Oh dear. During the course of the pandemic, the University of Edinburgh professor of public health Devi Sridhar, has become a regular sight on television screens and comment pages – offering her insights on the best course of action over Covid. In her role on the Scottish government’s Covid-19 advisory group, Sridhar has previously caught Mr Steerpike's attention for lobbying repeatedly for more SNP powers which she claims are necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus. The snag? There was nothing stopping the Scottish government from quarantining travellers using their own powers, a move that was already planned at the point Sridhar demanded it.
Now the good professor has been accused once again this afternoon of spreading confusion. As government ministers on both sides of the border seek to dispel scepticism over the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, Sridhar appears to have gone off script. Arguing for a blanket international quarantine, Sridhar made the claim that 'our main vaccine (AZ) doesn't work against' the South African Covid variant.
Her claim appears to be based on findings from a phase 1b-2 clinical trial published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine which suggested two doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only had a 10.4 per cent efficacy against mild-to-moderate infections.
However, preventing mild symptoms is different to not working at all – and as numerous accounts have pointed out to Sridhar on Twitter, her verdict seems rather premature given that no one in the study was hospitalised for severe Covid symptoms or deaths (the trial also spaced the jabs at four weeks rather than Astra Zeneca's recommended 12 weeks). Generally, the jab has of course repeatedly proved to be highly effective against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and deaths which are of course the main aim of vaccinations.
— Prof. Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) March 26, 2021
Huge risk: Watching a slow-moving car crash as U.K. govt stays open to France and other European countries, which have a S. African variant our main vaccine (AZ) doesn’t work against. Red list approach doesn’t work. We need blanket int’l quarantine to avoid future lockdowns. https://t.co/kGz8ypByLR
— Mac n’ Chise 🧬🦠🧫 (@sailorrooscout) March 26, 2021
Oh well. Everyone did warn me I guess. pic.twitter.com/FfxerCuYXi
Equally worrying is that when one scientist replied to Sridhar pointing out to her that this claim is misleading and inaccurate, she chose to block them rather than engage in conversation. Given that Scotland's chief medical officer Gregor Smith was forced to warn in January that 'misinformation' over Covid vaccines is one 'of the biggest dangers' Scotland faces, Steerpike hopes professor Sridhar adopts a more collaborative approach in the future...