Winslow Homer Spanish Girl with Fan 1885
Whitney Webb. Long read.
For much of 2020, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was treated as an early front-runner, though its lead would later be marred by scandals related to its clinical trials, including the death of participants, sudden trial pauses, the use of a problematic “placebo” with its own host of side effects and the “unintentional” mis-dosing of some participants that skewed its self-reported efficacy rate. The significant issues that emerged during trials have provoked little concern from the vaccine’s two lead developers, despite critical attention from even mainstream media of its complications. The lead developer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Adrian Hill, told NBC on December 9th that the experimental vaccine should be approved and distributed to the public before the conclusion of the safety trials, saying,”to wait for the end of the trial would be the middle of next year. That’s too late, this vaccine is effective, available at large scale and easily deployed.”
Sarah Gilbert, the other lead researcher on the vaccine, seemed to believe that pre-mature safety approval was likely, telling the BBC on December 13 that the chances of rolling out the vaccine by the end of the year are “pretty high.” Now, the UK is expected to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shortly after Christmas, with India also set to approve the vaccine next week. While the controversies surrounding the vaccine’s trials did ultimately undermine its previous frontrunner status, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine remains heavily promoted as the vaccine of choice for the developing world, as it is cheaper and has much less complicated storage requirement than its main competitors, Pfizer and Moderna.
Earlier this month, Dr. Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, told CNBC that “The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is the vaccine right now that is going to be able to immunize the planet more effectively, more rapidly than any other vaccine we have” in large part because it is a “vaccine that can get to lower middle-income countries.” CNBC also quoted Andrew Baum, global head of health care for Citi Group, as saying that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “is really the only vaccine that is going to suppress or even eradicate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the many millions of individuals in the developing world.”
In addition to longstanding claims that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be the vaccine of choice for the developing world, this vaccine candidate has also been treated by several outlets in the mainstream and even independent media as “good for people, bad for profits” due to the partnership’s “explicit intention of supplying [the vaccine] around the world on a not-for-profit basis, meaning that the poorest nations on the planet will not have to worry about being shut out of a cure due to lack of funds.” However, investigation into the vaccine’s developers and the realities of their “no-profit pledge” reveals a very different story than that which has been spun for most of the year by corporate press releases, experts and academics tied to the vaccine and the mainstream press.
For instance, mainstream media has had little, if anything, to say about the role of the vaccine developers’ private company – Vaccitech – in the Oxford-AstraZeneca partnership, a company whose main investors include former top Deutsche Bank executives, Silicon Valley behemoth Google and the UK government. All of them stand to profit from the vaccine alongside the vaccine’s two developers, Adrian Hill and Sarah Gilbert, who retain an estimated 10% stake in the company. Another overlooked point is the plan to dramatically alter the current sales model for the vaccine following the initial wave of its administration, which would see profits soar, especially if the now obvious push to make COVID-19 vaccination an annual affair for the foreseeable future is made reality.
Yet, arguably most troubling of all is the direct link of the vaccine’s lead developers to the Wellcome Trust and, in the case of Adrian Hill, the Galton Institute, two groups with longstanding ties to the UK Eugenics movement. The latter organization, named for the “father of eugenics” Francis Galton, is the re-named UK Eugenics Society, a group notorious for its promotion of racist pseudoscience and efforts to “improve racial stock” by reducing the population of those deemed inferior for over a century.
Is this a Guardian infomercial? Meant to cast doubt on HCQ and azithromycin, and promote dexamethasone?
It remains one of the most dramatically successful outcomes in the battle against Covid-19. A cheap treatment for inflammation was found to save lives of seriously ill patients while a trio of much-touted therapies were shown to have no effect. It is now estimated that the discovery of the effectiveness of the drug dexamethasone has saved around 650,000 lives across the world, according to Professor Martin Landray, a founder of the Recovery programme – the world’s largest randomised Covid-19 drugs trial – which revealed the medicine’s anti-Covid properties last summer. “In the UK alone, dexamethasone has already prevented more than 12,000 deaths,” he told the Observer.
