Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 7 March, 2021

 

The New York Times erupted into print this week, reporting on an ivermectin trial.  After 43 trials and 64 other studies which it has essentially ignored, there’s obviously something very special to now excite the NYT out of its stupor and enter this increasingly active debate.

Well, “special” is a very relative term.  Yes, this study was indeed extremely special, but in the worst possible ways.  It should win an award for being the most laughably non-scientific study ever conducted, but instead it was anointed with publication in a formerly respected US peer-reviewed medical journal, JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association).

The trial comprised two groups of 200 people, one being given ivermectin for five days, the other a “control group” and not getting any ivermectin at all.  On the face of it, that’s a good start for a potentially good trial, but an astonishing thing happened.  During the course of the trial, the control group was “accidentally” given some ivermectin, too.  So both the study group and the control group received ivermectin.

Would you be surprised to learn there was therefore little difference between the outcomes of the two groups?  You’d expect nothing less, because both groups received ivermectin, merely in different doses.

Accidentally giving the control group the same medicine as the study group should have caused the trial to be immediately abandoned.  Alternatively, if the trial proceeded, the peer review process prior to publication should have refused to approve the trial write-up.  It is unthinkable that this study was allowed to proceed and to be published after such an egregious mistake, particularly because ivermectin doses vary widely and even a single dose (like the “mistake” dose) is claimed to provide strong benefits.

This was confirmed, because both the study and control groups had significantly lower mortality rates – 0.5% instead of a more general rate of 3.1% in the wider population.  Clearly, the trial proved that both a single dose for a five days series of doses massively reduces mortality, but that’s not the conclusion the trial researchers announced.

Did the JAMA or NYT point this out and use it to ridicule a sloppy poorly done study?  Ummm, no.  Instead the NYT was full of barely concealed criticism of people who support ivermectin.

There were other disappointing elements of the study as well, including something that reminds me of the bad old days when cigarette companies would sponsor studies that “proved” there was no link between smoking and lung cancer.  In this case, members of the research team were receiving grants of one type or another from

  • Glaxo (vaccine developer)
  • Sanofi Pasteur (another vaccine developer)
  • Janssen (J&J vaccine partner)
  • Merck (ivermectin hater and competing anti-viral drug developer)
  • Gilead (remdesivir seller)

So, the researchers have conflicting interests, “accidentally” invalidated their study but still proceeded with it, designed it poorly, still had positive outcomes, but described them in disparaging terms, and now this farce of a study is being triumphantly being shouted as “proving” ivermectin doesn’t work, when actually it provides more proof of how well it does work.

Here’s a more detailed and technical analysis of the study. its shortcomings and findings.

If you’ve a feeling of deja vu, then you’re right.  Similar techniques, and either totally fabricated studies or poorly designed ones were used to create a few “headline” studies to “prove” that hydroxychloroquine is similarly useless, and HCQ’s detractors uniformly focus on these few studies, while ignoring the study shortcomings and ignoring the rest of the 264 studies and their positive findings.

The biggest lesson of this study, to me, is to see how the NYT pounced on it as a way to pretend that ivermectin is no good.  But the biggest puzzle, to me, is why the NYT is so keen to get on the wrong side of this discussion?

There is, of course, no doubt at all about why big pharma is so anti-ivermectin.  There’s no money to be made making a public-domain low-cost generic drug that sells for pennies a dose, and which all other drug companies could also make.  But there are fortunes to be made with esoteric ultra-expensive patented new drugs.

For example, Merck has just announced preliminary results that “show promise” of a new anti-viral drug currently in a “mid-stage” study.  The Wall St Journal obediently obliged by publishing little more than a press release from Merck, and nowhere noted that Merck also manufactures ivermectin, which has a massive body of existing evidence showing the reality of its benefits as a Covid anti-viral drug already.

Interestingly, the drug, molnupiravir, has some awkward allegations against it in terms of its safety.  That’s not something you’ll see prominently mentioned in Merck’s press releases, either.

The main stream media are so appallingly ignorant about so much to do with the virus, but then are cited as authorities (by people who are even more ignorant).  For example, an article, originally from Bloomberg, claims the “world’s worst Covid crisis is unfolding in Brazil”.

There’s just one small point about the headline.  It is wrong.  The Czech Republic currently is suffering five times the rate of Covid infections that Brazil is suffering, and in total, has suffered 2 1/2 times as many cases per million as Brazil.

Here’s an interesting article, headed “Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot“.  The key part of that headline is not the word “best”, it is the word “probably”.  The obscured truth in this and most other articles is that the data available to us on all the vaccines out there is patchy, incomplete, and unsatisfactory.

