Saturday, March 06, 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine DOES work against Brazil's 'super-covid,' report claims: Unpublished data will show Oxford's shot works against worrisome variant that may weaken others

AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine does protect against the feared Brazilian coronavirus variant, sources close to the matter said of unpublished data from an Oxford University trial.

Preliminary data from a study conducted at the university indicates that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca is effective against the P1, or Brazilian, variant, a source with knowledge of the study told Reuters on Friday.

The data indicates that the vaccine will not need to be modified in order to protect against the variant, which is believed to have originated in the Amazonian city of Manaus, said the source, who requested anonymity as the results have not yet been made public.

So far, there are at least 13 cases of the Brazilian variant in seven US states, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dragged its feet on the authorization of the AstraZeneca shot, and is not expected to do so until at least next month.

US trials for the AstraZeneca shot are ongoing, and the FDA typically does not accept results from other countries.

But results are in from other nations, including the UK, South Africa and Brazil - all of which have seen variants emerge, and spread across the globe, including to the the US.

In the aggregate of those countries, the AstraZeneca vaccine's efficacy rose to 82 percent after a second dose, given three months after the first.

Earlier data found that the vaccine reduced the risk of coronavirus infection by 78 percent.

That was markedly superior to the performance of the Chinese-made CoronaVac, which was only about 50 percent effective.

Importantly, the AstraZeneca vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing severe disease and death from COVID-19, according to its data published February 3.

It's difficult to know how prevalent Brazil's P1 variant was in the country during earlier stages of the trial. Now, the variant is dominant there.

The Reuters report suggests that AstraZeneca may soon release data specific to how the vaccine performed in Brazil during the most recent round of trials.

The source did not provide the exact efficacy of the vaccine against the variant. They said the full results of the study should be released soon, possibly in March.

Early results indicated the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the South African variant, which is similar to P1. South Africa subsequently paused the use of the vaccine in the country.

The information comes as a small-sample study suggested the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac may not work effectively against the Brazilian variant.

Responding to a request for comment, Fiocruz, which sent the samples that formed the basis of the study, told Reuters it did not have any information on the study, as it was being led by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Representatives for AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Brazil is currently confronting a brutal and long-lasting second wave of the coronavirus, hitting a daily record of 1,910 deaths on Wednesday.

The P1 variant is among the factors that epidemiologists believe is contributing to a rise in cases and deaths, and there has been concern in the scientific community about the variant's resistance to vaccines.


UK: Facebook is silencing debate on lockdown

Two of the scientists behind the Great Barrington Declaration on their brush with Big Tech censorship.


On 2 February, we put up a post in favour of the Covid vaccine on the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) Facebook page. We, as two of the primary authors of the GBD, are firmly in favour of voluntary vaccination, using vaccines that regulatory authorities have carefully evaluated and approved for use. Our post argued for prioritising the elderly for vaccination against Covid-19 as a tool for the focused protection of this vulnerable group. It generated a vigorous debate in the comment section among people against the Covid vaccines and people who agreed with us.

On 4 February, without warning, Facebook deleted the entire Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) page. The only explanation it provided was that the page violated its ‘community standards’, but it did not specify what standards the page violated. A week later, again without any explanation, Facebook restored the page.

The Great Barrington Declaration, now signed by tens of thousands of scientists and physicians, proposes a radically different approach to the Covid epidemic that eschews lockdown in favour of focused protection of the vulnerable. Many governments worldwide have adopted elements of our approach by prioritising the elderly living in nursing homes for vaccination and expanding the set of permitted activities (such as schooling) despite rising cases.

Other governments have adopted draconian lockdowns – including forced quarantines for the healthy and extended closures of schools and businesses – to address the epidemic. In many places, this lockdown strategy has successfully protected the zoom class, who can work from home without losing their jobs, while exposing the working class and the vulnerable to Covid infection.

Given the stakes, the scientific debate between lockdown and focused protection is of intense interest to nearly everyone on the planet. As co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, we are admittedly partisans in this debate. However, we recognise that these are complicated topics that require the open engagement of many minds, even those who disagree with us, to arrive at the truth. For good reasons, the Enlightenment enshrined free scientific inquiry as a primary good. A tolerance for contrary argument is essential if we are ever to exit the intellectual cul-de-sacs we inhabit.

Well, okay, fine, the reader may be thinking. Maybe Facebook made a mistake in suppressing the Covid-lockdown debate, but it recognised its error and corrected the problem within a week. Plus, there are other venues for the scientific debate to take place. What is the harm?

First, for many people, Facebook is a primary source for their news; Facebook banning content has at least a temporary effect on the information they see and the thoughts they have. Second, as should be evident from the debate over vaccination policy that preceded the Facebook ban, the Great Barrington Declaration site itself is followed by people with a diverse set of opinions on key aspects of Covid policy. Shutting down the site led many people to leave the page and closed one of the few venues where civil and open discussion between people with differing views happens on these topics. Most Covid-related policy discussions occur in closed environments, where people and scientists speak with those who already agree with them. The GBD Facebook site is an exception worth preserving.

Third, and most importantly, even a temporary ban imposes reputational harm to the shuttered site and the people behind it. For good or ill, Facebook has taken upon itself the role of hall monitor, and those who violate its editorial standards lose credibility in the eyes of many. The question is whether Facebook deserves its role as arbiter of questions of science and science policy. What are the scientific credentials of the people who censored the site, or (perhaps more relevantly) of the engineers who wrote the algorithms that censored it? Do they really have the omniscience to know that imprinting a scarlet letter on the GBD is good for our society?

Economists have a handy rule of thumb that it is more accurate to infer what people value by their actions and choices rather than from their words. It is useful to apply this rule here, especially since Facebook has not explained its actions beyond its invocation of ‘community standards’. First, Facebook is undecided on whether to permit open scientific debate on its site, at least concerning Covid policy. Second, since it was a pro-vaccine post that preceded the ban, perhaps Facebook community standards oppose the Covid vaccines or at least prioritising vulnerable seniors to receive them?

Facebook, like nearly every company whose success depends on the extensive use of its online services, stands to benefit financially from extended lockdowns. Though this pecuniary motive may not have played a direct, conscious role in its censorship of the GBD site, it certainly must have played some role in its editorial policies and ‘community standards’. Facebook clearly does not know how to use the power it wields to shape public understanding of science responsibly.

The impulse by those who wield the power to suppress their adversaries’ words and ideas stretches back to at least Cain and Abel. This power is usually exercised by repressive regimes, like Mao’s, who sent his Red Guards house to house during the 1966 Cultural Revolution to find and burn books that espoused the old, dangerous ideas opposed by the Communists. Religious and political considerations typically motivate the censors, which often include non-state actors. What is new in the world today is ostensibly progressive technocrats enthusiastically censoring scientific discussion and debate.


Dems Push End to Election Integrity

The Democrats' massive HR 1 election bill is a recipe for tyranny.

It might as well be called the “Ensure Democrat Electoral Victory Act” given what’s in the massive 800-page election overhaul bill put forward by House Democrats. HR 1, which Democrats have ironically dubbed the “For the People Act,” is anything but for the people. Rather than seeking to reestablish and shore up the badly abused state election laws Americans witnessed in the 2020 election, HR 1 would seek to codify the abuses. As Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) observed, “This is a bill that is about preserving the present Democratic majority. It is a bill by the majority, for the majority, and is intended to entrench the majority in power for years to come.”

HR 1 would essentially federalize national elections by mandating that states adopt voting rules such as a right to no-excuse mail-in ballots, elimination of voter ID laws, same-day registration and voting, 10-day post-election day acceptance of mail-in ballots, no laws against ballot harvesting or limits on the number of ballots a person can return, a 15-day early-voting mandate, and giving out-of-prison felons the right to vote — all while also making it harder for states to clean up their voter rolls. These are just a few of the terrible rules entrenched in HR 1, and it encapsulates the Left’s election strategy going forward.

Furthermore, the bill would create a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices, which is an obvious effort to dictate to the High Court how it would be allowed to rule on cases.

