Monday, November 07, 2022

UK: Why are excess deaths higher now than during Covid?

More people are dying every week than during Covid’s peak years. Last month there were 1,564 more deaths than average each week – known as excess deaths – compared with just 315 two years ago and 1,322 last year. In the week to 21 October (the most recent week of data) ONS figures reveal there were some 1,646 excess deaths alone. As has been reported before, excess deaths are most stark at home: with deaths in private homes nearly a third above average. Meanwhile in hospitals and care homes they’re just 15 and 10 per cent above average. The shift to dying at home, and the health service ceasing to function, continues.

What’s causing these deaths? It isn’t Covid: just 27 per cent of excess deaths in England for the most recent week have Covid as the underlying cause. Instead, problems that built up over lockdowns are being keenly felt now. A report from the British Heart Foundation, published this week, found that over 30,000 people in England have died ‘needlessly’ of heart disease since the start of the pandemic. That’s 230 deaths every week that wouldn’t have happened had we not locked down.

This is in part due to treatment delays during lockdowns. By the end of August some 346,000 people were on a cardiac waiting list in England – the highest number on record. This is expected to get even higher too: modelling suggests it could be as high as 395,000 by next April, some 224,000 more than before the pandemic. One in five of those heart patients say their health has gotten worse since the pandemic. And, as the below graph shows, over 7,000 patients have now been waiting over a year for a heart procedure. Heart and circulatory conditions account for nearly a quarter of the life expectancy gap between the rich and poorest. So any rise in excess heart deaths is likely to make things much worse.

The BHF report pointed to failures in the ambulance service too. NHS figures tracked by The Spectator data hub reveal that in September Category 2 calls – emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes – were taking 48 minutes. The target is 18 minutes. The BHF are furious: ‘there isn’t a moment to lose’, they say.

Could ambulance delays be the cause of Britain’s excess deaths then? A look at Scotland might support the theory. Recent figures suggest Scotland has lower and less consistent non-Covid excess deaths. But it locked down for longer and with harsher restrictions than the rules imposed south of the border. But look at ambulance waits and there’s much less of a problem. Comparable ambulance response times in Scotland are closer to 15 minutes. More than half those seen in England. Is that why they’re seeing less excess mortality, once Covid is removed?

Correlation is of course not causation but this nonetheless seems an important piece of the puzzle. Devolution lets us down here though. A truly direct comparison is incredibly difficult because all of the four nations categorise their statistics differently. England reports an average response time for four categories; Scotland uses colour codings and report medians rather than averages; the Welsh round to the nearest hour, and Northern Ireland haven’t bothered to update their statistics recently. We need proper UK wide data to answer a real UK wide problem.

Those on the heart disease treatment and test waiting lists are only a fraction of the potential excess deaths. They’re just the ones who at least have a diagnosis. More data reveals a huge drop in the percentage of 40-74 year olds (those most at risk) receiving health checks during the pandemic. NHS England modelling cited by the BHF suggested the drop in people having their blood pressure checked because of lockdowns could lead to an extra 11,190 heart attacks and 17,702 strokes in the next three years.

Despite increased pressure from academics, clinicians and now charities the government still displays little interest in what could be considered one of our greatest ever health crises. An investigation was promised by the then Health Secretary earlier this year but we’re onto our third government since then. An official in the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities wasn’t even aware it was something they monitored (they do) when asked earlier this week.

The communications void on the issue is becoming a problem. Senior clinicians are starting to worry that the lack of attention from the government and the health service is fuelling conspiracy theories. Dr Charles Levinson, CEO of Doctorcall, told me:

‘The silence around non-Covid excess deaths is fuelling conspiracy theories – the longer it goes on, the worse it’s getting. If the authorities don’t properly address and discuss the issue, this will only further undermine trust in public health.’

Those concerned about possible long-term effects of the vaccine are not the only ones intrigued by excess deaths. Some followers of the data have contacted me to suggest that perhaps there aren’t any excess deaths at all. There’s a worry among some that the crude averages used by the ONS do not account for an ageing population, and other demographic changes that occur over time. But the most senior figures in statistical academia refute this. Yes the ONS data is crude they say, but it’s not the only finding pointing to increased excess deaths.

