Friday, May 05, 2023

The Dangerous Illusion of Scientific Consensus

Science is the process by which we learn about the workings of material reality. Though modern innovations—built on the fruits of science—would look like magic to people living only decades ago, they result from the time-tested scientific method. Contrary perhaps to media portrayals of science, the scientific method depends not on the existence of a mythical consensus but rather on structured scientific debates. If there is a consensus, science challenges it with new hypotheses, experiments, logic, and critical thinking. Ironically, science advances because it believes it has never arrived; consensus is the hallmark of dead science.

One of us is a college student with an unpremeditated career in alternative indie journalism. The other is a professor of health policy at Stanford University School of Medicine with an M.D., a Ph.D. in economics, and decades of experience writing on infectious disease epidemiology. Despite the wealth of differences in our backgrounds and experiences, we converge on foundational scientific and ethical principles that public health authorities abandoned during the COVID pandemic. Principles like evidence-based medicine, informed consent, and the necessity of scientific debate serve as the bedrock on which the public can have confidence that science and public health work for the benefit of the people rather than regardless of it.

The illusion of scientific consensus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic led to disastrous policies, with lockdowns the primary example. It was clear even on the eve of the lockdowns in 2020 that the economic dislocation caused by them would throw tens of millions worldwide into food insecurity and deep poverty, which has indeed come to pass. It was clear that school closures—in some places lasting two years or longer—would devastate children’s life opportunities and future health and well-being wherever they were implemented. The emerging picture of catastrophic learning loss, especially among poor and minority children (with fewer resources available to replace lost schooling), means that lockdowns will fuel generational poverty and inequality in the coming decades. And the empirical evidence from places like Sweden, which did not impose draconian lockdowns or close schools and which have among the lowest rate of all-cause excess death in Europe, suggests that lockdowns failed even narrowly to protect population health during the pandemic.

The illusion of consensus around the proper use of the COVID vaccines was another major public health disaster. Public health officials everywhere touted the randomized trials on the COVID vaccines as providing complete protection against getting and spreading COVID. However, the trials themselves did not have the prevention of infection or transmission as a measured endpoint. Rather, the trials measured protection against symptomatic disease for two months after a two-dose vaccination sequence. Prevention of symptomatic infection is obviously a distinct clinical endpoint from prevention of infection or transmission for a virus that can spread asymptomatically. In the fall of 2020, Moderna chief medical officer Tal Zaks told The BMJ, “Our trial will not demonstrate prevention of transmission … because in order to do that, you have to swab people twice a week for very long periods, and that becomes operationally untenable.”

Despite these facts, public health officials botched the public health messaging surrounding the COVID vaccines. Based on an illusion of scientific consensus, public health authorities, politicians, and the media pushed vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and vaccine discrimination. Prominent officials, including Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, told the public that science had established that COVID vaccines stop transmission. CNN anchor Don Lemon advocated for “shaming” and “leaving behind” unvaccinated citizens from society. Meanwhile, neuroscientist Sam Harris—who has built a well-earned reputation of intellectual honesty and ethical integrity—openly demonized the unvaccinated male waiters at a restaurant as deranged conspiracy theorists in a 2021 episode of his podcast, Making Sense. Countries such as Italy, Greece, and Austria sought to punish their unvaccinated citizens with heavy financial penalties of up to $4,108. In Canada, the government stripped unvaccinated citizens of their rights to travel anywhere via plane or train and their ability to work at banks, law firms, hospitals, and all federally regulated industries.

The premise was that only the unvaccinated are at risk of spreading COVID. An illusion of consensus emerged that getting the shots was a required civic duty. Phrases such as “It’s not about you, it’s to protect my grandparents” became widely popularized. Ultimately, as people observed many vaccinated people around them contract and spread COVID, the public trust in these authorities collapsed. Early last month, the Biden administration extended its foreign traveler mRNA vaccine requirement to May 11th (which is now coming to an end) after the restriction was set to expire on April 11th. None of these policies ever had any scientific or public health rationale or epidemiological “consensus” to support them—and they certainly do not in 2023.

Related errors are overstating the necessity of the COVID vaccine for the young and healthy and downplaying the possibility of severe side effects, such as myocarditis which has been found mainly in young men taking the vaccine. The primary benefit of the COVID vaccine is to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death upon COVID infection. There is more than a thousand-fold difference in the mortality risk from COVID infection, with children and young & healthy people facing an extremely low risk relative to other risks in their lives. On the other hand, the mortality risk for older people from infection is considerably higher. So the maximum theoretical benefit of the vaccine is meager for young, healthy people and children, while it is potentially quite high for elderly people with multiple comorbid conditions.

Institutional public health and medicine ignored these facts in the push to vaccinate the entire population, regardless of the balance of benefits and harms from the vaccine. Public health appropriately prioritized COVID vaccines for the most vulnerable groups—the elderly, the immunocompromised, and others. Meanwhile, public health should have cautioned young and healthy people regarding the uncertainty regarding vaccine safety for a novel vaccine. For the young and healthy, the small potential benefit does not outweigh the risk, which—with the early myocarditis signals—turned out not to be theoretical in nature. A rigorous independent analysis of Pfizer and Moderna’s safety data shows that mRNA COVID vaccines are associated with a 1 in 800 adverse event rate—substantially higher than other vaccines on the market (typically in the ballpark of 1 in a million adverse event rates).

To maintain an illusion of consensus, public health authorities and media thought it necessary to suppress these facts. In June 2021, for instance, Joe Rogan stated healthy 21-year-olds do not need the vaccine. Despite his correct medical judgment which has indisputably stood the test of time, all sectors of the corporate media and social media platforms unanimously pilloried him for spreading “dangerous misinformation.”

Worse, many people who suffered from legitimate vaccine injuries were gaslighted by the media and medical personnel about the cause of their condition. One of us has devoted the past several months interviewing victims of the illusory scientific consensus that COVID vaccines are on net beneficial for every group. For example, there is a 38-year-old law enforcement officer in British Columbia who was coerced into vaccination against his conscience to keep his job. Nearly two years later, he remains disabled from vaccine-induced myocarditis and has been unable to serve his community. National data from countries in France, Sweden, Germany, Israel, and the United States shows a substantial rise in cardiac conditions among younger populations after the distribution of the COVID vaccine.

The illusion of consensus surrounding COVID vaccination—wrongly viewed in the same light as hand-washing, driving within speed limits, or staying hydrated—has led to greater political divisions and discriminatory rhetoric. The failure of the traditionally well-regarded public health agencies like the FDA and CDC—with perverse influences from pharmaceutical companies in tandem with the powerful forces of censorship on social media—has destroyed trust in public health institutions. Disillusioned with the “illusion” of consensus, a growing number of Americans and Canadians are distrustful of scientific consensus and are beginning to question all things.