In short, HR 1 is a recipe for tyranny.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court refused a perfect opportunity to tackle last year’s election integrity issues — and thus lay a roadblock in the way of HR 1 — when the justices inexplicably declined to hear the case against a Pennsylvania courts’ unilateral judicial rewrite of the state’s election laws, making an end run around the state legislature. Justice Clarence Thomas blasted his colleagues’ decision to pass on the case: “The decision to leave election law hidden beneath a shroud of doubt is baffling.” And why wouldn’t SCOTUS weigh in now, when we’re free and clear of any pending election? Now is the time to address this, not the 11th hour before an election. Moreover, as Thomas noted, “Changing the rules in the middle of the game is bad enough. Such rule changes by officials who may lack authority to do so is even worse.”

SCOTUS has, however, decided to hear another election case, Brnovich v. DNC. At issue are Arizona’s requirements that voters who cast their ballot on election day must do so in their assigned precinct and the state’s prohibition against ballot harvesting. (Both are common state laws.) Democrats have dubiously argued that Arizona’s laws violate the Voting Rights Act by creating a standard that infringes on minorities’ right to vote. A federal judge has ruled there is no evidence to support the Democrats’ claims, a decision that a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel agreed with but was then overruled by the full court.

It appears likely that SCOTUS will find in Arizona’s favor by ruling that the Ninth Circuit was in error in overturning the decision, though as narrow rulings are the wont of Chief Justice John Roberts, it’s probable that the Court will avoid ruling on the merits of Arizona’s election laws, or to truly clarify the Voting Rights Act. If they take the narrow path, the justices will only be kicking the proverbial can down the road. Repairing the gaping holes caused by Democrats and lower courts in the nation’s election integrity will remain left undone. A fair election system should matter to all parties, but clearly for Democrats, the only concern is working to establish a system that ensures their victory.




Friday, March 05, 2021

Early signs COVID-19 vaccine jab ‘clobbers’ more transmissible variants

British researchers say there is growing evidence that the full two courses of existing vaccines will “clobber” the more transmissible strains of COVID-19 — a development that could help unlock international travel and help relieve millions of people from lockdowns.

The emergence of strains in countries with major coronavirus outbreaks, including Britain, Brazil and South Africa, have led to further international travel restrictions and measures. Governments have feared the strains would be resistant to the vaccines that were designed before their discovery.

This week the Australian government extended the international border closure by another three months, citing the more transmissible strains that had emerged overseas.

Britain has also introduced hotel quarantine for travellers from countries where the strains are prevalent and stopped recreational international travel.

Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London and principal investigator with Britain’s ZOE COVID Symptom study – where millions of Britons log their symptoms and vaccine side effects – told an online webinar that early fears about the variants’ resistance to vaccines might prove to be unfounded.

“There’s been some more reassuring data showing that once you’ve had the second dose, it really clobbers all the variants; we just need time to show that,” Spector said.

Ellie Barnes, a professor in hepatology and experimental medicine at Oxford University and member of the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium, said there was data showing the jab worked well against the South African variant, but only after the second dose.

“We’ve got Oxford data which basically shows that after one dose your antibody titre [concentration] is not so high – it’s high but it’s not super high – and that is not enough to neutralise the South African [variant],” Barnes said.

“After you give the second dose you get really robust neutralisation of the South African variant, so I think we can be reassured of that.

“And even after a single dose the data from these vaccines in South Africa itself shows a single dose prevents you from hospitalisation and severe infection. “But you do need the second dose to get fully protected.”

Barnes said the same outcome was likely against the Brazilian variant, which is similar to the strain that emerged in South Africa. She said the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines would be specifically designed to counteract the South African variant and said she was not sure that annual vaccines would be required, as has been previously touted.

“There’s only so many mutations a virus can make before it’s no longer able to infect cells; it’s unlikely to go on indefinitely,” she said. “SARS-CoV-2 is not the same as influenza. I’m not sure we’ll need vaccines every year; we’ll see, time will tell.”

Barnes said there was emerging data to support anecdotal reports of people who had previously had COVID-19 experiencing stronger side effects to the vaccine.

She said this was because the body’s T-cells were activated by the COVID-19 infection and their memory was able to respond “very rapidly” to vaccination.

“So if you’ve been infected before and then you get a first dose of vaccine, you have a really excellent response to that single dose comparable to someone that wasn’t infected before and was on their second dose - that’s the data that’s just coming out in pre-prints,” she said.

She said it was for this reason that it is recommended people wait one month after being infected with COVID-19 to receive their vaccine.


Are Liberals Really More Egalitarian?

Recent studies find conservatives treat others more equally than liberals

Recent experiments reveal that in some cases it is liberals who tend to treat information and people more unequally on the basis of sex, race, and group status.

In a set of studies, liberals wished to censor written passages that portrayed low-status groups unfavorably more than identical passages that portrayed high-status groups unfavorably, whereas conservatives treated the passages more comparably.

This does not necessarily mean that liberals are not egalitarian. It might be that liberals prioritize equality of outcomes and view unequal treatment (at least for a time) as a means of attaining equal outcomes.

On personality measures, liberals are more egalitarian than conservatives. This preference for equality is often measured with the Social Dominance Orientation Scale, which contains items about both equality of treatment (e.g., “We would have fewer problems if we treated people more equally”) and equality of outcomes (e.g., “We should strive to make incomes as equal as possible”).

However, sometimes personality scales do not map onto behavior in expected ways. For example, despite the fact that conservatives score higher in epistemic needs for certainty, they appear to be no more politically biased than liberals (i.e., no more likely to evaluate politically congenial information more favorably than otherwise identical politically uncongenial information). A paper forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science replicated this “symmetrical bias” pattern in two nationally representative studies, finding that epistemic needs for certainty actually did not predict political bias.

So, consistent with liberals’ self-reported support for equality, do they treat people and groups more equally than conservatives? Several recent studies over the past few years cast doubt on this proposition.

Scholars test for unequal treatment (sometimes also called bias) by presenting participants with identical or very similar stimuli (for example, a scientific finding, a resume) and manipulating whom or which group that piece of information is about (for example, a scientific finding about men or women, a resume for a Black or a White job applicant), and then having participants evaluate the piece of information. To the extent that people treat the stimuli differently in the different sex or race conditions, this is considered unequal treatment or a bias. If people rated a male candidate as more qualified for a job than a female candidate with the exact same resume, this would be considered an unequal treatment or bias in favor of men (or against women).

Recent experiments and quasi-experiments of this kind suggest that, at least sometimes, it is liberals who tend to treat information and people more unequally on the basis of sex, race, and group status.

Evaluations that favor or disfavor some groups

For example, two sets of studies by two different research teams found that participants evaluated science on sex differences more favorably when women were portrayed more favorably than men (as better drawers and less prone to lying and as more intelligent) than when men were portrayed more favorably than women. In both of these sets of studies, these tendencies were stronger as participants were more politically liberal.

Similarly, in a more naturalistic study on Twitter, liberals were more likely to amplify the successes of female and Black athletes than male and White athletes, whereas conservatives treated the successes of groups more similarly.

In another set of studies, White liberals presented less self-competence to Black than White interaction partners, whereas White conservatives treated Black and White interaction partners more similarly. And in another set, liberals had stronger desires to censor passages that portrayed low-status groups unfavorably than identical passages that portrayed high-status groups unfavorably, whereas conservatives treated the passages more comparably.

Other teams of researchers have found similar patterns in other domains. For example, people had more generous acceptance criteria for admitting Black than White candidates to an honor society, and this tendency was stronger among liberals. Whereas those high in social dominance orientation favored a White over a Black job applicant, the reverse tendency to favor a Black over a White job applicant was stronger among those low in social dominance orientation.

And whereas those high on system justification (correlated with more conservative ideology) found jokes that target low-status and high-status groups similarly funny, those low on system justification (liberals) found jokes that target low-status groups less funny than those that target high-status groups.

Limitations and a word about future research

These findings are far from a comprehensive overview of the literature on these kinds of studies. In order to draw any conclusions that one group (liberals or conservatives) treats groups and people more equally in general, one would need to conduct a thorough meta-analysis (if anybody wants to conduct a meta-analysis, perhaps as part of an adversarial collaboration, do let me know). Moreover, it seems quite possible that preferences for equality of treatment and equality of outcomes in relation to political ideology have changed over the past couple of decades and may continue to change in the future, and so one would have to take time into account as well.

