Sunday, September 26, 2021

Alcohol is good for you


I have just put up a post to that effect on my Food & Health blog

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Australia has been a big user of AstraZeneca vaccine so has a lot of data on it and the data shows that blood-clotting is rare

The mortality rate from a rare blood-clotting disorder linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is nearly a fifth of what experts originally thought it could be.

Earlier this year, as data emerged from overseas about the disorder — called TTS for short — it was estimated that the chance of dying if you developed a clot was about 25 per cent.

In Australia, 11.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — now called Vaxzevria — have been administered, with a total of 141 people developing a confirmed or probable case of TTS linked to the jab.

Out of those 141 cases, eight people have died of the clots, or around 5.6 per cent.

In the UK, the rate of dying from TTS was 17 per cent. However, research published in August showed in one study it was as high as 22 per cent.

So, how has Australia kept its rate so low?

The head of the national medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), John Skerritt, thinks it is a combination of a few things.

First, we were given a heads-up by what was happening in the UK and Europe. "They'd vaccinated more than 10 million people before we had started to see possible cases," Professor Skerritt said. "Our doctors were able to pick up on the signs and symptoms and treat early. "We also have been able to pick up more less mild cases."

Professor Huyen Tran, a haematologist at Monash University, agreed having information from other countries early on made a big difference.

"I think initially following what we were seeing in Europe I was expecting a higher fatality rate, but I think I'd caveat that by saying they had a much longer run-in," he said.

"So that awareness, that understanding, is difficult early on, so we had that luxury of learning from other places."

Having a national hospital system that has not been completely overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases has also been crucial, allowing people who need treatment to access it quickly.

At the time of writing, 121 people have been discharged from hospital after being treated for TTS, 12 are still currently receiving treatment, but none are in ICU.

Both professors reiterated that the likelihood of even developing a clot is extremely rare and the benefits of protection from COVID-19, and its potentially long-lasting impacts, for most people, outweigh the risk of TTS.

Media coverage raised awareness

Professor Skerritt pointed out the extensive coverage of the rare clotting disorder early on may have played a role in reducing the fatality rate too.

"We are talking about something that is still extremely rare," he said. "The chance of death after a COVID vaccine in general is still well less than one in a million and there are things like being hit by lightning which are more common than that.

"With the media [coverage], it had the negative effect of causing vaccine hesitancy, but it also had the positive effect of making sure that our doctors and people and individuals were aware of the potential side effects.

"So, they'd go and see their doctors and hospitals early if they had, say, a really bad headache after getting the vaccine."

Professor Tran also believes the heightened awareness of symptoms has played a role in the successful treatment of clots in younger people, which tend to be more severe.

"I can think of an immediate example. The youngest individual that I've been involved with is actually a 22-year-old female," he said. "She presented to the emergency room within about 18 hours of the onset of symptoms with some insistence from her family. We picked up [on signs of TTS] that day and it was critical.

"She's done remarkably well so I think early diagnosis … is really, really important."

The other piece of the puzzle is that, according to both Professor Skerritt and Professor Tran, our ability to treat the disorder has also meant fewer deaths. "It's a condition that we now know we can treat really well," Professor Tran said.

"The combination of education, early recognition, has meant early therapy [which] has led to a really good outcome."

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Norway dumps all Covid restrictions to ‘live as normal’

Norway has ditched all its Covid-19 measures, even social distancing, in a radical move that as yet has unclear consequences.

On Friday, the Nordic nation’s government announced that it was time to “live as normal” with Covid-19 after 561 days of enduring some kind of restriction, whether that be venue capacity limits or stay-at-home orders.

Now, Norwegians can attend restaurants, night clubs, sporting events and anything else at full capacity, with social distancing thrown out the window.

They’ve even started encouraging travel outside of Europe, removing travel warnings.

The new rules come into effect on Saturday, 4pm local time.

“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime … Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told reporters. “In short, we can now live as normal.”

That’s despite the nation of five million people having 67 per cent fully vaccinated — lower than Australia’s “magic number” of reopening, at 80 per cent.

The extreme move is part of a four-step plan to scrap all restrictions implemented on March 10 last year. Norway was up to the final step but it was postponed several times over fears of rising infections.

The country’s health Minister sent a letter to municipalities alerting them to prepare for the ending of restrictions.

Like most countries, Norway was hit hard by the delta strain of the coronavirus. In total, the country has recorded nearly 186,000 local cases of Covid-19 and has tragically had 850 deaths. For comparison, Australia has had more than 93,000 cases to date and 1,208 deaths. In the last 24 hours, Norway has recorded 705 new cases.

However, its health body, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, recommended that society be reopened.

According to Reuters, Norway has had 98 infections per 100,000 people in its population.

Globally, there have been 230 million cases of Covid-19, with 4.7 million deaths and more than 6 billion doses of vaccine administered.

The 67 per cent vaccination figure counts the entire population, including children, not just its eligible adults.

Earlier this month, the Pfizer vaccine was opened up to 12-15-year-olds.

According to the nation's health body, 90.6 per cent of adults have received their first jab, while 83.8 have received their second dose.

That puts the nation ahead of Australia, which sits at 50.9 per cent of people 16 and over fully-vaccinated, and 75.4 per cent getting their first jab, according to the Federal Government.

Last week, Norway's Covid infection levels decreased by 33 per cent compared to the week before, while hospital admissions dropped from 95 to 67 as vaccinations caught up with the virus, according to Life In Norway.

The Norwegian government said its citizens didn’t have to live a Covid-normal life if they didn’t want to.

“When the authorities‘ advice and rules essentially disappear, the individual can choose for themselves what risk they want to take and what measures they want to practice,” they said in a statement.

Norway is the second Scandinavian country to end the restrictions, following in the footsteps of Denmark who waved goodbye to lockdowns on September 10.

The UK has also adopted a largely “Covid-normal” existence although case numbers continue to flare.

Singapore adopted a similar approach in July but backflipped in less than two weeks after the plan failed miserably.

Infections went from eight to almost 200 in 10 days, prompting restrictions to be brought back for the Asian country.

In fact, on Saturday, Singapore had to tighten its restrictions even further with only groups of two allowed in restaurants and children having to switch to at-home learning, despite the nation hitting an 80 per cent double dose rate.

The news of Norway’s new-found freedom is an extra slap in the face for NSW and Victorian residents, who are both in the throes of a months-long lockdown.

The UK and Denmark are yet to backtrack on their radical move to end Covid rules entirely. It remains to be seen whether Norway will do the same.

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IN BRIEF

Democrat leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi say they have a deal on tax increases (Washington Examiner) | Except several Senate Democrats undercut claims of unity (Washington Times)

FBI: Murder rate soared in 2020, highest year-over-year increase ever recorded (Daily Wire)

Joe Biden, who demands people “pay their fair share,” may owe up to $500,000 in back taxes (Daily Wire)

Hunter Biden requested more than $2 million to unfreeze Libyan assets when dad was VP (Free Beacon)

January 6 committee subpoenas four from Trump’s inner circle (Politico)

House Republicans just callously voted to draft our daughters — and GOP senators will too (The Federalist)

No joke: Biden administration stops Border Patrol from using horses in Del Rio (Fox News)

U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigns, citing “inhumane” deportation of Haitians (PBS)

Democrats feud as House approves $1 billion for Israel’s missile system (New York Times)

Dems plan to scuttle Space Force (Free Beacon)

CDC director defies advisory panel, recommends COVID booster for younger at-risk workers (Fox News)

CDC quietly removed school guidance for eliminating masks, rolling back COVID prevention efforts (Fox News)

New York health commissioner resigns after criticism over nursing home scandal (Bloomberg)

Oregon nanny state officials say you can kiss on dates — if both vaccinated (Fox News)

GOP-led Arizona election review closely matches Biden’s winning margin (Politico)

2024: Trump over Biden by 10 points, Harris by 13 (Washington Examiner)

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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Friday, September 24, 2021



Group most at risk of being hospitalised and killed by Covid despite vaccination

The world is experiencing the largest vaccination event in history in its attempt to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic. But despite the marked effectiveness of the various vaccines, there is still a risk – albeit small – of “breakthrough” cases.