The project of science calls for rigor, humility, and open discussion. The pandemic has revealed the stunning magnitude of the political and institutional capture of science. For this reason, both of us—Rav and Jay—are launching a podcast devoted to investigating the concoction of pseudo-consensus in science and its ramifications for our society.


Why all the unexpected deaths?

Late on Friday 28 April, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its Provisional Mortality update. It’s a time-honoured practice known in media circles as ‘taking out the trash’ although in this case it should probably be called ‘burying the bodies’.

Why the ABS bothers hiding the bad news is a mystery since the mainstream media’s reflex response is to avert its gaze from anything that challenges the official Covid narrative. This is understandable if inexcusable. Nobody likes to admit they were wrong. The mainstream media has spent the last two-and-a-half years repeating the government mantra that the Covid vaccines are safe and effective and still supports vaccine mandates even though it is blindingly obvious that the vaccines failed to end the pandemic, prevent people from getting ill or dying and have caused injuries and death.

This week even the Biden administration announced that it would the drop its Covid vaccine mandate from 12 May for healthcare workers in facilities certified for Medicare and Medicaid services, federal employees and contractors, and international air travellers. It is the last Western nation to ban unvaccinated visitors apart from micro nations such as Puerto Rico and Palau and bastions of liberty and science such as Pakistan, Libya and Turkmenistan.

As for the latest ABS data, it quietly reveals some deadly truths. The best that can be said of it is that mercifully there weren’t as many deaths this January as last January, although even that isn’t true for women aged less than 45. Their death rate was higher this January than last. Overall, deaths were more than 12 per cent above the baseline average. That’s a 10.5 per cent improvement on January 2022 but still 1,605 deaths more than expected and only 731 of those people died of Covid. Were these deaths part of a pandemic of the unvaccinated? Nobody has mentioned that phrase for more than a year so it seems safe to deduce that there is no evidence supporting that assertion.

What about the other 874 people who died unexpectedly in January? This is where it gets interesting. The ABS has created a whole new category called ‘other cardiac conditions’. Deaths in this group were 18.2 per cent above the baseline average in January 2023. That’s only 1.4 per cent below the number recorded in January 2022.

And what sort of deaths do you suppose were included in the new group? They look like vaccine deaths; healthy people who died suddenly and didn’t have chronic cardiovascular disease. The deaths were caused by acute myocarditis and pericarditis which are both recognised side effects of the Covid mRNA vaccines. They also include deaths caused by cardiomyopathies, cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure all of which can be caused by myocarditis – inflammation of the heart – if it is left untreated. Unfortunately, it often is left untreated because people may feel fatigue, shortness of breath or chest pain or they may feel nothing at all. Yet even when myocarditis is asymptomatic it can still cause heart failure, heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest particularly after strenuous exercise or in the early hours of the morning while sleeping. Ever since the vaccines were rolled out professional and amateur athletes have been dropping dead in disconcerting numbers as have other seemingly healthy young people. Now there is an ABS category that captures that group with heart failure the number one cause of death killing 264 people in January and cardiac arrhythmia in second place, responsible for 206 deaths.

Deaths due to dementia are more than 14 per cent above the baseline average. Deaths due to Lewy body dementia and fronto-temporal dementia have been added to the category to reduce the number of uncategorised deaths, increasing dementia deaths by 3 to 4 per cent. One explanation for the rise in dementia deaths is that the vaccine-induced spike protein can cross the blood brain barrier causing neuro-inflammation and releasing pro-inflammatory cytokines that can accelerate disease progression in Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia and fronto-temporal dementia.

Cancer deaths – the biggest single disease group in the report – are up by 4.3 per cent above the baseline average. What might explain this? Dr. Angus Dalgleish, Professor of Oncology at St George’s University of London wrote to the British Medical Journal last November reporting that he was seeing people with stable cancers rapidly progress after being forced to have a booster, usually so they could travel. He dismissed the notion put forward including by the TGA that this was simply a coincidence since the same pattern is being reported in the US and Germany as well as Australia. Rather, he hypothesised that the suppression of the innate immune system which occurs after Covid mRNA vaccination is allowing blood and lymph cancers and melanomas to progress that are normally held in check by the immune system. And that is before consideration of reports that the spike protein, produced in large quantities by the body post-vaccination can inactivate the p53 tumour suppressor protein allowing cancers normally controlled by that protein to emerge or re-emerge.

Dalgleish is calling for the vaccines to be withdrawn immediately saying the link between vaccines blood clots, myocarditis, heart attacks and strokes are now well accepted as is the link with myelitis and neuropathy which he and colleagues predicted in an article in June 2020. That may be so but governments are dragging their heels in admitting that vaccines cause so many injuries.

World-renowned British cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra will tour Australia starting on 27 May also calling for the suspension of all Covid vaccines pending a full investigation into vaccine injuries. He is supported by the Australian Medical Professionals’ Society, a non political union representing doctors who want to reclaim medical ethics and the primacy of the doctor patient relationship, many of whom are still unable to work due to vaccine mandates.

In the the US, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has appointed a committee to determine the relationship between vaccines and adverse events. It will assess causality and inform injury compensation recommendations. Unfortunately, the report won’t be published until March 2024. How many more bodies will be buried by then?




Thursday, May 04, 2023

Long COVID Hits Trans Population Highest, Blacks & Latinos Hit Worse Than Whites

It is tempting to speculate why transexuals fare so very badly. My guess is that their abnormal state stresses them out. Stress often goes with illness

A study sponsored by the United States Census Bureau suggests Blacks and Hispanic/Latinos are afflicted more than any other ethnic/racial group by long COVID-19 symptoms. This conclusion is the result of the most recent Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey (HPS), an experimental online survey representative of the U.S. adult population at both the state and national level. The survey asked about long COVID symptoms in July 2022, over two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While TrialSite continues to analyze studies finding that anywhere from 10% to 30% of persons infected with COVID-19 end up having symptoms lasting three months or longer, this most recent survey found that 31.1% of the respondents ages 18 and up experience long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms.

Long COVID afflicting women more than men

Survey respondents were asked if they had ever tested positive for or had been told by a health care provider, “They had COVID-19.” Respondents who answered “yes” were then asked if they had symptoms or that they did not have pre-COVID-19 that they still experienced at least three months later.

The U.S. Census HPS data tool allows users to explore a number of different national, state and metro area estimates, including the percentage of adults who experienced long COVID symptoms.

Who suffers Long COVID?

The U.S. Census reports that Hispanic respondents were the most likely to report long COVID symptoms and non-Hispanic Asian respondents were the least likely (Figure 1).

Though less likely than Hispanic respondents, Black respondents were more likely than White or Asian respondents to suffer long COVID.

Women were more likely than men to say they suffered long-lasting symptoms.

Persons identified as “Transgender” or “None of these” listed genders were far more likely to suffer from long COVID than those identifying as male or female.

Respondents identifying as gay/lesbian or straight were the least likely to suffer from long COVID symptoms and were not statistically different from one another.

