Archive for the ‘COVID – vaccine’ Category

More re: covid infection and immunization…

October 13, 2021

As we posted previously ……

In their original application for approvals, the vaccine companies cited clinical studies demonstrating very high protection from symptomatic infection.

in Pfizer’s recent application to get an Emergency Use Authorization for booster shots, the company submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

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The good news: Confirmation of symptomatic infection protection soon after getting vaccinated.

The bad news: A relatively quick waning of the infection protection.

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Consistent with the Pfizer data…

CNN reports two real-world studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, provide some data that complements Pfizer’s.

One study looked at actual infections among the  population of Qatar — a small Gulf nation that’s nearly fully vaccinated.

The conclusions:

> Protection against hospitalization and death builds quickly and stays at above 90%,

> Protection against infection:

  • Builds rapidly after the first dose
  • Peaks in the first month after the second dose
  • Wanes after the first month, gradually at first but …
  • Accelerating after the fourth month  down to approximately 20% in subsequent months.

Key point: Protection against infection drops more than Pfizer’s reported: 20% vs. 40%.

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A second study, in Israel, tracked 4,800 health care workers, measuring neutralizing antibodies — the immune system’s first line of defense against infection which correlates with protection against infection

The main conclusion:

Antibody levels wane rapidly after two doses of vaccine “especially among men, among persons 65 years of age or older, and among persons with immunosuppression.”

Key point: Protection against infection starts high but wanes quickly for high risk groups.

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In combination, Pfizer’s data and these 2 studies seem to indicate:

> Pfizer’s vaccine provides a very  high level of protection against severe covid disease, hospitalization and death … and, that the protection “remains strong” with minimal waning.

> And, while the vaccine does provide substantial protection against infection early-on, that protection wanes quickly after a couple of months … especially for seniors and people with immune system issues.

Biden: “No transmission if vaccinated’ … say, what?

October 12, 2021

Apparently, he didn’t read last week’s HomaFiles posts.
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I’ve been trying hard to understand the risk that I, a vaccinated person, have of getting infected and transmitting covid to, say, my grandkids.

Last week, we observed that:

> In their original EUA applications, the vaccine companies made no claims that the vaccines would prevent asymptomatic infections … they just claimed protection against symptomatic infections.

> Nonetheless, the CDC web site advised: “It is very rare for a vaccinated person to get infected and transmit the virus.”

See Fauci: CDC is flying blind on post-vax infections…

> More recently,, CDC Director Walensky clarified that:  “Though covid vaccines work “exceptionally well”  against hospitalization and death, they can’t prevent transmission anymore. So, we should expect thousands of breakthrough infections.”

See CDC Director: “Covid vaccines can’t prevent transmission”

> And, Pfizer data indicates that vaccinations do provide roughly 90% protection against infection soon after being fully vaccinated … but, that the protection waned down to about 40% after 6 months.

See Still more vax math: What about booster shots?

Using the Pfizer data, we ballparked that about 1/2 of recent infections might be attributable to breakthrough infections and transmission by fully vaccinated people.

See Covid data: More about breakthrough infections and viral transmission…

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All of the above notwithstanding, last week President Biden veered off his teleprompter  and  declared that all healthcare workers should get vaccinated because doing so provides “certainty that the people providing your care … cannot spread it to you“.

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click to view

Doesn’t he know that his scientists (and their data) are saying that vaccinated people can still spread the virus.

As climate czar John Kerry might say: “The President was unaware” … or, or he was intentionally misinforming.

Competence or honesty?

And, some people wonder wonder why a majority of Americans (and 2 out of 3 of Independents) think Biden is either incompetent or dishonest.

Covid data: More about breakthrough infections and viral transmission…

October 8, 2021

As we posted yesterday ……

In its recent application to get an Emergency Use Authorization for booster shots, Pfizer submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

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Source

From this data, we can infer some things about viral transmission … since infection is an obvious prerequisite to transmission.

Early on, soon after people get vaccinated, the risk of infection is very low, so the risk of transmission is very low.

But, as the vaccine’s protection from infection wanes, the transmission risk (among vaccinated people) increases.

The impact is, shall we say, statistically significant.

How significant?

Let’s run some numbers…

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How many transmitters?

In rough numbers that are good enough to calibrate the transmission impact, about 200 million people have been vaccinated and about 100 million haven’t been.

Using those ballpark numbers to determine the magnitude of effect …

In the spring, shortly after the first rush-to-get-vaccinated, there were about 100 million unvaccinated people who were vulnerable to infection and, thus, transmission.

At the same tome, 10% (the inverse of 90%) of the vaccinated people, about 20 million, were vulnerable to infection and transmission.

So, the total number of people vulnerable to infection and transmission was 120 million.

But, 6 months later, as the vaccinations aged & waned, 60% of the vaccinated people, about 120 million were vulnerable to infection and transmission.

So, the total number of people vulnerable to infection and transmission was 220 million … over half of whom were fully vaccinated.

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So what?

Everybody knows that cases started spiking this summer.

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The culprits behind the spike: the Delta variant … and unvaccinated people.

Or, so we’ve been told,

Delta is guilty as charged, but …

Because of the aging of Spring vaccination shots … and the associated waning of infection protection … our rough-cut estimate is that, pre-booster shots, more than half of the people spreading the virus are probably vaccinated people whose infection protection has waned.

They’re unindicted (and unnamed) co-conspirators behind the spike in cases.

In stats-speak: Bayes is alive and well … but oft-overlooked.

More: About infection and transmission…

October 7, 2021

Earlier this week we posted

1. The CDC web site says that it is very rare for a vaccinated person to get infected and transmit the virus.

2. Fauci opined a similar view in a CNBC interview … but equivocated when confronted with some compelling anecdotal evidence and couldn’t brandish CDC data to the contrary.

3. CDC Director Walensky told CNN that we should expect “tens of thousands of breakthrough infections and hundreds of thousands of daily cases.”

Today, let’s try to square the circle of opinions with some data…
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Protection from Hospitalization & Death

In late 2020, when Pfizer applied for its original vaccine Emergency Use Authorization, the company presented clinical trial results that evidenced 90% or better protection against hospitalization and death.

Subsequently, when Pfizer applied for a booster shot EUA, the company presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only wanes slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% six months later.

Bottom line: high efficacy, slow waning with respect to hospitalizations & deaths.

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Source

That’s a strong commendation for the efficacy (and durability) of the vaccine … but, it’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

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Protection from Infection & Transmission

In 2020, when Pfizer applied for its original vaccine Emergency Use Authorization, the company was silent on protection against infection and transmission.

The simple reason: Their clinical trials didn’t measure whether the vaccines prevented infection and transmission.

Fast forward to 2021 …

In its recent application to get an Emergency Use Authorization for booster shots, Pfizer did submit data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% six months later.

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Source

That’s both good news and bad news.

The high initial protection against infection (which is very good news) …  was common-sensically inferred by many … but there wasn’t data to prove it. Now, there’s confirmatory data!

But, there’s also some bad news:

There’s a relatively fast-paced waning of the infection protection (from 90% down to 40%).

That’s a pretty strong case for boosters since any infection brings with it (1) the threat of “long covid” complications (2) the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death (3) the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.

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About Transmission

More specifically, the data is on point regarding viral transmission … since infection is an obvious prerequisite to transmission.

Early on, soon after people get vaccinated, the risk of infection is very low, so the risk of transmission is very low.

But, as the vaccine’s protection from infection wanes, the transmission risk (among vaccinated people) increases.

The impact is, shall we say, statistically significant.

Tomorrow, we’ll work the numbers….

Who to believe: Vax developers or Fauci or the CDC … or Rachel Maddow?

October 6, 2021

Earlier this week we posted

1. The CDC web site says that it is very rare for a vaccinated person to get infected and transmit the virus.

2. Fauci opined a similar view in a CNBC interview but backed down when confronted with some compelling anecdotal evidence and a dearth of CDC data to the contrary.

3. CDC Director Walensky told CNN that we should expect “tens of thousands of breakthrough infections and hundreds of thousands of daily cases.”

How to square this circle of opinions?

Let’s go back to the beginning…

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The Vax Companies

When the vax companies applied for Emergency Use Authorizations, they presented clinical trial results that evidenced 90% or better protection against symptomatic infections.

But, the companies were silent on protection against asymptomatic infections (now estimated as about 3 in 4 covid infections).

The simple reason: Their clinical trials didn’t measure asymptomatic infections.

So, little could be inferred from the data regarding transmission.

Perhaps the vax companies should have been even more loudly explicit about the limitations on their claims.

Why?

Because their silence provided misinformers a window of opportunity to, well, misinform.

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The Misinformers

Case in point: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow — the font of truth for roughly half of the country.

Earlier this year, Maddow ironically — in a characteristic  rant about misinformation — preached to her devotees that “you are like 90% less likely to get infected and transmit to anybody else” … so get vaxxed or you might kill somebody.

Again, keep in mind that the clinical studies didn’t track asymptomatic infections … the 90% applied only to symptomatic (and test confirmed) cases.

click to view the priceless part of Maddow’s rant
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Maddow’s view was totally unsupported by any data  … but, it was emotionally supportive of the pro-vaccine narrative and caught on with other left-leaning amateur-scientific-influencers … who probably didn’t read the vax companies’ EUA applications or fret over the lack of supporting data.

Bottom line: Maddow’s admonition, albeit factless at the time, was compelling and contagious.

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Fauci

Apparently, Fauci bought into Maddow’s riff until CNBC’s Sarah Eisen asked for the data and he had to admit that the data was limited since the CDC hadn’t been doing surveillance studies to track asymptomatic infections..

