Tag Archives: COVID Vaccine

India’s COVID Nightmare: “Bring Oxygen or Take Your Father Away”

At 5 a.m. on Saturday, Aparna Bansal’s cellphone rang. “Can you come now?” said a man from the New Delhi hospital where her 76-year-old father is being treated for Covid-19. The instructions were clear, she said: Bring oxygen or take your father away.

Her husband lines up at 4 a.m. every morning at an oxygen-supply store in east Delhi to buy two cylinders of oxygen to take to separate hospitals treating her mother and father. Neither facility has enough supply to treat the waves of patients coming through every hour.

India is fighting the highest COVID caseload of any country so far. Hospital beds and especially oxygen are running critically short, and deaths are increasingly rapidly. The medical system has nearly collapsed:

India has been reporting more than 2,000 deaths a day for five straight days. The real toll is likely much higher. It is expected to grow in the coming weeks.

A general relaxation of caution earlier this year, along with several massive superspreader events, seeded the current crisis:

Life returned to normal. Weddings and parties resumed. Masks slipped, as did social-distancing rules. A new season of state-level elections ushered in big political rallies and street parades. A massive religious festival known as the Kumbh Mela was allowed to take place, bringing millions of Hindu pilgrims to the banks of the river Ganges and sending a message that there was no reason to worry about Covid-19.

By mid-March, cases started climbing again—then accelerated with breathtaking speed, becoming a vertical line rather than an upward sloping curve.

Much more here.

Many had put their faith in an herbal remedy called Coronil, which was even touted by Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. However, there is little evidence behind the treatment.

Reports from people inside India right now are dire:

You can find the full thread on India’s crisis here, and another excellent thread on how it began here.

Dig into these posts for more on COVID:

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This Tiny Country Beat COVID

On the southern tip of Spain, the tiny UK territory of Gibraltar has vaccinated almost its entire population. COVID deaths have dropped to zero:

Life is beginning to get back to normal. Masks are no longer required outside, curfews are gone, and bars and restaurants are full. Even sporting events have resumed:

Events have also returned to the Rock as Gibraltar hosted what’s thought to be the first fully vaccinated major sporting fixture in the world on Saturday.

Five hundred spectators, each tested for Covid-19 prior to the event, were able to witness British heavyweight fighter Dillian Whyte claim victory over Russia’s Alexander Povetkin at Gibraltar’s Europa Sports Complex.

The fight, called the Rumble on the Rock, was originally meant to take place at the Matchroom HQ, a venue in southeastern England, but was switched to Gibraltar thanks to its Covid-19 safe environment.

Soccer fans were also allowed to witness sporting matches starting with Gibraltar’s World Cup qualifier clash against the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Victoria Stadium welcomed 600 attendees who had previously received two doses of the vaccine and tested negative for the virus on the day of the match.

Only 3% of residents refused the vaccine, which may be one reason why Gibraltar’s results are so good. That may be difficult to recreate in the US or other nations, but Gibraltar provides a welcome view of what life could look like soon as the world races to vaccinate.

I encourage you to get your shot if you haven’t already. Let’s get back to normal life!

For more on COVID and vaccines, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Gibraltar – Rosia” by Roy McGrail (krm gib) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

For the Vaccinated, Masks May Be Over

If you’ve been vaccinated for COVID, can you finally take off the mask? Early data from Israel says yes:

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Wednesday that real-world data from Israel suggests that their COVID-19 vaccine is 94% effective in preventing asymptomatic infections, meaning the vaccine could significantly reduce transmission.

If you don’t even have an asymptomatic infection, you shouldn’t be able to transmit the disease to others. That said, this data is preliminary and is not yet peer reviewed.

The problem with real world application of this knowledge is that anyone can say they’re vaccinated. At a grocery store, for example, it would be hard to check everyone given constraints on time and manpower. So, I expect to see masks continue in public places until case rates are very low and everyone who wants a vaccine has had a chance.

That said, this data can inform our actions in private settings. I look forward to being able to wear one less frequently!

For more posts on COVID, check these out:

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Photo:

Why Someone Dying After Getting Vaccinated Doesn’t Mean Anything

We keep hearing scary stories about people getting sick or dying shortly after getting a COVID vaccine. But we shouldn’t confuse correlation with causation. From the mathematician Gary Cornell’s excellent blog:

For example, within one week after vaccinating 10,000,000 people, you will likely have around 98 people keel over and die for no apparent reason and if all of them were pregnant women, almost 27,800 miscarriages.

In this post, he has a table with the expected rate of many diseases we often hear are associated with vaccines, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome. It turns out, a substantial number of people are going to get those illnesses anyway, with or without a vaccine.

My wife made an excellent analogy on this subject recently. “Someone might have drank tea and had a stroke in the same day. But it probably wasn’t the tea.”

Same idea here. And with the US having given out over 90 million shots, mostly to the elderly and frail, the fact is some people are going to die shortly thereafter. But it doesn’t say anything about the vaccine.

The clinical trials carefully compared the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups in the trial and found no higher rate of complications amongst the vaccinated. And that’s the data to act on.

Photo: Me getting the Moderna vaccine on February 22. I am alive and well as of this writing.