The breakthrough demonstrates the power of large-scale randomised trials in pinpointing effective medicines and will be followed, in the next few weeks, with results from another handful of promising treatments being studied as part of the Recovery programme. These medicines, which could be crucial in the fight to contain Covid-19 next year, are: convalescent plasma, taken from recovering Covid patients; monoclonal antibodies, made by Regeneron, that were used to treat Donald Trump; two anti-inflammatory drugs, tocilizumab and colchicine; and aspirin. All are undergoing trials carried out by thousands of doctors and nurses on tens of thousands of patients in hospitals across Britain. First results are expected in January or early February.
Recovery was set up by Landray and Peter Horby at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The two Oxford scientists realised doctors would soon be looking for treatments once cases started pouring into hospitals but would need a clinical trial to find which were effective. It took them nine days from drafting their first protocol to the enrolling of their first patient, a process that normally takes nine months. One in 10 patients hospitalised with Covid have since entered the trial. And such numbers have been crucial to success, added Landray. Comparing 100 people who get a drug with 100 who do not can produce highly variable results. However, by randomising thousands of patients to get contrasting treatments, robust answers are produced.
“You find out which actually work,” said Landray. “In addition, we can discover which patients will benefit most. Will it be the old or the young or the immuno-compromised? You can only find that out if you have a trial with thousands of people in it.” So far, Recovery – short for Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy – has pronounced on four medicines: azithromycin, an antibiotic; the drug combination lopinavir-ritonavir; hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for malaria and rheumatic diseases; and dexamethasone. Only the last saved lives or aided recovery. A hit rate of only one in four might seem poor value. However, the extraordinary numbers of lives saved thanks to dexamethasone demonstrates the value of the Recovery programme, the world’s largest randomised Covid-19 drug trial.
The programme also ensured time and money have not been wasted on medicines that were found not to help patients. And that will become an increasingly important issue, Landray said. “When we started Recovery we looked at cheap, widely available but promising drugs, and found one of them – dexamethasone – worked. But the medicines we’re looking at now will cost hundreds of pounds per treatment, so we need to be really sure they work before we deploy them on wide scale,” Landray said.
The world keeps getting smaller.
Japan is barring entry of all nonresident foreign nationals as a precaution against a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant that has spread across Britain. The Foreign Ministry says the entry ban will start Monday and last through Jan. 31. Last week, Japan banned nonresident foreigners coming from Britain and South Africa after confirming the new variant in seven people over the last two days — five from Britain who tested positive at airports and two others in Tokyo. Japan is also suspending the exemption of a 14-day quarantine for Japanese nationals and resident foreigners in a short-track program that began in November.
The entrants now must carry proof of a negative test 72 hours prior to departure for Japan and self-isolate for two weeks after arrival. Japan is struggling with surging cases since November. It has confirmed a total of 217,312 cases including 3,213 deaths, up 3,700 from the previous 24-hour period. Tokyo alone reported 949 cases, setting a new record, despite calls by experts and government officials for people to spend a “quiet” holiday season.
“..an experimental nasal vaccine..”
The world’s first COVID-19 human challenge is about to start. Britain will infect 2,500 healthy volunteers with coronavirus to study how the infection behaves in the body — specifically the amount it takes before a person develops Covid-19, the Sun reported. The government has budgeted $45 million for the research, which is being conducted by Imperial College, the National Health Service’s Royal Free Hospital and pharmaceutical company hVIVO, a pioneer in viral human challenge models. Human challenge studies aren’t used often because of the ethical questions raised about infecting healthy people.
The Brits, ages 18 to 30, will get a dose of an experimental nasal vaccine, then be infected. The project gets underway in January; scientists expect the first results in May. Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, 18, of Stoke-on-Trent, raised his hand because he wants to help “bring the world out of the pandemic sooner.. “I can’t let this opportunity to do something, to really do something, pass me by when I’m at such low risk.” Fraser-Urquhart and his fellow volunteers will be paid about $5,300 for their three-week stay at the hospital’s specialist diseases clinic, where they will be monitored around the clock, the Mail Online reported. Later, researchers will use the human challenge model to find out how vaccines work to prevent coronavirus.
January will be dark and bleak in many places.
Cases of the new variant Covid-19 virus were confirmed in several European countries on Saturday, including Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All were linked to people who had arrived from the UK. Meanwhile, Japan has announced it is banning all new entries of foreign nationals from Monday following the discovery of the variant in travellers from the UK. The news came at the same time as a further six million people in east and south-east England had tier 4 conditions, England’s strictest Covid level, imposed on them on Boxing Day. Lockdowns were also introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Around 24 million people in England, more than 40% of the population, are now living in tier 4, as pressure mounts for the whole country to be put in this category.
