This document is part of an archive of postings on Dissecting Leftism, a blog hosted by Blogspot who are in turn owned by Google. The index to the archive is available here or here. Indexes to my other blogs can be located here or here. Archives do accompany my original postings but, given the animus towards conservative writing on Google and other internet institutions, their permanence is uncertain. These alternative archives help ensure a more permanent record of what I have written.

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31 December, 2021

Catching Omicron strain may protect against Delta and usher in endemic phase of Covid, study suggests

Academics took blood samples from people struck down with the ultra-infectious variant and measured their antibody levels. They then looked at how well the virus-fighting proteins reacted to both Omicron and Delta.

Lab tests, conducted two weeks after patients joined the study, showed antibody levels spiked 14-fold in response to Omicron.

But there was also a 4.4-fold increase against Delta, according to the findings which took the researchers by surprise.

Other studies delving into the topic of cross-variant immunity showed antibodies made in response to Delta reacted poorly to Omicron.

Professor Alex Sigal, a virologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa who led the research, said it suggested Omicron could usher in the endemic phase of the pandemic. He said: 'The increase in neutralising immunity against Omicron was expected, that is the virus these individuals were infected with.

'However, we also saw that the same people — especially those who were vaccinated — developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.'

Professor Alex Sigal, a virologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, found in research that infections with the super-variant also boost protection against Delta.

He said: 'If, as it currently looks like from the South African experience, Omicron is less pathogenic, then this will help push Delta out as it should decrease the likelihood that someone infected with Omicron will get re-infected with Delta.

'If that's true, then the disruption Covid has caused in our lives may become less.'

Professor Nathan Grubaugh, a virologist from Yale University, told the New York Times that the results matched observations on the ground.

He said: 'We are seeing Omicron exponentially rise while Delta cases are falling.

'This suggests to me that Omicron is outcompeting Delta for susceptible individuals, leaving them less susceptible to Delta in the aftermath and driving down Delta cases.'

UK data shows that Delta cases fell 24 per cent over the fortnight to December 18, the latest available, while Omicron infection skyrocketed.

It comes amid the roll out of boosters in the country, which bolster protection against the variant. 

Professor Sigal added: 'If, as it currently looks like from the South African experience, Omicron is less pathogenic, then this will help push Delta out.'

He said this was because it should 'decrease the likelihood someone infected with Omicron will get re-infected with Delta'.

'If that is true, then the disruption Covid has caused in our lives may become less,' Professor Sigal continued.

An ever-growing body of evidence shows Omicron is milder than its rivals, and less likely to put people who catch it in hospital.

The variant is already dominant in Britain, and has caused cases to hit record levels.

It has also driven a surge in infections in the US, which has seen infections top 500,000 a day — also a record high.

In the new research, Professor Sigal and colleagues analysed blood from 13 patients who had recovered from Omicron. Six were unvaccinated.

And the majority of the volunteers had been hospitalised during their battle with the virus.

Their blood samples were then tested in laboratory experiments against live versions of both the Omicron and Delta variants.

The paper was published as a preprint on MedRxiv, and is yet to be peer-reviewed by other scientists.

But Professor Nathan Grubaugh, a virologist from Yale University, told the New York Times that the results matched observations on the ground.

He said: 'We are seeing Omicron exponentially rise while Delta cases are falling.

'This suggests to me that Omicron is outcompeting Delta for susceptible individuals, leaving them less susceptible to Delta in the aftermath and driving down Delta cases.'

Scientists did not confirm whether the individuals had previously been infected with Delta, which could have skewed the results.

But this is likely to have been the case because of South Africa's mammoth waves of infection.

Previous research has suggested that people who had previously been infected with Covid were less likely to catch other variants of the virus.


CDC admits that its PCR test for Covid is not fit for purpose

07/21/2021: Lab Alert: Changes to CDC RT-PCR for SARS-CoV-2 Testing

CDC's Laboratory Outreach Communication System (LOCS)

Audience: Individuals Performing COVID-19 Testing

Level: Laboratory Alert

After December 31, 2021, CDC will withdraw the request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel, the assay first introduced in February 2020 for detection of SARS-CoV-2 only. CDC is providing this advance notice for clinical laboratories to have adequate time to select and implement one of the many FDA-authorized alternatives.

Visit the FDA website for a list of authorized COVID-19 diagnostic methods. For a summary of the performance of FDA-authorized molecular methods with an FDA reference panel, visit this page.

In preparation for this change, CDC recommends clinical laboratories and testing sites that have been using the CDC 2019-nCoV RT-PCR assay select and begin their transition to another FDA-authorized COVID-19 test. CDC encourages laboratories to consider adoption of a multiplexed method that can facilitate detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses. Such assays can facilitate continued testing for both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 and can save both time and resources as we head into influenza season. Laboratories and testing sites should validate and verify their selected assay within their facility before beginning clinical testing.


How long is Omicron’s incubation period? How it differs from Delta and other Covid variants

One thing that has become clear over the last few weeks is how the Omicron variant differs from the original Covid strain.

While the World Health Organisation estimated that symptoms took anywhere between two days to two weeks to materialise in cases of people infected with the first coronavirus strain, the Omicron variant is thought to incubate much faster, closer to three to five days.

“Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than the Delta variant,” UK health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs.

That would explain why it has spread so swiftly and successfully, as the shortness of its incubation period gives sufferers a shorter window between suspecting they have contracted the virus and experiencing a flare-up, making it less likely a positive test result will be recorded in time to warn others, enter isolation and prevent the contagion being passed on.

A shorter incubation period “makes a virus much, much, much harder to control,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, warned The Atlantic this week.

Another aspect of Omicron that makes it potentially harder to detect than other strains is that its symptoms differ somewhat from the three primary indicators we have learned to be on the lookout for: coughs, fever and any loss of sense of taste or smell.

Early warning signs for the new variant, by contrast, include a scratchy throat, lower back pain, a runny or blocked nose, a headache, muscle pains and fatigue, sneezing and night sweats.

The current evidence from Omicron cases analysed in Britain is that patients will recover within five days to a week on average, although some of the symptoms like coughing and fatigue may linger for longer.

Shortness of breath has also been reported in more severe cases, which has been seen to last for as long as 13 days after.

Covid sufferers are, typically, thought to be infectious to others from around two days before their first symptoms start to materialise and for around 10 days after.




30 December, 2021

Vaccination offers little protection against Omicron

Recent reports from the CDC target 43 new COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant. Of these 43 documented infections, 34 of these patients were fully vaccinated. From the vaccinated count, 14 also had their recommended booster shot.

Of the remaining nine people who tested COVID-19 positive with Omicron, eight were documented as unvaccinated. One person’s status was unknown. That means nearly 8 out of 10 of the newest positive Omicron triggered COVID-19 cases are in vaccinated patients.

There is even more interesting data coming from these 43 cases. Virtually every patient reported mild symptoms. The symptoms ranged from a cough, some fatigue, to congestion or a runny nose. A single vaccinated patient was hospitalized for two days.

None of the Omicron COVID-19 infections have died. This is another perfect example of a government-funded program that’s not working. However, these power hungry buffoons won’t acknowledge it’s not working. Why do they continue to insist on something that’s failing?

Why are medical bureaucrats still pushing COVID as a pandemic of the unvaccinated when the data prove they are lying? Furthermore, why isn’t natural immunity being studied intently? How many of the latest positive COVID-19 infections have had a previous variant and recovered?

This information will prove critical. Since there is zero indication of a breakthrough infection happening in patients with natural immunity, that speaks volumes about the push for mandatory vaccinations. It’s nothing but a push for compliance.

Studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine clearly show vaccine immunity wanes after a few months. Moreover, similar studies, research also conducted in Israel, have indicated naturally acquired COVID-19 immunity could last in some people for years.

If it weren’t, we’d be stressing how to spur natural immunity all over the world.


Omicron infecting the vaccinated - WHO

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the COVID-19 disease, the head of the World Health Organisation says.

"There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing for Geneva-based journalists, held at its new headquarters building.

"And it is more likely people vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or re-infected," Tedros said.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that the variant was successfully evading some immune responses, meaning that the booster programmes being rolled out in many countries ought to be targeted towards people with weaker immune systems.

Omicron appears to be better at evading antibodies generated by some COVID-19 vaccines but there are other forms of immunity that may prevent infection and disease, WHO officials said.

"We do not believe that all vaccines will become completely ineffective," Swaminathan said.

WHO expert Abdi Mahamud added: "Although we are seeing a reduction in the neutralisation antibodies, almost all data shows T-cells remain intact, that is what we really require."

While the antibody defences from some courses have been undermined, there been hope that T-cells, the second pillar of an immune response, can prevent severe disease by attacking infected human cells.

Swaminathan, referring to a treatment for people with the disease, said: "Of course there is a challenge, many of the monoclonals will not work with Omicron." She gave no details.

But the WHO team also offered some hope to a world facing the new wave that 2022 would be the year that the pandemic, which already killed more than 5.6 million people worldwide, would end - with the development of second and third generation vaccines, further development of antimicrobial treatments and other innovations.

"(We) hope to consign this disease of a relatively mild disease that is easily prevented, that is easily treated ...and that able to cope easily with this disease into the future," Mike Ryan, the WHO's top emergency expert, told the briefing.

"If we can keep virus transmission to minimum, then can bring pandemic to end."


EU approves Novavax vaccine

The European Union has approved its fifth Covid-19 vaccine, stepping up its battle against the Omicron virus variant as the WHO called for greater efforts to ensure the pandemic ends next year.

Novavax’s Covid vaccine was given the go-ahead by the European Commission after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended it for use on Monday.

“We welcome today’s European Commission decision reflecting the first authorisation of a protein-based Covid-19 vaccine for the people of the EU,” said the company’s CEO Stanley C. Erck.

Called Nuvaxovid, it is the fifth vaccine authorised in the EU after Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

Nuvaxovid uses a more conventional technology than those used for the other vaccines already in use — it is similar to the technology used in the decades-old hepatitis B and pertussis vaccines — and does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures.

The so-called protein “subunit” vaccine contains purified fragments of the pathogen which then trigger an immune response.

The jab is given as two injections three weeks apart.

Results from clinical trials released in June showed 90.4 per cent efficacy against the disease, and 100 per cent efficacy against severe to moderate cases.

The company said it is “evaluating its vaccine against the Omicron variant” and working on a version specific to it.


Florida surgeon general says Biden admin 'actively preventing' monoclonal antibody treatments

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo accused the Biden administration of "actively preventing the effective distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments" in the United States, according to a Tuesday letter addressed to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.

The Biden administration recently paused shipments of COVID-19 antibody treatments manufactured by major drug companies Regeneron and Eli Lilly amid claims that such treatments are not effective against the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The federal government continues to supply Sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody from the company Glaxosmithkline, which reportedly does work against omicron.

Ladapo concluded his letter by referencing comments Biden made Monday that there wasn’t a solution by the federal government to end the nearly two-year-old pandemic.

"There is no federal solution. This gets solved at the state level," Biden said at the time in response to Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson warning the president against letting "federal solutions stand in the way of state solutions."

The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.

Ladapo, whom DeSantis appointed in September after the former surgeon general resigned, has also made headlines for opposing measures such as school mask mandates.

In September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hammered the Biden administration for overhauling the distribution of monoclonal antibodies in a way that will severely hamper the treatment's availability in several Republican-controlled states.

The Department of Health and Human Services alarmed authorities in several southern, red states — where the antibodies are widely used — after announcing that the agency would be changing how the COVID-19 treatment is distributed.


FAA Vaccine Policy Violates Its Own Rules, Attorneys and Doctors Say

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is breaking its own rule that states pilots should not fly after having taken medications that have been approved for less than a year, according to a group of attorneys, doctors, and other experts; including a pilot who says his career ended due to adverse reactions from a vaccine.

Airlines, which are government contractors, are affected by President Joe Biden’s order from September that states all employees of those companies have to be vaccinated against the CCP virus.

The group of attorneys and doctors wrote a letter directed at the FAA, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Justice, as well as several airlines, demanding that they medically flag all vaccinated pilots and have them re-examined for blood clotting problems as well as their cardiac health.

“The Federal Aviation Agency is charged with ensuring the safety of the flying public. Instead, as we speak the FAA, as well as the commercial airline companies, are acting in contravention of their own federal aviation regulations and associated guidance which tells medical examiners to NOT issue medical certifications to pilots using non-FDA approved products,” human rights attorney and primary author of the letter, Leigh Dundas, told The Epoch Times via email.

“The title of the section I’m talking about literally says ‘Do Not Issue—Do Not Fly’ and then instructs medical examiners to ‘not issue’ medical certifications to pilots using products that the FDA ‘approved less than 12 months ago.’ … The pilots are flying with products which are not even recently approved—in violation of the above wording—they are flying with injections in their bodies which were NEVER approved by the FDA at all (as no COVID vaccine which is commercially available in the U.S. has received FDA approval),” Dundas said.

Amid widespread confusion about the availability of the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine, The Epoch Times did an investigation in October and discovered that the approved Comirnaty version of the vaccine was still not commercially available in the United States. Pfizer says it’s the same vaccine that originally received emergency use authorization.

Another one of the signers is Cody Flint, whose career as a pilot ended after voluntarily taking the jab and experiencing adverse effects. He is a father of two with no underlying conditions.

The 34-year-old agricultural pilot doesn’t remember how he landed after nearly blacking out in mid-flight.

He was flying his aircraft when tunnel vision started to kick in and a headache he had developed after getting the jab worsened.

About two hours after having taken off, he decided to pull up the plane to go back and felt an “extreme burst of pressure” in his ears, then immediately “nearly blacked out,  [and felt] dizzy, disoriented, nauseous, and [was] shaking uncontrollably,” Flint told The Epoch Times.

As a commercial pilot, Flint was concerned when he first saw FAA’s 48-hour no-fly rule after a COVID-19 vaccination.

The FAA has stated that pilots and air traffic controllers may receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with appropriate precautions.

“I find it hard to comprehend how the FAA justified moving the goalposts of safety from one full year of post-marketing safety review to only two days. The dangers associated with a pilot experiencing a severe adverse reaction from an mRNA-type Covid vaccine while at the controls of an airplane can be horrifying and deadly to say the least.

“As a pilot that experienced a tragic and career-ending adverse reaction to the Pfizer COVID vaccine while actively flying an airplane, I feel I can honestly and creditably speak out about the dangers associated with pilots returning to flight duties too early following COVID mRNA type vaccination,” he added.

Another signer, Dr. Pete Constantine Chambers, D.O. has been practicing medicine for 25 years, 16 of which he served as a Flight Surgeon attached to Special Operations.

“Unfortunately, several of my soldiers have experienced hospitalizations for serious diagnoses to include brain hemorrhages, myocarditis, anaphylaxis, pulmonary emboli, and vertigo. These were all post-vaccination.




29 December, 2021

UK: Absurd new Covid rules that prove the Left just love to boss everyone else around

Like many, I am delighted that the Government has decided not to impose further Covid restrictions — at least until next year.

This welcome late Christmas present not only means that people in England can enjoy New Year's Eve, it also means that many restaurants, pubs, theatres and shops will now be saved from closure.

But not everyone shares my relief. Instead, arguing furiously for ever-tougher restrictions — even in the face of the demonstrably milder threat from the Omicron variant — are Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford.

They continue to display breathtaking political opportunism and a shocking refusal to prioritise people's livelihoods. Meanwhile, their allies indulge in endless handwringing, fury, virtue-signalling and political point-scoring. I've had enough of it all.

As a former Labour MP who was a member of the party for 34 years, it pains me to say this, but parts of the Left love bossing everyone else around.


Restricting personal freedom is the itch the Left loves to scratch whenever it can. Lockdowns and the baffling array of contradictory rules and guidelines have provided the perfect pretext for this.

Yes, the state has a role to play in life. But there is a vast and widening gulf between sensible citizens with jobs, businesses and responsibilities, who willingly accept restrictions while longing for the day when they are lifted — and those who constantly demand further curbs, howling with self-righteous fury and predicting disaster when they are loosened.

In England, these Leftist doom-mongers, including Corbynista Labour MPs, party activists and a ragbag of socialists, vent their spleen online and in some cases in the broadcast media. But in Scotland and Wales, Sturgeon and Drakeford's Left-wing governments (respectively SNP and Labour) actually wield the power to act on their urges.

So despite the encouraging data on Omicron, they have once again been trying to make political capital by upending people's lives more disruptively than Westminster, bringing in draconian new restrictions and decimating livelihoods.

In Scotland, large public events have been cancelled, one-metre social distancing has been imposed in pubs, restaurants, gyms, theatres and museums, and table service is now mandated anywhere alcohol is served. Nightclubs are closed and the New Year's party is effectively cancelled.

I live in Glasgow South, in the constituency I represented for Labour. The streets around me are gloomy and empty as they have been for so much of the past two years. Restaurant and business-owners are facing a second bleak midwinter.

This is not because Scotland's Covid cases are higher than in England — in fact, they are lower — but because of Sturgeon's relentless virtue-signalling which plays a huge role in all her decisions.

With impeccable political cynicism, she always insists on imposing tougher Covid restrictions than the Prime Minister is prepared to inflict.

During much of the pandemic, her press conferences were scheduled slightly before Boris Johnson's, making it seem as if she was acting against Covid with greater urgency. Now, in contrast, she is on the back foot as the Prime Minister appears to have been vindicated by his own policy decisions.

Wales's Labour government, under Drakeford, is similarly cynical. The latest rules in Wales are truly absurd. In a policy decision reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch, Welsh people are currently permitted to go to the pub — but can be fined £60 for going to work.

Like most of the hard Left, Drakeford — a self-professed acolyte of Jeremy Corbyn — is an instinctive authoritarian who clearly enjoys wielding the power to restrict ordinary people's freedoms.

So why does the Left have this sinister authoritarian urge? Part of the answer rests in how they see the role of the state.

Most on the Left believe the state should play an extensive role in people's lives. Many are also convinced it should own and run key industries and services — and take a lot of your income in taxes to do so.

Traditional liberals, in contrast, believe that the state should step back wherever possible and allow people to live their lives as much as possible without intrusion.


Covid has crystallised this distinction. The role of the individual has been shrunk, the role of the state expanded.

But history offers ample proof of why this is a dangerous move — and the trend takes no account of individual agency.

As John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, noted this week, the English have in fact been 'pretty responsible' in their response to the spread of the Omicron variant, regardless of the lack of restrictions.

Yet on social media in particular, prominent Left-wing voices are furious at the Government's 'recklessness'.

And what precisely sparks this rage? It is the belief that they are better people, that they care more, and if you don't subscribe to their view then you are just some 'evil Tory'.

Famously, Harold Wilson once said: 'The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing.' But that was a dangerously simplistic judgment.

Labour, like any serious political party, should leave the crusading to the Middle Ages and instead dedicate itself to taking practical steps to improve people's lives.

But many on the Left believe in this dangerously messianic vision, and that they are thus better people than those on the centre-right.

The pandemic has given them the perfect outlet to demonstrate this goodness. Their alleged 'fears' about the impact of loosening restrictions or their noisily expressed anger about people not wearing masks both work to bolster their self-importance.


Anyone who fails to demand tougher rules is, in contrast, heartless and uncaring. And because the arguments against further lockdowns and restrictions often rest on the grievous effects on the economy, Labour claims that the Tories only care about profits and money.

But who suffers when businesses collapse and jobs are lost? Ordinary workers. The Labour Party too often forgets this because its power base is in the public sector — funded, of course, by the taxpayer's ever-expanding largesse.

Aside from the heroic NHS staff, many public sector employees have worked at home on full pay for much of Covid. It's hardly surprising that so many of them are in favour of further lockdowns.

The Labour Party seems to have forgotten that the public accounts are not some bottomless resource. Instead, when the economy declines, so do the tax revenues that keep public services going.

The Left must learn to abandon the ludicrous idea that people can't be trusted to make their own judgments about how to live their lives.

Two years into this pandemic, Sturgeon and Drakeford should be giving their citizens the facts and figures, and then trusting them to behave sensibly. It is now time British people were allowed to think for themselves.


FDA approves first pill to treat COVID after Pfizer's oral medication reduced hospitalizations by 88%

U.S. health regulators on Wednesday authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization for Pfizer's Paxlovid, a pill that is available by prescription only and should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of symptom onset. 

The long-awaited milestone comes as U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all rising and health officials warn of a tsunami of new infections from the Omicron variant that could overwhelm hospitals. 

'Today's authorization introduces the first treatment for COVID-19 that is in the form of a pill that is taken orally — a major step forward in the fight against this global pandemic,' said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a statement. 

'This authorization provides a new tool to combat COVID-19 at a crucial time in the pandemic as new variants emerge and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.' 

The drug, Paxlovid, is a faster, cheaper way to treat early COVID-19 infections, though initial supplies will be extremely limited. All of the previously authorized drugs against the disease require an IV or an injection.

An antiviral pill from Merck also is expected to soon win authorization. But Pfizer's drug is all but certain to be the preferred option because of its mild side effects and superior effectiveness, including a nearly 90 percent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.

'The efficacy is high, the side effects are low and it's oral. It checks all the boxes,' said Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic. 'You´re looking at a 90 percent decreased risk of hospitalization and death in a high-risk group - that´s stunning.'

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer's drug for adults and children ages 12 and older with a positive COVID-19 test and early symptoms who face the highest risks of hospitalization. 

That includes older people and those with conditions like obesity and heart disease. Children eligible for the drug must weigh at least 88 pounds.

The pills from both Pfizer and Merck are expected to be effective against omicron because they don´t target the spike protein where most of the variant´s worrisome mutations reside.

Pfizer currently has 180,000 treatment courses available worldwide, with roughly 60,000 to 70,000 allocated to the U.S. Federal health officials are expected to ration early shipments to the hardest hit parts of the country. Pfizer said the small supply is due to the manufacturing time - currently about nine months. The company says it can halve production time next year.

The U.S. government has agreed to purchase enough Paxlovid to treat 10 million people. Pfizer says it's on track to produce 80 million courses globally next year, under contracts with the U.K., Australia and other nations.

Health experts agree that vaccination remains the best way to protect against COVID-19. But with roughly 40 million American adults still unvaccinated, effective drugs will be critical to blunting the current and future waves of infection.