However, these results may suggest that we cannot assume that liberals, being more egalitarian than conservatives, treat individuals and groups more equally. They might not.

This does not necessarily mean that liberals are not the egalitarians they claim to be. It might be that liberals—first and foremost—prioritize equality of outcomes and view unequal treatment (at least for a time) as a means of attaining equal outcomes.

But likewise, that conservatives are more tolerant of inequality of outcomes does not necessarily mean conservatives oppose equality. It might be that conservatives—first and foremost—prioritize equality of treatment and view unequal outcomes (at least for a time) as an unfortunate side effect.

None of this research can adjudicate which of these positions (if either) is more empirically or morally justified. But it may lead one to wonder whether the relationships between ideology and egalitarianism are more complicated than certain mainstream narratives suggest.



Pentagon: One militia member killed, two injured in Syria airstrike (UPI)

We're shocked — shocked! Iran rejects Biden offer to discuss new nuclear deal (Disrn)

California lawmakers reach agreement to return schools to in-person learning (UPI)

Minneapolis prepares for unrest during Derek Chauvin trial next week (Examiner)

Virginia to become 16th state to legalize marijuana (Daily Caller)

Andrew Cuomo backers reevaluate fundraising amid sexual harassment probe (CNBC)

Conservative United Methodists detail breakaway plan (World)

Golden Globes suffer ratings nightmare (Disrn)

Biden State Department nominee Victoria Nuland is a defender of Chinese propaganda (Free Beacon)

Twenty-three embarrassing Andrew Cuomo takes that just didn't age well (Disrn)

Base with U.S. troops in Iraq attacked with rockets after being targeted by Iran (Jerusalem Post)

ICE conducting human smuggling investigation after California crash that killed more than a dozen (Fox News)

ICE locks Twitter account that alerted public of illegal immigrants freed by sanctuary cities (Washington Times)

Treasury Department sanctions Russian officials in response to the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny (

Home prices surged by 10% in January, the largest annualized jump since 2013 (Forbes)

Prices at the pump are going up thanks to Texas's epic cold snap (Examiner)

Governor Cuomo to be stripped of pandemic emergency powers in legislative deal (NBC New York)

Poll finds more Americans concerned about Black Lives Matter riots (55%) than Capitol riot (45%) despite the Leftmedia's ignoring the former and obsession with the latter (Disrn)

Earth's green vegetation has increased 10% since 2000 (Disrn)

Skipping mammograms raises odds for breast cancer death in women (HealthDay News)

Policy: Bringing back pork would be a disaster (National Review)

Woke Mob Believes CPAC Stage Is Nazi Symbolism — The Leftmedia pushes the conspiracy theory by claiming it resembles a symbol used by the SS.

We Are All Essential — Mike Rowe tells John Stossel that COVID rules had a huge unintended consequence: They crushed work, sapping meaning from many people's lives.




Thursday, March 04, 2021

'NINETY PER CENT of Germany's severe Covid-19 patients have migrant background and more than half are Muslim' despite making up 4.8% of the population

More than 90 per cent of severely ill coronavirus patients in Germany have a 'migrant background', a leading doctor has said, prompting claims that the government is turning a blind eye to the issue to avoid igniting a race row.

Thomas Voshaar, the head doctor at a German lung hospital, said a survey of leading medics had found that many of the sickest patients were what he described as 'patients with communications barriers'.

In a conference call of health experts, reported by Bild, Voshaar said he had raised the issue with Angela Merkel's health minister Jens Spahn - while the head of Germany's top diseases institute, Lothar Wieler, described it as a 'taboo'.

Wieler added that the number of Muslims in intensive care was 'clearly above 50 per cent' even though they make up only around five per cent of Germany's 83million population.

Voshaar told the February 14 conference call that government warnings about the dangers of the virus were 'simply not getting through' to migrant communities.

He said top doctors had compiled figures from intensive care wards in November and December 2020 and January 2021, the peak months of the second wave.

'According to my analysis, more than 90 per cent of the intubated, most seriously ill patients always had a migrant background,' he said. 'We agreed among ourselves that we should describe these people as 'patients with communications barriers'. We don't seem to be getting through to them.'

Wieler, the RKI chief, called for authorities to engage with imams to get through to Muslim communities, calling the issue a 'taboo' and a 'real problem'. 'There are parallel societies in our country. You can only put that right with proper outreach work in the mosques, but we're not getting through. And that sucks,' he said.

Wieler said the proportion of Muslims in intensive care wards was 'clearly above 50 per cent', even though they make up only around 4.8 per cent of the population.

Asked by Bild about the conference call, Wieler did not deny what was said but described it as a 'private, informal exchange' rather than conclusive findings.

Voshaar said that everyone he had spoken to about his findings, including health minister Spahn, had reacted with a sense of 'oh God'.

But Merkel is not thought to have discussed the issue in her regular meetings with state premiers.

Experts on the conference call are said to have raised fears that the German government was avoiding confronting the issue for fear of triggering a racism debate.

Migrants and integration are a sensitive political issue in Germany, which unilaterally took in more than a million refugees from war-torn Syria in 2015. That spurred the growth of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which surged into parliament in 2017 and severely weakened Merkel's authority.

One politician in Merkel's party acknowledged that there might be 'language barriers' but said the dangers should be clear by now regardless of background.

Minority groups have been hardest-hit in many countries, including in the UK where studies have shown a higher mortality rate among black and Asian people.

But Germany's RKI has published no official figures on infection or death rates among different ethnic groups.

The new revelations are the latest blow to Merkel's government which is already facing criticism over the slow vaccine roll-out and long-running lockdown.

Meanwhile, Merkel wants to start easing virus curbs from next week with surveys suggesting Germans are losing patience with the lockdown. 'We're coming out of a long lockdown and must now proceed step by step,' Merkel said in a video call with MPs from her conservative bloc.


Could a vaccine against South African 'super-Covid' prevent ALL forms?

Scientists have found a potential silver lining to the worrisome South African coronavirus variant: antibodies developed to it may protect against other variants.

Lab tests by Africa Health Research Institute scientists suggests that antibodies triggered by exposure to the country's dominant coronavirus variant can prevent infection by other variants, the scientists said on Wednesday.

The opposite is true of people infected with other variants. The immunity someone gains from prior infection with earlier forms of the virus or even the UK's B117 variant is less protective against South Africa's B1351 variant.

And the discovery that antibodies to B1351 may offer broader immunity suggests that making vaccines that trigger these immune cells could mean a vaccine for that variant may protect against all of the currently circulating forms.

Better yet: Moderna announced Wednesday that it has shipped enough supplies to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for trials of its booster shot designed specifically to combat B1351 to begin.

If infection rates can be kept low enough to close the window of opportunity for new variants to arise, Moderna's booster vaccine and others designed to block B1351 could have a good shot at ending the pandemic.

The clinical trial has not yet begun, but will include both participants who got two doses of Moderna's original vaccine in the earlier trial and participants who have never had the vaccine or COVID-19.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Wednesday that it could have booster doses ready later this year. 'We look forward to beginning the clinical study of our variant booster and are grateful for the NIH’s continued collaboration to combat this pandemic,' Bancel said in a statement.

'As we seek to defeat COVID-19, we must be vigilant and proactive as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge. Leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are moving quickly to test updates to the vaccines that address emerging variants of the virus in the clinic.

'Moderna is committed to making as many updates to our vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control. We hope to demonstrate that booster doses, if necessary, can be done at lower dose levels, which will allow us to provide many more doses to the global community in late 2021 and 2022 if necessary.'

Although the UK's B117 variant is certainly spreading more quickly than other variants, the SOuth African form has much more concerning mutations.

In addition to be an estimated 50 percent more infectious, changes in its spike protein - the portion of the virus that allows it to infect human cells - make the variant less 'visible' to antibodies developed based on other forms.

The variant doesn't totally nullify the effects of current vaccines - which were designed based on the genetic makeup of earlier circulating forms of the virus - but they do weaken it.

