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.


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!



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)




Thursday, September 16, 2021

Third Pfizer Covid vaccine produces 10 TIMES more antibodies than second jab, Israeli study finds

Medics at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, outside Tel Aviv, compared the antibody levels in staff one week after their third and second doses.

They found that the Pfizer vaccine — which Israel is solely relying on for its immunisation programmes — stimulated a tenfold greater immune response.

While the research only looked at healthcare staff at one specific hospital, it is hoped that the findings will apply more broadly to the rest of the population.

The hospital said it was treating the results with caution and would be monitoring staff in the coming months to see how long the boost to immunity lasts.

Antibodies are just one part of the overall immune response to Covid, which also includes white blood cells known as T cells that give longer protection.

It comes just a day after the UK finally signed off on a mass booster campaign for 30million over-50s, health and social care staff and Britons with severe health issues.

Israel became the first country in the world to roll out third doses in August, initially inviting over-60s but later gradually opening it up to everyone over the age of 12.

Nearly 3m Israelis have been 'boosted' so far and the country but officials in the UK believe younger people are still enjoying very high protection.

Israel had led the way with the original vaccine rollout last December, becoming the fastest country in the world to vaccinate everyone who wanted a jab.

The trail-blazing programme suppressed the virus by summer which allowed it to become one of the first nations to lift all pandemic restrictions.

But cases began to soar over the summer, due to a combination of vaccines waning and the new Delta variant, which infects vaccinated people more easily.

Israel is set to begin preparations to administer fourth doses of the coronavirus vaccines already,

The country's national coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said last week that the country needs to prepare for a fourth injection, which could be modified to better protect against new variants of the virus.

'Given that that the virus is here and will continue to be here, we also need to prepare for a fourth injection,' he told Kan public radio. 'This is our life from now on, in waves.'

'It seems that if we learn the lessons from the fourth wave, we must consider the [possibility of subsequent] waves with the new variants, such as the new one from South America,' he said at the time.

'Thinking about this and the waning of the vaccines and the antibodies, it seems every few months — it could be once a year or five or six months — we'll need another shot.'

He added that he expects Israel to be given out vaccines that had been specially adapted to cope with different variants of the virus by late 2021 or early 2022.

While Israel is seeing record case numbers in its fourth wave, the jabs are still protecting against severe illness with Covid deaths running at about half of the level of its second wave.

Israel pulled the trigger on a booster vaccine programme in August, which has stabilised the spiralling outbreak.

The country recorded 136 hospital admissions in the week to September 12, down from the peak of 165 in the last week of August. Weekly hospitalisations had soared from just four in June.

Cases continue to rise but this is believed to be due to a big testing blitz in schools, which went back at the start of the month.

Infections also remain very low among the triple-jabbed, the country's health ministry said.

The results in Israel will likely have inspired UK health officials to green light a booster programme.

But they have stopped short of recommending third doses to the entire population, with shots being reserved for the roughly 32m deemed most vulnerable to Covid.

It will start next week and Britons will only be invited for a booster six months after getting their second jab.

That appears to be the 'sweet spot', according to officials who signed off on the move due to waning immunity.

That decision is largely in line with Israel's programme, which is only offering third doses to people five months after their second.

However, MailOnline revealed today that only 1.6million people in the UK, mainly care home residents and frontline health workers, were fully vaccinated by March 15 - the cut off point to qualify for a booster.

The UK didn't breach the 30million mark until June, meaning the campaign won't be open to millions of vulnerable adults until much closer to Christmas.

Experts told MailOnline the decision to delay boosters by six months should not be a cause for concern because the gap means people are only given a top-up dose as their immunity starts to wane.

But they warned it could be a problem for a 'small number' of older and vulnerable people whose immunity drops faster than expected.

Booster doses of the Pfizer jab, or a half dose of Moderna, will be administered to those eligible from next week, regardless of which jab they initially received.

For those who cannot get either of those two mRNA jabs, such as due to an allergy, they will be given a dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine.

The jabs will be dished out through vaccination centres, primary care networks and pharmacies and can be given at the same time as annual flu jabs.

Department of Health bosses said the booster campaign will 'ensure the protection vaccines provide for those most at risk of severe illness from Covid will be maintained over the winter months'.

Pfizer's jab, made alongside German partner BioNTech, is already approved for over-12s in Britain.

It is the first phase of the Government's winter plan to avoid another lockdown. If hospitalisations rise quickly, ministers have warned they could be forced to reintroduce face masks and work from home guidance.

Dr Doug Brown, chief executive at the British Society of Immunology, told MailOnline: 'Receiving two vaccinations against Covid has been shown to be highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalisation and death as well as generating an effective immune response that does provide this protection in the long term.

'We don’t yet know exactly how long immunity will last, which is why the government’s decision to offer booster doses to the most vulnerable is a welcome move which will help us be prepared for the worst this winter.

