Just read a thought-provoking article in New Atlas about the cognitive deficits experienced by people who have had severe Covid:
‘A new study has presented the most rigorous investigation to date into the long-term cognitive impacts of severe COVID-19. The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, found persistent cognitive deficits in hospitalized patients equivalent to declines consistent with 20 years of brain aging.’
The study followed the post-Covid recovery of 46 people who had all had severe Covid, including 16 who had been ventilated. Their cognitive functions were compared to that of ‘age and demographically matched healthy control subjects.’ It was found that the more severe the disease, the greater the cognitive impairment:
‘These COVID patients were slower to respond to tasks and less accurate in their responses, compared to their matched controls. More specifically, the COVID patients performed poorly on “verbal analogical reasoning” tasks which are designed to test particular word-based reasoning cognitive domains.’
And as if that were not enough, there is some evidence to suggest that:
I know everyone wants to believe that the worst of Covid is over, but with Omicron morphing into BA.4 and BA.5 already, it’s not done with us yet. Please treat this disease with the caution it deserves. Even if you’re fully vaccinated. Even if you’ve had it before. Because there may be outcomes worse than death. 😦
Before I begin, I have to clarify that I’m only looking at the effectiveness of vaccines against the original Omicron variant in this post. I have no information about the Omicron BA.2 variant.
First up, a truth that no government wants to admit: neither Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca do much to protect against symptomatic disease with Omicron:
I took this data from a study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine: https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2119451 If you scroll down to Table 3, which appears just before the Discussion, you can check the raw data for yourselves. This data compares the effectiveness of all three vaccines against the Delta variant and the Omicron variant. This is an example:
As you can see, AstraZeneca is shown by its scientific name rather than the one we’re all familiar with. The same applies to Pfizer – BNT162b2 – and Moderna – mRNA-1273. For each vaccine, Table 3 displays its effectiveness against Delta and Omicron at specific time points. The 2 – 4 week time point is when the vaccine is at its most effective in preventing symptomatic disease. You can then see how quickly that effectiveness wanes over time.
Because I found the presentation of the data a bit hard to follow, I translated it into a spreadsheet and made it more visually clear:
Despite my best efforts, the data is still confusing so let me walk you through it. On the far left you have the effectiveness of the three vaccines at just 2 doses. As you can see, after 5 months, none of them are very effective and AstraZeneca is the least effective of all. This means that if you are Australian, over 65 and received only 2 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, you have virtually no protection. AT. ALL.
Until just 2 weeks ago, I fell into the ‘no protection at all’ category.
Now let’s have a look at what effect the boosters have. I’m going to start by looking at each vaccine boosted by itself – i.e. by a third dose of the same vaccine.
Looking at the table above you can see that 2 doses of AstraZeneca boosted with a 3rd dose of AstraZeneca – i.e. 3 doses of AstraZeneca – provides a maximum of 55.6% protection at 2-4 weeks. By week 9 – just over 2 months later – that protection has dropped to 46.7%.
Two initial doses of Pfizer followed by a Pfizer booster – i.e. 3 doses of Pfizer – provides a maximum of 67.2% protection. By week 10 that’s dropped to 45.7% protection.
Two initial doses of Moderna followed by a Moderna booster – i.e. 3 doses of Moderna – provides a maximum of 66.3% protection. I can’t tell you what that protection becomes at week 10 because there is no data for it. The reason there’s no data is because there were only 7 people in the study who had 3 doses of Moderna. I guess that was simply too small a sample size to be significant.
To recap, 3 doses of the same vaccine at weeks 2 – 4 – i.e. when protection was highest – resulted in:
55.6% protection for AstraZeneca
66.3% protection for Moderna
67.2% protection for Pfizer
Pfizer comes out on top, but only by a very small percent. AstraZeneca is roughly 11% worse than either of the mRNA vaccines. That said, the level of protection still isn’t stellar…for any of them.
Now, let’s see what happens when you mix-and-match vaccines.