See:  Fauci: CDC is flying blind on post-vax infections

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CDC Director Walensky

Walensky — while likely unaware of what the CDC was pitching on its web site — is probably trying to walk back to the more realistic view that the vaccines are highly effective … but their promised efficacy is limited to symptomatic and severe infections. … and that the total effectiveness against infections (including asymptomatic infections) wanes over time.

See: CDC Director: “Covid vaccines can’t prevent transmission”

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So, who to believe?

CDC Director: “Covid vaccines can’t prevent transmission”

October 5, 2021

Now, I’m officially confused.

Yesterday, we posted about a CNBC interview with chief political-scientist Anthony Fauci.

Fauci opined that vaccines prevent covid transmission rates … but when confronted with strong anecdotal evidence to the contrary and asked a pointed question, he conceded that the CDC lacked the data to support that conclusion … but, not to worry the data was likely coming.

New scientific method?

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Drilling down, the CNBC interviewer, Sarah Eisen, read to Fauci from the CDC web site:

“The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to get infected, and therefore transmit the virus.

Fully vaccinated people get COVID-19 (known as breakthrough infections) far less often than unvaccinated people.”

That’s when Fauci conceded that the CDC didn’t have the supporting data.

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Despite Fauci’s admission that the CDC didn’t have much data on breakthrough infections, CDC Director Walensky took to the airwaves to proclaim that:

1. Though covid vaccines work “exceptionally well”  against hospitalization and death, they “can’t prevent transmission anymore”. and …

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2. We should expect thousands of breakthrough infections, and …

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3. We might potentially experience several hundred thousand cases a day!

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So, which is it?

> Fauci says not to worry about breakthrough infections if you’re vaccinated

> The CDC web site says not to worry because breakthrough infections are few and far between

> CDC Director Walensky says to expect tens of thousand breakthroughs and hundreds of thousands daily cases … hardly “rare” instances.

It’s hard to follow the science when data is scarce … and  the scientists, who are supposedly reading from the same hymnal, offer widely different “guidance”.

Confusing, right?

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P.S. Note that Walensky’s verbatim was ““can’t prevent transmission anymore”.

Wonder what she meant by “anymore” …

Hmmm

Fauci: CDC is flying blind on post-vax infections…

October 4, 2021

My bet: you know somebody who has been vaccinated and then tested positive for covid.

Even if not, you must have heard stories about public figures who have been victims of these are so-called “breakthrough infections”, e.g. Justice Kavanaugh, who tested positive last week despite being fully vaccinated.

Reasonable to ask: “What the hell is going on”.

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That’s the essence of a direct question that CNBC’s Sarah Eisen posed to our nation’s chief political-scientist Anthony Fauci.

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For openers,  Eisen disclosed that she was recently infected with covid despite being fully vaccinated … as were  2 of her fully-vaccinated family members … and her 2 unvaccinated children.

Then, Eisen pointed out that, contrary to her family’s experience, the CDC website declares:

“The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to get infected, and therefore transmit the virus.

Fully vaccinated people get COVID-19 (known as breakthrough infections) far less often than unvaccinated people.”

Then she intimated that the CDC was “too casual” about breakthrough infections … and asked pointedly if the CDC had data to support the conclusion that  COVID breakthrough infections are rare.

Fauci’s answer: “They’re working on it”:

Well in the past the CDC has not tracked real or asymptomatic infections.

The CDC is now scrambling to change this.

There are studies being done that would give the kind of breakthrough infections data you’re talking about.

English translation: No they don’t have the data.

Eisen pounced:

“How can the CDC keep saying COVID breakthrough infections are rare if they have no data? The bottom line is that we can still get it and transmit it, right?”

Flustered, Fauci just started shuffling shells around the table to play out the interview clock…

Oh my.

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click to view a 1-minute excerpt of the interview

Goldman Sachs weighs in on vax efficacy…

October 1, 2021

… by covid severity – average & by brand
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OK, Goldman Sachs is a financial institution … not a med-science organization.

But, it has a lot of smart people analyzing med-science data to inform the firm’s high stakes financial plays.

Said differently, GS has a strong economic interest in being “in the know”.

So, for clues (not necessarily conclusions), I take notice of what GS has to say …

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Vax Efficacy

Consistent with Pfizer’s booster application data, GS concludes that vax efficacy wanes over time.

On average (across all approved vaccines), GS estimates that protection against hospitalization starts high (95%) … and wanes slowly to 89% after 5 months.

Protection against both infection and symptoms start at about 85% …  it wanes to 68% after 5 months for symptomatic cases … and to 58% for total infections (symptomatic and asymptomatic).

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Key takeaway: Consistent with the Pfizer data, there’s minimal waning of protection against hospitalization …  protection against infection starts very high (unexpectedly high versus early-on expectations) but wanes significantly.

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Efficacy by Brand

For context, keep in mind that the vaccines are different:

> J&J is a viral vector DNA vaccine

> Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines, but each dose of Moderna roughly roughly 3 times the mRNA content as a Pfizer shot. Source

The GS compilation …

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Comparing brands, GS concludes that, as promised, all brands provide a high level of protection against hospitalization (the red bubbles) … slight edge to Moderna, least (but still good) for J&J.

On protection against infection, slight edge to Moderna and J&J.

Pfizer’s lower blue bubbles reflect reports that its vaccine elicits lower antibody levels in older adults (than in younger adults)

This underperformance against infection protection for older adults supports the apparent priority being given for a Pfizer booster shots … especially to seniors

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Herd Immunity

GS analysts estimate that 80% of the American population now has some form of immunity through either vaccination or infection.

Combined, that gives the U.S. an effective protection rate against infections of 60%

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Interesting cuts at the data …

Finally, some data on antibodies…

September 30, 2021

… from the Pfizer booster application
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As we previously posted…

Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only wanes slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

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Source

That’s a strong commendation for the efficacy (and durability) of the vaccine … but, it’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

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But, Pfizer also submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

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Source

That’s a pretty strong case for boosters since any infection brings with it (1) the threat of “long covid” complications (2) the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death (3) the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.

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Supporting the data re: the waning protection from infection (and the case for boosters), Pfizer also submitted some data re: “neutralizing antibody titers” … a clinical assessment derived from from a specialized blood test.

imageSource

The way antibody titers are measured (and reported) is complicated.

For an explanation, see What is an Antibody Titer?

In a nutshell: higher titers mean more antibodies … and more antibodies means more immunization.

According to Pfizer, vaccine recipients have an average of 762 titers one month after receiving their 2nd dose.

That’s good … it’s a level that provides about 90% protection against infection.

But, over time (6 months) the titers’ level drops about 80% … down to 136.

That’s not so good …  it’s only strong enough to provide 40% to 50% protection against infection.

A booster shot generates a 17 times increase in the pre-booster titer level … boosting it from 136 to 2,374.

That’s very good … it’s about 3 times the post-2nd shot level … suggesting near total infection immunity.

That is, of course, subject to waning protection over time.

But, 2,374 is a very high level which, taking the Pfizer data at face value, can wane down to 762 and still provide about 90% protection against infections.

That’s a strong case for boosters!

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Still more vax math: What about booster shots?

September 29, 2021

In a prior post, we dug into the data supporting Pfizer’s application (approved last week) for a booster shot emergency use authorization (EUA).

Specifically, we looked at the vaccine’s effectiveness preventing hospitalization (and, presumably, death).

The  numbers that Pfizer submitted were surprising … at least to me

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Source

Look carefully at the chart.

Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only waned slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

Sure, it’s always better to have more immunization than less.

But, we asked: Is a boost from 85% to 90% statistically and operationally significant?  Does it support a broadscale booster program?

We cautioned against hard conclusions and promised that there would be more to come.

Here it is…

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So, why boosters?

Here’s another interesting twist.

Based on its original clinical trials, Pfizer’s initial vaccine approval application made no claims regarding effectiveness against asymptomatic infections … just effectiveness against symptomatic infections.

In its booster application, Pfizer presented data from an Israeli study indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% after about 5 months.

Think about that for a moment…

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Those results tie a couple of puzzle pieces together.

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Transmission by vaccinated people

Early on, the CDC was saying that covid transmittal by vaccinated people was a remote occurrence.

That appears to have made sense at the time when the number of vaccinations was surging … and the vaccine’s early on effectiveness preventing infections was very high.

But, as early vaccinations “aged”, the effectiveness against infections waned … so, increasing numbers of vaccinated people may have been vulnerable asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection.

The CDC backed off its original position, acknowledging that vaccinated people could get infected and transmit the virus.

In this case, the CDC’s apparent waffling really might have reflected “following the science and the data.”

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An alternative rationale for booster shots

Again, Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only waned slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

That’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

But, Pfizer’s also submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

That’s a pretty strong case that puts a different paint job on the booster debate:

> The case for getting a booster for personal protection against hospitalization and death is marginal … resetting from around 85%   back to, say, 90% effectiveness  might not be worth the cost and the incumbent risks.

> But, the case for personal protection against infection is strong since any infection brings with it the threat of “long covid” complications … and brings with it the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death

> And, the case for getting a booster for social good — reducing transmission and community spread — is very strong.

To spread the coronavirus, you have to have the coronavirus.

And vaccinated people are far less likely to have the coronavirus—period.

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My Take

I’m Moderna vaxxed and intend to get a booster when it gets approved.

But, my reasons are shifting.

It used to be focused on self-protection from hospitalization and death.

Now, based on the Pfizer data, I’m more swayed by preventing infection and the likelihood of transmitting the virus to my grandkids (and everybody else) … again, I can’t spread it if I don’t catch it.

