Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 7 October, 2021

Wow.  What a week it has been – and it is still Thursday.  I started Monday anticipating a quiet week with not much happening; how wrong I was, and, yes – the ancient Chinese curse of “May you live in interesting times” is definitely applicable.

Let’s start, well, where?  Maybe with the item that is being forcefully rushed through the media and approval process – the new Merck anti-Covid pill, Molnupiravir.  I started off merely objecting to it being massively overpriced and not as good as ivermectin, and noting how incredibly hypocritical it is that a not yet complete single study, by the most biased of all sources (the drug company that is already taking in billion dollar orders for the drug), is deemed to be all that is needed for an experimental new drug of unknown effectiveness and safety, when 120+ independent studies for ivermectin, a 45 year old drug known to be 100% safe and increasingly showing itself to be outstanding effective for Covid treatment, supported by the national adoption of ivermectin as a Covid treatment by a growing number of countries, is deemed insufficient,

But then things started to turn ugly.  As in potentially incredibly ugly.  Do you know what molnupiravir is and how it works?  I’ll wager you don’t.  It is a mutagen – a drug that works by encouraging the Covid virus to mutate, in the hope that the new mutations will be less viable and so the virus will die out.  The good news is that most mutations are less viable, so there is “method in their madness”.

But, the bad news is that some mutations end up being more deadly.  We’ve seen that most notably with the current Delta variant that has taken over the world, and which has been blamed for the latest peaks in new cases that have been experienced in almost every country.

There are also whispers and speculation that maybe the molnupiravir mightn’t stop at Covid.  What else might it cause to mutate?  Our own DNA?

Here are three articles, and while you’ll get the strong sense of concern from any one of these articles, you might want to read all three to realize just how potentially dire this new drug might end up being.

Is Molnupiravir a Global Catastrophic Threat?

Independent studies needed

Molnupiravir: coding for catastrophe

The third article in particular is in a prestigious refereed journal – Nature.

It almost seems irrelevant, after the very scary issues raised in those three articles, to also observe how we – the US and our government – are getting raped by Merck when it comes to pricing.  The US government contributed to the development costs of the drug, but as thanks, Merck now plans to sell the drug to us at 40 times the cost of making it.

One of the really good things about ivermectin is that because it is both so safe and so inexpensive, it is great as a “just in case” drug – if you think you might be at risk or might have Covid, simply take some.  But at a cost of $700 per course of treatment, and with the potential mutagenic risks, no-one will be wanting to – or could afford to – take molnupiravir “just in case” any time they feel they might have been exposed or possibly coming down with Covid.

We need to stop passively saying “Yes, charge us more than any other country in the world, we can afford it”.  We can’t afford it.  We are no longer a wealthy country.  It is time to stop spending profligately like we used to be able to do, everywhere, many decades ago.  Now we need to get serious with our priorities and our cost controls.  If we fund a large part of a new drug’s development, it is fair and reasonable to expect a price discount, not a price premium, when the drug gets to market.

One thing is abundantly clear though.  The initial US government order for $1.2 billion of the drug from Merck represents a $1.17 billion profit to Merck.  That helps to explain the hate lavished on ivermectin – is it all about the money?

Australia has also rushed to order 300,000 doses, so that is probably another $200 million profit from that order.

I hesitate to say anything more in the introductory comments, because I don’t want to take your focus away from molnupiravir.  As one of the three articles points out, above (sorry, forget which one) this would not be the first time a drug company has released an anti-viral drug that turned out to massively disappoint (for example, Tamiflu, and most recently, Remdesivir), but there’s a whole universe of difference between a drug that simply doesn’t work as well as the drug company claims, and a drug that might cause Covid to mutate into a more dangerous strain or cause other mutation problems, as yet unguessed at.

Current Numbers

The minor country list saw Georgia and Bahrain swap places.

The major country list saw the UK move up two places, and is now third, a position that it is likely to keep for the next few weeks, with no obvious challengers on the horizon.  On the other hand, it will be quite some time – if ever – before the UK catches the US.

In the death list, the US moved up one place, and now looks to be challenging Belgium within the next week or so.

