It is a sad fact of life that gods are fickle creatures who won’t lift a finger to help unless you massage their ego. This principle applies every bit as much to metaphorical deities as it does to the literal type of mankind’s creation. Take, for example, the gods of authoritative wisdom. Yes, they will look after you and protect you from those nasty free-thinkers, but only if you offer up a sacrifice every now and then to sustain their sense of omniscience. Sometimes the sacrificial lamb will proffer itself willingly, whilst on other occasions it has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the alter. In the case of Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, a strong argument can be made for him falling into the former category, since it is difficult to see how he could have expected anything other than a swift demise after tweeting the following as an observation on vaccine safety:

As one consultant cardiologist said to me this is the biggest crime against humanity since the holocaust.

The tweet has since been deleted, but not until after Andrew had already been suspended as a Conservative party MP. A formal enquiry is now to be held and I am anticipating it to be a blood fest, guaranteed to satiate the lust of even the most enthusiastic enforcers of the collective will. It is highly unlikely that Andrew will be welcomed back into the fold once his vital organs have been strewn across the temple floor.

I won’t waste time detailing the howls of ‘burn the witch’ that have already accompanied Andrew’s public disempowerment; the Guardian, high priestess of all that is sanctimonious, has already done a splendid job for me. Suffice to say that the reference to the Holocaust did not go unnoticed amongst the Jewish community, and a lot of offence was thereby appropriated.

However, it wasn’t just his use of the ‘H’ word that put a bullseye on Andrew’s back. In fact, his tin ear to the sensitivities of a culturally traumatized race of people wasn’t really why he was singled out as a suitable sacrifice unto the gods of authoritative wisdom. For this, he had to stand accused of disseminating ‘misinformation about the vaccine that causes harm and costs lives’ – something, it has to be said, that he has been accused of doing for some time now. So what exactly was it that he disseminated this time that caused the gods to become so angry that an emergency sacrifice was called for? What had he done to cross the line? Why is hanging now too good for him? Well, I am about to tell you, and I promise you that you will be shocked. I know I certainly was.

The ‘misinformation’ that had provoked Andrew into holding forth on the subject of crime and mass casualty was contained in an article posted on a website called Zerohedge.com (sneeringly referred to as a ‘conspiracy theory website’ by the Guardian). The article (posted under the title ‘CDC Finally Releases VAERS Safety Monitoring Analyses For COVID Vaccines’) was written by a certain Professor Joshua Guetzkow, senior lecturer in criminology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The ‘Finally Releases’ is an allusion to the fact that somebody called Zachary Stieber at the Epoch Times had need to resort to a Freedom of Information request to finally get the USA’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release the results of its Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), used for the safety signal monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines.1 The reason why Professor Guetzkow would be so interested in the suppression of such information is because he and his academic colleagues had been undertaking extensive and detailed research into the censorship and suppression tactics used on behalf of the gods of authoritative COVID-19 wisdom.2 What made the situation even more worrying was just how alarming the VAERS data turned out to be.

You can read the Guetzkow article for yourself, so I will not go into detail. The gist of it is that the CDC’s own analysis clearly points to there being several areas of concern regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the USA (specifically Moderna and Pfizer). Such concerns are referred to as ‘Yellow Flags’ and they are raised when the alarm signal for a given side effect is strong (indicated by the proportional reporting ratio (PRR) being equal or greater than 2) and has statistical significance (indicated by a chi-square in excess of 4). The CDC’s analysis was broken down by age group, and every group contained an alarmingly large number of Yellow Flags, particularly with regard to cardiac conditions.

Guetzkow is an expert in criminology but not statistical analysis, and so he sought the assistance of a world-renowned statistician to help him understand the implications of the CDC results. In fact, being a criminologist, it was natural for him to approach a statistician who already had many years serving as an expert witness advising courts on the correct statistical interpretation of forensic data. So he called upon Norman Fenton, Emeritus Professor of Risk at Queen Mary London University.3 Professor Fenton puts it thus:

[F]rom a Bayesian perspective, the probability that the true rate of the AE of the COVID-19 vaccines is not higher than that of the non-COVID-19 vaccines is essentially zero…. The onus is on the regulators to come up with some other causal explanation for this difference if they wish to claim that the probability a COVID vaccine AE results in death is not significantly higher than that of other [non-COVID] vaccines.

In case you didn’t get that, I’ll paraphrase. The data says that there is an essentially zero probability that the emergency-approved COVID-19 vaccines have proven as safe in the field as the average, properly tested vaccine. That’s what the CDC’s own data is implying. And that is what a world-renowned expert on the forensic analysis of such data is inferring. Unless, of course, there is an alternative explanation as yet to be offered by the regulators.4

We live in a funny old screwed up world, do we not? The organization tasked with monitoring vaccine safety in the US, sits on field data that indicates that there may be a serious issue regarding the safety of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The data is finally dragged out into the public domain and a professor of criminology who specialises in researching information suppression and the censorship of heterodox views writes an article waving a big red warning flag. The forensic expertise of a world-renowned statistician is called upon to endorse any statistical conclusions drawn and he duly expresses his alarm. Then an MP from Leicestershire simply provides a link to all of this (in a tweet that, admittedly, uses a shock tactic that was doomed to backfire). And yet by doing so he is vilified for spreading ‘misinformation about the vaccine that causes harm and costs lives’. In what sane world would a concerned citizen, who is just doing his job by drawing attention to vital safety-related information, be automatically put to the sword by those who appease the gods of authoritative wisdom whilst purporting to speak on the behalf of the gods of keeping people safe?