The U.S. is now reporting more than 140,000 new infections daily and federal officials warn that the omicron variant could send case counts soaring. Omicron has already whipped across the country to become the dominant strain, federal officials confirmed earlier this week.

Against that backdrop, experts warn that Paxlovid's initial impact could be limited.

For more than a year, biotech-engineered antibody drugs have been the go-to treatments for COVID-19. But they are expensive, hard to produce and require an injection or infusion, typically given at a hospital or clinic. Also, laboratory testing suggests the two leading antibody drugs used in the U.S. aren't effective against Omicron.

Pfizer´s pill comes with its own challenges.

Patients will need a positive COVID-19 test to get a prescription. And Paxlovid has only proven effective if given within five days of symptoms appearing. With testing supplies stretched, experts worry it may be unrealistic for patients to self-diagnose, get tested, see a physician and pick up a prescription within that narrow window.

'If you go outside that window of time I fully expect the effectiveness of this drug is going to fall,' said Andrew Pekosz, a Johns Hopkins University virologist.

The FDA based its decision on company results from a 2,250-patient trial that showed the pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by 89 percent when given to people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 within three days of symptoms. 

Less than 1 percent of patients taking the drug were hospitalized and none died at the end of the 30-day study period, compared with 6.5 percent of patients hospitalized in the group getting a dummy pill, which included nine deaths.

Pfizer´s drug is part of a decades-old family of antiviral drugs known as protease inhibitors, which revolutionized the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C. The drugs block a key enzyme which viruses need to multiply in the human body.

The U.S. will pay about $500 for each course of Pfizer's treatment, which consists of three pills taken twice a day for five days. Two of the pills are Paxlovid and the third is a different antiviral that helps boost levels of the main drug in the body.




28 December, 2021

Decisive use of AstraZeneca vaccine may have spared UK from Omicron crisis hitting Europe

Immunity for AstraZenica "can last for life in some cases.”  

Britain’s relatively low recent death toll from Covid compared to Europe may be a result of earlier use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to vaccinate the most vulnerable, according to the nation’s former vaccine tsar. 

Dr Clive Dix, former chairman of the Vaccine Task Force, told The Telegraph that he believed the AstraZeneca jabs offered more robust, long-term protection against severe disease and death than RNA-based alternatives made by Pfizer and Moderna.  

Britain’s Covid death rate has been relatively flat for several months, and there has not been a noticeable surge in Covid deaths due to omicron. 

However, many European countries have recently seen steadily increasing death rates and have more Covid deaths on a like-for-like basis than the UK. 

Figures from Our World in Data, a website run by the University of Oxford, shows the UK has 1.7 daily deaths from Covid per million people. In comparison, the EU as a whole has almost four. 

“If you look across Europe, with the rise in cases, there's also a corresponding lagged rise in deaths, but not in the UK, and we have to understand that,” said Dr Dix.

“I personally believe that's because most of our vulnerable people were given the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Dr Dix said. 

The key, he says, is that although the RNA jabs produce a more obvious and rapid jump in antibody levels in lab tests, other vaccines may be better at priming another part of the immune system: cellular immunity. 

Cellular immunity includes various forms of T cells, including those that destroy infected cells, and also memory cells, ensuring a person can fight off an infection several years after they are first exposed to it. They are slower to react than antibodies and do not prevent infection, but do halt the pathogen in its tracks, making it harder for the virus to cause damage. 

“We’ve seen early data that the Oxford jab produces a very durable cellular response and if you’ve got a durable cellular immunity response then they can last for a long time. It can last for life in some cases.” he said. 

The only notable difference, he said, between the UK and Europe’s vaccine rollout was the approach to the AstraZeneca jab. 

While Britain used its ample stock to rapidly inoculate the oldest and most vulnerable people, officials on the continent besmirched the vaccine’s reputation and dragged their heels on its approval, opting instead to wait for the Pfizer vaccine.

MRNA vaccines like those made by Pfizer are based solely on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and produce highly specific antibodies. But AstraZeneca, and other jabs like those made by Novavax and Valneva, used a more well-rounded approach, said Dr Dix.

“We know that with adenoviral vector vaccines and adjuvanted proteins you get a much broader cellular response and I think we need to look at all that data across all the vaccines,” said Dr Dix.

He added that there was “nothing wrong” with using Pfizer or Moderna as a booster, but alternative vaccines may be a better alternative in the long-term. 

Lab results 'don't always translate to the real world'
The decision to move away from giving a primary dose with AstraZeneca and to only use Pfizer or Moderna for boosters was based on various data, including a major study that showed Pfizer and Moderna to be the most effective. But how these lab results translate into real-world effectiveness remains to be seen. 

“I think we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves by just measuring antibodies and neutralising antibody responses in the lab as that doesn't follow through for serious disease and death,” said Dr Dix. 

“If you look at all the data, there isn't a great correlation between neutralising antibody lab results and protection from severe illness and death, they don't seem to correlate.

“And that's almost certainly because the cellular immune response is the important thing to stopping serious illness and death.”

The lab-based studies had also thus far failed to suitably measure T cell levels over time, something Dr Dix says needs to be urgently addressed if we are to establish the best jabs for annual boosters, which he thinks will be needed for the over-50s and the vulnerable, much like they are for flu.

“[The T cell analysis method used in most studies] just tells you that there are some T cells in the blood that do recognise antigens in the virus. 

“It doesn't tell you very much about the quantity or the quality of the responses and it doesn't differentiate between the different T cell classes very easily.

“I do think we've lost the battle with transmission. There's no vaccine that is going to change that. I think we should focus on the cellular immune response, and it may just get us out of the woods.”


UK: Covid hospital admissions are down more than 50% on this time last year despite record-breaking surge in case numbers - giving new hope Omicron is a less severe disease

The number of people in hospital with Covid in England is less than half the same time last year – despite cases being three times higher, official figures show.

In a further sign that the Omicron variant appears to result in less severe disease, there were 8,474 patients in hospital with Covid yesterday compared with 19,277 on the same day last year.

It represents a day-on-day increase of nearly 1,000 and is the highest since March 5. But health bosses say there have been no reports of large numbers of patients requiring ventilators like during last winter’s peak.

The most up-to-date figures reveal there were 842 Covid patients in intensive care on ventilators – the lowest level in two months. 

Covid case numbers – which were updated for the first time since Christmas Eve – reveal 98,515 people in England tested positive yesterday. 

This is nearly four times higher than the 25,619 people who tested positive on the same day last year and is a considerable decrease on the 113,628 cases reported in England on Christmas Day.

It is also lower than the 103,558 cases reported on Boxing Day. The promising figures highlight the vaccine’s protective effects against severe illness, as well as the mounting evidence that Omicron is a milder strain. 

A further 143 people in England died after testing positive for Covid yesterday – down 42 per cent on the 246 people who were reported to have died the same day last year.

And yesterday’s figure could be skewed by a recording lag, which saw no fatalities registered on Christmas Day and just three on Boxing Day.

Meanwhile data for London – which No10 has been watching closely – reveals there were 364 Covid hospital admissions across the capital on Christmas Day.

While this was a rise on the 278 hospitalisations reported on Christmas Eve, it is still lower than the 400 admissions per day thought to be the Government’s trigger point for imposing new restrictions.

Last night, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been 45,307 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant reported across the UK.

 This brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 159,932, but does not include any new information for Scotland and Northern Ireland which have not reported data since December 23.

The number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to 39, while hospital admissions for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 407.


Why you might hear Omicron before you feel it as first symptom revealed
Omicron symptoms are coming on faster than Delta, it appears.

There are a few telltale signs that you might have the mutant strain – but you may be able hear the first symptom before you feel ill.

If people are commenting on the fact that your voice sounds croaky, and you haven’t been shouting and singing, it might be time to take a lateral flow, The Sun reports.

You might even notice that you sound a little huskier and deeper than usual.

This could be because you are experiencing a scratchy throat – one of the first symptoms of Omicron, according to experts.

Doctors have said patients don’t seem to be suffering with sore throats, as Delta sometimes presents with, but scratchy throats.

During a briefing last week, Chief executive of Discovery Health, South Africa’s largest private health insurer, Ryan Roach, said it was the most common symptom Omicron patients experience.

This is usually followed by nasal congestion, he said, with other common symptoms including a dry cough and pain in the lower back.

A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with early data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant.”

Both lower back pain and a scratchy throat haven’t been reported as symptoms with other variants.

Going by reports from cases in the UK, South Africa and US, these are the most common early warning signs of Omicron:

•Runny nose/congestion




•Night sweats

•Body aches

While the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) states a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell are signs of Covid, many patients have also experienced a sore throat.

The ZOE Covid Symptom Study app has shown that a sore throat is among the most frequently reported symptoms, in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Tim Spector, the leading researcher on the study, presented a YouTube video in which he asked viewers to report exactly how their sore throat feels.

He said: “We are getting a messages that the sore throat people are getting with Covid is a bit unusual, it’s not like they’ve seen it before.

“Maybe in a different place, or it feels differently.

“We might be doing some more research on that to see if we can distinguish these Covid type symptoms from the ones of a normal cold virus.”

Some experts say if you feel unwell, regardless of the symptoms, it is worth getting tested.

If you have a positive (rapid) test, the NHS says “get a PCR test to confirm your result as soon as possible”.

But some experts are saying that at the moment, even if your (rapid test) is negative, it’s worth isolating if you have symptoms.




26 December, 2021

Prediction Omicron will soon be ‘pretty much gone’ in nation where it was discovered

Experts predict Omicron will have fizzled out in South Africa, where it was initially discovered, within weeks in a huge boost to morale for the rest of the world.

Infections have spiralled in the past week and admissions failed to reach expected levels, as hospitals “never reached capacity”, The Sun reports.

A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

South African scientists are confident the Omicron outbreak there is receding and may last a total of just a couple of months.

There was a sudden steep rise in cases from close to zero in mid-November to an average of 10,000 daily cases early in December, after the variant was first detected there.

That then fell sharply to around 5000 per day on average.

Francois Venter, a medical professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, predicted that at the current rate of decline, Omicron would “be pretty much gone” from all of South Africa by the end of January, The Times reports.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who leads the country’s pandemic response, said he expected “almost every other (country) to follow the same trajectory”.

He told The Washington Post: “If previous variants caused waves shaped like Kilimanjaro, Omicron’s is more like we were scaling the north face of Everest.”

But John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, said to “be careful not to extrapolate what we are seeing in South Africa across the continent, or across the world”.

Dr Waasila Jassat, of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said: “We saw a very rapid rise in cases and an early peak — and the indications are that since then we’ve had a remarkable drop.”

NICD’s latest report shows that cases up to December 18 have dropped nationally by 20.8 per cent in one week.

In the Gauteng Province, which was the epicentre of the variant, cases have significantly come down by almost half (46 per cent), with drops of between six and 40 per cent in other provinces.

NICD’s Michelle Groome told a news briefing: “Really we feel that this has persisted for over a week and that we are past the peak in Gauteng.” But she cautioned there could be lower cases because people are less likely to come forward for testing during the holiday period.

The nation has been at “alert level one” of a five-tier lockdown strategy since October, with mask mandates, a curfew from midnight to 4am, and ban on indoor gatherings of more than 750 people.

The data suggest Omicron peaked within one month of first being detected, with the impact on healthcare being less severe than previous waves.

While hospital admission have risen, they have so far remained far below the levels seen during previous waves of the pandemic.

Deaths were also and people with Omicron stay in hospital for shorter periods – suggesting, again, milder disease – Dr Jassat said


Copenhagen: Early benchmarks from Denmark on infections and hospitalisations are providing grounds for guarded optimism that highly vaccinated countries might be able to weather the omicron wave

The developments, coupled with Denmark’s speedy rollout of booster shots, have raised hopes the country can avoid the dire surge for which it has been bracing.

“It’s too early to relax, but it’s encouraging that we are not following the worst-case scenario,” said Tyra Grove Krause, the chief epidemiologist at Denmark’s State Serum Institute.

Denmark’s detailed nationwide program for coronavirus testing and analysis gives its scientists a trove of real-time data about the pandemic. Because of that – and because it was one of the first countries outside of Africa to witness Omicron’s explosive potential – it has turned into a European bellwether for what to expect with the omicron variant.

And over the last week, the country has fared better than it was expecting. After surging to record-breaking levels, the number of daily cases has stabilised. Officials recorded 12,500 cases on Thursday, compared to 11,000 late last week.

More important, hospitalisations have come in – so far – on the very low end of what was projected. A week ago, Denmark’s government science institute was said daily new coronavirus hospital admissions could range between 120 and 250 patients by Christmas Eve. In recent days, daily admissions have hung around 125. “That is quite promising,” Grove Krause said.

The early signals from Denmark do not provide any direct measure on the severity of the variant, one of the key questions in this phase of the pandemic. But they track with other emerging data and studies from Britain and South Africa that suggest omicron is less likely to lead to hospitalisation than the Delta variant.

Scientists caution that there are still many uncertainties, and that even if Omicron is less likely to cause hospitalisation, its increased transmissibility means countless sicknesses and disruptions. The virus could also spread so widely that it nonetheless leads to an influx at hospitals.

Concerns remain about the health system in Denmark, Grove Krause said, because Omicron infections are still disproportionately concentrated among the young. For now, Grove Krause said, temporary school closures and social precautions have helped slow the spread – but the country could still see a spike after holiday gatherings that bring together the young and old.

Even as cases have slowed, there are other signs of Omicron’s potential to cause chaos. Over the last two weeks, the number of cases among healthcare workers has more than doubled. A weekly government monitoring report said there had also been two Omicron outbreaks in nursing homes.

Since Omicron emerged in November, scientists have been racing to understand the implications and make sense of a variant that is moving far more quickly than its predecessors.

A few data points emerged this week, with one Scottish study suggesting the risk of hospitalisation was almost 60 per cent less with Omicron than delta. Another analysis, conducted by Imperial College London, said people with Omicron cases were 20 per cent less likely to go the hospital, and 40 per cent less likely to be hospitalised overnight. And South Africa, epicentre of the first apparent outbreak, has seen much lower hospitalisation rates than in other waves.

Even if that level of protection dips over time, boosters “can help us through the next months,” Grove Krause said


Two Common Over-the-Counter Compounds Reduce COVID-19 Virus Replication by 99% in Early Testing

A pair of over-the-counter compounds has been found in preliminary tests to inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19, University of Florida Health researchers have found.

The combination includes diphenhydramine, an antihistamine used for allergy symptoms. When paired with lactoferrin, a protein found in cow and human milk, the compounds were found to hinder the SARS-CoV-2 virus during tests in monkey cells and human lung cells.

The findings by David A. Ostrov, Ph.D., an immunologist and associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine and his colleagues, are published in the journal Pathogens.

“We found out why certain drugs are active against the virus that causes COVID-19. Then, we found an antiviral combination that can be effective, economical, and has a long history of safety,” Ostrov said.

Due to his earlier research with colleagues at UF, Ostrov already knew diphenhydramine was potentially effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The latest discovery has its roots in a routine meeting of scientists with the Global Virus Network’s COVID-19 task force. One researcher presented unpublished data on federally approved compounds that inhibit SARS-CoV-2 activity, including lactoferrin.

Like diphenhydramine, lactoferrin is available without a prescription. Ostrov thought about pairing it with diphenhydramine and ran with the idea. In lab tests on human and monkey cells, the combination was particularly potent: Individually, the two compounds each inhibited SARS-CoV-2 virus replication by about 30%. Together, they reduced virus replication by 99%.

The findings, Ostrov said, are a first step in developing a formulation that could be used to accelerate COVID-19 recovery. It also raises the prospect of further study through an academic-corporate partnership for human clinical trials focused on COVID-19 prevention. Additional research into the compounds’ effectiveness for COVID-19 prevention is already underway in mouse models.

To establish their findings, the research team focused on proteins expressed in human cells known as sigma receptors. In COVID-19 cases, the virus “hijacks” stress-response machinery, including sigma receptors, in order to replicate in the body. Interfering with that signaling appears to be the key to inhibiting the virus’s potency. “We now know the detailed mechanism of how certain drugs inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Ostrov said.

Data from the experiments show that a highly specific sigma receptor binding drug candidate (with pain relieving properties), and formulated combinations of over-the-counter products (such as diphenhydramine and lactoferrin) have the potential to inhibit virus infection and decrease recovery time from COVID-19, the researchers concluded.

While the findings are encouraging, Ostrov cautions against self-medicating with either diphenhydramine or lactoferrin as a COVID-19 prevention or treatment. The type of lactoferrin used in the research differs slightly from the type that is commonly available to consumers, he noted. Lactoferrin is commonly used as a supplement to treat stomach and intestinal ulcers, among other uses.




25 December, 2021

South Africa STOPS contact tracing and quarantine

South Africa has announced it will stop contact tracing and end quarantine for asymptomatic cases because containment of the virus is 'no longer viable'. 

Promising graphs today highlight how the country's Omicron outbreak has faded after just a month - cases appear to have peaked nationally at 26,976 on December 15, and have now fallen for the last five days in a row.  

Health authorities in South Africa, where the Omicron strain first took off, said today that contact tracing would be halted with immediate effect, except for large gatherings or self-contained settings.   

Isolation for asymptomatic cases was scrapped while mild and severe cases were told to isolate for eight and ten days respectively.  

Close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases will no longer have to quarantine whether they are vaccinated or not and are not required to take a test unless they develop symptoms.  

South Africa became ground zero for the new variant in late November and saw a meteoric rise in infections, from 670 to more than 20,000 in the space of just three weeks.

But cases appear to have peaked nationally at 26,976 on December 15, and have now fallen for the last five days in a row. On Wednesday they dipped 22 per cent in a week after 21,099 were recorded.

The huge surge in infections raised fears that a deadly wave of hospitalisations would follow, but almost immediately doctors on the frontlines said patients were coming in with milder illness.

But in another promising sign hospitalisations now appear to be levelling off nationally in South Africa, hovering just below 400 admissions a day — compared to a height of 2,000 when Delta took hold.

Admissions dropped yesterday by four per cent, after another 593 were recorded. Deaths are just a fraction of the levels when Delta took hold, with just 99 yesterday. 

There are 50 deaths a day on average now, up only slightly on the 20 deaths a day when Omicron was first detected in the country. For comparison, at the peak of the Delta wave there were 600 deaths a day. 

South African scientist Dr Michelle Groome said in a press briefing yesterday that infections are  now levelling off in three of the country's nine provinces after peaking in Gauteng about a week ago.

Hospitalisations and deaths are expected to rise for another few weeks even as cases fall because of the lag between infection and severe illness.

Figures on South Africa's Covid cases, hospitalisation and deaths are compiled by the country's National Institute for Infectious Diseases.

Its figures show that the seven-day average for Covid cases across the country is now falling, dipping from a high of 20,791 a week ago to 17,440 yesterday.

The country is currently carrying out 58,000 swabs a day, comparable to the numbers done in early December when cases skyrocketed but down 14,000 on a week ago.

South African Covid cases fall AGAIN by 22 per cent on last week fuelling hopes that their Omicron wave is over 
Daily Covid cases in South Africa have fallen again by 22 per cent compared to last week's figures, fuelling hopes that the country's Omicron wave is over. 

South Africa, whose scientists detected the variant, recorded 21,099 new cases in the last 24 hours, down by nearly a quarter on the 26,976 infections confirmed last Wednesday.

A fifth fewer people were tested for the virus in the last 24 hours compared to the same period last week, but test positivity — the proportion of those tested who are infected — has been trending downwards for nine days.    

Hospitalisations have also seen a slight decline, with more than 590 people admitted to hospitals across the country, down by four per cent in a week, data from the National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD), revealed.

But deaths – which lag two to three weeks behind the pattern seen in case numbers due to the delay in an infected person becoming seriously unwell – have risen.

A further 99 Covid-related deaths were recorded on Wednesday, compared to 54 recorded a week ago.    

The falling case numbers come despite only 25 per cent of South Africans being double-jabbed and boosters not being dished out in the country. 

The number of Covid patients on the country's wards is still rising, however. There wre 9,300 recorded yesterday up from 7,300 a week ago.

More patients are also in ICU and on ventilators, figures show, with 613 now being in emergency units across the country and 239 needing the machines to help them breathe. 

Dr Groome said yesterday: 'All indications are that we've seen the end of the — that we've surpassed the peak of infections in Gauteng. This is encouraging and quite optimistic in terms of the decreasing trends in case numbers.

'But I think we really do need to be cognizant that… people are now traveling, and there may be changes in terms of the number of people that may be testing and so some of the lower numbers may be due to the holiday season.'


Can you build ‘super-immunity’ to Covid?

When even the losers are winners

Since its discovery in southern Africa last month, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread across the globe, bringing with it fresh fear, new social restrictions and another chaotic and anxious Christmas season.

Britain has already recorded almost 91,000 confirmed cases of the strain so far and at least 18 deaths, according to the UK Health Security Agency, with those numbers expected to climb over the festive period.

However, much remains unknown about the highly-transmissible variant at this early stage in its development, with more clinical data still needed to determine precisely how it attacks and how it responds to our existing suite of vaccines, which have worked so well against previous strains and helped to keep hospitalisations and deaths low.

Early studies have suggested that a booster jab is crucial to holding off Omicron, which is why governments around the world have been encouraging their citizens to queue around the block for a third shot as a matter of urgency in recent weeks.

This week scientists reported that a booster shot provoked a response from the body’s immune system to the virus within two-to-three days, not weeks, as has previously been thought, swiftly activating the T and B memory cells responsible for hunting down infection and producing antibodies.

“The immunity generated after a booster jab will rise much quicker than the first immune response,” commented Gary McLean, a professor in molecular immunology at London Metropolitan University.

Another interesting new study at Oregon Health & Science University has since indicated that it might indeed be possible to develop “super-immunity” against Omicron in the case of sufferers contracting Covid-19 having had two doses of one of the vaccines.

The study examined the blood of 26 people who had experienced so-called “breakthrough” infections of Covid after being double-vaccinated and found that they developed antibodies that were as much as 1,000 per cent more effective and abundant, therein creating a form of super-immunity, according to the researchers.

While the vaccines are obviously intended to stop recipients from catching Covid in the first place, it is nevertheless still possible for the more pernicious strains like Delta and Omicron to slip past the body’s defences.