In terms of last week’s Covid activity, the UK saw a very slight easing in new cases, and dropped on the list.  Europe as a whole had a 9% rise in cases, largely because of growth in Poland, Russia, and Ukraine.  Poland had the highest growth in cases, week on week, with a 59% rise, barely ahead of the Czech Republic at 58%, then Latvia at 48%.  At the happy end of the scale, Norway enjoyed a 23% drop, Spain a 20% drop, and Sweden with a 19% drop.  France also fell, by 16% – a popular number, shared with Switzerland, the Channel Islands and Albania.  Germany reported a 16% increase, while Austria stayed the same.

Mexico and Canada both fell, with Mexico dropping a convincing 24% and Canada managing a more modest 4%.  The US was down 12%, week on week.  For the world as a whole, there was a pleasing 7% drop in cases.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Seychelles (215,396) Seychelles (217,299)
2 Montenegro (209,338) Montenegro (213,655)
3 Andorra Andorra
4 Gibraltar (164,766) Gibraltar (166,459)
5 San Marino San Marino
6 St Barth St Barth
7 Bahrain Georgia
8 Georgia (154,038) Bahrain
9 Maldives Maldives
10 Aruba (144,413) Aruba (145,211)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (157,586) Czech Republic (158,100)
2 USA (132,908) USA (135,006)
3 Netherlands UK (117,745)
4 Argentina (115,000) Netherlands (117,336)
5 UK (114,254) Argentina
6 Sweden (113,275) Sweden (113,674)
7 France Belgium
8 Belgium France
9 Spain Spain
10 Portugal Portugal
11 Brazil Brazil
12 Colombia (96,149) Colombia (96,328)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,944) Peru  (5,948)
2 Czech Rep  (2,838) Czech Rep  (2,841)
3 Brazil (2,783) Brazil (2,797)
4 Argentina Argentina
5 Colombia Colombia
6 Belgium Belgium (2,201)
7 Italy (2,169) USA (2,190)
8 USA (2,150) Italy (2,174)
9 Mexico (2,125) Mexico (2,148)
10 Tunisia (2,079) Tunisia (2,087)

 

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 Serbia  5,633 Serbia  5,328
2 Mongolia  5,014 Lithuania  5,002
3 Cuba Mongolia
4 Lithuania Latvia
5 UK  3,548 Romania
6 Estonia Estonia
7 Romania UK  3,530
8 Latvia Singapore
9 Slovenia Georgia
10 Israel Slovenia
11 Georgia Cuba
12 Malaysia  2,707 Turkey  2,378

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

Here’s a very interesting article.  It starts off as a fairly dense article full of science, and if that causes your eyes to lose focus, skip down to the last couple of paragraphs.  That’s where things go really wild and crazy.  But you tell me any part of the Covid story that isn’t wild and crazy, so perhaps we shouldn’t close our eyes to anything.

I continue to be really puzzled by how China’s apparent Covid case rate remains so unbelievably low (67 cases per million, compared to our 135,000 or adjoining Mongolia’s 95,440 or Japan’s 13,555).  Either China has lied spectacularly, or else something else is up (perhaps the answer is elements of both, and it is hard to believe that China has managed to understate its cases by 100 or 1000 or more times).  So the article’s ending speculation – while totally unsupported by hard facts – would help fill a mysterious gap in the overall pattern of the virus.

As a New Zealander, I’ve watched with feelings of interest, envy, and pride at how New Zealand did such a splendid job of keeping the virus out of the country.  The chart above actually overstates its cases – almost all the cases from after the initial surge through to mid August were in the form of people bringing the virus with them from overseas and being detected during quarantine.  The country was back to normal in all respects, and the virus vanquished.  I think it was four months without a single unexpected case of Covid appearing, other than in quarantine.

But then on 16 August, one case of Covid was detected “in the community”.  Somehow it had escaped out of quarantine.  The same day it was discovered, the country went instantly back into a strict lockdown.  It was expected there’d be a few other infected people to be quickly found, and perhaps in total, maybe as many as 100 cases might result from that one infection before the lockdown zeroed things out again.

Well, as you can see, that didn’t happen.  The virus is now well established “in the community” and earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced she was abandoning the former policy of eliminating the virus and keeping it at a zero presence level.  This clearly illustrates how the Delta variant has become massively more infectious than earlier variants.  It is astonishing, now that the country has developed state of the art containment and testing/tracing systems, and also is climbing up the vaccination scale, it was unable to contain an outbreak that started from a single infected person.