I can’t answer that question, but I will finish by drawing attention to another peculiar characteristic of such a world. Predictably, the BBC (bless them) were amongst the quickest to sing Hallelujah to the gods and hurl rotten fruit at the blasphemer. As if on rapid reaction alert, their Witchfinder General on such matters, a certain Rachel Shraer5, quickly knocked together a ‘Reality Check’ purporting to objectively examine Andrew’s anti-vax views. As far as I can determine, she has no qualifications in medicine, virology, epidemiology, or immunology. She isn’t a professor of criminology and she is not a worldwide authority on forensic statistics. In fact, I suspect that she is no more acquainted with the world of mathematics and modern science than was the average 17th century witchfinder with a pointy hat. She does, however, have a BA in something or other from Bristol University, gained in 2013. And in her student days she ran a blog on which she posted articles such as ‘How not to be naked, and still stick it to the man’, and ‘Make love, not adipose tissue’. So in the eyes of the BBC that makes her more than qualified to proselytise on matters of ‘truth’ and public safety.6

But why am I scoffing? Reading from a scripture placed before you isn’t that difficult, and so I am sure she is perfectly capable of fulfilling the duties that her employer has placed upon her. She didn’t, after all, even have to look at the article referenced by Bridgen in order to complete her hit piece. No mention of PRRs or the CDC and Freedom of Information. Nothing about Bayesian data mining, and not a chi-square in sight. Lots of vague references to multiple independent studies that show that the anti-vaxxers are wrong, and yet no reference to Professor Fenton’s detailed analysis exposing anomalies in ONS data that have serious implications for statistical studies that conclude that the vaccines are safe and effective.

So that’s the world we live in. Yes it is a world of fake news, conspiracy theories and post-truth nonsense. But it is also a world in which journalists, who quite frankly haven’t got a clue, can act as self-appointed arbiters of reality and damn individuals who have done nothing more than highlight some pretty straightforward and relevant facts. And it is a world in which the words of young and unqualified journalists carry more weight than those of domain experts; experts who cannot get their stuff posted on the respected news sites because those are reserved for the singing of hymns and the paying of homage to authoritative wisdom. I wouldn’t mind, but public safety is the issue and that’s not something to be trifled with. There was a time when safety cases would be founded upon evidence but now they are founded only upon consensus and the need to retain control of the narrative. It’s not a good place to be and if I had any choice I would be walking away from it, would that I could.

Postscript:

A commenter has drawn my attention to a brief video statement made by Professor Fenton in the wake of Bridgen’s suspension. Your reading of this article would be incomplete if you were not to view that statement.

Notes:

[1] VAERS is the US equivalent of the UK’s Yellow Card system run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

[2] An excellent example of the output of Professor Guetzkow’s research group can be found here. I heartily recommend that you read it. From the abstract:

“The aim of the present study is to explore the experiences and responses of highly accomplished doctors and research scientists from different countries who have been targets of suppression and/or censorship following their publications and statements in relation to COVID-19 that challenge official views. Our findings point to the central role played by media organizations, and especially by information technology companies, in attempting to stifle debate over COVID-19 policy and measures. In the effort to silence alternative voices, widespread use was made not only of censorship, but of tactics of suppression that damaged the reputations and careers of dissenting doctors and scientists, regardless of their academic or medical status and regardless of their stature prior to expressing a contrary position. In place of open and fair discussion, censorship and suppression of scientific dissent has deleterious and far-reaching implications for medicine, science, and public health.”

[3] Professor Fenton has already been a subject of discussion on Cliscep due to his involvement in a BBC documentary on climate change and his more recent work debunking the many statistical fallacies that provide the bedrock for much of the ‘anti-vaxxer’ bashing. For his troubles he has, of course, been labelled a crank and charlatan. A quick visit to his website should be enough to confirm just how ludicrous such accusations are.

[4] Also, to be clear, I should stress that a Yellow Flag is not a confirmation that a vaccine is dangerous but merely an indication that further research should be undertaken to rule out that possibility.

[5] This is Rachel’s Twitter image. Her gravitas is already apparent, wouldn’t you agree?

[6] The BBC’s trust in Rachel may seem to have been well placed, since she and a colleague were given an award for their ‘debunking’ of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.  Mind you, this was an award given to a pair of journalists by a panel of journalists headed by a crime novelist. Not everyone outside the self-congratulatory world of journalism seemed as impressed. Take Dr John Campbell, for example. And whilst I’m on the subject of ivermectin, I wonder what our goth-turned-witchfinder would make of Professor Fenton’s support for the effectiveness of ivermectin. We may never know because statistical analysis doesn’t seem to be her forte.

51 Comments

  1. Comparing present events to the Holocaust has always been a “no” from me. However, some are willing to support it when it is “their” side making the comparisons, as for example the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/14/suella-braverman-wont-apologise-to-holocaust-survivor-for-calling-migrants-invasion

    I do like the way the Chief Whip’s description of Bridgen’s crime was laid out. A natural phrasing perhaps? But written down it looks rather damning.

    I have been resisting reading about vaccine side effects, reasoning that most of the criticisms are conspiracy theories, and (perhaps naively) that any genuine problems would eventually overcome attempts to stifle them and rise to the top. (There are a lot of alleged problems with the vaccines. The sheer number and variety means that the individual criticisms are initially not compelling.)

    Now I read via the Daily Sceptic that there is a mechanism for the mRNA vaccines to cause higher levels of infection via an alteration of the immune response from one sort of immunoglobin to another. I wait for wiser minds to confirm or deny this allegation.