Scientists from the Independent Sage group have urged that all regions of England be placed in tier 4, meaning that non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues must close. Devolved nations were advised to bring forward their own national lockdowns. Tier 4 should include enhanced travel restrictions, the group said, while arguing that an emergency plan be introduced to enable safe education in January and February. This idea is supported by teaching unions, who have demanded that the government keeps schools closed as evidence has grown that the new virus variant is proving to be particularly infectious among children.
This point was backed by Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia. “If this new variant is behind the increase in this age group, then that is a big worry,” he said. France announced this weekend that it has discovered its first case of the new variant – a French citizen who arrived in Tours after travelling from London a week ago, according to health officials. In Madrid, Spanish officials said three cases of the new variant recently discovered in the country involved relatives of a man who had arrived from the UK on Christmas Eve, while the fourth case also involved a traveller from the UK. None of the patients was reported to be seriously ill.
Blame it on Trump. But never on Pelosi and Schumer. Let alone Biden.
With Congressional leaders feigning productivity for two months on a renewed stimulus – only for President Trump to veto their 11th hour porkfest and demand they increase direct stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 per person – a series of assistance programs are set to lapse into the new year. Two of them, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, will expire Saturday night, leaving around 12 million Americans without the assistance. As we noted in November, this would roughly translate into an income shortfall of $39BN in 1Q if these workers are unable to find work or alternative income support. BofA calculates that based on its work on fiscal multipliers, income loss of $39BN would translate into a 1.2% hit to growth on an annualized basis in 1Q 2021.
One of the two programs expiring Saturday, the PUA, provided unemployment benefits to around 7.3 million gig workers and others not eligible for traditional unemployment, according to the Century Foundation. The expiring programs come after lawmakers cobbled a $900 billion pandemic stimulus package to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill, which President Trump vetoed over the sheer amount of pork and $600 direct checks, which he deemed to small. House Democrats will vote on a standalone bill Monday for $2,000 checks, while Congressional Republicans are expected to flatly reject it. Meanwhile, several additional programs are set to expire on December 31.
Additionally, the concurrent expiration of eviction moratorium, mortgage forbearance programs, and suspension of student loan payments could all be headwinds early next year, creating further obstacles. Unless Trump reverses course and signs the package on Tuesday, the government will shut down – sans another short-term bill to keep it limp things along into 2021.
“..whoever it was behind this attack the one group who was definitely NOT behind it was the Russians.”
Without offering any evidence or specifics, Pompeo said Russia was “pretty clearly” behind the cyberattack during an appearance on the conservative talk radio Mark Levin Show. “I can’t say much more, as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified. But suffice it to say there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of US government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well,” Pompeo explained. Notice how there is no evidence given, just the typical intelligence agency, “believe me” line, which is your first clue that whoever it was behind this attack the one group who was definitely NOT behind it was the Russians.
This week’s cyber attack on the U.S. government was perfectly timed with the Electoral College submitting its votes to the Congress and Joe Biden claiming he’s president-elect. The reason why the release of this ‘attack’ on our government was perfectly timed is because it is a distraction from the growing unrest over the Democrats’ having stolen the election and cowering the courts into irrelevance. This is classic CIA-level misdirection from what was more likely a Chinese or, dare I say it, homegrown operation for the very purpose of blaming the Russians to tamp down the anger and confuse the MAGA crowd. And it resurrects the ghost of RussiaGate for the libs by putting Trump in a Catch-22.
If he doesn’t respond to this it keeps alive the smoldering embers of the TDS crowd watching Rachel Maddow that Trump really does have deep, covert ties to Russia. If he does react, what possible reaction could he take to escalate the tensions with Russia that are already one step below open warfare? Oh, and he has to respond to this while also fighting an uphill battle against the courts and his own bureaucracy to invoke his executive order involving outside interference into the election. [..] Provoking the exact reaction you’d expect from the BlueChecked Sneetches among the Twitterati. RussiaGate was an embarrassment that should have died years ago but it persists precisely because Trump refuses to formally concede and continues to give his people the opportunity to fight the Swamp.
