The reporting was all about vaccine 'crisis' - but if anything the news yesterday showed us how safe the vaccines are and strengthened the argument for taking them...
It demonstrated the level of scrutiny and the degree of action taken in response to even very rare negative events and even when their link to the vaccine is not yet proven. It showed that we can have confidence in the process of evaluation the vaccines are going through.
It also confirmed the rarity of the blot clots. 79 cases and 8 deaths from over 18 million people who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine. In absolute terms, the vaccine is - for the great majority - safer than having a bath, going down the stairs or having your breakfast!
Finally, if you take the news in the round yesterday it pointed more to the danger of not taking the virus than the danger of taking it. Slightly buried by this vaccine kerfuffle was a report showing that 1/3 of those who have severe COVID have subsequent mental health problems.
So, looking at the balance of risks we are learning ever more about how nasty a disease this is and about the harms even if you don't die. These are a strong argument for taking vaccines at all age groups and need to be factored in to the 'balance of risks' calculation.
If the evidence from yesterday points to the relative safety of vaccines, how come all the headlines were about dangers?
The answer is lack of communication.
Back in November, we in @IndependentSage argued that the vaccination needed to be accompanied by an information roll-out.
In particular we argued for transparency, for avoiding an overstatement of the vaccines potential, for acknowledging and anticipating the inevitable health issues that would arise (and have now arisen). independentsage.org/wp-content/upl…
Sadly, though, the brilliant vaccine roll-out was not accompanied by an equivalent information roll-out. And the mistrust our political leaders have for the public led them to avoid acknowledging problems and anticipating bumps in the road for fear of putting people off.
As predicted, this has come back to haunt us. The 'problems' of AstraZeneca only exist in comparison to the false expectation of perfection. Against initial expectations we are generally learning that the vaccines, including AstraZeneca are actually doing better than we thought.
In sum, this is a classic cautionary tale about the need for transparency, the need for good information strategies, the need to acknowledge limitations and the need to trust people with information.
It is not too late to put this right.

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More from @ReicherStephen

31 Mar
These inequalities are not limited to physical health. They are equally apparent in terms of mental health. And once again, this persists when one controls for other factors such as deprivation.
Moving on, black and ethnic minorities have been hardest hit economically by the pandemic. They have been most likely to suffer poverty and food insecurity, to be furloughed, to lose their jobs. Their unemployment rate has risen twice as fast as white workers.
The list continues. Black and minority ethnic children were particularly hard hit. They suffered more learning loss, exercised less, felt less safe, were more worried about food, felt less happy. A Welsh study illustrates the realities in harrowing detail: childcomwales.org.uk/coronavirus-ou…
Read 6 tweets
31 Mar
We are living through a pandemic which has exposed the pervasive and murderous nature of racial inequality in our society. And at the point where we need to make equalities central to building back better, the Government tells us 'no problem here'...
theguardian.com/world/2021/mar…
First racial/ethnic minorities are far more exposed to the virus. They make up a disproportionate number of the key workers (food retailers, health and care workers, transport workers etc.) who have been on the 'front line', unable to work from home, in constant risk of infection
They are also more likely to live in crowded multi-generational housing where the chances of getting infected and passing on infections is much higher - and this is true even when controlling for economic deprivation (see SAGE consensus statement: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/upl…
Read 4 tweets
29 Mar
Which country has a higher vaccination rate that the UK, is facing a surge of infections and is imposing a stringent lockdown?
Why is it happening?
And what lessons can we learn from it so we don't make the same mistakes and face a return to lockdown?..

theguardian.com/global-develop…
The country in question is Chile, which has had a remarkably successful vaccine roll-out, with over half the population having had a first dose and a quarter two doses.
Despite that, in a country of less than 20 million people, infections have surged to some 8,000 new cases a day, the health service is being overwhelmed and in the capital, Santiago, a strict lockdown was imposed over the weekend with people not even allowed out to buy food.
Read 9 tweets
28 Mar
The new police, crime, sentencing and courts bill that limits the right to protest is not public ORDER legislation.
It is public DISORDER legislation.
Here's why...
theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/m…
Crowd conflict becomes more likely when police see the very presence of a raucous crowd as inherently illegitimate and where protestors see the presence of police numbers as inherently illegitimate.
That is precisely what the new legislation creates.
Still worse, it creates an authoritarian dynamic. The disorder created by the legislation then generates calls for yet more repressive legislation (as we have seen in Bristol) which generates yet more protest... and so things ramp up.
Read 4 tweets
27 Mar
Vaccine passports are based on the Israeli 'green pass' system and the idea that it provides an incentive for the young to get vaccinated - but, as I argued on @BBCr4today this morning, look closely at the Israeli data and a very different story emerges...bbc.co.uk/news/explainer…
First, a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that green passes had little impact on take up and in fact the idea of vaccines being compulsory led to anger and refusal amongst those already reluctant: jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/…
This accords with a number of international studies, including one from Germany which again showed that compulsory vaccination increases anger and decreases vaccination intentions. In effect compulsion reinforces the narrative that this is being done TO us, not FOR us. Image
Read 8 tweets
25 Mar
Those who characterise a 'maximum suppression' strategy as a 'lockdown strategy' and who paint those of us who support it as 'lockdown fanatics' miss the point entirely. The whole point is that it is the only effective 'anti-lockdown' strategy available. independentsage.org/wp-content/upl…
When infection levels are high, it becomes impossible to identify each case and contact so the only option is to use blunt measures that affect everyone. You can no longer isolate the infected people from the community, you have to isolate the community - in other words, lockdown
But as infections reduce then, given a good test and trace system combined with support for self-isolation, you can identify cases, you can forward trace to see who they might have passed the infection to and backwards trace to discover the source.
Read 9 tweets

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