In the cases of the double-jabbed people examined as part of the study, that occurrence proved to be surprisingly beneficial by bolstering the robustness of their immune systems.

“You can’t get a better immune response than this,” said the study’s senior author, Fikadu Tafesse, an assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the university’s School of Medicine.

“These vaccines are very effective against severe disease. Our study suggests that individuals who are vaccinated and then exposed to a breakthrough infection have super-immunity.”

His colleague Marcel Curlin was even more optimistic about the study’s ramifications, commenting: “I think this speaks to an eventual end game.

“It doesn’t mean we’re at the end of the pandemic, but it points to where we’re likely to land: once you’re vaccinated and then exposed to the virus, you’re probably going to be reasonably well protected from future variants.


AstraZeneca Covid booster vaccine 'effective against omicron variant'

A three-dose course of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine is effective against the rapidly-spreading omicron variant, the pharmaceutical company said on Thursday, citing data from an Oxford University study.

Findings from the study, yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, match those from rivals Pfizer-BioNTech which have also found a third dose of their shots works against the variant.

The study on AstraZeneca's vaccine, Vaxzevria, showed that after a three-dose course of the vaccine neutralising levels against omicron were broadly similar to those against the virus's delta variant after two doses.

The company said that researchers at Oxford University who carried out the study were independent from those who worked on the vaccine with AstraZeneca.

"As we better understand omicron, we believe we will find that T-cell response provides durable protection against severe disease and hospitalisations," Mene Pangalos, the head of AstraZeneca's biopharmaceuticals research and development said, referring to a critical component of the immune system that responds to fight infection.

Antibody levels against omicron after the booster vaccine were higher than antibodies in people who had been infected with and recovered naturally from Covid-19, the Anglo-Swedish company added.

Although the early data is positive for the company, AstraZeneca said on Tuesday it was working with its partner Oxford University to produce a vaccine tailored for omicron, joining similar efforts from other vaccine-makers.




24 December, 2021

<font face="Arial" size= "6" >  Merry Christmas to all who come by here</font>

BLOGGING:  I expect to blog throughout the Christmas/New Year break -- but probably at a reduced rate. 


Two-thirds of new Covid hospital patients in England only tested positive AFTER being admitted for a different illness

In the two weeks to December 21, hospitals in England recorded 563 new coronavirus inpatients — the majority of which are believed to be Omicron now that the variant is the country's dominant stain.

But just 197 (35 per cent) were being primarily treated for Covid, with the remaining 366 (65 per cent) only testing positive after being admitted for something else.

Experts told MailOnline it was important to distinguish between admissions primarily for Covid so that rising numbers do not spook ministers into more social restrictions or scare the public from going to hospital. 

England's incidental hospital cases are being driven by London, which has become the UK's Omicron hotspot and where admissions have been rising sharply.

Just over four in 10 new Omicron hospital patients in London were admitted for a different ailment, MailOnline's analysis suggests. 

There were 523 more 'Covid admissions' resulting in an overnight stay in the two weeks to December 21, after Omicron became dominant in the capital earlier this month. 

Admission rates for Covid in the capital are one factor ministers are keeping an eye on before potentially pulling the trigger on more curbs because London is considered to be a few weeks ahead of the rest of the country in its Omicron outbreak.

The rising number of so-called 'incidental cases' - people who are only diagnosed with the virus after going to the NHS for a different ailment - is in line with the picture in South Africa.

Studies in the epicentre Gauteng province have shown up to three-quarters of Omicron patients there were not admitted primarily for the virus.

Dr Raghib Ali, a Cambridge University clinical epidemiologist, said: 'If you've got very high prevalence of Omicron in the community then there is a higher chance anyone who comes to hospital for any reason, even people with broken legs, will have Covid.

Omicron Covid IS milder, three major studies confirm 
Omicron is milder than Delta and far less likely to put someone in hospital, three major studies in England, Scotland and South Africa have confirmed. 

One paper by 'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson found the mutant strain was up to 45 per cent less likely to lead to hospitalisation than Delta, based on 300,000 people in England.

A similar study in Scotland found the risk of being hospitalised was 65 per cent less with Omicron than with Delta — but it was based on 15 hospitalised cases.

University of Edinburgh researchers said Omicron was as severe as Delta they would have seen around 47 people in hospital in Scotland, yet so far there are only 15.

The UK studies came after a major analysis of 160,000 infections in South Africa found an 80 per cent reduced risk of hospitalisation with the new variant compared to its predecessor.

All the evidence now points to Omicron being milder than former variants, confirming claims South African doctors have made for weeks.

But the researchers are still unsure if Omicron is intrinsically milder than past strains and they believe built-up natural and vaccine immunity is probably doing the heavy lifting.

Professor Ferguson — dubbed Professor Lockdown for gloomy modelling that spooked ministers into restrictions — said he was 'cautiously optimistic' on the back of all three studies.

Recorded case rates of Covid across the UK rose above 100,000 on Wednesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Ministers have stressed the Government keeping new Covid data in constant review, with health minister Gillian Keegan saying yesterday: 'There is uncertainty. We can’t predict what the data is going to tell us before we’ve got the data.'


The Fickle ‘Science’ of Lockdowns

‘Follow the science” has been the battle cry of lockdown supporters since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Yet before March 2020, the mainstream scientific community, including the World Health Organization, strongly opposed lockdowns and similar measures against infectious disease.

That judgment came from historical analysis of pandemics and an awareness that societywide restrictions have severe socioeconomic costs and almost entirely speculative benefits. Our pandemic response, premised on lockdowns and closely related “non-pharmaceutical interventions,” or NPIs, represented an unprecedented and unjustified shift in scientific opinion from where it stood a few months before the discovery of Covid-19.

In March 2019 WHO held a conference in Hong Kong to consider NPI measures against pandemic influenza. The WHO team evaluated a quarantine proposal—“home confinement of non-ill contacts of a person with proven or suspected influenza”—less indiscriminate than the Covid lockdowns. They called attention to the paucity of data to support this policy, noting that “most of the currently available evidence on the effectiveness of quarantine on influenza control was drawn from simulation studies, which have a low strength of evidence.” The WHO team declared that large-scale home quarantine was “not recommended because there is no obvious rationale for this measure.”

A September 2019 report from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security reached a similar conclusion: “In the context of a high-impact respiratory pathogen, quarantine may be the least likely NPI to be effective in controlling the spread due to high transmissibility.” This was especially true of a fast-spreading airborne virus, such as the then-undiscovered SARS-CoV-2.

These studies drew on historical experience. A separate 2006 WHO study concluded that “forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical,” based on findings from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. It pointed to the example of Edmonton, Alberta, where “public meetings were banned; schools, churches, colleges, theaters, and other public gathering places were closed; and business hours were restricted without obvious impact on the epidemic.”

Using data from a 1927 analysis of the Spanish flu in the U.S., the study concluded that lockdowns were “not demonstrably effective in urban areas.” Only in isolated rural areas, “where group contacts are less numerous,” did this strategy become theoretically viable, but the hypothesis wasn’t tested. While the study found some benefits from smaller-scale quarantines of patients and their families during the 2003 SARS outbreak, it concluded that a fast-spreading disease, combined with “the presence of mild cases and possibility of transmission without symptoms,” would make these measures “considerably less successful.”

Medical historian John Barry, who wrote the standard account of the 1918 Spanish flu, concurred about the ineffectiveness of lockdowns. “Historical data clearly demonstrate that quarantine does not work unless it is absolutely rigid and complete,” he wrote in 2009, summarizing the results of a study of influenza outbreaks on U.S. Army bases during World War I. Of 120 training camps that experienced outbreaks, 99 imposed on-base quarantines and 21 didn’t. Case rates between the two categories of camps showed “no statistical difference.” “If a military camp cannot be successfully quarantined in wartime,” Mr. Barry concluded, “it is highly unlikely a civilian community can be quarantined during peacetime.”

A Johns Hopkins team reached similar conclusions in 2006: “No historical observations or scientific studies” could be found to support the effectiveness of large-scale quarantine. The scientists concluded that “the negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme . . . that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.” They rejected the modeling approach for relying too heavily on its own assumptions—circular reasoning that confuses a model’s predictions with observed reality.

Even at the outset of Covid-19, the unwisdom of lockdowns guided mainstream epidemiology. When the Wuhan region of China imposed harsh restrictions on Jan. 23, 2020, Anthony Fauci questioned the move. “That’s something that I don’t think we could possibly do in the United States, I can’t imagine shutting down New York or Los Angeles,” Dr. Fauci told CNN. He likely had the scientific literature in mind when he advised that “historically, when you shut things down, it doesn’t have a major effect.”

What caused the scientific community to abandon its aversion to lockdowns? The empirical evidence didn’t change. Rather, the lockdown strategy originated from the same sources the WHO had heavily deprecated in its 2019 report: speculative and untested epidemiological models.

The most influential model came from Imperial College London. In April 2020, the journal Nature credited the Imperial team led by Neil Ferguson for developing one of the main computer simulations “driving the world’s response to Covid-19.” The New York Times described it as the report that “jarred the U.S. and the U.K. to action.”

After predicting catastrophic casualty rates for an “unmitigated” pandemic, Mr. Ferguson’s model promised to bring Covid-19 under control through increasingly severe NPI policies, leading to event cancellations, school and business closures, and ultimately lockdowns. Mr. Ferguson produced his model by recycling a decades-old influenza model that was noticeably deficient in its scientific assumptions. For one thing, it lacked a means of even estimating viral spread in nursing homes.

The record of Mr. Ferguson’s previous models should have been a warning. In 2001 he predicted that mad cow disease would kill up to 136,000 people in the U.K., and he chastised conservative estimates of up to 10,000. As of 2018 the actual death toll was 178. His other missteps include predicted catastrophes for mad sheep disease, avian flu and swine flu that never panned out.

We evaluated the performance of Imperial’s Covid-19 predictions in 189 different countries at the first anniversary of their publication, March 26, 2021. Not a single country reached the predicted mortality rates of their “unmitigated spread” or even the “mitigation” model—the latter premised on social-distancing measures similar to what many governments enacted. Even Mr. Ferguson’s extreme “suppression” model, which assumed a strict lockdown curtailing public contacts by 75% for over a year, predicted more deaths than occurred in 170 of 189 countries. Imperial predicted up to 42,473 Covid deaths in Sweden under mitigation and 84,777 under uncontrolled spread. The country, which famously refused to lock down, had some 13,400 deaths in the first year.

Despite the failed predictions of these models, the Imperial team rushed a study to print in the journal Nature in June 2020, claiming that lockdowns had already saved 3.1 million lives. It remains the most heavily cited pro-lockdown study in epidemiology, despite its premature claims and its circular reliance on its own model to arrive at this figure.

In reality, lockdown stringency is a poor predictor of Covid-related mortality. Our examination of the 50 U.S. states and 26 countries found no discernible pattern connecting the two—a basic expectation if lockdowns performed as “the science” often insists.

So why did public-health authorities abandon their opposition to lockdowns? Why did they rush to embrace the untested claims of flawed epidemiological modeling? One answer appears in the Johns Hopkins study from 2019: “Some NPIs, such as travel restrictions and quarantine, might be pursued for social or political purposes by political leaders, rather than pursued because of public health evidence.”




23 December, 2021

Omicron IS milder, another study finds: New variant is 80 PER CENT less likely to lead to hospitalistion than Delta, according to real-world South African research

People who catch Omicron are 80 per cent less likely to be hospitalised than those who get Delta, a major study from South Africa suggests.

The real-world analysis, of more than 160,000 people, comes ahead of a similar UK Government report expected to show Britons are also less likely to be severely ill with the variant. 

Omicron sufferers were also 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to ICU or put on a ventilator compared to those with Delta, according to the study led by South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). 

South African doctors have insisted for weeks that Omicron is milder since raising the alarm about it on November 24 and accused the UK of panicking about Omicron.

But the researchers at the NICD who carried out the study, which has not been peer-reviewed yet, said it still doesn't answer whether Omicron is intrinsically weaker than Delta.

'It is difficult to disentangle the relative contribution of high levels of previous population immunity versus intrinsic lower virulence to the observed lower disease severity,' the researchers concluded. 

Built-up immunity from three previous waves of the virus and vaccines are believed to be doing most of the heavy lifting in keeping patients out of hospital this time around.

Up to 70 per cent of South Africans are believed to have had Covid before and only around a quarter are double vaccinated, with boosters not widely available yet.  

Omicron cases in South Africa yesterday fell for the fourth day in a row, while the UK's daily cases have been flat at around 90,000 for six days.

South Africa's hospital admissions are hovering at below 400 per day, on average, and dropped by 5 per cent in a week yesterday. In the UK, hospital rates have been mostly flat since late summer, with around 900 per day. 

That's despite gloomy Government modelling warning that 1million Britons could be catching the virus daily by the end of the year.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, described the South African study as important and said it was the first properly conducted study to appear in pre-print form on the issue of Omicron versus Delta severity.

But Professor Hunter said its main weakness was that it compared Omicron data from one period with Delta data from an earlier period.

Omicron continues to fade in ground zero South Africa
Daily Covid cases in South Africa have fallen for the fourth day in a row as Omicron continues to fade in the variant's epicentre. 

Data from the National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD) shows 15,424 South Africans tested positive in the last 24 hours, down by a third on the nearly 24,000 cases confirmed last Tuesday.

A fifth fewer people were tested for the first in the last 24 hours compared to the same period last week, but test positivity — the proportion of those tested who are infected — has been trending downwards for eight days.

But hospitalisations and deaths – which lag two to three weeks behind the pattern seen in case numbers due to the delay in an infected person becoming seriously unwell – have risen.

More than 630 people were hospitalised across the country, up only 5 per cent in a week but the highest daily number in the country's fourth wave. 

The previous record was last Wednesday when 620 people were hospitalised. Meanwhile 35 deaths were recorded, a 46 per cent uptick on last Tuesday.

The falling case numbers come despite only 25 per cent of South Africans being double-jabbed and boosters not being dished out in the country. 

The analysis was carried out by a group of scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and major universities including University of the Witwatersrand and University of KwaZulu-Natal.

They used data from four sources: national COVID-19 case data reported to the NICD, public sector laboratories, one large private sector lab and genome data for clinical specimens sent to NICD from private and public diagnostic labs across the country.

They compared data on Omicron infections in October and November with data about Delta infections between April and November, all in South Africa.

A case was considered to be Omicron if the positive test did not detect part of the virus' cell - a tell-tale signal for Omicron due to its extensive mutations - and a high amount of the virus in the sample.

And a hospitalisation was linked with a positive case if a person was admitted to hospital between seven and 21 days of testing positive.

A patient was considered to have severe disease if they were admitted to ICU, required mechanical ventilation, received an oxygen treatment, fluid leaked into their lung or died.

Their study, which has not been peer-reviewed and was published on pre-print website medRxiv, found that among the 10,547 Omicron cases identified between October 1 and November 30, 261 (2.5 per cent) were admitted to hospital.

For comparison, among the 948 non-Omicron cases in the same period - almost all of which would have been Delta, which was behind 95 per cent of cases before Omicron emerged - 121 people were hospitalised (12.8 per cent).

After adjusting for other factors, the researchers said shows that those who caught Omicron had a 80 per cent lower risk of requiring hospital care.

Among those hospitalised with either strain in the nine-week period, the severity of illness was the same, with 317 of the 382 patients (83 per cent) discharged by December 21.

But comparing Omicron hospitalisations with Delta hospitalisations earlier this year, the scientists found Omicron patients were less likely to suffer from severe disease.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,734 people in South Africa have been hospitalised whose test was genomically sequenced as either Alpha, Beta, Delta or Omicron. 

The researchers also found that Omicron patients had much higher viral loads compared to Delta infections, echoing recent studies and data that the strain is more transmissible.

The researchers noted that around seven in 10 South Africans had already been infected with Covid by November when Omicon hit, while a quarter of its population is double-jabbed.

It is 'difficult to disentangle' how much previous infection and vaccines contribute to high levels of immunity against hospitalisation and severe illness from Omicron and how much is due to Omicron itself being less severe, the experts said.

Because there is no difference in Covid severity among Omicron and Delta patients hospitalised in the last two months, it is likely that the reduced severity of Omicron 'may be in part a result of high levels of population immunity' due to previous infection or vaccination, the researchers said.

It comes after a separate real-world study of 78,000 Omicron cases in South Africa found the risk of hospitalisation was a fifth lower than with Delta and 29 per cent lower than the original virus.

As a crude rate, Omicron is led to a third fewer hospital admissions than Delta did during its entire wave — 38 admissions per 1,000 Omicron cases compared to 101 per 1,000 for Delta.

The study also found two doses of Pfizer's vaccine still provide 70 per cent protection against hospital admission or death from Omicron, compared to 93 per cent for Delta.

While this is more protection than many scientists initially feared, it still leaves 30 per cent of people vulnerable to severe Omicron disease, four times as many as Delta.

Waning immunity from two Pfizer doses was found to offer just 33 per cent protection against Omicron infection, explaining why the country has seen a meteoric rise in case numbers.


Single vaccine for all COVID variants undergoing human trials

Scientists at the US Army’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are expected to announce the results of human trials of a single vaccine for all COVID variants in coming weeks.

Defense One reported that Dr Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch, said Phase 1 of human trials of the “Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle” COVID-19 vaccine had positive results.

The trials tested the vaccine against Omicron and other variants, the US publication reported. The human trial followed successful animal trials completed earlier this year.

The new type of vaccine has been under development by the US Army since early 2020 when the Army lab received its first DNA sequencing of the COVID-19 virus.

Researchers believe the vaccine will potentially protect not only against the virus and variants responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also against other respiratory viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

The “Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle” (SpFN) vaccine employs the common protein ferritin in the form of a soccer ball-shaped “platform”.

The platform has 24 “faces” onto which are attached replicas of the spike proteins used by some viruses, including coronaviruses, to break into cells.

Delivering spike replicas via vaccines teaches the immune system to recognise and attack them in case of infection.

In lab experiments, antibodies induced by the vaccine protected mice from what would otherwise have been lethal doses of the virus that causes COVID-19 and also of the virus that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak, researchers said on in Cell Reports on December 7.

“Presenting multiple copies of spike in an ordered fashion may be the key to inducing a potent and broad immune response,” said study leader Gordon Joyce of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland said at the time.

The vaccine would remain stable at a wide range of temperatures, he said, making it especially useful in areas without specialised storage equipment.


Doctor Says He Was Fired for Trying to Treat COVID-19 Patients With Ivermectin

A Mississippi doctor said he was fired for attempting to treat COVID-19 patients with ivermectin, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat parasites, although the hospital in question said he was not an employee but instead was an independent contractor.

Dr. John Witcher, an emergency room physician at the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Yazoo City, said was “told not to come back” after taking several COVID-19 patients off Remdesivir, which is approved by the FDA to treat the virus, and allowed them to use ivermectin.

“I was very surprised that I was basically told to not come back at the end of the day,” Witcher said on the Stew Peters podcast. “These patients were under my direct care, and so I felt like taking them off Remdesivir and putting them on ivermectin was the right thing to do at the time.”

Baptist Memorial told news outlets that Witcher “no longer practices medicine as an independent physician” at the Yazoo City facility, adding that he was an independent contractor, not an employee at the facility.

The hospital system said that it follows “the standards of care recommended by the scientific community and our medical team in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19” such as vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments.

But Witcher said that he was working at the Baptist Memorial emergency room when three new COVID-19 patients arrived on Dec. 10. They were prescribed Remdesivir, but Witcher said that he has concerns about the drug.

“I was there at the hospital for three days straight in the ER and so I felt like this would be a good opportunity to try ivermectin on these inpatient patients that I had been following very closely and just see how well it worked,” Witcher remarked.




22 December, 2021

‘Negligible benefit’: Experts urge South Africa to end quarantine and contact tracing

Leading South African doctors advising the government’s Covid-19 response have called for quarantine and contact tracing to be stopped immediately, saying the measures are of “negligible public health benefit”.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19, co-chaired by Professors Koleka Mlisana and Marian Jacobs, wrote to South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Thursday to argue that existing quarantine and contact tracing protocols were “outdated” and no longer effective containment measures.

The MAC pointed out that only a very small proportion of Covid-19 cases were detected through testing, as up to 84 per cent of cases were estimated to be asymptomatic.

“It stands to reason that if the vast majority of cases are not diagnosed, then the vast majority of case contacts are also not diagnosed,” Profs Mlisana and Jacobs wrote.

“This means that quarantining and contact tracing are of negligible public health benefit in the South African setting.”

South Africa introduced a 14-day quarantine period for “high risk” contacts of Covid-19 patients in early 2020. This was later reduced to 10 days.

“Since then, several changes to the Covid-19 situation have occurred,” they wrote. “The proportion of people with immunity to Covid-19 (from infection and/or vaccination) has risen substantially, exceeding 60-80 per cent in several serosurveys.

“We have learned more about the manner in which Covid-19 is spread, and also now have to contend with variants of concern whose epidemiology differs from that of the ancestral strains of SARS-CoV-2.

“Crucially, it appears that efforts to eliminate and/or contain the virus are not likely to be successful. Therefore, it is critical that the role of containment efforts like quarantine and contact tracing is re-evaluated.”

The MAC also said the definition of “high risk” contact – those who “had face-to-face contact or [were] in a closed space with a Covid-19 case for at least 15 minutes” – was “based on an outdated understanding of the transmission dynamics” of the virus.

“The definition concentrates on droplet spread while ignoring aerosol spread, which can occur over distances greater than 1-1.5 metres, and also does not require as close a temporal association with the index case,” they wrote.

“In addition, it ignores the increased intrinsic transmissibility of subsequent variants of concern compared to the ancestral strain, as well as the fact that pre-existing immunity (from vaccination and/or natural infection) further changes the transmission dynamics.”

The experts said quarantining was not feasible in many social settings, and had a “substantial economic and social burden”.

Those include “significantly depleting” staffing levels at healthcare facilities and other frontline roles such as police, and “significantly reducing economic and governmental activities due to high levels of staff absenteeism”.

“We propose that quarantining be discontinued with immediate effect for contacts of cases of Covid-19,” they wrote.

“This applies equally to vaccinated and non-vaccinated contacts. No testing for Covid-19 is required irrespective of the exposure risk, unless the contact becomes symptomatic.

“We further propose that contact tracing be stopped.