    Bridgen for some reason makes me think of Donald Pleasance, and therefore Blofeld.

    Like

  2. Jit,

    This is not an article that is taking a position on whether or not the vaccines are safe and effective, and it certainly isn’t condoning Bridgen’s comparison with the Holocaust. Rather, it is an article that discusses the direction that public safety debates should take, and the shame of it is that the outrage over Bridgen’s Holocaust comparison only serves to cloud people’s judgements. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the data and its statistical analysis. So the only way of establishing the legitimacy of Bridgen’s latest contribution is to actually take a look at what he was pointing at. From then onwards it should be a purely technical evaluation of how it adds to the evidential weight.

    But who is even bothering doing that this time around? I have yet to see anyone, least of all the BBC ‘Reality Checker’, attempt an evaluation of the Fenton analysis let alone point out any flaws. Instead, we have restatements of previously established positions with no concern for whether or not such positions are challenged by the new evidence. For example, Rachel Shraer repeats the arguments made by the MHRA concerning how Yellow Card data cannot be used to make safety/effectiveness comparisons between different vaccines, thereby ‘debunking’ Bridgen’s concerns. However, Bridgen is not referencing the MHRA data here but the CDC’s, and the CDC uses PRRs to make vaccine comparisons because that is precisely what a PRR enables. Had she bothered to look at the CDC analysis for herself then she would know not to reiterate the MHRA argument.

    So I don’t care how much conspiracy theory there is out there and I don’t care what impression I get from Bridgen. I only care that all evidence should be treated with respect before damning judgements are made.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. John I’m interested to learn your estimate of how many people out there might have your level of understanding and interest in evaluating vaccine data. At first sight it would seem to be rather few. Even fewer would seek you out here.

    Given the significance of the subject, are you perhaps “punching below your weight” confining yourself here? Stated differently should you not be engaged at a higher level in this debate?

    But If this is where you are happy, stay here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for two things John:

    1. For raising this issue on Cliscep
    2. For the way you’ve raised it.

    On Thursday I was building an editable web page for someone, with commercial gain in mind, and to test it I inserted a link to Twitter, that is to the Twitter home page. The cookies in the browser I was using were telling the server that I was signed in to big T and these were the first two tweets at the top it wanted to show me as I clicked the link:

    This was ‘unprecedented’ in my experience: important tweets from a climate sceptic followed by a covid vaccine sceptic at the top of my feed. The second one, of course, seeking to distance the writer from the ‘reference to the Holocaust’ by Bridgen you also inevitably mention. And the first, for what it’s worth, being from an academic geochemist who I’m sure we would happy to class as a climate sceptic, though I’d barely heard of him:

    I made the screenshots with a view to using them in my Good Cheer? post but here I am. I judge this to be thoroughly on topic here. I didn’t know Joshua Guetzkow had consulted Dr Fenton though I had noticed that it was a Jewish professor who’d ‘triggered’ the dissident MP, as they say. Interesting squared. Thanks again.

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  5. Alan,

    You make a very valid point; not so much about me punching below my weight, but rather that I can’t expect anyone to engage in debate here if I am saying “you shouldn’t do so if you are not prepared to first spend a lot of time ploughing through the details of the statistical analysis”. For example, you would need to spend some time learning about PRRs and why they matter. But who is going to do so? As you say, not that many, and I don’t blame those who won’t.

    But there are people out there who should be rising to the challenge, and I count amongst them journalists who set themselves up as arbiters of the truth. What I should be doing, therefore, is addressing them directly on a high-profile platform, asking them why they are so sure they can dismiss a body of work without even looking at it. However, I do not do so for two reasons:

    1) I speak with no recognised credentials, and even those that have them simply attract the opprobrium of the defenders of the orthodoxy (see Guetzkow’s research). At best, I’ll probably just get ignored.

    2) As soon as one ventures onto a high profile platform, one attracts the sort of non-constructive attention that I would be keen to avoid; for example, in the form of trolling from the Willards of this world.

    So I guess the truthful response to your observation is that I prefer being ignored here on Cliscep to being mobbed on Twitter. Does that make me a bad person, or simply spineless? Maybe both but, as I say in my article, we live in a funny and screwed up world and, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide, “resistance is futile” – or so it can sometimes seem.

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  6. Richard,

    You are thoroughly on topic and I thank you for your feedback. I too had wondered if it was Malhotra to whom Bridgen was referring. Also, the irony of Guetzkow’s heritage didn’t escape my notice. I wonder if he shares my opinion of Bridgen: an insensitive idiot who is also a victim of the tactics that Guetzkow deplores.

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  7. John. Thank you for a well reasoned and explained response. You are well advised to avoid the Willard’s of this world.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John, thank you for this.

    I approach this question very much from the point of view that you do.

    I am not an anti-vaxxer, and I had my first three covid jabs as soon as they were available. I had my flu jab last autumn as usual. Over the years, I have been vaccinated against just about everything going, either through UK child vaccination programmes, or to reduce the risk of serious illness when travelling abroad.

    However, it seems to me that the balance has tilted regarding covid vaccines. Having caught covid (despite being triple vaccinated) last autumn (ironically it was passed to me by someone who caught it in hospital) and suffered extremely mild symptoms, and noting the increasing evidence of vaccine side-effects, and in some rare cases death, I didn’t bother with a vaccine top-up. I haven’t caught covid since, not that that fact is conclusive of anything. However, it seemed to me that now that covid is by and large mild, and given that there is a risk – however slight – of injury or death from vaccines, it makes more sense for a fit and healthy 50-something (i.e. me) to take my chances with covid. That is not to say that I was not grateful for the original vaccination programme – I believe it probably did save a lot of lives and that it helped – even if only because of its psychological influence – to enable society to open up again and to begin to return to normal.