Potency was reduced by about five-fold in the lab for Moderna's original shot, and by about two fold for Pfizer's vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson's one-shot reduced infection risks by 64 percent in South Africa, where the variant is dominant, compared to 72 percent in the US, where there are only 65 confirmed cases, according to the CDC.

But all three companies are now working on booster shots, with Moderna's leading the pack as it takes a step closer to clinical trials.

The findings in the South African laboratory studies offer hope that COVID-19 vaccines based on the 501Y.V2 variant first identified late last year could protect against multiple variants circulating in different parts of the world.

The more contagious variant drove a second wave of infections in South Africa that peaked in January and is believed to have spread to many other countries in Africa and other continents.

'We used plasma...from people that were infected in this latest wave with the 501Y.V2' - another alphanumeric name for the variant that emerged in South Africa - 'and we used it against the first-wave virus...what we found is that it could neutralize, OK not as well as it could neutralize itself but it's not bad at all,' Alex Sigal from the Africa Health Research Institute told a news conference.

Sigal said vaccines designed with the 501Y.V2 variant in mind 'might be cross-protective to other variants...this gives you some idea how this problem of variants can be solved.'

Penny Moore, a professor at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said the antibody response from the 501Y.V2 variant was only reduced threefold against the first-wave virus, whereas the response from the first-wave virus was reduced nine-fold against 501Y.V2.

'It's not that the antibodies that are triggered by 501Y.V2 are somehow magical, there is a drop-off, ... but unlike the antibodies triggered by the original variant they seem to somehow have a little bit more breadth,' she told the same briefing.

Salim Abdool Karim, a top government adviser on COVID-19, noted that major vaccine manufacturers including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson were already making vaccines based on the 501Y.V2 variant.

Moderna had already adapted its shot and was putting it into human studies, he added.

He predicted that by the end of 2021 most vaccine manufacturers would have adapted their shots, 'not because they are specifically worrying about the virus coming from South Africa... but because key mutations in the 501Y.V2 are actually also present in many other variants.'

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the research was encouraging and that genomics surveillance had helped the government respond to the pandemic.

South Africa has recorded by far the most COVID-19 infections and deaths on the African continent, at 1.5 million cases and over 50,000 fatalities to date.


The real president who is running things instead of Biden!

This is not a conspiracy theory. It is a reasonable deduction

When you really think about it, would you let a seventy-eight-year-old man run the country? Nah, they couldn’t be that stupid.
Or…could they? Anyway, what seems to be happening now is that Joe Biden is being sent out to make the speeches and do the smiling and the waving. Just because someone has the title doesn’t mean they are the one in charge. Anyone that has ever seen an officer in the military get chewed out privately by an upper enlisted person knows that’s the case

The fact of the matter is, they are going to try and insulate Joe Biden as much as humanly possible.

Former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice has been tapped to lead the White House Domestic Policy Council in the Biden administration, but former acting DNI Ric Grenell believes she could be in control of a lot more.

“I think you need to watch Susan Rice very closely,” he said on “Sunday Morning Futures.” “She will be the shadow president.”

Susan Rice, known for launching regime change war in Libya, trying and failing to launch regime change war in Syria, and blaming Benghazi on a YouTube video has returned to the White House briefing room— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 26, 2021

Grenell called Biden’s pick “interesting” considering Rice has no experience in domestic policy but nonetheless will be “incredibly influential” under the new administration.

Having served in the Obama administration as a national security adviser, Rice already understands the “entire apparatus,” Grenell said.

“I think the reality is, she’s going to be running foreign policy, domestic policy,” he said. “She’s probably extremely happy that Kamala Harris is going to be preoccupied with the Senate… and won’t have a lot of time to get into policy issues.”

Wow, Biden Policy Advisor Susan Rice, who never fully answered why she was unmasking Americans and evaded the truth in multiple interviews about Benghazi is now going to discuss a top priority for Biden Admin, Racial equity (equality)— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) January 26, 2021

Grenell theorized that the Democrats elected Biden because he could be swayed.

“We saw him raise his hand during the Democratic primary for some really radical ideas,” he said. “The progressives have clearly taken over him… And Susan Rice being right there at the White House to be the shadow president is probably exactly where she wants to be.”




Wednesday, March 03, 2021

French doctors slam 'AstraZeneca bashing' as France enacts U-turn on jabs for over-65s

French doctors have blamed deep domestic scepticism of AstraZeneca on the “bad press” it has received, including criticism from Emmanuel Macron that it was “quasi-ineffective” for the elderly.

The indirect criticism of the French president, who was forced to say he would take the jab if necessary last week, came as Gallic health regulators said they would make the jab available for the over 65s.

Mr Macron fanned Gallic scepticism over the jab developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University in January hours before it received a green light from the European Medecines Agency by saying: “Everything points to thinking it is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older."

Since then, French reports of flu-like side-effects among dozens of health workers further tainted its image.

That contributed to a dearth of demand in France, where only 24 per cent of AstraZeneca stocks have been used, according to the health ministry.

That is well below a target set at 80-85 per cent and compares with 82 per cent for vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and 37 per cent for those made by Moderna.

"It is true that we are facing issues with AstraZeneca vaccines," said a health ministry official.

The scepticism prompted Jacques Battistoni, head of the MG France doctors' union to denounce the widespread "AstraZeneca bashing" that was causing many vials to go unused.

France’s vaccination coordinator, Alain Fischer, has also complained that the "bad press" surrounding the shot was "deeply unfair".

All vaccines combined, France has only injected three million people with a first dose and 1.6 million a second to date. The UK has given at least one dose to more than 21 million people. However, France has administered two injections to roughly twice as many citizens - preferring initially to target only the over 75s and health workers.

However, after talking down the AstraZeneca jab, the country has now abruptly changed its tune, with Mr Macron urging people to take it.

"If this is the vaccine I'm offered, obviously I would take it," he said after a European Council meeting on Friday.

On Monday, French health minister Olivier Veron said that the vaccine would now be made available to those between 65-75 with serious health risks.

The French U-turn came after the release of a recent study published in Scotland that showed the AstraZeneca shot lowered the chance of being hospitalised for four to six weeks by 94 per cent after one shot and was effective in older people.

The World Heath Organisation has also recommended the jab for over-65s.

In light of this, the French health minister said: “The higher health council now considers as of today that all three vaccines that we have in France have a remarkable efficacy to protect people against the risk of severe forms of Covid-19."

“As a result, I can announce that from now on people aged 50 and above who have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a history of cancer can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, including those aged 65 to 74.”

The previous advice had been for the UK-Swedish company’s vaccine to be given only to people aged 50 to 64 with comorbidities and to healthcare workers. Those over 75 will continue to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, he added.

It remains unclear whether France will also eat humble pie over previous criticism of the UK's decision to space out jabs.

Last month, France's Europe minister Clément Beaune slammed the practice, saying: "I don't think our public would accept that we take all those risks against the advice of our scientists."

However, the country's top health body now says there is sufficient evidence to space out AstraZeneca jabs by up to 12 weeks. The health ministry has not said whether it would heed the advice.

The French government has come under fierce criticism in recent weeks for a sluggish and inefficient vaccination rollout. Authorities are also battling the highest vaccine scepticism in the Western world. Around half of health workers in French care homes do not want to get a jab.

There are fears the country, which has a blanket 6pm to 6am curfew, may have to impose lockdowns in at least 20 departments in the coming days due to rising infection rates. Authorities are “seriously considering” weekend lockdowns in the Paris region.

On Monday, the daily death toll was 379 and 3,544 Covid patient were in intensive care with 25,430 people hospitalised. The incidence rate in the Paris area is now 322 per 100,000.

Schools remain open and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday suggested that classes should take place outside in city squares and parks where possible - an idea the education ministry and unions said could be possible.

Mr Macron on Monday told the French to “hold tight for another four to six weeks”. On Tuesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal insisted there was “light at the end of the tunnel with vaccination”, adding that this would be accelerated as pharmacies were to authorised to give people jabs.

The French change of tune on AstraZeneca came as Belgium's health council advised authorities to lift a ban on the vaccine for the over 55s on Tuesday. Belgium had previously ruled out authorising the jab for the over 55s, blaming a lack of clinical data.