'With the third dose being offered six months after the second, studies have shown that we can be confident that for those six months people will have protection during that period from their initial vaccinations with the third dose providing an additional boost to the immune system.

'In addition to boosters, we must not take our foot off the gas and continue to make every effort to reach people who have not had their first doses of the vaccine and encourage them to come forward for a Covid vaccination. 'Vaccination is our only way out of this pandemic.'

Earlier this month, half a million severely immunosuppressed people, who are most at-risk from Covid and were unable to mount a full response to the vaccine, were invited to get a third dose.


Clinical trial to test whether anti-parasite drug ivermectin is effective at treating Covid set to begin in Minnesota

Clinical trials will soon begin in Minnesota to test whether or not anti-parasite drug ivermectin is effective at treating COVID-19.

The University of Minnesota Medical School will be examining the drug along with two others to determine their effectiveness at combatting the virus.

Ivermectin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use to treat certain parasite-related conditions, and it is regularly available by prescription.

However, many are harming themselves because they are purchasing versions of the drug meant for large animals like cows and horses at livestock stores and consuming doses of that are too large to be considered safe for humans.

Researchers are currently recruiting participants for the study. To be eligible, a person must be between ages 30 and 85 and have tested positive for COVID-19 n the past three days.

People who are currently hospitalized for any reason, or are taking metformin, insulin, sulfonylurea or have heart, liver of kidney disease are not eligible.

As an incentive, anyone who participates will be offered $400.

Those who are chosen for the study will be placed into one of six groups, each of which will be using a different set of drugs for treatment. One group will receive ivermectin alone and another will get a combination of ivermectin and metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes.

A third group will be given metformin alone, the fourth group will receive fluvoxamine - a drug that treats obsessive compulsive disorder - and a fifth group will receive a combination of those two drugs.

The sixth and final group will receive a placebo.

Researchers hope they can either discover new potential treatments for Covid, or rule these drugs out entirely as ineffective.

All three are already FDA approved for human use, though not for viruses.

Ivermectin garnered attention of social media as a potential Covid treatment after an Australian study found the drug could inhibit replication of the virus's cells.

Dr Timothy Geary, a parasitologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and one of the world's foremost experts on the drug, explained to in an interview last month that the study was being misinterpreted.

'In that study they showed that in cell cultures, ivermectin could inhibit [Covid] replication, but the concentrations required for that effect were in a range called the micromolar range - very high concentrations relative to what you would find in the plasma of a treated person or an animal, which would be 20 to 50 times lower,' he said.

'At high concentrations in cell culture, many compounds can have all kinds of effects but when you look at what we would call pharmacological levels - what we actually see and treated patients - it is far higher than [what would be used in humans]

'So the standard doses of ivermectin that we use for people are never going to reach the levels that would be effective in against the virus based on that one study.'

Many have used the drug inappropriately to protect themselves from the virus, however.

There has been a 24-fold increase in prescriptions for the drug compared to before the pandemic began, a CDC report from last month found.

Those prescriptions are generally safe, however, because they are of human versions of the drug.

Where people are running into problems is when they purchase veterinary versions of the drug, which come in doses much larger than what is safe for humans - and overdose.

This has led to a spike in calls to poison control in recent months, and many local and federal officials issuing warnings against use of the drug.




Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Britain's Test and Trace system has had barely any impact on thwarting the spread of Covid, according to official estimates.

The controversial £37billion scheme has been heavily criticised over the past year for being ineffective at breaking the chains of transmission.

New Government modelling found the programme – which critics have described as being the biggest ever waste of taxpayer money – may have only slashed cases by as little as six per cent.

It also estimates that people isolating prevented 1.2million to 2million secondary cases, with NHS Test and Trace responsible for stopping 300,000 to 500,000 of these.

The estimate assumed people with Covid symptoms and their households would still have isolated if testing wasn't on offer.

But health chiefs noted that without the offer of testing, millions more people would have needlessly self-isolated when they weren't infected because they wouldn't have been able to prove they were negative through a swab.

Test and Trace identified around 900,000 positive cases in August, according to official figures.

It comes as Boris Johnson will today warn that the pandemic is 'far from over' as he unveils his 'winter plan, admitting that another lockdown cannot by completely ruled out.

A report published by NHS Test and Trace looked at what impact it had over and above if people with symptoms still isolated without any access to testing.

It did this by analysing the transmission reduction from testing, tracing and isolating from the current scheme.

This was then compared to an imagined scenario where testing was not on offer and households were told to self-isolate if someone developed Covid symptoms.

A panel including 'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, helped with the modelling.

The study, which looked at the period from last August to April, found the Test and Trace scheme reduced transmission between 10 and 28 per cent.

Will Boris's winter plan be enough to avert lockdown?
Boris Johnson will today warn that the pandemic is 'far from over' as he unveils his 'winter plan' - admitting that another lockdown cannot by completely ruled out.

