Oct 042021
 
 October 4, 2021  Posted by at 7:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  56 Responses »


Salvador Dali City of drawers – The Anthropomorphic Cabinet 1936

 

Vaccine Effectiveness Hits as Low as Minus-66% in the Over 40s (DS)
Increases In Covid-19 Are Unrelated To Levels Of Vaccination (Springer)
Merck’s New Drug – A Wonder Or Incipient Slaughter?
Predominance of Antibody-Resistant Covid Variants In Breakthrough Cases (Mxiv)
Antihistamines And Azithromycin As A Treatment For Covid-19 (PMC)
‘Grinch’ Fauci Mulls Canceling Christmas Due To Covid (RT)
Israel Tightens Covid ‘Green Pass’ Rules, Sparking Protest (AP)
The Israeli Face Of Pain After Pfizer Shots (Farber)
How Democray Ends (Prasad)
Staff Shortages Spreading To All Corners Of UK Business (G.)
Whistleblower Blasts Facebook For Prioritizing Profits Over ‘Democracy’ (RT)
Electricity Bills In Italy Rise By Almost 30 Percent From Friday (ZH)
Pandora Papers (RT)

 

 

October 15

 

 

Nails It

 

 

The minus number is a nice detail.

Vaccine Effectiveness Hits as Low as Minus-66% in the Over 40s (DS)

Following last week’s ‘fact check‘ from Full Fatuous – ostensibly of my piece but with some words of admonition for PHE as well, particularly over the accuracy of the population data – a new note appeared in the report: “Interpretation of the case rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated population is particularly susceptible to changes in denominators and should be interpreted with extra caution.” So there you go. All estimates in this post are based on the data PHE uses and are valid insofar as that data is accurate. As before, the data is just for a four-week period, which, given that the early part of the Delta surge was dominated by the unvaccinated and the latter part has seen infections rise in the vaccinated, seems to me a mistake. A fairer view would cover the whole Delta surge (as with the estimates I make from the data in the Technical Briefings), but in any case the report gives a snapshot of current relative infection rates.


As Full Fatuous pointed out, PHE don’t recommend using this data to estimate vaccine effectiveness, saying it’s “not the most appropriate method” because it’s unadjusted for risk factors (and, inevitably, they don’t provide the data you’d need to adjust it). However, even if not recommended by PHE, it is certainly a valid method of calculating vaccine effectiveness, which is just a figure which states the relative risk reduction in the vaccinated group, as long as you bear in mind its limitations. All vaccine effectiveness estimates have limitations, and while adjusting for confounding factors is in principle important, it is helpful only if done well, and many studies do not do it well. Unadjusted estimates from raw data are a necessary starting point.

Perhaps the key confounder for the estimates of vaccine effectiveness against infection given here is whether people have been previously infected, with a common assumption being that a higher proportion of the unvaccinated will be previously infected, due to it being a potential factor in people’s decision not to be vaccinated. This may well artificially lower the vaccine effectiveness estimates, but since no one has yet produced data showing how antibodies-from-infection split between vaccinated and unvaccinated it is hard to know how far this is the case. Unvaccinated here means actually unvaccinated, not partially vaccinated or post-jab. Hospitalisation means “cases presenting to emergency care (within 28 days of a positive specimen) resulting in an overnight inpatient admission”.


As England’s drawn-out Delta outbreak drags on, the infection rates in the vaccinated continue to outpace those in the unvaccinated, reducing (unadjusted) vaccine effectiveness further. For the 60s age group, infection rates are 63% higher in the vaccinated than in the unvaccinated, up from 53% last week, giving an (unadjusted) vaccine effectiveness of minus-63%. But that has been topped this week by the 40s age group, the vaccinated among whom now have an infection rate no less than 66% higher than the unvaccinated, up from 46% in last week’s report and 27% in the report for the month ending September 5th. Vaccine effectiveness has been heading downward in the 30s age group as well, now just 8%, though interestingly it has actually been increasing in the under 18s.

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“..Iceland and Portugal. Both countries have over 75% of their population fully vaccinated and have more COVID-19 cases per 1 million people than countries such as Vietnam and South Africa that have around 10% of their population fully vaccinated.”

But still you say they are unrelated?

Increases In Covid-19 Are Unrelated To Levels Of Vaccination (Springer)

At the country-level, there appears to be no discernable relationship between percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases in the last 7 days. In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage of population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people. Notably, Israel with over 60% of their population fully vaccinated had the highest COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in the last 7 days. The lack of a meaningful association between percentage population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases is further exemplified, for instance, by comparison of Iceland and Portugal. Both countries have over 75% of their population fully vaccinated and have more COVID-19 cases per 1 million people than countries such as Vietnam and South Africa that have around 10% of their population fully vaccinated.

Across the US counties too, the median new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last 7 days is largely similar across the categories of percent population fully vaccinated (Fig. 2). Notably there is also substantial county variation in new COVID-19 cases within categories of percentage population fully vaccinated. There also appears to be no significant signaling of COVID-19 cases decreasing with higher percentages of population fully vaccinated. Of the top 5 counties that have the highest percentage of population fully vaccinated (99.9–84.3%), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies 4 of them as “High” Transmission counties. Chattahoochee (Georgia), McKinley (New Mexico), and Arecibo (Puerto Rico) counties have above 90% of their population fully vaccinated with all three being classified as “High” transmission.