In Canada, the vaccine was authorised for people who are 18 and older by drug regulator on Friday but the regulator noted that available clinical trial data was too limited to reliably estimate how well the vaccine worked in people 65 and older.

But it also said "emerging real world evidence" in places that had already started using the vaccine suggested a potential benefit and no safety concerns.

Germany is under pressure to change its vaccination strategy after the country's top vaccine regulator acknowledged that advice against giving the AstraZeneca jab to over 65s had been flawed.


Democrats Manufacture Racism

If you wanted to tear apart a country, really have the people hate each other, the playbook Democrats are following would be the way to do it. Take something irrelevant, but over which people can do nothing, and build it up into everything. Convince people others are out to get them, thereby absolving them of any responsibility for problems in their life, and they will eventually give up. Convince others they are perpetrators of something horrible, which only works with those out of real problems, and you have the makings of Nazi-esque powers of manipulation. This is what Democrats are doing with race, and it can no longer simply be laughed off. It must be actively confronted and exposed.

The tip of the spear in this mental race-war movement on the left are Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, with their personal Mein Kampfs, “How to Be an Anti-Racist” and “White Fragility.” The basic premise of each book is white people are racists and everyone else is a victim. The only way for a white person to not be a racist is to self-flagellate on the altar of progressive politics while cutting a big check to whichever of these grievance grifters happens to be collecting a big payday from the nearest school that day.

It’s a hell of a racket. Who knew there were literally millions to be made in telling rich white liberals their skin is the root of all problems in the world? I wish I had thought of it. If I had known wealthy suburbanites led lives so devoid of meaning that they’d turned to mental masochism, I would’ve happily told them how awful they are and for half the price. They disgust me, but it never occurred to me to rip them off.

Now an entire industry of phony race-grievance exists, and it’s motivating damn near everything the Democratic Party does.

We now have the Cartoon Network running public service announcements telling children to “see color” when it comes to people. In a little less than 60 years we’ve gone from Martin Luther King changing the world with the words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” to a cartoon character telling kids, “My experience with anti-black racism is really specific. Other people of color experience other forms of racism, too. But you won't see any of that if you 'don't see color.’”

You could light the eastern seaboard by plugging MLK’s grave into the power grid, he’s turning over in it so fast.

Professional grievance has power over stupid people now, and everyone is excited to play.

Someone with the title “principal chief of the Cherokee Nation” asked Jeep to discontinue using the name “Jeep Grand Cherokee” because why not? The Redskins are now “the Washington football team,” and college newspapers happily run opinion pieces on fears of how “Mid-Semester Residential Experience could enforce settler colonialism.”

The last in that list, which comes from American University, laments “The large influx of predominantly affluent white students into D.C.’s ‘chocolate city,’ a term that refers to its large population of Black citizens, could evoke similar effects of settler colonialism and negatively impact the community.” A conservative speaking at an event in the same zip code as AU would cause a student riot and condemnation from the school’s administrators and faculty, but not straight-up racism, like complaining white students who return to campus early are probably going to get black people sick and “are likely not planning to give back to the communities that they reside in and will buy out stock at stores and malls, making the resources in those communities limited.”

Switch the races and it’s something the KKK could’ve written. Given the environment the left has created in this country, the student who wrote it will now be faced with a “Sophie’s choice” between a show on MSNBC and s Cabinet post in the Biden administration.

This racism as anti-racism can only exist as long as people keep funding it. DiAngelo has a new book coming out that promises to keep the gravy train rolling for her and the industry. Called “Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm,” because no one will ever be “woke” enough. The description says “Dismantling white supremacy requires white people to commit to a lifetime of education and accountability.”

Keep sending those checks, left-wing suckers, but leave the rest of us the hell out of it. Stop playing along, and stop being silent. They can’t cancel all of us, but we have to cancel them. Starving the beast is the only way to kill it. Don’t buy their books, don’t watch their networks, don’t patronize their sponsors (both those that advertise on their shows and the companies that cut them checks). It’s gonna suck, but not buying Coca-Cola is a small price to pay for refusing to subsidize a company that tells its employees to “try to be less white.” And don’t be silent, no matter what they scream back at you.

In their pursuit of manufacturing racism out of thin air for control over people, Democrats are exposing themselves as the racists they’ve always been. Let them. Just refuse to participate in it with them. Let them choke on it. They deserve nothing better.



Federal judge says national ban against COVID-19-related evictions illegal (UPI)

FBI pinpoints a single suspect in the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick (Business Insider)

Federal officials charge more than 300 in Capitol riot (NBC)

Saudi Crown Prince Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. intelligence report concludes (Forbes)

Nancy Pelosi's domicile to pull a staggering $120 million from police budget to give to black communities (Disrn)

"San Francisco has seen a sharp rise in violent crime over the past year, with homicides alone rising 35%. Homelessness and drug use has also risen to historic levels."

SCOTUS rules Santa Clara County churches may open indoor services (Disrn)

"Anti-ICE" rioters smash windows, force businesses to board up in Portland (Daily Wire)

Campus police release video proving University of Minnesota student lied about being profiled, harassed (Disrn)

Here's a HuffPo article encouraging parents to support "sex-change" surgeries for their children next to another discouraging people from neutering their dog (Not the Bee)

Judge rules Miss United States of America pageant can exclude men (Disrn)

Dezinformatsiya: NBC rushes to explain why crimes against Asians aren't always hate crimes (Hot Air)

White House shifts thinking on Beijing Winter Olympics boycott as pressure mounts over Uyghur genocide (Examiner)

House Republicans push compromise bill aimed at codifying LGBT "rights" and religious protections (Free Beacon)

Personal income (10%) and spending (2.4%) soared in January (CNBC)

Policy: Joe Biden's Syria airstrike hit the wrong target (1945)

Policy: Rare earth elements aren't that rare, but they're vital to national security (Heritage Foundation)




Tuesday, March 02, 2021

COVID vaccine: ‘Extremely good news’ about Oxford/AstraZeneca jab

The AstraZeneca jab offers even stronger protection than first known, new data shows

Just one shot of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can cut hospital admissions of older people by 80 per cent, new data shows.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the finding and also revealed the jab may offer better protection against COVID-19 than first thought.

The Public Health England figures compared people who received the first dose of the vaccine with others of a similar age who were yet to receive protection.

Mr Hancock said the data was “extremely good news”.

“A single shot of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine or of the Pfizer vaccine works against severe infection among the over-70s with a more than 80 per cent reduction in hospitalisations," he said in a public address to the nation.

“In fact, the detailed data show that the protection that you get from catching COVID 35 days after a first jab is even slightly better for the Oxford jab than for Pfizer, albeit both results are clearly very strong.”


Game-changing COVID-19 vaccine pill pursued by small British firm

In the global scramble to discover a COVID-19 vaccine, did governments overlook an option almost too good to be true? Wayne Channon thinks so, and is out to prove it.

“If we can make vaccines which are thermally stable and taken orally, that could be transformational,” Channon says. “It will require a mindset change. And the benefits are not trivial.”

IosBio, the British biotechnology firm Channon chairs, has for years tried to convince pharmaceutical giants of the benefits of turning temperature-sensitive liquid vaccines into much more stable pills.

“We thought it would be a walk in the park to persuade them to reformulate their vaccines but it turned out to be very naive,” he says.

“For big pharma, getting something into the cold chain [a temperature-controlled supply chain] is considered a success for them. They don’t own the cold chain so there’s no economic imperative to change.”

However the coronavirus pandemic may finally herald the arrival of oral vaccines; iosBio’s technology was given to humans for the first time during trials in California on Monday and the team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab has also started exploring whether it could eventually be taken as a pill.

Tablets or nasal sprays could provide a more targeted immune response, overcome the need for storage and transportation at freezing temperatures, be handed out much faster, help people who are afraid of needles and, according to Channon, even be sent in the post as a booster shot.

“For the next pandemic, the world is going to be a different place,” he says. “We will have some new technology and I think oral vaccines are going to be at the forefront of that.”

IosBio gave up on trying to convince pharmaceutical companies and in 2016 started developing vaccines itself. However the firm was overlooked for funding by the UK’s vaccine taskforce during last year’s race to find candidates.