Now a new study has identified those unlucky few who are most at risk of ending up with a serious case of Covid despite having had the jab.

Some 5.7 billion Covid-19 vaccinations have already been administered worldwide. And their effectiveness is evident, as previously locked down nations begin to reopen and pressure on hospitals starts to ease.

According to data collected by the Royal Institution of Australia’s Cosmos magazine, 92 per cent of those dosed with AstraZeneca can fight off the virus before it gets bad enough for hospitalisation. In the case of Pfizer, that figure is about 96 per cent.

“It’s clear that the vaccines are highly effective, and without them we would be facing a much deadlier pandemic,” says Yale University associate professor of medicine (cardiology) Hyung Chun.

However, among the vaccinated, there will still be a few who still suffer severe illness. And these are who the Yale study has sought to identify.

Those most at risk of severe illness

Yale studied 969 instances of Covid-19 over 14 weeks between March and July in its local New Haven Health System.

Of these, just 54 had been fully vaccinated. “The majority of fully vaccinated patients experience mild or no symptoms if infected with SARS-CoV-2,” Dr Chun says.

Of the 54 “breakthrough” cases, just 14 advanced to a severe stage. Four ultimately needed emergency intensive care. Three died.

“These cases are extremely rare, but they are becoming more frequent as variants emerge and more time passes since patients are vaccinated,” Dr Chun says.

According to the study, most of the severe cases were aged between 65 and 95. Many had pre-existing conditions, especially type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Some had been taking immune-system suppressing medications.

Again, those “breakthrough” deaths must be put into perspective.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that, as of August 30, it knew of 12,908 vaccinated Covid-19 patients who had needed hospitalisation. Those who died amounted to fewer than 0.008 per cent of America’s vaccinated population.

Arms race

Dr Chun pointed out that many of the patients in the March to July study did not have the highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19. How much this mutation has changed the equation is yet to be determined.

Covid-19 – essentially the same type of virus as the common cold – shows the same tendency to adapt to vaccinations over time. Exactly how fast and by how much remains to be seen.

Monash University virologist Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam says Delta has become the dominant variant worldwide, “causing spikes in new and breakthrough infections” among vaccinated populations.

“There is some indication that the Delta variant may also result in more severe disease,” he says.

And the imprint vaccines leave on the body’s immune system are not permanent.

The Royal Institution of Australia’s Elizabeth Finkel says a UK preprint shows Pfizer effectiveness waning from 90 per cent to 78 per cent after three months. AstraZeneca’s strength fell from 69 per cent to 61 per cent over the same time frame.

But Covid’s previous behaviour remains the best indicator of future trends.

Those most likely to be at risk of severe illness, Dr Chun says, are those with existing health conditions.

“Identifying who is more likely to develop severe Covid-19 illness after vaccination will be critical to ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of these breakthrough infections,” the Yale report reads.

“As effective as the vaccines are, with emerging variants and increasing cases of breakthrough infections, we need to continue to be vigilant in taking measures such as indoor masking and social distancing,” Dr Chun says.

Dr Vinod agrees: “We must first understand that the vaccines we have currently are not a miracle cure. They were designed to provide immunity against symptoms caused by the virus and the possibility of reducing transmission of the virus from person to person.”

Many researchers expect Covid-19 to become a seasonal infection, like the flu virus.

People will gradually develop a degree of immunity through both illness and vaccination, and this will protect most from severe disease.

But, like the flu, future Covid is still likely to have a severe impact upon some.

“Having had Covid-19 is unlikely to give you lifelong immunity,” says Dr Vinod. “But, even if you are infected again, the second infection will likely be less serious. We might need booster doses against variants and to provide optimal immunological memory against the disease.

“If SARS-CoV-2 experiences antigenic evolution at rates that are similar to influenza, annual shots for vulnerable populations may well be necessary.”

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10,000 Unnecessary Cancer Deaths Linked to COVID-19 Pandemic, Lockdown in UK

A lack of face-to-face doctor visits in the UK since the start of the COVID pandemic may result in 10,000 unnecessary deaths due to cancer, according to a report from University College London published this week.

Researchers with the university stated that a drop in emergency referrals from general practitioners in 2020 across the United Kingdom resulted in some 40,000 late diagnoses of cancer. The delays, combined with longer National Health Service (NHS) treatment due to the pandemic, mean that thousands will die “significantly earlier” from cancer, the report found.

The study found that more than 60 percent of people surveyed by the university were concerned about talking to their general practitioner (GP) about “minor health problems” amid the pandemic. Before the CCP virus’s spread, around 80 percent of appointments with doctors were in person, but only 57 percent of consultations were face-to-face in July, the report noted.

“The immediate effect of the pandemic was to delay early diagnosis. Even before the pandemic, Britain’s performance was not up there with the best of the world,” said report co-author David Taylor, a professor with University College London, according to The Telegraph.

“There is some evidence to suggest every month treatment is delayed can increase the risk of early death by seven percent,” he said. “Some of it is about patients not presenting, worrying about being a burden on their GP, some of it is about access problems.”

In October 2020, a report from health care analyst firm Dr Foster stated that the NHS’s guidance that residents should “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” scared patients away from seeking medical attention last year.

Dr Foster Director of Strategy and Analytics Tom Binstead said of the report last year: “Overall, the analysis suggests that the long-term effects of the pandemic are likely to be far-reaching, with a future spike in demand possible due to missed diagnoses and postponed procedures.

“Cancers may now require a greater level of treatment, or even be untreatable, if they have been left undetected or untreated as a result of the crisis.”

A spokesperson for the NHS told The Telegraph and other news outlets on Sept. 21 that during the pandemic, the agency prioritized individuals who sought care for cancer.

Services for cancer are at “pre-pandemic levels,” while the latest monthly figures suggest “more than 200,000 people referred for checks and more than 27,000 starting treatment,” the spokesperson said.

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New COVID-19 Variant With ‘Unique Mutations’ Discovered at Kentucky Nursing Home

A new variant of the COVID-19 virus has been discovered at a Kentucky nursing home, where it has reportedly infected 45 residents and health care personnel, according to scientist William A. Haseltine.

The variant, called R.1, originated in Japan and infected many residents and workers in the Kentucky nursing home who were fully vaccinated, Haseltine said.

R.1 has now received more than 10,000 entries in the GISAID SARS-CoV-2 database, the world’s largest database that researchers use to track and record genomic data.

“The variant contains five mutations previously noted in variants of concern or interest … It also contains many unique mutations,” Haseltine wrote for Forbes.

“R.1 is a variant to watch. It has established a foothold in both Japan and the United States. In addition to several mutations notably in the spike and nucleocapsid protein in common with variants of concern, R.1 has a set of unique mutations that may confer an additional advantage in transmission, replication, and immune suppression.”

Haseltine’s comments come just days after the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) vaccine advisory panel voted to recommend against providing Pfizer booster vaccines to the general public, but recommended the shots for Americans aged 65 and older and for those who are at high risk, dealing a blow to the Biden administration’s vaccination agenda.

While U.S. health officials, some other countries, and vaccine makers have argued that boosters are needed for everyone, many scientists, including some inside the FDA, have disagreed, noting that regulators haven’t yet independently verified all of the available data.

Some FDA staff have also noted that it isn’t currently clear if those who receive a booster dose would have an increased risk of adverse reactions, such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) or pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart).

Since April, increased cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported in the United States following vaccinations using the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, most notably among adolescents and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A recent study from several top scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) and FDA has also found that the general population doesn’t need a booster dose and instead called for current supplies of vaccines to be given to unvaccinated populations, such as low-income countries.

“Even if boosting were eventually shown to decrease the medium-term risk of serious disease, current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations,” the authors wrote.

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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Thursday, September 23, 2021



Anti-viral drug remdesivir reduces risk of hospitalization in high-risk COVID-19 patients by 87% when given early

Trump was right!

Remdesivir reduces the risk of hospitalization and medical visits due to COVID-19 in high-risk patients, new data suggest.