“Since quarantining of contacts of cases no longer serves a public health role, identifying contacts of Covid-19 cases equally serves very little role. In addition, contact tracing is impractical once the Covid-19 caseload rises, and is extremely burdensome in its use of human and financial resources.”

The letter came as Mr Phaahla announced that South Africa would remain under modified “level one” lockdown restrictions over Christmas, amid concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant, News24 reported.


Daily Covid cases in South Africa have fallen for the fourth day in a row as Omicron continues to fade in the variant's original centre

Data from the National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD) shows 15,424 South Africans tested positive in the last 24 hours, down by a third on the nearly 24,000 cases confirmed last Tuesday.

A fifth fewer people were tested for the first in the last 24 hours compared to the same period last week, but test positivity — the proportion of those tested who are infected — has been trending downwards for eight days.

But hospitalisations and deaths – which lag two to three weeks behind the pattern seen in case numbers due to the delay in an infected person becoming seriously unwell – have risen.

More than 630 people were hospitalised across the country, up only 5 per cent in a week but the highest daily number in the country's fourth wave. 

The previous record was last Wednesday when 620 people were hospitalised. Meanwhile 35 deaths were recorded, a 46 per cent uptick on last Tuesday.

The falling case numbers come despite only 25 per cent of South Africans being double-jabbed and boosters not being dished out in the country. 

It raises hopes that the UK's Omicron wave will also be short-lived, with Britain also having a layer of protection in its booster programme.  

It comes as UK scientists wait for data on how deadly the Omicron surge will be, with uncertainties about how severe it is and how well vaccines protect against serious outcomes.

But promisingly, cases already appear to be plateauing in the UK, with around 90,000 daily infections recorded for the last six days.

That's despite gloomy Government modelling warning that 1million Britons could be catching the virus daily by the end of the year.

Boris Johnson today said no to Christmas curbs because there is 'no evidence' on Omicron to justify it. 

The NICD confirmed 55,877 people had been tested across South Africa in the last 24 hours and 15,424 (27.6 per cent) tested positive.

And test positivity dropped to 27.6 per cent, which is the lowest figure recorded in 10 days and marks the eighth day of infection rates trending downwards.

Britain's daily Covid cases have plateaued for the fifth day in a row as an expert claimed that the Omicron wave may have peaked already.

There were 90,629 infections in the past 24 hours across the UK, up 52 per cent on last Tuesday's toll but down slightly on the figure yesterday — despite wild projections of up to a million daily infections by New Year,

Cases have remained flat since last Friday when they hit a peak of more than 93,000. 

In London, which has become a hotbed for Omicron, the wave also appears to be slowing. A total of 20,491 cases were recorded in the capital today, down slightly on yesterday's tally of 22,750.

The slowing statistics may be behind Boris Johnson's decision not to bring in tougher restrictions before Christmas , with the Prime Minister claiming today there was 'not enough evidence to justify' them.

Gloomy Government modelling presented to ministers last week said the mutant variant was doubling every two days and was infecting up to 400,000 daily by the weekend. 

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that Mr Johnson had made the right decision because cases 'look like they've peaked'. 

He said: 'It's not all doom and gloom, it does look like Omicron has stopped growing. The numbers over the last few days seem to have plateaued and maybe even be falling.

'It's a bit too soon to be absolutely sure about that, but if it is the case Boris Johnson will breathe a sigh of relief. We have to be a little bit careful because it's only a few days.

'And because we're getting closer to Christmas there is nervousness that people may not come forward for testing because they don't want to test positive and miss out on meeting relatives.

'Omicron overtook the other variants around December 14 so most of any changes from there on would be down to Omicron. So if it was still doubling every two days that would have shown and we should have been at 200,000 cases yesterday and certainly more than 200,000 cases today.

'But the fact it has been around 91,000 raises the point that it might actually have peaked. But it will probably take until at least Wednesday to get an idea of a day that is not affected by the weekend. But I am more optimistic than I was a few days ago.' 

Some 3.3million people in the country have tested positive since the pandemic began, but the true figure will be many millions more as not everyone who catches the virus is tested.

The majority of the new cases were recorded in Kwazulu-Natal (4,009), followed by Western Cape (3,324), as the virus spreads away from the ground zero Gauteng.

The province, which is home to Johannesburg and is where Omicron was first spotted, recorded the third-most cases (3,316). 

Meanwhile, 633 people were hospitalised in the last day, up 5.7 per cent in a week, bringing the country’s total number of hospitalisations since the pandemic began to 459,844.

A total of 9,023 people are currently receiving hospital care.

And a further 35 Covid deaths were recorded, up 45.8 per cent on last Tuesday when 24 fatalities were registered.

The data from the country suggests the outbreak is fading around a month after it was first detected, while ministers and scientists in the UK are panicking about the impact the wave will have over the coming weeks.

And the UK has strengthened its response to the variant through its booster campaign, while third jabs have not been dished out in South Africa and just 23 per cent of its population are vaccinated.

However, UK experts have warned Britain's older and denser population is more susceptible to a big and deadly outbreak.   

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whity last week said he expected to see the UK's daily cases rise extraordinarily due to Omicron, but also 'come down faster than previous peaks', mirroring South Africa's experience with the strain.

Professor Whitty told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee last week: 'I think what we will see with this is — and I think we’re seeing it in South Africa — is that the upswing will be very incredibly fast even if people are taking more cautious action. 

He added: 'It’ll probably therefore peak really quite fast. 

'My anticipation is it may then come down faster than previous peaks but I wouldn’t want to say that for sure.'

It comes as Britain's daily Covid cases have plateaued for the fifth day in a row as an expert claimed that the Omicron wave may have peaked already.

There were 90,629 infections in the past 24 hours across the UK, up 52 per cent on last Tuesday's toll but down slightly on the figure yesterday — despite wild projections of up to a million daily infections by New Year.

Cases have remained flat since last Friday when they hit a peak of more than 93,000. 

In London, which has become a hotbed for Omicron, the wave also appears to be slowing. A total of 20,491 cases were recorded in the capital today, down slightly on yesterday's tally of 22,750.  

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that Mr Johnson had made the right decision because cases 'look like they've peaked'. 

He said: 'It's not all doom and gloom, it does look like Omicron has stopped growing. The numbers over the last few days seem to have plateaued and maybe even be falling.

'It's a bit too soon to be absolutely sure about that, but if it is the case Boris Johnson will breathe a sigh of relief. We have to be a little bit careful because it's only a few days.




21 December, 2021

Nasal spray developed by Australian scientists STOPS cancer patients catching Covid with a bigger trial to find if it can be the next weapon to fight the pandemic

Another one of those evil nasal sprays.  But this one uses a well recognized therapeutic ingredient so will be harder to dismiss

A trial for a nasal spray that has prevented cancer patients getting Covid-19 could be a new weapon to fight the pandemic.

Some 175 patients have tested the drug by taking daily doses of a nasal spray containing cancer drug interferon developed by scientists at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. 

None of the participants in the C-SMART trial have contracted Covid so far, despite several waves of the virus plunging Melbourne into six lockdowns.

Scientists are seeking more volunteers to take part in the free trial, which will be expanded to Austin and St Vincent's hospitals in Melbourne, along with Westmead Hospital in western Sydney.

Anyone with a past or current cancer diagnosis is eligible to take part in the four month trial. 

Scientists hope the nasal spray will be an extra protection for vulnerable patients until better preventions are developed.

'We have not had any patient on the trial actually report back to us that they have developed Covid infection,' National Centre for Infections in Cancer director Professor Monica Slavin told the Herald Sun.

'But we have had about 10 per cent of people on the trial sending in a swab due to some sort of viral illness.

'We know that there are groups of patients, because of the immune system being suppressed, that don't make a good response to the vaccination.'

But it hasn't all been smooth sailing for the trial, which began a year ago.

Scientists were forced to press pause on the trial for five months earlier this year when access to chemicals and sending samples of the drug for testing were hampered by international border closures.

The expanded trial will determine whether the drug can also prevent other respiratory viral illnesses.

Studies have shown cancer patients make up 10 per cent of severe Covid-19 cases, and about 20 per cent of those who die from it, according to the trial's website.

They are also more likely to rapidly develop severe infections and be admitted to ICU compared to cases without cancer.


Moderna says booster significantly increases antibodies against Omicron

Moderna announced Monday that a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine significantly increases antibody levels against the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

A 50 microgram jab — the authorized dose for a third shot — saw a 37-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies, the vaccine maker said.

Moderna also tested a 100 microgram booster dose, which increased antibody levels 83-fold. The first two shots of Moderna’s vaccine are both 100 micrograms.

The company said the higher booster dose was generally safe and well-tolerated, although there was a trend toward slightly more frequent adverse reactions.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel called the data “reassuring” but said it will continue to “rapidly advance an omicron-specific booster candidate into clinical testing in case it becomes necessary in the future.”

However, for now, the drugmaker said the current version of its vaccine – mRNA-1273 — will continue to be its “first line of defense against Omicron.”

“What we have available right now is 1273,” Dr. Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told Reuters.

“It’s highly effective, and it’s extremely safe. I think it will protect people through the coming holiday period and through these winter months, when we’re going to see the most severe pressure of Omicron,” he added.

The data, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, tested blood from 20 booster recipients with each dose against a pseudovirus engineered to resemble the Omicron variant, the company said.  

Antibody levels were measured on day 29 post-boost.

Burton said it would be up to governments and regulators to assess whether they want the enhanced level of protection that a 100 microgram dose might provide.

US regulators authorized Moderna’s 50 microgram booster in October.


Ancient Greek drug used to treat gout could reduce the risk of death from Covid-19 by as much as 50 per cent, study claims

A drug used to treat gout could hold the potential to cut the risk of death from Covid-19 by as much as 50 per cent, a new study claims.

Colchicine is an ancient drug derived from the Colchicum family of plants, which was first used for its special healing properties by the ancient Greeks.

It began to be widely used from about the first century AD as a treatment for gout and other inflammatory conditions, and is one of a few medicines that have survived into modern times, according to experts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Four controlled studies, involving 6,000 coronavirus patients, have been published into the effects of the drug, with each showing a 'clear benefit' from its use.

The Israeli researchers analysed the studies, finding 'significant improvement in severe coronavirus indices and, most importantly, there was a decrease in mortality by about 50 per cent compared to those who were not treated with colchicine.'

This is an important discovery, as the drug is cheap and requires just half a milligram dose per day, according to the researchers.

However, previous studies have found mixed results on the use of the drug, with some finding a significant benefit, as was the case here, and others finding none.

An Indian study from November found no benefit to using the drug to treat Covid-19. 

What is colchicine? The 30p drug used to tackle gout

Colchicine is used to treat and prevent systemic inflammation, a feature of gout and the worst cases of coronavirus

Colchicine is a medicine for treating inflammation and pain.  The pills are typically prescribed to treat flare-ups or attacks of gout 

It is also used to prevent increased flare-ups of gout when a patient first starts on a medicine like allopurinol – taken to manage the condition in the long term. 

Colchicine is also prescribed to prevent flare-ups of symptoms of familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) – an inherited inflammatory condition.

The usual dose for gout is one 0.5mg tablet, taken two to four times a day. Patients are advised to avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice while taking colchicine.

Some patients find it is gentler on their stomach if they take the tablets with or after food.

It is not usually recommended in pregnancy or when breastfeeding. 

For this new research, Prof Ami Schattner came at it from a different perspective, focusing on all patients treated in controlled trials with the ancient drug for any purpose over the past 20 years, rather than just treated for Covid-19.  

Of the studies he reviewed, four focused on coronavirus and involved 6,000 patients, finding each saw a 'significant improvement' when using the drug.

Schattner says colchicine working to improve the outcome of Covid-19 patients is 'an important discovery that could significantly contribute to improving the morbidity and mortality of many patients, if confirmed in further studies.' 

This is because, as well as being cheap, it is well-tolerated by patients with minimal side effects such as bouts of diarrhoea in 10 per cent of patients. 

The studies used by the Israeli team were conducted around the world, including in Canada, Greece, Spain and Brazil.

They were all double-blind placebo studies, which make them more accurate, according to Schattner. 

Further randomised trials are needed, involving the drug and Covid-19 patients, to confirm the results of this 'preliminary study', said Schattner. 

He said that it is likely going to lead to an expansion of the use of low-dose colchicine in the treatment of coronavirus patients, and says there is 'no reason' that couldn't start now.  

In November, an Indian research team from GMERS Medical College Gotri in Gujarat performed a meta-analysis of six studies that tested colchicine's ability to prevent severe cases of the virus. 

'Colchicine does not reduce the risk of mortality, need for ventilatory support, intensive care unit admission or length of hospital stay among patients with Covid-19,' researchers wrote.

'There is no additional benefit of adding colchicine to supportive care in the management of patients with Covid-19.'  

Four of the studies also researched whether the drug could reduce Covid-19 related hospital stays.

The combined results found no difference in mortality rates among people who used colchicine and those that did not.

In March a large British trial halted enrolments to test colchicine as a potential treatment for patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

This was after a sub-study of the trial found that the medication did not have any effect on the patients.

However, Schattner says his results are 'very promising' and worth exploring further.

'Even though initial data on the effect of colchicine on coronavirus patients is very promising, more patients need to be in randomised controlled trials,' Schattner told the Jerusalem Post. 

'But that would not prevent me from using the drug already in patients with high risk, to hopefully lower their chances of developing severe disease. 

'The drug is low-cost for the patients and the community,' he said. 'By using it in corona patients, we have nothing to lose and much to gain.' 

A few gout drugs have been pointed to as potential Covid-19 treatments since the pandemic began.

Drugs used to treat gout often have anti-inflammatory properties, which can also reduce some of the side-effects of Covid-19.

Previous studies identified colchicine as a drug that could reduce inflammation related to Covid-19 and help patients.

Another anti-inflammatory drug used to treat gout, probenecid, has also showed a promising ability to combat Covid-19, though further research is needed.




20 December, 2021

Japan’s Vaccination Policy: No Force, No Discrimination

Japan’s ministry of health is taking a sensible, ethical approach to Covid vaccines. They recently labeled the vaccines with a warning about myocarditis and other risks. They also reaffirmed their commitment to adverse event reporting to document potential side-effects.

Japan’s ministry of health states: “Although we encourage all citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, it is not compulsory or mandatory. Vaccination will be given only with the consent of the person to be vaccinated after the information provided.”

Furthermore, they state: “Please get vaccinated of your own decision, understanding both the effectiveness in preventing infectious diseases and the risk of side effects. No vaccination will be given without consent.”

Finally, they clearly state: “Please do not force anyone in your workplace or those who around you to be vaccinated, and do not discriminate against those who have not been vaccinated.”

They also link to a “Human Rights Advice” page that includes instructions for handling any complaints if individuals face vaccine discrimination at work.

Other nations would do well to follow Japan’s lead with this balanced and ethical approach.

This policy appropriately places the responsibility for this healthcare decision with the individual or family.

We can contrast this with the vaccine mandate approach adopted in many other Western nations. The United States provides a case study in the anatomy of medical coercion exercised by a faceless bureaucratic network.

A bureaucracy is an institution that exercises enormous power over you but with no locus of responsibility. This leads to the familiar frustration, often encountered on a small scale at the local DMV, that you can go round in bureaucratic circles trying to troubleshoot problems or rectify unfair practices. No actual person seems to be able to help you get to the bottom of things—even if a well-meaning person sincerely wants to assist you.

Here’s how this dynamic is playing out with coercive vaccine mandates in the United States. The CDC makes vaccine recommendations. But the ethically crucial distinction between a recommendation and mandate immediately collapses when institutions (e.g., a government agency, a business, employer, university, or school) require you to be vaccinated based on the CDC recommendation.

Try to contest the rationality of these mandates, e.g., in federal court, and the mandating institution just points back to CDC recommendation as the rational basis for the mandate. The court will typically agree, deferring to the CDC’s authority on public health. The school, business, etc., thus disclaims responsibility for the decision to mandate the vaccine: “We’re just following CDC recommendations, after all. What can we do?”

But CDC likewise disclaims responsibility: “We don’t make policy; we just make recommendations, after all.”

Meanwhile, the vaccine manufacturer is immune and indemnified from all liability or harm under federal law. No use going to them if their product—a product that you did not freely decide to take—harms you.

You are now dizzy from going round in circles trying to identify the actual decision-maker: it’s impossible to pinpoint the relevant authority. You know that enormous power is being exercised over your body and your health, but with no locus of responsibility for the decision and no liability for the outcomes.

You are thus left with the consequences of a decision that nobody claims to have made. The only certainty is that you did not make the decision and you were not given the choice.


People who get breakthrough COVID-19 infections after being fully vaccinated have 'super immunity' with antibody levels rising as much as 2,000%, study finds

A new study finds that those who get a breakthrough COVID-19 infection after being fully vaccinated may acquire 'super immunity' from another infection.

The small study compared 26 vaccinated staff at Oregon Health & Science University who had breakthrough infections to people who were vaccinated but never got the coronavirus.

The breakthrough group saw a surge in antibodies.

'The increases were substantial, up to a 1,000 percent increase and sometimes up to 2,000 percent, so it's really high immunity,' said study author Fikadu Tafesse, a molecular microbiology and immunology professor at OHSU in Portland, Oregon. 

'It's almost "super immunity."'

Cases of Omicron, thought to be more infectious than other variants -  almost doubled from Friday to Saturday, with the variant confirmed in all but six US states. 

Meanwhile, a Columbia University study found that patients given a booster shot of either Pfizer or Moderna had 6.5 times fewer antibodies for Omicron than the original virus - meaning boosters alone may not be as protective.

The efficacy of a regular course of the three vaccines approved in the US waned significantly after six months in a study conducted by the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California

'The bottom line of the study is that vaccine provides you with foundational immunity for whatever comes next,' Tafesse told USA Today, cautioning that no one should purposefully seek to get infected with COVID-19.

Various studies show that being infected and getting a dose of a COVID vaccine is very effective against COVID, but this is one of the few that consider the reverse scenario.

'This is one of the first that shows a breakthrough infection following vaccination generates stronger immunity than prior infection or vaccination alone,' said Dr. Monica Gandhi of the University of California at San Francisco.   

She warns that getting the virus first isn't recommended because 'we cannot predict who will get very ill with COVID.'

'What we're saying is, we know life happens. If you happen to be exposed to the virus, you'll have this amazing immune response,' Tafesse said. 'It mirrors the immunity response we get to the booster.'

Getting a booster may provide crucial protection against Omicron, according to a study by a team at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California released last month. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech jab - which is far and away the most commonly used in the US - saw its effectiveness drop from 87 percent in March to 43 percent in September.

Moderna's shot held up the best, and is the only one of the three to still be more than 50 percent effective.

The shot's effectiveness has still fallen greatly, though, from 89 percent in March to 58 percent in September.  

Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients are especially at risk with just 13 percent efficacy against contracting the virus. 

Meanwhile, Columbia University study looked at people given a booster of one of the two mRNA vaccines and found that boosted people had 6.5 times fewer antibodies for Omicron than the original virus.  

It was less of a drop than that of people who only got a normal two-dose course. There was a 21-fold drop in neutralizing antibodies against Omicron after two doses of Pfizer compared to the original strain and a 8.6-fold drop with Moderna's jabs.

The study has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. 

Omicron already accounts for about three percent of cases nationwide and 13 percent of cases in the New York/New Jersey area, according to recent modeling data from the Centers for Disease Control.

On Saturday, New York state reported that the number of Omicron cases in New York City - the epicenter of the first wave of the pandemic - was 192, though there are likely more, New York Magazine reports. 

On Saturday, New York reported 21,908 cases of COVID-19 throughout the state, a slight uptick from Friday's 21,027 new cases, which was already a new single-day record.

The CDC maintains that vaccines continue to be effective against the worst outcomes of COVID-19.

'With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters,' the CDC says.

The agency says Omicron will 'likely' spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but it's not known how much easier it spreads than the Delta variant, which sent cases soaring late this summer. 

Santacon - which sees thousands of costumed revelers trawl the bars of the East Village and Lower East Side - could have contributed to the rise of cases in New York City.

Mark Levin, the chair of the city's health commission, said the December 11 event could've been a factor.  'Manhattan unfortunately now has highest covid rate in NYC,' he tweeted Saturday. 'This is partly because we test more. But this should serve as a warning about how much Omicron is out there.

'Be especially cautious about indoor gatherings where masks come off. (And yes SantaCon may partly be to blame.)'

On social media, many said that they had tested positive since attending SantaCon, and others reacted with fury to the event having been held in the first place. 

As of Saturday morning, there were 830 cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant confirmed by DNA sequencing across the country, a 97 percent increase from Friday morning's tally.

In reality, the true number of Omicron cases is much higher, as only 1 to 2 percent of all cases are sequenced for variant markers, but the testing data shows a disturbing national trend.

Testing has now confirmed the presence of Omicron in every US state except for Oklahoma, Montana, North and South Dakota, Indiana and Vermont, though the eventual confirmation of the highly transmissible variant in every state now seems assured.  

On Sunday, Joe Biden's chief medical advisor contradicted the vice president, who had claimed that no one saw the Omicron variant coming. 'We did. We definitely saw variants coming,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci, after being read Kamala Harris's quote.

On Friday, Harris told the Los Angeles Times: 'We didn't see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not - upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn't see Delta coming.   'We didn't see Omicron coming. And that's the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants.' 

Fauci said that Harris was mistaken - but he accepted that Omicron's potency had not been forecast. 'What was not anticipated was the extent of the mutations and the amino acid substitutions in Omicron, that is really is unprecedented and came out of nowhere,' Fauci told CNN's Jake Tapper, on State of the Union.

'When you have a virus which has 50 mutations. 'To me that is really quite unprecedented so that is something you would not have anticipated.




19 December, 2021

We cannot stop the spread of COVID, but we CAN end the pandemic: Protect the old and vulnerable, forget lockdowns - and learn to live with the virus

By Jay Bhattacharya, MD, PhD a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.  This is about what I have been saying all along

The arrival of the omicron variant has led some politicians and public health grandees to call for a return to business closures and 'circuit-breaker' lockdowns.

The variant has been found worldwide, including in the US and the UK. The variant has already surpassed delta – dominant before omicron – in the UK.

