Parliamentarians letter requesting transparency for dosage and death data

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Rt Hon Victoria Atkins MP, Secretary of State, DHSC
Maria Caulfield MP, Under-Secretary of State, DHSC
Rt Hon Andrew Stephenson MP, Under-Secretary of State, DHSC
By email:
Prof Steven Riley, Director General for Data, Analytics & Surveillance, UKHSA
Dr Alison Cave, Chief Safety Officer, MHRA

Copy to:
Sir Ian Diamond, Office for National Statistics
Rt Hon The Lord Evans of Rainow, Lord in Waiting (Whip)
Abena Oppong-Asare, Shadow Minister for Women’s Health and Mental Health

21 February 2024

Dear Ministers, Prof Riley and Dr Cave,

Excess deaths in the UK and transparency of official data

We write to you in light of the growing public and professional concerns being expressed about the UK’s rates of excess deaths since 2020, and in particular following the Minister’s comments at the Westminster Hall debate of 16 January on the same topic, and an earlier short debate in the House of Lords chamber on 11 January.

In this letter:

● we explain why generic assurances that the Government and the UKHSA “takes [excess deaths] seriously and monitors it constantly” and that the MHRA have “systems in place to continually monitor the safety of our medicines” are not serving to reassure the public;

● we warn that by withholding official data which could help reassure the public, the DHSC, the UKHSA and the MHRA are now fuelling concerns and hesitancy about public health messaging, particularly among parents, at a time when measles outbreaks are making an unwelcome return to this country; and

● we make some specific requests for each of you.

Our letter is supported and co-signed by many of our fellow Parliamentarians.

UK excess death trends

We acknowledge that (a) Covid will have been responsible for a spike of excess deaths in 2020 and into 2021, particularly among elderly cohorts; and (b) the causes of excess deaths beyond 2020/21 will have been plural. We recognise for instance that missed opportunities for diagnosis and treatment of serious conditions including diabetes, cancer and heart disease during 2020 and 2021 will, regrettably, have been contributing factors. Broader pressures on our health services may also be contributing.

Yet, as recognised in comments made during the debates of both 11 and 16 January (including by the Government’s representatives), and as a proliferation of papers, articles and professional opinions from experts in medical, public health and data science disciplines now attests, these factors alone may not adequately explain the pronounced excess rates of death in the period since 2021, particularly among middle-aged and younger cohorts (including a shocking 8% rise in child mortality in 2023 according to the BMJ) [1*] [*among other causes the triggers for the exceptional outbreak of Strep A plainly also need to be considered as part of any analysis of this mortality excess among children.]

Notably, according to OHID data, the UK has experienced a surge of cardiovascular-related deaths  among otherwise healthy men and women occurring outside of hospitals and care home settings.[2]

Questions about these trends, however, have to date been met by a relative wall of silence from your organisations and other public health officials. Karl McCartney MP commented in the Westminster Hall debate that “It is as if the health authorities and the Government do not want to talk about it. Have they something to hide? Do they know something we do not?”. The ONS’ revision this week of its excess deaths methodology has not quelled public concern.

Fair and equitable access to pertinent official data

The purpose of our writing to you is neither to suggest nor to presume any view about factors which may be at play. We and many of our constituents are, however, disturbed by reports that the DHSC, the UKHSA, the MHRA and the independent ONS have not been responding with, candour or transparency, nor often on a timely basis, to the many serious and legitimate concerns voiced on this topic, even now that those concerns are being echoed in Parliament.

We understand for example that independent medical experts have asked the ONS and the UKHSA to release anonymised record-level official mortality data which could facilitate a more complete understanding of the proximate causes of excess deaths in the UK, and may also enable certain factors to be ruled out. Refusals so far to release those data have only caused greater concern, particularly as it has been acknowledged that similar data, collected by the MHRA’s CPRD team (including, we believe, from the ONS), has already been shared with pharmaceutical groups to enable them to produce post-authorisation safety study reports for their products.

Members of Parliament have now called for this data to be released on the same anonymised basis that it was shared with the pharmaceutical groups, and there seems to be no credible reason why that should not be done immediately. Indeed it seems unarguable that further expert analysis of the probable causes of excess deaths in the UK is desirable, even if the official data may not be able to support a definitive conclusion.

Possible causes of the cardiovascular surge

We are aware that a variety of different causes for these excess deaths may have been raised with you, and that not all can or should be given a full public airing. There has though been a persistent question, raised repeatedly by expert professionals and eminent academics since 2021, about the extent to which your organisations have investigated the possibility of a causal link to explain the apparent correlation in the UK and elsewhere between (a) population-wide deployments of mRNA technology (with credible clinical studies having since indicated the production of unexpected or unknown proteins, and unaddressed questions from professionals about where and for how long spike proteins are produced in the body) [3*] [*So-called ‘frameshifting effects’] and (b) a marked increase of cardiovascular-related critical events, including heart attacks and strokes, among otherwise apparently healthy adults and young people.

These observations, by experienced professionals, imply the possibility of serious safety and public health issues which could not have been discounted, at least without further investigation, as fanciful or baseless. Indeed by now similar concerns appear to have been expressed by a chorus of distinguished academics, clinicians, data scientists, public health experts and investigative journalists in the UK, and by eminent equivalents in many other countries. Whether or not they are correct, they do not appear to be fanciful or baseless.

