1 October 2021

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’


See below the latest overview – UK biased – from MD of Private Eye. Essentially on the issue of jabbing kids.

Cosas de España/Galiza

Those high electricity prices: Time slots are now crazy, as the low period is sometimes more expensive than the high period. Down to variable/hourly pricing, I guess. What smart meters were introduced for, to allow companies to increase profits while claiming it was all for your benefit. I guess some folk fell for this.

Talking of things to complain about . . . Wolves are certainly a problem in parts of Galicia. Click here for a video which allows you to both read and hear a bit of Galician. Or maybe the mix of Galicia and Spanish called Castrapo. I can’t tell. María will advise, I’m sure.

Here in Spain, the national rail carrier – Renfe – has competition from France’s national carrier SNCF, in the form of its low-cost operator, Ouigo. The latter currently concentrates on the profitable Madrid-Barcelona route but will be expanding Southwards in the near future. I guess we might see them alongside the AVE here in Galicia in 20 or 30 years time. BTW . . . I believe Renfe isn’t allowed to compete with SNCF in France. Which would fit with French attitudes to the EU and its obligations/principles.

In the nearer term, Renfe is on strike at the moment, kaiboshing my plan to go to La Coruña today.

An odd tale . .  

Way of the World

To quote my brother: It’s amazing what you see when you don’t have your rifle with you . . .


We don’t say this much today, but the word ‘dew’ has been around for a while as a euphemism for booze.  Well, in the USA maybe. That said: As far back as the 16th century, people were using ‘Bacchus dewe’ to refer to wine and chemistry textbooks were using ‘Dew of Vitriol’ for alcohol. Which probably wasn’t in the USA, as Successful English settlement of the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and with the Pilgrims’ colony at Plymouth in 1620.

Quote of the Day

Possibly the most well known and enduring of all the aphrodisiacs, the oyster has occupied a special place in our hearts and stomachs for a millennium. Quite why this fishy, lumpy mollusc, swimming in its own fluids and resembling something one might clear from the back of the throat during flu season, came to be the go-to love food is a matter of some debate. Did you know that oysters have eyes? Eyes! . . . Not my cup of slime. Especially as the last one I will ever have was a bad ‘un.

Finally  . . .

A topical joke from my friend Ian, down in NZ:-

A guy walks into a restaurant in Pamplona and is placed next to a man eating what looks like a delicious local dish.

He says to the waiter “I’ll have what he’s having”

Waiter: I’m sorry, señor, that is the testicles from a bull who was killed in the ring this afternoon. You have to order this in advance.

Guy: OK. Can you get some for me tomorrow?

The next day he returns and a steaming dish is placed in front of him, which he eats with relish.

“That was delicious,” he says to the waiter. “But I did notice they were much smaller than yesterday – any reason?”

Waiter: Ah, señor – sometimes the bull wins.

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here

Protecting adults 

PANDEMlC management, by its nature, is a massive experiment, particularly when the virus is new and unknown. In normal times such experiments require informed consent, but in an exponentially growing infection causing rapid hospitalisation and death, rules and restrictions are imposed and it relies on the skill of politicians and advisers to take people with them amidst uncertainty. 

Adults at least have been able to protest  – against lockdowns, face masks and vaccines. A few have taken their children with them but, given that much of the lockdown harm has been borne by children to protect adults, the voices of children and young people have largely been ignored. Perhaps wary of the consequence of harming adults, young people have not publicly demonstrated, Greta-style, about the damage to their education, future livelihoods and mental and physical health from school closures and lockdown. Those under 16 were not even allowed to ask a question at the UK government’s press briefings. 

Pandemic side effects 

MOST pandemic research had focused on adults rather than children. There has been a 300% increase in referrals to some childhood eating disorder services and many children’s mental health services are overwhelmed. This is likely to be a combination of pandemic trauma (death or illness in a family member, loss of livelihood in the family, social anxiety following lockdown, domestic abuse, worries about education) and also due to delay in getting help for mental health disorders that were independent of the pandemic. Half of mental health disorders (depression. anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder) start by age 14, and early recognition and treatment – hard in a pandemic – greatly improves outcomes. 

On the plus side, many children arc resilient and can recover from stressful life events with support (as seen in studies after tsunamis, earthquakes and Ebola). But the UK lacks the resources 

to adequately assess and manage distress and trauma in young people. Prime minister Boris Johnson’s statement on extra funding for the NHS did not mention children once. 

Infection experiment 

THE summer experiment – double vaccinate adults and highest risk children (and, latterly after single jabs for those aged 16 and 17), while leaving unvaccinated adults and nearly all under-16s to catch the Delta variant as we deliberately opened up during a large summer wave – again has the potential to hit children disproportionately. Again, their voices are not being heard. 