The PM is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement.

He will insist that vaccines can be the main defence against the disease, with boosters for the over-50s and jabs for under-16s starting soon.

But blueprint includes the return of compulsory masks, working from home and some social distancing if the NHS is under threat. Vaccine passports will still be an option, even though they will not be introduced in England from next month as originally intended.

And health minister Nadhim Zahawi said this morning that lockdown is on the table as a 'last resort' if infections run completely out of control.

Scientists are already warning that the country is going into the winter with high levels of cases, saying that 'does not bode well' for hopes of avoiding further restrictions.

But if people stayed at home when they suspected they had the virus anyway, like they are supposed to, the testing system only reduced transmission from six to 19 per cent.

However, the report claimed the T&T system was 'critical' in reducing the R rate – a measure of how quickly the virus is spreading – and bringing it below one.

It told 11million people to isolate during the study period.

However, the report warns that the data gives a 'very high-level view of the impact of the whole system', so should not be used to evaluate its specific components.

And it notes that testing and contact tracing may have prevented outbreaks in other settings, such as from hospitals, which were not included in the figures.

It also warned it is 'extremely difficult to estimate how people would really behave' if testing was not in place, so the numbers it assumed would isolate without testing may be overstated and underestimate the impact of Test and Trace.

NHS Test and Trace has contacted more than 14.9million infected people in England and their close contacts and processed over 262million tests since it was launched last June.

Between last August and April, the programme identified between 25 and 65 per cent of infected Britons and their close contacts.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: 'Since its inception, NHS Test and Trace has played an important role in countering this virus – along with the phenomenal vaccination programme – contacting over 14.9million people from across the country and breaking chains of transmission to stop outbreaks.

'With around one in three people with Covid showing no symptoms, regular testing and contact tracing, alongside the wall of defence built by the vaccination programme, are fundamental to ongoing efforts to keep people safe and help the return to a more normal way of life.'

It comes as the Prime Minister is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement.

He will insist that vaccines can be the main defence against the disease, with boosters for the over-50s and jabs for under-16s starting soon.

Boris Johnston said yesterday: 'The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.'


Britain is preparing for a long, virulent winter without a single lockdown. Can they pull it off?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is backing booster COVID-19 vaccine shots for vulnerable people and the elderly as part of his plan to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed and future lockdowns as the UK approaches winter.

The prime minister is hoping to avoid a winter like last year, when a second wave fuelled by the Alpha variant caused more than 50,000 deaths on either side of the peak in mid-January 2021.

On Monday, it was announced England's vaccine rollout will expand to those aged between 12 and 15, and on Tuesday it was revealed in the government's 32-page plan that booster shots will be available for those over the age of 50, frontline health workers and the clinically vulnerable – estimated to be around 30 million people.

As well as booster jabs, the government has prepared a "plan B" in the event hospitalisations rise dramatically and the National Health Service is put at risk of being overwhelmed, which could involve mandatory facemask wearing, vaccine passports and a return of working from home.

With another 26,628 people testing positive for COVID-19 and a further 185 deaths recorded on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said in one way the UK was in a more challenging position than it was at the same time last year, when cases hovered around 3,000 per day.

"But in many other crucial respects, the British people – all of us collectively and individually – are incomparably better placed to fight the disease," he said. "We have more than 80 per cent of all over 16s now double vaccinated, and we have COVID anti-bodies in around 90 per cent of the adult population. "Those vaccines are working."

So how exactly is Boris Johnson's government going to prevent another deadly winter?

The UK is backing vaccines to do the heavy lifting over the winter months, with transmission likely to increase as students go back to school, workers return to workplaces and people spend more time indoors as the days get shorter and colder.

Earlier on Tuesday, England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Johnathan Van Tam, said vaccines had saved 112,000 lives since being rolled out at the end of last year.

"Our latest estimates are that since we began deploying these vaccines, they've probably averted in the region of 24 million cases of COVID in the UK and 112,000 deaths — so, incredibly successful to date and remains so," Professor Van-Tam said.

"We're not past the pandemic — we're in an active phase still. "We know this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times."

Along with advising children aged between 12 and 15 get vaccinated, the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation made the recommendation to deploy booster shots across all four nations in the UK, which will be given at least six months after people had received their second dose of the vaccine.

It said there was evidence of a small decline in effectiveness of the vaccine against hospitalisation for older people, dropping from just over 90 per cent to just under 90 per cent after five to six months. "We've been seeing some waning immunity (in older people)," Dr Robertson said.

"But really, I think what they're trying to do is look forward and look what could happen in the future. and mitigate against that."

At the peak of the pandemic last winter, England alone had more than 30,000 patients in hospitals with COVID-19. Currently there are just over 8,400 across the UK, and the biggest concern for the government remains that figure rising dramatically and the NHS becoming overwhelmed, which would see an increase in deaths from COVID-19 and other causes that would not be able to be treated.