Conversely, of the 57 counties that have been classified as “low” transmission counties by the CDC, 26.3% (15) have percentage of population fully vaccinated below 20%. Since full immunity from the vaccine is believed to take about 2 weeks after the second dose, we conducted sensitivity analyses by using a 1-month lag on the percentage population fully vaccinated for countries and US counties. The above findings of no discernable association between COVID-19 cases and levels of fully vaccinated was also observed when we considered a 1-month lag on the levels of fully vaccinated. We should note that the COVID-19 case data is of confirmed cases, which is a function of both supply (e.g., variation in testing capacities or reporting practices) and demand-side (e.g., variation in people’s decision on when to get tested) factors.

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“The problem with developing drugs like this is that if they get into other cells, not virally-infected ones, they can also cause those errors in the DNA replication and thus terminate the cell’s propagation and cellular line.”

Merck’s New Drug – A Wonder Or Incipient Slaughter?

This drug is an analog (in other words, “looks the same to a living cell”) of cytosine. That’s one of four chemical “bases” that make up DNA. What Merck has done is “damage” it in a way that a cell still thinks its cytosine. Thus when it gets taken up in the synthesis of RNA it produces an error; the replication process doesn’t know how to deal with that and, after a few of those accumulate the process fails and thus the virus (in this case Covid-19) cannot reproduce in the cell. That’s how it works, basically. I was incorrect, by the way, in calling this a potential protease inhibitor, much like those used for HIV. Pfizer has one of those in test for Covid-19 as well. This is not — it is a nucleoside (the four primary chemical bases that make up DNA) analog that has been deliberately damaged so as to screw up the replication machinery.

There are a few of these used today in humans, with most targeting HIV in “combination therapy.” Covid-19 in most people produces transient, self-limiting illness. In some people it causes dysregulation of the immune system, organizing viral pneumonia and if not stopped there can kill you either through direct spread into other organs or the dysfunction that comes from the body’s response to that. We greatly increase the risk of that happening by telling you to go home and eat chicken soup until you’re choking; by the time you are choking anything you could have done, including using drugs that might partially block replication or suppress excess inflammatory response (e.g. antihistamines, drugs such as HCQ or Ivermectin, etc.) or put a stop to the organizing pneumonia (e.g. inhaled steroids such as budesonide) may not work at all or have greatly-reduced effectiveness.

That’s stupid but its what damn near every so-called “medical professional” has told you to do for the last 18 months. That advice may be valid for a cold virus but it definitely is not when the virus in question can and sometimes does result in wildly-inappropriate systemic inflammation and immune dysregulation. HIV, on the other hand, progressively destroys your immune system and then a whole bunch of things that usually don’t kill people at all (like PCP) get going in your body and finish you off. In other words HIV is akin to cancer, which if not stopped will kill you with near 100% certainty by screwing things up to the point that your body cannot fix it anymore, whereas Covid-19, in most people, is a self-limiting respiratory infection.

The problem with developing drugs like this is that if they get into other cells, not virally-infected ones, they can also cause those errors in the DNA replication and thus terminate the cell’s propagation and cellular line. Depending on how quickly those cells replicate in the human body that might be a small and self-limiting problem (e.g. they replicate fast and only a few of them get “polluted”) or it might be a ticking time bomb that ultimately screws you in hard-to-predict and impossible to treat ways (e.g. slowly-replicating types of cells where a lot of them get polluted.) It’s even worse if you’re a person of reproductive age as cellular replication happens very rapidly in a developing fetus and thus any such impact has a high probability of over-expressing in that circumstance. This is exactly how thalidomide babies happened and its not necessarily limited to women either since half the genetic material comes from the man and unlike women who start with all of the eggs they will ever have men are continually producing new sperm cells which conceivably could carry that damage into the zygote.

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VanDen Bossche warned us.

Predominance of Antibody-Resistant Covid Variants In Breakthrough Cases (Mxiv)

Associations between vaccine breakthrough cases and infection by SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants have remained largely unexplored. Here we analyzed SARS-CoV-2 whole-genome sequences and viral loads from 1,373 persons with COVID-19 from the San Francisco Bay Area from February 1 to June 30, 2021, of which 125 (9.1%) were vaccine breakthrough infections. Fully vaccinated were more likely than unvaccinated persons to be infected by variants carrying mutations associated with decreased antibody neutralization (L452R, L452Q, E484K, and/or F490S) (78% versus 48%, p = 1.96e-08), but not by those associated with increased infectivity (L452R and/or N501Y) (85% versus 77%, p = 0.092). Differences in viral loads were non-significant between unvaccinated and fully vaccinated persons overall (p = 0.99) and according to lineage (p = 0.09 – 0.78).


Viral loads were significantly higher in symptomatic as compared to asymptomatic vaccine breakthrough cases (p < 0.0001), and symptomatic vaccine breakthrough infections had similar viral loads to unvaccinated infections (p = 0.64). In 5 cases with available longitudinal samples for serologic analyses, vaccine breakthrough infections were found to be associated with low or undetectable neutralizing antibody levels attributable to immunocompromised state or infection by an antibody-resistant lineage. These findings suggest that vaccine breakthrough cases are preferentially caused by circulating antibody-resistant SARS-CoV-2 variants, and that symptomatic breakthrough infections may potentially transmit COVID-19 as efficiently as unvaccinated infections, regardless of the infecting lineage.

