We’ve been reporting on Covid certification or ‘Vaccine Passports’ for some time now and as predicted the pressure to impose this ‘papers please’ requirement continues to build. We are now aware that the Health Minister has set aside £10 Million to support the development of a Smart Phone App and this was agreed shortly after Mr Swann declared ‘the utilisation of Covid vaccine passports to access hospitality or close-contact services is not something that sits comfortably with me.’ You can read more on that here and we have recently been sent an email which was received by a hospitality business owner from Hospitality Ulster which states that the NI Executive have requested that they ‘encourage hospitality businesses to operate a Covid Pass entry policy on a voluntary basis as a way of avoiding the potential reintroduction of restrictions’.
So, the Executive are pushing ahead with the introduction of vaccine passports under the guise of ‘voluntary’ but with the threat of the ‘reintroduction of restrictions’ and these are targeted at the hospitality and events industry yet information to support their introduction has yet to be shared. We have been requesting evidence from many different sources for a number of months to understand how this decision has been made in Northern Ireland.
In our initial article regarding vaccine passports on the 24th September, NI Politicians join the call for vaccine passports – Why? We responded to politicians, primarily from the SDLP and Alliance Party, who demanded a vaccine passport scheme be implemented here in Northern Ireland. Well, they’re back at it again, and as before there seems to be co-ordination in pushing the scheme.
Firstly, Tom Black, the chair of The British Medical Association Northern Ireland requested that The Executive revisit the use of Covid passports as a priority following reports of high pressure at the Craigavon Area Hospital, including reports of ambulances being diverted:
Then just as they did back in September, the SDLP and the Alliance Party simultaneously join the call for the passports.
Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, who was very vocal in his support for such a scheme was today back on the Stephen Nolan show, a segment of the interview can be heard in the following tweet:
Eoin Tennyson of the Alliance Party also took to twitter to show his support for a vaccine passport scheme, and when challenged for evidence what is the response?
No response or engagement, straight to block. Clearly doesn’t appreciate being challenged on his position.
The Belfast Telegraph also joined in, publishing a poll conducted by “Lucid Talk” which apparently claimed almost two thirds of people questioned would welcome vaccine passports.
Colum Eastwood Claims
In Colum’s exchange with Stephen Nolan, he claims the pressures on the health service are being caused by unvaccinated people taking up hospital beds with Covid which has created the crisis situation in Craigavon. Here we will review the latest information to see how true his claims really are.
The Department of Health periodically publish “Vaccination status of deaths and hospitalisations” and their latest publication covers the period 27 September to 24 October 2021. On page 6 of the document, it details the hospital admissions for Covid based on vaccination status:
Of the total 837 total admissions, 519 are fully vaccinated, 277 unvaccinated. While the rates per 100,000 people are higher in the unvaccinated, the majority of hospital admissions are fully vaccinated by almost double the amount. However, note that in the 80+ age group, the rates per 100,000 people are higher in the fully vaccinated, compared to the unvaccinated, and the Over 50’s make up 77% of the total admissions, when this group is well over 90% fully vaccinated according the DoH Vaccine Dashboard.
We accept this data is several weeks old at this point, so we need to dig deeper.
Since the data above covered up to 24th October, we pulled the up to date admissions and inpatient data from the DoH Daily Updates:
The trend is in keeping with the data from the “Vaccination status of deaths and hospitalisations” report, although the Over 50’s share has increased from 77% to 81.83%. It is safe to assume that, as before, admissions who are fully vaccinated would represent a significant proportion of the total.
Next, we will look at inpatients:
Inpatients are those who are kept in hospital for treatment with Covid, and the Over 50’s now make up 88%, with the over 80s age group having the largest share, and as mentioned before regarding the DoH vaccination status report, the rates of hospital admissions per 100,000 people are higher in the fully vaccinated than unvaccinated in this age group.
It is worth noting that, a week earlier on the 7th November, there were 464 inpatients with Covid, so there’s been a decrease across the whole of Northern Ireland in that space of time.
This data tells us that Colum Eastwood’s assertions that it’s unvaccinated people with Covid creating the pressure on the health service is not a fair assessment.
What’s happening in Craigavon?
The Craigavon Area Hospital is cited as a reason that the introduction of mandatory covid vaccine passports should be implemented as soon as possible by Tom Black and Colum Eastwood. This would indicate that they are placing the blame on unvaccinated people with Covid in Craigavon. We’ve taken a closer look at Craigavon Area Hospital.
The trend here follows the rest of Northern Ireland, over 50’s making up of over 80% of the admissions, which would again infer that the majority of those admissions will be fully vaccinated.
Over to inpatients:
A similar picture is seen again, with the over 50’s making up of over 90% of the total inpatients with Covid in the Southern Trust.
Note the number of inpatients on this date is 147. The previous two weekends displayed this:
- October 31st – 157 inpatients
- November 7th – 155 inpatients
This shows there has been a reduction in inpatients with Covid when compared to the previous two weeks data in the Southern Trust, of which the Craigavon area hospital is a part of.
Tom Black and Colum Eastwood’s claims appear to be unfounded based on the information, this is not a problem caused by the unvaccinated.
We have seen many calls on social media today for Colum Eastwood and Tom Black to provide their evidence that vaccine passports would relieve the pressures in this and other hospitals.
What evidence is available?
