Executive Summary: Confusion in Covid-19 Communications in the UK

We should perhaps be comfited, at least partly, by the fact that the shift in some other European countries towards mandatory vaccination has not yet surfaced strongly in the UK. However, for some time now I have been concerned about the often inadequate, misleading, and often conflicting information presented to the British public over the past 18 months, by politicians, by the senior medical-science bureaucracy, and, unfortunately by a proportion of virologists, behavioural scientists, and epidemiologists. Individuals seem to have agendas that they support by selecting evidence that supports their hypotheses.

Granted that the underlying specialist scientific, technical, and statistical risk (and uncertainty) information is difficult to communicate directly to the public. It should be possible to provide a more accurate, if simplified, objective picture of the key elements determining the evolution of the pandemic and appropriate policies to be deployed. The necessity of doing so is urgent during the current transition to dealing with the SARS-Cov-2 virus as an endemic in the population. Nonetheless, at the same time is substantial opening up of the economy and society, fear-mongering about Covid is continuing. This being displayed in the current confusion over vaccinating healthy children (50% of whom have already caught the virus and have substantial natural immunity) and unnecessarily giving a “booster” jab to older people, to provide a marginal uplift in their probably adequate immune response.

The missing information, the unbalanced public presentations – and in some cases the lies of omission – coupled with  the medical establishment and government, apparently holding conflicting views of what decisions to take, is not only debilitating, given the need for cooperation from the general public, but unforgivable.

Key actions are:

First, despite warnings of an upsurge in cases in September/October, only partly linked to the schools returning, given the already wider lifting of population restrictions, the UK should prioritise delivery of the flu jab to the over-50s. It is essential to avoid a major resurgence of this disease in the winter, based on vaccines that cover whatever flu variant will emerge in 2021.

Second,  clear information should be provided to the general public indicating that the country is achieving a high degree of protection against serious Covid-19 disease, derived from both a high level of vaccination and natural immunity. This level of immunity reduces the population risk and permits a transition from pandemic mode to endemic mode. The transition is likely to take a further 9 months to be completed and will still require caution to be exercised in terms of contact in crowded indoor settings. There are likely to be sporadic Covid outbreaks, taking place in certain localised situations. As in Far-Eastern countries, clear procedures should be put in place for identifying and dealing with these local outbreaks. This should entail advising vulnerable adults, in certain restricted local areas, to avoid crowded indoor spaces and travelling beyond their local area, for a limited period

Third, vaccinations of healthy children should be postponed indefinitely. The attempt to circumvent the advice of the independent JCVI is disgraceful. The so-called booster vaccinations for over 50-year-olds, should be postponed unless specifically requested by individuals via their GP surgeries. Clear information should be provided on the risks of becoming infected (low to moderate) and the separate risk of severe disease (extremely low).

Fourth, a concerted attempt should be made by the medical-science fraternity, senior politicians, and the media to raise the level of public debate and discussion of Covid-19, with some focus also on sixth forms in schools, colleges, and universities. Hopefully, if properly conducted it will reduce the current massive confusion about Covid-19 in the minds of the general public.

What is required is honesty and consistent messaging on the part of the four principal actors: 1) scientists who should distinguish the issues where they have a high degree of certainty, and those where they do not have such certainty, and not to speculate (especially on the media); 2) medical bureaucrats (at all levels) who need to inform themselves better on the developing science and to act with some ethical awareness in terms of recommendations; 3) decision-making politicians who also need to become better informed on scientific matters (this means putting in some intellectual effort), and, finally, 4) the media, who need to not ask experts to give categorical answers or to speculate, and to interrogate politicians with intelligent, well-informed scientific questions.

The full article is provided through the link below with copious references to relevant scientific papers and analyses.

FIND THE FULL PAPER HERE.

About the GPI

The Global Policy Institute is a research institute on international affairs. It is based in the City of London, and draws on both a rich pool of international thinkers, academics as well as policy and business professionals. The Institute gives non-partisan guidance to policymakers and decision takers in business, government, and NGOs.

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