When AstraZeneca is boosted by Pfizer, the level of protection at week 2-4 is 62.4%. AstraZeneca boosted by Moderna provides quite a bit more protection at 70.1%.
Significantly, boosting with Moderna causes that protection to also wane less by weeks 9 – 10:
60.9% with Moderna
39.6% with Pfizer
I’m pleased to say that I received my Moderna booster two weeks ago so my protection is reasonably high. I say ‘reasonably’ because I only have 1/2 a thyroid. That means my immune system is a bit compromised and the vaccines can’t provide me with the same level of protection.
The most interesting bit of data, however, is yet to come.
If you received two doses of Pfizer and followed that up with the Moderna booster, you will have the highest level of protection at 73.9%. By contrast, two doses of Moderna followed by a Pfizer booster will only give you a 64.9% level of protection.
So in conclusion:
Get a booster as soon as you hit the 3 month mark [after your second dose of whatever].
If at all possible, get the Moderna booster, especially if you received AstraZeneca as your base vaccine.
Any booster is better than none.
Keep taking precautions even after you receive your booster – even 73.9% protection isn’t all that much.
The study I’ve referenced here only looked at protections from symptomatic disease. Not severe disease. Not death. If the vaccines work the same way against Omicron as they did against earlier variants then there’s a good chance they will protect against severe disease and death, but the data isn’t in yet, so they may not. And given that BA.2 is a bit of an unknown quantity, we don’t even know if the boosters are as effective against it as they are against BA.1.
Governments and media have gone quiet on the pandemic, leading a lot of people to believe that the danger is over. It’s not. It’s just that no-one wants to admit that vaccines are not the magic bullet we were promised. The continuing death toll here in Australia and elsewhere in the world is proof of that.
Get your booster. Wear a mask. Don’t be a fool, the life you save may be your own.
Bananas in Pajamas? No, BA.2 is a sub-variant of Omicron and it’s mooted to be even more infectious than other variants. Now there’s research coming out of Japan that suggests it could also be a whole lot more virulent:
‘When the researchers infected hamsters with BA.2 and BA.1, the animals infected with BA.2 got sicker and had worse lung function. In tissues samples, the lungs of BA.2-infected hamsters had more damage than those infected by BA.1.’
The CNN article contains a link to the actual journal article so I clicked it. Doing so gave me access to the PDF of the research. I understood the abstract, kind-a, and the discussion, kind-a, not much in the middle, but what impressed me was the dogged persistence of the researchers. Every time their experiments came up with unexpected results, they changed the focus of the experiments to investigate the new leads…like detectives.
That dogged persistence, and the quality control the Japanese are known for, convinced me that this is no error-riddled study dashed off between breakfast and lunch. And that makes their conclusion even more chilling:
If the Japanese research is confirmed, BA.2 could become our worst nightmare at a time when most states here in Australia are easing up on restrictions and opening their borders.
Thank you, Dan Andrews. At the rate that BA.2 is spreading, there should be definitive data available long before we throw caution to the winds.
“It looks like we might be looking at a new Greek letter here,” agreed Deborah Fuller, a virologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who reviewed the study but was not part of the research.
Since the beginning of February, 2022, Denmark has removed all pandemic restrictions. Denmark also happens to be the only country in Europe where BA.2 is well and truly the dominant strain. This is a graph of the death toll in Denmark:
If you click the worldometers link and hover your mouse over the very end of the line on the graph, you will see that the data is for February 18, just two days ago. Only time will tell exactly how virulent BA.2 really is, but I’m not dumping my mask any time soon.
My thanks to Mole for bringing the Japanese research to my attention…our attention. Stay safe my friends.
A lot of conservative governments justify their policies during this pandemic with the mantra that we all have to ‘live with Covid’.
Why? Apparently because we’re all going to get it eventually.
Even a relatively trusted source like Dr John Campbell maintains that ‘everyone will get Omicron’ – supposedly because it’s so contagious. Yet the actual numbers don’t add up, even in the UK.