    And so I am conflicted. I believe the vaccine programme was valuable and did a lot of good. I am not convinced that there is any point in it now for the majority of the population. I was – and remain – concerned that the Government seemed so keen to vaccinate children, who were at precious little risk from covid (assuming they had no underlying health conditions) but who were at some risk from the vaccines.

    I mention all of that so that my thinking about vaccinations can be clearly understood.

    As regards the meat of your article, I find I am in complete agreement. I think that Mr Bridgen was particularly foolish to make any reference to the Holocaust. Even though he didn’t directly compare the vaccination programme to the Holocaust (he said it was the greatest crime since the Holocaust), it was always going to trigger people.

    That said, the establishment and media reaction to his Tweet beggars belief. He has been thrown to the wolves, yet there is something in what he has been saying. He has spoken in Parliament (to a shamefully deserted chamber), on behalf of families of vaccine victims, and he has been consistent in what he has said. I listened to one of his Commons speeches, and it struck me as measured and thoughtful. If he cites careful research by respected academics, that should be taken seriously, not sneered at. Even if he and they are wrong, there is a debate to be had here – this is a critically important subject. The shutting-down of debate is, I think, extremely worrying.

    Incidentally, I had another look at the BBC “Reality Check” piece. It ends with this priceless update:

    Update 13 February – Mr Bridgen has subsequently released a video statement, saying: “There are very reasonable questions to be asked about the safety and effectiveness of the experimental mRNA vaccines and the risks and benefits of these treatments.”

    The Reality Check team – and its editor – don’t even know what month it is. Oh yes, and the Reality Check article also said this:

    When it became clear the risk from blood clots was too close to the risk from Covid in younger age groups, the recommendations for younger people changed.

    Hmm.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. And all so unnecessary. The NZ government basically said there would be adverse events as a result of the vaccine. When someone died, they didn’t try to cover it up. The result was that the conspiracy theorist types moved on to something else (they had plenty to work with, of course).

    By covering up what is indisputable, someone signals that they a liar. From that point, anything is believable. And indeed, will be believed.

    The VAERS data is highly disputed, mind you. At the height of Covid, people were reporting all sorts of things that they didn’t normally report. There were plenty of people with “long Covid” who didn’t even have any Covid antibodies, so were either hypochondriac or suffering from something else. With so many people being vaccinated, there were always going to be lots of co-incidental incidents.

    If sudden cardiac events have increased since the vaccines, then look for that directly. Don’t look at some vague indirect measure like VAERS. (This also applies to climate — don’t use BS proxy measures like walruses or polar bears, use actual temperatures. Better, use things that directly are a measure of climate, like the progress of frost sensitive plants such as mangroves.)

    I vaccinate for anything vital, but I refuse to get a “booster” that doesn’t provide very much protection and apparently lasts about 3 months. That’s just asking for adverse effects.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I am triple vaxxed, and I had Covid months after that
    It barely lasted long maybe 84 hours

    #1 It’s not really a vax is it ? It’s an immunity primer
    Calling it a vax is a PR thing

    #2 Bridgen’s tweet wasn’t mainly the words
    The main part is the link to the ZeroHedge article
    by the Israeli academic (a criminalogist rather than a cardiologist)

    #3 Shouting anti-Semitism is clearly a ruse to crush Bridgen
    Invoking mention of the Holocaust or Nazi’s happens thousands of times per day
    particularly by the LEFT
    (I try to never use those power words cos Nazi crime is magnitudes more
    so adopting the label for other things is disrespectful to victims)
    Invoking hyperbolic analogies IS free speech
    It’s just doing that deflects from the rebustness of your arguments, so makes them look weak.

    The main argument is what is the magnitude of the vax harm across the population
    It was never going to be zero, almost no vax is
    There is a debate to be had

    If you look at Bridgen’s older output it is something he;s been saying
    : that nice public servants going along with stuff is akin to what happen with nice public servants in Nazi times
    So it’s not that dozens of towns have been decimated , but that the worldwide lack of proper questioning has been large

    The Times had a rather nasty article which in the headline asserted Bridgen had been captured just like a Grooming Gang victim
    that of course is a Holocaust type of comparison
    .. then the article supplied no evidence of any organised gang capturing him
    but rather just named two individuals who influenced him

    However when I glanced at old tweets I could see that one tweet was a fairly wacky Info Wars story
    So that is like an anti-vax cultist

    There is a double standard
    People on the vax establishment side are allowed to be hyperbolic
    and those on the other side are not
    There are parallels with Global warming debate.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mark,

    Yes, that is a problem with these debates; they become far too binary. You are either entirely happy with the vaccines or you are an anti-vaxxer. You are either obsessed with achieving net zero at all costs or you are a climate change denier. You are either entirely right or you are entirely wrong. People get put in boxes whether they like it or not. It’s a shame.

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  12. Chester,

    You are indeed quite right to point out the obvious limitations of systems such as VAERS. However, the fact remains that the monitoring of side effects through a reporting system has been a time-honoured approach that has applied to medications of all stripes. The data collected by such systems is supposed to be used in conjunction with other research and, as I indicated in one of my footnotes, it should be used to suggest the direction such research should take. What you are not supposed to do with the information, however, is simply ignore it, which seems to be the position being taken by those who adhere to the orthodox view regarding COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy.