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“No hospital admissions, deaths, nor adverse drug effects were reported in our patient population.”

Antihistamines And Azithromycin As A Treatment For Covid-19 (PMC)

Between March and April 2020, 84 elderly patients with suspected COVID-19 living in two nursing homes of Yepes, Toledo (Spain) were treated early with antihistamines (dexchlorpheniramine, cetirizine or loratadine), adding azithromycin in the 25 symptomatic cases. The outcomes are retrospectively reported. The primary endpoint is the fatality rate of COVID-19. The secondary endpoints are the hospital and ICU admission rates. Endpoints were compared with the official Spanish rates for the elderly. The mean age of our population was 85 and 48% were over 80 years old.


No hospital admissions, deaths, nor adverse drug effects were reported in our patient population. By the end of June, 100% of the residents had positive serology for COVID-19. Although clinical trials are needed to determine the efficacy of both drugs in the treatment of COVID-19, this analysis suggests that primary care diagnosis and treatment with antihistamines, plus azithromycin in selected cases, may treat COVID-19 and prevent progression to severe disease in elderly patients.

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Also an expert on immigration.

‘Grinch’ Fauci Mulls Canceling Christmas Due To Covid (RT)

White House health adviser Anthony Fauci has insisted that Covid-19 is not being spread by untested immigrants. He also claims the virus remains such a threat that traditional Christmas celebrations might need to be canceled. During a Sunday interview on CNN, Fauci was asked about a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll that found 55% of Republicans partially blame the spread of Covid-19 on immigrants and tourism. The survey follows scrutiny of the Biden administration over tactics at the US-Mexico border, where White House officials have admitted many migrants are not required to be tested for coronavirus and are subsequently released into the US with a notice to attend court at a later date.


Fauci said he did not see any connection between the spread of the virus and immigration. “This is not driven by immigrants. This is a problem within our country, the same way it’s a problem within other countries throughout the world,” the infectious-diseases expert said. “They are not the driving force of this,” he added. “Let’s face reality here.” Fauci was also asked about Title 42 – a Trump-era policy that permits the expulsion of migrants caught illegally crossing the border during the coronavirus pandemic. In response, the doctor said that “expelling” immigrants was “not the solution to an outbreak.” Fauci’s comments were met with plenty of criticism on social media, though many others agreed and echoed his view that there was scant connection between untested migrants and Covid-19 cases.

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We have an idea what the problem is with endless booster shots.

Israel Tightens Covid ‘Green Pass’ Rules, Sparking Protest (AP)

Israel restricted its COVID Green Pass on Sunday to allow only those who have received a vaccine booster dose or recently recuperated from coronavirus to enter indoor venues. The new criteria mean that nearly 2 million people will lose their vaccination passport in the coming days. Israel is the first country to make a booster shot a requirement for its digital vaccination passport. The move is widely seen as a step to encourage booster vaccination among those who have yet to receive a third dose. Under the new guidelines, people must have received a booster shot to be eligible for a green pass. Those who have received two vaccine doses, and those who have recovered from coronavirus, will be issued passes valid for six months after the date of their vaccination or recovery.


The government’s advisory cabinet on coronavirus was set to convene Sunday to discuss existing restrictions and guidelines. Technical problems hamstrung the Health Ministry’s rollout of the updated green pass as millions of Israelis tried to reissue digital documentation that would allow entry to shops, restaurants, cultural events, gyms and other indoor venues. Scores of Israelis staged demonstrations around the country in protest of the green pass system, with convoys of cars clogging morning commutes as many Israelis returned to work Sunday after September’s Jewish High Holidays. Opponents of the system said it is a form of forced vaccination. “We are totally against any forced vaccinations, or any forced medications, and we are totally against doing anything to our children and grandchildren that we don’t agree with,” said Sarah Felt, who protested along the main highway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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The Testimonies Project.

The Israeli Face Of Pain After Pfizer Shots (Farber)

When you see real people, faces, voices, against the ordinary backdrops of their homes, and you see the sorrow in their eyes, it becomes impossible to keep wild sorrow at bay any longer. Words become displaced by tears. Even rage, you realize, is a waiting room, a stalling place where you numb the sorrow, where you keep it slightly away from your heart. And the outpost thought, looping constantly, the train’s last station: “This can’t be happening.”

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Your future.

How Democray Ends (Prasad)

The pandemic events of 2020-2021 outline a potential pathway for a future democratically elected President of the United States to systematically end democracy. The course of events leading to this outcome need not be a repeat of the direct assault on the Capitol, but a distortion of risk of illness as a justification for military force and suspension of democratic norms. Sometime over the next quarter century, it is inevitable that America, and all nations, will experience a cold and flu season above average. In a typical season approximately 40,000 Americans may die, but it is possible an above average season may see 80,000 or more deaths.

Inevitably some location(s) in the country will experience a surge in cases. Television news will show overworked hospital workers, and report that Intensive Care Unit beds have nearly run out– of course, ICU’s often operate near capacity, so this finding alone may not be that noteworthy, but in our attention economy, it may be sensationalized. Some afflicted individuals will be young children– typical for the flu, and these anecdotes will surely be emotionally salient. A video of a young boy or girl on life support machines may be used to show how dire things are. These events will then serve as an opportunity for a strong federal response.