That’s good enough for me…

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

More covid math: What about booster shots?

September 24, 2021

In yesterday’s post, we squeezed some data from Israel’s Dept. of Health.

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Analyzing that data, we concluded:

> Vaccinated patients accounted for almost 65% of Israeli covid deaths in August

> But, the death rate among the unvaccinateds (181.7 covid deaths per million unvaccinated adults) was more than double that of the vaccinateds (81 covid deaths per million among vaccinated adults)

> So, the implied effectiveness of the vaccine (protecting against death from covid) was 55%

OK, let’s move the ball forward…

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The case for boosters

Let’s assume that our analysis of the Israeli data is correct and the implied death prevention effectiveness rate of the Pfizer vaccine has, in fact, waned down to 55%.

Question: What if the vaccinated Israelis had all gotten 3rd shots that boosted their protection back up to, say 90%?

From yesterday’s analysis, we concluded that the monthly death rate among unvaccinated Israelis (in August) was 181.7.

So, at a 90% effectiveness rate — if all were boosted — we would only expect 18 deaths per million vaccinated people (1 – 90% = 10% of the unvaccinated rate).

At that rate, about 300 of the 389 vaccinated deaths would have been saved (18 deaths per million x 4.8 million boosted vaccinateds= 86.4; 389 – 86.4 = 302.6).

That’s about a 75% reduction in vaccinateds deaths… and about a halving of the total death count (218 + 389 = 607; 302.6 / 607 = 49.8)

Those are pretty compelling numbers in favor of booster shots…

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But, Pfizer’s numbers differ

Here’s an interesting twist to the story…

In Pfizer’s booster application, the company presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine only waned slightly

Specifically, Pfizer claimed  that it’s vaccine’s effectiveness  against hospitalization (and, presumably, death) declines from 96.2% percent at seven days after dose 2 to 90.1% two months later to 83.7% six months later.

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Source

Stating the obvious: 83.7% is a high level of effectiveness … and much higher than 55%.

Think about that for a minute, though…

Based on Pfizer’s data, the vaccine is highly effective preventing hospitalization and that effectiveness does not wane very much over 6 months.

So, presuming that the grand objective is prevention of hospitalization and deaths, Pfizer’s data seems to weaken its  case for booster shots.

Sure, it’s always better to have more immunization than less … but, is a boost from 84% to 90% statistically or operationally significant? Is it worth the cost and incumbent risks?

Hmm.

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CAUTION

Don’t draw any hard conclusions yet!

There’s much more to the story that we’ll get into next week.

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!
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Thanks to DF for pointing me to the Pfizer data

 

How good is your covid math?

September 23, 2021

Let’s put it to a test, estimating vaccine effectiveness on some real life data …
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In yesterday’s post, we channeled Dr, Marty Makary’s conclusion that “The CDC has failed in its primary function to deliver data to guide our pandemic response.”

Often, the CDC has relied on data from Israel.

Israel was one of the first countries to start vaccinating … and is doing the best job, by far, of systematically gathering, analyzing and reporting vital data that can be squeezed to draw clarifying conclusions.

For example, below is a chart that Israel’s Dept. of Health recently released.

The key summary statistic: Vaccinated people accounted for 64% of Israeli Covid deaths in August.

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Is that good news or bad news?

Specifically, what do the numbers say about the efficacy of the vaccines? Good or bad?

Take a minute, think about those questions … and maybe, crunch a few numbers before reading further

(more…)

Makary: The CDC is failing to provide actionable Covid data…

September 22, 2021

Johns Hopkins Dr. Marty Makary’s recent WSJ opinion piece struck a chord with me.

Paraphrasing his basic point:

The CDC has failed in its primary function to deliver data to guide our pandemic response.

Remarkably, the CDC, an agency with 21,000 employees, does not have much of a rapid response team.

Though the CDC is a very large organization, staffed with thousands of trained researchers …  it most often just reacts to data from other countries (usually Israel) and regurgitates ad hoc observational studies with questionable scientific rigor (from places like Kentucky and Cape Cod).

Makary asks: Why isn’t the CDC producing (and reporting) the research that policy-makers (and the public) need for decision-making?

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My take: 20 months since the onset of the pandemic, “the science” is far behind the learning curve and hasn’t even developed what consultant’s call a “coherent theory of the case”.

Individual pieces of the puzzle seem to change shape based on the latest research study … from who knows where … done by who knows who.

And, there doesn’t seem to be much thought given to how the pieces fit together.

So, it’s not surprising that the research plan — if there is one — seems haphazard and incomplete.

Save for the near-miraculous vaccine development, we don’t seem to know much more than we did when the pandemic first hit.

And, taking the booster indecisiveness as an example, we don’t even have a clear picture of how the vaccines should be deployed, e.g. Should people with natural immunity be vaccinated? is it better to have more people partially vaccinated or those already vaccinated “boosted”?

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Makary concludes: “The CDC’s failure to report meaningful data has left policy makers and the public flying blind.”

Thankfully, Israel has its act together re: data collection and analysis … so the CDC has something to work with.

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For the record:

> The CDC has 21,000 employees and a $15 billion annual budget.

> It has data on more than 40 million Americans who have tested positive for Covid and 200 million who have been vaccinated.

> The data include the vaccine type, dosing schedule and vaccination date.

But, somebody has to turn the data into actionable information.

The CDC isn’t doing it…

Vaccine hesitants: Real dumb or really smart?

September 15, 2021

According to the mainstream media (nudged by Pres. Biden), the vast majority of unvaccinated Americans are Neanderthal Trump-supporters.

But,  researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh studied the association between vaccine hesitancy and education level. Source

Their data indicate that vaccine hesitancy follows a U-shaped curve with the highest hesitancy evident among those least and most educated.

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People without  a college degree — mostly Rural Whites and Urban Blacks — are highly hesitant, citing mistrust of government.

Missed by the media: The highest hesitancy is among those holding a PhD.

The primary reason for hesitancy for PhDs: “the data just doesn’t add up.”

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Most revealing

> Rural Whites and Urban Blacks have a common bond: They don’t trust the government.

> Many PhDs — ostensibly among the best and brightest thinkers — conclude that the data just doesn’t add up.

Hmmm.

Hadn’t Biden already mandated that Federal employees get vaccinated?

September 10, 2021

Apparently not since he mandated them again yesterday…
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I’m officially confused…

More than a month ago, Biden mandated that all Federal employees get vaccinated or be subjected to weekly covid tests … or else?

At the time, I (sarcastically) applauded the the move.

See: Covid: Finally, a Biden mandate that I like…

The essence of my cynical support:

> I recognized that a couple of Biden’s core constituencies (think: unions and minorities) would be spotlighted

> I assumed widespread non-compliance and hoped that the “or else” would cut the government payroll.

But, in late August, I asked:

So, how’s the federal employees’ vaccine mandate going?

Since “the most transparent Administration ever” hadn’t released any numbers showing progress, I assumed: “not so good”

Well, I got my answer yesterday when Biden announced a beefed-up vaccine mandate for Feral employees.

According to press secretary Psaki:

The mandate for federal workers is an especially assertive move by the president.

Aside from some religious and disability exemptions, the vast majority of federal workers would be subject to a 75-day grace period for receiving a vaccine.

If workers decline to receive shots in that time frame, they will “go through the standard H.R. process,” which includes progressive disciplinary action.

Hmm.

So the “vast majority” of Federal employees must comply by sometime in December.

If they don’t they go through the “standard H.R. process” … which I assume takes months or years … pushing enforcement into 2022.

By then, hopefully covid will finally be under control.

So, the non-compliers will be fired some time in the future for not getting vaccinated against a virus that’s no longer a major health crisis.

Double hmmm.

Seems like Biden’s new & improved mandate is less than meets the eye, right?

So, why do it?

Simple.

It’s merely window dressing for Biden’s attempt to force the vaccination burden on companies … making companies  enforce vaccination mandates or get fined.

Ah, politics.

NYT: 72% of young NYC Blacks unvaccinated…

August 26, 2021

According to the NY Times, only 28% of the city’s 18 to 44 year old Blacks have been vaccinated.

And, based on interviews, there a couple of explanations for the low vaccination rate …

The overall theme: distrust of the government, health care system and law enforcement … a sentiment has been aggravated by a couple of self-inflicted government backfires:

Vaccination Priorities

> Early-on, in the sprit of “equity”, Blacks were sorted high on the priority list for vaccinations.

The backfire: “Since when does the government give anything good to Black people first?”

That raised heightened memories of the Tuskegee experiments.

============

The J&J Pause

> Also early-on, NYC “directed the 1-shot J&J vaccines to Black and Latino neighborhoods”.

When the J&J vaccine was put on hold,  it reaffirmed the perception that “they’re experimenting on us” … that the vaccine was being tested on Blacks.

=============

Survivor Confidence

> Blacks have been hard hit by Covid … with an infection and death rate about twice that of Whites.

So, many young survivors — who were down the priority list for the first wave of scarce vaccines — heeded the government advice that they were at relatively low risk … or, concluded that they either had already been infected, now had natural immunity and didn’t need the vaccine.

============

Perverse Incentives

> Now the government is offering cash payouts to people to people who get vaccinated.

To some, that plays into the perception of recruitment into a science experiment: ”It must be bad if they have to pay people to take it”.

And, city officials threaten to ban unvaccinated folks from public places (e.g. restaurants).

That’s a policy that would obviously, and disproportionately, impacts Blacks.

=============

Biden & Harris Said

Add to the list that both Biden & Harris, as candidates for office, declared that they wouldn’t trust a vaccine developed by Trump on at “Warp Speed”.

