There follows a guest post by second year maths student and Lockdown Sceptics contributor Glen Bishop.
Having listened to an interview on talkRadio with Professor Jeremy Brown of the National Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises SAGE, I thought I would offer a critique of some of the points he made.
Firstly, Professor Brown stated: “If you were to release at this point in time, that is a mistake, and it would lead to a lot of death and illness.” This has not been the experience elsewhere and so as far as I am concerned is an unscientific claim. Florida released all restrictions in September and still has a significantly lower death toll than the UK. Texas released all restrictions over three weeks ago and cases have continued to fall sharply. In Mississippi, all restrictions were lifted four weeks ago. In the subsequent four weeks, the seven-day average case numbers have more than halved. This is despite these states being behind the UK on vaccines and the Kent variant making up a significant proportion of cases. If it has not happened elsewhere in the world, in places with lower population immunity from prior infection and worse vaccine progress, what makes Professor Brown so sure it will happen here?
What is happening in Europe now is not relevant to the UK as, judging from our death rate, we have built up more population immunity from prior infection than most of Europe and are miles ahead with inoculations.
Secondly, Professor Brown enlightened listeners with his thinking on the pandemic’s path, albeit conceding it is “a little simplistic”. He describes how the pandemic has hit in three waves, each causing 50,000 deaths and suggests another wave – a fourth wave – could lead to a similar death toll and scenes akin to the January wave. This is a poor representation of the epidemic to put it mildly, but I will run with this logic. Assume a fourth wave hits that, without vaccinations, would kill another 50,000 people. Around 95% of vulnerable people – the people who would be killed in Brown’s scenario – have actually had a vaccine, which trials show reduces deaths by 95%. That means a fourth wave would in theory claim, not 50,000, but 4,875 deaths. How do I get that figure? First, it would infect 5% of the vulnerable who haven’t been vaccinated and 5% of 50,000 is 2,500. Second, it would still kill 5% of the remaining 95% of the vulnerable population who would have died but have been vaccinated, since the vaccines only reduce death by 95% – so 0.05 x 0.95 x 50,000 = 2,375. 2,500 + 2,375 = 4,875.
So 2,375 will die in the fourth wave in spite of not being vaccinated – roughly 10% of the number of the 22,000 influenza deaths during the 2017 to 2018 winter. Certainly not a number worthy of any response beyond sensible advice. Anyone advocating anything other than sensible public health advice for this scale of viral death is just being hysterical and illogical. If they haven’t been advocating the same things for influenza every previous winter, what makes them do it now? Is it because they are caught up in the hysteria and groupthink gripping SAGE and the country? Why treat this differently just because the media enjoy talking about it?
Of the other group in this hypothetical scenario of Professor Brown’s – the 2,500 unvaccinated deaths – it is their choice not to take a vaccine and they should accept the consequences.
Professor Brown should feel free to lock himself away for the rest of time if he wants to make sure he isn’t putting the ‘vaccine hesitant’ community at risk, but he shouldn’t advocate forcing the rest of sane society to do so. What next? A ban on car travel because some people refuse to wear seat belts and it puts them at risk of dying? A ban on ‘do not resuscitate’ wishes from patients? Do SAGE want to ban sex outside of committed relationships because some people do not use condoms and could spread STDs? What about “a circuit breaker on sex” whilst we do mass testing for STDs and make everyone get a “coitus passport”, so the plebs can only fornicate if they have tested negative for chlamydia, herpes, and HIV? If Professor Brown insists on advocating one set of restrictions, it is illogical not to advocate the others.
If it is acceptable to restrict other people’s civil liberties because some people aren’t sensible with their own health, then I suppose Professor Brown will be getting to work advocating the banning of cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, and junk food. Eradicating them from society may lead to a far greater increase in QALYs than eradicating Covid will, now that we have very effective vaccines. 78,000 die from smoking each year alone. Perhaps I ought not be giving Professor Brown these ideas. If you read this Professor, please don’t suggest them in your next JCVI meeting. You’ve done enough damage to civil liberties as it is.