A future US president may declare that the crisis in the region from influenza is unprecedented. Too many children are dying, and hospitals are near capacity. Citing the lessons of COVID19—that if anything we acted too late—the President may call upon the governor to issue a shelter in place warning. A week later, citing a continued rise in case, and “non-compliance” of the local people, the President could order the national guard or army troops in to secure the region. Notably, military force was applied in Australia during COVID19.

During the COVID19 pandemic, some of the most ardent calls for strong restrictions came from members of the political left. If a future president is on the political right; this would serve as a natural opportunity to remind the public that strong tactics were precisely what the other side demanded more of during COVID19. Life and safety, particularly that of children, is of paramount importance, and strong lockdowns must ensue. In many regions across the world, one political party preferred stronger countermeasures to COVID19, in all those nations, the opposing party that has the advantage for misusing force in the future.

Eventually, inevitably, disagreements with the policies will arise. Social media may see small explosions of dialog critical of prolonged lockdown or skeptical of hospital volumes. A future leader can seize this opportunity for a forced takeover of media or social media companies. Misinformation that compromises a national attempt at safety must be shut down. The future leader can remind the public that during COVID19 many were critical that we did not do enough to ban dangerous and misleading speech, and now we are doing just that.

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Brexit squared.

Staff Shortages Spreading To All Corners Of UK Business (G.)

Staff shortages are rippling out from the haulage, farming and hospitality sectors to almost all parts of the economy, putting “severe pressure” on medium-sized business across the UK, a new survey has warned. More than a quarter of the 500 firms polled said the lack of staff was putting pressure on their ability to operate at normal levels, with reduced stock – due to the resulting supply chain disruption – hurting their business. While some firms had considered cutting production, others were planning to raise prices, leading to concerns over rising inflation as the Christmas trading period approaches. Nearly a fifth said they were increasing wages to attract new staff, while others were introducing extra perks to lure workers.

But the report, released by accountancy and advisory firm BDO, said the knock-on effects for consumers could be “significant”, with nearly one-third of businesses saying the prices would need to rise in the next three to six months to make up for the disruption. More than one-third of firms in the survey said they had also cut down on the kinds of products and services on offer, with a further third planned to do the same over the coming month unless the situation radically improves. A similar proportion expect stock ranges to be affected long-term.

Businesses blamed the pandemic and Brexit for the shortage of overseas workers, with 38% saying a lack of regional talent was hurting their ability to recruit much-needed staff. “Brexit, global supply chain issues and the long tail of Covid-19 has created a perfect storm for UK businesses,” BDO partner Ed Dwan said. “After navigating the challenges of the pandemic and hoping for some respite, businesses have found themselves facing more major disruption, with those across almost all sectors reporting staff shortages.

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She wants more censorship.

Whistleblower Blasts Facebook For Prioritizing Profits Over ‘Democracy’ (RT)

A former Facebook data scientist, responsible for censoring “dangerous” and “misleading” information during the 2020 US election, has all but accused the social media giant of facilitating the January 6 “insurrection.” In the ‘60 Minutes’ interview with CBS on Sunday, Frances Haugen, 37, came forward as the whistleblower behind a recent WSJ investigation and a Senate hearing. But while her Tuesday subcommittee appearance, titled ‘Protecting Kids Online’, will be focused on Instagram’s effect on the mental health of teens, in her interview Haugen touched upon another aspect of why she believes unregulated Facebook poses a danger to “democracy.” Haugen was recruited into Facebook’s Civic Integrity unit back in 2019, and gladly joined because she personally “lost a friend to online conspiracy theories.”

She had helped battle misinformation during the US presidential elections, but the moment Facebook rolled back its safeguards became a turning point when she told herself: “I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous.” “As soon as the election was over, they turned them back off or they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety. And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.” Hagen said there was a constant conflict of interests “between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” accusing the company of always prioritizing profits.

“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” she said. “Like, they basically said, ‘Oh good, we made it through the election. There wasn’t riots. We can get rid of Civic Integrity now.’ Fast forward a couple months, we got the insurrection.”

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France capped the rise at 12.6%, and said no more hikes until March/April. But Bulgarian prices rose 36% last week. Be careful out there.

Electricity Bills In Italy Rise By Almost 30 Percent From Friday (ZH)

Household electricity bills will rise by 29.8% for the typical family and gas bills will go up by 14.4%, Italy’s energy regulatory authority Arera confirmed in a press release last week. The new national tariffs came into effect on Friday, the start of the fourth quarter of 2021. The increase comes amid surging energy costs across Europe, and beyond. The price rise passed on to Italian consumers could’ve reached 45 percent, Arera said, if the government had not stepped in to cap the new rise in rates. The Italian government last week announced measures costing three billion euros aimed at limiting a steeper rise in energy prices for consumers.