People between ages 40 and 59 were the most likely to report long COVID symptoms, while those in the oldest age category (70 and over) were the least likely.

Does Long COVID vary by education and income?

Respondents without a high school degree were the most likely to report long COVID symptoms, while those with a college degree were the least likely (Figure 2). This suggests some socio-economic factors involved with the condition, not surprising, given the influence of the social determinants of health in America.

The U.S. Census reported on an interesting finding---those with a high school degree or less were the least likely to report having tested positive for COVID-19 while those with at least some colleges were the most likely (those with some college educations were not significantly different from those with a college degree). This could potentially be explained by the fact that young people may not get tested due to several factors.

The HPS income question is categorical, so to avoid conflating different types of households the universe was limited to two-adult/two-children’s households.

Not all estimates were significantly different but it is clear that those at the top income distribution (more than $100,000) were less likely than those at the bottom (less than $100,000) to report long COVID.

Are Long COVID sufferers worse off in other areas?
What about measures of well-being?

The recent U.S. government release shared some definitions. A person faces financial insecurity if they respond that it had been very difficult for their household to pay for usual household expenses. They are in multidimensional hardship (MHI) if they reported at least two of the following:

Mental health.Feeling down, depressed or hopeless more than half the days in the previous week.

Job insecurity. Not being employed due to illness, caring for others or losing a job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food insufficiency. Living in a household that sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat in the last 7 days.

Housing insecurity. Little or no confidence in their ability to make mortgage or rent payments the next month.

Approximately 27% of long COVID sufferers were financially insecure, compared to 18% of people who never tested positive for COVID-19, and 15% of people who did but did not have long COVID symptoms. The overall pattern was the same for each measure. Respondents with long COVID symptoms reported the highest level of hardship defined by each measure.

Respondents reporting that they never tested positive for COVID-19 actually faced higher levels of hardship than those who did test positive but reported no long-lasting symptoms.


Major US Agency to Keep COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Despite White House Announcement

A major federal agency is keeping its COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place even as most agencies are ending their vaccination requirements.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is retaining its mandate, Secretary Denis McDonough said in a message to employees reviewed by The Epoch Times.

The White House’s announcement that many mandates are ending “will not impact” the VA, McDonough said.

“To ensure the safety of veterans and our colleagues, VA health care personnel will still be required to be vaccinated at this time,” he told workers.

“As we transition to this new phase of our response to the pandemic, the vaccine (including booster shots) remains the best way to protect you, your families, your colleagues, and veterans from COVID-19.”

A VA spokesperson declined to provide any data that informed the decision to keep the mandate in place.

The VA’s website claims that vaccines “help protect you from getting severe illness” and “offer good protection against most COVID-19 variants,” pointing in part to observational data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that indicate the vaccines provide poor protection against symptomatic infection and transient shielding against hospitalization.

No clinical trial efficacy data has been made public for updated shots from Moderna and Pfizer, and none of the vaccines prevent infection or transmission.

The VA is the second largest federal agency, employing nearly 400,000 people. It was the first U.S. agency to mandate vaccination for its workers.

“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough, an appointee of President Joe Biden, said in a statement on July 26, 2021.

The mandate was later expanded to most Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees and volunteers. It covers personnel such as psychologists, pharmacists, housekeepers, social workers, volunteers, and contractors.

“Effectively, this means that any Veterans Health Administration employee, volunteer, or contractor who works in VHA facilities, visits VHA facilities, or provides direct care to those we serve will still be subject to the vaccine requirement at this time,” McDonough said on May 1.

VA employees who aren’t health care personnel aren’t covered by the mandate.

Mandates imposed by two other agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Indian Health Service, are also remaining in place while the agencies review the requirements, the Biden administration stated.

The NIH didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment, and the health service declined to provide more details.

Most of the administration’s mandates are ending on May 11, the White House stated this week. That includes mandates for federal workers and contractors imposed by Biden that were struck down by courts, a mandate for foreign travelers arriving by air, and the requirement that some foreigners arriving by land present proof of vaccination.

Biden had ruled out such requirements before taking office but later claimed that not enough people were getting vaccinated. The mandates were imposed after evidence began emerging that indicated that the protection bestowed by the vaccines waned over time, and officials have since cleared multiple booster shots in a bid to restore the flailing protection.

More than 1.13 million people in the United States have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than three years ago, including 1,052 people in the week ending April 26, according to the CDC. That was the lowest weekly death toll from the virus since March 2020.

“While I believe that these vaccine mandates had a tremendous beneficial impact, we are now at a point where we think that it makes a lot of sense to pull these requirements down,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said.

Critics decried statements from White House officials regarding the lifting of the mandates.

“They’re patting themselves on the back for unnecessarily coercing people to get a medical product they may not have wanted or stood to benefit from. It didn’t even protect others,” Dr. Tracy Hoeg, a U.S. epidemiologist, wrote on Twitter.

More than 270 million people in the United States, or about 81 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. But booster uptake has been low, and so has the receipt of vaccines among children, the last population for whom vaccines were authorized.




Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Meta-Analyses of School Closures by University of Oxford

New research out of the United Kingdom points to heightened levels of harm associated with COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures, with an emphasis on the particularly adverse impacts of the latter. Led by Professor Kamal R. Mahtani, and colleagues at University of Oxford, the findings were telling. After a systematic review, the team had their findings published in the British Medical Journal drilling into the actual positive and negative impacts of school closures. The team finds a lot of problems with school closures (mental health, learning, etc.) as well as some positive outcomes (reduce transmission, etc.). But in-school mitigation also can help. The quality of the evidence associated with the underlying systematic reviews was low to very low. The point here is that with any pandemic, evidence-based approaches should be taken, not just what public health authorities decide on a whim.

Employing use of a critical appraisal tool for systematic reviews that include both randomized and non-randomized studies involving healthcare interventions (or both) called AMSTAR 2, the UK-based researchers sought to evaluate confidence in the included systematic reviews. They also used GRADE to assess the certainty of evidence associated with the studies looking into the impacts of school lockdowns. GRADE, or “Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations,” is a transparent framework for developing and presenting summaries of evidence, thus contributing to a more systematic approach for making clinical practice recommendations.

Key study questions pursued by the Oxford-based investigators included:

(1) What is the impact of school closures on COVID-19 transmission, morbidity or mortality in the community?

(2) What is the impact of COVID-19 school closures on mental health (e.g., anxiety), physical health (e.g., obesity, domestic violence, sleep) and learning/achievement of primary and secondary pupils?

(3) What is the impact of mitigations in schools on COVID-19 transmission, morbidity or mortality in the community?

(4) What is the impact of COVID-19 mitigations in schools on mental health, physical health and learning/achievement of primary and secondary pupils?

The findings

Out of 578 reports, the team included only 26 based on the application of rigorous inclusion/exclusion criteria.