The OHID use a complicated methodology for their average deaths baseline which does take population change into account. They find excess deaths in 23 out of 39 weeks this year. The institute and faculty of actuaries (who just compare deaths to their 2019 level) finds an excess of deaths too: 1,388 in the week to 21 October, slightly less than the ONS. So three separate sources, with three different methodologies, find the same thing. Excess deaths are not some ‘data glitch’.

Government has allowed this confusion to fester. Dr Levinson think’s a press conference on the topic would be useful: ‘Current levels of excess deaths are running higher than in the pandemic years. We had almost daily press conferences then – why can’t we have just one now?’

Week after week, excess deaths continue to mount. The issue is getting more attention than earlier in the year. But it’s taking independent charities and twitter sleuths to push the cause. The NHS is facing a mounting winter crisis (a waiting list already over seven million that may well reach nine) and deaths are only expected to get worse. Even small actions now might make big differences later on. Health Secretaries don’t seem to last very long at the moment. But whoever’s in post, this should surely be at the top of their red box every single day.


If GOP Retakes Congress, It Should Defund Pentagon’s Vaccine Mandate in Defense Spending Bill: Rep. Massie

A Republican lawmaker and nearly 100 colleagues are seeking to prohibit any requirement for service members to receive a vaccination against COVID-19. This measure would put an end to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s August 2021 military vaccine mandate. Nearly two dozen Republican members of Congress have joined the effort in the past three months alone.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced H.R.3860 in June 2021, over two months prior to Austin’s announcement of a mandate. He said it wasn’t a premonition, but insider information from whistleblowers that could foresee what was to come.

“Although Biden and his press secretary at the time were giving the impression that there would never be mandates, people in the military were telling me that paper was being pushed around to put the mandate in place,” Massie told The Epoch Times.

Acting on this information, he introduced the bill to specifically protect members of the military. “I never imagined that Biden would assert that he had the constitutional authority over anybody but the military,” he added.

Massie said many have asked him why his legislation is needed if there are already laws in place, like the permanent injunction granted in 2004 that brought the mandatory anthrax vaccine program to an end. With regard to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for service members, he said, “If I were a lawyer, I’d be suing the Secretary of Defense—but I’m a legislator.”

He is gravely concerned about the “false equivalency” between Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) products and those approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Service members opposing the mandate point to its wording, and argue that it only applies to vaccines that have full approval from the FDA. Therefore, the Pentagon cannot force vaccines labeled as issued under EUA, they say.

Massie agrees with many service members, opposing the Department of Defense policy (pdf) that says the Cominarty and EUA Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are interchangeable. The Pentagon is “fudging” and it’s illegal, he said.

An Act of Congress

Massie said it’s not the executive or judicial branches of government, but Congress that has the sole authority to fund the government. And according to the text of his bill, “No Federal funds may be used to require a member of the Armed Forces to receive a vaccination against COVID-19.”

If the bill were to become law, Massie said, anybody who is in violation of the law when it passes would be violating the Antideficiency Act. “It basically says it’s against the law against the law to spend money that Congress has not appropriated,” he explained.

The bill would not only end the military vaccine mandate, but would prohibit retaliation, punishment, disparate treatment, mask requirements, and forced substandard housing conditions.

The lawmaker now hopes the bill to be included, in the form of an amendment, to the final version of the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense spending bill. The House version of the NDAA was approved in June, and the Senate is set to vote of its version in November after the midterms. Any differences between the two versions will then be reconciled in conference.

In addition, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are taking it a step further, calling on Republicans to delay passage of the annual defense bill until after the new year, anticipating a Republican majority in either the House or the Senate after the midterms. A new Congress would allow the majority to “rework” the legislation, the caucus said.

And Massie doesn’t disagree. “If Republicans can be united on this,” he said, “we could surely defund the vaccine mandate in the NDAA.” According to the congressman, it would also “end all the wasted time and effort of the lawsuits and the pain and suffering that’s been brought on the military.”

With a GOP majority comes “subpoena power,” Massie added. “We can force the people who are harming our nation’s military to come and testify.” And according to Massie, “It’s really malpractice on the part of the Democrats not to be doing oversight on this issue [of the military vaccine mandate].”

Austin would be on his shortlist for questioning. “He and others would be called to task to produce the scientific data to back the mandate—but we all know, that doesn’t exist.”

“It’s past time for the entire chain of command to follow the data, to follow the science, and use some common sense,” Massie said. “Service members have lost confidence in their leadership, and this must be rectified.”

Massie said he is thankful for the “secret force” of service members behind his bill.




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