Several months later a phone call from billionaire doctor, businessman and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong opened the door to a potential breakthrough. Soon-Shiong - the world’s richest doctor who Forbes estimates is worth $10 billion - had woken up at 3am with a realisation that inoculating the world would be easier through an oral vaccine and tracked down iosBio.

The pills are engineered to withstand temperatures of up to 50 degrees, allowing them to pass through the stomach without loss of efficacy before they are released in the intestines where immune cells are concentrated.

The British outfit licensed its thermal stabilisation technology to ImmunityBio in exchange for royalties on worldwide sales of an approved oral vaccine. The deal opened up the tens of millions of dollars in funding needed to launch clinical trials.

Sixty-five people in California will take part in the phase one trial launched on Monday. Phase two and three trials will be expanded to thousands more. Oral vaccines have already proven highly effective on monkeys under trials funded by the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Channon added.

“We want to be the universal booster, just because of the simplicity of giving it, simplicity of distributing it and the fact it’s going to have probably a more profound impact,” Channon says. “Even if it’s not this year, it could be next year.”

Channon says distributing the pill via post was an option but agreed governments might want more oversight on the actual uptake by public.

“That’s the debate we’ve got to have with the regulator. I think there is a good argument that if you are sent a vaccine there is at least as much chance of you taking it is as you having a needle in the arm. so I think you’d say lets be pragmatic about this.

“If the worst thing is you have to go to your doctor and pick it up and put it in your mouth and say I’ve taken it, it’s still going to be a lot more efficient [than traditional vaccines].”

The phase one trial will end in two months.


NY Bars and Restaurants Win Court Victory Against Cuomo's COVID Curfew

Late last year, blue state governors began enforcing an utterly nonsensical policy ostensibly to fight COVID-19. Govs. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) insisted on curfews for bars and restaurants, preventing them from staying open for lucrative late-shifts without explaining how this business-throttling move would fight the pandemic.

On Saturday, a New York State Supreme Court justice granted a preliminary injunction allowing 90 bars and restaurants to remain open until their regular closing time of 4 a.m. Cuomo had ordered a 10 p.m. curfew in November. Last month, he extended the curfew to 11 p.m. The bars and restaurants sued, demanding the scientific data upon which Cuomo based the curfew.

Steve Cohen, the HoganWilling PLLC attorney representing the bars and restaurants, argued that science did not support the curfew. Cohen said his firm has 13 lawsuits already and is welcoming more industries to come on board.

Donald Swartz, owner of Veneto Wood Fired Pizza and Pasta in Rochester, N.Y., told Fox & Friends that the legal effort began with 10 different restaurants, mostly in the Buffalo area, but grew to nearly 100 different small business owners.

“Months ago we were being redlined where the city of Rochester could not serve indoor dining, but you can go over to the suburbs and you can sit down so it was quite difficult to operate under those conditions,” Swartz recalled. “The law office went to battle for us and got that removed.”

The business owner said he is “really hoping that everybody can get back to — as close as we can — to full dining and we can get our employees — get our staff — back to work. That’s really what we want to do.”

“Let us do what we do best, get back to work, provide a service, provide jobs and provide some taxes back to the state, which [has] got to be much needed at this point,” Swartz added.

While the legacy media long celebrated Cuomo as a heroic warrior against COVID-19, a long train of recent scandals involving the governor’s nursing home orders and sexual assault allegations have eviscerated his political future.

The very idea of a curfew to fight COVID-19 never made much sense. The virus does not suddenly become more likely to spread after 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., but limiting the hours of restaurants and bars does severely cut into their revenues. Cuomo, in particular, appeared to target small businesses that dared to mock his lockdown restrictions with satirical menus. While this petty vindictiveness should be beneath the dignity of a governor, fellow Democrats and alleged victims of sexual assault have come forward with claims that Cuomo personally threatened them, suggesting that this vindictiveness is not outside of the governor’s character.

Yes, this is the same Andrew Cuomo who won an Emmy and who penned a book about his exploits in fighting COVID-19.


Britain's "national Health Service at work

A bureaucracy that kills

A university student has died from sepsis after trying 25 times to get through to a GP surgery only to be refused an appointment, an inquest heard.

Toby Hudson, 19, was unable to speak to anyone at the practice, in Weymouth, Dorset, because of a faulty phone system, so gave up and tried again the next day.

When he did get through to a member of staff he was told he could not have an appointment for at least 48 hours.

The teenager was told that due to him being registered at another surgery in his university town of Southampton, Hants, he could either wait two days to re-register or go to an urgent care walk-in centre.

He attended the centre and was seen by nurse practitioner Briony Jefferis, who wrongly diagnosed him with tonsillitis and gave him antibiotics.

Over the next 24 hours Mr Hudson‘s condition deteriorated in front of his parents who called 999 when he slipped into unconsciousness.

He went into cardiac arrest but was delayed in getting to hospital because an ambulance went to the wrong location.

Toby died on the night of July 4, 2019, two days after he had first sought help at the Wyke Regis & Lanehouse Medical Practice in Weymouth, Dorset.

A post mortem examination showed he died from multiple organ failure due to sepsis, due to infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever).

An inquest into his death in Bournemouth heard Mr Hudson had previously been a patient at the Weymouth practice.

However, when he moved to Southampton to study chemistry at university he registered at a new clinic closer to campus.

He had been suffering from a cough for around two months before he returned to his family home in Weymouth in the summer of 2019.

It was heard that Toby was suffering from swollen glands and ‘puffy’ tonsils and a sore throat when his parents told him to speak to a GP.

Giving evidence, Dr Matthew Brook, a partner at the Wake Regis & Lanehouse Medical Practice, admitted issues with the phone system due to a high patient load. Dr Brook said: “We were having tremendous problems with our phone system which could not handle a much higher number of calls. “We had updated the system but it was not working correctly.

“There was a queuing system but in a lot of cases people were waiting a long time and then hanging up.

“We have had a review since then and nobody recalled taking the call from Toby.”

Dr Brook insisted that the correct procedures had been followed. According to national guidelines, temporary residents should only be seen by a GP if they do not require urgent care.

He said: “With temporary residents, receptionists are told to ask whether a patient needs an urgent appointment, within 48 hours.

“If they do require one within 48 hours we refer them to the urgent care unit. “If not, the patient is re-registered and we are then able to make an appointment.”

Mrs Jefferis said she was “not remotely worried” about Toby‘s symptoms when she examined him at the urgent care centre in Weymouth Community Hospital.

She added that he “did not show any signs of sepsis” and that his symptoms were “consistent with those of tonsillitis.”

Mr Hudson‘s father, Peter, returned home on July 4 to find him looking pale and when he helped his son to the wet room of the house he briefly lost consciousness, so he called 999.

The teenager was then taken from his home address in Weymouth to the Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, but died later that evening.

Mr Hudson said: “I felt there was no urgency. I had to press for action to be taken and for our concerns to be heard.” He added: “We have a lot of concerns about his care.”




Monday, March 01, 2021

UK: Pfizer vaccine ‘dramatically reduces’ Covid transmission risk after one dose, study shows

A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine cuts the number of asymptomatic infections and could significantly reduce the risk of transmission, a new UK study suggests.

The findings from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge indicated 75-per-cent protection from Covid-19.

The results also point to a four-fold decrease in the risk of asymptomatic Covid infection among healthcare workers who have been vaccinated for more than 12 days – suggesting the first dose will significantly reduce the spread of the virus.

“Our findings show a dramatic reduction in the rate of positive screening tests among asymptomatic healthcare workers after a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” said Nick Jones, a Cambridge University Hospital specialist who co-led the study.

The UK has been rolling out Covid vaccinations since late December 2020, with both the Pfizer shot and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab given to people in high-risk categories.

As part of their study on the Pfizer vaccine, Cambridge researchers analysed results from thousands of Covid tests carried out each week as part of hospital screenings of healthcare staff.

Dr Mike Weekes, an infectious disease specialist at Cambridge University’s department of medicine, who co-led the study, hailed the findings as “great news”.

He said: “The Pfizer vaccine not only provides protection against becoming ill from SARS-CoV-2 but also helps prevent infection, reducing the potential for the virus to be passed on to others.”