For more on COVID and vaccines, check out these posts:

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You May Soon Be Able to Get Vaccinated in Russia

As some US states lag in COVID vaccinations and the EU barely vaccinates at all, some are looking to Russia for help:

Lufthansa is reportedly discussing the “medical tourism” jet scheme with bosses at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

The German airline is also in talks with the Russian foreign ministry about a regular service to the airport, it was reported.

Passengers would fly in and out without necessarily needing a visa or entering the country to see the sights such as Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral.

They would then make a second trip three weeks later to be fully protected by the Russian vaccine.

Two return flights from Frankfurt are estimated to cost around £1,750.

This hasn’t happened yet but it’s something to watch closely, especially if you’re in the EU or other countries that have barely begun to vaccinate. Russia’s vaccine is highly effective, per a study published in The Lancet:

Vaccine efficacy, based on the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases from 21 days after the first dose of vaccine, is reported as 91·6% (95% CI 85·6–95·2)

Russians have proved hesitant to get the vaccine, perhaps due to mistrust of their government, so this may mean more available for foreigners.

For more on COVID and vaccines, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Putin Claims Moon” by AZRainman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The UK Has Killed COVID, and the US Is Close Behind

The UK has vaccinated faster than almost anywhere on earth:

And it’s working! Cases have fallen off a cliff, dropping by almost 90% in just two months:

The US is actually not far behind the UK in vaccinations per person anymore, although we were significantly behind until recently. And we are actually putting out more doses per capita than the UK at the moment. So, this gives us an idea of what we have to look forward to. If anything, our results should be even better because a more contagious variant is more widespread in the UK than here.

Indeed, we’ve seen cases fall by 2/3rds over the same period:

To me, this seems like an incredibly powerful endorsement of Brexit and the Johnson government, neither of which I ever thought I’d favor! But the rollout in the EU has been pathetic. Meanwhile, as an American, I’ve been looking upon the UK with envy.

Bottom line: the vaccines really are working, and we have an amazing summer to look forward to!

For more on COVID and vaccines, check out these posts:

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“Boris Johnson” by EU2017EE is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We Added 2 New Vaccines To Our Arsenal in One Day!

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky.

In difficult times such as these, we have to celebrate our wins. We had two big ones today: both the Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines were found to be effective against COVID. J&J was 66% effective and Novavax 89% effective.

The FDA should approve both ASAP. Indeed, the FDA is considering authorizing the Novavax vaccine based on data from overseas. J&J is likely to be authorized in February. Since many are dying each day, each day of delay is very costly.

Both were less effective against the variant from South Africa, with Novavax below 50% efficacy there. But Novavax is working on a new formulation to counter that variant.

We face a constrained supply of vaccines, so any effective ones we can add to our toolkit are a huge win!

Photo: “File:Alex Gorsky at World Economic Forum.jpg” by World Economic Forum is licensed under CC BY 3.0

A COVID Vaccine is Being Manufactured in Baltimore Now. But the Government Won’t Let You Have It.

The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is being manufactured today at a plant in Baltimore. This vaccine has been show to be between 62% and 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID.

But despite those excellent results in trials in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa, the US government plans to wait until an American trial is finished in April. This as 4,000 of our fellow citizens die daily.

We should do what the UK and other nations have done, rely on the data we have, and get this vaccine approved immediately. I propose we follow the counsel of economist Alex Tabarrok:

“The AZ vaccine should be given an EUA immediately and made available in pharmacies for anyone who wants it while continuing to prioritize Moderna and Pfizer for the elderly and essential workers.”

Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution

I just wrote my Congressman and Senators to urge them to push for immediate FDA approval of this life saving medication, and I humbly request you do the same! Frankly, I am very frustrated with this situation. Maybe you are too!

If you like, you can use the text I used, below. You can find your Congressman’s contact info here and your Senator’s contact info here.

Dear X,

The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is approved in the UK and other countries and has shown efficacy of 62-90%. With over 4,000 of our fellow Americans dying daily, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to push the FDA to authorize this lifesaving medication immediately.

Thank you for all the good work you do!

Sincerely,

X

New Study Predicts End to Pandemic in Q2 2021

Photo: Dr. Maciej Boni, Associate Professor of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, study co-author

Assuming high vaccination coverage (> 28%) and no major relaxations in distancing, masking, gathering size, or hygiene guidelines between now and spring 2021, our model predicts that a combination of vaccination and population immunity will lead to low or near-zero transmission levels by the second quarter of 2021.

I came across a new study posted on January 15 that analyzes data from Rhode Island and Massachusetts to find optimal vaccine policies and predict when the COVID pandemic will end. With reasonably optimistic assumptions, the authors conclude we may be out of the woods by the second quarter of this year.

I find their 28% vaccination target plausible. It’s ambitious, but we need to be ambitious right now. Getting to 28% coverage would take about 1.1 million shots a day, 7 days a week, which seems achievable at current rates. ((330 million Americans * 2 shots each * 0.28)/163 days until July 1 = 1,133,742 shots/day).

We’ve recently passed 1.2 million shots in a day:

The study also finds that it’s best to vaccinate health workers first and then the elderly, which is what we’re doing.

In a time when the news is often grim, I find this study very hopeful!

The Best New Thinking on COVID

Today, I came across two new articles that provide a great perspective on the COVID crisis.

Enjoy!

“State Public Health Laboratory in Exton Tests for COVID-19” by governortomwolf is licensed under CC BY 2.0