If numbers do start rising, the public will be urged to act more cautiously, face coverings could become legally mandated in settings such as indoors and on public transport, and mandatory vaccine passports could be introduced for large events and other indoor settings.

"The thing I would stress about Plan B is that it contains a number of different shots in the locker and you wouldn't necessarily play them all at once, far from it," Mr Johnson said.

"Because so many of the population have some degree of immunity, smaller changes in the way we're asking people to behave can have a bigger impact."

No more lockdowns?

On Monday, the UK's Telegraph newspaper quoted a senior government source as saying Mr Johnson was "dead set" against another lockdown, as rumours swirled that plans were being drawn up for an October "firebreak" lockdown to try and quell infections.

While there is scant detail of lockdown contingencies in the government's winter plan, on Monday, a Downing Street spokesperson conceded the strategy could not be ruled out if things got out of hand.

Mr Johnson was criticised several times in 2020 for delaying nationwide lockdowns as the virus tore through the country.

But with the success of the vaccines, the prime minister will be loathe do go down the lockdown route again over winter.




Tuesday, September 14, 2021

India may be reaching 'endemicity' after emerging from second COVID-19 wave

The number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in India has dropped dramatically since a second wave of the virus peaked in May.

First the Alpha and then the Delta variant — which was first detected in India and is now causing strife elsewhere in the world — ravaged the country.

But the seven-day average of daily reported cases this week is just a tenth of the 400,000 recorded during the peak.

Reported deaths are down, too, with an average of fewer than 500 per day, down from more than 4,000 per day.

According to health authorities, more than 439,000 people in India have now died with the virus.

The relatively stable numbers, which lasted throughout August, prompted the World Health Organization's chief scientist to suggest India may have reached a state of "endemicity".

That is, it may be endemic or constantly present in a particular place.

So how did they get there and is the worst of the pandemic over for India?

What is it like in India at the moment?

While the usual caveats apply about numbers being underestimated due to inadequate testing and reporting, it's clear that things have improved India-wide.

In May, Delhi's health system was completely overwhelmed, with medical oxygen supplies exhausted, leading to distressing images of makeshift outdoor crematoriums.

This week, less than 2 per cent of Delhi's COVID-19 beds were occupied.

Business has picked back up and schools are reopening in some states.

Soumyadeep Bhaumik, from the George Institute India in New Delhi, said the health system was now "functioning normally" and focusing on vaccination.

However, he said, life was not back to a pre-COVID normal.

Cases were low across most of India but there had been a surge in Kerala in the past few days, he said.

"There is no 'lockdown' now but movement restrictions appropriate to the transmission are now being implemented in different states in India," he told the ABC.

"Kerala has more restrictions now because cases are increasing, but other states, which have low cases, have fewer."

How did India get out of the Delta wave?

While India's federal government did not implement a nationwide lockdown during the second wave, by mid-May almost all of India's 36 states and territories had instituted full or partial lockdowns.

Other countries such as the UK, the Netherlands and Israel saw sharp declines in cases as a consequence of high vaccination rates and high infection levels.

In India, only about 10 per cent of the population are fully vaccinated, while about 36 per cent of people have had at least one shot.

However, a serology survey conducted in June and July indicated two out of three people in India had COVID-19 antibodies.

"The massive community spread in COVID-19 in the second wave earlier this year meant a lot of people were exposed — symptomatic or otherwise," Dr Bhaumik said.

"It also created awareness about the need to wear masks, avoiding crowds et cetera."

University of Cambridge researcher Ankur Mutreja told the ABC the combination of the state lockdowns and the increase in natural immunity combined to flatten the curve.

"While lockdowns hammer the curve directly, natural exposure during leaky lockdowns facilitates that hammering," Dr Mutreja said.

He said the high rate of antibodies from exposure was helping to keep a lid on the situation for the moment.

"Vaccination rates have also increased massively in India since the second wave, with more than 10 million doses being administered each day for the last few days," he said.

Conspiracy theories about ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine
A conspiracy theory going around at the moment is that India began treating people en masse with hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin and that was responsible for the fall in cases and deaths.

AAP fact checked the claim and found it was baseless.

"There is no evidence that new guidance on the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine led to a reduction in COVID-19 cases in India," they found.

"In fact, hydroxychloroquine was reported to be in widespread use well prior to the country's second-wave outbreak."

Experts — including the ivermectin's manufacturers — have repeatedly said there was no evidence the drugs were effective in treating COVID-19.

'We may be entering some stage of endemicity'

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan late last month told The Wire that while India would probably experience a third wave, it would likely not be as severe as the second.

"We may be entering some kind of stage of endemicity, where there is low-level transmission or moderate-level transmission going on but we are not seeing the kinds of exponential growth and peaks that we saw a few months ago," Dr Swaminathan said.