Early reports from South Africa confirm that the variant is more transmissible but produces a milder disease, with a lower chance of hospitalization and death upon infection.

My message is this: we can’t stop the spread of COVID, but we can end the pandemic.

In October 2020, I wrote the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) along with Prof. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University and Prof. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.

The centerpiece of the declaration is a call for increased focused protection of the vulnerable older population, who are more than a thousand times more likely to die from COVID infection than the young.

We can protect the vulnerable without harming the rest of the population.

As I stated above, we do not have any technology that can stop viral spread. While excellent vaccines protect the vaccinated versus hospitalization or death if infected, they provide only temporary and marginal protection from infection and disease transmission.

The same is likely true for booster shots, which use the same technology as the initial doses.

What about lockdowns?  It is now abundantly clear that they have failed to contain the virus while wreaking enormous collateral damage worldwide.

The simplistic allure of lockdowns is that we can break the chain of viral transmission by staying apart.

Only the laptop class -- those who can just as easily work from home as in the office -- can abide by a lockdown in actual practice, and even they have trouble.

Essential workers who keep society going cannot afford the luxury, so the disease will keep spreading.

Will the same policies that failed against a more virulent strain succeed in containing a more transmissible strain?  The answer is self-evidently no. 

The harms of lockdown on children and the non-elderly are catastrophic, including worse physical and mental health and irretrievably lost life opportunities.

Lockdowns imposed in rich countries mean starvation, poverty, and death for the residents of poor countries.

There is, however, a good alternative to lockdown.  The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) calls for a return to normal life for low-risk children and non-elderly adults.

The principles at the heart of the GBD are as important today as they were a year ago. In fact, they are more important now because we now have technological tools that make focused protection of the vulnerable much more straightforward than it was a year ago.

First and most importantly, the vaccine.

Because unvaccinated older people face such a high risk for a poor outcome on infection, and because the vaccine is so effective at blunting severe disease and death, vaccinating older people is the top priority if life-saving is to be the top priority.

But to preserve doses, they should be reserved for those who have not previously had COVID and were vaccinated more than 6 to 8 months ago. 

According to a careful study conducted by Swedish scientists, vaccine efficacy versus severe disease also starts to wane around that point, so boosting before then does not provide a substantial benefit.

Second, we should make available effective early treatment options.

During Florida’s summer wave, Gov. Ron DeSantis promoted the use of monoclonal antibodies – an FDA-approved treatment – by patients early in the course of the disease, an action that saved many lives. 

Safe and inexpensive supplements like Vitamin D have been shown effective. Promising new treatments from Pfizer and a new antibody treatment for the immunocompromised by Astra Zeneca promise to become more widely available. Until that happens, they should be preserved for use by the most vulnerable when sick.

Third, the widespread availability of inexpensive, privately conducted, rapid antigen tests in the UK has empowered everyone to make wise choices that reduce the risk of infecting vulnerable people. So far, the FDA says that these tests work to detect omicron.

Even if you have no COVID-like symptoms, these tests accurately read whether you harbor the virus and pose a risk of spreading it to close contacts. With this test in hand, anyone can check if it is safe to visit grandma before heading over to her care home. It is a perfect tool for focused protection of the vulnerable. US COVID policy should focus on making these tests cheaper and more widely available, as they are in the UK.

Finally, since the virus very often spreads via aerosolization events, upgrades to ventilation systems in public spaces will reduce the risk of older people participating in everyday social life outside the home. 

It is no accident that COVID disease spread is so rare on airplanes since they are all outfitted with excellent air filtration systems. Upgrading other public facilities, such as other public transportation systems, would reduce the risk of infection for the vulnerable.

There are some hopeful signs that the political and ideological winds are shifting, while other developments signal a return to failed strategies.

Colorado's Democrat Governor Jared Polis recently declared that the widespread availability of vaccines spells ‘the end of the medical emergency,’ and he is resisting calls to impose new statewide mask mandates.

Yet on the coasts, in California and New York, elected officials are renewing mask requirements for all – regardless of health or vaccination status.

The end of the pandemic is primarily a social and political decision.

Since we have no technology to eradicate the virus, we must learn to live with it. The fear-based lockdown policies of the past two years are no template for a healthy society.

The good news is that with the new and effective technologies available and the focused protection ideas outlined in the GBD, we can end the pandemic if only we can muster the courage and political will to do so. 

In Sweden and many US states that have eschewed lockdowns, the pandemic is effectively over, even as the virus continues to circulate. 

As normal society resumes, the vast majority will find that living with the virus is not so hard after all.


Many omicron cases at Cornell in fully vaccinated: official

Cornell University is seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases and has detected the “highly contagious” omicron variant on campus, particularly in fully vaccinated individuals, according to campus officials.

Between Dec. 7 and 13, the Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York, reported 883 students testing positive for COVID-19, its online dashboard shows.

“Virtually every case of the Omicron variant to date has been found in fully vaccinated students, a portion of whom had also received a booster shot,” Joel M. Malina, the school’s vice president for university relations, said in a statement provided to McClatchy News.

On Dec. 13, Cornell’s COVID-19 testing lab found “evidence of the highly contagious Omicron variant in a significant number of Monday’s positive student samples,” university President Martha E. Pollack said in a letter to the campus community.

Out of the students infected with COVID-19, the school has “not seen severe illness” as of Dec. 14, Pollack assured.

The on-campus population of Cornell is 97% fully vaccinated, according to its virus data tracker that has recorded 26,008 students and 13,311 faculty and staff members who are fully vaccinated.

Pollack noted that the evidence of omicron, first identified by South African researchers on Nov. 24, is “preliminary.”

“PCR testing has identified its hallmark (the so-called S-gene dropout) in a substantial number of virus samples,” Pollack said. “While we must await confirmatory sequencing information to be sure that the source is Omicron, we are proceeding as if it is.”


Omicron easier on the lungs, British study suggests

Omicron may be less efficient at replicating in the lungs than previous COVID variants, British laboratory research has suggested.

A study conducted by scientists at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease found that mutations on the virus’s spike protein, which make it able to evade antibodies, may also reduce its ability to attack the lungs and cause severe disease.

“We demonstrate significantly lower infectivity of lung organoids and Calu-3 lung cells,” says the Cambridge preprint, which was posted late on Friday night.

“These observations highlight that Omicron has gained immune evasion properties whilst compromising on properties associated with replication and pathogenicity [harm].”

The study was led by Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge and a contributor to Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

“The Omicron spike protein induces relatively poor [lung] cell-cell fusion compared to Wuhan and Delta,” said Gupta, announcing the findings on Twitter. “The difference is significant.”

Gupta said the findings could point to Omicron causing less severe disease but said more work was needed.

“In summary this work suggests that Omicron does appear to have become more immune evasive, but that properties associated with disease progression may be attenuated [weakened] to some extent,” he said. “The significant growth of Omicron nevertheless represents a major public health challenge”.

Scientists are rushing to understand if Omicron is more severe in unvaccinated people than previous variants. The signals are mixed.

Early data on hospital admissions and deaths from South Africa suggest that Omicron is so far doing significantly less damage there than previous waves. A hospital group reported last week that 29 per cent fewer adults were being admitted to hospital than in the Delta wave, and far fewer of those required intensive care.

On the other hand, there was a 20 per cent jump in the number of children being hospitalised, and a double dose of Pfizer vaccine was shown to be just 70 per cent effective at preventing hospital admissions, falling further in the old.

Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, warned against “overinterpretation” of the South African data last week, noting its population was much younger and with more prior exposure to COVID than our own.

“The amount of immunity for this wave because of prior Delta wave and vaccination is far higher than it was for their last wave and, therefore the fact they have a lower hospitalisation rate this time is unsurprising.”




17 December, 2021

Omicron is 'markedly resistant' to COVID vaccines and boosters shots may only give 'slight protection', Columbia University study finds

In a study published Wednesday by Dr. David Ho and 20 other researchers, the scientists discovered that Omicron's 'extensive' mutations can 'greatly compromise' all major COVID-19 vaccines - Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca - even neutralizing them. 

The report also found that while booster shots provided an additional layer of protection, the variant 'may still pose a risk' for those who get the third shot.' 

'These findings are in line with emerging clinical data on the Omicron variant demonstrating higher rates of reinfection and vaccine breakthroughs,' the scientists wrote. 

'Even a third booster shot may not adequately protect against Omicron infection.' 

The study looked at the effectiveness of each major vaccine against the Omicron variant, finding several cases where they failed to provide the needed protection against infection. 

 While the booster shots proved to be overall consistent, some recorded instanced put it right at the threshold of actually being effective. 

Ho and the Columbia research team, who worked along side the University of Hong Kong, said the study delivers a grave warning about the future of COVID and its variants. 

'It is not too far-fetched to think that this [COVID-19] is now only a mutation or two away from being pan-resistant to current antibodies,' the researchers wrote. 

'We must devise strategies that anticipate the evolutional direction of the virus and develop agents that target better conserved viral elements.'  

The warning came as confirmed US Omicron cases jumped by a third overnight, from 241 on Wednesday to 319 on Thursday. But experts have warned those are the tip of the iceberg, and that American cases likely already number in the tens of thousands.

White House COVID tsar Dr. Anthony Fauci even remarked on the variant's 'extraordinary' ability to spread, before revealing that cases will double every three days. 

The number of people testing positive in New York also has doubled in three days, from 3.9 per cent of all swabs coming back positive on December 9, to 7.8 per cent on December 12. More than four fifths of New York

Bill de Blasio's senior public health adviser Dr. Jay Varman, a Cornell epidemiology professor, tweeted the news, saying: 'Um, we've never seen this before in #NYC. Test positivity doubling in three days.'

A total of 81 per cent of New Yorkers are fully-vaccinated, and 18.5 per cent have received their booster shots - but a worrying new study from Columbia University suggests that neither may be sufficient in protecting from Omicron.

Immunologists have also forecast a potential triple-whammy of Omicron, Delta and regular flu infections this winter. Two doctors interviewed by said those who haven't received a booster shot should consider returning to Spring 2020-style self-isolation, when COVID's Alpha variant raged through the US, and no vaccines were available.

Speaking on Good Morning America on Thursday, Fauci also confirmed Omicron was on track to be the dominant Covid strain in America within weeks.

He said: 'Certainly what [Omicron] is showing us in other countries [is that it spreads faster than other variants] and I believe soon in our own country.

'It has an extraordinary ability to transmit efficiently and spread. It has what we call a doubling time of around three days.

'And if you do the math on that, if you have just a couple of percentage of the isolates being Omicron, very soon it's going to be the dominant variant. We've seen that in South Africa, we're seeing it in the U.K. and I'm absolutely certain that's what we're going to be seeing here relatively soon.'

The doubling time of three days is slightly longer than the 2.5 days reported by British and South African health officials. On Thursday, the UK recorded its second-consecutive day of record infections - 88,376 - 24 hours after Wednesday's total of 78,610. That is a 74 per cent jump in a week, with 15 people who've been infected with Omicron so-far hospitalized in the UK.

The US is much larger, with most of its landmass not as densely populated as the UK or South Africa.

But Omicron is believed to represent up to 13 per cent of new diagnoses in New Jersey and New York - states with extremely well-populated areas - giving a possible early taste of what's to come with the new strain. 

Fauci continues to urge Americans to get vaccinated, and boosted, to protect themselves from the virus, especially now with the new threat of Omicron circulating. A total of 16.5 per cent of Americans have so-far had the booster shot. 

'We need to do everything that we have been talking about up to now, and even more so,' he said.  

He spoke hours after the CDC agency released forecasts on Wednesday night showing that weekly Covid cases will increase by 55 percent to 1.3 million per week - or 185,714 per day - by Christmas. 

It also predicted deaths will jump by 73 percent to up to 15,600 per day by early January - or 2,228 deaths per day.

Some of that predicted surge is already appearing in parts of the country, with Florida revealing 6,381 new cases on Thursday - the state's largest single day Covid increase since September.

The Delta variant is still the dominant Covid strain in the U.S., accounting for around 97 percent of sequenced cases. Omicron is quickly making up ground, though, with the newly discovered variant jumping seven-fold in a week from making up 0.4 percent of cases to 2.9 percent of case, according to the most recent CDC data. 

Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, has warned of a nightmare scenario where Delta, Omicron and regular seasonal flu could combine to inflict the winter from hell on US hospitals already struggling to cope with an influx of patients. 

She told CNN: 'It's the combination. It's kind of the perfect storm of public health impacts here with Delta already impacting many areas of the country and jurisdictions. We don't want to overwhelm systems more.' 

Early data also shows that people who are only fully vaccinated, but have not yet received their booster, are still extremely vulnerable to the virus, with Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot offering effectively no protection. 

Booster shots have been deemed effective against the variant, though, with both Moderna and Pfizer revealing data in recent days showing their vaccines will cause massive increases in antibody levels and up to 75 per cent protection from Covid symptoms.

But confusion remains about just how effective boosters are against a strain that was only identified after Americans began receiving them en-masse.

A new study by Columbia University in New York, published on Thursday, said: 'Even serum from persons vaccinated and boosted with mRNA-based vaccines exhibited substantially diminished neutralizing activity against (omicron),'

Only around 16.5 percent of Americans have received the additional vaccine dose so far though - as they were not widely available until late November - meaning that more than 80 percent of Americans are at risk from Omicron.

Dr Chris Thompson is an infectious disease expert at Loyola University of Maryland. He told on Thursday that people who have not received their booster dose yet may want to bring back some early pandemic habits like social distancing, masking, frequent hand washing and more.

'The data that I've seen says that you're about 33 percent protected after a two dose regimen of either of the mRNA vaccines [the Pfizer or Moderna shots] and we don't have good data from Johnson and Johnson's vaccine yet. Then if you get your booster you look like you get back up into the 75 percent protection range and for preventing disease'

Whether Delta or Omicron, U.S. is experiencing yet another surge of Covid cases during the holiday season. The nation is recording 121,188 new cases every day - a 40 percent increase over the past two weeks. Deaths are making a sharp rise as well, up 34 percent to 1,302 per week. 

The number of Americans hospitalized with the virus increased over the past 14 days as well, up 21 percent to 68,079.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that the situation will only worsen as well.


Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine produces virtually NO antibody protection against Omicron variant in lab study

A new study has found that Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine produced virtually no antibody response to the Omicron variant.

South African virologist Penny Moore found that a key measure of antibody levels fell fell from 303 against the original strain to undetectable levels against Omicron in those with the J&J shot, according to Bloomberg.

Among those who received the Pfizer shot, the antibody measure, called geometric mean titers, fell from 1,419 against the original coronavirus strain to 80 against Omicron.

'Omicron does indeed exhibit substantial immune escape from antibodies,' she in a presentation on Tuesday. 'The situation, I think, is even more alarming for the J&J vaccine -- there was no detectable neutralization in our assay.' 

Confirmed US Omicron case numbers sit at 241 as of Wednesday, up 27 per cent from the 189 recorded the day before, according to data from various state reporting bodies.

But CDC officials have warned the true scale of Omicron infection is far higher, with around three per cent of all US COVID cases now caused by the variant, or up to 13 per cent in New York and New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Cornell University in upstate New York is now suspected of being home to the largest Omicron outbreak in the US so far, with more than 900 infections, which experts anticipate will almost all have been caused by Omicron.  

The J&J study was conducted under test-tube conditions with human blood plasma and has not yet been published. 

It does not rule out other immune responses to Omicron in those with the J&J vaccine, such as from powerful T cells.


Is Omicron running out of steam in South Africa? Daily Covid cases rise by just 10% in a week and hospital admissions DROP for first time since strain took off

South Africa's daily Covid cases rose by just 10 per cent in a week today while hospitalisations fell for the first time since Omicron mutant strain first took off.

Data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases showed 24,785 cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, up 11 per cent on last Thursday. 

It is the second smallest week-on-week rise since South African doctors raised the alarm about the variant on November 24. Cases rose by just 5 per cent in a week this past Saturday.

The NICD data shows there were 347 admissions today, down almost a quarter from 507 a week ago. It marks the first time since November 27 that admissions have declined. Just 36 Covid deaths were registered today compared to 22 last Thursday.

Scientists have cautioned against reading into one day of data but there are increasing signs that South Africa's Omicron crisis may not be growing exponentially anymore, and may have peaked.

In another promising sign, infections fell in ground zero Gauteng province by 42 per cent in a week, with 6,744 positive tests. 

Today is a public holiday in South Africa, which may have played a role in the relatively low infection and hospital numbers. But there were still 80,000 tests processed today, down only slightly on yesterday.

South African scientists have been saying for weeks that the super-mutant variant is milder than its rivals, and calling on other nations including Britain not to over-react to the strain.




16 December, 2021

More hope from ground zero: Cases in Omicron-stricken South African province are FALLING

Omicron infections may have already peaked in the South African epicentre, fresh data suggested today as an ex-Government Covid adviser claimed the UK's incoming outbreak may be no worse than flu.

The South African Government's weekly Covid surveillance report revealed that cases fell in Gauteng province last week for the first time since the nation sounded the alarm about Omicron on November 24. 

There were 377 cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 11 in Gauteng, down roughly 4 per cent on the previous week. Experts told MailOnline that while the 'encouraging' drop in cases was small enough to be within the margin of error, it at the very least shows Omicron is no longer spreading exponentially.

Testing in the province has more than doubled in the past three weeks — from 541 tests per 100,000 on November 27 to 1,264 now, suggesting swabbing capacity is not the issue.

Professor Robert Dingwall, a former member of the Nervtag and JCVI panels, expects the ultra-infectious variant to infect so many Britons that it creates a work absence crisis. But he predicted that it won't overwhelm the NHS, despite gloomy warnings from No10's own scientists.

A major real-world study of Omicron in South Africa yesterday found that the mutant virus is causing two-thirds fewer hospital admissions than Delta, bolstering claims it is milder than previous strains.  

Professor Dingwall, a sociologist who still sits on the Government's Moral and Ethical Advisory Group but has no input on the response to the pandemic, told MailOnline: 'Respectable experts in South Africa are telling us we're overreacting and that this is a milder virus.

He accused British scientists of 'snobbery', adding: 'The best South African scientists are as good as scientists anywhere in world and if their view is there no reason to panic, we shouldn't be so quick to disagree.'

Doctors on the ground in the South Africa have insisted for weeks that Omicron causes milder disease, likely due to immunity from earlier waves and vaccines. There are just 375 daily Covid admissions in South Africa currently, on average. 

Professor Dingwall told The Telegraph last night: 'My gut feeling is that omicron is very much like the sort of flu pandemic we planned for – a lot of sickness absence from work in a short period, which will create difficulties for public services and economic activity, but not of such a severity as to be a big problem for the NHS and the funeral business.' 

His comments come as a weekly Covid report from South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases found cases dropped in Gauteng last week for the first time.

The province, which includes major cities like Johannesburg and Tshwane, recorded 377 cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 11, down 3.9 per cent on the previous week.    

The development comes after the first major real-world study in South Africa found that Omicron is currently leading to a third fewer hospital admissions than Delta did during its entire wave — 38 admissions per 1,000 Omicron cases compared to 101 per 1,000 for Delta.

Officials who analysed 78,000 Omicron cases in the past month estimated the risk of hospitalisation was a fifth lower than with Delta and 29 per cent lower than the original virus.   

The findings lend weight to the theory that the ultra-infectious variant is weaker than previous strains, something which doctors on the ground in South Africa have been claiming for weeks. 

But the reduction in severity is probably not solely down to Omicron being intrinsically milder, according to the South African Medical Research Council which led the analysis. 

Around 70 per cent of South Africans have recovered from Covid already and 23 per cent are double-vaccinated, which has created high levels of immunity.  

The study also found two doses of Pfizer's vaccine still provide 70 per cent protection against hospital admission or death from Omicron, compared to 93 per cent for Delta.

While this is more protection than many scientists initially feared, it still leaves 30 per cent of people vulnerable to severe Omicron disease, four times as many as Delta.   Waning immunity from two Pfizer doses was found to offer just 33 per cent protection against Omicron infection, explaining why the country has seen a meteoric rise in case numbers.


Where I Live, No One Cares About COVID

This is pretty true of where I live too -- in the Australian State of Queensland.  No-one chips you if you don't wear a mask or you don't check in. 

The article below appeared in The Atlantic, a left-leaning mag.  Many of their readers were enraged

By Matthew Walther

Outside the world inhabited by the professional classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over.

In November, my wife asked me whether I had seen an article with the remarkable headline “Is It Safe to Go to Thanksgiving Dinner?”

“Is that from last year?” I asked.

“No, it’s a few days old,” she said, her voice sinking to a growling murmur. “These people.”

I am old enough to remember the good old days when holiday-advice pieces were all variations on “How to Talk to Your Tea Party Uncle About Obamacare.” As Christmas approaches, we can look forward to more of this sort of thing, with the meta-ethical speculation advanced to an impossibly baroque stage of development. Is it okay for our 2-year-old son to hug Grandma at a Christmas party if she received her booster only a few days ago? Should the toddler wear a mask except when he is slopping mashed potatoes all over his booster seat? Our oldest finally attended her first (masked) sleepover with other fully vaccinated 10-year-olds, but one of them had a sibling test positive at day care. Should she stay home or wear a face shield? What about Omicron?

I don’t know how to put this in a way that will not make me sound flippant: No one cares. Literally speaking, I know that isn’t true, because if it were, the articles wouldn’t be commissioned. But outside the world inhabited by the professional and managerial classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many, if not most, Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over, and they have been for a long while.

In my part of rural southwest Michigan, and in similar communities throughout the country, this is true not despite but without any noticeable regard for cases; hospitalization statistics, which are always high this time of year without attracting much notice; or death reports. I don’t mean to deny COVID’s continuing presence. (For the purposes of this piece, I looked up the COVID data for my county and found that the seven-day average for positive tests is as high as it has ever been, and that 136 deaths have been attributed to the virus since June 2020.) What I wish to convey is that the virus simply does not factor into my calculations or those of my neighbors, who have been forgoing masks, tests (unless work imposes them, in which case they are shrugged off as the usual BS from human resources), and other tangible markers of COVID-19’s existence for months—perhaps even longer.

