Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 19 September, 2021

Today’s diary opens with a picture of the National Mall in Washington DC, with over 670,000 flags planted; one per Covid death in this country.  Actually, as of the end of today, we are now at 692,000 deaths, so there’s not enough flags.

This video clip gives another good impression of what it looks like.  That’s a lot of dead people, and so many of those deaths were preventable.  Yes, some were preventable due to the victims not having been vaccinated, but that number is nothing compared to the somewhere between 52% and 81% of people who could have been quickly cured of Covid if given ivermectin as an early treatment.  Even more would be spared if ivermectin were used as a prophylactic, either instead of (or as well as) the vaccine.

So, pick a number, any number, of hundreds of thousands of people that our country has senselessly allowed to die (to express it neutrally and passively) or killed (if you want to be more forceful and active in the description).  That’s a tragedy of proportions unseen, ever before.  And we thought we were more enlightened than our forebears?  No, quite the opposite.  The reaction against ivermectin makes the witch-accusers of Salem 320 years ago look positively enlightened – at least they had ignorance as an excuse.  What is our excuse today?

It isn’t just us.  Even worse, in Australia, a week back, it was made illegal to treat Covid sufferers with ivermectin.  The group who made that ruling based their decision on a shameful review of studies where the Cochrane Group cherry picked a dozen or so negative ivermectin studies – and ignored the 100+ other, positive studies.  They then said on the basis of their review of (only negative) studies, that ivermectin was of no value.  But what of the other 100+ studies that show powerfully positive results???

The Australian group gave three reasons for banning ivermectin use.  First, if they allowed ivermectin use, there might be a shortage of ivermectin.

Can you understand the logic of that?  If ivermectin was allowed, it would be in demand, so best not to allow anyone access to it???  That same logic would also outlaw vaccines.

The second reason was “concerns re toxicity due to dosage determined by social media” – hinting at the infamous and largely mythical “horse dewormer” overdose claims.  But this reason is so readily resolved.  If doctors could formally prescribe ivermectin in pill form, and state the correct dose (take one or two pills, daily, with food), people wouldn’t have to try and puzzle out how much horse paste to give themselves.  That’s a total nonreason.

The third reason is perhaps the most telling.  “It may interfere with the vaccination program”.  This group would rather force vaccines on people, whether they want them or not, than allow people to freely choose between a vaccine and ivermectin (with both having similar levels of protection).  Plus, it ignores the significant percentage of people who are vaccinated, but then get a “breakthrough” case of Covid (and sometimes even die of it).  Even if the group said “we’ll only allow vaccinated people to get IVM” that would be a huge step forward.  But, instead, a blanket ban on prescribing it, for three outrageously ridiculous and intellectually dishonest reasons.

I wrote on Thursday about the FDA reviewing Pfizer’s request for third-shot approval.  On Friday, the FDA panel decided, 16-2, not to allow booster shots for people under 65, due to a lack of data to support it.  Pfizer had put forward an incomplete study of 306 people aged 18-55.  So the FDA panel’s response was fair and appropriate.  You shouldn’t base a decision on something like that with only one small incomplete study.

But.  The panel did find enough evidence to support allowing a third dose for people 65 and over.  I pointed out on Thursday that there was one only trial, a phase one trial (no phase two or three trialing) of 12 people.  Yes, a mere dozen people went through a phase one trial which is only the first of three increasingly more demanding trials, and the FDA considered that non-trial of a dozen people to be sufficient evidence to authorize third doses to the 55 million people in the US in that age group.

The inconsistency within their decision – claiming an incomplete Phase 2/3 trial with 306 people was insufficient, but a Phase 1 trial with 12 people was okay – is very puzzling.

So, even when the FDA fumbles its way into a right decision, it still manages to get a large part of it wrong.  Details here.  But at least they had the fortitude to ignore Fauci’s advocacy for booster shots for all.

There’s also an interesting thought.  If the FDA says there’s no data supporting a third shot for the under 65s, what are they actually saying?  Are they denying the fall-off of the Pfizer vaccine effectiveness (we discuss this below)?  Or are they saying the risk/return equation for a third dose is unclear?

What does that tell you if you’re not yet vaccinated?  If the Pfizer vaccine is only good for six to eight months, and a top-up booster is either dangerous or only marginally beneficial, why would you get the Pfizer shot to start with?  We discuss the Pfizer/Moderna choice below.