As an example of a rare article that does actually look at some of the gaps in what vaccine testing has uncovered, this article is excellent, as is the source article the author links to.

One last item for the introductory comments.  Does Canada just not care?

The typical path of a Covid infection is from initial infection to mild symptoms, to more severe symptoms, to hospitalization, to ICU, and then to death, with of course, the potential at every point for the infection to resolve itself and go away.

But it is exceedingly rare for a person to be admitted to hospital and die without first being taken to the ICU for a last ditch battle against the disease.  In Canada, for patients between say 20 and 29, 1 in every 195 people with detected symptoms went to hospital, 1 in every 1,328 went to the ICU and 1 in every 34,190 died.

That’s sort of the “funnel effect” you’d expect.  Fewer and fewer people at each more serious stage of the infection.

But now look at these statistics, and note an interesting thing.  For the 60-69 year olds, almost everyone who goes to the ICU dies, and for the 70-79 year olds, twice as many people are dying than are admitted to an ICU.  It is even more extreme for the over 80 year olds – 16 times more people die than are admitted to ICUs.  Basically, every person over 80 who gets admitted to hospital in Canada, dies, and rarely gets admitted to an ICU prior to dying, and it seems, once you reach your 70s, you’ve a worse than 50/50 chance of never being allowed into an ICU.

Current Numbers

No changes in US rankings.  Montenegro and Gibraltar swapped places in the minor country list.  In the major country list, Spain dropped two places, and Argentina dropped off the list entirely, being replaced by Poland.

On the death list, over 2% of the Czech Republic have now died of the virus.

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (19,464) HI (19,699) HI (310) HI (314)
2 VT (24,356) VT (25,774) VT (327) VT (333)
3 ME ME AK AK
4 OR (36,891) OR (37,291) ME (523) ME (525)
5 WA (45,024) WA (45,661) OR (524) OR (544)
47 IA (115,212) IA (116,337) MS (2,245) MS (2,288)
48 UT (115,795) UT (116,923) MA (2,338) MA (2,382)
49 RI RI RI (2,362) RI (2,399)
50 SD SD NY (2,459) NY (2,497)
51 Worst ND (130,972) ND (131,736) NJ (2,618) NJ (2,654)

 

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (140,484) Andorra (142,756)
2 Gibraltar (125,846) Montenegro (127,004)
3 Montenegro Gibraltar (126,143)
4 San Marino San Marino
5 Slovenia Slovenia
6 Luxembourg Luxembourg
7 Israel Israel
8 Panama Panama
9 Aruba (73,702) Aruba (75,741)
10 Lithuania (73,174) Lithuania (75,000)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (115,227) Czech Republic (123,229)
2 USA (88,042) USA (89,359)
3 Portugal (79,057) Portugal (79,605)
4 Spain Belgium
5 Belgium Sweden
6 Sweden Spain
7 Netherlands (63,443) Netherlands (65,270)
8 UK (61,310) UK (61,919)
9 France (57,458) France (59,723)
10 Brazil Brazil
11 Italy (48,429) Italy (50,785)
12 Argentina (46,346) Poland (47,462)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (1,897) Czech Republic (2,025)
2 Belgium (1,897) Belgium (1,913)
3 UK (1,803) UK (1,827)
4 Italy (1,617) Italy (1,652)
5 Portugal (1,603) Portugal (1,625)
6 USA (1,582) USA (1,618)
7 Spain (1,478) Spain (1,521)
8 Mexico (1,427) Mexico (1,466)
9 Peru (1,391) Peru (1,433)
10 France (1,323) France (1,355)

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

This is truly the issue that will not die, but the issue which must die. Vaccines need to be given as per specification, rather than one now and maybe another one, much later.

It may well be that a single dose of the dual-dose vaccines is stronger than currently thought, but let’s get the sequence right.  Do a study first, carefully analyze the results, and then make a decision.

As we always say, why are the authorities so reluctant to approve a massively over-proven safe and beneficial drug (ivermectin) but so eager to rush untested unproven new vaccine methodologies into use?

Vaccine News

This is an interesting article with helpful advice about what to do on the morning you’re due to be vaccinated.

Here’s an interesting article about the virus in Brazil and how it reacts to a Chinese vaccine.  But, again, we have to point out the huge big elephant in the corner of the room.  If we can make statements about vaccines based on eight cases, how many cases do we need before we can make statements about ivermectin?  Whatever that number is, we’ve gone well past it in the many positive IVM studies so far.