As well as keeping the cost to most families below 30 percent and 15 percent, the government measures will keep additional costs at zero for those least well-off, including households with an income under 8,265 euros, families with at least 4 dependent children with an income of less than 20,000 euros, those who receive a state pension or unemployment benefit, and people who are seriously ill, Sky TG24 reports. The measures also cut the ‘general charge’ from gas bills for all throughout the last quarter of 2021, and on electricity for families and some small businesses. Last quarter, the retail cost of electricity rose by 9.9% and gas by 15.3% from July 1st. The government also stepped in that time to cap costs, with 1.2 billion euros in state aid.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week that many of the reasons for the energy price increases were temporary but called for long-term action, including at a European level, to address the problem, including through diversifying supplies. Italy is highly dependent on imports and consumes a large amount of gas. Some 40% of its primary energy consumption is gas, compared with about 15 percent in France, according to official statistics for both countries.

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When I saw Luke Harding listed as the main author for the Guardian, I stopped reading. That was before I saw there are no American names mentioned. What a bunch of BS.

Pandora Papers (RT)

Leaked papers appear to show how some of the world’s elites accumulate property empires while avoiding millions in taxes, with reports focusing on European, Middle Eastern and South American leaders, and world-famous celebrities. Obtained from 14 offshore banking institutions and analyzed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the ‘Pandora Papers’ reveal the financial chicanery of more than 100 billionaires, 35 current and former world leaders, and 300 public officials. The first round of information, handed to a select list of international outlets and studied by “600 journalists,” was published on Sunday.

According to the ICIJ, King Abdullah II of Jordan is a prolific user of shell corporations to manage his global property empire. The monarch reportedly used 36 of these companies from 1995 to 2017 to purchase 14 luxury properties in the US and UK worth more than $106 million. The king’s lawyers say he used these stand-in companies to maintain his privacy rather than to dodge any taxes. Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family has traded almost $500 million worth of British property in recent years, according to the leaks. One of these properties was sold by an Aliyev-owned front company to the Queen’s crown estate for a sizable $90 million.

[..] Despite featuring an image of Vladimir Putin front and center on their introductory piece, and mentioning Putin nearly 50 times in a spin-off article about the “hidden riches of Putin’s inner circle,” The Guardian had to admit in its reporting that the Russian president “does not appear in the files by name.” Instead, the paper focused on Putin’s “friends,” including billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko, and Putin’s rumored past “girlfriend.”

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Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime; donate with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

Aug 292021
 


Eugène-Louis Boudin Beach at Étretat 1890

 

Covid Cases In England Are 26 Times Higher Than A Year Ago (G.)
Vaccine-Resistant Viruses Are Driving ‘Breakthrough’ Covid Infections (MN)
Antibody-Resistant SARS-CoV-2 Variants In Vaccine Breakthrough Cases (Medrxiv)
Impact Of Daily High Dose Oral Vitamin D Therapy On Covid 19 Patients (Nature)
1 in 4 COVID Patients Hospitalized While Vitamin D Deficient Die – Study (ToI)
Is It Time To Stop Obsessing Over Covid Figures? (DM)
Differentiation of Long-Lived SARS-CoV-2-Specific CD8+ T Cells (JoI)
Contaminant In 1.63m Moderna Vaccine Doses In Japan Believed To Be Metal (R.)
Covid Vaccine Doubter Alex Berenson Permanently Banned From Twitter (NYP)
Escapes From Afghanistan, Coordinated From A Home Office In Connecticut (CTM)

 

 


A full page ad in the Wall Street Journal paid for by the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

 

Sleepy Joe

 

 

Paris

 

 

So what happened? Well, we vaccinated everyone…

Covid Cases In England Are 26 Times Higher Than A Year Ago (G.)

Coronavirus infections in England are now 26 times the levels that were experienced this time last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. Scientists described the figures as “sobering”. They warned that the reopening of schools in England this week was likely to trigger further rises in Covid cases – with more to follow when students return to universities and colleges. A fresh wave of infections could, in turn, lead to new social restrictions being imposed as winter approaches. As a result, pressure is mounting on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to approve the deployment of booster jabs for vulnerable people and the extension of vaccinations to most 12- to 15-year-olds.

The latter move would bring the UK into line with the US and most large European nations and is backed by most ministers. Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at Reading University, said that in the week ending 20 August, the ONS estimated that 756,900 people in England were infected with Covid-19, which equated to one person in 70. “This time last year, the ONS estimated that 28,200 people in England were infected. That is the equivalent of one person in 1,900 being infected with Covid-19. That means that community infections are 26 times more common now than they were a year ago, when the population was unvaccinated and the country was three months into its reopening.”

The fact that deaths and hospital admissions from Covid-19 are a fraction of their levels in August 2020 demonstrates the protective power of the vaccines – more than 60% of the UK population has had two jabs. “The last time infections were at their current level in England was late January,” said Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University. “There were around 2,300 daily hospital admissions and 1,100 deaths a day then. By contrast, the most recent daily figures for England are about 770 hospital admissions and about 80 deaths.”

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“People who never develop symptoms during a “breakthrough” infection carry very low levels of virus..”

Vaccine-Resistant Viruses Are Driving ‘Breakthrough’ Covid Infections (MN)

Waning immunity and ferocious contagion are known to be fueling the troubling surge in “breakthrough” COVID-19 cases among vaccinated people. But a new UC San Francisco analysis of 1,373 Bay Area cases reveals a third, and more ominous, problem: The coronavirus is learning to outsmart our immune system. Variants with antibody-resistant mutations are playing an ever-larger role in our highly vaccinated region’s pandemic, according to research by prominent virologist Dr. Charles Chiu. His team found that 78% of infections in fully vaccinated people among the study were caused by variants with these mutations, compared to 48% of the cases among unvaccinated people, who remained an easier target for earlier generations of the virus. Overall, the proportion of cases linked to these variants more than doubled between February and June.