In this study, the team identified a total of 132 unique primary studies involving the effects of school closures on transmission of COVID, morbidity and mortality; 123 on learning; 164 on mental health, 22 on physical health; 16 on sleep with 7 concerning domestic violence. Finally, 69 of the individual studies focused on the effects of in-school mitigations on transmission/morbidity/mortality report the study authors.

The authors communicate in The BMJ:

“Both school closures and in-school mitigations were associated with reduced COVID-19 transmission, morbidity and mortality in the community. School closures were also associated with reduced learning, increased anxiety and increased obesity in pupils. We found no SRs that assessed potential drawbacks of in-school mitigations on pupils. The certainty of evidence according to GRADE was mostly very low.”

Overall, the Oxford academic researchers considered the whole body of evidence as weak when considered holistically. However, this doesn’t take away from numerous concerns in the form of negative effects on children involving school closures.

The study authors concluded that while school closures lead to both positive and negative impacts, the overall level of evidence confidence is mostly very low. Importantly they could not find any systematic reviews investigating the potential drawbacks of in-school mitigations on children, which should be studied.


Singapore Academic Medical Research Climate Healthier and More Open Than America: At Least When It Comes to COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines

While Singapore is known as somewhat of an authoritarian place, albeit free and relatively open for business and some labor, when it comes to an open discussion about the problem of COVID-19 vaccine injuries, its press is far more open and freer than that of the United States. Two well-known COVID-19 researchers, part of elite Singapore-based academic medical centers, bring real talk to the COVID-19 vaccine topic. They want to see highly efficacious vaccines that have less side effects—implicitly acknowledging problems with the current mRNA-based products. Delving into the risk-benefit analyses, they are free to speak their mind in Singapore, while Americans peers generally cower in economic fear. Some commonsense talks now come out of Singapore, the type that is sadly lacking in most top American academic medical/research circles.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City-State implemented “circuit breakers and lockdowns” in a bid to control the spread of the pandemic—much like other Asian nations and even Australia—they also implemented mass vaccination schemes to reduce the risk of severe symptomatic COVID, also part of the quest to transition out of the pandemic. Of course, the scale and magnitude of the mass vaccination program was but a fraction of the effort in the United States, given that over 270 million people in America received their primary series vaccination out of a population of 330 million.

Singapore, with its population at 5.5 million, through a combination of mandates and incentives, saw over 92% of the City-State’s population vaccinated against COVID-19. By the late summer of 2021, they were classified by the German press as the world’s most vaccinated place against COVID-19.

The press there have been open about two tragic deaths associated with the COVID-19 vaccines. As reported by the Singapore news outlet CNA and covered by TrialSite as well, a 43-year-old Filipino woman died just four days after vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA jab (BNT162b2), while at the end of 2021, a 28-year-old Bangladeshi man died three weeks after the first dose of the mRNA-based Moderna COVID-19 vaccine known as mRNA-1273 or Spikevax.

In a commentary from Ooi Eng Eong of Duke-NUS Medical School, and Paul Ananth from NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, they point out that:

“There is no vaccine or medication in the world without the risk of rare severe adverse events, so their use must always be guided by risk-benefit analyses.”

It’s interesting, the timing and topic of this opinion piece in the prominent Singapore multi-channel media. This isn’t the fringe, some politically charged platform, but rather the mainstream in the heart of a very orthodox and mainstream place at this point .

While both Drs Eong and Ananth remind all that a known potentially dangerous side effect associated with the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines—myocarditis, can also occur directly as a result of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the two absolutely mainstream medical research professionals remind us of all to learn from both smallpox and poliomyelitis.

With a refresher on the history of these vaccines, and a reminder that on very rare occasions risks of serious side effects can and do occur. In fact, in Singapore, the risks associated with the vaccine became unacceptably high:

“With poliomyelitis having been eliminated in most parts of the world, the risk of vaccine-associated paralysis became unacceptably high. Singapore, like many countries, has switched fully to the injected form, which is composed of killed polioviruses and has no risk of paralysis.”

Overall, the Singapore-based academic medical researchers are pleased with the COVID-19 vaccination outcomes, but they believe more can be done to make these and other vaccines even safer.

Arguing that unfortunately, COVID-19 won’t be the least pandemic likely in the next decades, they point out that “in just the first 23 years of the 21st century, the world has witnessed nine major outbreaks that spread rapidly across national borders.” So obviously, they point out, “For public health authorities, the next pandemic is not a question of “if” but “when.”

What’s recommended?
While Ooi Eng Eong and Paul Ananth don’t go too far in the critique—this wouldn’t be publishable—they do hint that perhaps, the COVID-19 vaccines were expedited a bit too fast. For example, the two note, “For any vaccine to be licensed, including the COVID-19 vaccines developed in record time, it will have to be tested in preclinical animal models as well as tens of thousands of human volunteers for safety and efficacy.”

Importantly, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines included some limited animal research and Phase 3 trials with 30,000+ participants.

TrialSite has access to numerous data, documents and testimony that these studies were overly rushed, with glaring problems that were covered up. Accessing some of the documentation in the Brook Jackson lawsuit (now dismissed), it’s clear that one major investigator site network’s quality track record was unacceptable, and in normal times this alone would have paused the clinical trial.

Other findings from the disclosed Pfizer regulatory documentation (See Sonia Elijah articles) or how the company cut some corners not conducting any controlled IND-enabling preclinical studies are further glaring examples that the compressed research during the pandemic was far from optimal.

Both Eong and Ananth know this, but of course, cannot articulate such points in mainstream media or for that matter, in their respected academic medical departments.

But they both do emphasize the importance of safety for any licensed medicinal products, including vaccines, noting that “Vaccines that produce side effects that are not well tolerated will fail clinical development and will not be marketed.” They continued pointing to the current situation with Pfizer and Moderna:

“However, despite clinical trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers, rare side effects that occur in the region of 1 in 100,000 vaccinations or less will likely be missed for simple statistical reasons.”

Yet they pair point out that clinical trials programs needing hundreds of thousands of volunteers just would not be viable.

Instead, the two Singapore-based COVID-19 experts point out that the key is to better understand what’s causing vaccine side effects. Why? “So that we can reduce them while maintaining the benefits of vaccination.”

Critically important, Eong and Ananth point out the logic that seemed so apparent in America—that “side effects do not indicate and are not required for good immunity, contrary to some popular views.”

Their point is that according to their research, “Vaccinated individuals who experience side effects do not develop better or higher levels of protection against COVID-19 than those who do not.”

Those healthy clinical trials volunteers with a healthier immune system during vaccination would be more likely to experience mild COVID-19 after mRNA vaccination. Yet an “Over-activation of a specific gene and low-level chronic inflammation contributed to the development of cardiac complication after booster COVID-19 mRNA vaccination,” the authors report in their research published in Cell Press journal.

They point to the need for the development of a “a detailed map of the molecular processes that lead to side effects and rare severe adverse events will lay the foundation for the development of safer vaccines, including potentially for the next emerging infectious disease.”

