Lead Counsel: Professor Maclean (AM) as former Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser and a member of SAGE we would like to revisit your recent testimony where you stated in a WhatsApp message that Professor Carl Heneghan was a “f**kwit”.
Lead Counsel: In that brief chain of communication (above), you stated “are we going to bring up the Seattle fishing vessel”. What did you mean by that?
AM: This was a study performed by various researchers in Washington State released as a preprint in August 2020 and published two months later in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
Lead Counsel: Can you please outline the key findings of this study?
AM: This study was unique during the early stages of the pandemic in that we had a fishing vessel setting off from Seattle with all of the 122-man crew testing PCR negative or seropositive for COVID-19. Only three of the crew members had been tested for antibodies. After 18 days isolated at sea this vessel returned to port as one member of crew had to be hospitalised with COVID-19. All the crew were then retested and over 85% of them were now PCR positive. In addition, genomic testing on 39 individuals indicated infection was from a single strain of the virus.
Lead Counsel: So this was a rich source of information that would enable you and your SAGE colleagues to advise Government pandemic strategy?
AM: Yes indeed.
Lead Counsel: What was the first recommendation you based on this data?
AM: SAGE advised the PM to expand the ‘world class test and trace strategy’ at vast cost and resource.
Lead Counsel: But you knew from this Seattle data that this would be effectively useless?
AM: Well we felt we needed to do something even if the science was pointing in the wrong direction and it made us feel influential and important. In addition, I studied measles early in my career and thought that respiratory viruses would follow a similar transmission pattern, so I assumed that these data were somehow flawed.
Lead Counsel: Is there now any evidence that the test and trace program had any bearing on transmission?
AM: None whatsoever. Looks like this study was right all along.
Lead Counsel: Did you revise your transmission narrative based on this study and subsequent data?
AM: No there was too much at stake as we had gambled on a measles transmission model and like the great lady we were not for turning.
Lead Counsel: What else did you learn from this study?
AM: For the three crew members who originally tested seropositive, indicating they had previously had COVID-19, they were included in the symptom-free crew members that tested PCR negative following the outbreak. This indicated that prior immunity was highly relevant. This was inconvenient as we as we were all hell bent on a mass vaccine intervention and wanted to portray this as the only way individuals could protect themselves. Many of us were heavily invested in this theme theoretically and financially.
Lead Counsel: What did you do with these facts regarding prior immunity?
AM: Basically ignored them and ploughed on with the vaccine development programme.
Lead Counsel: Would you say that at any point SAGE followed the science and instigated any actions that were empirically based?
AM: No we just stuck to the theoretical modelling and some decisions were just to difficult to reverse. I was also keen on getting Vallance’s job which meant that I was never going to do anything that questioned the narrative. Do you think I am mad?
Lead Counsel: Frankly, yes.
Lead Counsel: So in summary there were just a few tiny flaws with SAGE’s pandemic plans; they were bollocks?
AM: I think that is a fair summary.