The findings add to a growing list of studies that are unraveling why the vaccinated are still so susceptible to infection — and provide a deeper understanding of what we may encounter in the future. Vaccinated people are still much more protected from serious illness, hospitalization and death than unvaccinated people, the study confirmed. “But I worry that as long as the virus is circulating, it will continue to mutate and evolve, which will, in turn, allow it to continue spreading,” he said. The study suggests that new iterations of the virus will likely become even more resistant, over time, “until, eventually, you’re going to see the vaccine not work, or its efficacy will be reduced significantly,” he said. Our vaccines won’t suddenly become useless, he added. So far, it appears to be a gradual process. The resistant variants will slowly dominate over time, he predicted.

The team’s second major finding was more reassuring: People who never develop symptoms during a “breakthrough” infection carry very low levels of virus – a finding that should ease concerns that vaccinated people are unknowingly fueling the pandemic. However, vaccinated people who do have symptoms had the same levels of virus as infected unvaccinated people – so can spread the virus. This confirms a finding first revealed weeks ago by a CDC study in Provincetown, Massachusetts. “You’re essentially as infectious as someone who was unvaccinated,” he said. [..] Vaccination is not to be blamed for the increase in variants with these mutations, Chiu said. Because we naturally produce antibodies in response to exposure and infection, the virus is constantly changing to survive. “The virus is going to evolve to become antibody resistant, whether or not you deploy a vaccine,” he said. “But because we have a vaccine, there’s a way to prevent the virus from spreading and evolving further.”

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“Fully vaccinated were more likely than unvaccinated persons to be infected by variants carrying mutations associated with decreased antibody neutralization [..] but not by those associated with increased infectivity..”

Antibody-Resistant SARS-CoV-2 Variants In Vaccine Breakthrough Cases (Medrxiv)

Associations between vaccine breakthrough cases and infection by SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants have remained largely unexplored. Here we analyzed SARS-CoV-2 whole-genome sequences and viral loads from 1,373 persons with COVID-19 from the San Francisco Bay Area from February 1 to June 30, 2021, of which 125 (9.1%) were vaccine breakthrough infections. Fully vaccinated were more likely than unvaccinated persons to be infected by variants carrying mutations associated with decreased antibody neutralization (L452R, L452Q, E484K, and/or F490S) (78% versus 48%, p = 1.96e-08), (L452R and/or N501Y) (85% versus 77%, p = 0.092). Differences in viral loads were non-significant between unvaccinated and fully vaccinated persons overall (p = 0.99) and according to lineage (p = 0.09 – 0.78).


Viral loads were significantly higher in symptomatic as compared to asymptomatic vaccine breakthrough cases (p < 0.0001), and symptomatic vaccine breakthrough infections had similar viral loads to unvaccinated infections (p = 0.64). In 5 cases with available longitudinal samples for serologic analyses, vaccine breakthrough infections were found to be associated with low or undetectable neutralizing antibody levels attributable to immunocompromised state or infection by an antibody-resistant lineage. These findings suggest that vaccine breakthrough cases are preferentially caused by circulating antibody-resistant SARS-CoV-2 variants, and that symptomatic breakthrough infections may potentially transmit COVID-19 as efficiently as unvaccinated infections, regardless of the infecting lineage.

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May 2021

60,000 IU per day.

Impact Of Daily High Dose Oral Vitamin D Therapy On Covid 19 Patients (Nature)

COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus has created an unprecedented hardship in the recent times1,2. Serious consequences of COVID-19 were attributed to the immune dysregulation leading to the enhanced production of pro inflammatory mediators (cytokine storm). In the absence of a specific vaccine or a treatment, strategies to minimize the effects of COVID-19 have become extremely important. Recent observational studies have reported that the patients with higher levels of serum vitamin D (vit.D) had less severe symptoms and vice versa and have postulated the usefulness of vit.D in prevention and treatment of COVID-19. The beneficial effects of vit.D in COVID-19 were attributed to be mediated through its multiple actions on the immune system.

Vit.D is known to enhance the production of various anti-microbial peptides by the immune cells and vit.D modulates the immune system according to the internal milieu. It reduces the dysregulated production of self-damaging pro-inflammatory cytokines and promotes the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines by immune cells. The dynamic role of vit.D can be of immense value in the context of immune dysfunction observed in COVID-19 patients with cytokine storm and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Though the protective immuno-modulatory effects of vit.D were explored in many autoimmune diseases and respiratory tract infections, there is a dearth of information from the randomised clinical trials in COVID-19.

Pulse D therapy is a targeted approach to increase the serum vit.D level by using high dose (60,000 IUs) oral supplementation of vit.D daily for a specific period of time determined by the individual’s BMI, initial level of vit.D and the formulation19. This study aims to objectively investigate the role of vit.D and the impact of Pulse D therapy in reducing the inflammatory biomarkers of COVID-19.

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June 2021

Anyone seen any vit. D campaigns yet?