Ministers, your department has nevertheless asserted definitively in a written statement that “There is no evidence linking excess deaths to the COVID-19 vaccine”. The Official Opposition is similarly convinced that “the data does not suggest that there is a link between [Covid vaccine side effects] and the large increase in excess mortality in recent years” yet without having articulated which data so convincingly persuades them.[4]

If those data do indeed exist, please share them; if thorough investigations have already ruled out such a link, please share the relevant reports. There is no place here for blind faith.

By calling for candour and transparency on this important topic we do not presume that any of those concerns would be or would not be affirmed by the record-level data, albeit we hope that they would not. But there is evidently much that still remains to be analysed, understood and explained to the public, and it is imperative that the process of professional scientific discovery is not hampered by any unexplained reluctance to grant access to this data. Moreover, it is not reasonable to expect the public to feel satisfied by simple generic assurances that the unexplained premature deaths of family members ‘is being taken seriously’.

The public’s trust is critical for public health

The level of public concern and interest in this topic will not abate, and by resisting the release of pertinent data, and by appearing to discourage a transparent and objective professional assessment of the potential causes of our excess deaths problem, the Government and its agencies will only further sow distrust. This matters to us all, because our public health system will fast become impotent if it does not retain the trust and confidence of the public it serves.

So if only to put undesirable speculation to rest, it is essential that the official record-level data is now made available on an appropriately anonymised basis so that concerns about the causes of excess deaths, including persisting questions about a causal link between mRNA technology and cardiovascular problems (implicitly rejected by the DHSC’s definitive statement of 24 October 2023 albeit without reference to underlying data), can be exposed to daylight and the process of scientific discovery that our expert professional communities can provide.

As you will surely have realised, repetitive generic assurances that the Government and the UKHSA “takes [excess deaths] seriously and monitors it constantly” and that the MHRA have “systems in place to continually monitor the safety of our medicines” are not serving to reassure the public.[5]

Minister, you commented in Westminster Hall that “we are now seeing outbreaks [of measles in children] because of concerns about vaccinations”. You must all surely accept that appearing to withhold official mortality and dosage data used for safety monitoring is not a sensible basis for tackling those concerns. As a general rule, if discussing or giving transparency to official public data is problematic, the problem is with the data not with the discussion or the transparency.

Our requests for you

With a strong desire to restore trust in public health policy, and trust in our childhood vaccination programmes in particular at the moment, we therefore have a number of specific requests.

Ministers, will you please communicate respectively to the UKHSA and the MHRA your support for anonymised record-level data, and particularly death and dosage data already shared with pharmaceutical companies, to be made available to Parliamentarians and therefore also to expert professionals and the public; if you are not willing to do this, could you please explain to us why that is so? Separately, could your officials please (a) confirm whether there is any person or team within Government coordinating an analysis specifically of excess deaths data and related research, in order to understand its causes, and (b) direct us to the data and/or studies on which your department relied to support its definitive statement published on 24 October 2023 that “There is no evidence linking excess deaths to the COVID-19 vaccine” so that we and our constituents might now similarly assure ourselves of that conclusion. In doing so could your officials please be instructed to resist from providing generic or diversionary comments, or comments which address a different question; a straightforward and candid response to our straightforward request will be appreciated.

Professor Riley, would you please confirm whether the UKHSA has shared any record-level mortality data sets alongside, or which include, vaccination dates and doses and/or comorbidities with one or more of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, and if so on what anonymised basis were they shared. Will you also please confirm whether the UKHSA can now commit to releasing those anonymised data to us, either in the form already shared with those pharmaceutical groups (if the data were shared) or, if strictly necessary, in a form which preserves the completeness and utility of the data while providing for enhanced anonymity protection (e.g. via Barnardisation). If the UKHSA will not commit, please would you confirm on what basis you believe the UKHSA is justified in withholding those anonymised data from Parliamentarians, medical experts and the public. Again, straightforward responses to our straightforward questions will be appreciated.

Dr Cave, would you please confirm whether the MHRA has considered and can help us to feel confident in ruling out for our constituents the possibility of unexpected mRNA protein production, or so-called frameshifting effects associated with the same, being linked to the recent and notable increase in excess cardiovascular-related deaths. More generally, could you also please confirm whether, on behalf of the MHRA, as the MHRA’s Chief Safety Officer, you could concur that “There is no evidence linking excess deaths to the COVID-19 vaccine”, and if so please could you identify which data and/or studies you rely on, so that we and our constituents may similarly assure ourselves and put that speculation to rest. Once again, straightforward responses to our straightforward questions will be appreciated.

Reflecting the seriousness of the issue at stake, we would appreciate a prompt response and in any event before 6 March 2024.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Stringer MP (Lab)
Jim Shannon MP (DUP)
Philip Davies MP (Con)

Co-signed in support by:

Karl McCartney MP (Con)
Rt Hon Sammy Wilson MP (DUP)
Danny Kruger MP (Con)
Paul Girvan MP (DUP)
Neale Hanvey MP (Alba)
Miriam Cates MP (Con)
Chris Green MP (Con)
Sir Robert Syms MP (Con)
Lord Strathcarron
Lord Moylan
Rt Hon Baroness Foster
Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester