Horse racing: Gordon Elliott photo, trainer suspended


WARNING: Graphic image

Three-time Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott has been banned from racing horses in Britain while authorities investigate a photograph of him chatting on the phone while sitting on a dead horse.

The 42-year-old Irishman, who trains two-time Aintree winner Tiger Roll, has apologised for the incident, saying he had acted without thinking.

Elliott, whose principal owner is Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary, issued a statement after the photo caused a furore on social media.

“I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused,” he said. “The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops.

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Gordon Elliott: Trainer says dead horse photo is real and apologises


Gordon Elliott has trained more than 140 winners this season and is second to Willie Mullins in the Irish trainers’ championship

Warning – this article contains an image that some people may find distressing

Leading Irish racehorse trainer Gordon Elliott has apologised for a photo circulating on social media of him sitting on a dead horse.

Elliott said in a statementexternal-link that he took a phone call and sat down on the horse “without thinking” and the image was taken “some time ago”.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has begun an investigation.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it was “appalled” and “considering its own regulatory options”.

“People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour” the BHA said. ” On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse-lovers, we say loudly that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.”

Elliott, 43, who is based in County Meath, is a highly successful trainer who has won the Grand National three times, including twice with Tiger Roll.

“I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused,” he said.

“I can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed.

“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops.

“At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.

“I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.

“Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.”

An edited version of an image of Gordon Elliott released by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board
An edited version of an image of Gordon Elliott released by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board

What has been the reaction?

Eight-time champion jump jockey Peter Scudamore said the photo “was an act of crass stupidity”.

“It just hit the bottom of my stomach,” said the 62-year-old, as he recalled his reaction to seeing the image.

“I think everybody in racing I know hoped it was fake, and then there was a slow realisation that it’s not a fake. It’s desperate sadness on so many fronts.

“It is just such an appalling image and I’m very sad about it.”

Michael O’Leary has said Gigginstown, who own Tiger Roll and a number of other horses trained by Elliott, will “continue to support him and his team, as they work to recover from this deeply regrettable incident”.

He says the photo is “unacceptable” and “grievous” but calls it a “momentary lapse of judgement”, adding “we all make mistakes” and that Gigginstown accepts Elliott’s apology.

Cheveley Park Stud, who own several horses trained by Elliott including the unbeaten Envoi Allen, say they are “truly horrified” by the photo but will not comment further until the investigation by the IHRB is over.

The Jockey Club, which owns Cheltenham and Aintree racecourses, said: “Clearly this is totally unacceptable and not reflective of the respect and care that racehorses receive from participants in our sport.

“The anger and upset across racing says it all. We understand the authorities are reviewing this as a matter of urgency.”

Betfair said on Monday it had chosen to end its relationship with Elliott, who had been an ambassador for the betting company.

“While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement, his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees,” a Betfair spokesperson told the BBC. “With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”

The charity World Horse Welfare said: “This photo looks abhorrent. We understand the trainer has apologised and there is an investigation ongoing.”

Great British Racing, the promotional body of British racing, said: “Respect for our horses is at the heart of everything that we stand for in British racing and the shocking image is counter to that and betrays the work of thousands of people loving and caring for our horses on a daily basis – we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”

An IHRB spokesman said on Sunday: “The investigation is ongoing and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Horse Racing Ireland also condemned the picture and supported the IHRB investigation, adding: “From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate.”

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Brisbane is in the box seat in a one horse race to host the 2032 Summer Olympics


Almost. Nearly.

Right now, it is a one-horse race but anything, or something, might happen; unlikely though.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has designated Brisbane’s bid for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games “Preferred Bid Status” meaning it is the only one of numerous bid cities that has progressed to the next phase called “targeted dialogue”.

It will be followed by “final negotiations”, and then the rubber-stamping exercise of declaring Brisbane the winner will happen at an IOC session as early as the Tokyo Olympics in July, although with COVID restrictions it may be later in the year.

IOC president Thomas Bach said discussions, in the early hours of the morning Australian time, were “intensive”.

In the end though, there was no doubt.

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Photos of the Week: Horse Breath, Incense Cat, Swan Companion


Ari Jalal / Reuters

Protests against police violence in Chile, COVID-19 patient care in Portugal, wintry weather in northern Europe, Fashion Week in Kyrgyzstan, scenes from Super Bowl LV, an ice cave in Alaska, Skywhale and Skywhalepapa in Australia, Zoom goats in England, and much more



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‘Flogging a dead horse’: Is the Boambee dream over?


The drawn-out debate over whether to allow further industrial development in North Boambee Valley appears over after councillors accepted State Government misgivings.

At Thursday’s Coffs Harbour City Council meeting councillors voted to accept Department of Planning Industry and Environment correspondence over the North Boambee Valley West Investigation Area, effectively ending a push to retain it in a key planning document.

DPIE had carved the area out from the Local Growth Management Strategy due to environmental and flood constraints, despite concerns from councillors that it would limit Coffs Harbour’s capacity to cater to industry.

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By excluding it from the LGMS, any attempt to have the land rezoned for industrial use is significantly more challenging.

Cr John Arkan said Council needed to think long term and urged his fellow councillors to keep the issue alive by commissioning a study to prove to DPIE that industrial development in the area is viable.

Referring to an email from an affected property owner, he said some areas did not have environmental constraints and it could be left up to individuals to undertake studies to determine if their land was appropriate.

The view south into North Boambee Valley from North Boambee Road. Photo: Tim Jarrett

“To blanket-mark that area out might be a mistake, we really need to keep that area open for further growth,” Mr Arkan said.

His push hit a snag when Council director Chris Chapman pointed out the motion committed council to undertaking studies which could cost “a couple of hundred thousand dollars”.

It appeared that while some councillors shared Mr Arkan’s concerns over industrial land shortages, they were not prepared to sink money into studies which ultimately could still be rejected by the State Government.

“I am wondering if we are flogging a dead horse here,” Cr Paul Amos said.

“We know the staff … are resource-poor, I think loading them up with this for no real reason is not a great strategic (move).” 

Sounding bullish, Cr Keith Rhodes said Council shouldn’t be scared a Government department said they couldn’t do something.

READ MORE: Councillors turn tables in push to industrialise land

“This is what our community is feeling, this is what our community has an expectation for, we have a shortage of industrial land,” he said.

“If we believe it’s a possibility, stick with it until that brick wall (becomes) two metres wide and you don’t get a headache knocking your head against it, you end up getting a migraine.”

Moments before councillors voted down Mr Arkan’s motion, Cr Sally Townley said it was “really dangerous” to go against the recommendations of staff and DPIE and continue to throw money at a project that “was unlikely to go anywhere”.

“Everything is pointing to the fact that the land is so constrained that development for industrial zoning is not possible,” she said.

“Of course (the people that own the land) want it to be zoned for a higher value, but just because they want it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is extremely flood prone and environmentally constrained.

“And possibly could even have the impact of making flooding worse downstream where the hospital is.”



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life as a horse whisperer


When I was eight, we moved from London to the country, and, oh joy, my new best friend taught me to ride on her gentle pony. A few years later, Hester, my first pony, arrived and she was the light of my life from the moment I set eyes on her, when she was just a few hours old. We had our moments, and she became adept at chucking in a few bucks here and there, shying at almost anything that moved, or bolting if I didn’t pay enough attention, or even, if she felt like it, casually standing on my foot. But we had our glorious times as well, and she gave me a sense of freedom from a troubled childhood and home life that I’ve searched for ever since.

Imagine this. Your life is going along in a certain direction and, to the best of your belief, you are happy with that trajectory. In my case, the year was 2000. I was editor of a weekend magazine, I was married, and was also a stepmother and a mother to our son, Sam, then eight, and to our new baby girl, Anna, born when I was 45. My second novel had just come out. We owned a house on the Central Coast, and one in Sydney. I rode whenever I could, often with Sam, who by now had inherited my obsession with horses.

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Fast forward six years. My husband and I have moved to NSW’s Northern Rivers. We’ve lost all our real-estate money to a dodgy developer – and, unfortunately, separated soon after. I’m now a single mother with too many horses, working on the local newspaper for $22 an hour, struggling at every turn to make ends meet, and I simply can’t seem to write to save my life.

I’m renting a friend’s cottage with holes in the floor, it’s boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter, but it has views to die for. It also has our three horses, and there’s the glimmer of a future yet to unfold that keeps me going, despite feelings of being an abject failure, of a life derailed, of being a hopeless stepmother and mother, an obviously inadequate wife – in general not the person I wanted to be, or imagined I would be.

I was born into a theatrical and literary family in England. My father was an actor; my mother an artist, costume designer and inspired gardener; her father a writer and publisher and her mother a reader for a publishing firm. My father’s passion, apart from acting, was horses, and his grandfather had bred Cleveland bays in Yorkshire.

So you could say I was beamed down with strong DNA from all these family strands. They’ve always been the main drivers for my life, but in the 16 years I’ve lived in the Byron Bay region, another strand has made its presence increasingly felt, and that is, to sum it up in one loaded word, “spirituality”.

By the time I left school at 17, I’d decided I wanted to be an actor, and at the age of 20 I was offered the job that would change my life – a six-month stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company as the assistant stage manager on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. When we arrived in Australia, I felt I had truly come to a place where my love of nature, horses and the arts could all be combined, and so I emigrated in 1977 at the age of 22.

I hadn’t been in Sydney long when I met my first rescue horse, King, a then-crazy Arabian stallion who’d been abandoned by his owners in a stable at Sydney’s Centennial Park. The owner of the stables had kindly kept on feeding him, and by the time I met him, King hadn’t been out of his stable for over a month. Let’s just say the first 10 minutes in King’s stable was the horse version of Mount Vesuvius erupting, but we embarked on a journey together, and, within a year, he was re-homed with a family in the countryside. He became so safe the children would ride him down their driveway with just a halter so they could catch the school bus.

My experience with this little horse gave me a taste of the joy of rehabilitation that’s stayed with me
ever since. As my horse knowledge increased, it seemed that as well as the physical, real-world aspects of horse love and care and life, there was another side to horses – the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of their beings. It gradually became clear to me that horses themselves were determined to introduce me to these higher realms, and one day there came a time when what I “heard” couldn’t be denied.

I was out with Sam for a trail ride at a Sydney riding school. Anna had been born only six weeks earlier and I was feeling vulnerable and nervous being back in the saddle. I was riding an ex-racehorse, Admiral, for the first time, and although he was steady, he could obviously feel my nerves, because suddenly, as clear as a bell, I heard the words: “Just relax, I’ll look after you.“
I looked around to see who’d spoken to me, but our little group was simply riding up the path. I heard it again.

“It’s me,” the voice said.

Almost without thinking, I said in my head, “You?“

“Yes,” said Admiral, as clear as day. “Just relax.”

And so I did.

I rode Admiral for the next 18 months. He and I were always in tune. Since then I’ve been privileged to witness the level of understanding we can reach when there are no restricting beliefs around what’s possible. It’s always struck me as ironic that the legends we’ve created around the horse are to do with flight, or freedom, or magic, when in reality so many horsemen and women spend their lives attempting to tame and control the horse.

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But perhaps all horse lovers sense that horses always retain a secret part of themselves. As our human lives tame, restrict and contain us, a love of horses keeps a tiny bit of the ancient wildness within us all alive. What is remarkable is that the horse has chosen to come along with us for the ride, so to speak. Even though they may often meet an undignified, humiliating or cruel end, be used as human food, or pet food, the horse has, in the most noble way, lowered her head and allowed us to partner with her.

Over the years, the more open-minded I became, the clearer my intuition became. My horse life was (and is) like a huge jigsaw puzzle, comprising different parts, one being a curiosity about their apparent healing ability, something I started witnessing when my volunteer helpers would experience a breakthrough moment in their lives while “playing” with one of my horses. A few years ago, I became an equine-facilitated learning practitioner so that I could practise equine therapy, the central tenet of which is that the horse acts as a mirror for the participant, showing up what’s really going on in their lives.

People of all ages have come to me with anxiety, depression or PTSD; they’ve come to learn leadership skills, or simply to learn how to “be” with horses. I’ve also been honoured to watch over many children who have had their lives enhanced by interaction with horses.

Every animal that came into, or left, my life has brought me closer to a state of resonance, where we “get” each other on the airwaves.

It took me a long time to realise that every time I rescued a horse, I was not just the rescuer, I was also being rescued, quietly led to a greater understanding of the world of silent communication. Every animal that came into, or left, my life has brought me closer to a state of resonance, where we “get” each other on the airwaves. I’ve also worked with a few seriously traumatised horses, and each of those journeys has dropped me deeper into a state of truly “listening” to the horse.

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Through my rescue work, both personal and with different charities, I’ve seen horses that simply can’t come back from the trauma inflicted on them, and equally I’ve seen horses make the psychological decision to trust us once again. I’ve learnt that their language is so delicately nuanced that excessive physical force (which is very different from creating firm boundaries) is unnecessary.

I’ve learnt to trust that horses, too, are complicit in their destiny, and I’ve learnt that if I listen, then I’m rewarded with a heartfelt sense of relief, joy and love from my horse friend which makes everything worthwhile.

These days, I live on a property in the hills between Byron Bay and Ballina, with my second husband, my small herd of horses, my daughter and her comical and loveable French bulldog, Willow, and my ageing cat, Tiny. We’re surrounded by nature – we even have a platypus in our dam.

Life with animals is never easy. Recently, our beloved 30-year-old Arabian had to be put to sleep; a mini-pony rescued by my charity didn’t make it; and a horse on my son’s property died out of the blue. For me, vet and feed bills replaced clothes, make-up, hairdressers and luxuries a long time ago. But also in that time, a missing piece of my life’s jigsaw fell into place when my beloved palomino quarter horse, Jewel, a horse I’d sold six years before because of her sensitive skin and the itch she suffered in the humidity of the Northern Rivers, came back to me.

For me, vet and feed bills replaced clothes, make-up, hairdressers and luxuries a long time ago.

When magic happens, when we can move past our own conditioning and “believe” that we can hear our animal friends, then they will reveal their world to us, and sometimes even beyond their world. I am eternally grateful for their presence in my life.

This is an edited extract from Candida Baker’s latest book, The Heart of a Horse (Murdoch Books). She is the president of equine charity Equus Alliance and runs a Facebook page, The Horse Listener.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale February 7. To read more from Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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NRL to explore horse racing-style ‘warning off’ system for unruly player agents in wake of Isaac Moses’ accreditation cancellation


But Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys, also the chief executive of Racing NSW, is open to exploring horse racing’s more formal sanctioning system for rugby league as part of widespread changes to the agent accreditation scheme.

The code has already warned it will fine and suspend any clubs, officials or players found to directly correspond with Moses, who has built his stable to be the most impressive in the NRL.

Isaac Moses has been deregistered as a player agent by the NRL.Credit:Wolter Peeters

But there is little to prevent Moses from still having a role in the background with his employees under the NRL’s current policy.

Veteran manager Wayne Beavis was still part of the Dragons’ doomed bid to sign controversial code-hopper Israel Folau despite not holding official player agent accreditation. He also represents the interests of St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin.

The NRL and Rugby League Players Association are working together to overhaul the accreditation scheme, which is likely to include a ban on agents having both coaches and players on their books.

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Apart from having more than 50 players in his stable, Moses also lists Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien and Cowboys boss Todd Payten among his clients.

While news of Moses’ downfall sent tremors around the game, the NRL is unlikely to slam the door shut on Moses forever.

The agent has told those close to him he could make a return to the game potentially as early as next year, a scenario the NRL is unlikely to accommodate. But there is no suggestion his cancellation will be permanent.

Already two of Moses’ biggest stars, off-contract Broncos ace Kotoni Staggs and teammate Tevita Pangai Jnr, are eyeing management switches after the NRL appeals committee’s findings, which deemed the agent’s breach of “great seriousness”, allowing them to sign deals with new representatives.

Moses’ biggest client, Melbourne captain Cameron Smith, is yet to make a decision on whether he will retire and play one more season with the Gold Coast Titans.

But should he sign a new deal without agent representation the game’s most decorated player could pocket the six per cent management fee.

Moses had previously flagged he would challenge any NRL deregistration in a court of law, but could not be reached for comment on Friday.

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Horse racing news 2021: Tony Vasil allegedly assaults two women, Magic Millions carnival, Gold Coast


Disqualified Victorian horse trainer Tony Vasil is reportedly being investigated by police for allegedly assaulting two women, per 2GB.

The Ray Hadley Morning Show obtained CCTV footage of the incident, which appears to show Vasil inappropriately touch a 73-year old woman.

She then slaps him across the face before he allegedly lashes back, prompting the 73-year old’s adult daughter to confront him.

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Chris Waller staff resign after drug-fuelled party, physical altercation, investigation, horse racing news 2021,


Two staff of top racing trainer Chris Waller have resigned after an allegedly drug-fuelled fight at Waller’s Gold Coast stables in the wake of his Magic Millions win.

The trainer secured victory in the $2 million Magic Millions 2-year-old Classic in mid-January, but was absent as staff celebrated the win at a party on the 27th January.

That party apparently saw part of the property “trashed” and two staff members end up in hospital, including one who was allegedly “belted” over misplaced drugs, according to Ray Hadley.

The incident is now under investigation by Queensland racing, with stable foreman Paul Shailer and trackwork rider Paul Hamersley both expected to face questioning.