California-based Gilead Sciences Inc, the maker of the antiviral drug, published the results of its Phase III clinical trial on Wednesday.

Researchers found patients treated with remdesivir were 87 percent less likely to be hospitalized and 81 less likely to require a medical visit than those who were given a placebo.

The team says the findings shows that remdesivir, the only drug fully approved to treat severely ill coronavirus patients, can also be used for those who are at-high risk of becoming seriously ill - but are still early on in their infection.

Remdesivir was developed Gilead to treat Ebola, the deadly fever that emerged in West Africa in 2014.

While it was unsuccessful in treating Ebola, the drug appears to interfere with the ability of the coronavirus to copy its genetic material.

In April 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released results from a study that found remdesivir helped patients recover 31 percent faster.

This led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issuing emergency use authorization for the drug the following month.

A few months later, in October 2020, the FDA fully approved the drug of the use in adults and in pediatric patients ages 12 to 17 who require hospitalization.

The new trial, however, shows that the treatment may also be effective in treating patients before they are hospitalized.

Researchers looked at 562 participants at high-risk of developing severe COVID-19, of whom half were given remdesivir and the other half a placebo.

After four weeks, 5.3 percent of the placebo group were hospitalized compared to 0.7 percent of the placebo group.

The team said that this suggests the medication reduces the risk of hospitalization by 87 percent.

Additionally, the trial looked at any patients who required medical visits due to COVID-19. day 28, 8.3 percent of the placebo group had sought medical care in comparison with 1.6 percent of the treatment group.

Researchers say this means the drug reduces the risk of a medical visit by 81 percent.

'Antiviral medications provide maximal benefit when used early in the disease course,' Dr Robert Gottlieb, principal investigator at Baylor University Medical Center and Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, said in a statement.

'We are seeing very high numbers of hospitalized patients as new COVID-19 infections surge, placing increased demands on already over-burdened healthcare systems.

'Remdesivir, also known as Veklury, is an effective antiviral for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and an essential tool to help reduce disease progression.'

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HOW COVID AFFECTS MEN’S SEXUAL HEALTH

There’s no shortage of misinformation out there about the coronavirus, and some of the most pernicious claims swirl around vaccines and fertility. With apologies to Nicki Minaj, there is no credible scientific evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause impotence. However, there is now a wealth of data that shows getting infected with this virus can cause erectile dysfunction and other reproductive health problems for men.

Crucially, getting a vaccine is not the same thing as contracting a disease. Vaccines are designed to provoke an antibody response, and the ones approved or authorized for use in the U.S. don’t even contain dead or weakened versions of the virus. They instead use pieces of its genetic material to train the body’s immune system. (Pictured above, a man getting a rapid COVID-19 test.)

By contrast, coming down with COVID-19 allows the virus to replicate in your cells, and as Sharon Guynup reports this week, several studies show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can invade tissues in the penis and testicles. As it happens, the testicles are a perfect hideout for a variety of viruses because they are immunologically privileged body parts, meaning they are shielded from the immune system. Once COVID-19 invades this region, it can hang out there indefinitely. “This may explain why 11 percent of men hospitalized with COVID-19 suffered testicular pain,” Guynup writes.

Other studies have found that men seem to be six times more likely to develop brief or long-term erectile dysfunction after contracting the virus. That’s likely because the coronavirus is known to attack blood vessels all over the body, and the penis relies on blood vessels to maintain an erection. Cells also become oxygen-deprived when blood vessels narrow, which means the surrounding tissues become inflamed and the vessels lose elasticity. “No oxygen, no sex,” says Emmanuele A. Jannini, a professor at the Tor Vergata University of Rome.

These kinds of health repercussions can be difficult to track because patients may be embarrassed or self-conscious. And it can be tough to report on them and not invite readers to dissolve into giggles with an unintentional pun. But this is serious science that deserves to be taken seriously. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 10 percent to 30 percent of people infected with the virus—at least 42 million cases in the U.S. and 226 million worldwide—experience a range of ongoing symptoms collectively called long COVID. People can develop these debilitating symptoms even after a mild or asymptomatic infection. And the list includes several reproductive health problems for men, from sexual dysfunction and swollen testicles to mental health issues that decrease arousal.

Research is still in progress, and plenty of unknowns remain. But it’s clear enough by now that if you care about your reproductive health, you should be more worried about getting the virus than the vaccine. “The plausible relationship between COVID-19 and erectile dysfunction is one more reason for the unvaccinated to get their shots,” Jannini says. “If they want to have sex, better to get the vaccine.”

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IN BRIEF

Supreme Court to hear oral arguments challenging Roe v. Wade on December 1 (Washington Examiner)

Justices will also weigh New York’s limit on carrying a handgun (Washington Times)

Democrats/Leftmedia mistake horse reins for “whips” in Border Patrol footage (Post Millennial)

Joe Biden’s agenda is hanging by a thread as Democrats threaten to tank two major bills (BuzzFeed)

Only 49% think Biden is mentally stable enough to be president (Breitbart)

Shades of Donald Trump: Biden administration asks Pentagon to send military to border (Washington Examiner)

Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000 (Washington Post)

CIA chief team member reported Havana syndrome symptoms during trip to India (The Hill)

North Korea’s nuclear program going “full steam ahead,” IAEA says (Reuters)

Stateside COVID death toll surpasses 1918 flu fatalities (Axios)

U.S. to ease travel restrictions for vaccinated foreign visitors (CNBC)

S&P 500 fell 1.7% on Monday for its worst day since May; Dow sheds 600 points (CNBC)

The great holiday supply chain shortage (Axios)

“Back to square one”: Justin Trudeau’s liberals win Canada election but missed the majority in parliament (AP)

UK court decides kids under 16 can take puberty-blocking drugs without court approval (Daily Signal)

Civil suit filed against Texas doctor who violated abortion ban in the first test of law’s constitutionality (Washington Examiner)

Emmy viewers call out hypocrite celebs for not wearing masks and social distancing (Fox News)

Here’s how Chuck Schumer is trying to gaslight the GOP on debt (Daily Beast)

Policy: Heaping on the SALT: Democrats press Biden to reinstate a tax break for the wealthy (City Journal)

Policy: Why Taiwan matters to the world (Heritage Foundation)

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021



Vaccines that grow on leaves and don't need needles: A look at COVID jabs you may not have heard of

You've heard of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, but what about Medigen and Zydus Cadila?

In the race to vaccinate the world and in the face of supply issues and sanctions, some countries have developed homegrown vaccines.

There are geopolitics and vaccine nationalism at play, but the pandemic has seen a flurry of vaccine development – from the first-ever DNA vaccine to one grown on leaves.

While a lot of these vaccines sound new, the science and technologies they're built on have been around for a long time.

As ANU virologist David Tscharke notes, vaccine development is a tough business – in the past, if a vaccine already existed for a disease it was difficult to break through with a new idea.

But the pandemic has blown the field wide open.

"Nobody knew who was going to be first, nobody knew if the first one would work," Professor Tscharke said.

"So there was an enormous push into all of these really interesting vaccine technologies."

But they all basically work in the same way – telling the body to build up an immune response, so if they ever get infected with the virus, the body knows what to do.

The world's first DNA vaccine

India has often been called the pharmacy of the world, but it's not just manufacturing vaccines — it's researching and developing them too.

The homegrown vaccine from Zydus Cadila stands out for a bunch of reasons — it's the world's first DNA vaccine, and it's also needle-free. It carries the genetic code for the coronavirus spike protein, which the body can then read and generate an immune response.

The vaccine, called ZyCoV-D, was approved on August 20 and is delivered via a jet injector, sometimes called a gene gun.

It uses a high-pressure stream of fluid to blast it into the cells of the skin.

Some other DNA vaccines being developed are delivered by a patch, which is embedded with hundreds of tiny needles coated in the vaccine.

DNA vaccines don't need to be stored at low temperatures like mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.

ZyCoV-D has a reported efficacy of 67 per cent — lower than some other vaccines but still above the World Health Organization's 50 per cent threshold. It requires three doses.

Iran has been the worst-hit country in the Middle East and was battling a fifth wave that appeared to peak at 50,000 daily cases and 700 daily deaths last month.