With ongoing research, the authors point out in their CNA editorial what are the next steps to both building protection via vaccination, while improving pandemic control hopefully done in a more responsible way.

Some common sense talks out of Singapore, the type that is sadly lacking in most top American academic medical/research circles.




Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Texas Attorney General to Investigate Whether COVID-19 Vaccine Makers Misled Public

The highest-ranking prosecutor in Texas is launching an investigation into whether the three top COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have misled the public.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is probing whether Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson misrepresented the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccines, the Republican announced on May 1.

The companies may have violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Paxton said. That state law bars people from disseminating a statement that they know “materially misrepresents the cost or character of tangible personal property, a security, service, or anything he may offer” for the purpose of selling a product or service.

It also prohibits representing that goods are “of a particular standard, quality, or grade … if they are of another.”

Most of the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the United States have been manufactured by Moderna or Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, according to federal data. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has been the third most popular in the country. No other vaccines were available until 2022.

Also at issue is whether the companies engaged in research to make a virus or pathogen more dangerous by increasing its transmissibility or pathogenicity and misleading the public about doing so.

Paxton sent civil investigative materials to all three companies that demand the production of documents and information within 30 days, including whistleblower reports and concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccine trials.

The materials also demand documents showing the rates of side effects for each vaccine and when the companies became aware of “unexpected or additional adverse events, side effects, injuries and/or deaths” related to their COVID-19 vaccines.

The companies also were told to hand over documents showing all investigations that were opened by federal, state, county, and local agencies, including law enforcement officials, related to representations made about the safety and effectiveness of the shows.

“The development of the Covid-19 vaccine, and the representations made by and knowledge of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, are of profound interest to the public’s health and welfare. This investigation aims to discover the truth,” Paxton said in a statement.

“This pandemic was a deeply challenging time for Americans. If any company illegally took advantage of consumers during this period or compromised people’s safety to increase their profits, they will be held responsible. If public health policy was developed on the basis of flawed or misleading research, the public must know. The catastrophic effects of the pandemic and subsequent interventions forced on our country and citizens deserve intense scrutiny, and we are pursuing any hint of wrongdoing to the fullest.”

While the manufacturers are largely shielded from lawsuits because of the Trump administration’s Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act in 2020, there’s an exception for actions or failures to act that constitute “willful misconduct.” That’s an act or omission that’s taken “intentionally to achieve a wrongful purpose,” “knowingly without legal or factual justification,” and “in disregard of a known or obvious risk that is so great as to make it highly probable that the harm will outweigh the benefit.”

While being recorded without his knowledge, a senior Pfizer employee said in video footage released in January that Pfizer was aiming to “preemptively develop new vaccines” by mutating COVID-19.

“If we’re going to do that though, there’s a risk of like, as you could imagine—no one wants to be having a pharma company mutating [expletive] viruses,” Dr. Jordon Walker, a director of research and development at Pfizer, told nonprofit Project Veritas.

He said scientists at Pfizer were “optimizing” a process to mutate COVID-19 but were going slow “because everyone is very cautious.”

Pfizer later acknowledged that it had been conducting experiments that involved using the original COVID-19 virus “to express the spike protein from new variants of concern.”

“This work is undertaken once a new variant of concern has been identified by public health authorities,” the company stated. “This research provides a way for us to rapidly assess the ability of an existing vaccine to induce antibodies that neutralize a newly identified variant of concern. We then make this data available through peer reviewed scientific journals and use it as one of the steps to determine whether a vaccine update is required.”

Dr. Robert Malone, who helped develop the messenger RNA technology on which Pfizer’s vaccine is based, said that the experiments Pfizer described met the definition of gain of function.

“What they’re describing is almost identical to what was apparently done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology”—the laboratory from which some experts believe that COVID-19 escaped—Malone told NTD.

The Chinese laboratory was conducting risky experiments on mice, U.S. authorities have said, and is located in the same city where the first COVID-19 cases were detected.

Walker used the term “directed evolution” while speaking to Project Veritas, which Malone said is so similar to gain of function as to be irrelevant.

Paxton’s civil demand requests all communications and documents related to Pfizer engaging in either gain of function or directed evolution “in the study, analysis, trials, or preparation of the COVID-19 vaccine.” The same demand was made to Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.


CDC Eases COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Foreign Travelers

A single dose of the most widely utilized COVID-19 vaccines is sufficient for international travelers to meet the requirements to enter the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an update.

Foreign travelers who receive a single dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines meet the requirements, according to the CDC.

“Because some traveler vaccine records might not specify whether recent Moderna or Pfizer doses received were bivalent, CDC will consider anybody with a record of a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine issued on or after August 16, 2022, to meet the requirements of the Amended Order to board a plane to the United States,” the CDC website reads.

The bivalent vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer were first introduced in the United States as boosters in the fall of 2022. They’re now available as a one-dose primary series for most Americans, replacing the old vaccines. The CDC does recommend that some people get an updated shot as a booster even if they already received one, despite fleeting protection against hospitalization and poor shielding against infection.

The United States has required noncitizen nonimmigrants to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination since 2021, under a proclamation issued by President Joe Biden. Exceptions are given for certain reasons. No religious exceptions are accepted.

The vaccination requirements state that a traveler arriving by air must be fully vaccinated, defined as two weeks after receiving a dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine or the second dose of an accepted two-dose series.

The CDC previously required two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines to meet the requirements. A single dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines is now acceptable, alongside a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, available in the United States and elsewhere, or a single dose of the Convidecia vaccine, which isn’t available in the United States.

Two-dose vaccines include Novavax’s vaccine, available in the United States; AstraZeneca’s vaccine, available in Europe and some other countries; and Sinopharm, a Chinese vaccine. People who received a two-dose series of the old Moderna or Pfizer vaccines can still travel to the United States.

To present proof of vaccination, a person must show a digital or paper record such as a vaccination certificate from the European Union.

The United States is one of a small number of nations that still require proof of vaccination to enter the country.

It’s not clear whether the foreigner vaccination requirements will remain in place beyond May 11, when the U.S. public health emergency over COVID-19 is set to expire. The COVID-19 national emergency was already rescinded after Biden signed legislation that was approved by Congress.


Washington Post Editorial Points to Covid Vaccine’s Disruption of Women’s Menstrual Cycle

In a recent editorial in the Washington Post, Kate Clancy, a biological anthropologist and professor at the University of Illinois, wrote about how after she received her first dose of the Covid vaccine she got her period and the bleeding was so heavy she “was swapping out overnight-strength pads every hour.”

Clancy tweeted out her experience and expected a response of only about 500 people. Instead, she heard from 165,000. The responses spoke volumes. After the vaccinations women had changes in their periods. “Changes in menstruation were uncomfortable and often painful, people reported. Strangers described bleeding through their clothes at work.