After separating the test results from unvaccinated and vaccinated staff, the Cambridge team found that 0.8 per cent of tests from unvaccinated healthcare workers were positive.

This compared with 0.37 per cent of tests from staff less than 12 days after vaccination – when the vaccine’s protective effect is not yet been fully established – and 0.2 per cent of tests from staff at 12 days or more post-vaccination.

The study and its results have yet to be independently peer-reviewed by other scientists, but were published online as a preprint on Friday.

Independent scientists said the findings were very encouraging. Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said: “To see such a reduction in infection rates after a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is very impressive, and shows that vaccination truly does offer a way out of the current restrictions and a much brighter future.

“It will be important to understand whether the reduced risk of infection played out across all the exposure risk groups included in the study, but nonetheless, this is still excellent news.”

Dr Andrew Freedman, of the Cardiff University School of Medicine, said the latest study “demonstrates clearly the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing infection”. He added: “This means that vaccination will lead to a substantial reduction in transmission of the virus.”

Key real-world data published on Wednesday from Israel, which has conducted one of the world’s fastest rollouts of Pfizer’s vaccine, showed that two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic Covid-19 cases by 94 per cent across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.


How the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine is different from others

The United States now has a third regulator-approved coronavirus vaccine. The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) cleared the vaccine produced by medical giant Johnson & Johnson.

However, this vaccine is different from the others approved in the US. It has provided optimism that swathes of the world could be vaccinated from COVID-19 much quicker than first thought.

Johnson & Johnson has achieved something different to most other vaccine candidates — developed a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a person to receive two shots, 21 days apart. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine allows for a longer timeframe between the two shots.

Other vaccines which require two doses include Novavax, the Moderna vaccine, Russia's Sputnik V and China's Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.

However, Johnson and Johnson is not the only company to be developing a single-dose vaccine. The CanSino Biologics vaccine developed in China also has a single-dose shot.

The American company has shown results which have proven to be more effective than its Chinese counterpart.

The USFDA said Johnson & Johnson's vaccine offered strong protection against serious illness, hospitalisations and death.

One dose was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents.

Protection remained strong in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

Meanwhile, the Chinese single-shot vaccine falls well below that mark, according to initial data. CanSino Biologics said its vaccine was 68.83 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease two weeks after a single-dose vaccination, citing interim data, while the rate fell to 65.28 per cent four weeks after one shot.

However, reports from a trial of the vaccine in Pakistan, and other countries, showed promising results in preventing serious coronavirus infections.

Faisal Sultan, Pakistan's Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, said the CanSino Biologics shot was 90.98 per cent effective in preventing serious infections.

Unlike the Johnson & Johnson studies, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna research finished before the South African and British variants began widely spreading.

Along with being a single dose, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also has another big advantage — it can be kept in warmer temperatures.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, making it extremely difficult to transport and keep in storage.

The Moderna vaccine used in the US also needs to be stored below zero, at -20C.

However, the Johnson & Johnson jab can be stored in a regular fridge between 2-8C.

This puts the vaccine on par with other vaccines which can be stored at these temperatures, including the Sputnik V and the Oxford-AstraZeneca.

These advantages in transport and storage will make the vaccine potentially more accessible.

In the United States, Johnson & Johnson is aiming to distribute 20 million doses by the end of March, and 100 million by the middle of the year.


The Blue States Are Now the Beggar States

Last week, I visited South Florida for four days, and what a shock: Everything was open. The beaches, the hotels, the restaurants (with some sensible safety and social distancing restrictions). The classrooms are full.

The other strange thing about being in Florida was that people were happy. They were playing tennis and golf. They were going to work and getting on with their lives. Florida is a Republican, can-do kind of place.

Then, there is New York. Manhattan is a morose and deserted place to be. It's as if it's boarded up. People are living their lives afraid. They are depressed, which makes the whole place depressing. In Southern California, I experienced the same dreariness. And it wasn't the weather, which was warm and sunny. Restaurants were closed or highly restricted. Stores were sparsely attended, and people were generally grimacing and standoffish. They yelp in horror if you take off your mask, even for a moment.

Yet through it all, there is almost no evidence that lockdowns, business closures, stay-at-home orders and other strategies have reduced the infection rates or death rates from the virus. To take just one prominent example, open Florida has had a lower death rate (adjusted for the age distribution of the population) than closed-down California and New York. Even President Joe Biden's crackerjack health officials can't explain that one.

Fifty states experimented with responses to the virus, and the verdict is in: The big blue states got crushed. The highest unemployment states are Hawaii, Nevada, California, Colorado, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Connecticut. On average, the blue states have 2 percentage points lower unemployment, which means millions of more jobless citizens. Their revenues have collapsed with businesses closed down.

Why New Yorkers put up with walking disasters such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, or why Californians tolerate Gov. Gavin Newsom, is their own business.

The "progressives" in these states voted for higher taxes, more regulations, high energy prices and economic lockdowns. That's democracy in action. Now the latest census data and U-Haul trailer rental data confirm that productive people are "voting with their feet" and accelerating their race to get out of town. The New York Post reports about 1,000 Northeasterners every day are relocating to Florida, Texas and Tennessee. The biggest population losers last year were deep-blue New York, Illinois and California.

Now, Biden wants to give some $400 billion to the failed blue states, mainly from the prospering red states, the ones that wisely didn't shut down their economies or schools. The blue states get a bigger slice of the pie, which is Robin Hood in reverse because blue states generally have a higher per capita income than red states.

The supposedly high-brow, highly educated, culturally refined elites in Beverly Hills, California, and Long Island, New York -- the very same "progressives" who have generally thumbed their nose at the working class "deplorables" in Middle America -- have fallen so far that they now have to beg people in West Virginia, Arkansas and Mississippi for money.

You'd think liberals would be ashamed, but spending other people's money is what they do best.

Every liberal Democrat in Congress, from Sen. Elizabeth Warren to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will vote for the blue-state bailout. Do they understand that in doing so, they are verifying the collapse of the very blue-state liberal model they want to impose on all of America?



Student suspended from education program for factually saying, "A man is a man. A woman is a woman." (Daily Wire)

Thanks to dezinformatsiya, a sizable number of Americans erroneously think over 10,000 unarmed black men are killed by police each year (Not the Bee)

George Floyd riots estimated to cost 66 times more than Capitol damage (though only in DC dollars would the building damage be $30 million) (Federalist)

Forty percent of California's inmates have been vaccinated for COVID. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate for law-abiding Californians is just 6.5%. (Not the Bee)

As our Nate Jackson observes, former California Attorney General and president-in-waiting Kamala Harris was a "tough on crime" lady who threw tons of people in jail, yet inmates are now being vaccinated at an insanely fast rate.

Jen Psaki distances Biden from Andrew Cuomo, says sex harassment claim should be "reviewed" (Fox)

FDA greenlights Pfizer vaccine to be stored at normal freezer temperatures, instead of ultra-cold (Examiner)

Ex-Olympic gymnastics coach kills himself hours after being charged with sex crimes (WaPo)

Policy: Inflation: The next problem for the U.S. economy? (1945)

Policy: Standing up to the intolerant Equality Act (Daily Signal)




Sunday, February 28, 2021

FDA Panel Recommends Johnson & Johnson's One-Dose COVID Vaccine for Approval

More good news on the coronavirus front. A panel of FDA advisors voted unanimously on Friday to recommend the agency approve drugmaker Johnson & Johnson's one-dose coronavirus vaccine in the United States. Following the recommendation by the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, the FDA is expected to approve the vaccine for emergency use in the coming days.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine will be the third coronavirus vaccine to receive FDA approval, but the first vaccine requiring just one shot for vaccination. The drug showed a 66 percent effectiveness against moderate to severe COVID-19 infections and about an 85 percent effectiveness against the most serious illnesses. While two other FDA-approved vaccines have efficacy rates in the 90s, Johnson & Johnson's drug was shown to prevent 100 percent of hospitalizations in a clinical study of around 44,000 participants in the United States.

