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Chris Whitty re-emerges to warn of a Prolonged Period of non-COVID excess Mortality and Morbidity
Technical report with advice for future pandemics
Today a technical report on the COVID-19 pandemic for future UK Chief Medical Officers, Government Chief Scientific Advisers, National Medical Directors and public health leaders in a pandemic, was published.
A few months ago I asked “Where’s Whitty?”, referring to Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO). I asked, after appearing almost daily to tell us about Covid deaths, why was he not investigating current excess deaths and reassuring the public that they would be brought under control.
Well Whitty has re-emerged and it seems he has been working on a technical paper with Patrick Vallance (UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser) and Jonathan Van-Tam, amongst others.
In the report Whitty warns that there will likely be a prolonged period of non-COVID excess mortality and morbidity after the worst period of the pandemic is over. Whitty, who would make a terrible Nostradamus, doesn’t seem to have noticed that the worst period of the pandemic is already over and there already has been a prolonged period of non-COVID excess mortality and morbidity.
There is no section to say what will be done to try and reduce these excess deaths but maybe that is beyond the scope of this paper.
The reason given for these excess deaths are delays in presentation to hospital, reductions in secondary prevention (such as statins and antihypertensive) and postponement of elective and semi-elective care and screening. Furthermore, the report says that the population’s sense of altruism or perceived risk stopped them presenting to hospital. Hmmm I wonder what could have encouraged this altruism or elevated the public’s perceived risk - nudge nudge.
At no point in the reflections and advice for future CMOs does the paper address these points or suggest ways to prevent this happening in future pandemics.
In the NHS, they said, shifting to online GP appointments had helped to reduce transmission but they acknowledged the risk that reluctance to see a doctor had resulted in “significant unmet need” which could lead to further death and illness.
Of course, the paper goes into great detail about how great the vaccines were and how ingenious and “extraordinary” warp-speeding trials was. At no point did it question whether this was the correct path to take. However, it says this speed cannot be assumed in future pandemics, even if a novel respiratory coronavirus were to arise. Strange. Why is that? I thought mRNA vaccines could rapidly be tweaked for any new coronavirus. Seems as though only the Wuhan strain could be established quickly. Almost as though it had been worked on for longer than claimed.
They therefore don’t see vaccines as a playbook for future pandemics or major epidemics. As the Times reports, the speed of vaccine development in this pandemic might lull politicians into a false sense of security, with other new diseases possibly requiring social distancing and lockdowns for even longer.
Britain had to rely on lockdowns, as well as facemasks, ventilation and hand washing before drugs were available and immunity levels rose. Whitty and Vallance said this was likely to be “broadly similar” in a future pandemic. But they added: “Delays in drugs or vaccines being available, or the emergence of a variant with greater transmissibility, vaccine escape or leading to more severe disease, could result in longer deployment of non-pharmaceutical intervention.”
Point 10 of their vaccine recommendations for future pandemics says that vaccine uptake has proven to be the most important factor in reducing the impact of epidemic. However, vaccination rates have also been influenced by deliberate disinformation and misinformation.
The vaccine section of the document looked at how they decided on whom to vaccinate (everybody!). A table is produced to show how many people needed to be vaccinated to prevent one COVID death. For under 50s, 47,000 people needed to be vaccinated to prevent one Covid death.
They also considered the decision to vaccinate children. As has been widely reported the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) were not in favour of vaccinating children but Chris Whitty managed to change their minds. The report reminds us why:
taking into account both JCVI findings on marginal but positive health benefits alongside the likely benefits of reducing educational disruption and the consequent reduction in lifelong public health harm from educational disruption, vaccination in this group was recommended.
So to translate, marginal but positive health benefits means there were no health benefits for children. Reducing educational disruption is nonsense as most kids didn’t ever get sick with Covid so didn’t miss any school. If they were so bothered about lifelong public health harm from educational disruption then a good starter would have been to not shut schools, especially for long periods of time.
Whitty and Vallance acknowledged the downsides of lockdowns and school closures, saying the former were “always a matter of the least bad option, not a ‘good’ one”, and the latter risked having “lasting effects on children’s education, developmental and life chances”.
As one would expect, this is a disappointing white-wash of a report. It considers some harms but, in general, suggests that the measures that were undertaken were the correct ones. However, what is most disturbing is that this report advises future CMOs in a pandemic to do exactly the same things, if not harder and for longer.
It also seems to suggest that their decision making should not be questioned in the future. Similar to Fauci’s “I am the Science”, the paper says “sometimes independent scientists had strong views on policy choices. Informed debate is important, but the blurring of science advice and policy opinion could cause confusion.
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