First impressions anchor perceptions… it’s hard to unhear something that you heard!

Covid: Square this circle for me.

August 19, 2021

According to the latest Economist-YouGov polling:

> 22% strongly approve of Biden’s handling of Covid; 31% strongly disapprove … for a net disapproval of 9 percentage points

> Among Blacks, 36% strongly approve, 11% strongly disapprove… for a net positive approval of a whopping 25 percentage points.

image

But, according to Kaiser (channeling CDC data):

> Approximately 50% of Whites have been fully vaccinated

> But, only 40% of Blacks have been fully vaccinate

image

If 61% of Blacks approve of the way Biden is handling Covid (36% + 35%) … and 25% net approve based on “strongly” ratings … why are only 40% vaccinated?

I understand the historical government malfeasance (i.e. the Tuskegee “experiment”), but if Blacks trust Biden and approve of the job he’s doing on Covid, why aren’t the vaccination rates higher?

Early on, access to vaccines may have been an issue.

But now, vaccines are as freely available as Kohl’s coupons.

Hmm.

Update: COVID Dashboard

July 29, 2021

Since Team Biden seems to have its collective hair on fire, I thought it would be good to put things in context by looking at the data …

=============

From the jump, we’ve argued that the most reliable Covid metric is the death rate.

The COVID death rate is now below the average number of flu-related deaths during the flu season… and far down from past peaks.

image

=============

Vaccination rates stalled at 500,000 per day, down from 4 million per day at the peak.

image

=============

Over 90% of vulnerable seniors have been vaccinated; over 70% of people 18 and over have gotten at least one shot.

Over 10 million teens (42%) have been vaccinated.

image

Draw your own conclusions re: whether it’s time to hit the panic button.

 

Covid: Finally, a Biden mandate that I like…

July 29, 2021

All Federal employees to be vaccinated or regularly tested … or else … or else, what?
=============

That’s what being widely reported that Biden will prompter-read to us today,

But, I’ll believe it when I see it.

There’s already pre-announcement waffling that “the plan” is still under review.

English translation: the federal employee unions haven’t all weighed in yet … and the White House PR dept. hasn’t figured out how to erase all the videos of Biden saying that he’d never do it.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Biden implements the mandate.

Here’s why I’m on board …

=============

First, it’s consistent with the position that Biden is reading off the teleprompter these days.

It sends a clear message that he believes (and remembers) what he’s reading.

==============

Second, such a move is under Biden’s direct control.

Rather than forcing private businesses and organizations to do his dirty work while he ducks for cover, Biden will own this one.

Gotta be for clear ownership and accountability, right?

============

Third, I like the “target market”: government employees.

If Biden wants to move the needle towards near total vaccinations, getting all Federal employees jabbed is a statistically significant step forward.

Note: It’s estimated that there are over 2 million civilian employees on the Federal payroll … and, that only a slim majority of them have been vaccinated.

And, the bulk of Federal employees are blue-blood members of Biden’s core constituencies.

So, the mandate would demonstrate Biden’s commitment to the cause.

Bravo.

=============

Fourth, the mandate might “cull the herd” a bit.

That is, if the “or else” part of the mandate has teeth.

Terminating the vaccine-resisters might be an easy way to trim the bloated bureaucracy.

*************

Going big…

Here are a couple of  embellishing ideas that would make me even more supportive of the mandate:

> Start with NIH and CDC employees.

In Congressional testimony, leaders of these organizations said that only about half of their employees have been vaccinated.

That’s always bothered me … what do they know that they’re not telling us?

Make it “put up or shut up time” for the assertive scientific community.

If they believe what they’re saying, let’s see them all roll up their sleeves.

=============

> Add Federal government employees’ dependents (over 12 years old) to the target market.

Tax payers are paying for their healthcare, right?

And, the CDC says that they can transmit the virus to vaccinated people.

So, let’s minimize the the healthcare costs of them getting infected and transmitting Covid to their government employed family member(s).

Makes complete sense, doesn’t it?

=============

> Require all employees of all Federal government contractor to get vaccinated.

They come in contact with government employees — some of whom will be signing up for tests instead of shots.

So, to create a virus-minimized environment, they need to be vaccinated, right?

And, there’s a forcing mechanism: If they want to keep feeding at the taxpayer trough, they have to roll up their sleeves.

Should be an easy sell given how quickly many of these companies were “fast out of the gate” to implement woke behavioral training programs for their employees.

They’ve shown that they can do it if they want to.

Just tack vaccinations onto those programs.

============

> Extend the mandate to all  public school teachers.

The teachers’ unions are already firing warning shots that they aren’t sure about in-person schooling in the fall.

Let’s cut teachers’ health risks by getting them all vaccinated.

There’s obvious mandate legitimacy since their schools are getting beaucoup de l’argent (translation: lots of money) from the Federal coffers.

Worse case, teachers formally quit (instead of de facto quitting in place)… and get replaced by teachers who want to teach

=============

Geez, the more I think about a vaccination mandate for civilian government employees, the more that I like the idea.

I can’t wait to see what Biden’s handlers load on the teleprompter for him today.

But, for the record, I’m betting the under … more “please do” than “must do”.

We’ll see…

COVID: So, where do we stand now?

July 16, 2021

We haven’t  checked the numbers in awhile, so…
=============

Vaccinations

Close to Biden’s original goal of 70% of adults … almost 90% of seniors (over 65) … almost 40% of teenagers (just under 10 million).

image

Central question: What’s the upward limit in vaccine compliance?

WSJ: “With each day, as more Americans are vaccinated, an unvaccinated person’s likelihood of encountering the disease or spreading it goes down, as does his incentive to accept the risk of vaccination. ”

Especially given recent trends in Covid death rates…

=============

Covid-related deaths

The covid death rate continues to hover around 250 … roughly the in-season death rate associated with the flu … and down 66% from a month ago; down 66% from 3 months ago; and down 92% from the mid-January peak.

image

=============

Covid cases

The confirmed case count has turned up from its trough … roughly double what it was a month ago … worth closely watching, but not hair-on-fire time.

Keep in mind that the current rate is still down 66% from 3 months ago … and down 89% from the mid-January peak.

image

=============

Bottom line: Farther along than most people imagined possible, but not out of the woods yet…

Study: Children’s risk of serious covid consequences VERY low…

July 9, 2021

UK death rate: 2 per million children
=============

According to a recap in the WSJ

Children are at extremely slim risk of dying from Covid-19, according to some of the most comprehensive studies to date, which indicate the threat might be even lower than previously thought.

The conclusion is drawn from 3 studies  by researchers who analyzed the U.K.’s national health system’s medical records.

=============

Here are the numbers….

> There are approximately 12 million children under 18 in the U.K. Source

> None of the 12 million were vaccinated (since no vaccine was approved in the U.K. for children under 18)

> Of the 12 million, 469,982 got infected with covid … that’s about 4% of the children under 18 and under

> Of the 469,982 who got infected, only 25 deaths were determined to be caused by the illness.

> The 25 deaths works out to a survivability rate of 99.995% among children who get infected …. which translates to 1 death per every 19,000 children who get infected … and, 2 deaths per every million children under 18.

> Of the 25 deaths, only 6 of the children who died didn’t have an apparent underlying health condition.

> Conversely, 15 of the 25 children who died had underlying serious illnesses … and 4 had chronic underlying conditions.

> And, there appeared to be a higher risk of admission to intensive care among children with health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease

> Children with a combination of neurological and respiratory-linked conditions were at the greatest risk of death… but “no child with a stand-alone diagnosis of asthma, diabetes, epilepsy or Down syndrome died from Covid-19”.

=============

The bottom line according to the WSJ:

One thorny area for policy makers is whether to recommend the shots for children of younger ages.

The decision should involve balancing the risks and benefits of vaccination.

The CDC has urged child vaccination, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

But, there is mounting evidence of a  low risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 among children.

And, the CDC concedes that there is a “likely association” between  Covid-19 vaccines and an inflammatory heart condition in some younger individuals.

That should give some parents pause…

Update: COVID Dashboard

July 7, 2021

COVID death rate is now below the average number of flu-related deaths during the flu season.

image

=============

Vaccination rates stalled at 1 million per day, down from 4 million per day at the peak, but…

Almost 90% of vulnerable seniors have been vaccinated; over 2/3’s of people 18 and over.

9 million teens (37%) have been vaccinated.

image

On balance, it looks like we’re in pretty good shape…

Atlantic: “mRNA vaccines are extraordinary, NovaVax is better”

July 6, 2021

Let’s close a loop today.

Last week, drilled down on a warning that caught my eye in the scientific bio-pic “The Code Breaker”:

“Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

Specifically, we followed “the science” to a conclusion — contrary to CDC claims —  that the current emergency-approved covid vaccines might have some significant long-term risks.

The pivotal question: How to dodge the risks of the current batch of vaccines?

One possible answer was touted in the left-leaning Atlantic : “mRNA vaccines are extraordinary, NovaVax is better”.

The author, Hilda Bastian is a scientist  and,  was formerly an editor at the National Library of Medicine.

Bastion appropriately acknowledges that:

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been extraordinary lifesavers in this pandemic, and may well be heading us into a new golden age of vaccine development.

But after reviewing a vaccine being tested by Novavax, she observes that:

The latest Novavax data confirm that it’s possible to achieve the same efficacy against COVID-19 with a more familiar technology that more people may be inclined to trust.

More specifically…

> The Novavax vaccine is based on road-tested “old school” med-technology (i.e. not mRNA or DNA based)

The protein-subunit approach used by Novavax was first implemented for the hepatitis B vaccine, which has been used in the U.S. since 1986.

