I have attempted to apply the empirical method to several of the contentious issues that have been raised by Covid-19 and the Government's response to it. I have learnt that this approach tends to please few on either side of the increasing divide. My objective has been, and remains, to attempt honestly to locate where the truth lies. It is a lonely endeavour which will lose you all your friends. Hey ho. Note the stated dates. There will be further studies and data since those dates but I have not updated the analyses since those dates.
1) Literature review of the evidence for Ivermectin efficacy as a prophylactic or treatment (August'21) here. Outcome: Ivermectin has a very good level of efficacy as a prophylactic or in early treatment (63%-85% effective) and some, but poorer, efficacy in late treatment (23%-47%)
2) Literature review of the efficacy of cloth or medical/surgical masks when used by the general public (September'21) here. Of the 17 studies I found, 10 indicated no benefit against viruses whilst only 4 indicated a statistically significant benefit.
3) Literature review of the efficacy of lockdowns in preventing the spread of Covid-19 (September'21) here. I read 52 papers then ran out of enthusiasm (there are many more). Based on those 52 there were 18 which indicated lockdowns had been of some efficacy and 26 that indicated lockdowns were not efficacious (8 inconclusive). Not exactly an overwhelmingly vote of confidence in lockdowns when set aside their enormous financial cost and impact on peoples' wellbeing.
4) Review of the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines (November'21) here. Can't summarise, you'll have to read the Conclusions. It includes a Risk-Benefit analysis.
5) There have been many claims on sceptic sites that national death statistics show indications of enhanced deaths which can be related to vaccination. In the above review on vaccines, item 4, I refute two such claims. Here I refute another. The latter appeared alarming at first, as the death rate for single vaccinated people is indeed higher than for the unvaccinated. But it is not what it seems at first sight and is an object lesson in how careful one needs to be in analysing such data. Sample bias is an ever-present trap to fall into.
6) A paper in Nature Medicine in December 2021 reports an association between Covid-19 vaccines and Myocarditis, albeit very small effect size. Here I critique the paper and conclude there is an association and, if anything, it is rather larger than the paper claims, though still small.
7) A paper in JAMA Network in January 2022 reports an association between mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and Myocarditis, based on the US VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), here. The rates of Myocarditis are elevated by about x85 and 82% of those effected are male. The effect is confined to the under-40s and mostly the under 30s, the median affected age is 21. The criteria applied to meet a positive diagnosis was quite restrictive so the effect may be even larger. Moreover, VAERS reports are only a fraction of the underlying cases, so the true effect may be massively greater.
8) A paper in Studies in Applied Economics in January 2022 reported a meta-analysis of the efficacy of various non-pharmaceutical interventions, particularly lockdowns, in reducing mortality from Covid-19. "Shelter in Place Orders" were found on average to reduce morality by only 2.9% and the 95%CL bound was consistent with zero effect. Paper is here.
9) Three more very large studies have been published in the first three months of 2022. Two show excellent efficacy of Ivermectin against Covid, one based on prophylaxis and the other on mortality, respectively here and here. The third paper is of a large, ostensibly blinded RCT which shows no statistically significant efficacy against hospitalisation for early treatment, you can find it here. This muddies the waters of what was beginning to look like a clarifying picture. Howver this latter "negative" study has come in for severe criticism (49 queries or criticisms are listed here). Moreover, one of the study's senior authors (Ed Mills) is on record as stating, "There is a clear signal that Ivermectin works in COVID patients...I think if we had continued randomizing a few hundred more patients, it would have likely been significant... you will hear me retract previous statements where I had been previously negative", source here. The best overall picture of Ivermectin efficacy continues to be that presented excellently by this compilation site. I carried out a reliability assessment of this site as part of my review linked in item 1, above. It's sound. It continues to include all studies, not just those that are supportive of Ivermectin, which is crucial of course.
10) An Israeli study published February 2022 identifies that vitamin D has a strong protective effect against acquiring severe Covid-19. Patients with vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/mL) were 14 times more likely to have severe or critical disease than patients with good levels of vitamin D (≥40 ng/mL). Importantly, the serum vitamin D levels were obtained at least two weeks prior to the patient's first positive Covid test (thus avoiding the criticism that the disease had caused a lowering of vitamin D levels). The study is here.
11) My literature review of the association between the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and heart damage, i.e., both clinical and sub-clinical Myocarditis (November'22) is here. The mRNA vaccines definitely increase the incidence of clinical-level Myocarditis. Early reports concluded the rate of vaccine-induced Myocarditis was comfortably low. However, emerging evidence suggests, though not yet definitively, that everyone who has taken these vaccines will have suffered some degree of heart damage, though generally at a very low level. The effect is most marked in males aged 16 to 24. The suspicion that cases of young sportsmen collapsing during play might be related to these vaccinations is gaining credibility.
12) My own small literature review, all the way back in September 2021, indicated that cloth masks and medical/surgical masks were ineffective at reducing transmission of viruses (item 2 above). A highly authoritative meta-analysis has now been published by Cochrane Reviews (Jefferson et al, 2023), see here (or https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD006207.pub6). The study brought together the results from 78 RCTs (Randomised Controlled Trials). The authors express caution due to uncertainties but nevertheless conclude, for medical/surgical masks, that: "Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of influenza-like or Covid-19-like illness compared to not wearing masks. Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza/SARS-CoV-2 compared to not wearing masks." For N95/P2 respirators, which were supposed to be much better tham masks, the study concludes "The use of a N95/P2 respirator compared to medical/surgical masks probably makes little or no difference for the objective and more precise outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection".
If a medically ignorant bozo such as myself could work out from the existing literature that masks don't work, why could the medical authorities not do so? The answer is that they could, and did. One of the many things that has emerged from Matt Hancock's WhatsApp messages is that the senior politicians were told that masks would not work to reduce infection rates. Quoting from Isabel Oakshott: "Hancock, Whitty and Johnson knew full well that non-medical face masks do very little to prevent transmission of the virus. People were made to wear them anyway because Dominic Cummings was fixated with them; because Nicola Sturgeon liked them; and above all because they were symbolic of the public health emergency. As early as 3 February 2020 – long before anyone outside the Department of Health was taking the prospect of a pandemic seriously – ministers were told the masks make no significant difference. In April 2020, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) reiterated this advice. At the end of that month, the Sage committee said much the same thing, telling ministers that it would be unreasonable to claim a large benefit."
It is now clear, from both the medical evidence and the political revelations, that the Government had us all wearing masks knowing very well that they were ineffective. The "killing granny" narrative aimed at the non-compliant (people who, like myself, had actually researched the matter) was moral blackmail whose purpose was to ensure that public fear was maintained at a high level.
13) I have been tracking excess deaths in the UK not attributable to Covid-19 since they started to become persistently positive around May 2022. I have been conerned about whether the excess non-Covid deaths were statistically significant, i.e., whether the difference in non-Covid deaths between 2022 and the average of years 2015 to 2019 (immediately pre-Covid) is statistically significant. Towards the end of 2022 I concluded that it was and repeated the analysis in February 2023 with the same result. I have now analysed data for England and Wales to the first week in September 2023 and again have concluded that the deaths, not attributable to Covid, have been significantly in excess of expectation based on pre-Covid death rates, at the 95% confidence level, for most weeks since May 2022 and continue to be so by September 2023. Allowance for population increases has been incorporated. Details here.
14) My review of the contents and issues surrounding the new Pandemic Preparedness Treaty and the associated amendments to the International Health Regulations . Note that these were written in October 2023 while these documents were only in draft and still being negotiated and redrafted.
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