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  13. Stew,

    There are too many points made in your comment for me to address in one pithy reply. But I’ll try nevertheless:

    Yes, it was the link to Zerohedge.com that really mattered and, yes there are double standards being applied.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dfhunter,

    Thank you for the link to Professor Fenton’s statement. It is of such importance that I feel I should add it to my article as a postscript.

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  15. The Times has written an article arguing for the safety of the vaccines:

    “The evidence showing the Covid vaccine is safe — Far from ignoring dangers, regulators meticulously documented side-effects before approving the life-saving jabs, Tom Whipple writes”

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/is-covid-vaccine-jab-safe-side-effects-dangers-2023-f883682fh

    From the introductory text it looks like a puff piece on behalf of the MHRA. Unfortunately, the rest is behind a paywall. Can anyone help me out? I am keen to discover what has impressed Tom Whipple so much.

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  16. I’ve managed to gain access to the Times article now, thank you very much. I will probably comment further in due course.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Interesting snippet from the Daily Sceptic this morning….that Cardiologist, Dr Malhotra, was interviewed on BBC News 2 days ago. That 7-minute clip has already accrued nearly 15 million views.
    For comparison (from DS):
    “What attracted the biggest TV audiences of 2022? Top of the list was the Queen’s funeral, with 25 million viewers. Then came England’s World Cup quarter final exit with 21.3 million. Some 17.4 million watched the Women’s European Cup victory. We then drop down into the top TV shows. The final of I’m Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here had 11.9 million glued to their TV sets. 10.5 million watched the final of Strictly and 9.1 million tuned in to Eurovision.”

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  18. John, sadly it seems that if someone has a position on topic A (e.g. climate change), you can predict what position they will take on topic B (whether that be covid lockdowns, covid vaccines, or anything else at all). I have deliberately phrased that comment in that way to anticipate a criticism by e.g. climate alarmists that we sceptics are just as predictable in our views as alarmists are. I would like to argue that we are not – e.g. at a guess, all (or certainly most) of those who write articles at Cliscep and comment on them will be at least triple vaccinated and will have been very pleased when the vaccines received approval for use. However, some (but by no means all) of us are now questioning some aspects of the vaccines, as more information becomes available. On the other hand, so far as I can see, the likes of the BBC and the Guardian will hold the line whatever it takes – vaccines good, doubters bad.

    And in some ways that is strange – they worry about the climate, but they don’t worry about whether the vaccines might have problems associated with them.

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  19. Mark,

    One shouldn’t be too surprised to find the same people engaging in the COVID-19 debates as for the climate change debate, since there are common themes (e.g. the importance of empirical scepticism, decision-making under uncertainty, accusations of supposedly irrational and dangerous thinking, media-enabled suppression of heterodox views, policy-making based upon science that is heavily dependent upon mathematical modelling, etc.). If you have views regarding such themes then you are likely to apply them consistently regardless of subject matter. However, that doesn’t mean that there are two camps within which all members think identically on all matters and draw exactly the same conclusions. Unfortunately, there are those who think that the reason why sceptics are so predictable is because they bring to every subject the same inability to reason rationally, and the shame is that those who would make such an accusation are encouraged to do so by cognitive scientists who think that their understanding of how the brain works provides the answer to everything. Worse still, some of those who are most influential in that respect don’t even know their own subject that well. I am thinking of John Cook in particular.

    I will get back to you regarding your Fact Checking link after I have had time to read and digest.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Mark,

    Thank you for the Daily Sceptic link. On the whole I found the fact checking of the fact checkers to be well-evidenced. I was particularly interested in the clarification of the applicability of the term ‘gene therapy’ for the mRNA vaccines. However, for today, I will restrict my comments to the question of the interpretation of Yellow Card data and the MHRA’s ‘debunking’ of Bridgen’s statements.

    The first thing to be said is that whilst Bridgen’s assertion regarding Yellow Card under-reporting is likely to be correct, the MHRA rebuttal was not about the simple fact of under-reporting or not. What they are saying is that comparisons of the reported level of side effects cannot be made between two vaccines because the level of under-reporting will differ between them and, generally speaking, there is usually no data available to correct for that effect. In particular, they suggest that apparent increased levels of reported side effects for the COVID-19 vaccines is more likely due to that effect than it might be to any real action of the vaccines. Added to that, there are likely to be differing environmental factors that are at play and these may be difficult or impossible to quantify. This position was re-iterated by the former head of the MHRA in the Times article I referred to earlier.

    That might seem reasonable, but I still have concerns. Firstly, the latest Bridgen tweet was not referring to the UK’s Yellow Card data but to the USA’s VAERS data, and the analysis of the latter depends upon the calculation of proportional reporting ratios (PRRs) that render the MHRA argument irrelevant. I won’t attempt to explain in my own words, but this is what was written in the article that Bridgen referenced:

    “All of these objections ultimately rely on the notion that VAERS reports for COVID-19 vaccines have been artificially inflated over previous years for one reason or another. The thing of it is, though, that the CDC has a method for distinguishing between artificial inflation and real signal. The idea is simple: if adverse events are artificially inflated, they should be artificially inflated to the same degree. Meaning, the PRRs for all of these safety signals should be about the same. But even a casual glance at the PRRs in the Excel file show they vary widely, from as low at 2 to as high as 105 for vaccine breakthrough infection or 74 for cerebral thrombosis. This method does not rely on the number of reports, but the rate of reporting for certain events out of all events reported. If anything, this method would tend to hide safety signals in a situation where a new vaccine generates a very large number of reports.”

