How dim is Sir Liam Donaldson ?

The Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson said two weeks ago that

"We are tantalisingly close to beating swine flu".

Anyone with any medical knowledge would know that this was a stupid comment to make. Although flu numbers were at the time falling, it was obvious that this was down to the school holidays. This was made even more obvious by the fact that flu numbers started falling first in Scotland (where they go on holiday first) and then started to rise again in Scotland (when they returned earlier than in England and Wales). So knowing this, why did Sir Liam say what he said ?

Now, with the holidays over, we have seen two rises in successive weeks, and now Sir Liam says he thinks "this might be the start of the second wave". Isn't that plainly obvious to everyone ? So why did Sir Liam close his eyes and hope for the best two weeks ago and make such an inane statement ?

Furthermore though, it does make you wonder why schools were not kept closed for another couple of weeks. Children apparently infect 2.4 other people with any virus they have whereas adults infect 1.6 people. This means that children will infect 50% more people than adults this meaning the return to school will make things much worse.

If they had hung on for a couple of weeks before allowing the reopening of schools we would have seen weekly infection rates fall to around 1000 a week. That means that within three weeks of schools reopening we would have been up to about 7000 infections a week just as the vaccine would come on stream. This means that the vaccine would have had a chance to be effective in halting the very worst of the second wave. Instead, by the time the vaccine comes on stream in around 3 weeks infection levels will be 72,000 per week. By the time the vaccine is effective (10-14 days) that means that infection levels will reach 250,000 a week. Assuming the current death rates persist it means around 50-80 people dying who need not have died.

And still Sir Liam thought we were closed to beating swine flu. What an absolute idiot.

Update : Interestingly, the highest number of hospitalisations for any age group so far infected with swine flu is the under 5s, according to the BBC documentary last week. So guess which group is not going to be in the first round of vaccinations ? Under 5s. Well done Sir Liam.


Sir Edward Heath said...

I wouldn't be too hard on Sir Liam - he is the Chief Medical Officer, not The Minister for Health. His appointment and position is different as he has actually experience in medicine. Unlike most in the Goverment.

Quietzapple said...

Are you quite sure that the vaccine will assist rather than adversely affect the under 5s as a whole?

Please bear in mind that under 5's are brought into hospital more readily than the rest of us. Small = vulnerable, and often unknown.

My wife had a handicapped 4 yr old child in her school. It was not until he died unexpectedly that it was realised that he had no pancreas.

Right to take extra care with little ones.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I am completely confident about vaccines. I took the polio vaccine when little. My sone had MMR (remember only one survey ever highlighted a problem with MMP and the doctor who did it has since been struck off after he was found to be in the pay of a single vaccine producer).

In the US they vaccinate against Chicken Px. Why ? Becuase in the UK children are blinded each year by catching Chicken Pox.

So, in short, yes.

Quietzapple said...

Obviously I am old enough to have known some of Jenner's milkmaids, but even then I think it was taken that vaccines vary.

I suppose the WHO site is a next point of call.

Anonymous said...

i think the choice of words was aimed at the general public (not intellectuals) to put a more positive spin on the success of the swine flu response as opposed to it all seeming to be a great big over-reaction.

and yes, the uk is 'beating' swine flu. vaccination nearly ready for the risky groups, national pandemic flu service and antivirals at the ready...

well done the government!

Norfolk Blogger said...

If you don't know the difference between government actions beating the flu and the school holidays starting then you seem to be in a delirious flu fever as the governments actions so far have been slow, ham fisted and show a shocking disregard for public health.

It was the UK government who put pressure on the WHO to stop them delcaring a pandemic by several weeks. This means swine flu vaccine is several weeks late in arriving.

It was the UK government who appointed a company on a "pay as they phone" basis to run the pandemic helpline employing 16 year olds with no medical knowledge handing out Tamiflu like packets of sweets.

It was the UK government who failed to impose travel restrictions on flights to Mexico which may have halted the swine flu spread in this ountry in the early critical stages.

As for Tamiflu itself, the government ordered this for H5N1 avian flu but it is almost useless against this strain of flu.

I could go on but I fear you don't want to listen and are instead making a party political point.

Anonymous said...

" 'I think we are tantalisingly close to being able to win the battle against this pandemic,' he said. "

I think this statement was based on being proportionately prepared for (the risks of) the outbreak, not that the government's policies had resulted in a reduction in transmission rates of the flu (which, as you pointed out, was affected by the school holidays)!

In terms of benefit versus disrutption, I think it was right that the kids went back to school as normal.

I wasn't aware that the UK had put pressure on WHO to delay the announcement of phase 6. What would that achieve?

But I don't want to get involved in a ding dong battle over all your opinions on what the government has or hasn't done right, I just thought you had essentially misinterpreted Sir Liam Donaldson's statement to the media.

Keep up the healthy blogging/debating!