In January this year, Iran's supreme leader banned the import of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, saying he didn't trust the US- and UK-made jabs.

Later, Iran did end up importing AstraZeneca that was manufactured in other countries, such as Russia or South Korea, and the new government last week approved the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.

But in the meantime, the country developed its own vaccine — COVIran Barekat — which was approved for emergency use in mid-June, before phase three trials were complete.

Early phases in clinical trials reported an efficacy of more than 90 per cent, but results have not yet been peer-reviewed.

It's an inactivated vaccine, meaning it's made by growing the virus, then killing or inactivating it. It's a similar type to China's Sinopharm vaccine — which has been the most administered in Iran.

Iran has also said US sanctions have hindered their efforts to get vaccines, but it can access them through COVAX.

"There are some countries that are under quite a lot of sanctions. So Iran is a country where it's quite difficult for them to access things depending on what the political situation is," Professor Tscharke said.

Although the US sanctions do not include medicines, in practice they have deterred international banks from financial transactions involving Iran — something that the Human Rights Watch in the past has said can have knock-on effects for Iranians' access to health care.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen made a soft-power move last month when she got her first vaccine — a home-grown variety called Medigen.

Taiwan was upheld as a poster child early on in the pandemic, keeping the virus largely under control for more than a year.

But a spike in infections in May this year highlighted the island's low vaccination rates, with only about 1 per cent vaccinated against COVID-19 at the start of that outbreak.

Taiwan refused Chinese vaccines like Sinopharm and Sinovac and instead accepted donations of AstraZeneca from Japan and Moderna from the US.

Medigen is a subunit protein vaccine, like Novavax, and its Chinese name means "high end".

The President said she wasn't nervous when she received her jab, but Medigen hasn't undergone phase three trials — due to be tested in Paraguay.

It was granted emergency approval in July amid criticism from the opposition that its approval was rushed.

Cuba has approved three vaccines for emergency use — the Abdala vaccine, Soberana 2 and single-dose Soberana Plus, and the country has another two jabs in development.

All are protein subunit vaccines, like Medigen or Novavax, and Soberana Plus can work as a booster shot.

Soberana Plus, according to the New York Times, is also tailored for those who have had COVID-19 before, in what was described as a world first.

Cuba, which is renowned for its healthcare system and has a long history of developing vaccines, has injected some national pride in its vaccine names.

Abdala is named after a poem by young revolutionary and independence hero Jose Marti, while Soberana 2 means "sovereign".

Earlier this month, Cuban authorities began inoculating toddlers as young as two years old with Soberana 2.

It has also been approved for use in Iran, while Abdala has now been approved in Vietnam.

Can vaccines grow on trees?

The majority of the world's flu vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, but Canada-based Medicago is opting for plants for its COVID-19 vaccine.

Professor Tscharke said while protein for vaccines often is grown in fermenters or vats in factories, it's possible to use a plant instead, which can be quick and inexpensive.

The idea behind this one is that it contains proteins that mimic the structure of the virus, but does not contain genetic material.

The vaccine is grown in a wild species indigenous to Australia and is related to tobacco, and the company is partially funded by cigarette maker Philip Morris International.

The plant-based vaccine is still ultimately injected, but Professor Tscharke says the broader idea of growing vaccines on plants is another platform given a push during the pandemic.

There have also been high hopes for further development of oral and edible vaccines, he said.

"People have liked the idea that you could eat your vaccines … I remember somebody who wanted to have a polio vaccine in the banana."

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CDC studies show waning vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization in elderly

Covid-19 vaccines continue to work well at preventing severe disease for the vast majority of Americans but they are becoming less effective at blocking infection, according to a series of studies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday.

Two of the analyses suggest that as the Delta variant spread this summer, the shots became less effective at keeping people 75 and older out of the hospital.

Breakthrough infections are still rare, and unvaccinated people still face significantly higher risks of illness and death from the virus. They were about 4.5 times more likely to become infected, and more than 10 times more likely to need hospitalization or die from Covid-19 than were fully vaccinated people. But the three new studies add to recent evidence that vaccines’ protection against infection ebbs over time.

CDC began last month to release the results of targeted vaccine effectiveness studies, showing protection against infection beginning to wane in residents of New York and Los Angeles and among frontline health care workers. But the agency has taken weeks to complete one of its largest and most comprehensive analyses of breakthrough infections — based on data from 13 jurisdictions with the ability to match immunization records with Covid-19 lab reports.

That study, one of the three released Friday, compared the relative risks of infection, hospitalization and death between people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not across different age groups. The CDC looked at 600,000 people infected with Covid-19 from April through mid-July. It found that overall, vaccine effectiveness against severe Covid-19 disease remains high. Incidence rate ratios for hospitalization and death changed relatively little after the Delta variant became the most dominant strain of the virus in the U.S., the study showed.

But the vaccines’ ability to prevent any infection — including mild disease — decreased from 91 percent to 78 percent after the Delta variant took over this summer.

Between April 4 and June 19, before Delta’s rise, fully vaccinated people accounted for 5 percent of cases, 7 percent of hospitalizations and 8 percent of deaths. Those figures roughly doubled between June 20 to July 17 as the variant spread. Fully vaccinated individuals accounted for 18 percent of cases, 14 percent of hospitalizations and 16 percent of deaths.

The CDC also released two reports that looked more closely at hospitalizations associated with the Delta variant and vaccine effectiveness.

One of those reports pulled on data from 1,175 patients 18 and older who were hospitalized at five Department of Veterans Affairs facilities between February and August. VA hospitals generally treat people who are older, with a higher prevalence of underlying medical conditions, than the general population.

The vaccines were 87 percent effective overall at preventing hospitalization, protection that remained relatively consistent before and after Delta became the country’s dominant variant, the study shows. But that figure masks notable differences between age groups. The shots were only 80 percent effective at keeping adults over 65 from being hospitalized with Covid, while they were 95 percent effective for people between ages 18 and 64.

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021



Shunning Vaccination, But Lining Up For Antibodies

A Costly Therapy Soars in the Unvaccinated

Lanson Jones did not think that the coronavirus would come for him. An avid tennis player in Houston who had not caught so much as a cold during the pandemic, he had refused a vaccine because he worried that it would spoil his streak of good health.

But contracting Covid shattered his faith in his body’s defenses — so much so that Mr. Jones, nose clogged and appetite vanished, began hunting for anything to spare himself a nightmarish illness.

The answer turned out to be monoclonal antibodies, a year-old, laboratory-created drug no less experimental than the vaccine. In a glass-walled enclosure at Houston Methodist Hospital this month, Mr. Jones, 65, became one of more than a million patients, including Donald J. Trump and Joe Rogan, to receive an antibody infusion as the virus has battered the United States.

Vaccine-resistant Americans are turning to the treatment with a zeal that has, at times, mystified their doctors, chasing down lengthy infusions after rejecting vaccines that cost one-hundredth as much. Orders have exploded so quickly this summer — to 168,000 doses per week in late August, up from 27,000 in July — that the Biden administration warned states this week of a dwindling national supply.

The federal government, which was already covering the cost of the treatment — currently about $2,100 per dose — has now taken over its distribution as well. For the coming weeks, the government has told states to expect scaled-back shipments because of the looming shortages.

With seven Southern states accounting for 70 percent of orders, the new process has unsettled some of their governors, who have made the antibody treatment central to their strategy for enduring a catastrophic wave of the Delta variant.

More supplies are on the way. The federal government bought 1.8 million more doses this week, expected to arrive in the fall and winter. But for now, some hospitals are uncertain of supplies, state health officials said, even as patients keep searching for doses.

“We have providers struggling to get the necessary product,” Kody Kinsley, who leads operations for North Carolina’s Covid-19 response, said in an interview. “I think what has happened is a classic logistics issue, where all of a sudden there’s much more demand.”

Amid a din of antivaccine messages, monoclonal antibodies have become the rare coronavirus medicine to achieve near-universal acceptance. Championed by mainstream doctors and conservative radio hosts alike, the infusions have kept the country’s death toll — 2,000 per day and climbing — from soaring even higher.

