PUBLIC Health Scotland will no longer publish weekly data on Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths from next week after mounting concerns that it is being misused by antivaxxers.

It comes after a former advisor to the Trump administration told a US Senate committee hearing that data from Scotland "demonstrates conclusively that the vaccine is driving massive infections in the vaccinated".

The Herald: Paul E Alexander Paul E Alexander

Paul E Alexander, an epidemiologist and Canadian health researcher, who - as a Trump administration official - advocated for a strategy of mass infection of the public with Covid-19 to build herd immunity, said this was a "big, big problem" during an evidence session chaired by Senator Ron Johnson on January 17.

Dr Alexander was referring to a table published by PHS which showed that by the week beginning January 22, the age-standardised Covid case rate per 100,000 in Scotland was 381.5 among the unvaccinated compared to 570 in the double-vaccinated and 447 per 100,000 in the boosted.

The Herald: Case rates have been higher in the double-vaccinated and, latterly, the boosted - but PHS says the size of the unvaccinated group is being underestimatedCase rates have been higher in the double-vaccinated and, latterly, the boosted - but PHS says the size of the unvaccinated group is being underestimated

It was the first time that the case rate among boosted individuals had overtaken the unvaccinated, with the case rate among the double-vaccinated first pulling ahead of the unvaccinated group in December as the Omicron wave exploded.

Similar patterns are being seen other countries including England and Ontario in Canada, but PHS officials stress that it has been misunderstood.

A major part of the problem in Scotland is that the size of the unvaccinated population in particular is being overestimated because it relies on counting the number of people registered with GPs, as patient records are required to track vaccine status against infections.

However, it is unclear how many of these people actually are still in Scotland.

READ MORE: Questions over 'weird' Scottish data showing lowest Covid rates are in the unvaccinated 

If GP registrations are used to count the size of the total population in Scotland, it comes out eight per cent higher than the official figure used by the National Records of Scotland.

Similarly, when NRS populations are used it is estimated that 8% of individuals aged 12 or over in Scotland have had no vaccine - but when GP registrations are used the figure is closer to 16%.

Estimates for the size of the vaccinated populations are more accurate because the patients had to be resident in Scotland at the time of their vaccinations.

The skewing effect of overestimating the size of the unvaccinated population - potentially by as much as 50% - used for the "per 100,000" denominator becomes more pronounced as the prevalence of the virus increases, as it did to record levels with Omicron.

As a result, PHS says the case rates for the unvaccinated group during Omicron became misleadingly low.

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There is also some evidence that people who are vaccinated are more likely to get tested or to self-report lateral-flow test results, which could also be undermining the accuracy of the figures.

From next week these tables will be published quarterly rather than once a week and replaced by information on vaccine efficacy against infection based on trials and real-world studies.

READ MORE: Should Scotland follow England and scrap self-isolation? 

Officials accept that this will fuel claims of a "cover-up" by vaccine sceptics, but have grown increasingly concerned by the way Scotland's data was being promoted - particularly following the Senate hearing.

Spectator associate editor Toby Young, the American right-wing opinion website, The Blaze, and anti-vaxxer American talking head Alex Berenson have also seized on the data to question vaccine rollouts.

In addition to case rate data, the hospitalisation and mortality rate among double-vaccinated individuals in Scotland also overtook the unvaccinated for the first time during the Omicron - fuelling claims online that the vaccines were ineffective.

The Herald: Hospitalisation rates have also appeared higher in the double-vaccinated than the unvaccinated, but this is skewed by higher vulnerable adults overdue for boostersHospitalisation rates have also appeared higher in the double-vaccinated than the unvaccinated, but this is skewed by higher vulnerable adults overdue for boosters

The trend was driven by hospital cases among "very vulnerable individuals" - particularly over-70s whose vaccine protection from a second dose was waning around the time Omicron took off, but whose health was also compromised by a combination of complex and chronic illnesses or frailty which is not accounted for through age-standardisation alone.

Their frailty - or the fact that they were in hospital, unable to go to booster appointments - meant many were overdue for, but unable to get, a third dose.

In younger age groups, hospitalisation and death rates continued to be lower for those with two doses compared to the unvaccinated.

Death and hospitalisation rates have been consistently substantially lower throughout the Omicron wave among those patients who had received boosters.

A spokesman for PHS said: “The main important point around all of the analysis is we understand whether the vaccines are working against catching it and against getting severe Covid, and that’s where the vaccine effectiveness studies come in which are a completely different methodology.

"The case rates, hospitalisation rates, the death rates are very simple statistics, whereas for the vaccine effectiveness studies we use modelling, we compare people who have tested negative to those who have tested positive and match them on their underlining co-morbidities.

"It’s a completely different method which is much more robust and that’s what we want people to focus on.”

READ MORE: Omicron is fading - but what kind of NHS can we really expect post-Covid? 

He added: “What is happening is people are looking at those simple data and trying to make inferences about the vaccination, whether the vaccines work, inappropriately and sometimes wilfully.

"There are so many caveats and they just pull certain figures out that should not be used.

"What we are going to do is do a lot more on the vaccine effectiveness side and try and make people understand how effective the vaccine is.

“For example we know it is 50 per cent effective against getting infected, but that it is much higher effectiveness against hospitalisations and deaths which is the key thing really as that’s what we want to prevent.”

The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency indicates that vaccine protection from symptomatic Covid infections caused by Omicron is around 50-75% in the first three months following a booster jag, rising to 80-95% for hospitalisation and 85-99% for mortality.

The Herald: Confirmed Covid cases are plateauing in Scotland Confirmed Covid cases are plateauing in Scotland

On January 17, Dr Alexander, giving evidence to US Senator Ron Johnson - who opposed stay-at-home orders during the pandemic - said the situation with Omicron would have been different if countries were using vaccines against Covid which "could sterilise the virus" - that is, to prevent vaccinated people from becoming infected at all, or from passing the virus on.

He said: "The problem is this vaccine does not stop transmission, does not sterilise the can never get the population herd immunity to 100% with these vaccines - impossible.

"We have some brand new data from the UK, and Scotland, for the third week of reporting for 2022 which demonstrates conclusively that the vaccine is driving - second dose and the third booster dose - is driving massive infections in the vaccinated. It's a big, big problem"

During the same hearing, Dr Robert Malone - an American physician and biochemist whose early work focused on mRNA vaccines - said the vaccines "are not protecting from infection, replication and spread of Omicron".

He added: "There are multiple examples from northern Europe - there's examples from Scotland."

The Herald: Dr Aaron KheriatyDr Aaron Kheriaty

Dr Aaron Kheriaty - a doctor of psychiatry fired from his university post in California for refusing its vaccine mandate - cited case rate data in Ontorio, Canada which has been showing the same patterns as Scotland during Omicron.

He said: "Ontario Canada is a highly vaccinated region. Their public health data has shown for several weeks higher number of Omicron cases in the vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated and the response to that has always been 'yes, but a higher percentage of the population is vaccinated so we would expect to see more breakthrough cases'.

"But just about two weeks ago, if you look at cases per 100,000 - not total number of cases, but case rates - the vaccinated group was on a steeper incline if you look at the curves, and those inclines crossed about nine or 10 days ago.

"Cases per 100,000 in Ontario - a highly vaccinated region - are higher among the vaccinated than the unvaccinated."