Saturday 30 January 2021

The strange case of Ursula von der Leyen and the AstraZeneca vaccines

Deaths from other illnesses are just sad facts but for every death from Covid-19 a politician is held to blame.

I suppose it's what the 1970s hard left feminists meant by 'The personal is political'.

On Wednesday Boris Johnson was blamed for 100,000 deaths, but today he is praised for the UK having five vaccines available or close to being available. And what looks like a watertight contract to get AstraZeneca vaccines ahead of Europe.

The UK paid money down months before the EU finished haggling over the price of a drug being sold at no profit by the manufacturer. When cabinet ministers saw a "best endeavours" clause in the AstraZeneca contract like the one in the EU contract with AZ, Alok Sharma and "Matt" Hancock "insisted on a legally binding promise to serve Britain first". Mr. Hancock is not the complete ass I had thought.

Had Brexit not happened, the UK like any other member state in the EU could have opted to buy the vaccine on her own. The UK was invited to join in the EU purchasing arrangements despite Brexit. The British chose not to, knowing how slow and bad the EU would be at making decisions. 

However, in an interview in the Daily Telegraph Miss Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said she "voted Remain but recognises that Brexit allowed the UK to go it alone in purchasing, well in advance, the vaccines most likely to succeed."

Countless people on Facebook and Twitter have asked for years what concrete benefit Brexit would provide. 

Even a week ago my friend Tony did so. He was emotional because French customs officers had confiscated an English lorry driver's ham sandwich.

This might be the moment when the whole of England, and perhaps the UK, comes to accept Brexit and move on. 

Surely Scottish Remainers (Rejoiners, I suppose) must see now that the UK cares about them and the EU does not give a fig.

It is all very enjoyable. 

Ursula Von Der Leyen is to blame for the EU's mishandling of the vaccine. She has been as inept as she was throughout her time in the German cabinet. The German press judges her very harshly. 

President Macron sounded like a sarcastic fourteen year-old when he said yesterday afternoon,
"Everything points to thinking [the AZ vaccine] is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older."
Marine Le Pen is level with him in the latest opinion poll.

Sir John Bell, the Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford who led the vaccine trials, said,
"There is ample evidence of strong antibody responses in this age group and you can be certain they will respond to the vaccine. Perhaps he is trying to reduce demand for the vaccine for some reason."
Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times tweeted:

"This is the point that we would summon the EU ambassador for a dressing down, if we hadn’t stopped them having an ambassador"

Dan Hodges, a level-headed Blairite Tory who voted Remain, accused Macron of trying to kill British people over 65.

Michel Barnier, Michel Barnier, has urged the EU to "de-escalate tensions" and deploy a "spirit of co-operation" with the UK to work through "an extraordinarily serious crisis".

Was a pandemic like this inevitable, because of frequent air travel? 

Nothing is inevitable before it happens, according to AJP Taylor. Dr Tim Boon, head of research and public history at the Science Museum in London, disagrees:

“Any real public health expert will say that with international travel, the pandemic was inevitable, and have said so for a very long time. Even whilst studies proceed about the precise source, whether it’s pangolins, or something else, the more that we invade every corner of the globe, the more we’re likely to find the pathogens, which are existing quite happily in their small ecologies."

So, an act of God or of man?  The Pope thinks the latter, but he prefers talking left-wing politics to justifying the ways of God.

In any case necessity has once again been the mother of invention. 

Last summer someone in No 10 Downing St told the Sunday Times that there was a 40% chance that a vaccine against Covid-19 would never be found. Now there are many that seem to work and the UK has been lucky again: it has a fifth vaccine after Janssen announced its one gives complete protection against death from Covid after just one dose.

Medical science has taken another huge leap forward.

If only politics were a progressive science. 

If only human nature could improve, but it is immutable.


  1. No to be England Now That COVID’s There

    COVID is now estimated to have taken seven months off average life-expectancy in the UK — or perhaps it’s a full year, depending on which report you are inclined to go by, with the largest single tranche of casualties being elderly men, who appear to have double the death risk of elderly women.

    And why does Britain now have the world’s highest COVID death rate? By the reckoning of UK Pensions Minister Thérèse Coffey, who recently became the target of much abuse for telling the truth, the greatest of political mortal sins, when she said on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that it was due to so many Britons being elderly, obese or both.

    Once in hospital, an elderly person likely will get oxygen and steroids. This is medicine out of the 1950s, steroids being a twin-edged sword. For COVID patients with severe lung inflammation, steroids help. For patients with less severe symptoms, steroids can worsen things, partly by suppressing immunity, and partly by making patients’ other illnesses — diabetes, hypertension, to name but two — that much worse.

    If you’re elderly and deteriorating in hospital, you’ll be asked about your wishes. The subtext is for the patient to declare he or she would prefer not to be alive. Junior doctors have been writing in newspapers about how these patients are routinely given morphine and benzodiazepines to ease them into a less unpleasant death. Euthanasia seems to be one way the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been able to just about cope...

    The UK Telegraph recently reported that up to one in six people admitted to hospital with ailments other than COVID went on to catch the disease while in the supposedly protective care of NHS hospitals. Of these, many with underlying illnesses severe enough to need hospital care may well have gone on to die of COVID.

    So, the UK NHS which every Brit is urged to clap and applaud once a week, further being told they should be more proud of their nation’s medical system than any other aspect or achievement of modern Britain — has quietly been killing off people who arrived with non-COVID illnesses.

    When the dust settles from COVID-19, the preventable tragedy of infecting vulnerable people in hospitals with COVID may be seen as one of its most regrettable aspects.

    Michael Copeman

    30th January 2021

  2. Fine piece. My only quibble is "The UK could have bought her own vaccine had Brexit not happened", the EU in fact stopped individual governments from purchasing their own vaccine supplies in the spirit of harmonisation (although the Germans bailed from that agreement and ordered their own once it became clear what a duff job the EU procurement bods were making of it). In reply to the first comment the UK's death rate is comparatively slightly worse than some countries for two main reasons:-
    a) sending pensioners with Coronavirus back into their care homes from hospital, and
    b) the UK's high population density, apart from Scotland.

    1. Has the EU actually stopped individual governments from purchasing their own vaccine supplies? They persuaded many states not to do so, I know, but Hungary has made her own arrangements. I shall look this up. My work is never done!


      "That said, none of these successes can be chalked up to Brexit. As the chief executive of the MHRA swiftly pointed out, Mr Hancock was wrong to say that the UK could approve the vaccine early because it was no longer subject to EU rules. The MHRA’s decision was taken in accordance with the relevant EU legislation, which allows member states to grant temporary authorisation for a medicinal product in response to the spread of infectious diseases (among others). [1] This legislation still applies to the UK until the end of the transition period. Any EU member state could have used the same provision of the legislation to approve the vaccine. They decided not to for political and technical reasons, not legal ones.

      "Similarly, the member states were in no way obliged to take part in the EU’s joint vaccine procurement scheme. The EU has very limited competences for public health under its founding treaties: it can take action only to “support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States”. The EU member states in this case voluntarily decided to opt into the joint procurement scheme. If one or more of them had decided to follow the UK’s path and procure its own vaccines, no one would have stopped them."

    3. “I want to say this to our international partners,” said Matt Hancock last night. “Of course I’m delighted about how well this is going at home. But I believe fundamentally that the vaccine roll-out is a global effort… So we will protect UK supply, and play our part to ensure the whole world can get the jab…”