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Something must be done about the BBC

Summary:
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Today the BBC treated us to a morning of terror about the AstroZeneca vaccine killing people.  The true news was that about 18 people may have died from rare blood clotting disorders among over 20 million people given the vaccine. The 18 people is an un-adjusted number that includes natural deaths from blood clotting.  According to a Danish study: "Here, based on pre-pandemic incidence rates from the entire Danish population, we report that the number of venous thromboembolisms reported in relation to the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine does not seem to be increased beyond the expected incidence rate. Nevertheless, recent reports of thrombocytopenia-associated cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, multiple thrombosis, and bleeding within a short

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Today the BBC treated us to a morning of terror about the AstroZeneca vaccine killing people.  

The true news was that about 18 people may have died from rare blood clotting disorders among over 20 million people given the vaccine. The 18 people is an un-adjusted number that includes natural deaths from blood clotting.  According to a Danish study: "Here, based on pre-pandemic incidence rates from the entire Danish population, we report that the number of venous thromboembolisms reported in relation to the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine does not seem to be increased beyond the expected incidence rate. Nevertheless, recent reports of thrombocytopenia-associated cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, multiple thrombosis, and bleeding within a short timeframe after receipt of the vaccine are concerning and are receiving due attention from health authorities." So whether or not the deaths are real effects of the vaccine is still unknown.  This study was only released on March 30th. 

How well did the BBC fulfill its Charter responsibility 'to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them: the BBC should provide duly accurate and impartial news..'?  How far did the BBC employ 'the highest calibre presenters and journalists?'.

Firstly, was the story correct? Does the population need to be deeply concerned about these blood clots? 

Blood clots of this type occur after heparin therapy during bone and joint surgery.  About 2000 in a million people given heparin die of this complication (0.8% get the complication and 20-30% of these die (Franchini 2005)).  Had heparin been administered to 20m people 40,000 would have died.  Yet heparin is considered worthwhile in the circumstances of orthopedic surgery. The BBC has not devoted the best part of its morning news to condemning heparin.

Unfortunately the anti-vaccine movement has led to the removal of much of the literature on deaths as a side effect of vaccination.  Articles on adverse reactions to vaccines are nowadays, perhaps rightly, more likely to contain graphs showing that anti-vaxers kill large numbers of people than data on the tiny number of deaths due to vaccines.  The historical literature suggests that for smallpox 1 in a million people died of the vaccination.

The data for other COVID vaccines show that AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech had almost identical death rates per vaccine dose. As of 21 March, an estimated 10.8 million first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 15.8 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, had been administered (Govt Data). As of March 21st 283 people have died after Pfizer vaccinations and 421 after AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca's's unadjusted death rate was 26 per million doses and Pfizer's was 26 per million doses.  The real death rate was much, much lower and will only be known when each case is investigated for pre-existing illness, detailed cause of death and comparison with background rates.

The biggest surprise, given the Danish study on the background rate of thromboembolism, is that the Pfizer vaccine did not cause any of the rare blood clots. None at all. As the Government put it: 'Up to and including 24 March, we had received 22 reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and 8 reports of other thrombosis events with low platelets, out of a total of 18.1 million doses of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca given by that date. There were no reports for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.' (Govt Data).

Either the Pfizer vaccine is a cure for thromboembolism or doctors have been primed by the media to blame these exceptionally rare events on the AstraZeneca vaccine.  It is a mystery why the BBC has missed this point.

The Pfizer vaccine appears to cause more deaths than the Astra Zeneca vaccine in other areas.  Adjusting for numbers of vaccinations by multiplying the Pfizer figures by 1.5, the "apparent risk" of sudden death was  50% higher with the Pfizer vaccine, there were 6 adjusted deaths from diarrhea in the Pfizer group and none at all in the AstraZeneca group, the combined risk of myocardial infarction/cardiac arrest was 50% higher in the Pfizer group (15 extra deaths) and to top it all the risk of death from COVID19 was 300% of that found with AstraZeneca (14 versus 42, adjusted). If you save 18 people from thromboembolism you kill 28 people from COVID.  The problems are at least as bad as those for the AstraZeneca vaccine (ie: no real problem).  The great mystery is that the BBC antivaxers have not focused on Pfizer.

The BBC reporting is like an anti-vaxer blog.  It isolates particular results without considering the context.  They could at least ask about the risk of death from COVID for people who react with blood clotting when given vaccinations.  COVID largely kills by inducing widespread blood clotting (CVST is a major cause of death from COVID).

Had the BBC been "just another red top news source" it could be forgiven for its hysterical reaction to the raw vaccine data.  However, the Charter demands that it should have higher standards.

To live up to its Charter the BBC should be trimmed back to two broadcast channels, its 24 hour news should be removed and it should run a news research department that puts the news in context and ensures that important context is not omitted. It should separate its news summaries from its current affairs programming so that anecdotal reports do not get confused with factual news. Its presenters should not react to the news with hysteria or anger.

Had the BBC researched the vaccines and put them in context it would have spotted the points made above.  It would also have put them in the context of the ongoing EU campaign against AstraZeneca.  If there were no blood clots and AstraZeneca had 50% higher sudden deaths there would have been a witch hunt based on sudden deaths. Remember that EU countries banned AstraZeneca for a succession of flimsy reasons before fixing on blood clots.

The BBC anti-vaxers have almost certainly helped remove the cheap, relatively easily produced and transported AstraZeneca vaccine from the global response to COVID.  This will kill thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people.  How can they sleep at night?

The country deserves better from its national broadcaster.

8/4/2021

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