work for Lockdown Sceptics, as well as his metastasising Twitter threads: He has a degree in biochemistry and toxicology and a research-based PhD in respiratory pharmacology. He has spent over 30 years leading new medicines research in some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, including serving as Vice President & Chief Scientist for Allergy & Respiratory at Pfizer, and since leaving Pfizer he has founded his own biotech company, Ziarco, which he sold to the world’s biggest drug company, Novartis, in 2017.

In this article, Mike identifies two assumptions that SAGE has made, both of which he is convinced are wrong: that the entire population is susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and that only 7% of the UK population has been infected with COVID-19 so far. It is these two assumptions that are driving SAGE to urge the Government to place the entire country under a second national lockdown. After all, if you think 93% of the country is vulnerable to the virus – and you think the infection fatality rate is around 1% (which is also wrong, obviously), you’re going to want to use any means necessary to suppress infection until a vaccine comes along. “I can empathise with anyone in that position,” writes Dr Yeadon. “It must cause despair that politicians aren’t doing what you’ve told them they must do.”

But both of these assumptions are wrong. Mike goes to great lengths to show that, in reality, about 30% of the population already had prior immunity to the virus, thanks to their exposure to other coronaviruses, including those responsible for some strains of the common cold, and that approximately 32% of Britons have been infected. If you factor in that 10% of the population are aged 10 or under and are therefore completely invulnerable to the disease, that leaves about 28% who are susceptible to being infected, not 93%. Not a million miles away from the herd immunity threshold, in other words, which is why Mike thinks the so-called “second wave” will shortly fizzle out, just as it has begun to do in Spain.

Mike draws on more than 30 years of experience as a working scientist, as well as an encyclopaedic knowledge of virology, to reach this conclusion – the same conclusion, broadly speaking, that the scientists who drew up the Great Barrington Declaration have come to.

The article is long, but it’s easy to read because Mike has such a robust, punchy style, hammering his points home with a kind of merciless aggression. And the reason he’s so merciless is because he is absolutely furious with the sanctimonious, supercilious panjandrums that sit on SAGE and are causing so much needless destruction.

SAGE has nothing useful to tell us. As currently constituted, they have an inappropriate over-weighting in modellers and are fatally deficient in pragmatic, empirical, evidence-led experienced scientists, especially the medical, immunological and expert generalist variety. It is my opinion that they should be disbanded immediately and reconstituted. I say this because, as I have shown, they haven’t a grasp of even the basics required to build a model and because their models are often frighteningly useless (Lee, 2020), a fact of which they seem unaware. Their role is too important for them to get a second chance. They are unlikely to revise their thinking even if they claim they have now fixed their model. The level of incompetence shown by the errors I have uncovered, errors which indirectly through inappropriate ‘measures’, have cost the lives of thousands of people, from avoidable, non-COVID-19 causes, is utterly unforgivable.

As a private individual, I am incandescent with rage at the damage they have inflicted on this country. We should demand more honesty, as well as competence from those elected or appointed to look after aspects of life we cannot manage alone. SAGE has either been irredeemably incompetent or it has been dishonest. I personally know a few SAGE members and with the sole exception of a nameless individual, it is an understatement that they have greatly disappointed me. They have rebuffed well-intentioned and, as it turned out, accurate advice from at least three Nobel laureate scientists, all informing them that their modelling was seriously and indeed lethally in error. Though this may not have made the papers, everyone in the science community knows about this and that SAGE’s inadequate replies are scandalous. I have no confidence in any of them and neither should you.

Very much worth reading in full.