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DOMINIC LAWSON: It’s a sad irony that every anti-vaxxer who dies of Covid might just save lives

Well, there’s a surprise: the Government’s policy on ‘vaccine passports’ is in disarray.

Yesterday, it was reported that lawyers for the Department of Health, which had promised to make proof of Covid vaccination mandatory for anyone going to a nightclub, had written to an unhappy provider of such entertainment, telling them that ‘No final policy decision has yet been taken’.

But in response to this story, Downing Street insisted that the Government was still ‘planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs’. This continues the confusion which has been going on for months.

In February, the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, told the BBC‘s Andrew Marr that ‘vaccine passports’ would not be introduced because they were ‘discriminatory’. But by summer, Zahawi warned they could become mandatory not just in nightclubs but also in ‘theatres, cinemas, concert halls and sports stadiums’.

If the Government is now backing away from this, the reason can be seen most clearly in research published last week by the University of Oxford.

This showed that of those double vaccinated who had still contracted Covid, the viral ‘load’ was the same as in those unvaccinated who had got the disease. This is an effect of the Delta variant, which is much more virulent than other strains.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said on Friday: ‘Four weeks working on a Covid ward makes stark the reality that the majority of our hospitalised Covid patients are unvaccinated and regret delaying’

False

Fortunately, both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are brilliant at preventing death from this variant, reducing that worst outcome by around 95 per cent.

But, at least according to Oxford’s research, a double dose of the vaccine developed by that same University’s Jenner Institute (produced by AstraZeneca) reduces your chance of being infected by 67 per cent, and Pfizer by around the same amount.

That’s good: but it still means that while vaccination is fantastically effective at preventing those who are jabbed from dying of Covid, it is not so successful at stopping them from infecting others.

Given that the argument for vaccine passports was always expressed in terms of people’s obligation to others (rather than to their own health), this is a significant problem. Indeed, it might even be that vaccine passports would engender a false sense of security.

It would be more logical to demand that all those attending mass indoor public events should take a rapid lateral flow test beforehand. These produce a result in under half an hour; anyone who tested ‘negative’ would then be admitted, whether or not they had been ‘double jabbed’. It is odd that the Government has rejected that approach.

President Macron, for example, has not instituted a pure ‘vaccine mandate’ for the use of cinemas, restaurants and so forth — whatever his critics claim. Those French citizens who don’t want to take the needle can still get a ‘pass’ if they have recently tested negative, or have Covid antibodies through infection.

In this context, our own Government’s launch tomorrow of a UK-wide antibody testing programme is a sensible step.

Nevertheless, it is clear that our doctors and nurses are exasperated by the extent to which they have been fighting to save the lives of those who have refused to take the vaccine.

In February, the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, told the BBC's Andrew Marr that 'vaccine passports' would not be introduced because they were 'discriminatory'. But by summer, Zahawi warned they could become mandatory not just in nightclubs but also in 'theatres, cinemas, concert halls and sports stadiums'

In February, the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that ‘vaccine passports’ would not be introduced because they were ‘discriminatory’. But by summer, Zahawi warned they could become mandatory not just in nightclubs but also in ‘theatres, cinemas, concert halls and sports stadiums’

As the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who combines his advisory role with shifts at University College Hospital in London, said on Friday: ‘Four weeks working on a Covid ward makes stark the reality that the majority of our hospitalised Covid patients are unvaccinated and regret delaying.’

Saturday’s Mail carried a harrowing report from an intensive care director. He observed: ‘Looking at [their] medical notes I know that all Covid patients currently on the ward were offered the jab but that 90 per cent of those on ventilators are unvaccinated.’

This intensive care doctor said that he was ‘absolutely furious’— not with the patients themselves but with ‘those who perpetuate the myths that Covid does not exist or that the vaccines themselves are dangerous’.

One of his patients had been so persuaded the pandemic was a ‘conspiracy’ that he refused to admit he had the disease, even as he was sedated before being put on a ventilator. He didn’t make it.