India would continue to have "ups and downs in different parts of the country" in areas that were less affected in the first and second waves or with lower levels of vaccine coverage, she said.

That's why Kerala, which was less affected during the second wave, was experiencing a surge now, she said.

David Anderson, from the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, said "endemic" normally just meant that a disease was always present in a population.

"That means that if you have a susceptible population, whether they're unvaccinated or they haven't been infected previously, it can find them and infect them," he said.

He said whether an endemic virus could be managed well enough to prevent an unacceptable loss of life was another question.

He said he didn't believe having two-thirds of the population vaccinated or with antibodies from COVID-19 infections was enough to prevent exponential growth.

Either more people had been exposed to the virus than the serology surveys indicated or the impact of the virus now was being under-reported, or both, he said.

"I can't help but think that in India, they must still be having quite high rates of infection, but people are just not seeking care to the same degree," he said.

What does the future hold?

Since May India's state and federal governments have put more resources into public education on social distancing, tightened the borders, hired more health workers, set up new medical oxygen plants, stockpiled medicines for infections such as mucormycosis and beefed up the country's virus tracking system.

The experts contacted by the ABC agreed that India's relative respite from COVID-19 was probably only temporary and a third wave was on its way.

When it will arrive and how severe it will be is up for debate.

Dr Mutreja said vaccination rates had "increased massively" since the second wave, with more than 10 million doses being administered each day for the last few days, but another wave was "imminent".

He said how big it would be depended on how quickly the Delta variant evolved into a "more capable escape variant", the speed of India's vaccination campaign and how effective the vaccines were against the next variant.

Rajib Dasgupta, chair of Jawaharlal Nehru University's Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, agreed that the combination of increasing vaccination coverage and high levels of immunity acquired through infections was protecting much of the population.


New vaccine coming from Australia

Works with Delta

Speaking at an online scientific symposium on Friday, UQ Professor Paul Young said they were well down the road to developing a new version of their vaccine candidate, using the same molecular clamp technology.

Professor Young told the meeting that after the initial version 1.0 vaccine was abandoned in December 2020 because of cross-reactivity issues with HIV screening tests, he fully expected the international funding body that initially backed the research, to request he and his team move on to other projects.

However, in a Zoom call shortly after announcing to the world that they had failed in their initial push for an Australian-developed COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine’s backers told him to go back and try again.

“When I got on that Zoom meeting, there were 126 people there,” he said.

“Having seen our phase one clinical data, they were unanimous with wanting us to stay focused on COVID. So, we have done that, and we are taking a new COVID vaccine forward.”

Version 1.0 had performed well in the initial clinical trials, giving well over 90 per cent coverage against the Wuhan strain of the virus, using a molecular “clamp” to hold a protein in a shape that mimicked part of the spike protein seen on the outside of SARS-CoV-2, which caused the body to make antibodies for the virus.

However, the actual clamp molecule used was sourced from the HIV virus because it was very effective and the researchers didn’t have time to look for a better candidate.

Although there was no risk of contracting HIV from the small molecule, it did set off HIV screening tests, something the researchers did not initially think would happen.

“What tipped us over in the end was not wanting to cause vaccine hesitancy,” he said. “And so the right decision was made at that particular time. Whether that was the right decision, given the fullness of time, I don’t know.

“But we’ve turned it around and found a successful alternative, so that we’re very pleased with, and we will progress with that.”

Professor Young said they had developed around 20 new versions of the vaccine, using a different molecule for the “clamp” used to hold the spike protein together.

He said they would be entering clinical trials in 2022, with work being done on animal models in the near future.

“Not surprisingly, we’re looking at a number of different variants including Delta, and the new clamp is working well,” he said.



Voters rightly concerned trillions in domestic spending will fuel inflation (Free Beacon)

House Democrats propose making permanent expanded ObamaCare subsidies (The Hill)

FBI releases declassified records on its investigation into possible Saudi-9/11 links (Washington Examiner)

North Korea tests first cruise missile with possible nuclear capability (Reuters)

A trip down memory lane: Biden administration promised it wouldn’t mandate COVID vaccine (The Federalist)

Jen Psaki admits vax mandate doesn’t include migrants at border, refuses to answer why (Daily Wire)

Apple must change its tightly controlled App Store, judge rules (NPR)

Portland callers to 911 more often on hold for over five minutes as calls rise, staff drops (The Oregonian)

Dumb… Salesforce CEO says he’ll move workers out of Texas due to abortion law, yet California-based businesses have been flocking to Texas to escape higher taxes and regulations (Fox Business)

Capitol Police recommend disciplinary action for six officers after internal investigation into January 6 riot (CBS News)

Russia completes construction of Biden-approved Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (NBC News)

Policy: Compassionate enforcement: Cities must balance public services with public order to reduce homelessness (City Journal)

Policy: Seven hard truths Americans should know about Social Security — and five ways to strengthen it (Heritage Foundation)





I have just put up another post on my Food and Health blog.  It is about a partial cure for Alzheimers


Monday, September 13, 2021

Surge in Covid cases in those vaxxed - but it could have its benefits

Many people are worried about reports of “breakthrough” Covid-19 infections overseas, from places like Israel and the United States.