This is a screenshot I took this morning which shows the total number of people infected with Covid-19 in the UK…since the pandemic began:
The comments in red and green are mine. I wanted to see how many people in the UK had not had any of the Covid-19 variants. The number ended up being 50 million.
Now I know that the official figures don’t include those who were infected but had only very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, so I’m going to double the official figure from 18 million to 36 million.
Revised estimate of people infected with Covid-19 variants = 36 million
When you subtract 36M from 68M you get 32M who have never been infected with any of the Covid-19 variants, and that’s after two years and multiple variants, including Omicron B1. Curiously, data from the UK seems to show that 68% of those infected with Omicron have been re-infected. In other words, previous exposure did not give them immunity against the variant.
Why am I banging on about stats and who has or hasn’t been infected in the UK? The answer is simple:
I hate grand sweeping generalisations that are not based on actual data and,
much of what we do here in Australia seems to reflect the trends happening in the UK… and the conservative government there wants to open up completely, based on the narrative that everyone will get the virus anyway, so they may as well make the best of it.
The truth is a little more nuanced. According to everything I understand about herd immunity, you need to have at least 70% of the total population immune to a virus for the herd immunity effect to kick in. Not just recovered from the infection but actually immune to it.
Why 70%? because that’s roughly the number of immune people you need to stop the virus from being able to replicate – i.e. spread through the community:
Essentially, people who have already had the infection – and are immune to it – crowd out the new infections, so even if someone is sick and shedding the virus all over the place, that virus is falling on people who are already immune so it can’t replicate. It’s been ring-fenced.
So let’s have a look at the UK. Are they at 70% yet?
No, they’re not. More importantly, immunity gained from earlier variants of the virus doesn’t seem to provide immunity against the current variants.
In other words, having had the virus once does not guarantee you won’t get the virus again, and that means there can be no herd immunity.
The lack of herd immunity means that those who have never had the virus are not protected. Therefore, learning to ‘live with the virus’ has nothing to do with protecting the vulnerable. It is ALL about protecting the economy.
Let me be more specific. The policy of living with the virus is essentially throwing all the vulnerable members of the population under the bus. Some will live, some won’t.
So who are these vulnerable people?
They include all the conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers for sure, but they also include those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons – i.e. because the vaccine would have a negative reaction with their particular medication or treatment – or those with compromised immune systems for whom the vaccines are much less effective. But the list also includes those who have been fully vaccinated.
The current crop of vaccines were developed for the earlier variants and are much less effective against Omicron, so in a way, we’re right back at the start of the pandemic when we didn’t have any vaccines at all. Until a vaccine specifically designed to target Omicron and its siblings comes along, even being fully vaccinated is no guarantee of protection.
Yes, Omicron et al., may be milder than Delta, but it’s not mild. Calling it ‘mild’ instead of ‘milder’ was a neat bit of spin to justify opening up completely. Only now are we seeing how deadly this ‘mild’ virus actually is.
So why are our governments getting away with this? The answer is rather brutal: right from the start, they told people that “…only the elderly, the disabled or those with ‘co-morbidities’ will die so…don’t panic”.
The nett effect of this messaging has been to make the age groups most likely to spread the virus resent those most likely to die from it.
Why should young, healthy people have to suffer lockdowns and restrictions to save a bunch of people who are probably ‘going to die anyway’?
I believe that question, and the resentment that goes with it, is why conspiracy theories have gained such traction. People don’t want to admit how they feel so they latch onto mad stories about legitimate targets – i.e. governments and large corporations.
To be honest, my trust in governments and large corporations is pretty damn low, but the bottom line is that the people in these age groups want to live with Covid…because they don’t think it will affect them. They believe they are immortal so they don’t consider the possibility that they might have a ‘co-morbidity’ without knowing it. They don’t think about long Covid, and what it could do to the rest of their lives. They just resent having those lives interrupted for the sake of a bunch of people they don’t care about anyway.
Which brings me to a rather painful question: if a majority of people in a democracy want to let people die, is a government justified in giving them what they want?
I believe the answer is no. Once elected, the representatives of any democratic government are bound to protect everyone in that democracy, even those who voted against them or those who may have become a ‘liability’.