If adults apparently know best, why is the public health of tile UK adult population so poor? (Clue: the seeds are sown in childhood.) As Johnson will soon discover, the extra taxes he has set aside for health and social care, welcome as they are, will easily be consumed by the huge pool of unmet need in chronically ill UK adults. A good education is the one intervention known to greatly improve future health chances, yet schools will barely get a 1% rise to recover from the carnage of lockdowns.  If we don’t invest in and listen to children, our future is bleak indeed. 

Vaccinating children: ask the kids 

MD RECENTLY chaired a webinar on the pros and cons of vaccinating children against Covid for the British Medical Journal (available to view on the BMJ YouTube website). 

Refreshingly, it started with questions from children and showed how deeply they think about the issues. Elodie asked: “I am worried about how the media is portraying it, that young people should get vaccinated irrespective of the questions raised about the potential health risks to us and why this is OK?” Kit asked: “If I don’t take up the offer, will my vaccine be given to someone in another country who needs it?” Cerys asked: “Will we be allowed to choose for ourselves and make informed decisions as to whether or not we want to get the vaccine?” Children who arc capable of understanding clearly want to make an informed choice for themselves. The overriding legal imperative of health care and government is to act in the best interests of the child. 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines as safe and effective in children aged 12-17. but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) declares these vaccines have only marginal medical benefits over risks for 12 to 15-year-olds. Meanwhile, the UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) – wary of another winter wave and more school closures -look set to offer vaccines to the 12-15s with parental or competent child consent. So what do you need to know? 

Arguments against 

YOU may never get Covid, although given its high prevalence and now endemic status, you will very likely encounter the virus. 

You may well already have had Covid, and already have good immunity. Alas, we don’t yet have antibody tests that can reliably predict who might benefit from a vaccine and who wouldn’t (although companies are making a fortune flogging them). 

If you are infected, it will likely be symptomless (43 to 68%) or a mild infection. Only 25 children have died from Covid in the UK (two per million), nearly all of whom had serious co-morbid illnesses that made them vulnerable to respiratory infection. Such children are now offered vaccination. The rate of more severe non-fatal acute illness in children is also much lower than for adults (47 per million so far). 

Although the Delta variant is more harmful for adults, that doesn’t (yet) seem to be the case in children (although it could change now schools have returned). Children who get infected generally mount a good antibody response, make better antibodies and retain them longer than adults. Children’s antibodies do well against the known variants too. The other strand of the childhood immune response, T-cells. is usually excellent. Healthy children have better intranasal and mucosal immunity at the points of entry of the virus, and this combined with their 

energetic immune response may rapidly dampen the viral load. They may also have innate cross-protective immunity from other coronaviruses common in children. 

This means naturally acquired protectionagainst future infection in children may be better than vaccination protection. This suggests both children, household members and the wider community would be better protected in future if children acquired the infection naturally (although they can, of course, then pass it on to vulnerable adults). 

The primary purpose of vaccination should not just be to protect others. We do justify this in existing vaccination programmes – rubella is a mild infection in children, but we vaccinate them to prevent future fetal malformations in pregnancy-acquired rubella. HPV vaccination in boys protects women against future cervical cancer and genital warts, but also protects boys against HPV-related cancers and warts. We do vaccinate young children against flu to stop them super-spreading to adults, but it look 4 decades of research and data before extending the vaccines to children. Some experts think we need much more data before extending Covid vaccination to children when their risk of serious harm and death from the illness is currently very low. 

Some experts argue that letting children become infected while adults are protected will eventually mean SARS-CoV-2 becomes a much less frightening, mild infection for children. 

The mRNA vaccines licensed for children and adults are “reactogenic” and often caused temporary pain and fatigue in trials. However, rarer more serious potential side-effects only show when they arc rolled out to large populations. These include pericarditis and myocarditis – inflammations affecting the heart. 

Because drug companies collect data on their own vaccines and don’t release it in real time, we may only have full data on vaccine effects and side-effects in 2025. It is reasonable to offer mass emergency vaccinations to adults in a pandemic when so many arc dying (more than 1,200 a day at the UK’s January peak) and so much harm is also caused by containment measures (lockdown). But the argument for mass vaccination of children on medical grounds is far less clear. 

Any mass vaccination programme has a cost and an opportunity cost. The time and money could be spent on mental health support or other vaccine programmes. As with adult boosters, the available vaccines would be better donated to countries where below 10% of the adult population have been vaccinated. This, ultimately, would control the pandemic better and reduce the risk of further waves in the donor countries.