And after months of work by President Biden and Southern governors to promote the treatments, they have won the affection of vaccine refusers who said that the terrors and uncertainties of actually getting Covid had made them desperate for an antidote.

“The people you love, you trust, nobody said anything negative about it,” Mr. Jones said of the antibody treatment. “And I’ve heard nothing but negative things about the side effects of the vaccine and how quickly it was developed.”

Some Republican governors have set up antibody clinics while opposing vaccine mandates, frustrating even some of the drugs’ strongest proponents. Raising vaccination rates, scientists said, would obviate the need for many of the costly antibody treatments in the first place. The infusions take about an hour and a half, including monitoring afterward, and require constant attention from nurses whom hard-hit states often cannot spare.

“The people you love, trust, nobody said anything negative about it,” said Lanson Jones.“The people you love, trust, nobody said anything negative about it,” said Lanson Jones.
“It’s clogging up resources, it’s hard to give, and a vaccine is $20 and could prevent almost all of that,” said Dr. Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist and the chief of population health at Family Health Centers of San Diego, a community-based provider. Pushing antibodies while playing down vaccines, he said, was “like investing in car insurance without investing in brakes.”

The government-supplied monoclonal antibodies, made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, have been shown to significantly shorten patients’ symptoms and reduce their risk of being hospitalized — by 70 percent, in the case of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail. The treatments, given in a single sitting, use lab-made copies of the antibodies that people generate naturally when fighting an infection.

Patients and doctors alike overlooked the treatments during the wintertime surge of infections. But hospitals and health centers have now ramped up their offerings, transforming dental clinics, mobile units and auditoriums into infusion centers. In states like Texas, where elective surgeries have been postponed to make room for Covid-19 patients, operating room nurses have been enlisted to give infusions.

One factor driving the demand is that many patients, including vaccine skeptics, have been spreading the word about their seemingly miraculous recoveries.

“They’re like, ‘I have Covid, I want this treatment, my friend or family told me about this,’ ” said Jennifer Berry, the Houston Methodist nursing director of infusion services. “Now the word is out.”

At Houston Methodist, nurses administered nearly 1,100 treatments across eight sites in the first week of September, well more than twice as many as any week last winter. The hospital reduced the average time between orders and infusions to two days this month from three days in early August, giving patients a better chance of fighting off infections.

Juggling the infusions with more seriously ill Covid patients this summer forced the hospital, in one case, to move a monoclonal antibody clinic to a strip mall storefront.

But the Texas health department has helped, providing 19 nurses for a different Houston Methodist infusion clinic, said Vicki Brownewell, the lead administrator for the hospital’s program. The Biden administration has also invested $150 million in expanding access to monoclonal antibodies, and Houston Methodist has used federal money to arrange medical taxis for patients struggling with transportation.

Even so, the infusions remain inaccessible to many. Given the heavy demands on staff and the need to create separate infusion rooms for infectious patients, certain communities, especially in rural areas, do not have clinics.

In San Diego, Dr. Ramers said, some large, for-profit hospitals have decided not to administer the antibodies at all because of the logistical hassles, leaving wealthier, well-insured patients to hunt down doses at his publicly funded clinic. Some nurses that he hired for infusions left for short, betterpaying assignments in hard-hit intensive care units.

“The natural, capitalist incentives for health care organizations that are for profit don’t really favor doing this,” Dr. Ramers said. “It’s a lot of work.”

Of the 2.4 million monoclonal antibody doses shipped nationally, at least 1.1 million have been used. Precisely how many are still sitting on shelves is hard to determine because of reporting gaps. Still, waning federal supplies and soaring demand from less-vaccinated Southern states have caused what several states have described as large shortfalls in deliveries.

North Carolina providers have requested 15,000 weekly doses, the health department there said, more than double what the federal government has allocated. Florida said its latest weekly allotment left clinics there 41,000 doses short of what they wanted.

Crushing demand in Southern states as the unprotected fall ill.

Hospitals had previously been able to order the drugs themselves. But the Department of Health and Human Services will now decide how many doses each state receives based on case rates and use of the treatment. State governments, in turn, will decide on doses for individual sites.

The new ordering process, which the Biden administration said would ensure “equitable distribution,” has unsettled some backers of the drug. Gov. Ron De- Santis of Florida, a Republican, warned on Thursday that state officials were unprepared for the new responsibility of parceling out doses.

And in heavily vaccinated states, like New York, people coordinating treatments fear that shipments will plummet because of low case rates, leaving hospitals with so few doses that they shutter their programs. Some hospitals recently reported growing numbers of vaccinated patients receiving infusions.

Diana Berrent, the founder of Survivor Corps, which has worked to help patients find monoclonal antibody treatments, said that involving state governments would create delays: “You’re layering in 50 new layers of bureaucracy,” she said.

Doctors have warned that antibody treatments alone cannot keep pace with ballooning outbreaks. Whereas any one vaccination protects untold others from exposure, a single infusion only helps a single patient. Infusions must be given within 10 days of symptoms; they are unhelpful to most hospitalized patients. And receiving the antibodies once does not keep people from becoming seriously ill if they catch the virus again later.

“Something like that just doesn’t scale,” said Dr. Howard Huang, the medical leader for Houston Methodist’s infusion program.

As a result, health officials have warned that vaccine skeptics may become so enamored of monoclonal antibodies that they become even more resistant to getting a protective shot.

Within days of his infusion, Mr. Jones, the patient in Houston, had left the bedroom where he had been quarantined and returned to his work as a landscape architect. But he was still weighing whether to be vaccinated.

His doctor was pushing for the shot, he said. But the monoclonal antibodies had worked so well that he was tempted to simply return for another infusion if he caught Covid-19 again.

“If I can go get an infusion and feel as good as I do right now, man, I’d rather not take a vaccine that has just been developed,” he said. “That makes me nervous, still.”

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Biden Sabotages Lifesaving Antibody Treatment - Sends Less Than Half Needed to FL

The Biden administration is not about saving lives. They are about control, money, and tyranny!

Although lifesaving medications and treatments have been found to work against COVID-19, they continue to fight the distribution of them and instead try to force more vaccines.

This week, Biden's administration sabotaged doses of lifesaving coronavirus antibody treatments being delivered to Florida, sending less than half of what is needed for the week. The admin claims they are prioritizing "equitable distribution," but many suspect that it is revenge against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republican governors whom Biden vowed to get "out of the way."

The Biden administration this week began to cut the distribution of monoclonal antibodies to red states, such as Florida and Alabama, contending those states, including Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Louisiana, are comprising too big a share of the supply in recent weeks — 70 percent.

“HHS will determine the amount of product each state and territory receives on a weekly basis,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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Monday, September 20, 2021


Now the Lancet U-turns over Covid lab leak theory and publishes 'alternative view' calling for a 'transparent debate' on the origins of the virus

The Lancet medical journal has bowed to pressure over its heavily-criticised coverage of the disputed origins of the Covid pandemic by publishing an 'alternative view' from 16 scientists – calling for an 'objective, open and transparent debate' about whether the virus leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

It was revealed earlier this year that Peter Daszak – a British scientist with long-standing links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology – had secretly orchestrated a landmark statement in The Lancet in February 2020 which attacked 'conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin'.

The now-infamous letter, signed by 27 leading public health experts, said they stood together to 'strongly condemn' the theories which they said 'do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice'.

They also lavished praise on Chinese scientists who they said had 'worked diligently and effectively to rapidly identify the pathogen behind this outbreak… and share their results transparently with the global health community'.

Now, The Lancet has agreed to publish an alternative commentary which discusses the possibility that laboratory research might have played a role in the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It also directly confronts the efforts of science journals to stifle debate by labelling such theories as 'misinformation'.

In the article, the authors argue that 'there is no direct support for the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, and a laboratory-related accident is plausible'.

They add that the February 2020 statement 'imparted a silencing effect on the wider scientific debate'.

And they say scientists, 'need to evaluate all hypotheses on a rational basis, and to weigh their likelihood based on facts and evidence, devoid of speculation concerning possible political impacts'.