To use the phrase coined by the NHS 35 years ago when trying to persuade those at high risk from Aids to use a condom, it’s a shame to die of ignorance. Or, indeed, conspiracy theories.

Some of those perpetuating these theories are also paying the ultimate personal price. This month, H. Scott Apley died of Covid at the age of 45. He was a member of the governing board of the Republican Party in Texas, and a notable opponent of the vaccine programme.

An illustrious American public figure, Cardinal Raymond Burke (pictured), had propagated the conspiracy theory that the vaccines were a nefarious takeover bid for our bodies

An illustrious American public figure, Cardinal Raymond Burke (pictured), had propagated the conspiracy theory that the vaccines were a nefarious takeover bid for our bodies

Recant

When the Washington Post medical writer, Dr Leana Wen, tweeted on April 1, ‘Great news from Pfizer this morning! Their Covid-19 vaccine is efficacious for at least six months’, Apley denounced her as ‘an absolute enemy of a free people’.

A rather more illustrious American public figure, Cardinal Raymond Burke, had propagated the conspiracy theory that the vaccines were a nefarious takeover bid for our bodies: ‘a kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person, so that at any moment he or she can be controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters that we can only imagine’.

Last week, Burke was placed on a ventilator, having tested positive for Covid (but has since come off it).

I doubt the 73-year-old Cardinal, should he survive, will recant his views about the vaccine; I am sure the most vehement among the vaccine conspiracy theorists will never change their minds. There is, in fact, no known cure for stupidity, or, indeed, obstinacy.

But people such as H. Scott Apley and Cardinal Burke have unwittingly performed a public service: those whose vaccine hesitancy is less obsessive or politicised will see where such conspiracy theories lead, and draw the obvious conclusions, if only out of their own self-interest.

This month, H. Scott Apley (pictured) died of Covid at the age of 45. He was a member of the governing board of the Republican Party in Texas, and a notable opponent of the vaccine programme

This month, H. Scott Apley (pictured) died of Covid at the age of 45. He was a member of the governing board of the Republican Party in Texas, and a notable opponent of the vaccine programme

Want to live longer? Eat chips with everything  

Some headlines are irresistible — especially when they concern food. So I was drawn in by this one in Friday’s Mail: ‘How each hot dog chomps 36 minutes from your life’.

It was based on a report by the University of Michigan, which purported to have enumerated the impact of specific foods on our prospects for a long and healthy life (or not). Of the various foods analysed, the study determined that the most inadvisable, in terms of ‘healthy life years lost’, was the hot dog — virtually the American national dish.

Apparently, each one would set the average Yank’s healthy life expectancy back by ‘36.3 minutes’.

Applying this equation to myself, I calculate that if I had consumed one hot dog per week ever since I became an adult, I would by now have chopped roughly 16 months off my ‘healthy life expectancy’.

Some headlines are irresistible — especially when they concern food. So I was drawn in by this one in Friday's Mail: 'How each hot dog chomps 36 minutes from your life'

Some headlines are irresistible — especially when they concern food. So I was drawn in by this one in Friday’s Mail: ‘How each hot dog chomps 36 minutes from your life’

Were I partial to hot dogs, I would regard that as a pretty good deal, especially if the ‘lost’ months would have been spent slurping Complan in an old people’s home.

On the other side of the gastronomic ledger, the Michigan munch analysts also listed dishes they claimed would add ‘healthy life years’. The most beneficial was (believe it or not) a ‘peanut butter and jam sandwich’. Allegedly, one of those would add ‘28.6 minutes’ to your allotted healthy span.

So the trick would be to accompany your hot dog with a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Scoffing those two together would leave you less than 8 minutes down on healthy life expectancy — if you can credit these figures.

And the best news of all? Chips, say these researchers, are a net plus — to the extent of ‘1.5 minutes’ per portion. So if I consumed 24 portions of chips with every hot dog, my healthy life expectancy would be completely unaffected.

Isn’t science wonderful?


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