    Secondly, one should remember that the MHRA argument, i.e. that one cannot make reliable comparisons between the safety of different vaccines by looking at their respective side effect reporting levels, is exactly the same argument that they used at the time when rare blood clots were first being reported for Astrazeneca. It’s unlikely to be a real effect, they said – and yet look what happened! Where is Astrazeneca now?

    The point is that a high level of reported side effects is not proof of a real problem but nor is a generally higher level of subscription to a reporting system a valid reason to ignore the data. So when Bridgen says the number of yellow flags is alarming and should be investigated, the MHRA does not have a good track record that they can call upon to justify their scoffing. They do claim, however, that they have investigated all of the yellow flags by consulting with medical professionals and they have all been dismissed on that basis. Whether one is convinced by that claim or not is another story.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Mark, thanks for the Daily Sceptic link, which links to https://www.hartgroup.org/bios/

    interesting site & guess who is a HART Member – Medicine, Science & Data
    Prof Norman Fenton
    Professor of Risk, Queen Mary University of London.

    It’s a small world it seems.

    ps – at the bottom – “HART is not currently in receipt of any funding following initial public donations which totalled £1,434.99. These funds have supported our website and set-up costs.”

    Like

  22. Since Stew has now provided for everyone the link to Times reporter Tom Whipple’s ‘debunking’ of Bridgen’s concerns, I think it may be useful to comment a little upon it.

    The theme of the article is predictable enough: Ignorant conspiracy theorists are scaremongering but highly qualified scientists know better. Sir Kent Woods, through the medium of Tom Whipple, confidently and authoritatively takes the reader through the scientific arguments for trusting the MHRA and ignoring Bridgen, and much of what Woods says makes a great deal of sense (albeit I found the tone to be a little smug – maybe that was Tom’s doing). But there are two important statements he makes that I believe should be challenged.

    The first is his insistence that increased reporting of heart attacks is an artefact of the alarm that the likes of Bridgen raises.

    “As they sit down to see the latest updates, the MHRA statisticians can expect to see a lot more heart attacks. Not because of the vaccines, but because of Bridgen…’You’ve triggered reporting because you raise that issue.’ How do you remove the Bridgen bias?”

    So, according to Woods, more people are reporting side effects through the Yellow Card system because more people are suspecting that they may be related to the vaccination. Nevertheless, Woods claims that all of the reports were taken seriously and were dismissed after examining medical records. That seems a very strange statement to make, and one that is not entirely plausible. As I explained in an earlier comment, there is a statistical analysis that can be performed (PRR) that can be used to distinguish between artificial inflation of reporting and a real signal. One doesn’t need to medically investigate each and every individual case to tease out the real signal. I find it very odd that MHRA does not appear to be doing PRR analysis. If they were to do so (like the CDC) they may very well have seen alarm bells ringing that are much more difficult to explain away through access to medical records.

    Secondly, there is this from the article:

    “Today, the number of cardiac deaths is indeed higher than in the past, although not obviously higher in the vaccinated than unvaccinated. After adjusting for age, deaths from all causes are in fact higher in those who are unvaccinated. But with so few unvaccinated, teasing apart all the factors is harder.”

    As I have already reported on Cliscep, Professor Fenton has demonstrated just how statistics that compare mortality between the vaccinated and unvaccinated are critically dependent upon one’s definition of ‘vaccinated’. He went on to demonstrate how the definition normally used has the effect of transferring recorded deaths from the vaccinated population to the unvaccinated population. I have yet to see a convincing rebuttal of Professor Fenton’s analysis, and it is concerning that the Times (or maybe Woods) is still pontificating upon the statistics without acknowledging the basic and highly relevant problem highlighted by Fenton. This matters because much of the MHRA’s confidence stems from assumptions made regarding mortality statistics.

    So, in conclusion, what on the surface appears to be a well-formed argument debunking Bridgen, is not nearly as impressive as it initially seems once expertise outside of MHRA has been taken into account.

    I now have to take a look at the link that Mark has just provided.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Wow! I must have a crystal ball. The Daily Sceptic article to which Mark has just linked describes how a professor of evolutionary biology has performed a PRR analysis on the raw data obtained by the MHRA’s Yellow Card system and there are indeed the alarm bells I have just predicted in my preceding comment.

    I am feeling so smug right now that you really wouldn’t want to be in my company 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. As an aside, I’d like to elaborate upon what I said earlier about not having seen a credible refutation of Professor Fenton’s analysis of the ONS data anomalies.

    The ONS itself chose to contradicted Fenton’s analysis by denying that the anomaly was due to a misattribution of mortalities, but was instead simply due to the fact that those receiving the vaccines were statistically more likely to have enjoyed generally better health than non-vaccinees at the time of their own vaccination. This was dubbed the ‘healthy vaccinee effect’. My reaction when first seeing the ONS explanation was to wonder how supposedly competent statisticians could think that was an adequate response to Fenton’s observations. Fenton had not just claimed a greater all-cause mortality amongst the unvaccinated, he had actually noted that spikes in non-covid mortality in the unvaccinated of a particular age group coincided with peak vaccine rollout for that age group. The healthy vaccinee effect doesn’t even come close to explaining such a weird coincidence. Furthermore, where did the ONS get the idea that the healthy were actually the ones queuing up for vaccination when it was well known that the vulnerable were being prioritized? They were offering a non-existent and irrelevant effect as a possible explanation after Fenton had already supplied a perfectly adequate one.