The pertussis vaccine, which is required for almost all children in U.S. public schools, is also made this way.

> According to recent test data, the Novavax vaccine’s 96% efficacy rate is in line with that of the current emergency-approved mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna)

> The Novavax vaccine also has a substantially lower rate of side effects than the emergency-authorized mRNA vaccines.

 Test data shows that about 40 percent of people who receive Novavax report fatigue after the second dose, as compared with 65 percent for Moderna and more than 55 percent for Pfizer.

Based on the results of Novavax’s U.K. clinical trials, side effects (including but not limited to fatigue) aren’t just less frequent; they’re milder too.

> Novavax’s simpler technology is  easier to produce than the mRNA and DNA vaccines … and can be stored with “normal” refrigeration for a year.

So, Bastian concludes:

Among several wonderful options, the more old-school vaccine from Novavax combines ease of manufacture with high efficacy and lower side effects.

For the moment, it’s the best COVID-19 vaccine we have.

=============

P.S. Bastian notes that:

The CDC has also made a point of debunking the circulating falsehood that COVID-19 vaccines can change your DNA.

As I laid out in prior posts, following the science leads me to a different conclusion.

But, if Novavax succeeds, that’s a moot issue.

=============

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: I own some NVAX stock.

Part 4: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

July 2, 2021

So, what are the “unexpected things” that might happen?
=============

In prior posts, I opined that:

  • The above headlined  warning from the book Code Breaker resonated with me
  • My most trusted med-science sources told me that the warning was applicable to covid vaccines.
  • Unlike most traditional vaccines, all of the current emergency-approved covid vaccines “fiddle with cells” in one way or another.
  • The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) are generally presumed to be safe — both short- and long-run since their fragile RNA strands “fiddle” with cells, but do not penetrate cells’ DNA-storing nuclei … and, are “eventually destroyed by the cell, leaving no permanent trace.”
  • The CDC assures that — for the J&J viral vector DNA vaccine — “genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way” … because “the (vaccine’s) material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.”
  • But, a senior NY Times science reporter investigated and concluded that when injected, “the vaccine’s adenovirus component … pushes its DNA into the nucleus, the chamber where the cell’s DNA is stored.
  • That’s not a trivial difference in opinion.

We left off in Part 3 with a question: If the NYT is right, what are the possible implications?

This is where my anxieties kick in.

Here’s some science that I dutifully followed …

=============

A trusted med-science source linked me to a technical article on Adenoviruses & Pathogenesis.

The article had a statement re: pathogenesis (i.e. the development of diseases) that caught my eye:

Some adenovirus types are oncogenic in newborn rodents and can transform cells.

Human oncogenesis has not been found but may nevertheless occur (e.g., by a “hit-and-run” mechanism).

Translation: A possible link between adenoviruses and cancer.

More specifically…

==============

Drilling down on “human oncogenesis(i.e., cancer-causing)  I found this information re: DNA Oncoviruses:

Three DNA oncoviruses have been studied extensively: Adenoviruses, Simian virus 40 (SV40), Human papillomavirus-16 (HPV-16).


All three of these DNA oncoviruses are able to integrate their DNA into the host cell, and use this to transcribe it and transform cells by bypassing the G1/S checkpoint of the cell cycle.

Which led me to Integration of Viral DNA

DNA oncoviruses transform infected cells by integrating their DNA into the host cell’s genome.


The DNA is believed to be inserted during transcription or replication, when the two annealed strands are separated.


This event is relatively rare and generally unpredictable; there seems to be no deterministic predictor of the site of integration.


After integration, the host’s cell cycle loses regulation from Rb and p53, and the cell begins cloning to form a tumor.

Which led me to a  “red flag” article: Engineering DNA vaccines against infectious diseases

6.2. Insertional mutagenesis of viral delivery methods


DNA vaccines may cause indel mutations, the risks of which depend on the mechanism of delivery.


The administration of a DNA vaccine exposes the patient to foreign DNA or its fragments that could be inserted into the host’s chromosomal DNA.


In the case of incorporation into an exon, an insertional mutation or a frameshift mutation occurs.


Such mutations can cause a gene to malfunction or inactivate (i.e., a tumor suppressor gene).

=============

Bottom line: There appears to be “science” that — when followed — suggests a possible “rare and unpredictable” link between viral vector adenoviruses and cancer.

That said, the CDC (and the sometimes right Dr. Fauci) categorically claim that the “genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.”

That assertion, while untested over time, may be true.

But, as they say in Code Breaker:

“Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

=============

My advice: caveat emptor, keeping in mind my usual disclaimer that:…

I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Part 3: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

July 1, 2021

So, what about the “viral vector adenovirus vaccines”?
=============

In Part 1 and Part 2, I opined that:

  • The above headlined  warning from the book Code Breaker resonated with me
  • My most trusted med-science sources told me that the warning was applicable to covid vaccines.
  • Unlike most traditional vaccines, all of the current emergency-approved covid vaccines “fiddle with cells” in one way or another.
  • The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) are generally presumed to be safe — both short- and long-run since their fragile RNA strands “fiddle” with cells, but do not penetrate cells’ DNA-storing nuclei … and, are “eventually destroyed by the cell, leaving no permanent trace.”

We left off in Part 2 with a question: What about the J&J vaccine?

That’s where, in my opinion, things get a bit stickier.

Let me explain….

=============

The J&J vaccine is a so-called “viral vector adenovirus vaccine.”

According to a well-researched NY Times’ recap of How the J&J Vaccine Works

  • Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which store the instructions in single-stranded RNA, the J&J vaccine uses more durable double-stranded DNA.
  • When injected, the vaccine’s adenovirus component … travels to a cell’s nucleus, the chamber where the cell’s DNA is stored.
  • The adenovirus pushes its DNA into the nucleus

Two key points from the NYT explanation: (1) The J&J vaccine contains DNA, not the more fragile RNA in the Pfizer & Moderna vaccines, and (2) the DNA penetrates cells’ nuclei (where DNA is stored).

==============

What’s the rub?

The CDC’s published statement regarding the J&J vaccine reads:

“The material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.

This means the genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.”

Working backwards…

The CDC concludes that:  “The genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.”

That conclusion is logically derived and dependent on the premise that: The material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.

So, the CDC’s conclusion re: the vaccine’s long-run safety hinges on whether the vaccine’s DNA penetrates cells’ nuclei … or not.

Uh oh…

The CDC says that the DNA doesn’t penetrate nuclei … the NY Times well-credentialed science reporter says that it does.

This is not a trivial difference.

Begs still another question:

What are the implications if the NY Times conclusion is correct?

After all, it might be since the NYT hasn’t been charged by the mass media or censored by social media tech gatekeepers for conveying misinformation, right?

=============
To be continued…
=============

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Part 2: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

June 30, 2021

 What constitutes “fiddling with cells”?
=============

Yesterday, I posted that:

  • The above warning from the book Code Breaker resonated with me
  • My most trusted med-science sources told me that the warning was applicable to covid vaccines
  • Specifically, all of the current emergency- approved covid vaccines “fiddle with cells”

All of which begs the question: What constitutes “fiddling” and what might be the ”unexpected results” ?

Let’s drill down on that question…

=============

All of the current emergency-approved covid vaccines are fundamentally different than the traditional vaccines that have been used in the past.

The “classical” battle-tested vaccines typically inject a person with a minute amount of the suspect pathogen (or a very near variation of it) that activates a person’s immune system … putting it in a high state of readiness to fend off the disease if and when they were exposed to it.

The traditional vaccines didn’t “fiddle with the innards of cells” … or, in any way, mingle with a person’s cellular DNA.

No harm, no foul.

=============

Not so with the  current crop of emergency-approved vaccines.

Note: As of now, no covid vaccines have been fully approved by the FDA. Pfizer, Moderna and J&J are all currently being administered under an emergency use authorization.

Simply stated, they inject RNA or DNA that finds its way to cells and induces production of preventative antigens that fight off the coronavirus.

Pfizer & Modera are mRNA vaccines (the “m” stands for “messenger).

The vaccine particles “bmp into cells” and fuse to them, releasing the mRNA into the cells.

The cells “read” the mRNA genetic sequence and build spike proteins that combat the coronavirus.

Two key points: (1) Pfizer & Moderna contain RNA, not DNA, and (2) the RNA penetrates cells, but not the cells’ nuclei (where DNA is stored).

Though mRNA hasn’t been used as a vaccine modality in the past, it has been researched for decades and generally presumed to be safe — both short- and long-run since it “fiddles” with cells, but does not penetrate cells’ DNA-storing nuclei. And, the fragile mRNA from the vaccine is “eventually destroyed by the cell, leaving no permanent trace.”

For more detail (and some clever graphics) see the NY Times summary of How the Moderna vaccine works.

=============

OK, that covers the the two emergency-approved mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna).

Based on clinical trials and vaccinations to date, both have proven to be very effective and reasonably safe … especially for older adults.

Note:The general presumption of short-tern safety has recently been called into question because of the incidence of myocarditis (inflammation around the heart) among teens and young adults, especially young men,  See: The CDC’s All-or-Nothing Approach to Teen COVID Vaccination Is All Wrong

That’s why I readily took the Moderna shots as soon as I could (and would have taken Pfizer if it had been offered).

But, what about the J&J vaccine?

Well that’s where, in my opinion, things get a bit stickier.

=============
To be continued…
=============

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Vax: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

June 29, 2021

Why aren’t more “experts” talking about this and advising us accordingly?
=============

Let’s set the context…

Close confidants know that there has been something on my mind for awhile re: the vaccines.

Since I’m not a med-scientist and since I didn’t want to get tech-cancelled, I shied away from the topic.