"This is a vaccine to prevent you from going to the hospital and dying at a level that’s certainly comparable" to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA's advisory panel and vaccine expert at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Unlike the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate does not to be stored in freezers and remains stable for months in refrigerated temperatures.

In the United States, over 44 million Americans have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, according to the AP. Nearly 20 million Americans have now received both doses.

Around 3 to 4 million doses of the new vaccine are expected to be shipped out next week if the drug receives emergency-use approval from the FDA. The company has pledged to deliver some 20 million doses by April and 100 million by late June.

Approval may come as early as this weekend.


India's coronavirus cases mysteriously fell

The government committed to inoculating 300 million people by August this year, which was touted as the largest and fastest vaccination program in the world. But it has fallen behind schedule.

The initial phase targeted healthcare and frontline workers, such as police officers, sanitation staff and soldiers, and is about to be expanded to people aged over 60 and those over 45 with health problems.

But daily injections have varied wildly between 17,000 and 650,000, which is far below the 1.5 million per day it needed to reach its goal on time.

By comparison, the United States is averaging 1.2 million vaccinations a day.

Hospitals in India were pushed to the brink last year as the country recorded close to 100,000 cases a day.

The number of daily cases has since come tumbling down to almost a tenth of the September peak, but a fresh surge has prompted restrictions to be reimposed in several states, particularly in Maharashtra and Kerala.

Delhi's mysterious drop in cases: The nation's capital, Delhi, is recording fewer than 150 cases of COVID-19 a day, far below its peak of more than 8,000 in November 2020. The city recently recorded three days of zero COVID-19 deaths, a feat not witnessed since the early months of the pandemic.

Many coronavirus wards in the capital have been shut down and converted back to normal operations. India's largest coronavirus treatment hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital, had its entire 2,500-bed capacity dedicated to treating coronavirus patients. Now, it has 300 coronavirus beds and around 30 patients.

"We were full. There was a time when a lot of deaths were occurring here," Dr Sandeep Garg said, who now manages a non-COVID ward. "Yesterday, we had seven to 10 patients."

Some health experts believe the rate of infection has dropped so significantly because the real rate of infection was so great, and the virus is now struggling to spread widely.

A recent serological survey, which tested 28,000 residents across Delhi, found more than half of the test subjects had developed antibodies, more than 60 per cent in some regions, meaning they had previously been infected with the virus.

This would put Delhi's actual rate of infection 30 times higher than the official data. The state's health minister said the city was "inching" towards herd immunity.

The exact threshold for herd immunity against COVID-19 is unknown, but some experts believe about 70 to 90 per cent of a population would need to have antibodies to stop the virus in its tracks.

A nationwide serological survey suggested a quarter of the Indian population had developed antibodies, which would not be enough to achieve herd immunity.

"Pandemics by their very nature are diseases of the crowd," said Dr Sumit Ray, who runs the not-for-profit Holy Family Hospital in Delhi. "The [serological] surveys show it has infected so many people that it is finding it difficult to transmit itself."

Health experts have warned against people letting their guard down, as the rate of mask wearing and social distancing drop significantly.

"Will a mutation happen which will change that? We don't know yet," Dr Ray said. "Will the herd immunity, the antibodies, last for how long? We don't know."

Suspicion could be a barrier to a swift vaccine rollout
India has approved two locally made vaccinations, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, known locally as Covishield, as well as Covaxin, which was developed by Indian pharmaceutical giant Bharat Biotech.

It is also considering approving the Russian Sputnik 5 vaccine. Pfizer withdrew its application for emergency approval after the government requested more data.

Covaxin was approved despite still not completing its final trials. Bharat Biotech is expected to publish its phase 3 data sometime in March.

The Indian Government has maintained earlier trials showed Covaxin is safe and effective. While the Indian Council for Medical Research said the urgent approval was necessary given the pandemic.

The vaccine is being widely used in the district of Barmer, near the Pakistan border, a region so remote that camels are needed to deliver the drug to remote villages. Bhika Ram has managed the region's vaccine depot for 35 years and has received two injections. "I have a strong feeling that I have acquired immunity," he said. "I am safe, and others are also safe from me."


‘Trump was right’: Conservatives double down on ex-president

Orlando, Florida: Even before you step inside the Conservative Political Action Conference, America’s largest annual gathering of right-wing activists, it’s clear who commands the hearts and minds of today’s Republican Party base.

A cigarette-smoking man wearing a red “Bikers for Trump” hat is circling the conference venue on an oversized tricycle. His bike is emblazoned with a sign that reads: “Trump was right about everything.” A woman, wrapped in an American flag, waves a giant flag that says: “F--- Biden and f--- you for voting for him.”

Inside four-star Hyatt hotel that is hosting the conference, the adoration for the former president is even more intense. The must-see attraction at this year’s event is a giant, glistening gold statue of Trump wearing thongs on his feet and holding a wand.

On Monday (AEDT) the conference-goers will be able to see Trump himself, when the three-day event culminates in Trump’s first speech since leaving the White House.

The artist who made the statue, Tommy Zegan, explains that it is taking a jab at former president Barack Obama, who once said of Trump’s promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States: “What magic wand do you have?”

This year’s conference is taking place just over a month since Trump left the White House and Democrats took control of the US Senate. But it is accompanied by none of the soul-searching and internecine debates you might expect following such significant defeats.

That’s because many of those attending the event do not believe Trump lost the election – because of voter fraud.

In order to return to political dominance, so the thinking goes, Republicans don’t need a new candidate or to adjust their policy agenda: they must simply find a way to stop their opponents from cheating next time.

“It was rigged,” Zegan says of the November election. “There were too many anomalies.”

If Trump were to run again in 2024, Zegan says, he would definitely support him.

Anna Villalobos, who is running a stall at the conference selling MAGA (Make America Great Again) hammocks, says: “The numbers don’t add up. How could 80 million people vote for Biden but only 20 million follow him on Twitter? I 100 per cent believe they stole the election.”

Ronald Solomon, who runs the MAGA Mall, which sells pro-Trump paraphernalia, says he is already doing a roaring trade in “Trump 2024” flags and caps.

“If Trump wants the nomination, he gets it,” Solomon says.

It’s the same story on the main stage, where speaker after speaker offers the same formula for returning to power: doubling down on Trumpism.

“Let me tell you this right now: Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere,” Texas senator Ted Cruz tells the crowd to loud applause. “These deplorables are here to stay.”

Florida senator Rick Scott says abandoning Trump’s policies on trade, immigration and China would be like reverting to antiquated technology such as flip-phones or typewriters.

“We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” he says. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the county and, ultimately, we’re going to lose our nation.”

Democrats in Washington, Scott says, “are trying to turn this country into a communist ash heap”.

Florida congressman Matt Gaetz says: “We proudly represent the pro-Trump America First wing of the conservative movement. We’re not really a wing, we’re the whole body.”

Gaetz jokes that if Liz Cheney, the Wyoming congresswoman who voted to impeach Trump last month, had been at the conference she would have been booed off stage.

“What does that say?” he asks. “The leadership of our party is not found in Washington, D.C.”

As would be expected at such an event, there are panel sessions on abortion, gun ownership and foreign policy.

Big tech bias against conservatives is a major focus, with several speakers advocating breaking up social media giants such as Facebook and Google. It’s an interventionist position that until recently would have been well oustide the conservative mainstream.

But, by far, the dominant theme at this year’s conference is election integrity.

Seven panel sessions in total are dedicated to “protecting elections”, with speakers proposing a series of new measures to tighten voting rules.

“Democrats, not Republicans, installed ballot drop boxes on sidewalks, where nobody oversaw them,” conservative commentator Deroy Murdock says. “How many fraudulent ballots got deposited in these boxes unchecked and then got counted? Who knows.”

T.W Shannon, a former state legislator from Oklahoma, appears to justify the deadly January 6 assault on Congress by saying: “The reason that people stormed the Capitol was because they felt hopeless because of a rigged election.”

Donald Trump junior, himself seen as a possible future Republican presidential candidate, delights the crowd by using air quotes when referring to Joe Biden’s “80 million votes” and joking that the event should be renamed TPAC: the Trump Political Action Conference.

Offering a preview of his father’s upcoming address, he says: “I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech. And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.”