One more thing.  Don’t think Pfizer will accept this refusal.  Quite possibly this was a “for show” refusal done to validate a subsequent approval.  Or maybe the FDA will just cave-in to Pfizer (and, inexplicably, White House) pressure.  The head of the NIH is predicting the FDA will approve the booster for everyone, and sooner rather than later.

Here’s some more “dirt” on the Wuhan labs’ culpability for Covid.  Oh – and the original “thought leading” paper published in The Lancet by scientists saying it was impossible for the virus to have been artificially created?  It now turns out that 26 of the 27 scientists who signed the document have links to the Wuhan researchers.

Current Numbers

Montenegro swapped places with Andorra in the minor country list, and is now within 5% of equaling the count of high scorer, Seychelles.

Very little change in the major country list (Belgium and Portugal swapped places).  No changes in the death list.

In the most active cases for the last week list, both the UK and US dropped.  Europe as a whole enjoyed a 5% fall in cases, with Spain having the best good fortune, a 41% fall in cases for the week.  Denmark/Sweden/Norway closely matched each other with 33%, 32% and 31% falls, and France dropped 27%.  Germany and Ireland both enjoyed 12% drops.  At the other end, Romania had an 89% rise in cases, Hungary had 43%, and Poland 35%.

Mexico had a 33% drop, but Canada had a 37% rise.  Mexico had 444 new cases per million, whereas Canada had 815 (and the US 2,700).

The world as a whole had a strong 12% drop in cases.

Top Case Rates Minor (population under 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Seychelles (207,851) Seychelles (211,360)
2 Andorra Montenegro (200,997)
3 Montenegro Andorra
4 Gibraltar (161,258) Gibraltar (162,624)
5 San Marino San Marino
6 St Barth St Barth
7 Bahrain Bahrain
8 Maldives Maldives
9 Georgia (145,947) Georgia
10 French Polynesia (142,046) Aruba (142,093)

 

Top Case Rates Major (population over 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (156,826) Czech Republic (157,100)
2 USA (125,563) USA (128,691)
3 Netherlands Netherlands
4 Argentina Argentina
5 Sweden Sweden
6 UK  (105,782) UK  (108,750)
7 France France
8 Spain Spain
9 Portugal Belgium
10 Belgium Portugal
11 Brazil Brazil
12 Colombia (95,674) Colombia (95,865)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,930) Peru  (5,935)
2 Czech Republic (2,834) Czech Republic (2,835)
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Argentina Argentina
5 Colombia Colombia
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Italy Italy
8 Mexico (2,051) Mexico (2,078)
9 USA (2,034) USA (2,075)
10 Tunisia (2,023) Tunisia (2,046)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million) for Countries over one million population

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Mongolia  6,915 Mongolia  5,902
2 Israel  5,638 Serbia  5,610
3 Cuba Israel
4 Serbia Cuba
5 Malaysia Georgia
6 Georgia Malaysia
7 UK  3,644 Botswana
8 Palestine Slovenia
9 USA  2,900 (est) UK  2,993
10 Slovenia Lithuania
11 Costa Rica Palestine
12 Switzerland  2,203 USA  2,700 (est)

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

I received an interesting note from reader Pete

I couldn’t help but think, after reading your calculations about the vaccine reduction in death by 60%, that taking Vitamin D (and keeping your blood level within a preferred range), research showed a similar reduction in death by 60%. Does this mean that popping some Vitamin D every day is as effective as a vaccine?

That’s an interesting question (although I’m not altogether persuaded about the 60% claim for Vitamin D), and could be applied to other preventative (prophylactic) type treatments as well – for example quercetin, although there’s not yet a strong body of evidence to support quercetin.  But the one prophylactic trial showed a 92% effectiveness rate.  We should be urgently studying quercetin some more.  And of course, ivermectin shows about an 85% effectiveness as a prophylactic.

There’s another issue this thought leads to.  Is a treated infection and the natural immunity it gives better than vaccination?

No-one really knows is the short answer, but a slightly longer answer is opinions are gradually coalescing to agree that natural immunity is longer lasting than earlier thought, and also is a mix of different antibodies that target different parts of the virus, giving broader immunity to both the present forms of the virus and subsequent mutations.  The mRNA vaccines target the spike structure specifically, and when that changes, they become less effective, as we’re finding out.

One interesting thing we do know is that people who had been infected by the earlier SARS-CoV-1 outbreak, in 2002 – 2004, still have strong antibody responses now, almost twenty years later.  It is suggested (by a doctor friend of mine last night) this implies that the immunity of SARS-Cov-2 sufferers (ie, Covid) get, might be similarly long lasting.  Even if it is much shorter, it is clearly going to be longer than the 6 – 8 months of falling protection that the Pfizer vaccine seems to provide.