1 in 4 COVID Patients Hospitalized While Vitamin D Deficient Die – Study (ToI)

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients are far more likely to die or to end up in severe or critical condition if they are vitamin D-deficient, Israeli researchers have found. In a study conducted in a Galilee hospital, 26 percent of vitamin D-deficient coronavirus patients died, while among other patients the figure was at 3%. “This is a very, very significant discrepancy, which represents a big clue that starting the disease with very low vitamin D leads to increased mortality and more severity,” Dr. Amir Bashkin, endocrinologist and part of the research team, told The Times of Israel. For much of the pandemic, many scientists have suggested that the so-called sunshine vitamin may help people fight the disease. The new study represents one of the most compelling pieces of supporting research yet.

“In short, after conducting this study I would say to people that during this pandemic, you certainly want to make sure that you have adequate vitamin D, because if you contract the coronavirus it will help you,” said Dr. Amiel Dror, who led the research. He analyzed data on 1,176 patients admitted to the Galilee Medical Center, 253 of whom had vitamin D levels on record, for a study that has been published online but not yet been peer-reviewed. Half of those with recorded levels were vitamin D-deficient. “We were very interested to see just what a big difference this made, with these patients some 14 times more likely, on average, to end up in severe or critical condition,” said Dror, who, like Bashkin, is a physician at Galilee Medical Center, as well as a researcher at Bar Ilan University.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the association between vitamin D levels and the SARS-CoV-2 infection, and they have produced mixed results. Most of them measured vitamin D levels once patients were already sick, which can complicate interpretation of the results. Israel’s centralized health record-keeping has allowed Bar Ilan researchers to easily access patient vitamin levels that are on record from before infection. This data led to an important study that lauded vitamin D’s prospects for fighting the disease last year, as well as the new study.

“This study is important because of the results, because of the fact that it uses data from before admission, and also because we were careful to isolate all factors like age and diabetes,” Dror said. “We saw that vitamin D deficiency is an independent factor that significantly influences the status of the patient.” Dror added that the fact that such a large proportion of patients were vitamin D-deficient in Israel, despite the abundance of sunshine, highlights the value of people around the world monitoring and potentially boosting their levels.

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So soon?

Is It Time To Stop Obsessing Over Covid Figures? (DM)

They’re the figures that have ruled our lives for the past 18 months; decided our freedoms; deepened our fears. The Covid dashboard published on the UK Government website has offered the public a window into the state of the UK’s epidemic, displaying daily Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths, both nationally and regionally, since April 2020. Some people have avoided looking at the figures – published at 4pm every day, including weekends. But a surprising number of us have become secretly addicted to poring over them. Back in January, the dashboard attracted 76 million views in a single day. In more recent months, the dashboard has offered a source of celebration, thanks to the addition of the vaccination tally.

Scientists and politicians alike agree the UK’s Covid dashboard has been a resounding success, allowing the public to draw their own conclusions about the level of threat the virus poses to them. It’s also been a crucial yardstick for how stretched the NHS is, providing exact figures of how many Covid patients are in each hospital around the country. But now, with nearly eight in ten Britons protected against getting seriously ill, thanks to the vaccine, are daily Covid figures still necessary? After all, as Health Secretary Sajid Javid said of the virus earlier this summer: ‘We cannot eliminate it, instead we have to learn to live with it.’ There is growing concern from experts that the endless figures do more harm than good. Some have declared the tally of daily infections ‘completely meaningless’.

‘It shouldn’t really matter how many people are catching the virus – as long as they are protected,’ says Professor Jackie Cassell, public health expert at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Other scientists have warned of the psychological impact of constant reminders of how many people are still catching Covid. ‘There’s a worry, that in the scramble to get out these daily updates, we’re alarming people disproportionately,’ says Professor Robert Dingwall, sociologist at Nottingham Trent University and former Government scientific adviser. ‘People see spikes in the data, and this is often the cause of great anxiety, which might lead them to limit their daily activities unnecessarily.

‘It stops people being able to acclimatise to a post-vaccine world, which is exactly what the jabs were intended to do. And if you look more widely you’ll find the majority of infections are in the younger, festival-going age groups, and didn’t reach the vulnerable or elderly.’ Others argue that the continued obsession over Covid figures overshadows the record-high demands on the NHS.

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Journal of Immunology.

Differentiation of Long-Lived SARS-CoV-2-Specific CD8+ T Cells (JoI)

CD8+ T cells can potentiate long-lived immunity against COVID-19. We screened longitudinally-sampled convalescent human donors against SARS-CoV-2 tetramers and identified a participant with an immunodominant response against residues 322 to 311 of nucleocapsid (Nuc322–331), a peptide conserved in all variants of concern reported to date. We conducted 38-parameter cytometry by time of flight on tetramer-identified Nuc322–331–specific CD8+ T cells and on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells recognizing the entire nucleocapsid and spike proteins, and took 32 serological measurements. We discovered a coordination of the Nuc322–331–specific CD8+ T response with both the CD4+ T cell and Ab pillars of adaptive immunity.


Over the approximately six month period of convalescence monitored, we observed a slow and progressive decrease in the activation state and polyfunctionality of Nuc322–331–specific CD8+ T cells, accompanied by an increase in their lymph node–homing and homeostatic proliferation potential. These results suggest that following a typical case of mild COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2–specific CD8+ T cells not only persist but continuously differentiate in a coordinated fashion well into convalescence into a state characteristic of long-lived, self-renewing memory.