Postmenopausal people were terrified they had cancer.” What seemed to surprise Clancy the most was the response of the medical community. “It is medical scientists’ duty to predict, look for and, if found, disclose side effects — and here is where I believe some in the medical community fell short.” In fact, Clancy cites medical authorities who claim excessive bleeding after Covid vaccination was a result of ‘pandemic stress”. Dr. Melissa Viray, Deputy Director for the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts doesn’t believe there’s a physiologic link between the vaccine and a woman's menstrual cycle, and would not classify it as a side effect of the Covid vaccine. “That’s just not how these vaccines work -- so I’d be very surprised," said Dr. Viray.

However, Viray did concede the Covid vaccine puts stress on the body. "Any time you put a stressor on the body, there are definitely -- there are definite changes that occur," Dr. Viray said. "...I could see where it might have, it might influence menstrual cycles in a little way, but just in the way that any stressor or any change to the environment for some individuals can change their menstrual cycles."

Medical Community “Fell Short”

According to Clancy, there is no question the vaccine saved lives. TrialSite has concurred with this point of view, although the products first rapidly authorized after less than a year of clinical development did come with rare side effects that may not seem so rare given that over 270 million people in America alone received the primary vaccination dose.

Clancy points out “clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccines did not ask questions about menstruation beyond inquiring about date of last menstrual period at the start of the study, to ensure participants were not pregnant. A participant in one of the trials emailed me to say it took two tries to persuade her trial site to include anything in her chart about her menstrual changes — the first time, they refused on the grounds that she was probably just perimenopausal.” In September of last year the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released an article about a study which confirmed a link between the Covid-19 vaccination and an increase in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

However, the NIH report claimed the increase in length, post Covid vaccine, was temporary. The study didn’t answer all the questions women had about the corona vaccine and the connections to women’s periods. Specifically, that the vaccine can make a woman’s period worse. But Clancy raises a bigger problem.

‘Menstrual changes matter to millions of people, and pharmaceutical companies, medical professionals and politicians need to invest in research and provide incentives for redesigning research so that it accommodates menstruation. Medical treatments and vaccine trials — for coronavirus and other maladies — will continue to disserve those bodily systems about which they ask no questions. We deserve better than to be surprised when a new treatment makes us bleed on our office chair.”




Monday, May 01, 2023

US Officials Reject Compensation for People Diagnosed With COVID-19 Vaccine Injuries

U.S. authorities rejected multiple people who sought compensation for COVID-19 vaccine injuries, despite diagnoses from doctors, documents show.

Letters from U.S. officials reviewed by The Epoch Times show officials contradicting doctors who treated patients as they turned down requests for payment.

Cody Flint, an agricultural pilot, was diagnosed by four doctors with a severe adverse reaction to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Shortly after being vaccinated, Flint experienced intense head pressure, which led to problems such as perilymphatic fistula, the doctors said.

Flint sent a slew of medical files, including evidence of the diagnoses, to the U.S. Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), which compensates people who prove they were injured by a COVID-19 shot.

But administrators for the program rejected Flint’s application in a denial letter, saying they “did not find the requisite evidence that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination caused” the conditions from which he suffers.

Flint, in his 30s, felt his first symptoms within an hour of vaccination. An onslaught of severe symptoms followed while he was flying two days later.

“One second I went from having burning in the back of my neck and tunnel vision to the very next second I was slumped over in my airplane. The best way I know to describe it, it was like a bomb went off inside my head,” Flint said.

CICP administrators told him that “compelling, reliable and valid medical and scientific evidence does not support a causal association between the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, perilymphatic fistulas, increased intracranial pressure, Eustachian tube dysfunction, hearing loss, or loss of eyesight.”

They also tried to pin the problems on barotrauma. Colloquially known as airplane ear, barotrauma happens when air pressure suddenly changes, and is common as planes climb higher in the sky. Barotrauma causes the fistulas and symptoms of the fistulas “began while flying,” administrators wrote.

Flint and his doctors asserted in appeal letters that the barotrauma theory doesn’t hold up because Flint flies low as he dusts crops. Flint’s condition is “not from barotrauma,” Flint’s doctors told the CICP. “As an agricultural pilot, he does not fly more than a couple of hundred feet off the ground which is not of a magnitude to where he is at risk for barotrauma.”

“Elevated intracranial pressure has been recognized as a complication of COVID vaccination, and given the sequence of events, more probable than not, it is the cause of Mr. Flint’s elevated intracranial pressure, which had been documented on lumbar puncture,” they added. “The elevated intracranial pressure led to his perilymphatic fistula. Elevated intracranial pressure is a cause for perilymphatic fistula and more probable.”

The CICP determination was reviewed by a panel that sided with administrators. The panel found that the COVID-19 vaccine “did not cause Mr. Flint to develop bilateral perlympathic fistulas and related symptoms,” Suma Nair, an administrator, told Flint in a final denial letter. “There is no compelling causal connection between the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the symptomology Mr. Flint experienced; the more likely cause of Mr. Flint’s symptoms is trauma from flying a plane, which would have developed over time.”

Administrators cited no studies or other evidence in their letters.

Flint said that the determination was wrong, pointing to a number of papers detailing post-vaccination intracranial and other neurological issues. He also noted a study that said intracranial pressure can cause perilymphatic fistulas.

Nair also said the panel concluded: “given the timeline of symptoms, it was not plausible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to have caused the otologic and vestibular issues experienced by Mr. Flint.”

“It’s just all comical to me,” Flint told The Epoch Times. “I get the shot, I’m injured within 48 hours, and they say that that makes it implausible.”

Difficulty Getting Compensation

The case highlights how people who experienced problems after vaccination have struggled to get money from the federal government, even when doctors diagnose vaccine injuries.

Flint is one of 76 people who were rejected as of April 1 because administrators determined they did not “show that a covered serious physical injury was sustained as the direct result of the administration” of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The CICP may only make such determinations based on compelling, reliable, valid, medical and scientific evidence,” the program says.

More than 8,100 applications, as of April 1, have been submitted to the CICP for compensation for a COVID-19 vaccine-induced injury or death. Three hundred and sixty-two in total have been turned down. Just 23 have been accepted. All but two are for a type of heart inflammation called myocarditis or a related condition known as pericarditis, both of which U.S. authorities say are caused by COVID-19 vaccination.

Documents on the denials and acceptances have been largely withheld from the public. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, successful in unearthing information about COVID-19 vaccine safety, have yielded few documents. Administrators located 652 records in response to one request seeking all claims and associated documents. They only released 52 heavily redacted documents, citing exceptions to FOIA. A similar request returned a single page that wasn’t already public.

COVID-19 vaccine injuries fall under the CICP, a little-used program before the pandemic that was created by Congress in a 2005 bill, because of a Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration entered during the Trump administration that has not yet been rescinded.

Most administered vaccines in the United States fall under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, enabling people with alleged or actual injuries to take their cases to federal judges in a no-fault system that paid out $4.8 billion between 1988 and 2022.