So, natural immunity is probably better than vaccination.  And if it were possible to moderate an infection (perhaps with, ahem, ivermectin?) the result might be better than repeated shots of a vaccine with still uncertain and possibly cumulative side effects.

Here’s a totally predictable, but still unwelcome piece of news – the virus is continuing to evolve and improve its ability to pass from person to person.

And a restatement of a huge reason not to get Covid in the first place – and to get fast early treatment if you do – one in three patients seems to suffer from “Long Covid” – debilitating fatigue, or loss of smell/taste, or difficulty breathing, or muscle/joint pain being the most common problems extending for months after the initial infection.

The heading of this section, as you surely know, is “I am not a doctor, but….”.  Often people who disagree with me try to silence me by saying “You are not a doctor, you are not a scientist”, and sometimes add “you’re just a travel writer, stick to what you know”.  But the thing is, I very seldom offer up my own unsupported statements.  Almost everything I share with you is linked to and based upon evidence and fact.  I’m indeed not a doctor, but you don’t need to be a doctor to see the statistical fallacies in a doctor’s analysis (as I showed in Thursday’s diary entry) – indeed, that doctor perhaps should have been silenced because “You are not a statistician”!

There is one more point.  Being a doctor does not guarantee that the person so credentialed is competent.  The profession (which of course is self-policing for the largest part, with all that such an approach entails) has plenty of members with uncertain and dubious practices, ethics, and beliefs.  For example, this (now former) doctor claimed that mask-wearing can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, and judges if patients might have Covid or not based on if they are smiling and happy when they arrive at his office.

Vaccine News

Much has been made of negative side effects from the vaccines.  But there’s apparently a positive side effect too.  The article suggests that one’s mental health improves after being vaccinated.  I certainly know that I left the clinic after my shot with some extra spring in my step, and viewing the world as no longer quite so scary a place.

Here’s a report on a vaccine that would be delivered via a nasal spray.  I don’t understand how, but it is being suggested that a nasally delivered vaccine might be better at killing the virus in one’s nose, before it travels down to the lungs.

I mentioned in the introduction about the different rates of vaccine “fade”.  This article suggests that after four months, the Pfizer vaccine decreased in effectiveness from 91% to 77%, but the very similar Moderna vaccine went from 93% to 92% – almost no reduction at all.

There was no monitoring of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, although the article also reports that overall blended rates of effectiveness during a five month period was Moderna at 93%, Pfizer at 88%, and J&J at 71%.  I’ve seen other reports weakly suggesting the J&J vaccine has not been fading, and there was even a suggestion it might be getting stronger with the passing of time.

So is the Moderna vaccine much better than the Pfizer one?  Maybe.  I’m so surprised by this divergence in numbers that I’m left to wonder if what we’re seeing is insufficient data to give us reliable results.  It would be good to better understand the research and results.

Timings And Numbers

Here’s a new chart, not shared before.  We’ve heard a lot about ICU wards being overloaded with patients, here in the US, over the last few weeks.  Several states now say they’re having to “ration health care” – a phrase that always excites plenty of public angst and outcry.

Interestingly, ICU numbers were about 10% higher in early January. and there wasn’t so much fuss being made back then.  I’ve been a bit skeptical about the claims of our healthcare system collapsing under the stress of non-vaccinated patients – and indeed, the “message” in all the stories is that it is the fault of non-vaxxed people, with claims of up to 98% of all ICU patients being non-vaxxed Covid sufferers.

It has seemed to me that the claims of shortages and crises reflected on very poor management and forward planning.

I had dinner with two doctors last night, and one of them made an interesting point and offered a different explanation.  He said, wryly, “Well, you know, you might have a 100 bed ICU facility, but if you only have sufficient staffing for 50 beds, you can then say your ICU is is full, even with only half the beds filled”.

It would be interesting to know if his point is actually a relevant factor.

Logic?  What Logic?

The headline of this article talks about a British boxer who says he is “disgusted” with American Airlines after being removed from an AA flight due to not wearing a mask properly (the classic “cover the mouth but not the nose” trick).

I’m sorry.  He is wrong.  While there are few people faster than me to criticize airlines when it is deserved, in this case, the disgusting person is the boxer, not the airline.  Shame on him, and shame on the article for not indicating the fault more clearly in their headline.

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

 

 

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