Protecting all members of society is the cornerstone of the social contract our parents accepted on our behalf when we were born: we give a select group of people a certain amount of power over us in exchange for the protection of the group. Why else obey laws or pay taxes?
Once that core promise of society is broken, trust dies and society falls apart.
We don’t talk about trust much, but everything in society depends on it. Trust allows us to use bits of paper as ‘money’. Trust allows us to walk around without being in fear of our lives. At its most basic, trust allows us to trust others.
Trust in government and ‘the capitalist system’ has been falling for decades now. I truly fear for the future of Western democracies.
Just watched the latest podcast by Dr John in which he explains new research out of South Africa:
This is not a three-second-sound-byte type podcast. It is nuanced and looks at the science behind the news, but it is well worth watching from start to finish because it explains the trends that we have been seeing, both in South Africa and more recently in the UK.
By trends I mean, of course, Omicron’s extremely high infection rates coupled with relatively low rates of severe disease and death. According to the research in Dr John’s podcast, these trends are not a fluke. And that spells good news for 2022.
Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Delta is still around, and it is still causing severe disease and death, so going out and going nuts in the hope of catching Omicron could still see a lot of people ending up with Delta instead. Dying of Delta when the end is literally in sight would be a terrible irony so the Offspring and I are going to stay safely at home until Omicron finishes defeating Delta.
I think we all know by now that 2021 is not going to become a good year any time soon. Despite the rollout of vaccines in most countries, it will take a long time before enough people are vaccinated to provide herd immunity* to those who aren’t. For most diseases, that means at least 70% of a population have to be vaccinated before herd immunity can kick in. With Covid-19, no one’s sure how much of the population has to be immune. There’s also a great big question mark around what the current vaccines will actually accomplish. Will they simply stop the disease? Or will they also stop infected people from passing it on?
So…. 2021 is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better. For the Offspring and I, that means we’ll be in self-isolation for a long time yet. Because of that, I thought there was no point setting any goals for the coming year. I was wrong. There are things I can do, both for myself and for others; it just took a while for me to see it.
One thing I’ve always been bad at is marketing, but marketing these days is mostly digital, so I’ve decided that my goal for 2021 is to get one more review for Miira and Vokhtah. Both are sitting on 19 reviews, and I’d love to see that number change to 20. Not a big goal, I know, but it’s an achievable goal if I pull my finger out and actually do some marketing!
“But I hate marketing!”
I’m probably the world’s worst salesperson, but I discovered a long time ago that when I believe in a product, my enthusiasm accomplishes what my lack of skill cannot – I can make others want to see what has me so excited.
“But I hate marketing my own stuff!”
Sadly, women of my vintage were brought up to believe that ‘showing off’ was the worst thing a woman could do short of flashing her boobs in public. I recognize the conditioning. I acknowledge that it’s incredibly unfair – why should men be able to blow their own trumpet while we have to be demure and self-effacing? But this fear of being seen as a show-off is so deeply ingrained that I cannot shift it.
But I can trick it into shutting up. 🙂 And this is where my light bulb moment kicked in. If I give my books away for free, I’ll be getting eyes on my work AND I’ll be providing some escapism for those who are still in limbo. And that is exactly what I plan to do.
The first step of this grand plan is to drop the price of all my books to 0.99 cents. Then, once every two weeks, I’ll put one of the books up for free on Amazon. The book will remain free for 5 consecutive days before returning to the 0.99 cent price point. When the last book has had its turn at free, I’ll put all the books back to their original price points.
This is what my books cost now:
I’m not sure how long it will take for the price change to register on Amazon, but I’ll post an update when the new prices are available.
So that’s my grand plan. If I achieve the two extra reviews I’ll be happy. If I don’t, I can still hope that my stories ease the strain of this weird point in time, at least a little, and…I’ve got a plan for the next twelve weeks.
much love, Meeks
…*… herd immunity works by surrounding infectious people with people who are already immune. To survive, the bacterium or virus needs new hosts to infect. With no new hosts available, the bacterium or virus runs its course and dies. Eventually, every infected person recovers and bingo, no more virus. To get to that point though, an awful lot of people have to be immunised at the same time, otherwise the virus just keeps ticking along.