Indeed, in my case, when I say for a long while, I mean for nearly two years, from almost the very beginning. In 2020, I took part in two weddings, traveled extensively, took family vacations with my children, spent hundreds of hours in bars and restaurants, all without wearing a mask. This year my wife and I welcomed our fourth child. Over the course of her pregnancy, from the first phone call to the midwife a few months after getting a positive pregnancy test until after delivery, the subject of the virus was never raised by any health-care professional, including her doula, a dear friend from New York.

Meanwhile, our children, who have continued to attend their weekly homeschooling co-op since April 2020, have never donned masks, and they are distinctly uncomfortable on the rare occasions when they see them, for reasons that, until recently, child psychologists and other medical experts would have freely acknowledged. They have continued seeing friends and family, including their great-grandparents, on a weekly basis. As far as I can tell, they are dimly aware that “germs” are a remote cause of concern, but only our oldest, who is 6, has any recollection of the brief period last year when public Masses were suspended in our diocese and we spent Sunday mornings praying the rosary at home.

The CDC recommends that all adults get a booster shot; I do not know a single person who has received one. When I read headlines like “Here’s Who May Need a Fourth COVID-19 Vaccine Dose,” I find myself genuinely reeling. Wait, there are four of them now? I would be lying if I said I knew what all the variants were or what differences exist between them. (They all sound like the latest entry in some down-market action franchise: Tom Clancy’s Delta Variant: A Jack Ryan Novel, Transformers 4: Rise of the Omicron.) COVID is invisible to me except when I am reading the news, in which case it strikes me with all the force of reports about distant coups in Myanmar.

Granted, my family’s experience of 2020 was somewhat unusual. But I wager that I am now closer to most of my fellow Americans than the people, almost absurdly overrepresented in media and elite institutions, who are still genuinely concerned about this virus. And in some senses my situation has always been more in line with the typical American’s pandemic experience than that of someone in New York or Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles.

The best example of this fact, apart from the agita about holiday travel, is outdoor masking. Prescinding from the question of whether there was ever any meaningful evidence in favor of outdoor transmission, let me point out that until I found myself in Washington, D.C., on a work trip in March, I had never seen anyone wearing a mask outside. For someone who had never worn one in any situation, it was bizarre to find thousands of people indifferently donning these garments outdoors, including those walking alone or in pairs at night after leaving bars or restaurants where they had presumably taken them off. It was even stranger seeing people recognize one another in the street and pull their masks down casually, sometimes but not always before stopping to engage in conversation, like Edwardian gentlemen doffing their top hats.

I came away from this experience with the impression that, whatever their value, masks long ago transcended public health and became a symbol, not unlike in this house we believe signs or MAGA hats. This, no doubt, is why in my part of America, the only people one ever sees with masks are brooding teenagers seated alone in coffee shops, who seem to have adopted masks to set themselves apart from the reactionary banality of life in flyover country in the same way that I once scribbled anti-Bush slogans on T-shirts. The survival of such old-fashioned adolescent angst is, at any rate, deeply heartening.

As far as my wife and I are concerned, an atmosphere of parochialism hangs upon relentless adherence to CDC directives. By European standards, hand-wringing about masks in schools is as silly and absurdly risk-averse as the American medical establishment’s insistence that pregnant women not drink coffee or wine. Indeed, there is something small-minded and puritanical and distinctly American about the whole business of obsessing over whether vaccinated teachers remove their face covering during a long school day. (When I read such things, I experience the same secondhand embarrassment I felt upon witnessing an American tourist in Rome ask a waiter at a trattoria to remove the ashtray from the outdoor table at which the employee in question had just been smoking.)

I am always tempted to ask the people who breathlessly quote what various public-health authorities are now saying about masking and boosters whether they know how the National Institutes of Health defines a “problem drinker”? The answer is a woman who has more than one “unit” of alcohol a day, i.e., my wife and nearly all of my female friends. These same authorities, if asked, would probably say that considerable risks are associated with eating crudos or kibbeh nayyeh, or taking Tylenol after a hangover. (This is to say nothing of cannabis, which is of course still banned at the federal level.) My point is that sophisticated adults are generally capable of winking at overly stringent guidelines. In the case of COVID, many are not.

I wish I could convince myself that for once in my life with COVID we were actually experiencing a healthy break from the usual pattern, according to which the latest silly novelties—no-fault divorce, factory-sliced bread, frozen meals, and, of course, infant formula—are adopted enthusiastically by the upper middle classes, who then think better of them by the time the lower orders come around.

But I am afraid that the future, at least in major metropolitan areas, is one in which sooner or later elites will acknowledge their folly while continuing to impose it on others. I, for one, would not be surprised if for years to come it were the expectation in New York and California that even vaccinated workers in the service industry wear masks, the ultimate reification of status in a world in which casual dress has otherwise erased many of what were once our most visible markers of class.

After all, you never know how they spent their Thanksgiving.




15 December, 2021

Good news at last! Omicron is causing up to a THIRD fewer hospitalisations than Delta and two Pfizer jabs still slash death risk of severe disease by 70%

Omicron is causing milder disease than Delta in patients in the epicentre of the new Covid variant, the first major real-world study in South Africa confirmed today.

Officials who analysed 78,000 Omicron cases in the past month estimated the risk of hospitalisation was a fifth lower than with Delta and 29 per cent lower than the original virus.  

As a crude rate, Omicron is currently leading to a third fewer hospital admissions than Delta did during its entire wave — 38 admissions per 1,000 Omicron cases compared to 101 per 1,000 for Delta.

The findings lend weight to the theory that the ultra-infectious variant is weaker than previous strains, something which doctors on the ground in South Africa have been claiming for weeks. 

But the reduction in severity is probably not solely down to Omicron being intrinsically milder, according to the South African Medical Research Council which led the analysis. 

Around 70 per cent of South Africans have recovered from Covid already and 23 per cent are double-vaccinated, which has created high levels of immunity. 

The finding will raise hopes that the UK's Omicron wave will be less severe than previous peaks, despite having an older and denser population. Unlike South Africa, the UK is rolling out booster jabs on a mass scale.

The study also found two doses of Pfizer's vaccine still provide 70 per cent protection against hospital admission or death from Omicron, compared to 93 per cent for Delta.

While this is more protection than many scientists initially feared, it still leaves 30 per cent of people vulnerable to severe Omicron disease, four times as many as Delta.   Waning immunity from two Pfizer doses was found to offer just 33 per cent protection against Omicron infection, explaining why the country has seen a meteoric rise in case numbers.

Against Delta, two Pfizer jabs initially offer more than 80 per cent protection against symptomatic infection before falling to around 60 per cent within six months.

Today's study, co-run by private health insurance company Discovery Health, was based on more than 211,000 positive Covid test results from November 15 to December 7, 78,000 of which were attributed to Omicron.

Overall, four in 10 of those who tested positive had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.  

The 70 per cent protection from severe disease figure still puts two doses well above the World Health Organization's efficacy threshold of 50 per cent.

But the researchers said that efficacy was reduced further in older age groups, falling to just 59 per cent in the 70 to 79 bracket, for example.

That could be because older people were vaccinated first in the initial rollout and there has been more time for immunity to wane than in younger people. 

Protection against admission was consistent across a range of chronic illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and other cardiovascular diseases, the study said.

Children appeared to have a 20 per cent higher risk of hospital admission with complications during the fourth wave than during the first, despite the numbers still being tiny.

'This is early data and requires careful follow up,' said Shirley Collie, chief health analytics actuary at Discovery Health.

She cautioned that children were still 51 per cent less likely to test positive during the Omicron wave and the risk for them remains low. 

As a crude rate, Omicron is currently causing a third fewer hospital admissions than Delta did — 38 admissions per 1,000 Omicron cases, compared to 101 per 1,000 for Delta.

However, South Africa is only a month into its Omicron outbreak and Covid admissions are steadily rising, with 422 admitted yesterday, a rise of 141 per cent compared to last week.

A total of 6,198 people are being treated for the virus now compared to the 5,562 who were in hospital on Sunday — the biggest single-day rise since the new variant took off.

Yet, despite the increasing case and hospital numbers, there were just 11 deaths attributed to Covid in the last 24 hours, up only marginally on last week. 

Doctors in South Africa's Omicron ground zero maintain that Omicron patients are coming in with milder illness and being discharged quicker.

Official figures suggest the number of Covid hospital patients with severe illness is a third of the level at the same point in the country's Delta wave.

The South African doctor who first raised the alarm about Omicron last month endorsed the study today, telling MPs that it confirmed what doctors were seeing on the ground.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, told the Commons Science and Technology Committee that 'we don't have all the answers' but the clinical picture so far is that people are mostly suffering mild illness from Omicron.

Dr Coetzee said some people are getting breakthrough infections if they are vaccinated or if they have had Covid before, but cases seemed to be milder, especially for the vaccinated.

'The breakthrough infections we are seeing are mild... (and) the symptoms we are seeing in (vaccinated) people are less severe or intense than in the unvaccinated,' she said.

'On a hospital level... between 88 per cent to 90 per cent (of people) are unvaccinated.'

She said that in hospitals it is hard to differentiate between those patients with the Delta variant and those with Omicron, but that intensive care units 'are still not overwhelmed'.  

Pfizer's Covid pill slashes the risk of hospitalisation and death by up to 90 per cent and will work against Omicron, the vaccine maker claimed today.

A study of more than 2,200 at-risk adults found the drug, called Paxlovid, reduced the risk of severe outcomes by 89 per cent.

And a separate trial of the pill, which the UK has already ordered 250,000 doses of, on healthy unvaccinated adults found taking it within a few days of suffering Covid symptoms cuts the chance of being hospitalised by 70 per cent, Pfizer said.

Meanwhile, laboratory tests suggest Paxlovid will still offer a 'robust' response against the Omicron variant, which is due to become dominant in the UK tomorrow. 

Pfizer's boss Dr Albert Bourla said the emergence of Omicron has ‘exacerbated the need for accessible treatment options for those who contract the virus’ and the pill could be a ‘critical tool to help quell the pandemic’. 

The UK's medicines regulator has so far approved one at-home pill in the fight against Covid. But molnupiravir, made by US-based Merck and Ridgeback, will only be given to older and at-risk people within 48 hours of catching the virus as part of a pilot that is expected to launch by the end of the year.

He added: 'For example, the narrative around South Africa is that Omicron may be much milder, whereas reports out of Denmark broadly suggests the opposite.

'This reflects the uncertainty of new data. Within that, factors include the different levels of exposure to Covid-19 and previous infection, levels of vaccination and potential waning of immunity, and also age ranges infected thus far.

'We know that Covid-19 is very adept at moving from younger to older populations within a few weeks.


Irish firm collaborating on delivery of world’s first inhaled COVID-19 vaccine

After months of collaborative work in the lab, China's CanSino Biologics and Irish drug delivery specialist Aerogen are taking their inhaled COVID-19 vaccine pact to the next stage.

CanSino and Aerogen are teaming up to develop and market an inhaled version of CanSino's recombinant COVID-19 shot Convidecia, which is already approved in China as a one-and-done injectable. Because aerosol delivery requires a "considerably smaller volume of vaccine," the partners' inhaled prospect could help stretch capacity and enable more patients to access the inoculation, the companies said.

Outside of China, Convidecia boasts emergency authorizations in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, Hungary and Pakistan. The shot is around 63.7% effective against COVID-19 two weeks after vaccination, and 96% effective against severe disease over that same time frame, a CanSino representative said during an October World Health Organization presentation. At 28 days, overall efficacy dropped to 57.5%, while efficacy in severe disease hovered around 91.7%.

As for the inhaled candidate, CanSino's vaccine will leverage Aerogen's vibrating mesh aerosol drug delivery technology, the companies said. The aerosolized vaccine is directly inhaled through a cup dispenser into the patient's airway, mimicking the respiratory virus's natural infection pathway. This delivery route could further help patients, thanks to the potential for mucosal immunity, the partners said.




14 December, 2021

U.K. Study Says Boosters Provide Substantial Defense Against Omicron

The first real-world study of how vaccines hold up against the Omicron variant showed a significant drop in protection against symptomatic cases caused by the new and fast-spreading form of the coronavirus.

But the study, published by British government scientists on Friday, also indicated that third vaccine doses provided considerable defense against Omicron.

Government scientists on Friday also offered the most complete look yet at how quickly Omicron was spreading in England’s highly vaccinated population, warning that the variant could overtake Delta by mid-December and, without any precautionary measures, cause Covid-19 cases to soar.

Four months after people received a second dose of the Pfizer-

BioNTech vaccine, the shots were roughly 35 percent effective in preventing symptomatic infections caused by Omicron, a significant drop-off from their performance against the Delta variant, the scientists found.

A third dose of the Pfizer-BioN- Tech vaccine, though, lifted the figure to roughly 75 percent.

Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine appeared to offer virtually no protection against symptomatic infection caused by Omicron several months after vaccination. But for those recipients, an additional Pfizer-BioNTech dose paid big dividends, boosting effectiveness against the variant to 71 percent.

Still, the study’s authors said they expected that the vaccines would remain a bulwark against hospitalizations and deaths, if not infections, caused by Omicron. And the researchers cautioned that even in a country tracking the variant as closely as Britain is, it was too early to know precisely how well the vaccines would perform.

That study was released alongside new findings about how easily Omicron is managing to spread. Someone infected with the Omicron variant, for example, is roughly three times as likely as a person infected by the Delta variant to pass the virus to other members of his or her household, Britain’s Health Security Agency reported.

And a close contact of an Omicron case is roughly twice as likely as a close contact of someone infected with Delta to catch the virus.

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said that Omicron’s ability to evade the body’s immune defenses accounted for most of its advantage over previous variants. But modeling work by his research team and other groups in Britain also suggested that Omicron was simply more contagious than Delta, by roughly 25 to 50 percent.

Covid-19 cases have been doubling every 2.5 days in England.

“I think that there’s a significant amount of immune escape,” Dr. Ferguson said, referring to the virus’s ability to dodge the body’s defenses. “But it’s also more intrinsically transmissible than Delta.”

He and other scientists have cautioned that evidence was still coming in, and that better surveillance in places where the Omicron wave is most advanced could affect their findings.

The World Health Organization said this week that some evidence had emerged that Omicron was causing milder illness than Delta, but that it was too early to be certain. Still, scientists have warned that if the variant keeps spreading as quickly as it is in England, where cases are doubling every 2.5 days, health systems around the world may be deluged with patients.

Even if Omicron causes severe illness at only half the rate of the Delta variant, Dr. Ferguson said, computer modeling suggested that 5,000 people could be admitted to hospitals daily in Britain at the peak of its Omicron wave —a figure higher than any seen at any other point in the pandemic.

Scientists said that widespread vaccination in countries like Britain and the United States would keep as many people from dying as have in earlier waves. But the experts also warned that patients with Covid and with other illnesses would suffer if hospitals became too full.

“It only requires a small drop in protection against severe disease for those very large numbers of infections to translate into levels of hospitalization we can’t cope with,” Dr. Ferguson said.

It will take several weeks to understand how the current surge in Omicron infections may translate into people needing hospital care. “I’m concerned that by the time we know about severity,” Dr. Ferguson said, “it may be too late to act.”


Three shots of Pfizer vaccine DOES protect against Omicron - but at four times lower levels than against the Delta variant, Israeli study shows

Israeli researchers have found that a three-shot course of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine provides significant protection against the new Omicron variant.

The study, carried out by Sheba Medical Centre and the Health Ministry's Central Virology Laboratory, compared the blood of 20 people who had received two vaccine doses 5-6 months earlier to the same number of individuals who had received a booster a month before.

Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Sheba, said: 'People who received the second dose 5 or 6 months ago do not have any neutralisation ability against the Omicron. While they do have some against the Delta strain.

'The good news is that with the booster dose it increases about a hundred fold. There is a significant protection of the booster dose.'

But Regev-Yochay also admitted that the booster is still less effective in protecting against Omicron versus the Delta variant. 'It is lower than the neutralisation ability against the Delta, about four times lower,' she said.

The findings were similar to those presented by BioNTech and Pfizer earlier in the week, which were an early signal that booster shots could be key to protect against infection from the newly identified variant. 

The Israeli team said they worked with the actual virus while the companies used what is known as a pseudovirus, which was bio-engineered to have the hallmark mutations of Omicron.

The Israeli research follows a study from South Africa that found the Omicron variant can partially evade protection from two doses.

'People who have received the booster are better protected than those who received only the second, and of course, more than the unvaccinated,' said Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel's health department's head of public health services,

'Two doses are not effective enough.'

Alroy-Preis also announced that the health ministry in Israel is debating whether to encourage people to take their booster shot as soon as three months after receiving their second jab to ensure maximum protection. 

It comes less than a month after BioNTech announced it had begun working on a Covid vaccine specifically targeting the Omicron variant.

Despite the latest news that a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech could provide considerable protection against Omicron, the company said in late November it could have a tailor-made vaccine against Omicron ready for distribution within 100 days.

'The first steps of developing a potential new vaccine overlap with the research necessary in order to evaluate whether a new shot will be needed,' the company said.

Moderna also announced last month it is developing a booster which it says will provide protection targeted against the Omicron variant.  

Despite the news that booster jabs can provide significant protection against Omicron, Israel today announced that its citizens will be banned from travelling to Britain, Denmark and Belgium from Wednesday due to the spread of the new variant.   

Alroy-Preis said the three countries are being placed on the 'red' list because of the 'significant' spread of the Omicron variant. 

Since the Omicron variant was discovered, some 50 countries have been placed on Israel's red list, mostly in Africa.   

Health officials said there have been 55 confirmed cases of Omicron in Israel, which motivated the government and health ministry to enforce stricter mask mandates. 

It was also decided that Green Pass restrictions in the country would be introduced at shopping centres, meaning unvaccinated Israelis cannot enter. 

The Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is facing calls to impose tougher restrictions in Israel over the coming days. 

It comes after the spread of the virus yesterday hit a three-month peak and the R-number climbed to 1.1. 

Previously, Israel imposed a two-week ban on foreigners entering the country in late November in an attempt to stem coronavirus infections. 

And Israelis entering the country, including those who are vaccinated, are required to quarantine.

The country also brought back counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in a bid to crack down on the Omicron variant.   

The Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency's phone-tracking technology is used to locate carriers of the new variant in order to curb its transmission to others, Bennett said in November.

Used on and off since March 2020, the surveillance technology matched virus carriers' locations against other mobile phones nearby to determine with whom they had come into contact.

Israel's Supreme Court this year limited the scope of its use after civil rights groups mounted challenges over privacy concerns.




13 December, 2021

Omicron is dodging the immune system—but boosters show promising signs

Initial data on the new variant have experts worried about its ability to spread rapidly. But vaccine boosters still seem to be effective, as do some monoclonal antibody therapies.

Two weeks after the world first learned about the Omicron variant, scientists now agree that it spreads faster than Delta, and it seems to evade existing immunity more easily than previous variants. But whether it causes more severe illness is still up for debate.

Despite multiple travel bans, the Omicron variant has already spread to 57 countries and has now been detected in 21 U.S. states. At least for now, though, Delta remains the most prevalent variant in the world and still causes most COVID-19 deaths globally.

Omicron was first detected in South Africa, and an ongoing analysis shows that it is the most contagious variant to date in that country. By the end of November—the most recent date for which data is available—Omicron accounted for 70 percent of all South African cases; it is projected to have risen to over 90 percent by now.

At the epicenter of the Omicron outbreak is South Africa’s Gauteng Province, where daily cases of COVID-19 are doubling about every three to four days. In the town of Tshwane, active COVID-19 cases have tripled from 6,697 to 20,425 within a week. And in Gauteng, the most populous province of South Africa, one in three tests are returning positive. This positivity rate means there is high transmission in the population, and the actual number of COVID-19 cases is likely to be even higher than the officially documented number.

A virus can spread faster because it might be more transmissible or because it can evade previous immune responses.

“Some of Omicron patients are shedding a lot of virus,” says Leo Poon, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong who detected some of the first cases of Omicron outside of South Africa. Poon’s study has shown that Omicron spreads very efficiently through air, “which may be causing higher transmission.”

But the evidence is converging that the “main advantage of Omicron [over Delta] comes from immune escape,” says Tom Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist and biostatistician at the KU Leuven University in Belgium.

Why is Omicron different from past variants?

Multiplying viruses frequently mutate because of errors in replicating their own genetic material. So with each of the hundreds of thousands of new daily infections, the virus gets that many opportunities to mutate.

“Viruses are mutation-generating machines”, says Sergei Pond, a virologist at Temple University who has shown the trends in evolution of SARS-CoV-2 lineages.

New mutations in Omicron’s spike protein are a particular cause for concern. The spike is critical for SARS-CoV-2 to infect human cells and is the main target for antibodies. Mutations there can change the appearance of the spike and make it more difficult for antibodies to recognize and bind to it, enabling the virus to evade immunity.

Omicron has undergone over 50 mutations compared to the original virus, with over 30 mutations in its spike protein.

“When you put them all together, there's so many that there's the theoretical possibility that the shape of the spike protein will be overall substantially changed,” says Herbert “Skip” Virgin, an immunologist and chief scientific officer of Vir Biotechnology, Inc., which is developing COVID-19 therapeutics.

“We don't have any direct measurements of clinical impact of Omicron yet,” says Pond, but his preliminary analysis has identified significant changes in Omicron that are likely to influence both antibody neutralization and spike function.

Can Omicron reinfect those with natural immunity? 
What has researchers most concerned is that Omicron can evade existing immunity, escaping antibodies generated through natural infection.

“Omicron, as opposed to Delta, appears to reinfect people who had previously been infected,” says Jerome Kim, head of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, South Korea. In South Africa, Omicron seems to be reinfecting about two and a half times more people than all previous variants.

“Reinfection risk has increased markedly since the beginning of October in South Africa, and this seems to correspond with the emergence of the Omicron variant,” says Juliet Pulliam, director of the South African DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis in Stellenbosch.

Analyses of antibodies in blood samples have estimated that 60 to 70 percent of people in South Africa had already been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 before Omicron was spotted. Pulliam’s study, which is not yet peer reviewed, scoured the PCR results of 2.5 million South Africans for evidence of reinfection. Her team found that virtually all Omicron infections in November were in people who had already been positively diagnosed with COVID-19 at least twice since March 2020.

“This is what one would expect if Omicron is more resistant to neutralizing antibodies,” says Theodora Hatziioannou, a virologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City.