But now, the left-leaning Atlantic has broached the subject, so  I feel liberated to to touch what might be vaccines’ 3rd rail.

See Atlantic: “mRNA vaccines are extraordinary, NovaVax is better
==============…

Let’s start my story here…

I have been vaccinated! It was a matter of deliberative choice, not mandate.

I concluded that the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) were effective and safe … at least in the short-term.

Note that I didn’t mention J&J … more on that later.

I’m age-vulnerable to covid, so I weighed the short-term benefits & risks more heavily than the potential long-term risks.

But, I had (and still have) nagging reservations about the long-term risks.

=============

My anxieties were prompted by one of my summer reading books … a bio-pic about Jennifer Douda — a bio-researcher who won a Nobel Prize for developing CRISPR — the foundational technology for mRNA vaccines.

The book: “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson

Specifically, this clear, declarative  warning in the book resonated with me:

“Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

Hmm.

I asked my most trusted bio-science sources whether that warning was relevant to the covid vaccines.

Their answer: You bet it is!

So, I did some digging to learn more about how the vaccines work.

Cutting to the chase: both the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) and the viral vector vaccines (J&J and AstraZenaca) “fiddle with the innards of living cells”.

See “Which vaccine to choose?” for a summary and links to source articles”

Which begs the question: What constitutes their “fiddling” and what might be the ”unexpected results” ?

=============
To be continued…
=============

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

The info dam may be breaking re: “scientific integrity” and vaccine risks…

June 28, 2021

WSJ: “The battle to recover scientific honesty will be an uphill one in the U.S.”
=============

While we’ll probably never learn the true source of covid, the re-surfacing of the covid lab-leak theory has already started paying dividends.

Have you noticed that scientists and medical practitioners who have previously been muzzled — by censoring media and interest-conflicted scientists — are starting to speak out.

There was an op-ed in the WSJ last week that spoke to the issue — both generally and specifically.

=============

Scientific integrity has been scarred:

Unpopular scientific ideas, from the lab-leak theory to the efficacy of masks, were initially dismissed, even ridiculed, only to resurface later in mainstream thinking.

Differences of opinion have sometimes been rooted in disagreement over the underlying science.

But the more common motivation has been political.

That said, the authors conclude:“There are, however, signs of life for scientific honesty.”

Specifically, they point to emerging information and legitimized debates regarding the risks associated with the current crop of covid vaccines.

=============

Vaccine benefits touted, risks under-stated

The short-run prevention efficacy of the vaccines is broadly accepted, but often misunderstood.

For example, the vaccines provably prevent hospitalization and death, but prevention of minimally symptomatic infections is still uncertain.

But, the authors argue, the associated risks have been given short-shrift.

Bluntly stated: “Public-health authorities are making a mistake and risking the public’s trust by not being forthcoming about the possibility of harm from certain vaccine side effects.”

What are these side effects?

First, there’s death.

“it is rare for any vaccine to be linked to deaths” … but, there have been reported deaths fast-following covid vaccinations.

For example, see xxxxxxxxx

And, there is reportedly “a large clustering of certain adverse events immediately after vaccination.”

  • heart inflammation (myocarditis), especially for those under 30;
  • low platelets (thrombocytopenia), potentially causing internal bleeding;
  • deep-vein thrombosis, flow inhibiting blood clots

These side effects are likely rare and often transitory, but should be calibrated and considered in the vaccines’ risk-benefits analysis.

That said, the authors conclude:

The risks of a Covid-19 vaccine may outweigh the benefits for certain low-risk populations, such as children, young adults and people who have recovered from Covid-19.

This is especially true in regions with low levels of community spread, since the likelihood of illness depends on exposure risk.

==============

The full article is worth reading: Are Covid Vaccines Riskier Than Advertised?

Still more re: college vaccine mandates … liability?

June 22, 2021

image

Last week, we posted re: a Northwestern University student who died of heart failure shortly after getting the 2nd dose of covid vaccine.

Since NU had mandated the vaccine, we wondered whether the university had any liability in the death.

Fast-forward a week and there’s another development.

According to local and legal news sources (i.e. under-reported on the MSM)…

A group of students has petitioned a federal judge to block Indiana University’s policy requiring all students, faculty and staff to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

More specifically, the suit alleges that Indiana University:

… is not seeking voluntary consent from its students to take the Covid vaccination.

The university is coercing its students under threat of virtual expulsion to take a vaccine even though:

(a) the risks associated with the vaccine, especially for college-age students, are serious and increasingly recognized, and

(b) students are at an extremely low risk of adverse effects if they get a Covid infection.

While the university allows for certain health-related reasons, natural immunity is not considered a valid reason … even though natural immunity may have the same preventive benefits as the vaccines … and, there is now at least one case of apparent fatal consequences linked to the vaccine.

Bluntly stated: The benefits are arguable minimal (or non-existent) … and the risks are potentially fatal.

The students are asking for a court order declaring the vaccine mandate unconstitutional and blocking the university from enforcing it.

The students’ attorneys are pushing for an expedite ruling to secure a “stay” on the mandate.

More re: college vaccine mandates … liability?

June 16, 2021

Northwestern student reportedly dies of heart failure after getting vaccinated.
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Yesterday morning, we explored the ethics of college vaccine mandates.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I caught a chilling, related story:

  • Northwestern is one of roughly 450 colleges requiring that students get vaccinated.
  • In compliance, 19 year old Simone Scott got vaccinated.
  • On May 16, two weeks after getting her 2nd vaccine dose, she suffered a case of apparent myocarditis-induced heart failure … a known but rare side effect of the vaccine.
  • Despite heroic medical efforts — including a heart transplant — Simone died on June 11.
  • Her doctors have not specified the vaccination as causal, but have provided no alternative explanation.

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My questions:

  1. Why hasn’t this story been widely reported?
  2. To what extent is Northwestern (and other colleges)  liable if they coerce students to get vaccinated … and the  students suffer severe, potentially fatal side effects.

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Regarding, the lack of media coverage, the answer is fairly obvious.

First, the story would certainly throw  some cold water on the current push to get everybody vaccinated.

Second, yesterday’s reporting was by Alex Berenson — a former NY Times reporter — with a history of challenging Facebook-approved covid orthodoxy in books and on a web site bannered “Unreported Truths”.

Said differently, the MSM brands him a conspiracy theorist — despite his data-rich, fact-based analyses.

My take: reading and listening to Berenson, he strikes me as a fairly balanced reporter who tells it like it is … and doesn’t tow either party’s line.

That said, I encourage everybody to read Berenson’s detailed account of Simone’s story … and draw your own conclusions.

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My take on the liability question …

For sure, colleges and universities are going to be subject to ethical challenges and  headline-quality lawsuits over liability in the albeit rare cases when vaccination side effects take a toll.

It’s easy to foresee things getting pretty messy … very fast.

And, it’s only a matter of time until “the issue” spreads to corporate vaccine mandates.

Are college vaccine mandates ethical?

June 15, 2021

That’s a question posed in a WSJ opinion piece by a medical ethics prof and a lawyer…

The essence of their argument:

The central canon of medical ethics  is the free and informed consent of the research subject.

The current trio of vaccines are operating under emergency use authorizations, not full approval.

Courts have ruled that, in such situations, group members cannot be coerced into “serving as guinea pigs for experimental drugs”.

Never before have colleges insisted that students or employees receive an experimental vaccine as a condition of attendance or employment.

I think the authors make a compelling case … and, they deftly handle the usual counter-arguments.

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But, elementary schools require pediatric vaccinations.

True, but those vaccines are fully approved for use (i.e. not experimental) … and justified as directly protecting the recipient students from infection and significant health risks.

But, data consistently shows that “for those under 30, the risks of serious morbidity and mortality are close to zero … and. that the vaccines pose “an excess risk for heart inflammation”

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But, vaccinating college students protects against transmission to potentially vulnerable groups, both directly and by building herd immunity.

A person may freely choose to accept medical risks for the benefit of others, as when one donates a kidney for transplant.

Those who make such sacrifices for others must truly be volunteers, not conscripts drafted by college administrators.

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But, faculty and staff will resist resuming classes unless they feel safer.

Yeah, but they have the opportunity to protect themselves by  getting vaccinated.

The burden need not be shifted to students … especially those who are low risk, especially if they are covid survivors with natural immunity.

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The entire WSJ article is worth reading:
College students aren’t guinea pigs.

Cleveland Clinic: “Natural immunity” is for real…

June 10, 2021

A hopeful sign for herd immunity
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In yesterday’s post, we observed:

The political-scientists still refuse to acknowledge that the vast majority of covid survivors have developed protective antibodies.

The implication: The percentage of the population that has some degree of covid protection is higher than the current 64% of 1st-shot adults … probably way higher.

And, we cited Hopkins’ Dr. Marty Makary (who is right way more often than, say, Fauci):

More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection.

So, some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus.

Some in “the science community” may be skeptical.

But, right on cue, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have reported out results from study that cuts to the chase.

Specifically, the researchers tracked 52,238  of Cleveland Clinic employees, recording their infection and vaccination status over a 5 month period.

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And, the data says…

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> 2,579 (5% of the 52,238 total sample) had been infected with covid

> 28,102 (54% of the 52,238 total sample) got vaccinated (2-shots of Moderna)

> Less than 1% of the employees who were vaccinated subsequently caught covid

Note: The report stated “There was a “steady increase in cumulative incidence among previously uninfected subjects who remained unvaccinated” … but didn’t provide a specific number.

The infection rate in the vaxed group was in line with prior effectiveness results … in fact. better than previously reported from clinical studies.