After noting the article about “all vaccines being the same” and other articles about “we don’t know enough to rate/rank vaccines”, and the news of Detroit’s mayor refusing to accept Johnson & Johnson vaccines because he thought they weren’t as good as the two dose vaccines, which vaccine should you seek out?

I’m not a doctor, and so I’ll not give a recommendation.  But I will tell you my own thinking.

The main vaccination issue is not so much how well they work against the present main strain of virus, but how well they do and will work against newer strains now appearing – new strains that are more infectious and more deadly.  Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna virus have been tested against these new strains, but the J&J vaccine was being trialed at a time when these new strains were starting to appear.  We are being told (although I really don’t understand what the underlying evidence is) that perhaps the J&J vaccine might be better against the newer more concerning virus variants.

My sense is the J&J vaccine may be better than the raw numbers suggest, particularly against the new strains.  It may also last longer, although that might be a moot point due to the need for new vaccinations for new strains.

So, bottom line?  My personal preference is for the J&J vaccine, but I’d be happy with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if the J&J can’t be found and I was placing myself in a high risk environment.  But, I’d also be at least as happy by simply taking IVM as a prophylactic measure, too, so for now I’m continuing my “wait and see” approach.

Timings And Numbers

Israel continues to lead the world in vaccination rates, followed by the UK, and then the US.

Meanwhile, Europe is not only way behind in vaccination rates, but is also selectively suffering from the latest rebound in new cases.  New case numbers continue to modestly drop in the US.

Who Should Pay

The latest “Covid bailout” has now passed through Congress.  It has in total $1.9 trillion in expenditures, including giving taxpayers up to $1400 each in checks.

In total there are 143.3 million taxpayers in the US.  So, do the math.  Taxpayers are paying an average of $13,260 each as their shares of the $1.9 trillion spending spree.  They are getting back less than $1,400 each.  In other words, during the course of passing money from one hand to the other, 90% of the sum disappears into vague government programs to benefit unrelated political agendas and reward political cronies.  For example :

  • $200 million to The Institute of Museum and Library Services seems to have nothing to do with Covid “relief”, and it is disproportionate to give an institute with an annual budget of $230 million a massive $200 million bonus.
  • $1.5 million – admittedly a very small sum, by government standards, although massive compared to the spare money you and I have in our pockets – is being spent on a bridge between NY state and Canada.  The border between the US and Canada is currently closed, and if you can explain how money for a bridge is Covid-related, well, I’ve another bridge to sell you.
  • $270 million to the National Endowment of the Arts and the Humanities – an organization with a total annual budget of $253 million, so they’re more than doubling their normal funding.  I’ll agree that many performing arts organizations have been massively harmed by Covid closures, but is it the role of federal government to fund arts groups?  Why not each individual state, or county, or city?
  • $128.5 billion to fund K-12 education, but not this year.  It is for the period 2022-2028.  Are we expecting continuing Covid problems and costs all the way through 2028?  Why are we funding items up to seven years in the future as part of an emergency funding bill today?  There are approximately 51 million public school students from pre-K through grade 12, so this equates to $2,520 per current student.  What for?
  • $39.6 billion to higher education (in addition to $12.5 billion provided in last year’s CARES Act.  What for?
  • $15 billion goes to help fund airline payrolls.  $7.2 billion goes to help small businesses with their payrolls.  Small businesses employ 60 million people, almost half of all workers in the country.  Airlines employ about 1% of this number, about 600,000 people, but get more than twice the funding – airlines are getting 200 times as much per employee as normal businesses.
  • $75 billion for vaccines – on the face of it, this seems good.  But almost all the vaccine doses we need have already been bought and paid for via Operation Warp Speed.  What is the $75 billion for?  We also note that it costs about $25 for a dose of vaccine, so $75 billion would pay for 3 billion doses – enough for nine extra doses for every person in the US.

The Wall St Journal estimates that $1 trillion of the total expenditure is “expansions of progressive programs, pork, and unrelated policy changes”, and only $825 billion is directly related to Covid relief.

This sort of misappropriation of funds is what you’d expect in a corrupt dictatorship, not in “the leader of the free world”.  It is even more inappropriate as our national debt edges its way up to $100,000 per person in the country.  We can’t afford to spend money like there’s no tomorrow any more.

Logic?  What Logic?

This is a very distressing article – people in Boise burning their masks and rejoicing in the act.  How to describe it?  A failure of our education system, at the very least.

But will the extra $128.5 billion now being tossed to public education in the Covid bailout bill help improve our educational standards and our understanding of basic science?  Almost certainly not.  More of the same is not the solution to the present problems we’re beset with.

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.

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