A breakthrough infection is when someone tests positive for Covid after being fully vaccinated, regardless of symptoms.

The good news is most breakthrough infections usually result in mild symptoms or none at all, which shows us that vaccines are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do — protecting us from severe disease and death. Vaccines aren’t designed to protect us from getting infected at all (known as “sterilising immunity”).

People with breakthrough infections can go on to infect others. Preliminary evidence indicates immunised people can have high levels of virus in the nose, potentially as high as unvaccinated people.

Life has returned to some normality in many vaccinated countries, despite thousands of new cases. Source: Getty
Life has returned to some normality in many vaccinated countries, despite thousands of new cases. Source: Getty
However, if you’re vaccinated you’ll clear the virus more quickly, reducing the length of time you’re infectious and can pass the virus on.

Here’s why breakthrough cases are happening, and why you shouldn’t worry too much.

Waning immunity

Two studies from the United Kingdom suggest the immunity we get from Covid vaccines wanes over time, after about four to six months.

While the more-infectious Delta variant continues to circulate, waning immunity will lead to more breakthrough infections.

But the reduction isn’t large currently. Vaccine effectiveness is very high to begin with, so incremental reductions due to waning won’t have a significant effect on protection for some time.

Israeli data shows some vaccinated people are becoming ill with Covid. But we need to keep in mind Israel’s vaccine rollout began in December 2020, and the majority of the population were vaccinated in early 2021. Most are now past six months since being fully vaccinated.

Given most people in Israel are vaccinated, many Covid cases in hospital are vaccinated. However, the majority (87 per cent) of hospitalised cases are 60 or older. This highlights what’s known about adaptive immunity and vaccine protection — it declines with age.

Therefore we’d expect vulnerable groups like the elderly to be the first at risk of disease as immunity wanes, as will people whose immune systems are compromised. Managing this as we adjust to living with Covid will be an ongoing challenge for all countries.

What would be concerning is if we started seeing a big increase in fully vaccinated people getting really sick and dying — but that’s not happening.

Globally, the vast majority of people with severe Covid are unvaccinated.

We’ll probably need booster doses

Waning immunity means booster doses will likely be needed to top up protection, at least for the next couple of years while the virus continues to circulate at such high levels.

Our currently approved vaccines were modelled on the original strain of the virus isolated in Wuhan, not the Delta variant, which is currently dominant across most of the world. This imperfect match between vaccine and virus means the level of protection against Delta is just a little lower.

Because the level of effectiveness is so high to begin with, this small reduction is negligible in the short term. But the effects of waning over time may lead to breakthrough infections appearing sooner.

mRNA vaccines in particular, like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, can be efficiently updated to target prevalent variants, in this case Delta. So, a third immunisation based on Delta will “tweak”, as well as boost, existing immunity to an even higher starting point for longer-lasting protection.

We could see different variants become endemic in different countries. One example might be the Mu variant, currently dominant in Colombia. We might be able to match vaccines to whichever variant is circulating in specific areas.

The dose makes the poison

Your level of exposure to the virus is likely another reason for breakthrough infections.

If you’re fully vaccinated and have merely fleeting contact with a positive case, you likely won’t breathe in much virus and therefore are unlikely to develop symptomatic infection.

But if you’re in the same room as a positive case for a long period of time, you may breathe in a huge amount of virus. This makes it harder for your immune system to fight off.

This may be one reason we’re seeing some health-care workers get breakthrough infections, because they’re being exposed to high viral loads. They could be a priority for booster doses.

Might unvaccinated kids be playing a role?

It’s unclear if children are contributing to breakthrough infections.

Vaccines aren’t approved for young children yet (aged under 12), so we’re seeing increasing cases in kids relative to older people. Early studies, before the rise of Delta, indicated children didn’t significantly contribute to transmission.

More recent studies in populations with vaccinated adults, and where Delta is the dominant virus, have suggested children might contribute to transmission. This requires further investigation, but it’s possible that if you’re living with an unvaccinated child who contracts Covid, you’re likely to be exposed for many, many hours of the day, hence you’ll breathe in a large amount of virus.

The larger the viral dose, the more likely you’ll get a breakthrough infection.

Potentially slowing the number of breakthrough infections is one reason to vaccinate 12 to 15 year olds, and younger children in the future, if ongoing trials prove they’re safe and effective in this age group. Another is to protect kids themselves, and to get closer to herd immunity (if it’s achievable).

A silver lining

Breakthrough infections likely confer extra protection for people who’ve been fully vaccinated — almost like a booster dose.

