Thursday, February 24, 2022

How long covid weakens the body

A common approach to viral infections follows the aphorism “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” This is only somewhat accurate. In plenty of cases, if you get sick and then recover, your body goes back to its usual functions with the added bonus of natural immunity. But experts and patients have known for a while that some viruses, bacteria, and parasites take a heavier toll: Damage to organs and tissues leaves the body weaker long after the microbial invader is gone, creating chronic conditions.

Now, two years into a devastating pandemic, COVID-19 is bringing this message home in a big way.

Estimates for the number of people who develop long COVID—a suite of lingering symptoms—range from 10 percent to as high as 50 percent of cases. That means tens of millions of people around the world continue to wrestle with the viral aftermath. The conditions range from frustrating to downright debilitating. People are reporting damage to not only smell and taste, but to all five senses. Others have long-lasting heart issues, fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog. Early research suggests that COVID-19 infection can cause more serious neurological damage akin to dementia. Worryingly, long COVID affects people who had only mild reactions to the virus, including many kids.

Men and women are experiencing problems with reproductive health. As Sharon Guynup reports, the latest NIH research shows that pregnant people who got COVID-19 are 40 percent more likely than the uninfected to have serious complications, including miscarriages and stillbirths. Thousands of other women are reporting severe disruptions to their menstrual cycles. (Pictured above, a woman giving birth at home in December rather than risking infection in a hospital; below, a birthing center moved outside for patient safety.)

The long-term mental health consequences of isolation and grief also bear considering, but as more people venture back into the world, it’s all the more important to understand the risks involved and keep mitigation measures in the mix: wear a mask, get vaccinated, pay attention to ventilation.

“There's just no way to predict which version of COVID that you'll get,” says long COVID patient Lisa O’Brien. “You might not die, but you might not go back to living the life that you planned to live.”


Vaccine Cronyism

Covid-19 vaccines first became available to the US public in late November of 2020. But they are still the object of considerable controversy almost a year and a half later. Two events in particular are making headlines across the country.

Pfizer recently asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its vaccine for children younger than five to increase vaccination efforts. Later, Novavax requested the FDA issue an emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine. Many expect the FDA to authorize Pfizer’s request, making Covid-19 vaccines available to children as young as six months old. Novavax faces a tedious and complex road, however, to becoming the fourth authorized Covid-19 vaccine in the US.

But Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine failed to generate an immune response when tested on children during its initial clinical trials. The company is now conducting clinical trials with three doses because trials that administered two doses performed poorly. On the other hand, Novavax proved 90 percent effective in its Phase III trial and has been provisionally approved for use in 10 other countries. The Novavax vaccine is also easier to transport than other Covid-19 vaccines because it can be stored in standard refrigerated temperatures.

However, Novavax’s vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine, subjecting it to further scrutiny to be authorized by the FDA. The agency had similar hesitancy with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which is not an mRNA vaccine. The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is used in 170 other countries, but was never approved in the US.

What explains this? I fear the answer might be cronyism—a troubling and harmful alliance between a handful of drug producers and the federal government. And it stems from an agreement made nearly a year and a half ago.

Well before Covid-19 mutated into its Delta and Omicron variants, US policymakers feared the only ways to end the Covid-19 pandemic were by mass vaccination or through herd immunity. Hoping to avoid more hospitalizations and deaths stemming from herd immunity, the federal government launched Operation Warp Speed (OWS)- a private/public partnership between five drug producers and several federal agencies to develop a Covid-19 vaccine in unprecedented time.

OWS provided its selected vaccine developers with testing materials, laboratories, an expedited clinical trial process, and a “blank check” in funds for R&D and purchasing agreements for when the vaccines were authorized. However, OWS’s finalists were selected because they utilized mRNA technologies, which provided a faster but less reliable way to develop a vaccine. The financial and approval arrangements between the government and the vaccine developers also largely remained unopen to the public.

As revealed through various documents well after OWS, we know the agreements limit vaccine developers not selected for OWS from expedited clinical trials and a transparent process for authorization. Consequently, non-OWS vaccine developers compete on different margins with additional barriers than developers chosen for political reasons.

We still don’t know much about the agreements made between the government and OWS vaccine producers, and it could be decades before we do. But we do know from basic Public Choice economics that alliances between special interests and political interests create benefits for a few and costs for the vast majority. I fear this is one of many forthcoming examples.