So we have the poster-child for virus exclusion admitting defeat, while at the same time, relatively unrestricted China remains blithely untroubled by the virus.  In the last seven days, it reported 207 cases, for a country with 1.45 billion people.  Coincidentally, that is exactly the same number that heavily locked down New Zealand reported, with a population of 5.0 million people.  In other words, NZ’s rate of infection, while wonderfully low compared to the rest of the world, was 290 times higher than China’s.  As I observed above, that is almost impossible to accept – either China is under-reporting by at least 100-fold, or there’s some other factor influencing its numbers.

Talking about China, here’s another fascinating article showing more evidence of the coverup that was rushed into place to hide the origins of the virus.

Now that third “booster” shots are becoming generally available, you know what will happen next, don’t you.  First they start off as restricted, then they become generally available to anyone who wants one, and all too soon after that, they’ll become mandatory.  Tell me I’m wrong, but I’ll wager a generous sum to support my prediction.  It seems an inevitable progression, and one that is already being shown in Israel.

Another reminder that there’s so much more to worry about with Covid than simply if you quickly die or not.  Even people with mild symptoms and not needing hospitalization are at future risk of heart problems and deadly blood clots, according to this study.

I often criticize Dr Fauci, so I have to now note I agree with him when he says that immigrants are absolutely not driving the Covid-19 surge (that’d be the surge that ended some months back, I guess).  Until we bring our cases down to close to zero, whether an immigrant or visitor is infected or not is merely a drop in the ocean of cases rather than a major risk factor.

But it is regrettable he didn’t use his access to either President to get the visitor ban lifted so we could start to get some tourism income from international visitors.  I also note, although not Fauci’s fault, we still don’t know when in November the visitor ban will be lifted.

This is an interesting article, with a key takeaway – making rules based on averages mean that most people are not fairly treated.  Imagine, for example, if there was only one size of clothing, which we all had to struggle to fit into?  Or think of the mythical American family – mum, dad, and 2.5 children.  Have you ever seen a half child?  The article is thinking more of how “evidence-based medicine” is failing to ensure standards, but rather is preventing the customization of health care to fit each individual and their situation.

Ivermectin and other Existing Treatments

This article says what I’ve occasionally said – denying people access to ivermectin is a crime against humanity.  The writer makes a great point – we make it easier for addicts to get needles than for sick people to get ivermectin.  Does that seem sensible to you?

This doctor, who has successfully treated 6,000 Covid patients, says the reason for his success is he ignores the official guidelines that require doctors to do nothing until people get so sick they have to be hospitalized, and instead, tailors an early treatment program based on each patient and how they are reacting/responding to the virus and the drugs he gives them.   Is that evidence based medicine?  Not really.  But don’t 6,000 successfully cured people have some importance and relevance, too?

I was reading a shameful BBC article today – yet another hit piece on ivermectin, and based upon some articles written by people who claimed to have examined every ivermectin study and found them all wrong.  But, strangely, neither the BBC piece nor the underlying articles had a table listing all 121 studies and the weaknesses and errors in each study.  Instead, they made a great show of criticizing two or three studies that have largely been withdrawn or discounted, and expect us to believe that the other 110+ studies are the same.  That’s as intellectually dishonest as the studies they themselves critique.

Here is an example of an honest study.  It is fully transparent on every part of what they are doing, how, and why, and even provides the raw data to allow you to repeat or revise their own calculations to confirm the validity of their findings.  The statistics is fairly heavy going, but it goes without saying that this honest, open, transparent study ended up finding strongly in ivermectin’s favor, and never needed to talk about horse de-worming at all.  That’s a tip-off – if an article talks about ivermectin as a horse de-wormer, you know it isn’t going to end up recommending we take it.

Here is another study supporting Vitamin D3 as a Covid preventative.  I’m slightly open-minded on this issue, but take the position that a capsule of Vit D3 a day costs almost nothing and won’t harm me, so why not take one, on a “heads you win, tails you don’t lose” type basis.