Spending millions of public funds on a scheme that hugely impacts the way of life in this country is a decision we do not expect to be taken lightly. There should be a full impact assessment carried out to ensure that the introduction of this tool is truly going to benefit this country against Covid-19.
What the response from the Health Minister shows today is that the Welsh Government does not have any empirical evidence to show that the introduction of covid passes is helping to reduce case numbers.
Wales introduced their version of the vaccine passport in early October, and despite that, don’t possess any empirical evidence for their benefit. What are our politicians that favour the scheme basing their positions on?
We have requested information directly from Robin Swann and from Colum Eastwood of the SDLP, and there has been many interactions with Naomi Long on Twitter. Naomi Long is an avid supporter of their introduction as previously reported. Swann and Eastwood neglected to respond to members of the electorate but Naomi Long has engaged through Twitter.
Mrs Long has declared that she fully supports the release of the evidence used to support their introduction and that the Executive have seen this information which is why she takes the position she has. However, having confirmed that she has seen the evidence, she feels unable to share this information herself but she has stated that she supports this evidence being made available to the public.
As our local representatives were not forthcoming with the information, they have allegedly seen, we have requested the evidence through a number of Freedom of Information requests.
First we contacted the Executive – They responded to advise they DO NOT possess the information and referred us to the Department of Health.
So we wrote to the Department of Health. This request was initially rejected because it ‘exceeded the appropriate limit’ for a FOI.
As you can imagine – Citizen Journos want to understand all the information used to make this significant change to the free society in which we used to live and so yes, the FOI was lengthy – You can read the request here:
The request was broken down into small chunks and resubmitted by a number of associates.
The Department of Health responded to the FOI to advise that they do not hold the information requested in questions 1-8 of our FOI ‘However following some discussions with the relevant business areas it would seem that the Public Health Agency (PHA) may hold some information to answer Q1-8 although we feel that information may not be held at this level of granularity and modelling as this level of granularity may not be conducted or possible, although the characteristics of high risk settings can be specified.’
We have of course submitted our request to the Public Health Agency.
So – The Department of Health has invested £10 million of public funds into an app that will fundamentally change how people in this country live, but they don’t have evidence to support the case.
What questions do we want answered?
You can read the full FOI in detail, but in summary – Vaccine Passports are allegedly being introduced to curb transmission within hospitality venues. We want to ascertain what kind of forecasting has been done to understand the number of cases being attributed to pubs and restaurants Vs. the expected reduction following the introduction of vaccine passports. It’s a fair question, right?
We go on to enquire whether the cases attributed to hospitality have resulted in hospitalisations and deaths and again how the introduction of vaccine passports is expected to impact these figures – again, fair enough? We’ve asked for age profile and close contact impact as well. And of course, the ultimate question for such a fundamental change is – how any lives can be saved?
We have also asked how much this is expected to cost our businesses? What are the expected fines should this become a mandatory requirement and a company fails to comply. No information provided for that either.
We shall report back on the information from the Public Health Agency – we expect that they will have the actual data for cases attributed to hospitality settings and can only hope that this has been used to build a very strong business case for the introduction of vaccine passports.
Live case studies
In the absence of the supporting evidence from our local representatives and departments we have looked around the world at other countries that have already adopted vaccine passports to see how they’re helping in their progress against Covid-19.
*A solution for children aged between 12-15 is currently being worked on.
**If a person under 18 is without an adult – they must show proof also.
Let’s have a look at how these countries are performing compared to Northern Ireland where passports are not yet fully implemented:
Scotland is the only country performing better than Northern Ireland in cases (per 100k).
Not only have vaccine passports not been the answer for Austria and Netherlands – they are unfortunately both seeking to reintroduce lockdown measures with Austria imposing restrictions for the unvaccinated only.
Ireland are hinting at Christmas restrictions and County Waterford, which has amongst the highest vaccination rates in the world also have the highest rates of infection in Ireland!
Our very own Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance party, let slip on Twitter that ‘The behavioural science and surveying suggests some people will never get vaccinated, but others are more “what’s in it for me?”. The latter may well be swayed if they want to do activities which are impacted.’
Are vaccine passports more about increasing vaccination rates as opposed to decreasing infection rates? As we reported on previously – that didn’t work out so well for Ireland.
Ireland and Netherlands both have higher vaccination rates than the United Kingdom – but also higher case rates. Higher vaccination rates AND vaccine passports but still higher case rates.
For a Covid vaccine passport scheme to be successful, first the vaccines they are based upon need to be effective in preventing transmission. Looking at the latest Public Health England vaccination surveillance report, that doesn’t appear to be the case:
In all age groups over 18, there are much greater numbers of cases in the fully vaccinated vs unvaccinated. The vaccines do not grant people immunity, as the virus is passing through the vaccinated population quite freely. Therefore, it is difficult to see how a vaccine passport would grant any additional protection against transmission.
We’re now in the position of imminent mandatory Digital Health IDs. We have been provided no evidence, despite several FOI requests submitted to the very departments who should possess it, that they will make the blindest bit of difference at stopping or slowing COVID-19 transmissions. It is highly questionable whether it even exists. In the cases of Austria, Netherlands and The Republic of Ireland, the vaccine passports have been shown to be a failed scheme.
Why would Northern Ireland politicians press ahead with Digital Health IDs when it is clear they have failed elsewhere? We will keep asking these questions, and we hope that the Northern Ireland public do so too, we encourage the public to contact their MLAs to ask for the evidence that would support their introduction.