Covid and government in Australia: illogical panic

Numbers weren’t meant to be complicated. We use them daily, yet when it comes to Covid and our health they often appear mired in confusing technical terms. This article seeks to demystify the situation using over a million positive test results published by NSW Health this year whilst remaining relevant across our great country.

It is evident from the graphs that we have passed the natural peek of cases and are experiencing a normalising trend. Countries including England, Denmark, and Norway have removed limitations, even though it is winter in the northern hemisphere. It makes me wonder why our government seems quick to impose but slow to remove restrictions.

Around 13 per cent of the NSW population have tested positive to Covid thus far. We have a total vaccination of 84 per cent which is higher than the national average of 81 per cent. Across the population, the chance of surviving Covid is 99.90 per cent.

Former Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr. Nick Coatsworth recently said Omicron is clearly no more dangerous than influenza for those who are young and healthy.

According to the Department of Health surveillance report, the chances of death from Influenza is around 0.2 per cent (five year average 2014-19), which supports his conclusion.

Government and health experts have repeatedly portrayed the influence of Covid in an overly dramatic manner – choosing to generate fear over hope. I have discussed this further in another article. According to the data, however, an average person below 70 – or someone in good health – has little more to fear from Omicron than they have from seasonal influenza.

Prior to the pandemic, experts were saying that the two major groups affected by severe Covid viruses were the elderly and obese with related illnesses. Everyone ages, but we can try to improve our health.

Rather than leading the country and encouraging us to join in on dropping some weight whilst doing some exercise in keeping with the old ‘Life be In It’ ads, governments restricted our movement and made us fearful to go outside. We joke about the extra ‘Covid Kilos’ but it has made us more vulnerable to disease. Just some of the ways policies have compromised our health include:

Vitamin D deficiency
Increased body fat
Increased alcohol consumption
Increase in sedentary lifestyle
Increased Cortisol levels

Cortisol is part of our ‘fight or flight mechanism’ induced during high-stress events and designed for short bursts. The problem is our bodies have been experiencing long and sustained periods of stress due to constant fear-inducing messaging, policies, and health orders. The Mayo clinic attributes overexposure to Cortisol in response to prolonged stress to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and weight gain – all increasing chances of an adverse reaction to Covid and other diseases (Mayo Clinic, 2022).

Contracting Covid and being obese has a multiplier effect of three for hospitalisation according to the CDC (CDC, 2020) and between 1.5 and 9.48 of fatality according to multiple studies. An Australian study by Bette Liu, Paula Spokes, Wenqiang He & John Kaldor found that obesity, in the presence of diabetes and chronic lung disease, increased the risk of ICU or death by a factor of 5.34 and concluded by recommended targeted prevention strategies.

We are individually responsibility for our health decisions, but governments have intervened with our ability to make such choices freely and hence have a proportional responsibility for the outcomes.

I was critical in 2021 when the NSW CHO Kerry Chant said that Covid was her sole focus. As the peak health bureaucrat her responsibility is for all aspects of health. What about cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases? What if the focus on one aspect created a larger burden on our overall health and hence became counterproductive?

Are the Covid vaccines beneficial?

According to this data, the benefit of vaccination is a multiplier effect of 1.5. So if you are 55 your chance of dying increases from around 0.028 per cent to 0.042 per cent – still well below that of influenza. Along with this benefit also comes risks of adverse reactions, unknown long-term effects, and some ethical questions about their development.

There also appears to be more benefit in eating healthy and regular exercise – particularly outdoors. So, why have the lines to the local KFC been the longest I have ever seen? Why haven’t our leaders and experts been promoting being healthy? Is it because they find it too complicated to motivate us? Or is it that the fear generated has made us more malleable for compliance? A favourite word of our premiers in 2021.

Perhaps we would do well to remember Senator Rennick’s speech to the Federal Senate on November 21, 2021:

‘The government overreach of the state premiers in destroying our civil liberties has gone too far. This is no longer about health but is rather about politicians wielding power for the sake of power instead of doing what they should be doing and protecting the people.’

I cannot find compelling evidence supporting the government intrusion and mandates into our lives. If it is there, it has been well hidden behind secretive health orders. Encourage vaccine uptake to vulnerable groups but, more importantly, encourage a healthy life balance and in doing so maybe we can turn a national weakness into a strength.




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