Since the arrival of the omicron variant, infection rates or positive cases have risen rapidly. Hospitalisations have also risen but it has been hard to disentangle admissions ‘with’ and admissions ‘for’ covid. However, intensive care admissions and deaths have not shown the same peak and have followed the normal winter pattern. The lack of another big winter peak in deaths this year is certainly a cause for celebration and particularly when linked to a growing confidence by the government in removing remaining restrictions. It should be noted that the hospitalisation and death trajectories have followed a normal seasonal pattern worldwide regardless of restrictions.
The mysterious part of the government messaging has been the reluctance to credit omicron, the natural history of pandemics, and quiet winters always alternating with more deadly ones, but instead to claim that any return to normal is entirely due to the vaccination campaign. At a time when government and other data were showing a lower vaccine efficacy against omicron, the call for everyone, even the low risk, to get boosted was quite confusing. Evidently the general public were also confused (or perhaps wise) as the uptake of boosters has been markedly lower for younger age groups, with less than half of under 40s receiving a third dose, see week 11 vaccine surveillance report.
Now, when this milder variant seems to be whizzing round everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, we are being told that the over 75s should book a fourth dose, which doesn’t appear to have been a resounding success in Israel, after its introduction in January 2022.
Next week, the ‘non-urgent offer’ of a covid vaccine for 5-11s begins, despite around 85% of this age group having had covid with likely strong immunity; indeed for this age group, and vaccine efficacy shown to disappear within weeks not months (down to 12% at 28-34 days in a New York study).
During the last week, we have heard Nadhim Zahawi declare that school closures had been a mistake and not to be repeated, and Chris Whitty admit that lockdowns had severe adverse consequences. We await the moment when Sajid Javid considers the harms caused by indiscriminate vaccinations.