In the early days of the so called covid pandemic, Chris Whitty advised the UK Government that the virus was not dangerous enough to justify cutting short vaccine trials as the vaccine had to be “very safe”.
Leaked WhatsAPP messages have revealed that the Chief Medical Officer told ministers that a disease with a low mortality rate would need a ‘very safe’ vaccine.
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Writing on WhatsApp on February 29th 2020, Whitty said: “For a disease with a low (for the sake of argument 1%) mortality a vaccine has to be very safe so the safety studies can’t be shortcut. So important for the long run.”
Chief Scientist Patrick Vallance agreed with this advice and wrote that existing drugs should be relied on instead: “Agree, existing drugs best things to try for this outbreak. Accelerate vaccine testing where we have good candidates for future, and prepare for manufacturing capacity for longer term.”
It has not been reported what led to this approach being changed, but the advice was given before a pandemic had been declared or any country except China had imposed a lockdown. Public opinion, and Government responses around the world, shifted considerably after that point.
The Telegraph has published an article looking at what the Lockdown Files WhatsApp messages show about how the Government came to impose lockdown on March 23rd as it came under pressure during March to do more.
On March 2nd Patrick Vallance said he and Whitty estimated that the chance of a reasonable worst case scenario (at one point reportedly estimated by Whitty to involved up to 820,000 U.K. deaths) was one in five:
For percentage probability of RWCS [reasonable worst case scenario] we don’t have a calculated figure and can’t give one on the data we have. But Chris and I both think that looking at Wuhan so far the RWCS is relatively low probability, say one in five chance. But that is an impression not a calculation.
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