Yes! I went shopping today. For the first time in over eight months. And yes, it was exhilarating. 😀
My little shopping expedition was also hot and sweaty because I decided to be daring and go for a walk first. Bad move. I parked at Bunnings and walked to Autobarn, a short hop…by car. What I’d forgotten was that most of the way to Autobarn was uphill, and guess who’s a wee bit out of shape?
By the time I’d walked back to Bunnings [wearing my surgical mask and one glove], I was literally dripping with sweat, and the inside of the mask felt like a wet towel. That said, the outside of the mask was quite dry, proving that it really does catch all those potentially toxic exhalations.
Anyway…one of the first things I saw inside Bunnings was a customer with his mask down under his chin, mooching around with a takeaway cup of coffee in his hand. After all the fear and stress of the last eight months, I totally lost it and told him off. He came back with ‘oh but you’re allowed to not wear a mask if your eating or drinking’. I politely suggested that he ‘eat or drink’ outside.
I know the restrictions have been eased, but this prick was deliberately abusing the privileges we’ve been given. I am so sick of selfish morons trying to find loop holes in rules designed to protect everyone. We’re virus free for the moment, but as South Australia discovered, all it takes is ONE idiot. Ahem…
Smarmy piece of shit aside, the whole setup at Bunnings was brilliant. One door to go in, a different door to go out, physical distancing lines painted on the floor leading to the checkouts. Staff all wearing masks and directing ‘traffic’. I felt quite safe, which is saying something. And I loved being able to select things for myself again. Online shopping is okay, but unless and until they make online shopping a virtual experience, it’s just not the same as being there.
Oh, and in case you’re all wondering what I actually bought? Well…I bought a trickle charger for the batteries that drive my fire-fighting pumps, a new 30 metre garden hose, a timer-tap so I can’t forget to turn off the tap, and a small sprinkler head to water the new veggie box.
Nothing exciting, I know, but I feel great anyway, and in a day or two I’m going to go out again to buy…bread. A beautiful Vienna with a crisp crust and a fluffy white interior:
The vienna has to be unsliced, of course, so we can pop it into a hot oven for a minute [to decontaminate] before slicing and smothering with fresh, cold butter….
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make us happy. 🙂
The lyrics come from a very famous Fifth Dimension song, but this is not a post about music.
It’s a post about Covid-19 and an update on its spread, and how to live with it. And guess what? Sunshine really does make a difference, in ways that are not immediately obvious.
First up I’m going to start with some research conducted by the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, Geelong, VIC, Australia. As some of you know, my state of Victoria is at the centre of the largest outbreak in Australia. And we’re not over it [completely] yet.
What the Australian study did was to measure the infectiveness of the virus – ON SURFACES – in a rather unusual way. As the UV in light is known to kill viruses, the researchers conducted their study on the virus in the dark. They also controlled the temperature of the environment in which the virus was studied. Their results are interesting to say the least.
The following is a direct quote taken from those results :
‘viable virus was isolated for up to 28 days at 20 °C from common surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and both paper and polymer banknotes. Conversely, infectious virus survived less than 24 h at 40 °C on some surfaces.’
For a more in-depth explanation of the study and what it found, please check out Dr John’s video.
For me, personally, these results are both good news and bad because we’ve been ‘isolating’ dry goods bought from the supermarket in the boot of the Offspring’s car. As the boot is dark, I immediately worried about how effective this isolation had been, especially as it’s been a cold winter here in Melbourne.
Then I realised that as neither one of us has become sick, the decon in the boot probably worked. A little later I realised why. The car is parked in the open so, although dark, the temperature in the boot would probably drop to about 5C at night and heat up past 20C during most of the day [the virus dislikes extremes of heat and cold]. Phew. Plus…masks have been mandated for most of this second wave so the chance of someone sneezing on my shopping before it arrives is that much less.