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Here’s the big news…

> 1,359 of the Cleveland Clinic employees had a previously confirmed COVID infection but did not get vaccinated .

> NONE of these unvaxed covid survivors got infected with covid during the study period

To say the least, that’s statistically significant!

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The implications:

> The effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine was confirmed (at a higher level)

> At least in this large scale study, covid survivors appear to be protected (at least over the short-term) whether or not they get vaccinated.

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In other words, the Cleveland Clinic study seems to lend credence to Dr. Markary’s conclusion:

More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection.

So, some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus.

If we’re not at herd immunity levels, we’re pretty darn close!

Don’t fret if Biden’s 70% goal isn’t reached…

June 9, 2021

Life is heading back to normal regardless.
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Biden-Fauci promised that we could have small family BBQs on July 4 if 70% of adults get at least their 1st shot of a vaccine.

It’s looking like we’ll fall short of Biden’s goal.

But, not to worry.

If you’ve been out recently, you’ve probably noticed that many (most?) folks don’t care what Biden & Fauci have to say any more.

Americans are responsibly easing back into life and guess what: case counts are dropping and covid deaths are dropping (albeit, slowly).

That’s an entirely rational approach since…

> There’s no magic number re: herd immunity or its close cousin: adult vaccinations.

There’s no specific herd immunity threshold.

Best evidence is Fauci’s constant rising of the herd immunity requirement from 60% to 70% to 80% to 85% to whatever he’s pitching on MSNBC today.

Said differently, there’s no covid  on-off switch set at 70% vaccinations.

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And, vaccination rates are only part of the story…

> The political-scientists still refuse to acknowledge that the vast majority of covid survivors have developed protective antibodies.

Some number of unvaccinated people fall into that category.

The implication: Some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus: More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection. Source

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> Transmissibility is not fixed: It can vary based on a population’s behavior, demographics and health.

We’ve seen this in action with Covid-19, which has spread far more quickly in some populations, as a result of differences in disease-mitigation efforts, housing density, age, occupations and both community and individual  health conditions.   Source

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> More specifically, transmissibility is, in the final analysis, a local dynamic.

A national vaccination rate may be an interesting barometer, but it’s not determining.

Said differently, some communities will likely reach the herd immunity threshold, even if the entire United States does not. Source

Conditions in New York and New Jersey have little impact on, say, Wyoming.

Viral spread in dense urban areas has little relevance to sparsely populated rural areas.

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The bottom line: Don’t fret over Biden & Fauci’s faux thresholds.

Pay attention to conditions in your local community.

If the number of hospitalizations and covid deaths keep declining … then get on with getting on.

DISCLAIMER: I’m neither a medical professional nor a scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

If you can’t trust your barber, who can you trust?

June 7, 2021

So much for following the science …
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Welp, it looks like Biden’s goal of 70% adults getting 1st shots by July 4 isn’t the slam dunk that it initially seemed.

See Biden sets another low bar vaccination goal

With about a month to go, almost 12 million adults over 18 still have to get 1st shots to hit the target.

That works out to about 500,000 first shots per day … roughly the recent 7-day moving average of 1st shots … a number that has been declining and is being buoyed by teenagers (who don’t count against Biden’s target).

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Recognizing that the goal is in jeopardy, Team Biden has thrown its weight behind a new program.

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Last week, Biden announced “Shots at the Shop” an initiative bringing together 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons across the nation to serve as vaccination locations … leveraging the trust and significance they have in Black communities. Source

OK, I understand the need to deliver healthcare to underserved communities … and to use credible messengers.

But, this program raises some obvious questions…

(1) Do we really want barbers and hair stylists to be dishing out medical advice?

They’re probably as spot-on as, say, Dr. Fauci … but still, is that a precedent that Biden wants to establish?

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(2) Is it a good idea to have groups of unvaccinated people converging on barbershops to seek counsel … and maybe get vaccinated?

Program proponents say: “You don’t have to be tethered to a hospital”

Hmm.

I don’t know about your’s, but my barbershop is small-spaced, indoors and not-to-be confused with a sterile operating room.

Bluntly, I avoided my barbershop like the plague during covid until I got fully vaccinated.

If I knew that it was a hang-out for the unvaxed, I would have continued my avoidance.

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(3) When did the vaccines suddenly become easy to store, easy to prepare and easy to administer?

Up to now, we’ve been told that (a) the vaccines need to be kept frozen at sub-zero temperatures (b) need a couple of hours of medically precise preparation (c) must be administered within a few hours after being thawed.

I started to wonder how it was possible for small, low volume retail pharmacies to to handle the constraints.

A medically-attuned friend advised me that (a) shipment batch sizes were reduced from about 1,000 doses to about 100. (b) some pharmacies already have deep freezers … others can get them for about $2,500 each (probably with some gov’t subsidies offsetting that amount) (c) pharmacists are well-able to safely perform the thaw and shoot process.

That’s pharmacies (and pharmacists), but it still begs the question …

Barbershops and barbers?

Excuse my skepticism, but this program just doesn’t sound very scientific to me.

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P.S. Some of the above vaccine storage & prep constraints are less limiting with the up-to-now problematic J&J vaccine.

But, that opens a bigger can of worms that we’ll address in a future post.…

WaPo: Biden’s goal of 70% by July 4 looks out of reach …

June 7, 2021

…. as the pace of shots slows drastically.
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Not my words, straight from the Washington Post  … here’s the data … 11.5 million shots needed in 28 days … below current running rate.,

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June 3: COVID Dashboard

June 3, 2021

Now that the Memorial Day holiday is in the books and data reporting seems to have caught up…

> Daily confirmed case counts below 20,000; deaths still hovering around 600 per day.

Implication: The CFR (case fatality rate) has soared to around 4% (chart below) … why?

> Vaccination rate still falling despite … and that number is buoyed by teenage vaccinations (now over 6 million)

Note: about 13 million adults over 18 need to get 1st shots to hit Biden’s target of 70% by July 4

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May 29: COVID Dashboard

May 29, 2021

> Slight uptick in covid deaths

> Almost 1 in 4 teens 1st shot vaccinated

> Over 18 vaccinations still slowing

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So, why are covid death rates higher in some states?

May 28, 2021

A common hypothesis is that there’s a strong correlation between death rates and the percentage of a state’s population that that is vaccinated.

The hypothesis seems reasonable, so I decided to to test it…

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Below is a scatter chart of the 50 states … on the horizontal axis is the current vaccination rate (% of residents 18 and over who have received at least 1 shot) on the vertical axis is the past month’s covid death rate (deaths per million residents).

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To the naked eye, the chart is more buckshot than correlation.

Arguably, there’s a slight positive relationship … with emphasis on “slight” since the R-squared is a mere .0325 … which is, for all practical purposes, not statistically different from zero.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

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Below is a matrix that puts names names on the above dots.

The rows are vaccination rates — over 60% at the top (good), under 40% at the bottom (bad).

The columns are the  past month’s covid death rates — left is under 40 deaths per million (good), right is over 0 deaths per million (bad).

So, for example, the states in the blue quadrant have high vaccination rates and low death rates.

The states in the red quadrant have low vaccination rates and high death rates.

Those are to be expected.

But, there are a lot of states in the orange (high death rates despite high vax rates) and yellow quadrants (low death rates despite low vax rates)

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click for a full-size, printable PDF

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Let’s look at the top rows … the states that have vaccinated the highest percentages of their residents.

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A couple of observations:

> Nearly all of the states in the top 2 rows (high vaccination rates) are Northern Blue  states … most with dense metro population centers.

> A majority of these high vaccination rate states still have high death rates … and, in aggregate, these states account for a disproportionate share of current covid deaths.

See Nums: 10 states account for 2/3′;s of covid deaths

> Most of the current high death rate states have had high death rates from the get-go … vaccinations  may have cut the death rate from previously high levels, but the states are still challenged.

> Two states — Massachusetts & California — have currently low death rates substantially below their pre-vax levels … likely attributable to vaccinations, but there may be other factors in play.

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What about the bottom rows – the low vaccination rate states?

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> Generally, states with low vax rates are Red states with dispersed populations … more rural … with many in sunnier Southern climates.

> Michigan and Wisconsin are outliers to the general rule … Michigan is particularly interesting since it has been one of the most locked down, masked states … yet, the state has a relatively low vax rate (which their wacky gov has laid off against supply constraints) … and still has a sky high death rate.

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Bottom line: Covid death rates are a lot more complicated than simply tying them to vaccination rates.

Are the most vulnerable being vaccinated? What other factors are in play?

We’ll keep thinking about it … your thoughts?

Currently, which states have the highest (and lowest) covid death rates?

May 27, 2021

Cumulative death rates — since the beginning of the pandemic — are largely irrelevant.

What matters now is recent covid activity!

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Yesterday, we pointed out that, in total, there were just under 22,000 covid deaths in the US over the past month.

Disaggregating that number…

10 states — which house about 1/2 of the US population — accounted for about 2/3’s of the total covid deaths in the past month.

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The high death counts are not just a matter of states’ big populations.

The death rate in Top 10 states is running about 20% higher than the national average … and is about 50% higher  than in the other 40 states (79.7 deaths per million  versus 51.4).

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Today, let’s dig a little deeper on the state death rates over the past month….

Michigan — which tops the above Top 10 list — had more than triple the national average rate of covid deaths over the past month (215 deaths per million versus  to 67).

Pennsylvania and New Jersey follow with more than 100 deaths per million in the past month.

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Re-sorting the data, below are the 10 states with the highest death rates over the past month.