    The problem, however, is that once the ONS had gone public with its ‘rebuttal’, licence was then given to anyone to go online and hurl nonsensical accusations at Professor Fenton. For example, there is this tweet:

    Knobhead!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Sorry, but the offending tweet didn’t appear in my last comment. Hopefully it is below:

    ‘Knobhead’ is my assessment of it.

    Like

  26. Just a quick note to clarify that the reason why I think John Bye is being a knobhead isn’t because I think he is wrong on the question of the ‘healthy vaccinee effect’, but because he accuses Fenton et al of being fraudulent and says they have accused the ONS of lying. Having read the Fenton paper, I see no basis for either accusation.

    I am in a position now that is not dissimilar to the one I arrived at when I tried to make sense of the data regarding PCR test specificity. There are experts out there that I respect that are disagreeing with each other and I am unqualified to decide between them. Fenton’s reasoning seems okay to me and the ONS does not. That doesn’t mean that Fenton must be right, however. Sometimes I have to redouble my efforts to keep an open mind.

    I could spend some more time looking into the healthy vaccinee effect or, there again, I could get on with my life and leave the experts to argue it out between themselves.

    I choose life.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mark,

    The MHRA’s answers to the FOI requests are indeed interesting. In February 2022, when asked in FOI 22/390 to detail the review process “upon which you authorised the vaccines”, the MHRA boasted:

    “The MHRA expert scientists and clinicians reviewed data from the laboratory pre-clinical studies, clinical trials, manufacturing and quality controls, product sampling and testing of the final vaccine, and also considered the conditions for its safe supply and distribution. The decision was made with advice from the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM), the government’s independent expert scientific advisory body.”

    In January 2023, in answer to FOI 22/1002, they say:

    “All the Covid vaccines and therapeutics authorisation decisions were taken by the Licensing Minister and were not delegated.”

    In the Times article discussed above (https://archive.is/W99sf) Tom Whipple and Sir Kent Woods mocked a woman carrying a placard accusing the MHRA of being “rotten to the core”. Whipple smirks, “Woods is not used to the idea that his career was spent in the service of a global conspiracy”. He then quotes Woods as saying “What is it she thinks she knows? It’s very distressing.”

    Well, maybe she knows that the MHRA is in the habit of providing starkly contradictory responses to FOI requests. Global conspiracies are the journalists’ straw man. They are not needed to indicate rottenness.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Also, with regard to FOI 22/390, it is disturbing to see that the MHRA are satisfied as long as a vaccine doesn’t cause more harm than good. With my functional safety analyst’s hat on, I have to say that they are setting the bar very low there. Certainly, I see no sign of them seeking to reduce risk as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). Application of the ALARP principle forms the basis upon which adherence to UK safety regulations is assessed. But we all know that ALARP is a principle that the government prescribes but doesn’t follow. That’s how they managed to get into the mess they are in with Smart Motorways.

    “Rotten to the core”? Maybe. Dysfunctional? It certainly looks like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Richard,

    I’ve got another statistics joke for you.

    Ted: “I used to believe that correlation proves causation. But then I attended a statistics course and now I know better.”

    Anne: “It looks like the course worked for you then.”

    Ted: “Maybe.”

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Mark,

    That is a very interesting development and thank you for bringing it to my attention. For the benefit of those who have not followed Mark’s link, I should point out exactly what the development is.

    Professor Fenton and colleagues submitted their paper on the anomalies within the ONS’s vaccination data to the UK’s Office for Statistical Regulation, accusing the ONS of multiple violations of the regulator’s codes of practice and suggesting that, therefore, the ONS publication on the subject (Deaths by Vaccination Status) is not fit for purpose. In response, the regulator said:

    “Overall, then, our view is that the Deaths by Vaccination Status publication does not provide information on vaccine effectiveness or vaccine safety, and should not be used in this way.”

    It is important to point out that the regulator is not agreeing that the vaccines are ineffective or unsafe, just that the central ONS publication on the matter is indeed unfit for purpose. Nevertheless, this matters because it is the ONS data, and the supposedly independent studies that have been based upon it, that journalists are so keen to throw in the face of the likes of Andrew Bridgen. It turns out that the party most responsible for disseminating “misinformation about the vaccine that causes harm and costs lives” is actually the ONS. What with that and the MHRA issuing blatantly contradictory responses to FOI requests (not to mention claiming to have looked into all of the Yellow flags, despite having to admit they don’t have a defined process for doing so) you would think the journalists would be all over it. Sadly, however, I think we can look forward to a deafening silence from the mainstream media.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Having now read the full response from the Office for Statistical Regulation to Fenton’s letter, I think it only fair that I clarify a further point. It isn’t so much that the regulator agrees that the ONS publication is unfit for the purpose of determining vaccine effectiveness or vaccine safety, so much as they believe it was never intended for that purpose. They maintain that the ONS has always made that clear. (I have to say that, if this is true, one has to wonder what possible use the ONS document is).

    Also, on the important point of the non-covid excess mortality conundrum, the regulator rejects Fenton’s explanation for it (i.e. that there has been systematic miscategorisation of vaccinees in respect of mortality). Instead, the regulator comes down squarely in support of the ONS by ascribing the apparent anomaly to the healthy vaccinee effect. I’m still with Fenton on this one. I can’t believe that the ONS or the regulator has properly understood what Fenton is getting at. There is nothing in their offering of the healthy vaccinee explanation, and the way they have described it, that gives any hint that they have understood. To make matters worse, the regulator states that Fenton’s theory of vaccinee miscategorisation couldn’t possible be the answer because the ONS has assured them that there was in fact no miscategorisation. Personally, I have so little faith in the healthy vaccinee explanation that I am inclined to say that the very existence of the non-covid excess mortality conundrum is proof that the ONS assurances on categorisation are worthless. Either that or there is a magical explanation yet to be revealed.