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Is Novavax the dark horse of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines?


“The phase one data was really convincing. The immune responses were really strong – up there in the realms we saw with the mRNA vaccines. That level of immune response tends to be a bit of a correlation … those are the vaccines that have ended up giving very strong efficacy,” said University of Sydney professor of medical microbiology James Triccas.

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Paul Young, co-leader of the University of Queensland’s aborted COVID-19 vaccine project, agreed the data “does look promising”.

“The preclinical animal data showed that viral titres in the upper respiratory tract were lower in vaccinated animals, suggesting but not proving that infectivity and transmission may be lower,” he said.

Paul Griffin, medical director of the Nucleus Network – contracted by Novavax to conduct clinical trials in Australia – said if all went well, the vaccine could be available for use by May or June.

“I think this is one, just based on where it’s up to timing wise, that has fallen off the radar in this country. There has been a lot of attention on Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna,” he said. “It is looking very safe and effective.”

It is difficult to directly compare phase one trial results, but data reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in December suggested Novavax’s vaccine produced an immune response similar to vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

Paul Griffin, medical director of the Nucleus Network – contracted by Novavax to conduct clinical trials in Australia – said if all went well, the vaccine could be available for use by May or June.Credit:Justin McManus

“They were able to induce higher [antibody] titres than recovered COVID patients. And that’s a really good sign. When we were seeing results like that, it did highlight Novavax is one to watch, and a really promising formulation,” said Kylie Quinn, an RMIT vaccine designer.

Griffith University virologist Adam Taylor said the trials showed the vaccine was safe and generated good antibody responses. “Certainly, this is a useful candidate.”

Other vaccines have already shown themselves capable of inducing strong immune responses and protecting people from the virus.

What makes Novavax different is a hint in the early data it could not just protect people but also stop the virus spreading. Stopping or reducing transmission of the virus is valuable to protect people who cannot or will not get vaccinated. At this stage, it remains unclear if any of the vaccines available can prevent transmission.

In a small study, Novavax’s vaccine effectively prevented COVID-19 growing in the noses of monkeys. Results in animals often do not translate to humans. But other vaccines have struggled to repeat the achievement; they effectively protect the lungs but still allow the virus to grow in the nose, where it could spread.

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the AstraZeneca vaccine.Credit:PAMPC

While other vaccines quickly moved from phase one to phase three trials and then approval, Novavax’s progress has been slower. The company started its key phase three trial on December 28 after several delays due to issues scaling up vaccine manufacture.

Novavax has had a chequered history. Two failed vaccine trials in recent years led to the company’s stock plunging; it sacked 100 employees and closed two manufacturing plants. In its near-30-year history it is yet to develop an approved vaccine.

Nevertheless, the company is aiming to produce 2 billion doses of vaccine this year.

Novavax’s jab combines traditional and cutting-edge technology. Inside each vial are copies of COVID-19’s spike protein – the cellular harpoon it uses to attach to and enter our cells – and a dose of the company’s adjuvant. The adjuvant triggers the immune system, which recognises the spike protein and builds antibodies and immune cells capable of defending the body against the virus.

“It’s more of a traditional vaccine – the same type we have used for other vaccines we have in use,” said Professor Triccas.

Novavax produces the spike proteins using moth cells, and then studs them on a nanoparticle, creating a shape that looks much like the spike-covered virus. In theory, immune cells should be much more likely to spot and attack these nanoparticles, as they look just like little viruses.

The company used similar technology in a flu vaccine it is developing. In a late-stage clinical trial, it produced much stronger antibody results than a current flu vaccine.

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Addressing the deaths in Norway, Chief Medical Officer Professor Kelly said on Tuesday: “In a normal week, 400 people do pass away in their aged care facilities.

“In general terms, they were very old, they were frail, some of them were basically terminally ill.”

It is not yet clear if the deaths are linked to the vaccine, and Australian experts have already said they are no reason to slow the vaccine’s rollout.

Professor Kelly said it was possible Australia’s drugs regulator would advise against giving the very elderly and frail the vaccine.

“That is a very tricky balance. We know elderly people, as is the case in Norway, elderly people in aged care facilities are towards the end of their life. We know from our own data from the Australian pandemic, of the 900 people who have died, they have mostly been in the very elderly group, they are of the greatest risk of severe infection,” he said.

“The mortality rate is very high once you get over 80 or 90 if you get COVID-19. It’s that risk balance equation which the [regulator] will need to do around which people should be excluded from the vaccine.”

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