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3 states that are in the Top 10 for number of deaths aren’t in the Top 10 for death rates: California, Texas and Ohio … suggesting that their high death counts are largely population driven

7 states (highlighted in light red above) are in the Top 10 for number of deaths and the Top 10 for death rates… suggesting that high death rates are a major contributor to their high fatality counts.

3 states that didn’t make the Top 10 for death counts, do make the Top 10 in death rates: Hawaii, Kentucky and Maryland … raising obvious concern.

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Flipping the data, here are the states that have had the lowest death rate over the past month:

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Note that these low death states are relatively small,  geographically diverse and politically skewed (8 Red, 4 Blue).

Note: West Virginia made a significant downward adjustment to its reported  fatalities and is excluded in this ranking.

Click here for a list of all stats’ data

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OK, enough for the descriptive data…

What’s going on with the recent death rates?

A popular hypothesis is that states with high vaccination rates have have low death rates  … and vice versa.

Spoiler alert: It’s not vaccination rates.

Stay tuned … we’ll dig into the Vaccination – death rate relationship tomorrow.

May 27: COVID Dashboard

May 27, 2021

> 1st vax shots drop to 700,000 / day

> Deaths hovering between 500 and 600 per day

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Nums: 10 states account for 2/3’s of the past month’s covid deaths…

May 26, 2021

I’ve been digging into the surprisingly slow decline in the daily covid rates.

Let’s start with some state-by-state data…

Relevant time series data is hard to find, but I was able to find month ago cumulative covid deaths by state that I could match against current cumulative totals to calculate the number of deaths in the past month.

And, the answer is…

In total, there were just under 22,000 covid deaths in the US over the past month.

Data check: That’s about 750 deaths per day

10 states — which house about 1/2 of the US population — accounted for about 2/3’s of the total covid deaths in the past month.

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Of course, the death count is a function of states’ population and their death rate (usually reported per million residents).

So, highly populated states  states are heavily represented in the Top 10, e.g. Florida, California, Texas and New York.

But, it’s not just a matter of population.

The death rate in Top 10 states is running about 20% higher than the national average … and is about 50% higher  than in the other 40 states (79.7 deaths per million  versus 51.4).

A couple of the Top 10 states had death rates that were below the national average: California, Texas and Ohio.

So, their presence on the Top 10 list can be mostly attributable to population.

Conversely, a couple of Top 10 states are still on fire…

Leading the pack: Heavily locked-down Michigan — which tops the Top 10 list — had more than triple the national average of covid deaths over the past month (215 deaths per million versus  to 67).

Pennsylvania and New Jersey each had more than 100 deaths per million in the past month.

Hmmm.

So, what explains the variance in death rates across states?

Spoiler alert: It’s not vaccination rates.

Stay tuned … more to come.

May 26: COVID Dashboard

May 26, 2021

> Vaccination rate slowing after initial teenage surge

> Death rate continues slow decline

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May 25: COVID Dashboard

May 25, 2021

> Death rate continuing slow decline

> Initial surge of teen vaccinations waning

> Vaccine stockpile growing … over 80 million doses

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May 23: COVID Dashboard

May 24, 2021

> Approx. 1 in 5 teens have been vaccinated

> Cases declining faster than deaths 9which are still hovering slightly under 600 per day)

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May 21: COVID Dashboard

May 21, 2021

> Slim majority of 18 to 65 year olds vaccinated … pivotal demographic!

> 4 million teens (16%) have been vaccinated … not exactly a groundswell given vax availability

> Death toll still hovering around 600 per day … why not a faster decline?

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May 20: COVID Dashboard

May 20, 2021
  • Cases (& testing) declining
  • Deaths hovering around 600 per day
  • Daily 1st vax shots under 1 million
  • Unused vax stockpile accumulating

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I’m all for mask freedom, but gotta ask…

May 18, 2021

What’s up with the covid cases and deaths data?
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To be crystal clear: I’m thrilled that the mask mandate has been ditched … and, I’m supremely confident that it’s not coming back.

But, I’m puzzled by “the data” that “the science” followed to make last weeks surprise mask announcement.

So, let’s drill down …

Below is our standard chart of cases & deaths — indexed to November 1st ( just to keep the series plotted on a common chart).

Unpacking the numbers, covid-related deaths peaked at about 2,000 per day in January … and have ranged around 650 for the past 6 weeks or so.

For reference, a high flu season averages about 500 deaths per day during the roughly 4 month flu season.

My take: We shouldn’t declare victory against covid until the death rate drops below 500, for sure or, more conservatively, below 250.

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I’ve longed argued that the daily death count is the purest metric of covid severity.

That said, let’s look at the case numbers that Biden , Fauci and Wolensky like to point to.

Note that cases peaked at about 200,000 per day right around Biden’s inauguration.

Then, case counts dropped quickly and sharply, almost miraculously, to under 100,000 … hovering around 65,000 for the past couple of months.

That is, until about a month ago … when case counts turned down again …  to its current level of about 35,000 … which Biden says justified “relaxed guidance”.

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Source: Bloomberg

So why have case counts dropped so much since Inauguration Day?

It could be that Biden is a miracle worker … or, it could be that the vaccines are kicking in … or, it could be another reason.

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Below is the JHU chart that tracks the number of daily covid tests.

Note how closely the number of tests and the number of confirmed cases seem to track.

In the month after Biden’s inauguration, testing dropped by 25% from about 2 million per day to under 1.5 million per day … and hovered there for a couple of months.

But, in the past month, testing has fallen to just over 1 million per day …. a 33% drop.

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Source: JHU

Let’s recap …

> Testing peaked around inauguration day … and so did cases.  Coincidence?

> After a couple of months of level testing and cases, both data series turned down again in the past couple of weeks.  Another coincidence?

Maybe I’m missing something….

Fauci: Slim majority of NIH employees have been vaxed…

May 17, 2021

Finally, an answer to a question that I’ve been asking.
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Frankly, when it comes to vaccine efficacy & safety, I don’t find testimonials from politcos, Hollywood celebs or sports stars to be very compelling.

The relevant info, in my opinion, comes from doctors and subject matter scientists: Have they (and their immediate family) been vaccinated? If yes, which brand of vaccine?

I’ve been frustrated getting credible numbers re: healthcare professionals. Best guess: 60% overall, 70% front line, 80% doctors.

See Why have so few healthcare workers been vaccinated?

And, there has been a data void re: employees at NIH or the CDC.

That is until now.

Last week, during a hearing, Sen. Burr asked Fauci and Wolensky a direct question: How many employees in your agencies have been vaccinated?

I wouldn’t think that there would be any vax-hesitants walking those halls…. so, I’d expect the number to be near 100%.

WRONG!

When asked, Fauci stammered, then said “a little more than half”.

What?

That’s barely about the national average (which includes the media- labeled  “Neanterthal Trump supporters”)

Wolensky ducked the question: ‘There’s no Federal requirement for us to collect and report those numbers”.

Anybody remember Gore’s “There’s no controlling authority” defense for taking foreign campaign contributions?

English translation: “An embarrassingly low number.”

Here’s the 1-minute clip of the Q&A exchange.

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For sure, the clip won’t find it’s way into any vax- inspirational PSAs.

But, it’s gotta give pause to people yet to be vaccinated if the vaccine is being shunned by a statistically significant number scientists who are working on the vaccines and constantly pouring over the data re: efficacy and safety.

Do they know something that they’re not telling us?

Hmm…

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P.S. I’m fully vaccinated (Moderna) … and don’t regret my decision.  Now, I’m rooting for high mRNA vaccination rates, but not holding my breath.

Why aren’t more healthcare workers getting vaccinated?

May 17, 2021

Specifically, what’s the percentage of doctors who have gotten vaccinated?
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Let’s start with a basic fact: Frontline healthcare workers (very broadly defined) — along with long-term care patients — were the top priority for initial (and continuing) covid vaccinations.

But, according to a recent KFF-Washington Post survey …

Despite their first-dibs on the vaccines, only a 52% slim majority of “frontline healthcare workers” have gotten vaccinated.

That’s hardly a mobilizing inspiration for folks who are still unvaccinated, so let’s drill down on the numbers.

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According to the KFF-WaPo survey, the combined vaccination rate for healthcare workers varies widely by it’s component parts.

Only about 40% of administrative and “patient care” healthcare workers have gotten vaccinated.

But, about 7 in 10 “diagnosis & treatment” professionals (think: doctors & nurses) have gotten vaccinated.

The latter is an important number since doctors and nurses (a) have had ready access to the vaccine (b) are most likely to be frequently and directly exposed to covid, and (c) should be the most “in the know” re: the vaccines efficacy & safety.

So, the pivotal question: Is 70% a high number that should inspire confidence or a hard ceiling on the percentage of the broad population’s likelihood of getting vaccinated?

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Anecdotally, whenever I bump into a doc, I ask if they’ve been vaccinated, which brand, what about their staffs”?

So far, in my very small sample, all docs have been vaccinated (Pfizer or Moderna), as have the clear majority of their staffs.

Among the vax-hesitant staffers, the resistance rationales: (1) current workplace protocols have, for a year, kept them from being infected so why fret now? (b) their personal health considerations prevail (e.g. immune system disorders, current or hoped-for pregnancies ) and (c) they “wait & see” uncertainties about the long-run effects of the vaccines.

The latter could be a bit worrisome: Do they know something that we don’t know?

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For what it’s worth …

I’d like to see the numbers broken down by “doctors only” and all other “prescribers & treaters”.

In fact, expecting the doc’s number to be closer to 100%, it (along with a parade of doc testimonials) should be center-stage in an marketing program to cut vax-hesitancy.

That would be more compelling than a showcase of politicos and celebrities.

COVID Deaths pass grim milestone: 600,000

May 17, 2021

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