Science itself, they go on, should 'embrace alternative hypotheses, contradictory arguments, verification, refutability, and controversy' and rather than congratulating China on its supposed 'transparency', they call on the secretive superpower to open up.

China fiercely resisted a full and unrestricted probe into the origins of the outbreak by the World Health Organisation, resulting in what is widely considered to be a neutered investigation.

The subsequent report, published in March, concluded the SARS-CoV-2 virus probably passed to humans from a bat via another unidentified species.

It all but dismissed the theories that the virus was engineered in a laboratory, or was a natural virus that escaped from a lab.

But the report was criticised by 14 nations including the UK, US and Australia, while even the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, admitted it was 'not extensive enough'.

The Mail on Sunday has repeatedly drawn attention to The Lancet's role in obscuring the origins of the virus and its early spread.

The new commentary, published in The Lancet on Friday, said: 'The world will remain mired in dispute without the full engagement of China, including open access to primary data, documents, and relevant stored material to enable a thorough, transparent and objective search for all relevant evidence.'

One of the signatories, Professor Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, told The Mail on Sunday: 'It might seem small, but after 18 months of complete denial, the very act of [The] Lancet agreeing to publish this letter acknowledging the origins of Covid-19 remains an open verdict, is a very big deal.

'For a leading medical journal like Lancet to agree to finally open its doors to a letter from scientists highlighting the ongoing uncertain origins of Covid-19, indicates how far we have come in 18 months in requesting an open scientific debate on the topic, but also indicates just how far we still have to go'.

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The economic consequences of working from home that no one is talking about

The work from home revolution is in full swing and there are some big benefits available to anyone able to tune in to their job remotely - including saving money. But there are also some underappreciated economic consequences of widespread working from home we need to consider.

Each week worked from home during lockdown this year has saved me more than $60 in both travel and food expenses. I also gain more than two hours a day in time that would normally have been spent commuting. If this was a permanent arrangement, I would be saving perhaps $3000 a year and getting about 100 hours of extra time back in my schedule. So what would happen if I continue to make those savings, every year, and so did many other office workers across the country?

PwC Australia future of work lead Ben Hamer said the firm’s research into the shift to remote work found three-quarters of Australians want a hybrid of home and office working post-pandemic. Only one in 10 wanted to return to working five days a week in an office environment.

“Between 40 to 50 per cent of the labour market are looking to leave their employer in the next 12 months and, with 100,000 more jobs in Australia than pre-COVID alongside record high vacancies and historically low unemployment, we are on the precipice of The Great Resignation,” Hamer said. “We are about to see a massive exodus of workers ... And there is no going back to the way things were.”

Some employers will also benefit from making working from home an ongoing proposition, as they are able to reduce their office floor space and all the associated costs that come with renting or owning premises, widen their available talent pool and, presumably, have a more attractive working environment for staff wanting a work-life balance.

This all sounds like a major win. But there are some serious consequences for the economy if we give up our office space for good, and individually realise all these savings.

Working from home is set to be a permanent shift for much of Australia, but while workers at some of the biggest companies are happily leaving the city behind - there are downsides to consider.

The Productivity Commission last week released a report into the working from home phenomenon and, while acknowledging its potential, raised some concerns. This included diminished physical activity and potentially more loneliness for those not in an office environment, as well as the potential loss of opportunities for collaboration and connection.

The commission also warned about rising inequality between those able to work from home, who are more likely to be well paid and highly educated, and those who are in jobs requiring face-to-fact contact or who do not have the space, resources or ability to work remotely. It’s possible a shift to working from home could segregate society and make life even more unfair. On the other hand, the report said remote work would better open up opportunities for those less able to leave their home to work, such as carers and parents, and those living in regional areas.

However, one issue not getting enough attention is what happens to the businesses that have previously benefited from all the office-related spending from staff packed into high rises and central business districts.

The commission says the shift to working from home might see “some businesses that require high foot-traffic in order to be viable — such as cafes and hairdressers — [choosing] to locate in suburbs rather than in city centres”.

This is plausible. But what if some people never return to their old spending habits again?

Here is where the “paradox of thrift” may kick in. Economists generally agree that an individual’s decision to increase their personal savings may benefit them upfront, but this would be detrimental for the economy as a whole due to decreased activity (particularly if lots of people chose to save more than usual). This is then bad for that individual and everyone overall.

Ultimately, the extra savings many are benefiting from during the lockdown is money that usually would have been spent back into the economy at cafes, restaurants and dry cleaners. This is money those businesses no longer receive and are no longer able to use to pay staff.

It’s possible some people will choose to spend their money with as much abandon as they used to but now in their local area instead. As the commission theorises, some businesses will benefit from relocating from the city to the suburbs and perhaps serve morning coffee to workers in those locales.

But it’s also possible some of this spending will change for good. Some people will be fine making their coffees for themselves in the morning if the convenience of having a coffee made by someone else requires the inconvenience of needing to leave the house when you otherwise do not need to.

There are also fewer barriers to making your lunch, rather than ordering it, when your pantry and fridge are right in front of you. The wider ramifications of this on a more permanent basis could extend to sustained drop in demand for a range of other goods and services, such as corporate attire, catering, dry cleaning and transport, that will not find enough customers even if they move location.

This may mean more saving and debt reduction on an individual level, and it could also mean the shrinking of major industries that have served as the lifeblood of business parks and CBDs across the country. It might also lead to the creation of new industries and new businesses to take advantage of this extra cash no longer being spent on things like lattes and takeout.

The office exodus might just spark a spending renaissance too.

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IN BRIEF

John Durham indicts Democrat lawyer Michael Sussmann for false statement (National Review)

Judge rejects DOJ move to block Texas pro-life law (Fox News)

Federal judge blocks Biden administration from expelling migrants under COVID public health order (National Review)

Americans still trapped at Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in Afghanistan, and — surprise! — the Taliban is not cooperating (Daily Wire)

“Angry and bitter”: France snubs Biden over defense agreement with Australia, cancels gala celebrating U.S.-French relationship (Daily Wire)

Virginia governor’s debate gets heated as Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin trade swipes (Washington Examiner)

Arizona 2020 election audit report due for public release September 24 (Washington Examiner)

Minnesota Supreme Court allows anti-cop ballot question concerning Minneapolis police (NPR)

Italy mandates COVID passports for all workers (Washington Examiner)

France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay (Axios)

Combo shot for COVID and flu vaccines under development (HealthDay News)

Who’d a thunk it? Obesity in children accelerated during the pandemic (Axios)

Small business group announces lawsuit against Biden administration over vaccine mandate (Just the News)

New congressional plan would push top tax rate to an astounding 60% in four states (FEE)

The global food price crisis isn’t going away (Axios)

Big Brother: Treasury Department seeks to track financial transactions of personal bank accounts over $600 (FEE)

Here’s Anthony Fauci pre-pandemic laughing at the “paranoid” idea that masking is effective against infectious disease (Not the Bee)

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Why you may not need a COVID-19 booster yet after all


Given what we know about breakthrough infections, most experts remain unconvinced there’s enough data to justify an extra dose for most Americans.

Top scientists have dealt a blow to President Joe Biden’s plan to begin rolling out COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans. On September 17, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee rejected a bid to approve a third Pfizer dose for anyone age 16 and older. Instead, the committee threw its support behind a proposal to grant emergency use authorization of boosters for people age 65 and older or who are at high risk for severe disease, such as health-care workers or people with underlying conditions.

For weeks, scientists have vigorously debated whether there is enough data to justify an extra dose for most Americans. Two top scientists reportedly resigned from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the plan to administer boosters, which they have since criticized in a paper published in The Lancet.

The data trickling in so far does seem to suggest that the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are less able to prevent infection after six to eight months, but experts point out there are wide discrepancies.

