Posts Tagged ‘Vaccines’

Diane Abbott on Supporting the Teachers against a Premature Lifting of the Schools Lockdown

February 27, 2021

The much maligned MP Diane Abbott has written a piece for Labour Outlook discussing the effectiveness of the vaccines and the continuing death toll from Covid 19. While the vaccines are a great success, they are not going to end this disease on their own. Other measures are needed. Schools are important vector for the disease, which is why Abbott supports the teachers against the government in maintaining that the schools lockdown should not be lifted too soon.

Abbott writes

Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive

“The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn.”

Diane Abbott MP.

Diane Abbott MP

Life in Britain, including political life is once more dominated by the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the government’s failures to halt it. 

On February 22nd the government published a ‘roadmap’ out of the lockdown we have all had to endure.  This lockdown, our third, is actually longer than many countries’ sole lockdown.  The countries that have successfully suppressed the virus include Australia, China, New Zealand, Thailand and Viet Nam all achieved that by having a both a much stricter, shorter regime and by having an effective system of testing, tracing and properly supported isolation. The government still does not have any of those in place.

So, the roadmap is itself seriously, potentially fatally flawed.  Just as the government was outlining its plans there were two other important pieces of news.  The first was that the average of new daily cases is over 11,000 and the average for new deaths is almost 500 per day.  There is a possibility that new cases will be as high coming out of this lockdown as they were at the peak of the first wave in April, 5,000 a day or more.

The second news item was that the minutes of the most recent SAGE meeting were publicised.  SAGE emphasised that it had “previously advised that the opening and closing of schools is likely to have an impact on transmission and R, and that policymakers need to consider the balance of risks and harms. The opening of primary and secondary schools is likely to increase effective R by a factor of 1.1 to 1.5 (10% to 50%) (medium confidence)”.

There are two risks from a premature relaxation of lockdown led by reopening of the schools.  The first is that, exactly as SAGE says, transmission and infection rates will go into reverse, having fallen from late January after lockdown was imposed.  The second risk is that, in the absence of a suppression strategy, the virus will freely circulate and then mutate once more into even more deadly strains.  Again, this is a risk identified with current policy by SAGE itself. The government has clearly ignored this advice.

SAGE also emphasises the global nature of this pandemic, which is important for the whole world, including this country. “Aside from the significant human and social costs around the world, ongoing transmission in other countries would continue to pose a threat to UK health even if the epidemic were under control in this country and a high proportion of the population were vaccinated”. 

Yet the epidemic here is clearly not under control, and only a minority of the population has received even a single jab.  Public Health England (PHE) has assessed the efficacy of single jabs and the recommended double-dose. PHE found that protection from a single jab rose after a number of weeks to just under 60%.  But the protection after just a few days for a second jab was around 96%.  These are great outcomes. 

Yet contrary to government ministers, there is no suggestion in the minutes that vaccines are or can be a magic bullet.  Two-fifths of all those receiving a single jab have no protection from the virus.  But they are all encouraged to believe and to act as if they have full protection. Once again the Government is not being straight with the public and is taking another gamble with public health.  

The crunch point ahead is the government plan to reopen all the schools in a ‘big bang’ on March 8th.  This flies in the face of its own expert advice, the policy of the administrations in the rest of the country, and our own bitter experience about the spread of the virus after schools reopened last September.

I would urge everyone to read and support the joint statement from nine unions in response to the government’s plans.  They describe those plans as reckless, and argue instead for a phased return to schools, with rotas, ‘blended learning’ and a number of simple but effective safety measures. 

The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn. Unions showed that over the Chancellor’s plans to cut furlough pay to two-thirds of wages, and both Marcus Rashford and Jo Whiley can testify to it over free school meals and vaccines for the learning disabled respectively.

The key issue now is the unity of all those demanding a different course of action from the government in applying the maximum amount of pressure on this issue.  Those who work in schools care about themselves, their own loved ones and the pupils we entrust to them.  But in opposing a reckless reopening of schools now they are acting in all our interests.  They deserve our full support.

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I realise that Abbott is hugely controversial and much reviled. About half of the abusive messages received by women MPs are actually directed at her. And the Tories have been trying to make her out to be stupid ever since she made a mistake about budget estimates a few years ago. Senior Tories have also made similar mistakes, but this is ignored and they are lauded as if they are mighty intellectuals. As this piece shows, Abbott is anything but stupid and she is exactly right to back the teachers. Contrary to what the Tories are shouting about teachers being lazy, they are not. Our mother was a primary school teacher for very many years, and I know exactly how hard they work. Most teachers I’m sure would love to be back in class, in front of blackboard, actually teaching. But they are also vulnerable to Covid-19 themselves and aware of the role contact in schools can play in its transmission. Children may not suffer particularly from it themselves, but they are able to spread it to adults, some of whom may be extremely vulnerable.