We don’t have solid real-world data on this yet, but it isn’t surprising as it’s how our immune system works. Infection will re-expose the immune system to the virus’ spike protein and boost antibodies against the spike.

However, it’s never advisable to get Covid, because you could get very sick or die. Extra protection is just a silver lining if you do get a breakthrough infection.

As Covid becomes an endemic disease, meaning it settles into the human population, we’ll need to keep a constant eye on the interaction between vaccines and the virus.

The virus may start to burn out, but it’s also possible it might continually evolve and evade vaccines, like the flu does.


Denmark ditching all Covid restrictions – except one

Denmark has become the first European country to lift all domestic Covid-19 restrictions after vaccinating 80 per cent of all people over the age of 12.

Danish minister of health Magnus Heunicke declared the pandemic is “under control” due to high rates of vaccination in Denmark and the virus is no longer a “critical threat to society”.

“The government has promised not to hold on to the measures any longer than was necessary, and there we are now,” Mr Heunicke said.

The move was approved in late August with all restrictions officially scrapped from today.

Danes no longer need to show a “Covid pass” to enter restaurants, sports centres, nightclubs or large events. Schools have reopened, with children no longer being sent home if they come into close contact with a confirmed case.

Only those infected have to quarantine and workers can go back to the office as normal.

However, it’s not a complete return to pre-pandemic life.

Restrictions around borders and travel remain in place for now because they are controlled by a separate political agreement, which is set to expire at the end of October. Denmark’s border rules currently allow most people who can prove they are fully vaccinated or can present a negative test to visit the country.

Double-dosed Americans and Canadians can enter Denmark for any purpose. Those not considered to be fully immunised must present a negative test result and must also take a test upon arrival.

But the threat of restrictions being re-implemented still looms if the health system becomes overwhelmed with positive cases.

“But even though we are in a good place right now, we are not out of the epidemic. And the government will not hesitate to act quickly if the pandemic again threatens important functions in our society,” Mr Heunicke said.




Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Mu variant is on the rise. Scientists weigh in on how much to worry

Laboratory studies suggest this variant may be better at avoiding the immune system but lags Delta when it comes to transmission and infecting cells.

One of the newest variants of COVID-19, known as Mu, has spread to 42 countries, but early studies suggest that it is less easily transmitted than the dangerous Delta variant, which has triggered a resurgence of the pandemic in the U.S. and many other countries.

Mu quickly became the dominant strain in Colombia, where it was first detected in January, but in the U.S., where the Delta virus is dominant, it has not spread significantly. After reaching a peak at the end of June, the prevalence of the Mu variant in the U.S. has steadily declined.

Scientists believe that the new variant cannot compete with the Delta variant, which is highly contagious. “Whether it could have gone higher or not if there was no Delta, that's hard to really say,” says Alex Bolze, a geneticist at the genomics company Helix.

In Colombia, however, the Mu variant is responsible for more than a third of the COVID-19 cases. There have been 11 noteworthy variants to date, which the World Health Organization has named for the letters of the Greek alphabet. The newest variant, Mu, is the 12th. WHO has labeled this latest version of SARS-CoV-2 a Variant of Interest, a step below a Variant of Concern.

Delta and three other variants have drawn the highest level of concern. But a Variant of Interest, like Mu still raises worries. Mu has many known mutations that can help the virus escape immunity from vaccines or previous infection.

Still, the good news is that Mu is unlikely to replace Delta in places like the U.S. where it is already predominant, says Tom Wenseleers, evolutionary biologist and biostatistician at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, who previously estimated the transmissibility and impact of Alpha variant in England.

How is Mu different?

Most genetic sequences reveal that Mu has eight mutations in its spike protein, many of which are also present in variants of concern: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.

Some of Mu’s mutations, like E484K and N501Y, help other variants evade antibodies from mRNA vaccines. In the Beta and Gamma variants, the E484K mutation made the variants more resistant to a single dose of mRNA vaccines.

A study, not yet peer reviewed, has shown that the P681H mutation helps transmission of the Alpha variant—it may do the same for Mu.

Mu also harbors novel mutations that haven’t been seen in variants before, so their consequences are not fully understood. Mutation at the 346 position disrupts interaction of antibodies with the spike protein, which, scientists say, might make it easier for the virus to escape.

A study using epidemiological models, not yet peer reviewed, estimates that Mu is up to twice more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 and caused the wave of COVID-19 deaths in Bogotá, Colombia in May, 2021. This study also suggests that immunity from a previous infection by the ancestral virus was 37 percent less effective in protecting against Mu.

“Right now, we do not have [enough] available evidence that may suggest that indeed this new variant Mu is associated with a significant [..] change in COVID,” says Alfonso Rodriguez-Morales, the President of the Colombian Association of Infectious Diseases.