In July, Israel said data from its highly vaccinated population shows that Pfizer’s vaccine is now only 64 percent effective against preventing infection. Then there were the alarming reports that month of a large COVID-19 outbreak in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Out of hundreds who had been infected, about three-quarters were fully vaccinated. By contrast, a United Kingdom study in August found that the Pfizer vaccine is 88 percent effective against the Delta variant. Weeks later, a study of New York State residents showed a combined vaccine effectiveness of 79.8 percent among those who had received the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

One thing that’s perfectly clear to scientists is that the COVID-19 vaccines are still performing admirably where it matters most: protecting against severe disease and death. In the aftermath of the Cape Cod outbreak, scientists pointed out that only four of the people who got breakthrough cases had to be hospitalized. And according to a September 10 report from the CDC, the vaccines are more than 90 percent effective against hospitalization and death. Unvaccinated people are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die.

That’s why many experts have been scratching their heads since August, when President Biden announced that his administration planned to offer third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. His team advised Americans to get the boosters eight months after their second doses, and they set a September target for clinics to start giving people third jabs. “It will make you safer, and for longer. And it will help us end the pandemic faster,” Biden said at the time.

Most scientists instead emphasize that the data will be much clearer if regulators can take more time before weighing the science behind booster shots, since breakthrough infections remain overwhelmingly mild.

“Your protection does not fall off a cliff at six months or eight months,” says Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

Protection against severe disease

To understand why breakthrough infections happen, it helps to recall how the immune response works. Antibodies are the first line of defense against infection, and people can develop antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 virus both through natural infection and vaccination. When the virus enters the body through the nose or throat, the antibodies that reside there fight off the virus before it can take hold.

But your body can’t maintain high levels of antibodies against every pathogen it has ever encountered all the time. People also tend to have relatively low levels of antibodies in their noses and throats because they have to travel there from your bloodstream. So sometimes a virus—particularly one as potent as the Delta variant—can slip past them to cause a breakthrough infection.

As the virus penetrates the cells in the nose and throat, it begins to replicate. At that point, a person may exhibit symptoms characteristic of an upper respiratory infection, including stuffiness, cough, fever, and fatigue.

“It’s a nuisance but it’s not life-threatening,” says Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunobiologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

That’s when the rest of the immune system kicks in to keep the infection from escalating to the lungs, where it can cause severe harm resulting in hospitalization or death. Having been trained by the COVID-19 vaccines to recognize the virus, the immune system ramps up production of new antibodies, as well as memory B and T cells that join the fight.

It takes time for an infection to travel to the lungs, giving your immune system plenty of opportunity to mount a robust defense. Bhattacharya says severe disease is low among the vaccinated because they can clear the virus from their systems more quickly. This both reduces the severity of their symptoms and reduces the window in which they can infect others. “I think we’re fairly confident in that,” he says.

Assessing the evidence

Booster shots are additional doses of the original vaccine that increase antibodies in the nose and throat, so they would decrease the chance of getting an infection in the first place. And researchers say that the data on breakthroughs is an early signal that the vaccines’ ability to prevent infection is waning, particularly among people with compromised immune systems and older populations.

These are groups that you would expect might not have a robust response to the standard dose of the vaccine, says Jack O’Horo, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic who is based in Rochester, Minnesota. People who have had solid organ transplants, for example, take medication that suppresses the response of their memory cells. They rely on antibodies alone to fight off infection—and studies have shown that they have a poor antibody response to the vaccine.

In August, this evidence prompted the FDA to approve use of a booster dose for certain immunocompromised populations. “To the extent that a third shot gets them a little bit closer to what we see in healthy people after their second shot, I think that’s worth doing,” Bhattacharya says. “That’s the easy one.”

The next group that scientists suggested might benefit from booster shots were older Americans. According to a September CDC study, people over 65 account for about 70 percent of hospitalizations from breakthrough infections. But scientists note that there may be specific age groups or other factors in play, such as whether someone lives in a nursing home. Still, the FDA advisory committee agreed that there’s enough evidence to suggest that people over 65 should be eligible for boosters.

It’s a little trickier to parse the data for other populations. Recently, a September 7 preprint echoed the findings of previous studies when it showed that the odds of vaccinated people testing positive for COVID-19 are higher 120 days after the date they reached full vaccination. Yet O’Horo, co-author of the study, stresses that “this was from a very small risk to a small risk.” He says follow-up research is needed to break down the populations whose risk of a breakthrough infection—while still small—is most concerning.

Ultimately, O’Horo says the findings of his study provide “a very early signal” to federal regulators that it’s time to carefully assess how the vaccines are working. He also points out that the FDA and CDC have access to more and better data than what has been released publicly about the vaccines’ real-world effectiveness.

“If I had to boil it down to a single phrase, it would be, Walk, don’t run,” he says. “We have information suggesting that this is a good time to have a scientific discussion about boosters, but it is emphatically not a time to hit a panic button.”

Complicating factors

There are other factors to consider when it comes to administering booster shots to the general population. For one, the three vaccines approved or authorized for use in the U.S. aren’t all the same.

Recent studies suggest that people who received Moderna’s vaccine are better protected from severe breakthrough infections because it elicits higher and more durable antibody levels than Pfizer’s vaccine. And a recent CDC report showed that the Moderna two-dose shot remains 95 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations compared to 80 percent for Pfizer and 60 percent for Johnson & Johnson.

But it will take more in-depth investigation to tease out what that means for who needs booster shots: Scientists point out that the Moderna vaccine is administered at a higher dose than Pfizer’s vaccine and with a longer interval between doses. It also rolled out after Pfizer’s vaccine, so the data are slightly lagging.

“People shouldn’t be running out and saying, I want a Moderna vaccine now,” Durbin says, adding that Moderna’s effectiveness is likely to drop off over time as well.

It’s also possible that another dose might not be a booster at all, but rather the proper dosage. Vaccines typically take years to develop because researchers take time to study many different dosing options. For the COVID-19 vaccines, they didn’t have that luxury of time to test whether three full doses might be better than two, says Francesca Torriani, an infectious disease specialist at University of California, San Diego Health.

And that could end up being the case. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an earlier White House press briefing that he “would not at all be surprised that the adequate full regimen for vaccination will likely be three doses.”

The bottom line for boosters

Ultimately, the decision on boosters comes down to what regulators are trying to achieve: to reduce all symptomatic infections among Americans, or to slow transmission of the virus. Bhattacharya says there just isn’t evidence yet to show that a booster would provide much extra protection to most people.

He points to the discrepancies among global studies of vaccine effectiveness. Most show only a slight drop, but a handful of countries see a more significant change. The Biden administration has cited Israel’s reports that the Pfizer vaccine is now only 64 percent effective in its plan to roll out boosters. If that’s true, Bhattacharya says, it suggests boosters would offer a large benefit to the general population. But he cautions against putting too much weight in any one study.

“Most scientists believe that both in the short term and in the long term we have so much more to gain by getting the rest of the world vaccinated,” Bhattacharya says. He argues that the pockets of unvaccinated people around the world are far more dangerous than breakthroughs, because they create potential for even more dangerous variants that might evade the vaccines entirely.

Durbin agrees that global vaccine distribution should be the focus, and she adds that experts need to manage expectations about the purpose of vaccines.

“We are so privileged to be able to have these vaccines that are so highly effective,” she says. “Unfortunately, because of that people now think that they shouldn’t have any symptoms, there shouldn’t be breakthrough infections. And that’s just not a reasonable expectation,” she says.

Torriani points out that there might be an even easier and more effective way to prevent breakthrough infections in the U.S.: wearing a mask. Earlier this month, she was part of a team of researchers that examined breakthrough infections among health-care workers in San Diego. They noted that the drop in vaccine effectiveness from June to July was likely caused by waning immunity and the emergence of the Delta variant. Yet the study also coincided with the end of masking requirements in San Diego, which Torriani says likely increased the risk of breakthrough infections. It’s yet another factor that public health officials need to keep in mind when making policy.

“We still need to mask,” Durbin says. “It’s going to help prevent COVID, it’s going to help prevent you from getting influenza, it’s going to prevent you from getting other colds and respiratory illnesses. It just makes good sense. Wear a mask.”

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/why-you-may-not-need-a-covid-19-booster-after-all

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Also see my other blogs.  Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS 

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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Friday, September 17, 2021



Australian GPs hit out at restrictions on supposed Covid treatment Ivermectin

The general Leftist determination to find fault with Trump has to be factored into any judgment about Ivermectin. As I read it, the condemnations of it and the devotions to it are both too sweeping.