Abbott is right to urge for a cautious, phased reopening of schools and support our front line teaching staff. It’s what Starmer should have done from the start, but didn’t because he was too intent on chasing Tory votes.

See: Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive – Labour Outlook

Conspiracy Theories Spreading About the Covid Vaccine

December 6, 2020

Okay, it seems that no sooner has a vaccine against the Coronavirus been announced, than the paranoids are out there spreading stupid and dangerous conspiracy theories about it. Mike put up a piece about one on Friday, which claimed that Bill Gates was going to put a microchip in each dose so that he could monitor what people were doing. This rumour, according to the Beeb, started in March when Gates told an interviewer that there would be ‘digital certificates’ that would show who’d had the disease and recovered, been tested and received the vaccine. He hadn’t mentioned microchips. But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated that the reference to digital certificates referred to the efforts to create an open-source digital platform with the goal of expanding access to safe, home-based testing.

So it’s not about putting microchips in people.

See: ‘Bill Gates is microchipping you’: Vaccine roll-out prompts return of anti-vaxxer conspiracy flapdoodle | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

This looks like a recent mutation of the old End Times conspiracy theory about bar codes. This first emerged in the 1970s/80s. I first came across it at college from evangelical Christian friends. According to this rumour, every bar code contains the numeral ‘666’. This is the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, which states that under the rule of the Antichrist no-one will be allowed to trade unless they have the Mark of the Beast – this number – on the hand and forehead. So some fundamentalist Christians believe that at the end of the World, everyone will be marked with barcodes on their hand and forehead, because they have the 666 code.

Revelation is a very difficult book of the Bible to understand. One interpretation is that, apart from being a prophecy about the future End of the World and the return of Christ, it’s also a comment on the persecution Christians were then suffering under the emperor Nero. Both the Romans and ancient Jews used codes in which letters had numerical values. In this view, 666 stands for ‘Neron’, Nero’s name in Greek. Not only did Nero persecute the Christians, when he was a young aristocrat he also used to think it was jolly japes to disguise himself as some kind of beast and go round at night attacking people. Hence the Great Beast in Revelation is also reference to Nero.

Now that microchips have been developed, which can be implanted I think the fears about barcodes have changed to include them. Instead of being marked with barcodes, people will be injected with microchips. And Bill Gates is obviously a prime focus for such fears and suspicions because of his huge power through his tech company. But these stories are nevertheless just conspiracy theories in the pejorative sense of the term, nothing more.

Unfortunately it isn’t just western Christians falling prey to stupid fears about the vaccine. I saw a video the other day about a fanatical Islamic cleric in Pakistan, who announced to his audience in cyberspace that the Covid vaccine had been developed to destroy the instinct that stops people committing incest. Once people had it injected, they would start having sex with their close relatives. And it was all the fault of the Jews, because they wanted Israel to get hold of the al-Aqsa mosque.

This is real anti-Semitism, for those, who are so deluded they think it means quietly spoken senior Jewish ladies or gents, who criticise Israel.

I don’t blame Muslims for worrying about what will happen to the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem now that Netanyahu and Donald Trump have decided that Jerusalem’s the real capital of Israel rather than Tel Aviv.

But the claim that the Covid vaccine will turn people into perverted sex maniacs is stupid, wrong and dangerous.

Of course the vaccine isn’t going to do that. And the mullah coming out with this bilge didn’t say how turning people into sex maniacs would enable Israel to get their hands on Islam’s third holiest mosque. Because the theory’s total nonsense.

But it is part of a number of other stupid, dangerous fears about vaccines. The country has been unable to get rid of polio unlike many other Developing nations. It’s because there are rumours going around claiming that the vaccine has been deliberately designed as a bioweapon against Muslims and causes sterility, thus preventing Pakistani Muslim women having children. As a result, people have refused to have the vaccine and medical workers and government officials have been killed. See Meera Senthilingam’s book, Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus (London: Icon Books 2020).

Conspiracy theories like these are dangerous, and stop people getting the medical treatment they need. Don’t believe them. The Covid vaccine doesn’t contain microchips and it won’t turn anyone into a raging pervert bent on incest.

But it might stop someone dying slowly and painfully from the virus.

Don’t believe the rumours and make sure you get treated when it comes to you.

Which is a good question considering the blithering idiocy and incompetence of Boris’ government!