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It reacts to magnets. Welcome to graphene oxide.

Contaminant In 1.63m Moderna Vaccine Doses In Japan Believed To Be Metal (R.)

A contaminant found in a batch of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccines delivered to Japan is believed to be a metallic particle, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported, citing sources at the health ministry. Japan on Thursday suspended the use of 1.63 million doses shipped to 863 vaccination centres nationwide, more than a week after the domestic distributor, Takeda Pharmaceutical, received reports of contaminants in some vials. NHK, in a report published late on Thursday, cited ministry sources as saying the particle reacted to magnets and was therefore suspected to be a metal. Moderna has described it as “particulate matter” that did not pose a safety or efficacy issue. A health ministry official said the composition of the contaminant has not been confirmed.

In a statement, Takeda said it asked Moderna to investigate the issue and that it would work with the health ministry to replace the affected vaccine supply. News of the contaminant could provide a fresh setback for Japan’s inoculation drive as it struggles to persuade many – particularly young people — to get vaccinated. On Friday, eight more prefectures entered a state of emergency meaning about 80 per cent of Japan’s population is under coronavirus restrictions. The government reported nearly 25,000 new infections and severe cases at a record 2,000 for Thursday. The ministry has said the suspension of the Moderna batches was a precaution but it prompted several Japanese companies to cancel worker vaccinations and the European drugs regulator to launch an investigation.

Airline ANA Holdings Inc said it had secured more Moderna supplies and would resume inoculations on Saturday after a two-day suspension of the shots. Spanish pharma company Rovi, which bottles Moderna vaccines for markets other than the United States, said the contamination could be due to a manufacturing issue on a production line. A spokesperson said the company could not say anything more while it was investigating. Moderna put the lot in question and two adjacent ones on hold. Another health ministry official said it would take “some time” to confirm how many shots from the contaminated batch had been administered in Japan. Kyodo News reported that at least 176,000 shots have been used based on its own tally of figures reported by municipalities.

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Misinformation? Really?

Covid Vaccine Doubter Alex Berenson Permanently Banned From Twitter (NYP)

Conservative commentator and vaccine doubter Alex Berenson has reportedly been permanently suspended from Twitter for violating the social media platform’s COVID-19 misinformation rules. Berenson’s account was banned Saturday after “repeated violations” of the rules, a Twitter spokesperson told NBC News in a statement. Berenson, a one-time New York Times reporter, addressed the suspension in a Saturday night post to his Substack page, blaming his removal from Twitter on a recent post where he was critical of the coronavirus vaccine. “It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine,” the tweet read.


“Think of it — at best — as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS.” Berenson, in his Substack post, defended the tweet in question as “entirely accurate.” In a statement to The Post, the Yale-educated writer and novelist blasted Twitter’s decision. “We have reached a dangerous moment. Social media companies that have audiences which dwarf any other are now actively censoring reporters at the behest of governments,” he said. “I will continue to fight to get out the truth and am considering all legal options.”

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In the wire.

Escapes From Afghanistan, Coordinated From A Home Office In Connecticut (CTM)

Across the hall from his twin daughters’ sun-splashed bedroom, where Mickey Mouse and a menagerie of stuffed animals stand watch from bunk beds, Alex Plitsas typed furiously on his iPhone, relaying encrypted messages to a terrified Afghan family outside the airport at Kabul. The Afghan father had been beaten the previous day by the Taliban, his pregnant wife whipped across the back. Plitsas sent a signal to them to flash to American personnel who would admit them to the airport gate. To the Americans at the airport gate, he relayed a photo of the family, a hollow-eyed selfie. They were just four meters from the gate, an exit from Afghanistan.

Improbably, they had been guided there by Plitsas, an Army veteran and suburban dad standing in stocking feet in a home office in a tidy neighborhood on the other side of the world. He is one of the many players in a crowd-sourcing exercise that, at least for Plitsas, would reach a crescendo Thursday night. An interpreter he helped already had flown to safety. The pregnant woman was under the care of American medics. And a more difficult case, coordinating the rescue of four unaccompanied minors whose plight had been the subject of a CNN story, had found a happy ending. At 11:07 p.m., a text message arrived with a picture of four children and three words: “In the wire.”

The wire was the fence separating the American-controlled portion of Hamid Karzai International Airport from the chaos and carnage of Kabul. On a day when suicide bombers killed 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghan civilians outside the airport gate, four kids were saved. There were others, their stories certain to unfold over time. All were beneficiaries of a network of military veterans and others with contacts in Afghanistan. They used social media, off-the-shelf encryption communication apps and satellite maps in what’s been dubbed the “Digital Dunkirk,” a nod to the civilian flotilla that evacuated trapped British troops after the fall of France. As midnight approached, the end of a frenetic 36 hours, Plitsas struggled to explain what he felt. It had been a day of frustration, false starts, grievous losses and scattered gains. Finally, he said, “I could throw up right now.”

Killed by US

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Eric Clapton – This Has Gotta Stop

 

 

 

 

Geese
https://twitter.com/i/status/1431521290922479616

 

 

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