On my reading of the research literature, it is in a familiar class of drugs that is useful if taken early in disease onset but useless after that. So both sides can quote findings that support their position.


The move by Australia's legal drug authority to warn general practitioners against prescribing the drug Ivermectin as a supposed 'Covid treatment' has divided the grass roots medical fraternity.

Last week, the Therapeutic Goods Administration issued new restrictions on the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 symptoms amid fear it was being handed out by GPs to those using it as an unauthorised treatment for the virus.

The drug, which has traditionally been used to treat lice and scabies in humans, and which also is used to treat conditions in animals, gained popularity as a potential Covid cure after ex-United States President Donald Trump talked it up while in office.

News of the direction stirred robust debate among doctors commenting under a Royal Australian College of General Practitioners article.

While some welcomed the decision, many appeared furious that they were being told what was best for their patients.

'The contempt we are held in by our bureaucracy is palpable,' one GP stated.

'Once again general practice is considered the lowest common denominator of medicine, and our competence and objectivity to treat our patients appropriately is questioned,' another doctor wrote.

Some GPs argued it was 'common knowledge' among doctors that vaccination alone was not the only approach to manage pandemics.

'Being vaccinated does not make anyone a superhuman to COVID infection. If our goal is to keep Australian safe from dying, shouldn't we give alternatives to those who for whatever reasons will rather die than take the vaccines,' one doctor wrote.

'India saved their nation with Ivermectin. Do we want people to die in their homes in the name of promoting vaccination? GPs should stand up for choice.'

GPs are now only able to prescribe ivermectin for TGA-approved indications, such as scabies and certain parasitic infections.

The changes mean only specific specialists , including infectious disease physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and hepatologists, will be permitted to prescribe the drug for other 'unapproved indications' if they believe it appropriate.

'These changes have been introduced because of concerns with the prescribing of oral ivermectin for the claimed prevention or treatment of COVID-19,' the TGA told doctors.

'Ivermectin is not approved for use in COVID-19 in Australia or in other developed countries, and its use by the general public for COVID-19 is currently strongly discouraged by the National COVID Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration.'

'I am neither for or against Ivermectin at this stage,' one GP commented.

'WHO had given contradictory statements on Covid inflection right from the start. For example, no human to human transmission.'

Some GPs claimed they had been bullied by anti-vaxxers desperate for access to the drug to treat Covid.

'I have been approached by an aggressive family twice and I obliged once which was so hard next time that I needed to call police to get rid of that patient - frustrating indeed,' a GP stated.

It is understood the drug's promotion by anti-vaxxers has led to a dramatic increase in its uptake by the large sections of the community.

The drug has been used as an authorised treatment for Covid-19 in some eastern European, South American and Central American nations, and was used in India to during the outbreak of the Delta strain, but is not recommended by the WHO.

It came back into the headlines this month when prominent podcaster Joe Rogan said he used the drug and others to treat his Covid infection and rapidly recovered, with some attacking his promotion of unauthorised treatments.

A quick look on social media reveals the drug is widely promoted in anti-vaccination circles as an alternative to the jab.

'There has been a 3-4-fold increased dispensing of ivermectin prescriptions in recent months leading to national and local shortages for those who need the medicine for scabies and parasite infections,' GPs were warned.

The health watchdog has warned improper use of the drug can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness and neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures and coma.

Although some GPs remain skeptical of the TGA advice.

'Ivermectin is wrongly painted as a dangerous drug and a "serious overdose reaction" of diarhoea is mentioned. This is laughable,' one GP wrote.

'Many patients taking all sorts of medications are experiencing diarhoea and a S/E. Should we remove all these meds from GP's hands then?'

Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who in August assumed the leadership of Clive Palmer's United Australia Party, has repeatedly said drugs such as ivermectin and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine - another unproven treatment - should be used to treat Covid.

'I'm not saying take the drug. I'm not saying the drug works, but I'm saying the doctor should be free to sit down with their patient and make a decision,' he previously told SBS.

Last month, the equivalent to the TGA - the US FDA - put out a tweet urging people not to take ivermectin, amid a surge of calls to poison centers nationwide. 'You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,' the agency wrote.

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Almost Half Of Covid Hospitalizations were not

It's the question so many of us have been wondering ever since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic over a year and a half ago. Just how many of those scary hospitalization numbers we keep hearing about are and were there *with* and not *because of* the virus itself?

It is, after all, a highly contagious respiratory virus, so it's going to infect a lot of people, including those in hospitals for other health reasons. However, information on that topic has been difficult if not impossible to obtain ... that is, until researchers took on the difficult task of combing through tens of thousands of VA hospital records to find a shocking statistic that could likely be true nationwide - almost HALF of Covid-19 'hospitalizations' in 2021 have either mild or asymptomatic cases. That means they are either hospitalized for something else entirely or they are being (unnecessarily?) admitted for a mild Covid case.

Here's The Atlantic's David Zweig with the scoop:

[Researchers] analyzed the electronic records for nearly 50,000 COVID hospital admissions at the more than 100 VA hospitals across the country. Then they checked to see whether each patient required supplemental oxygen or had a blood oxygen level below 94 percent. (The latter criterion is based on the National Institutes of Health definition of “severe COVID.”) If either of these conditions was met, the authors classified that patient as having moderate to severe disease; otherwise, the case was considered mild or asymptomatic.

The study found that from March 2020 through early January 2021—before vaccination was widespread, and before the Delta variant had arrived—the proportion of patients with mild or asymptomatic disease was 36 percent. From mid-January through the end of June 2021, however, that number rose to 48 percent. In other words, the study suggests that roughly half of all the hospitalized patients showing up on COVID-data dashboards in 2021 may have been admitted for another reason entirely, or had only a mild presentation of disease.

Additionally, Zweig writes, the study found that "the introduction of vaccines strongly correlates with a greater share of COVID hospital patients having mild or asymptomatic disease."

Zweig concluded by explaining how Covid hospitalization rates "can be misleading, if not considered carefully."

Clearly many patients right now are seriously ill. We also know that overcrowding of hospitals by COVID patients with even mild illness can have negative implications for patients in need of other care. At the same time, this study suggests that COVID hospitalization tallies can’t be taken as a simple measure of the prevalence of severe or even moderate disease, because they might inflate the true numbers by a factor of two. “As we look to shift from cases to hospitalizations as a metric to drive policy and assess level of risk to a community or state or country,” Doron told me, referring to decisions about school closures, business restrictions, mask requirements, and so on, “we should refine the definition of hospitalization. Those patients who are there with rather than from COVID don’t belong in the metric.”

Given the prevalence of hysterical headlines about hospitalizations, this is important information indeed!

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IN BRIEF

Antony Blinken says most Afghan evacuees weren’t vetted before airlift (Washington Times)

Senate Democrats threaten subpoena after Pentagon chief refuses to appear at Afghanistan hearing (Washington Times)

House Democrats break Joe Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $400K (Washington Times)

Congressional Research Service raises questions about OSHA vaccine mandate's legality (Daily Wire)

Arizona becomes first state to challenge constitutionality of the vaccine mandate (Daily Signal)

“Breach of trust”: Secret Facebook program exempted celebrities and VIPs from moderation policies (Daily Wire)

Intelligence experts say Al-Qaeda could reform in Afghanistan in “one to two years” (Daily Wire)

Top U.S. general in Afghanistan told chain of command he disagreed with withdrawal (Washington Times)

What could possibly go wrong? DOJ allows former intel/military members who hacked for foreign country to pay to escape prosecution (Daily Wire)

China following Russian model with large-scale buildup of nuclear force (Washington Times)

“Absolutely outrageous”: North Korea fires two ballistic missiles toward Japan (Fox News)

Big Meat hits back at Biden administration for blaming inflation on industry (Fox Business)

Facebook knows Instagram is toxic to teens, leaked documents reveal (Morning Brew)

Surveys show 3.2 million estimated first-time gun buyers in first half of 2021 (NSSF)

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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