Vaccine News

One of the things that makes me uncomfortable is the enormous pressure being placed on people to get vaccinated, no matter what.  And when I say “no matter what” I mean the mandate that even people who have been infected must also get vaccinated.  Why?  Too much more of this and I’ll find myself wondering if Bill Gates really is smuggling microchips into our bloodstreams, disguised as vaccine!

I’ve seen articles suggesting that past infections are not as protective as a vaccination, and I’ve seen other articles suggesting that past infection is much better.  Here’s one article that says prior infection is beneficial.

But don’t just accept this single article.  Here’s an amazing compilation of what Pfizer scientists have said, believing they were speaking in confidence rather than on the record, about the relative merits of prior infection compared to their vaccine.  I’ve got to believe that if Pfizer says natural infection gives better immunity than their own vaccine, it is a fairly conclusive statement.

So that makes it of concern when hospitals refuse to perform operations on patients who are unvaccinated, and won’t consider prior-infection antibody presence as an acceptable alternative.  Where is the sense in this?  We know that after seven or so months, the Pfizer vaccine in particular has dropped down to a very low level of protection, but a hospital would rather see a person who was vaccinated 8/9/10 months ago than a person recently recovered from a Covid infection, and with a high measurable level of antibodies in their system.  Why?  Surely hospitals, of all places, would have a rational evaluation of vaccine vs prior infection?

Talking about mandatory vaccines, Canada is going to require vaccination proof prior to train and plane travel, even domestically within Canada, effective 30 October.  There is no mention of prior infection being an acceptable alternate.

This Twitter thread needs a bit of explanation, perhaps – the Harvard professor who started it was cryptically expressing surprise that Pfizer’s application for approval to vaccinate children 5 – 11 did not have any evidence of vaccine effectiveness as part of its application, other than empirically noting the vaccine generated an antibody response.

But there’s probably a reason for that.  The number of children in the 5 – 11 age group who would end up being hospitalized or dying from the virus is so vanishingly low that no study would be likely to find any difference in outcomes.  As one person suggested, half in jest, all Pfizer could say is their vaccine rate reduces the fatality in rate in children in that age group from (formerly) 0.00% to now, after vaccine, 0.00%.

This makes it very clear.  Pfizer is – as it should be, and as it always has been – focused on making money by selling vaccines.  It no more cares about the need for the vaccine than it cares about the need for its Viagra drug.  It just wants to sell it.  There are more than 28 million children aged between 5 – 11 in the US, that’s a lovely new market for them – two shots now, another half a year later, and who knows how many more into the future.

One apologist said “it is all about protecting others” – vaccinated children won’t “bring the virus home with them” (ie from school).  But, that’s a very weak justification.  As we now know, the vaccines don’t stop people from getting an infection, nor do they stop people from passing the infection on.  Indeed, some people suggest that because an infected person has weaker symptoms, it might take more time for them to realize they have Covid and to self-isolate.  Perhaps vaccinated people are, in real-world terms, more infectious than unvaccinated ones?

For the drug companies, vaccines are all about making money.  There’s nothing sinister about that, no need to worry about Bill Gates and his microchips!  But why are public health officials so keen to help the drug companies?

Timings And Numbers

There’s something funny about these numbers.  I’ve been increasingly puzzled by what has seemed to be the promise of progress, but the lack of demonstrated reality.

Four weeks ago, the US had 53% of people fully vaccinated and another 9.2% of people partially vaccinated.  So you’d expect all the 9.2% to now have completed their vaccinations, and at least 62% of people fully vaccinated (remember some people are getting the single jab vaccine too).  Instead, the fully vaccinated count has crept up a mere 2%.  What happened to the other 7% of people in the process of getting their shots?  Equally puzzling, the total of both full and partially vaccinated people rose only 1%.

Similar inconsistencies apply to most (maybe all?) the other countries/regions, and for the world as a whole.

This Twitter thread suggests that Covid was already out in China in summer of 2019, based on the country’s orders for virus-related medical supplies.  A conspiracy theorist might say an other interpretation is that China was planning for the virus back in the summer of 2019…..

Are we now coming out the end of the last big Covid wave, here in the US?  That’s what former FDA commissioner and omnipresent media commentator (and also a member of Pfizer’s Board of Directors), Scott Gottlieb predicts.

We hope he is correct.

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

 

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