Keep all of that in mind as I tell you about the pandemic in Japan. A study conducted on working people in Tokyo found that despite the tiny death toll – under 2000 for the whole of Japan – close to 50% of those tested may have already been infected by the virus. For more on this please see Dr John’s video here or you can go direct to the study here.
There’s a lot to explain so I’ll try to keep it to the most important details. Firstly, the study was conducted during the summer months and the low death rate is partially backed up by data from the Western world where infection rates have also increased but without a corresponding increase in the death rate.
Doesn’t make sense, or does it?
If dark and temperate conditions keep the virus alive, the conditions in summer would do the exact opposite because people spend much more time outdoors…in the sunshine…with good ventilation. So even when they are exposed to the virus, their VIRAL LOAD is likely to be much less. And viral load determines how sick you’re likely to get.
But still, even taking the sunshine and heat and ventilation and viral load into consideration, why would the Japanese results be so extremely good despite no major lockdowns?
In Japan, the answer seems to be mostly cultural:
Wearing masks is normal.
Bowing instead of hugging or shaking hands is normal.
Not shouting and speaking quietly is normal.
Opening windows [good ventilation] is normal.
Supervised 14 day quarantine is strictly enforced.
And finally, obesity is very low in Japan. Obesity has been shown to be a major co-morbidity with the virus – i.e. you’re likely to get much sicker if you get the virus and you’re obese.
Putting it all together, cultural good practice means that the viral load is kept very low. And that means that the people who are infected are far more likely to have few symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Thus, lots of spread, but most people do not actually get sick, and those who do are much less likely to die.
If this is all true, and I think it is, then we here in Australia are going to get a reprieve over the summer months. Unfortunately, it also means that the northern hemisphere is going to be hit hard, again, especially as Western cultural practices make the virus so happy.
I can’t do anything about the northern hemisphere, but I can ask the people here in Melbourne two very simple questions:
Even if you don’t believe the pandemic is real, would it really kill you to wear a mask? Not just now, when the State government has mandated that all of us must wear one in public, but after? Couldn’t you err on the side of caution, if not for yourself, then for the sick, the elderly and the disabled?
Could you really live with yourself if someone you loved died, or developed a long term health problem because you put your convenience ahead of everything and everyone else?
Wearing a mask is such a small thing when compared to the horror of watching someone die.
This post is primarily for Australians because the Protect Scotland app does exactly what our own CovidSafe app was supposed to do… and doesn’t.
How do we know the Protect Scotland app works?
We know it works because it was developed by Apple and Google [at the 1:00 minute mark] together. This means that the relevant bits of both operating systems that are needed to make the app work, actually talk to each other.
The Australian CovidSafe app failed so spectacularly in the Victorian outbreak because Apple and Android [Google] couldn’t be made to play nice with each other. The media have been silent about this failure, despite the fact that the Federal government’s whole recovery plan post-March was based on the app being able to contact-trace infections without human intervention.
Do I trust Apple and Google to be honest about how much of our privacy they retain? Ordinarily no, not it a month of Sundays. But with this app? I suspect that the rivalry between these two companies is what will ensure that they keep each other honest. After all, if one company manages to sneak something in that gives them a long term financial advantage, that could spell disaster for the other company.
So, if mobile phones can be used to track and trace people infected with Covid-19, then it might just be possible to ‘live with’ the virus. Maybe. Technology aside, though, just because the app alerts people to the fact that they may have been infected, that’s no guarantee that said people will do the right thing and self isolate.
Human nature is the big unknown, and given what we’ve seen conspiracy theorists doing already, I don’t like our chances of getting 100% voluntary compliance. I fear that things will have to get a great deal worse before the knuckleheads acknowledge that there is a problem, and that they are it.
In the meantime? Maybe Australia should buy the Protect Scotland app for those who actually give a flying fruit bat about their fellow human beings.
Meeks [My thanks to Dr John Campbell for alerting me to the existence of the Protect Scotland app].