The only way Putin and the Russians were behind this attack on the U.S. government was as a 5-d chess move where Trump invited them to do it on his behalf to ‘prove’ external interference in the election and allow Trump to cross the Rubicon, invoke the Insurrection Act and his 2018 EO on election interference. Yeah, by the way, John Le Carre died this week, life ain’t a movie and Trump isn’t that savvy a player. Ye gods, I wish he was. That we are in this mess proves he isn’t. This pronouncement by Pompeo was just good ol’ fashioned swamp double talk who continues his job of maintaining continuity of U.S. foreign policy on behalf of the Neoconservatives whose raison d’etre is the destruction of Russia to the exclusion of nearly every other consideration of any other human on the planet.
Don’t be confused by this nonsense. Whoever was behind this attack wasn’t the Russians. The motive for this operation lies squarely with China, The Davos Crowd, the Democrats and our own intelligence agencies trying to move the Overton Window away from the real problem, a stolen election. Outing Solarwinds and tying it directly to Dominion Voting Systems is your smoking gun.
“The certainty of no tariffs, yes—but also of trade barriers, red tape and reduced future prosperity.”
And so the long wait is finally over. Late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, at the precise moment businesses were shutting up shop for a four-day national holiday, Boris Johnson took to a podium in Downing Street to herald a trade deal with the European Union. This was a good deal, he said. It allowed us to take back control of our money, borders, laws and fisheries. It provided certainty for businesses. Of course, the Prime Minister was wrong on almost all counts. This was the thinnest deal available within the ruinous red lines he had laid out, and preferable only to no deal at all. We already had control of everything he claimed to have won back—even fisheries, whose viability depends on exporting British catches into the EU. On only one point was he correct: his deal does indeed provide certainty. The certainty of no tariffs, yes—but also of trade barriers, red tape and reduced future prosperity.
The alternate press conferences in London and Brussels amply demonstrated who had made the concessions. This was an inevitable consequence of differential power, wealth and size, and the UK fell short. While both sides seem to have budged on fish, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasised the EU’s success in ensuring the far more important level playing field for competition. The UK would lose key rights such as financial passporting. It would no longer enjoy automatic access to the EU’s invaluable security databases. Fundamentally it was a question of how power is exercised. Sovereignty in the 21st century, she said, meant “pulling each other up, instead of trying to get back to your feet alone.”
While von der Leyen combined detailed information with sensitivity in tone, Johnson took to bluster. He dismissed the media question about security, asserting, without evidence, that everything would work out. He preposterously declared that the deal would eliminate non-tariff barriers, when the truth is our departure from the single market and customs union necessitate the greatest introduction of new bureaucracy and commercial obstacles in recent history. And he batted away the ending of UK access to the Erasmus scheme, which has offered new horizons to thousands of students across the continent. The new “Turing scheme,” he insisted bombastically, would be better and wider reaching.
“.. they’re just manipulating this messaging to sanction certain events that they find politically palatable while demanding everybody stay home for the things that they don’t value .”
Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, said the media’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic was the “worst event of media misconduct.” Speaking on Hill.TV’s “Rising,” Greenwald said that the media’s coverage of the pandemic was initially geared toward forcing people to stay home, and shaming those who went outside for acting irresponsibly. Greenwald then added that the media shifted its tone around its coverage after the protests against police brutality over the summer following the police killing of George Floyd in May.
“Suddenly, it all turned to ‘What these people are doing is noble,’” he said. “And not only do you no longer have the obligation to stay at home, you now have the obligation to go and march against racism on the grounds that racism is the worst public [threat] than the coronavirus pandemic.” Greenwald noted that despite its coverage of the protests, the media continued to shame people who went to church or gathered for outdoor protests for different causes. “What it really made it seem like was there’s no trust or confidence due to public health authorities or media narratives surrounding this pandemic,” he said. “That they’re just manipulating this messaging to sanction certain events that they find politically palatable while demanding everybody stay home for the things that they don’t value .”
We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site.
Click at the top of the sidebars for Paypal and Patreon donations. Thank you for your support.
“Cherish those that seek the truth but beware of those that find it.”
Support the Automatic Earth in virustime, election time, all the time. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.