Britain and Russia Nearly Cooperated to Develop HOTOL Spaceplane

July 17, 2020

The news today has been partly dominated by reports that the Russians have been trying to steal secrets of a possible vaccine for Coronavirus. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t remotely surprise me if this was true. Way back in the 1990s the popular science magazine, Focus, did a feature on espionage which stated that most of it was industrial with competing corporations trying to steal each other’s secrets. And I think that during the Cold War the Russians were spying on British companies trying to steal technology. But during the ’90s there was a period when it seemed that Britain and Russia would work together to develop the British spaceplane, HOTOL.

HOTOL would have used a mixture of air-breathing and conventional rocket engines to get into orbit, taking off and landing on ordinary airstrips. It would have been initially unmanned, designed to carry payloads of 7,000-8,000 kilos into low Earth orbit. Crewed missions would be carried out by converting by converting the cargo compartment into a pressurized cabin. The project was cancelled because there were problems developing the air-breathing engines. It was hoped that the Europeans would be interested in supporting it, but they refused on the grounds of the possible cost. However, this resulted in plans for the plane to be adapted to take off from a Russian transport plane. The entry for ‘Spaceplanes’ in the book Space Exploration in the series of Chambers Encyclopedic Guides (Edinburgh: W&R Chambers 1992) says of this

In response to this, an interim HOTOL, using conventional rockets instead of the original air-breathing engines, has been proposed. The interim HOTOL, which has a shorter, fatter fuselage, would be carried to high altitude on the back of the huge Soviet-developed Antonov An-225 transport aircraft and then released. Once clear of the aircraft, HOTOL would fire its rocket motor to climb the rest of the way into orbit. If development were to be authorized it is believed that the first flight of the interim HOTOL could be in 2005. (p. 207).

This entry also contained the following artist’s impression of the HOTOL spaceplane taking off from the back of the Soviet transport plane.

I think this would have been an eminently practical project. The American X-15 rocket plane, which achieved orbit, was launched from a specially-equipped conventional aircraft, as were the various lifting bodies that led to the development of the Space Shuttle. If Britain and Russia had cooperated on it, then we and the Russians would be boldly going into space together 15 years ago. Obviously politics and doubtless costs intervened. I dare say that there was also concerns about technology transfer and the Russians acquiring British aerospace secrets.

But it’s an example of yet another opportunity to expand onto the High Frontier being missed. Nevertheless HOTOL has now been superseded by Skylon, which is almost complete and which should fly. If it gets the backing it needs to put Britain back in orbit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein’s Universal Healthcare Advert

August 7, 2016

After Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist candidate to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee was blocked by the Democratic party machine and its head, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, many of those on the left wing of the party have increasingly turned to the Greens and their presidential candidate, Jill Stein. Stein also stands for expanding the minimal welfare provision, social justice and universal healthcare as well as protecting the environment. In this short video, Stein pledges her support for universal Medicare. The video notes that 58 per cent of the American people want something like Britain’s NHS. She makes the point that she’s a medical doctor, who’s acutely aware of how poverty affects people’s healthcare. She states that Obamacare has added another layer of bureaucracy to the system, and as it’s in the hands of private insurers, these companies can decided who to keep on their books and who to reject as they can’t afford it. She promises a full healthcare, which will cover opticians and dentistry, as well as mental and reproductive health.

This is exactly what the Blairites in the Labour party, and the Tories since Margaret Thatcher, have been trying to deprive the British public. Thatcher wanted to dismantle the welfare state, including the NHS. Alan Milburn wanted the NHS to become only a kitemark for healthcare services provided by private healthcare companies. And Owen Smith wrote a pro-privatisation puff piece when he was working for Pfizer.

And like Jeremy Corbyn over here, Dr. Stein has similarly been smeared. It’s been claimed that she’s ‘anti-science’, which is rich coming from an American political establishment which denies climate change, using very selective research sponsored by the oil giants. In an interview on Watching the Hawks over at RT, Dr Stein talks about this, and how she authored a book, along with other socially aware medical doctors, discussing the threats to children’s developmental health from pollution and so on. Apparently, her Conservative opponents tried telling everyone that she was against vaccination. She states firmly that when she and her colleagues looked at the list of health threats to children, vaccines ‘weren’t even on the list, so I don’t where they got that from.’

The neoliberal consensus is facing a radical challenge and the supposed ‘left-wing’ establishment, both here and in the US, is running scared. But it’s radical politicians like Sanders, Stein and Corbyn that are injecting new life into politics and justly attacking a corrupt and oppressive system.