Decisions on CICP petitions, in contrast, are decided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)—the same agency that operates the program.

That “potentially creates a conflict of interest,” researchers wrote in a 2022 paper, advising Congress to initiate major reforms by either relocating the program or allowing judicial review of determinations.

Some members, including Sens. Cindy-Hyde Smith (R-Miss.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have expressed interest in reform but no bills have gained traction yet in the divided Congress.

People who apply to the CICP are only eligible for money for unreimbursed medical expenses and lost pay. Survivors of people who die can get death benefits. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program covers past and future healthcare costs, pain and suffering, lost earnings, and legal fees.

The CICP has paid just $6 million to date, including under $5,000 total to the only three people who were injured by COVID-19 vaccines and have been compensated.

‘All These People Are Going to Get Denied’

Dr. Joel Wallskog was one of the first people to receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. He got a shot on Dec. 30, 2020. Within days, he experienced symptoms including a loss of balance, headaches, and leg weakness.

“I was completely healthy, very active,” Wallskog, 53, told The Epoch Times. “Now I take 20 medicines.”

Wallskog was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, or spinal cord inflammation. At least two doctors have concluded the injury was caused by the vaccine, records show.

Wallskog transmitted medical records and supplementary documents, such as a study from National Institutes of Health researchers that discussed reports of neuropathic symptoms following COVID-19 vaccination. The same researchers diagnosed multiple people with vaccine injuries.

CICP administrators rejected Wallskog’s petition.

“The current medical and scientific evidence does not show a causal link between the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and transverse myelitis, other neuro-inflammatory disorders, myelopathy, or thrombotic disorders, including spinal cord infarction,” Dr. George Reed Grimes, director of the HRSA’s Division of Injury Compensation Programs, wrote in the denial letter.

“Furthermore, there is no evidence that your symptoms of lower extremity numbness and tingling with neck flexion, and chronic thoracic pain with weakness and numbness in your legs, is caused by the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine,” he added.

Administrators did not note the doctors’ diagnoses or cite any studies.

One doctor had written in office notes that Wallskog suffered a “significant reaction from Moderna COVID vaccination.”

Wallskog disputed the determination, writing in an appeal that “an exhaustive work-up revealed no other cause of my symptoms besides my Moderna shot.”

An appeal, or request for reconsideration, sends the determination to “a qualified panel, independent of the program,” according to federal law. The panel reviews the determination and sends its recommendation back to the program, which makes the final determination.

Twenty-eight studies have documented transverse myelitis following COVID-19 vaccination, a systematic review published in October 2022 found. Those include case reports of transverse myelitis after a Moderna shot. Researchers said the exact mechanisms for vaccine-induced transverse myelitis remain unclear but posited genetic factors play a role.

Wallskog said that as of now, only people who suffer a narrow set of injuries can expect to be compensated by the U.S. government.

“Many people have this false sense that the CICP is going to be their answer, and it’s not,” he said. “All these people are going to get denied unless they have myocarditis, anaphylaxis, or certain blood clotting conditions.”

Vaccine manufacturers are not liable for injuries due to laws like the PREP Act. That leaves people with few options when they’re injured.

Wallskog helped found a group called React19, which describes itself as a “science-based non-profit offering financial, physical, and emotional support for those suffering from long-term COVID-19 vaccine adverse events.”

Drawing from a pool of donated money, the group has so far paid $556,652 to the vaccine injured, with 81 people receiving compensation.

Applicants must provide a medical note or consultation documenting symptoms and signs they’re related to vaccination.

Group officials, including Wallskog, review each application and make a determination during weekly board meetings. They give out grants of up to $10,000.

The donations come from what the group describes as a care fund.

“Unfortunately, the care fund is on hold right now because we’re low on money,” Wallskog said. “I always say we wish we had more money but at the same point we’re doing with React what our healthcare organizations and our federal agencies should be doing.”

The program could help people like Angie Bluford, who did not apply to the CICP because of the one-year deadline. Bluford wasn’t diagnosed with a vaccine injury until 18 months after getting a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination.

React19 is also advocating for reform of the CICP or moving injury claims from the CICP to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, widely considered the superior option. That would require adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the routine immunization schedule, which has already been done; adding vaccines to the vaccine injury table, and congressional approval of an excise tax. Coverage under the national program should be retroactive, React19 says.

It’s taken more than a year for some injured people to get a determination. There were still 7,771 applications pending as of April 1.

One was sent in by Steve Wenger, a project manager whose COVID-19 vaccination caused Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that damages the immune system.

Wenger, who got vaccinated to avoid losing his job, submitted his application in March 2022. He didn’t receive confirmation until July 2022. He’s still waiting for the outcome.

“The CICP cannot estimate when the medical review will begin or how long it may take to complete,” administrators told him in a letter.

“It’s a waiting game,” Wenger told The Epoch Times. “To be honest, I’m waiting on my rejection letter, because that’s what I’m expecting.”

Wenger’s pessimism stems from the high rejection rate and the fact no claims for Guillain-Barre syndrome have been approved despite U.S. authorities acknowledging the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine causes the disorder.

Wenger has been dealing with large medical bills, including thousands of dollars for biweekly treatments with intravenous immunoglobulin, one of the few drugs that have helped those with lingering injuries from the vaccines. Even if CICP approves Wenger’s petition, the money likely wouldn’t last long.

“I’ve read stories that medical debt has just absolutely destroyed people, financially buried them,” Wenger said. “I never envisioned myself being one of those people. But you know, here I am.”




Sunday, April 30, 2023

Has India already beaten the super-infectious new Covid variant?

India may have already beaten the Arcturus wave, according to data that destroys fears surrounding the super-infectious Covid variant.

A huge explosion in cases across the country over the past month left hospitals braced for a surge of infected patients. Some of the worst-affected states even brought back mandatory face masks out of precaution. It sparked concerns that Britain could be hit by a similar fate.

Yet India's once-spiralling curve may have petered out before it ever had a chance to overwhelm the nation. Cases now appear to be in decline, experts on the ground have claimed.

Paediatrician Dr Vipin Vashishtha, based in the north of the country, who was one of the first to raise the alarm about Arcturus when he warned it may trigger conjunctivitis in kids, said data suggests the resurgence has already 'peaked'.

Prominent Covid experts today told MailOnline the U-turn in cases was proof that concerns over XBB.1.16, as it is scientifically known, were overblown.

They also insist there's no proof the strain is any more severe than others circulating.

Professor Robert Dingwall, who advised the Government on the virus during the pandemic, also told MailOnline: 'We have to stop jumping at every new Covid variant that comes along unless there is solid evidence that we have poor immunity to it. 'We need to be treating Covid like any other influenza-like illness.'

Despite Covid cases having spiked in recent weeks, hospitals are not yet seeing huge crowds. Most patients in New Delhi — which was the epicenter during previous peaks — are elderly or battling underlying conditions.