But some clues are emerging that Mu can weaken protection from antibodies generated by existing vaccines. Lab-made virus mimicking the Mu variant were less affected by antibodies from people who had recovered from COVID-19 or were vaccinated with Pfizer’s Comiranty. In this study, not yet peer reviewed, Mu was the most vaccine resistant of all currently recognized variants.

In another lab-based study, antibodies from patients immunized with Pfizer’s vaccine were less effective at neutralizing Mu compared to other variants.

“[Mu] variant has a constellation of mutations that suggests that it would evade certain antibodies—not only monoclonal antibodies, but vaccine and convalescent serum-induced antibodies—but there isn’t a lot of clinical data to suggest that. It is mostly laboratory […] data,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a White House press briefing on September 2.

The COVID-19 vaccines—Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Sinovac, all of which are available in Colombia—still seem to offer good protection against Mu, according to Rodriguez-Morales.

How prevalent is Mu?

The Mu variant rapidly expanded across South America, but it is difficult to know for sure how far Mu has spread, according to Paúl Cárdenas, microbiologist at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador.

“[Latin American countries] have provided very low numbers of sequences, compared with the numbers of cases that we have,” says Cárdenas. South American countries have sequenced just 0.07 percent of their total SARS-CoV-2 positive cases, although 25 percent of global infections have occurred in the region. This contrasts with 1.5 percent of all positive cases sequenced in the U.S. and 9.3 percent of all positive cases sequenced in the U.K.

“We are not necessarily looking at the reality of the distribution of the variants [in Latin America], because of the limitations in performing genome sequencing,” says Rodriguez-Morales.

That said, except in Columbia where Mu has been spreading since late February, the variant is becoming relatively less frequent globally, including in the rest of South America.

“Additional evidence on Mu is scarce, similar to Lambda and other regionally prevalent variants, because of limited capacity for follow-up studies, and because these variants have not yet been a significant threat in high-income countries like Delta is,” says Pablo Tsukayama, a microbiologist at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru. He hopes the WHO’s designation of Mu as a variant of interest will change that.


Moderna Announces Development of Combination COVID-19 Booster and Flu Vaccine

Moderna announced on Thursday it had begun development for a potential single-dose vaccine that is a combination of a Wuhan coronavirus vaccine booster shot and seasonal flu shot.

In a press release published Thursday, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel announced the new development and shared the progress of other programs the company is working on, such as their “cancer vaccine.”

“Today we are announcing the first step in our novel respiratory vaccine program with the development of a single dose vaccine that combines a booster against COVID-19 and a booster against flu,” Bancel said in a statement. “We are making progress on enrolling patients in our rare disease programs, and we are fully enrolled in our personalized cancer vaccine trial. We believe this is just the beginning of a new age of information-based medicines.”

As we previously reported, Moderna informed investors and analysts last month that the company was planning for a booster COVID-19 shot in addition to its already-existing two-dose mRNA vaccine shot. As of right now, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be administered to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the vaccine has not been fully approved by the FDA.

“We are pleased that our COVID-19 vaccine is showing durable efficacy of 93% through six months, but recognize that the Delta variant is a significant new threat so we must remain vigilant,” Bancel said in a statement last month announcing plans for a potential booster shot. In the statement, Bancel also said Moderna is “looking forward towards our vision of a single dose annual booster that provides protection against COVID-19, flu and RSV for adults.”

Perhaps that vision could be on the horizon with this hybrid coronavirus/flu vaccine in the works. Moderna has not revealed when it plans to have the booster shot completed.



RNC to sue Biden administration over vaccine mandates (Washington Examiner)

“We will fight”: Ron DeSantis promises to battle Biden’s sweeping mandates (Daily Wire)

Pentagon top brass to testify before Senate panel on chaotic U.S. pullout from Afghanistan (Washington Times)

GOP letter to Biden flags Afghan evacuees’ “rushed and incomplete” vetting (Fox News)

Taliban lets plane carrying Americans and other foreign nationals leave Kabul (CBS News)

“Their interior minister has an ‘FBI Wanted’ poster”: White House challenged after calling Taliban “businesslike and professional” (Daily Caller)

New and improved? Hardly: Taliban tortured journalists who covered protests in Kabul despite “free press” pledge (Daily Wire)

Fort Hood terrorist congratulates Taliban from death row in handwritten letter (Washington Examiner)

Merrick Garland’s Justice Department suing Texas over pro-life law (The Federalist)

Rand Paul calls for Anthony Fauci to be jailed for lying to Congress (Washington Examiner)

DOJ moves to release FBI documents on investigation into possible Saudi-9/11 hijacker links (Washington Examiner)

Team Biden puts systemic racism at center of U.S. foreign policy (National Review)

The CDC quietly changed the definition of “vaccination” so as to fit the political narrative (Not the Bee)

FDA declines emergency use authorization for Humanigen COVID-19 drug (The Hill)