    I know that professor Fenton has made much of the ‘central issue’ of his letter being accepted, but the fact is that the regulator was somewhat unimpressed with his criticisms of the ONS.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Andrew Bridgen speaking at the London #vaccineinjured protest outside the BBC.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Mmm. I don’t remember anyone ever saying that the vaccines were 100% effective. But I do remember that a lot of pundits were keen to manage the public’s expectations in the early days of vaccine development. ‘These things can take years to develop’, they said. ‘The first attempt nearly always fails’, they said. ‘Stringent and drawn out safety tests are required before approval can be given’, they said. ‘Coronavirus vaccines are typically only about 60% effective’, they said.

    So when nearly every single laboratory seemed able to produce a production-ready vaccine on their first attempt, within a year, and with some claiming 95% effectiveness and proven safety, I think the same public were entitled to ask questions. And I think it is fair to say that some questions had better answers than others (‘It’s a technological miracle’ was not one of the best). This is not to say that the Andrew Bridgens of this world are right in everything they assert – far from it. But I think that behind his blundering campaigning lies a body of science that deserves better press than it is receiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Last night I was (in the Zoom sense) at the UK Smalltalk meetup showcasing from France Stéphane Rollandin’s wonderful music system called muO. One of the interesting spin-off benefits of Covid has been the way such meetups have gone ‘international’ and yesterday we were honoured to have seminal Smalltalk folk like Professor Juan Vuletich from Buenos Aires and David Ungar from California. Ungar was one of the two main inventors of the variant of Smalltalk called Self. As I’m sure you know 🙂

    Let’s go back to this helpful summary from Richard Drake in 2016:

    As for Brendan Eich he tweeted this as our meeting was going on:

    Ah, Professor Fenton again. Infuential guy, now influencing, courtesy of Twitter’s new freedom, some other influential people.

    Don’t worry, I’ll see myself out.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Richard,

    The problem with professor Fenton gaining notoriety within the vaccine safety debate is that he will be very easy prey for the fact checkers. They only have to point to the fact that the ONS rejects his argument for suspecting higher levels of vaccine harm based upon reasonable adjustments to their own data. And the same fact checkers only need to point to the fact that, on that point, the Office of Statistics Regulation has arbitrated in favour of the ONS. They won’t look at Fenton’s paper themselves and attempt their own arbitration. Why should they? ‘Reliable’ experts have already done that job for them. As for Fenton’s contribution to the analysis of the CDC data, once again, no one will actually look at it, preferring instead to disregard it based upon assertions made by the MHRA.

    It is rational to give the benefit of doubt to expert authorities such as the ONS and MHRA, but they are not infallible and when they make mistakes they cause a lot of damage. One can reasonably expect them to get things right but that is not an excuse for assuming they have. If you can check it for yourself, you should.

    Rationally, one should distrust anyone who claims to have seen a puma roaming a field in Scotland. After having seen one for myself, I no longer have need for such rationality.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. John:

    The problem with professor Fenton gaining notoriety within the vaccine safety debate is that he will be very easy prey for the fact checkers.

    I hesitated before replying but this was my desired riposte from the start: “What does it matter what they say?” Or, taking your metaphor on board, I wanted to call them toothless vultures. Now, as the pedant you are, you’ll probably reply to that by quoting from 39 Colorful King Vulture Facts (Sarcoramphus papa) (put together by a 20-year-old vulture fact-lover!):

    17. Do king vultures have teeth?
    They don’t have teeth, but their beaks are so sharp that they’re used in the same way.

    So all (or at least king) vultures are toothless vultures. I hear you. But we’re in metaphor-land here. They deserve being called vultures and I wish to argue that they are becoming increasingly toothless. That applies in many areas of importance but I have two in particular in mind: covid vaccines and climate.

    Here are two quotes from the top of YouTube video comments that in an ideal world I’d use in a lengthy and convincing argument:

    Note the Climate Change propaganda that YouTube insisted on posting at the header of this video. That shows you just exactly how widespread the collusion re the climate “apocalypse” truly reaches. Lindzen is an outstanding scientist and no “context” is necessary for his listeners to understand the meaning of his words. For shame, YouTube.

    — Jordan Peterson below his Climate Science: What Does it Say? | Dr. Richard Lindzen | EP 320 three weeks ago

    My wife and I are retired nurses. With rare exceptions, we both lost practically all of our confidence in the medical system during the last 3 years.

    — Michael Eastes below John Campbell’s chat with Professor Fenton Mortality by vaccination status ONS critique six days ago

    (That comment comes up first for me today on YouTube. It’s possible that might vary.)

    (Has anyone else pointed to the latter conversation on this thread by the way?)

    A particularly milquetoast attempt at ‘fact-checking’ also being present courtesy of Big YT above that. But, not least because Elon Musk has effectively banned official ‘fact-checking’ on a social media site as influential as Twitter, they no longer even vaguely rule the roost.

    And do vultures live in roosts? Etc.

    Like

  37. Two tweets appealing to Elon Musk himself to increase public awareness of vaccine harm and manufacturer malfeasance that have been posted since my comment last night:

    As Robert Malone says, the latter video seems to show that Pfizer feels that its ‘regulatory capture’ in the United States, and perhaps the world, is complete.

    But the broader message to me (again) is that in this crucial area the so-called fact-checkers are losing their power.

    Liked by 2 people

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