Fearing a repeat of last year's carnage, hospitals around India conducted drills to check Covid readiness in the face of spiralling Arcturus figures.

More than 30,000 hospitals across India took part in the Covid mock drill, which involved checking availability of beds, ventilators and oxygen cylinders in the event they were overwhelmed.

In an anticipation of chaos, many provincial governments have made masks mandatory again. That includes in Mumbai, where all patients, visitors and employees at hospitals must don coverings.

Professor Francois Balloux, a vocal Covid commentator throughout the pandemic, from University College London, also told MailOnline he was 'not worried' about the variant.

'I don’t think anyone should be panicking over it, wherever they may live in the world,' he said.

'As long as we’re facing related Omicron variant lineages, replacing each other over time, we should be fine, whatever fancy name they may be given. Summer is coming. 'There’s no ugly variant raising its head and Covid should rank low among peoples’ concerns right now.

'As long as the Omicron lineage predominates - whatever variant - there will be cases, but no big nasty wave.

'If and when, the World Health Organization (WHO) decides that an emerging SARS-CoV-2 lineage should be given a new Greek letter name, things will become more serious.'

He added: 'That said, we’ll never be back to early pandemic ‘square one’, as protection against severe symptoms and deaths, provided by vaccination and prior infections will remain, long-term, whatever variant SARS-CoV-2 may throw at us in the future.'

The strain, which was first identified by the WHO in January, saw cases in India explode 90-fold within weeks.

India was logging over 10,500 Covid cases earlier this week, according to Oxford University-run platform Our World in Data.

This is up from the 160 in late February, when the variant began to gather pace. But as of April 28, this had dropped to 10,100.

Data also suggested Arcturus it made up two thirds of all cases in the country.

Dr Vipin Vashishtha, consultant paediatrician at the Mangla Hospital and Research Centre, and former official at the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, also tweeted: 'Is the peak of Indian Covid surge led by XBB.1.16 Arcturus already over? Yes the data suggests so.'

He added: 'The outbreak probably peaked around week 13/14. Therefore it's slowing down.'

India's drills and masks were a grim reminder of how the country was devastated by the Delta wave in 2021, with a total of 4.7million excess deaths, according to WHO estimates.

The nation's health system was overwhelmed by a surge of cases triggered by that Covid variant, with some hospitals even running out of oxygen.

Nowadays the illness caused by the Covid more closely resembles that of the flu, unlike during the earliest days of the pandemic.

But XBB.1.16 does have three extra mutations on its spike protein, which may help it dodge the body's natural defences.

And doctors on the front line in India have also claimed they've seen a rise in infected children with conjunctivitis, suggesting Arcturus may be causing different symptoms to other variants.

A study published on Friday also revealed the variant has been shown to increase the risk of the eye condition among children under one-year-old.

Led by Dr Vashishtha, the research found young infants were disproportionately affected than older children.

'One interesting finding was the presence of itchy, non-purulent conjunctivitis with mucoid discharge and stickiness of eyelids in 42.8 per cent of positive infants,' Dr Vipin, who also sits on the WHO's vaccine safety net, said.

The study of 25 children seen between April 4 and April 16 found the youngest case was a 13-year-old newborn baby.

But none of the children required hospitalisation.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases from the University of East Anglia, also told MailOnline today: 'Covid has previously been reported as causing conjunctivitis even back in 2020.

'Also many other respiratory viruses, especially adenoviruses, can cause conjunctivitis so not that surprising. Most cases of viral conjunctivitis are mild and recover of their own.

'The issue is excluding another cause of the conjunctivitis that has to be treated more aggressively.'

He also warned that while infections 'may have peaked in the last few days in India', it remains 'too early to be confident that this a not a temporary glitch'.

He added: 'I prefer more than just three days of falling numbers before I am content it is a trend.

'It is possible that the proportion of infections that are due to XBB.1.16 has also started falling but again it's too early for me to be confident. 'It looks like the percentage is falling but the confidence intervals are very wide.'

Scientists at the University of Tokyo comparing the Kraken and Arcturus sub-variants have suggested that the newer strain spreads about 1.17 to 1.27 times more efficiently than its relative.

They warned it 'will spread worldwide in the near future' aided by the fact that it seems 'robustly resistant' to antibodies lingering in the body from previous Covid infections.

In a briefing on April 20, the WHO confirmed XBB.1.16 'may spread globally and contribute to an increase' in cases.

The strain, while identified in January, has been monitored by the WHO since the end of March.

It has now been seen in 42 countries, including the US, Singapore, Australia, and Canada.

Other Omicron sub-variants include Kraken (XBB.1.5) and Orthrus (CH.1.1).

Currently Kraken remains dominant in the UK, causing 44 per cent of all cases, while Omicron accounts for 8 per cent.

Like similar new Covid variants, virus trackers online decided to call XBB.1.16 'Arcturus' following a pattern of naming new strains after mythological entities.


Judge Rules Chicago Must Reinstate Employees Fired Over Vaccine Mandate, Rescind Requirement

A state administrative law judge ruled on Wednesday that Chicago must reinstate city employees who were fired for refusing to comply with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and rescind the requirement.

The decision came in a case before the Illinois Labor Relations Board, involving over 20 unions representing city employees, which filed an unfair labor practices charge with the state panel after Lightfoot imposed the policy in the fall of 2021.

A separate but similar case involving the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 7, the city’s largest police union, remains pending.

In a 78-page decision in combined cases brought by the Coalition of Unionized Public Employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, Administrative Law Judge Anna Hamburg-Gal found that although the city had the right to implement a vaccine requirement for its employees, it was obligated to negotiate with the union over the effects of that policy.

The judge ruled that the city should have negotiated with the unions over the consequences of the policy, such as placing non-compliant employees on “no-pay status” and later terminating their employment.

Hamburg-Gal wrote that docking pay “is not an inevitable consequence of the vaccine mandate or reporting requirement because no-pay status is not the sole means by which the (city) could have enforced its policy.”

The city also unilaterally changed the status quo in August 2021 when it began terminating employees who had not complied with the policy, choosing “to pursue a far harsher approach than it had taken before against violators of its vaccination policy.”

The judge ordered the city to reinstate the affected employees, with their personnel records expunged, and to compensate workers for any lost pay or benefits that resulted, with 7% interest.

The unions should be allowed to negotiate to keep any parts of the policy they like, the judge said.

A spokesperson for AFSCME Council 31 applauded the ruling as a “strong decision (that) will bolster workers’ rights going forward.”

Anders Lindall, AFSCME spokesman, stated, “The ruling affirms that when an employer contemplates significant changes to terms of employment, it has a duty to bargain in good faith with the union. In this case, the city did not do that.”

This deadline falls just days after Lori Lightfoot will leave office and far left Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson will take over.

While the FOP’s matter is still pending and tied up in court, the police union’s president, John Catanzara, celebrated the decision as “a great day for labor in Chicago and the state of Illinois.”