Scottish Covid adviser’s vaccine U-turn

Scottish Covid adviser’s vaccine U-turn
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Professor Devi Sridhar has been rarely off Scottish television screens during the pandemic. The Edinburgh academic has become something of an SNP pin-up owing to her membership of the Scottish government’s Covid advisory group. In this capacity she has repeatedly lobbied for more Holyrood powers which she claimed were necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus – powers that were already at Nicola Sturgeon's disposal when Sridhar demanded it. She has also frequently praised the First Minister’s ‘wise words’, her ‘strong leadership’, and ‘decisive action’ in tackling the virus. And, the single time that Sridhar did seem to contradict Sturgeon’s official policy, the academic hastily clarified that she and Sturgeon were ‘completely aligned’.

Unfortunately however Sridhar's own record during Covid has been less than spotless. Eight weeks ago, Mr S pointed out that the good professor was spreading inaccurate information about the effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab against new variants after she tweeted on March 26: 'Huge risk: watching a slow-moving car crash as UK 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.'

Two months later, such a blanket international quarantine has not been introduced. Case numbers continue to fall in Scotland with just 313 cases reported yesterday and zero new reported deaths of those who tested positive. The red list approach is still in place and AstraZeneca is still being administered daily to thousands across the UK. You might have thought an academic who had been so outspoken on this might be somewhat embarrassed by this extremely positive data.

Apparently not, given Sridhar's recent tweets. The professor has now done a complete 180 and switched to being bullish about the resilience of Britain's vaccines (including the much-maligned AstraZeneca). She tweeted on May 23: 'My take on current situation: variants will continue to cause issues but our vaccines (both doses!) are effective as an additional layer of protection. We have to move away from harsh restrictions and lockdowns to data-driven, precise outbreak management using science and logistics.' Quite the turn around.

Of course, you cannot point this volte-face out to Sridhar as she has a disconcerting habit of blocking her critics online. Her tweet of 26 March has now been deleted – not surprising given how inaccurate her AstraZeneca claims proved to be. Other claims are harder for Sridhar to remove, such as her apocalyptic warning on Sky at the end of February that 'there is a huge risk of bringing back all kids at the same time and then having to shut schools again' – another prediction that failed to transpire.

Sridhar herself has shown no qualms about demanding greater accountability and transparency for others, writing online that 'Secrecy goes against public good esp in crisis when decisions have implications for 66 million people.' Mr S wonders whether Sridhar's preference for expunging her inaccurate predictions is conducive to good policy making.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this articleScotland