Are vaccines still effective against Omicron?
There are reports of post-vaccinated infections occurring with Omicron in Hong Kong, Minnesota, and Norway. In Denmark, where COVID-19 surveillance is very high, Omicron accounted for 3.1 percent of all cases in the past two weeks or so. That suggests the variant can spread even when more than 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

“I was actually one of the first verified Omicron cases outside of Africa,” says Maor Elad, a cardiologist at Sheba Medical Center, Israel, who caught Omicron during a visit to London for a conference despite wearing masks and having received three doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“I had symptoms for 48 hours: fever, muscle aches, sore throat, and then I was weak, fatigued, unwell for two or three additional days. But after five days, I recovered completely,” says Elad. Even if vaccinated, he adds, you can still get infected. “Vaccine efficiency is not 100 percent.”

However, it’s too early to assess whether current vaccines are not going to be effective against this new variant.

In the study by Poon in Hong Kong, Omicron patients had been fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine five to six months before they caught the variant. And from a preliminary report from Tshwane by the South African Medical Research Council, six of the 38 adults who contracted COVID-19 as of early December were vaccinated, 24 were unvaccinated, and eight had unknown vaccination status.

It’s also not yet clear whether vaccination status can explain the larger proportion of younger patients catching Omicron in South Africa. Only about 25 percent of people under 35 in that country has received a COVID-19 vaccine, and just 33 percent of the population in Gauteng is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a press release, Pfizer says that three doses of its vaccine neutralize Omicron in lab studies, while two doses may be significantly less effective. This is in line with independent but still preliminary laboratory studies that suggest Pfizer’s vaccine is less effective against Omicron relative to the ancestral virus and previous variants.

But if the company’s data holds up, booster doses of the current vaccine should still provide some immunity. And multiple vaccine-makers are now racing to modify their vaccines for Omicron specifically.

Does Omicron cause more severe disease?
It’s still too early to assess the full impact of Omicron’s effect on disease severity because it takes about two weeks from infection to development of symptoms. However, even though hospitalizations are rising rapidly in South Africa, a report documenting the first two weeks of the Omicron wave shows that deaths—which tend to rise between two and eight weeks after the start of a new COVID-19 wave—in the biggest hospital in Gauteng have not echoed the dramatic rise in cases.

According to this early report, most patients didn’t show respiratory symptoms, most were admitted to the hospital for other medical reasons, and the length of hospital stays for COVID-positive patients was 2.8 days, compared to the average of 8.5 days during past 18 months.

That could be because “Omicron is still mainly circulating among younger people. Eighty percent of the hospitalized patients in Gauteng Province are under 50,” says Wenseleers, who has modeled earlier waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. Younger people typically endure milder infections than older people.

“Even now, we don't know whether Omicron could cause more severe clinical outcome or not,” says Poon. He led the team that sequenced the 2003 SARS coronavirus, established the earliest PCR test to diagnose SARS-CoV-2, and was on the international team of virologists that named the virus.

There is also no guarantee that Omicron’s impact in the U.S. and Europe—which have older populations—will be the same as in South Africa. But preliminary data as of December 8 showed that among all 337 Omicron cases detected in the European Union, symptoms were either mild or not present, and no deaths related to the new variant have been reported in member countries.

But even milder but more transmissible variants can be dangerous, according to Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program. If allowed to spread unchecked, the virus can infect greater numbers of people, who then overwhelm health systems, causing a spike in deaths. Worryingly, an analysis from the U.K. Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for Omicron than for the Delta variant.

Will current therapies still work?

Four monoclonal antibody products are currently authorized to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease or hospitalization.

In a study not yet peer reviewed, a monoclonal from GSK and Vir Biotechnology called Sotrovimab remained effective against a lab-made Omicron-like virus. “Sotrovimab is capable of neutralizing the Omicron variant, including all 37 of the mutations, [which makes us] very optimistic that Omicron can be dealt with therapeutically,” says Vir Biotechnology’s Virgin.

“Despite the considerable evolution of the virus with Omicron, we have evidence that effective therapeutics are available to control the pandemic,” says Davide Corti, a leading antibody researcher at Vir Biotechnology. That’s critical if Omicron causes a high percentage of cases in people who are vaccinated. Whether other therapeutic antibodies can block Omicron is currently unknown, but Virgin remains optimistic about available treatments.

“The vaccines are a remarkable accomplishment, even if they lose activity against a certain variant,” he says. “People should get vaccinated, and should they begin to develop symptoms that might be due to coronavirus, they should immediately seek medical attention, because it's not hopeless."




12 December, 2021

Why Some Parts of the World Are Covid-Free

While many countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe have had, and continue to have, a high number of deaths from covid 19, other countries have comparatively very few deaths. 

We can see that, for example, India and the continent of Africa have a low number of deaths. In fact, the United States has so far had around 15 times more covid deaths than Africa. 

While there are likely to be a number of reasons why this is the case, there could be an important link with a specific medication that has been widely used in Africa. 

For more than 30 years the Mectizan Donation Program has been running in Africa, and a few other countries, with the aim of eliminating diseases such as River Blindness. Merk, the manufacturer of Mectizan, made a pledge to donate as much of this medication as is needed for as long as is needed. 

So, what is Mectizan? Well, it’s Ivermectin. The medication that you may have heard about in the media during the last few months described as a horse dewormer, not fit for humans. The FDA in the United States even decided to include a picture of a horse on it’s website, just to remind us that this medication is for horses and not humans. This description of Ivermectin by the media and health authorities is in stark contrast to reality. In addition to the 4 billion treatments that have been given to humans, two scientists won the Nobel Prize for the use of Ivermectin in humans, and  Ivermectin is so safe, it is literally given out like candy to people in Africa. Again, humans not horses. 

Many people became aware of the Nobel Prize for ivermectin, so the media then set out to convince us that Ivermectin is used for parasitic infections only and has no action against viruses. However, an article published in a Nature journal is at odds with that description. The article describes the numerous antiviral properties of Ivermectin and summarises evidence to suggest that Ivermectin could be effective against, Dengue, Zika virus, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus, and 15 other viruses, as well as covid 19.

So, before covid 19, large amounts of ivermectin were already being widely distributed in africa. could this have inadvertently protected africa from covid 19? 

Well, if we look specifically at those countries that participated in the Mectizan Donation Program we can see that all of these countries have a similar, low number of deaths from covid 19.

And it's not just Africa. Many parts of India have also widely used Ivermectin, and also have a low number of covid 19 deaths compared with other so called developed countries. 

The state of Uttar Pradesh in India is particularly interesting. Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest state by population, with over 200 million people. The Health Department introduced Ivermectin in August 2020, for close covid 19 contacts, health workers and patients. 

Uttar Pradesh did have a spike in covid deaths in May 2021, however, at its peak, the number of deaths per day was around 10 times less than the spikes of deaths that have been seen in the USA and the UK.  And since the end of July, Uttar Pradesh has had almost no covid deaths.

Not only have the number of deaths come down to zero but the number of cases too. 

In fact, half of the districts in Uttar Pradesh have been officially declared covid-free. This is despite the fact that as of the beginning of November 2021 only 22% of people in Uttar Pradesh had been fully vaccinated. 

For comparison, we could also look at the state of Kerala in India, Kerala is a small state in Indian terms, with 31 million people. Kerala only used Ivermectin for severe covid cases and completely abandoned the use of Ivermectin in August 2021. 

Kerala is still reporting 134 covid deaths per day and a 7-day average well over 200. Despite the state being only one seventh the population size of Uttar Pradesh. 

The information contained in this article is just a fraction of the data strongly suggesting that Ivermectin and other existing low-cost treatments could have provided a rapid and sustained way out of the covid 19 pandemic. 

Ivermectin is a generic drug and it is very cheap to make. The safety profile of Ivermectin also means that it can be freely distributed without a medical consultation. This represents direct competition for the brand new covid 19 vaccine industry.

The author goes on to suggest conspiracies as an explanation for the demonization of Ivermectin but I suggest that it is much simpler than that:  It is demonized because Trump recommended it.  Trump hatred runs deep among the eite


Alarming incidence of post vaccination heart probems among young men

Journal article follows

"Epidemiology of myocarditis and pericarditis following mRNA vaccines in Ontario, Canada: by vaccine product, schedule and interval"


Objective: The objective of this study was to estimate reporting rates of myocarditis/pericarditis following COVID-19 mRNA vaccine by product, age, sex, and dose number, as well inter-dose interval.

Design: We conducted a population-based cohort study using passive vaccine safety surveillance data. All individuals in Ontario, Canada who received at least one dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine between December 14, 2020 and September 4, 2021 were included.

Setting: This study was conducted in Ontario, Canada (population: 14.7 million) using the provincial COVID-19 vaccine registry and provincial adverse events following immunization database.

Participants: We included all individuals with a reported episode of myocarditis/pericarditis following COVID-19 vaccine in the study period. We obtained information on all doses administered in the province to calculate reporting rates.

Exposure: Receipt of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (mRNA-1273 [Moderna Spikevax] or BNT162b2 [Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty]).

Main Outcome(s) and Measure(s): Reported rate of myocarditis/pericarditis meeting level 1-3 of the Brighton Collaboration case definitions.

Results: There were 19,740,741 doses of mRNA vaccines administered and 297 reports of myocarditis/pericarditis meeting our inclusion criteria. Among these, 69.7% occurred following the second dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and 76.8% occurred in males. The median age of individuals with a reported event was 24 years. The highest reporting rate of myocarditis/pericarditis was observed in males aged 18-24 years following mRNA-1273 as the second dose; the rate in this age group was 5.1 (95% CI 1.9-15.5) times higher than the rate following BNT162b2 as the second dose. Overall reporting rates were higher when the inter-dose interval was shorter (i.e., ?30 days) for both vaccine products. Among individuals who received mRNA-1273 for the second dose, rates were higher for those who had a heterologous as opposed to homologous vaccine schedule.

Conclusions and Relevance: Our results suggest that vaccine product, inter-dose interval and vaccine schedule combinations may play a role in the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis, in addition to age and sex. Certain programmatic strategies could reduce the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis following mRNA vaccines.


WHO: No Deaths Reported as a Result of Omicron Variant to Date

This refers to the USA and Europe. <a href="">There HAVE been a few deaths in South Africa</a>. But details of that are scarce

The World Health Organization (WHO) has informed The Epoch Times that it has not documented any deaths from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

According to the WHO, “for Omicron, we have not had any deaths reported, but it is still early in the clinical course of disease and this may change.”

When reached for comment by The Epoch Times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent its report on the Omicron variant in the United States from Dec. 1 through 8. It shows that there were no documented deaths from Omicron during that period.

The WHO’s latest weekly epidemiological update for Dec. 7 showed that all 212 Omicron cases documented across eighteen European Union (EU) countries were either mild or asymptomatic.




10 December, 2021

Vaccine Manufacturer Now Says Three Shots Required to Fend Off Omicron

Our third COVID-19 winter is now arriving, and there appear to be varying ideas about just what the world should expect.

Winter time has long brought about fears of an increased spread of the illness, thanks to the fact that many more folks will the gathering indoors, where the virus will have an opportunity to spread with less resistance.

But the newest variant of the virus has been described as “mild” by the doctors most familiar with it, and even the normally-glum Dr. Anthony Fauci seems to have backed off of his earlier concerns a bit.

Pfizer this week released a statement suggesting that their vaccine, originally administered in two doses, will require a third shot to be effective against omicron.

Preliminary lab studies show two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may not provide sufficient protection against the Omicron coronavirus variant, but three doses are able to neutralize it, the companies said in a news release on Wednesday.

Samples from people who had two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine saw, on average, a more than 25-fold reduction in neutralization ability against the Omicron variant than the earlier virus, “indicating that two doses of BNT162b2 may not be sufficient to protect against infection with the Omicron variant,” the companies said.

The companies said two doses may still provide protection against severe disease.

“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The news is sure to elicit some grumbling from the masses, who are very much over the continued hysteria regarding COVID-19.


Great variations in which vaccines are allowable

A vaccine that’s deemed safe for some people may not be deemed safe for others. Take the Moderna vaccine, which North American governments endorse for those under 30 years of age. If you’re a 29-year-old Swede, your government decided against authorizing its use as of Dec. 1, continuing a pause it began in early October. Finland has a similar prohibition, while Denmark touts the Moderna vaccine for people over, but not under, 18. Iceland discontinued the use of Moderna altogether.

These Scandinavian countries’ authorities fear Moderna causes needless risk of myocarditis in young people, especially in young males and especially after getting the second shot. Their health authorities instead steer people to the low-dose Pfizer vaccine, which provides 30 micrograms of mRNA, the live agent, compared to Moderna’s 100 micrograms.

France’s High Authority for Health not only didn’t recommend Moderna for under 30-year-olds, it also removed its recommendation last month for anyone, of any age, for a Moderna booster, even though it explicitly recommends Moderna over Pfizer for those over 30 for the first two doses. Authorities in the United States and Canada have no such prohibitions, even though for young males Moderna has a myocarditis rate of five times that of the Pfizer.

The Pfizer vaccine has its share of concerns. In November, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center decided to pause Pfizer’s second shot in 12- to 17-year-olds after 16 Taiwanese teens developed myocarditis. Taiwan will restart jabbing youngsters in mid-December, with the recommendation that the second shot be taken 12 weeks after receiving the first shot, but maybe not if the child has an adverse reaction to the first shot. Taiwan recognizes that the Pfizer vaccine increases the chances of contracting myocarditis, especially in young boys, and requires letters of intent and parental consent before a child can be jabbed.

Other concerns over Pfizer threaten to lead to future restrictions. While Pfizer raises fewer red flags than Moderna over myocarditis, it raises more over breakthrough infections, which hit Pfizer vaccinees 57 percent more often than those vaccinated with Moderna.

The mainstream media in Israel, the poster child for mass vaccination using Pfizer, has of late been in open debate about Pfizer’s value, with the medical director of Israel’s leading center for respiratory care stating in early August that Israel’s vaccinated accounted for 85 to 90 percent of COVID hospitalizations at Jerusalem’s Herzog Medical Center.

Pfizer’s failure to prevent breakthrough cases in Israel is compounded by the discovery that it wanes much faster than expected, necessitating two and possibly three boosters a year to maintain immunity. Yet boosters may not work either, says Israel’s National COVID-19 Experts Committee, which warned the government that its policy of relying on a third booster shot in its recent Delta wave was not proving itself.

All the vaccines have had on-again, off-again stints. In mid-April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration paused its authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women developed a rare and sometimes deadly blood clotting condition following vaccination. Vaccinations resumed 10 days later, albeit with a warning to women under 50 about the blood clotting. With a new study out last month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine conducted by the Mayo Clinic showing the J&J vaccine to increase the risk of developing brain blood clots by a factor of 3.5, and for women by a factor of 5, health officials may once again revisit the cost-benefit.

Slovenia last week did decide to permanently stop using the J&J vaccine after an expert commission concluded a 20-year-old woman’s blood-clotting death in September was indeed caused by the vaccine she received days earlier. That decision followed a high-profile death of the wife of a Slovenian diplomat in May, also within days of taking the J&J vaccine. According to Bojana Beovic, the head of the Slovenian government’s advisory group on vaccinations, Slovenia will “most likely” also discontinue the AstraZeneca vaccine, whose viral vector technology resembles that of J&J’s and which has also been linked to rare blood clots.

The UK in May restricted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by those under 40 years of age, following a spike of blood clot cases. Though the cases are rare, they can be deadly, with a 73 percent mortality rate when the clots appear in the brain and an average mortality rate of 23 percent for all clot cases. AstraZeneca, the world’s most popular vaccine with authorizations in 184 countries, has been restricted in various countries in diametrically opposite directions. Some countries, such as Italy, restricted those under 60 from taking AstraZeneca because of concerns for younger populations while others, such as Germany and Poland, restricted those over 65 due to concerns for the health of seniors.

When government officials and scientists tell us vaccines are perfectly safe, they mean they’re relatively safe, that on balance, we’re better off risking an adverse reaction from a vaccine than risking COVID-19. When governments fine tune their advice by recommending, say, that a vaccine not be given to those under 60, they’re increasing the odds that the patient will be spared an adverse reaction. But governments rarely go further than identifying broad-brush age-related categories. Take differences in vaccine outcomes by sex, which vary dramatically between men and women.

While men taking either Moderna or Pfizer account for the overwhelming proportion of myocarditis cases, women taking either Moderna or Pfizer account for the overwhelming proportion of anaphylaxis cases. Whether patients are obese or diabetic or have other ailments also loom large. The more fine-tuning, the better the ability of patients and their doctors to determine which vaccine is relatively safe to take for their age, sex, and individual comorbidities.

Most citizens follow the expert advice of their particular government’s health authority, avoid vaccines that aren’t recommended, and trust those that remain. But if all the cautions raised by all the governments’ health authorities were to be taken seriously—if a citizen of the world, say, was to accept as valid all the warnings issued by governments around the world—most of the vaccines would be under a cloud and many of the rest would be unavailable to people of different demographics.




9 December, 2021

Omicron may be able to evade vaccines. Here's what Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca plan to do about that

The United States led the global race to develop a viable vaccine against COVID-19. 

But a year after the first shots received emergency approval from federal regulators, new variants of the virus are changing the game.  

Omicron, the wildcard variant already detected in multiple US states and more than 30 countries, including Australia, is the latest to emerge. 

With its dastardly combination of mutations, scientists fear it may spread quickly and sidestep vaccines.

A small study out of South Africa suggests the Pfizer vaccine provides only partial protection from Omicron, but boosters might make up the difference.

Governments and companies worldwide are already moving to stop the variant wreaking havoc, with some floating the possibility of variant-specific booster shots.

Here's what's happening so far, and what it could mean for you.

One of the biggest questions facing scientists as they scramble to learn more about the Omicron variant is how existing COVID-19 vaccines will perform against it. 

"There are three main characteristics that we worry about with viruses like Omicron," said Dr Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. 

"First of all, is it more infectious or contagious? 

"Number two, is it more virulent or less virulent? In other words, does it cause less-severe disease in individuals who are infected? 

"And, number three, is it immune-evading? And this is one characteristic of Omicron that is concerning."

The new variant has around 50 mutations — more than double its predecessor, Delta — including many on its spike, the viral protein that vaccines or illness train the body's immune system to fight with antibodies.

Even so, Dr Gounder is optimistic current vaccines will continue to provide some level of protection, especially with the addition of booster shots.

"We suspect there may be some reduction in vaccine effectiveness but that people will still remain well protected against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, even with an Omicron infection," she said.

While scientists assess the threat of the new variant, vaccine manufacturers are looking at whether their products may need to be modified. 

What are vaccine manufacturers doing?
The makers of US-approved vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as AstraZeneca — which is widely used in Europe and Australia — have all begun to study Omicron.

"[We] believe that fully vaccinated individuals will still have a high level of protection against severe disease caused by Omicron," said a spokesperson for BioNTech, which developed its shot with Pfizer.

"We anticipate that booster vaccination will further increase protection against severe disease and potentially provide protection against disease of any severity."

In the case of an "escape variant" — a dominant strain of the virus that evades the immunity given by vaccines or previous infections — BioNTech and Pfizer say they can adapt their mRNA vaccine within six weeks and start shipping doses within 100 days.

Similarly, Moderna is developing an Omicron-specific booster version of its mRNA vaccine that could be ready for clinical testing in 60 to 90 days.

"From the beginning, we have said that, as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves," Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel said in a statement.

The company is also studying two "multivalent" boosters, which are designed to target common mutations seen across multiple variants. Those results are expected in coming weeks.

As well, Johnson & Johnson is pursuing an Omicron-specific version of its one-shot vaccine that, it says, will be progressed as needed.

"We will not be complacent," the company's global head of research and development, Dr Mathai Mammen, said in a statement.

How soon could Omicron boosters be available?
If modified vaccines prove necessary, the White House believes it could make them widely available within a few months. 

That includes the time needed to develop and manufacture the doses, as well as obtaining necessary federal approvals. 

"We are planning in that scenario not only for supporting the manufacturers through that process if needed, but also for how would we rapidly get shots in arms," White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told a recent briefing.

"And we know how to do that, given the experience we've had the last year, and that is lessons learned about how we deployed the federal pharmacy programs, set up mass-vaccination sites, go to community health centres and rural clinics."

Boosters, Delta and the long winter ahead

In the US, Delta remains the dominant strain of COVID-19 and is leading a surge of cases going into winter.

The main things people can do to protect themselves — regardless of variants — are to get vaccinated, and wear masks indoors and in public places, according to Dr Gounder.

In countries where the option is available, she also recommends bolstering immunity with booster shots, particularly for the elderly and immunocompromised.

"What we've seen with prior immune-evading variants, like the Beta variant, is you could overcome that relative immune evasion by giving a booster dose of the currently available vaccines," she said.

"With respect to how quickly [or] how often new variants emerge, that is — to some degree — in our control.

"As long as we allow the virus to spread from person to person, every time it spreads from one person to another, it replicates and it has the opportunity to mutate."


New research finds vaccine only partially effective against Omicron

New research from South Africa suggests the highly-mutated Omicron variant can partially dodge protection from two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute, detailed some results from initial experiments on Twitter, revealing there was "a very large drop" in neutralisation of the Omicron variant relative to an earlier Covid strain.

Neutralising antibodies are an indicator of the body's immune response.

There are grave concerns about how well existing vaccines will work against the Omicron strain, as its spike proteins differ dramatically to the original coronavirus variant. 

Results better than expected 

But the study did offer some hope, showing blood from people who had received two doses of the vaccine and had a prior infection were mostly able to neutralise the variant.

This means booster doses could be key to stopping infections.

"These results are better than I expected. The more antibodies you've got, the more chance you'll be protected from Omicron," Sigal said on Twitter.

According to an official manuscript, which has not yet been peer reviewed, the lab tested blood from 12 people who had been vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Blood from five out of six people who had been vaccinated as well as previously infected with Covid-19 still neutralised the Omicron variant.

However, the lab has not tested the variant against blood from people who had received a booster dose as they are not yet available in South Africa.

The lab observed a 41-fold decline in levels of neutralising antibodies against the Omicron variant.

Sigal added the data will likely be adjusted as more experiments are completed.

There is no indication at this stage whether the vaccine is less able to prevent severe illness or death.

Scientists also believe other kinds of cells such as B-cells and T-cells, which are stimulated by the vaccines, could offer protection.

The Omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa last month, has triggered global alarm amid fears of another surge in infections.

The World Health Organisation classified Omicron on November 26 as a "variant of concern", but said there was no evidence to support the need for new vaccines.

There is not significant data yet on how other vaccines from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and other drugmakers hold up against the new variant.




8 December, 2021

Moderna or Novavax after AstraZeneca jab confers high Covid immunity, study finds

Combining different approaches to immunity does have intuitive appeal

The finding has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns, as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.

The strongest T-cell response of all was generated by a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by a dose of the Novavax vaccine – both of which can be stored in a standard refrigerator.

The University of Oxford-led Com-Cov study set out to establish whether mixing and matching Covid-19 vaccines during primary immunisation schedules could be detrimental or beneficial to the overall immune response to vaccination. Such flexibility could be crucial to ensuring the rapid deployment of these vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, where vaccine supply may be inconsistent.

“What we’re seeing is that there’s a great amount of flexibility in the primary immunisation schedule,” said Prof Matthew Snape at the University of Oxford, who led the research. “Just because you’ve received dose one of a particular vaccine, doesn’t mean you have to receive the same vaccine for dose two.”

The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.

It follows separate data published last week suggesting that both the Pfizer and Moderna jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.

The 1,070 British participants received a first dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, followed nine weeks later by a second dose of the same vaccine, or either the Moderna or Novavax jab.

Levels of neutralising antibodies were 17 times higher among those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by the Moderna vaccine and four times higher among those who received AstraZenaca followed by Novavax, compared with those who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

For those who started with the Pfizer jab, receiving a second dose of the Moderna vaccines jab resulted in 1.3 times as many neutralising antibodies than with two doses of Pfizer; while receiving Novavax as the second jab resulted in 20% fewer antibodies.

The study, published in the Lancet, also revealed differences in T-cell responses after combinations of different types of vaccines.

Vaccines that are mRNA-based, such as the Pfizer and Moderna jab, deliver a small piece of genetic code known as messenger RNA to human cells, instructing them to manufacture the coronavirus spike protein themselves; viral vector vaccines such as the AstraZeneca jab do the same thing, but use a harmless virus to deliver these instructions; whereas protein-based vaccines, such as the Novavax jab, deliver pre-made fragments of the spike protein alongside an immune-stimulating adjuvant.

While two doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine resulted in similar numbers of T-cells, combining the AstraZeneca vaccine with a second dose of Moderna resulted in 3.5 times more T-cells. A second dose of Novavax resulted in 4.8 times more T-cells.

For the Pfizer jab, a second dose of Moderna resulted in 1.5 times more T-cells, while a second jab of Novavax resulted in fewer T-cells.

“It tells us that the RNA and the viral vector vaccines are doing something quite different when it comes to priming for the T-cell response,” said Snape.

Previous research on other viral vector vaccines, such as the Ebola vaccine, had suggested that a mix-and-match approach could lead to enhanced immune responses.

“What was a bit more surprising is that we didn’t see that so well with the RNA vaccines – especially when it comes to the T-cell response, said Snape. “RNA followed by a protein (Novavax) was slightly underwhelming when it came to the T-cell response.”

The study also examined the impact of these different vaccine combinations against the Delta and Beta variants. In all cases, there was a reduction in levels of neutralising antibodies, but there was very little drop-off in T-cell responses.

Both the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the World Health Organization are currently considering whether to authorise the Novavax vaccine, and are expected to announce their decision within days or weeks. WHO authorisation would enable the vaccine to be delivered via the Covax initiative.

Dr Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said: “This is extremely encouraging and valuable data on the potential to mix-and-match Covid-19 vaccines in primary immunisation schedules. 

Knowing that a second dose of a different Covid-19 vaccine can generate a robust immune response is advantageous in helping the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines through Covax, especially in populations still urgently waiting for their primary immunisation or in those partially vaccinated.”


A UK doctor who was banned from using social media after posting a viral video questioning vaccines and masks has won a court case against a medical tribunal

Only on a technicality, ufortunately

The High Court on Friday did not weigh in on any of Dr Samuel White’s claims, but rather found the General Medical Council’s Interim Orders Tribunal made an “error of law” when it imposed restrictions on the GP’s registration after he was accused of spreading Covid-19 misinformation.

Dr White, who was a partner at a practice in Hampshire, posted a seven-minute video to Instagram in June explaining why he had resigned from his job, saying he could no longer work “because of the lies” around the pandemic, which he said had been “so vast” he could no longer “stomach or tolerate” them.

He claimed doctors and nurses had “their hands tied behind their backs” preventing them from using “safe and proven treatments” such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, which he said were a form of “early intervention” in the disease.

Dr White questioned the safety of the Covid-19 vaccines, stated that 99 per cent of people who contract the virus survive, and raised concerns about false positives associated with PCR tests.

“Masks do nothing, by the way, they do absolutely nothing,” he said towards the end of the video.

“They don’t help you, they don’t help anyone else. Take off the mask.”

Dr White appeared on conspiracy theory podcast SGT Report in August where he elaborated on his views.

He described the mRNA vaccines as “genetic manipulation” and claimed the vaccination campaign was “one of the most egregious, heinous crimes that we’ve seen in modern history, perhaps in all history, because it’s happened on such a global scale”.

Later that month, the tribunal ruled that Dr White’s actions “may pose a real risk to public safety”.

The IOT imposed conditions on Dr White restricting him from “posting or sharing his views on the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated aspects on any social media platforms and requiring previous posts to be removed”.

“Dr White’s alleged means of imparting information in his capacity as a registered doctor, by way of social media platforms, to a wide and possibly uninformed audience does not allow for individual circumstances and does not give the opportunity for a holistic consideration of Covid-19, its implications and possible treatments and potential for reducing risk to health in individual circumstances,” the tribunal said.

Dr White’s barrister, Francis Hoar, argued the restrictions placed on his client were a “severe imposition” on his freedom of expression protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The matter was heard by the High Court last month.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Dove said the tribunal had failed to follow the procedures set out in the Human Rights Act 1998, which require that for any interim order General Medical Council must ask itself “whether or not the respondent would probably succeed at any subsequent tribunal hearing”.

“It is clear that the IOT did not direct themselves to the tests required,” he said.

“The decision of the IOT was clearly wrong and cannot stand … There was an error of law in the IOT’s decision based upon the nature of the conditions which they intended to impose and the impact which they had on Article 10. The decision was wrong from a purely procedural perspective.”

He stressed that it had not been “necessary for the court to express any opinion as to the merits of the opinions with which this case is concerned in order to achieve a resolution of the matter”.




7 December, 2021

Dying COVID-19 Patient Recovers After Court Orders Hospital to Administer Ivermectin

The elite hate Ivermectin because Trump recommended it. They've got the ethics of a flea

An elderly COVID-19 patient has recovered after a court order allowed him to be treated with ivermectin, despite objections from the hospital in which he was staying, according to the family’s attorney.

After an Illinois hospital insisted on administering expensive remdesivir to the patient and the treatment failed, his life was saved after a court ordered that an outside medical doctor be allowed to use the inexpensive ivermectin to treat him, over the hospital’s strenuous objections.

Ivermectin tablets have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat humans with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. Some topical forms of ivermectin have been approved to treat external parasites such as head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea. The drug is also approved for use on animals.

Remdesivir has been given emergency use authorization by the FDA for treating certain categories of human patients that have been hospitalized with COVID-19. But the use of ivermectin to treat humans suffering from COVID-19 has become controversial because the FDA hasn’t approved its so-called off-label use to treat the disease, which is caused by the CCP virus also known as SARS-CoV-2.

Critics have long accused the FDA of dragging its heels and being dangerously over-cautious and indifferent to human suffering in its approach to regulating pharmaceuticals, a criticism that led to then-President Donald Trump signing the Right to Try Act in May 2018. The law, according to the FDA, “is another way for patients who have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases or conditions who have tried all approved treatment options and who are unable to participate in a clinical trial to access certain unapproved treatments.”

Medical doctors are free to prescribe ivermectin to treat COVID-19, even though the FDA claims that its off-label use could be harmful in some circumstances. Clinical human trials of the drug for use against COVID-19 are currently in progress, according to the agency.

The drug “most definitely” saved the elderly patient’s life “because his condition changed right immediately after he took ivermectin,” attorney for the family, Kirstin M. Erickson of Chicago-based Mauck and Baker, told The Epoch Times.

Sun Ng, 71, who was visiting the United States from Hong Kong to celebrate his granddaughter’s first birthday, became ill with COVID-19 and within days was close to death. He was hospitalized on Oct. 14 at Edward Hospital, in Naperville, Illinois, a part of the Edward-Elmhurst Health system. His condition worsened dramatically and he was intubated and placed on a ventilator a few days later.

Ng’s only child, Man Kwan Ng, who holds a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering, did her own research and decided that her father should take ivermectin, which some medical doctors believe is effective against COVID-19, despite the FDA’s guidance to the contrary.

But against the daughter’s wishes, the hospital refused to administer ivermectin and denied access to a physician willing to administer it.

The daughter went to court on her father’s behalf and on Nov. 1, Judge Paul M. Fullerton of the Circuit Court of DuPage County granted a temporary restraining order requiring the hospital to allow ivermectin to be given to the patient. The hospital refused to comply with the court order.

At a subsequent court hearing on Nov. 5, Fullerton said one physician who testified described Sun Ng as “basically on his death bed,” with a mere 10 to 15 percent chance of survival. Ivermectin can have minor side effects such as dizziness, itchy skin, and diarrhea at the dosage suggested for Ng, but the “risks of these side effects are so minimal that Mr. Ng’s current situation outweighs that risk by one-hundredfold,” Fullerton said.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction that day directing the hospital to “immediately allow … temporary emergency privileges” to Ng’s physician, Dr. Alan Bain, “solely to administer Ivermectin to this patient.”

The hospital resisted the order on Nov. 6 and 7, denying Bain access to his patient. The hospital claimed that it couldn’t let Bain in because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 and that its chief medical officer wasn’t available to “proctor” Bain administering ivermectin.

The daughter’s attorneys filed an emergency report with the court on Nov. 8 and Fullerton heard from both sides. The judge admonished the hospital and restated that it must allow Bain inside over a period of 15 days to do his job. When the hospital filed a motion to stay the order, Fullerton denied it, again directing the facility to comply.

The ivermectin appears to have worked, and Sun Ng has recovered from COVID-19. He was discharged by the hospital on Nov. 27.  “My father’s recovery is amazing,” his daughter, Man Kwan Ng, said in a statement.

“My father is a tough man. He was working so hard to survive, and of course, with God’s holding hands. He weaned off oxygen about three days after moving out of the ICU. He started oral feeding before hospital discharge. He returned home without carrying a bottle of oxygen and a feeding tube installed to his stomach. He can now stand with a walker at the bedside and practice stepping. After being sedated for a month on a ventilator in ICU, his performance is beyond our expectations. Praise the Lord.”

Attorney Erickson said the “happy” end result here provides “hope for the nation.”

“We get calls from all over the place,” she told The Epoch Times. “People that want to sue hospitals after someone’s passed, they wanted to get the medicine and couldn’t. Obviously, that’s a different, difficult case because a medical malpractice case is very difficult.”

People just want to do what’s best for their family members and “find ivermectin themselves” and have it on hand “and use it when someone starts to develop symptoms,” Erickson said.

She said her legal team and client were “really thankful” that Ng recovered and “we salute” Judge Fullerton, Dr. Bain, and others, as well as the hospital for abiding by the court order in the end.


Gum laced with a plant-grown protein is found to reduce COVID-19 transmission by 95% after trapping and neutralizing the virus in the person's saliva

A team of scientists led by Penn State University infused gum with a plant-grown protein and found it 'traps' the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The protein, known as ACE2, prevents the virus from attaching to a host cell in the human body by interacting with SARS-CoV-2's receptor binding domain - this facilitates virus attachment to the receptor and fusion with cell membrane.

When saliva samples from coronavirus patients were exposed to the ACE2 gum, researchers observed 50 mg of the cinnamon-flavored gum reduced viral entry by 95 percent.

The research team is currently working toward obtaining permission to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate whether the approach is safe and effective when tested in people infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Henry Daniell at Penn State's School of Dental Medicine, who led the research, said in a statement: 'SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone who is infected sneezes, coughs, or speaks some of that virus can be expelled and reach others.

'This gum offers an opportunity to neutralize the virus in the saliva, giving us a simple way to possibly cut down on a source of disease transmission.'

Coronavirus gains access to bodily cells by attaching itself to a protein called ACE2 and the new chewing gum was developed with a copy of that protein, allowing it to mimic bodily cells.

This tricks the virus into attaching to chewing gum chemicals, instead of the saliva, where it is neutralized and unable to be transmitted to someone else.

To test the gum, the team grew ACE2 in plants, paired with another compound that enables the protein to cross mucosal barriers and facilitates binding and incorporated the resulting plant material into cinnamon-flavored gum tablets.

Incubating samples obtained from nasopharyngeal swabs from COVID-positive patients with the gum, they showed that the ACE2 present could neutralize SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

The scientists observed that the gum largely prevented viral particles from entering cells, which was done by blocking the ACE2 receptor on the cells or binding directly to the spike protein.

And the results showed that levels of the viral RNA in the person's saliva were almost undetectable.

Though the research is still in the early stages of development, if the clinical trials prove the gum is safe and effective, it could be given to patients whose infection status is unknown or even for dental check-ups when masks must be removed, to reduce the likelihood of passing the virus to caregivers, according to the researchers. 

'We are already using masks and other physical barriers to reduce the chance of transmission,' said Daniell. 'This gum could be used as an additional tool in that fight.'


Germany imposes COVID-19 restrictions on unvaccinated, proposes vaccine mandate

Ezra Levant tweets:  "It's quite a change for Germany. For nearly a decade, they've let in millions of migrants from the Middle East and Africa with no screening, no documents, no restrictions. But their own citizens are now banned from the streets and hunted by police"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says people who are not vaccinated will be barred from non-essential stores, and cultural and recreational venues.

The nation's parliament will also consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections as the number of new cases again tops 70,000 in 24 hours.

Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Ms Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns German hospitals could be overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which were more likely to be serious in those who had not been vaccinated.

"The situation in our country is serious," Ms Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an "act of national solidarity".

She said officials also agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.

Ms Merkel herself backed the most contentious proposal of imposing a general vaccine mandate.  She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country's national ethics committee.

If passed, it could take effect as early as February, Ms Merkel said, adding she would have voted in favour of the measure if she was still a member of parliament.




6 December, 2021

BOOK REVIEW:  "A Plague Upon Our House: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America", by Scott W. Atlas (Bombardier Books, 328 pp., $28)

How could public officials vowing to “follow the science” on Covid-19 persist in promoting ineffective strategies with terrible consequences? In a memoir of his time on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Scott W. Atlas provides an answer: because the nation’s governance was hijacked by three bureaucrats with scant interest in scientific research or debate—and no concern for the calamitous effects of their edicts.

Atlas’s book, A Plague Upon Our House, is an astonishing read, even for those who have been closely following this disaster. A veteran medical researcher and health-policy analyst at the Hoover Institution, Atlas, a radiologist, joined the Task Force six months into the pandemic, after he had published estimates that lockdowns could ultimately prove more deadly than Covid.

Atlas expected to spend his time at the White House discussing scientific data and debating the best strategies for protecting public health. Instead, he found that the Task Force included “zero public health policy experts and no experts with medical knowledge who also analyzed economic, social, and other broad public health impacts other than the infection itself.” Vice President Mike Pence chaired the Task Force, but Atlas says that Pence and the other members were regularly cowed into submission by three doctors who dominated from the start: Deborah Birx, the Task Force’s coordinator, along with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control.

Atlas calls them “the troika” because of their strategy for presenting a united front, never disagreeing with one another during the meetings in the White House Situation Room. (Reporting later revealed that they had made a pact to resign in unison if any of them was fired.) These veterans of the federal bureaucracy had worked closely together during the AIDS epidemic, and their track record was hardly reassuring. Their long and costly quest to develop an AIDS vaccine ultimately failed, but they did manage to persuade the public that AIDS would spread widely beyond gay men and intravenous drug users. Redfield, with some help from Fauci, was the chief prophet of a “heterosexual breakout,” a threat that terrified Americans for more than a decade but never materialized.

The troika stoked more needless fears during the Covid pandemic, continually emphasizing worst-case scenarios—the computer models, for example, that wrongly forecast millions of American deaths in the summer of 2020. Surveys showed that most Americans, especially young people, vastly overestimated their risk of serious disease. Yet Fauci still wasn’t satisfied, as Atlas discovered when Fauci complained during one meeting that Americans didn’t take the virus seriously. “I challenged him to clarify his point,” Atlas writes, “because I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘So you think people aren’t frightened enough?’ He said, ‘Yes, they need to be more afraid.’ To me, this was another moment of Kafkaesque absurdity. . . . Instilling fear in the public is absolutely counter to what a leader in public health should do. To me, it is frankly immoral, although I kept that to myself.”

Fauci got the most media attention of the troika, but Atlas thinks that Birx did the most damage. As Pence’s chief subordinate on the Task Force, she shaped its agenda, participated in the regular “Covid huddle” with White House officials, and traveled the country, successfully pressuring state and local leaders to issue mask mandates and close businesses and schools. In one of Atlas’s first meetings with her, he asked her what she considered the strongest scientific evidence for the efficacy of masks against Covid. She cited a report published by the Centers for Disease Control about a hair salon in Missouri, where two stylists infected with Covid had worn masks that supposedly prevented the virus from infecting their customers.

“I knew the study well,” Atlas writes, “having already dissected it in detail with a few epidemiologists before I set foot in Washington. My colleagues had all laughed at it. It was poorly done, and the conclusions were not valid. It was an embarrassment that it had been published prominently on the CDC website.” Among the many limitations of this small study, critics had noted that, while none of the customers contacted by the researchers reported Covid symptoms, most of them were never tested for the virus, and many of the stylists’ customers were never contacted at all.

Atlas tells how he tried, “in as diplomatic a way as I could muster,” to discuss these limitations with Birx, but she bristled. He soon realized that she wasn’t even familiar with the basic aspects of the study she was using to justify mask mandates across the U.S. Nor did she or the rest of the troika show interest in the many far more rigorous studies with contrary findings. Though Redfield would later concede, after leaving the CDC, that there was a “paucity of data” to justify mask mandates, during the Task Force meetings the troika refused to debate any scientific research challenging their mask mandates and lockdowns, according to Atlas. “Unlike scientists with whom I had worked for decades,” he writes, “I never saw them voice any critical assessment, methodological or otherwise, of the pitfalls of any published studies.” Atlas says that they never brought scientific papers to the meetings and declined to respond to his presentations about the research.

“For what I anticipated would be a data-?lled discussion about opening schools and the risk to children,” Atlas says, “I brought approximately ?fteen different studies and a summary sheet of the research. For what I hoped would be a discussion about testing guidance, I brought and distributed articles and other documents about the role and pitfalls of PCR testing and concerns about cycle thresholds. Even though I handed out a number of these published studies to everyone at the table, no one ever mentioned them in the Situation Room. My guess was that no one in the Fauci-Red?eld-Birx troika ever opened them.”

Instead, the troika of bureaucrats obsessed over Birx’s charts showing how many Covid tests had been administered and what percentage were positive. They proclaimed success for their strategies when infections started to wane in states like New York and Arizona—never mind that the downward trends began before the lockdowns and mask mandates were imposed. They ignored inconvenient data, like the chart that Atlas reproduces comparing the rates of Covid cases in states with and without mask mandates: the two curves remained virtually identical throughout the pandemic. “The doctors in the Task Force showed no study about mask efficacy or any other of their policies, and they never once mentioned the harms of the lockdowns that I witnessed,” Atlas says. “Their sole focus was stopping cases, even when their policies were already implemented and were failing to do so.”

Atlas’s book is obviously a one-sided account and at times lapses into self-righteousness. But his portrayal of the troika—a better term might be the three blind mice—rings true, both because of the details he provides and because it jibes with what he and they were saying (and not saying) publicly throughout the pandemic. It may seem incredible that the troika would violate a fundamental principle of public health by ignoring the devasting collateral damage of their policies, yet they never even pretended to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. “Perhaps the most remarkable insight in the Fauci email trove,” Atlas notes, referring to the thousands of emails from Fauci that were made public, is “the total lack of mention of harms from the lockdown throughout the pandemic.”

The troika also ignored dozens of studies showing the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, and the data showing that places that avoided lockdowns, like Florida and Sweden, did as well as or better than average in preventing Covid deaths. “I never fully understood why there was no admission, even internally by the Task Force, that the Birx-Fauci strategy did not work,” Atlas writes, concluding that it wasn’t simply because the media was eager to champion anyone who questioned President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen schools and businesses. “Disagreeing with Trump, especially in this election year, ensured near idolatry on cable TV and in the New York Times or Washington Post. But I never thought politics was the main driver of those on the Task Force. Perhaps it was an unstated fear that they were in way too deep to admit their errors.”

Mainstream media were the chief weapon the troika wielded against Atlas and scientists who opposed lockdowns and instead advocated a policy of “focused protection” that would concentrate testing and related resources on the elderly or other high-risk populations. (Atlas invited Birx to a meeting in the Oval Office with some of these eminent researchers, but she refused to attend.) Journalists caricatured their proposals as a callous “let it rip” strategy, portraying Atlas as an unqualified ideologue, unconcerned about the spread of the virus. Some of the false accusations in the press came from anonymous sources on the Task Force—presumably Fauci and Birx, Atlas writes, though Fauci denied it when Atlas confronted him. On the record, Fauci dismissed Atlas as an “outlier,” an assessment that journalists reinforced by repeatedly noting that he was “not an epidemiologist,” as if that were the only relevant qualification for determining overall public-health policies.

Fauci, Birx, and Redfield were not epidemiologists, either, but they were enshrined as “the science” because they provided what mainstream journalists craved: scare stories that boosted ratings and made Trump look bad. During his first meeting with Trump, Atlas writes, the president told him, “I’m sure you will teach me many things while you’re here. But there is only one thing you’ll learn from me. Only one. You will learn how vicious, how biased, how unfair the media is.” Atlas soon came to agree, as he endured personal smears and watched relentlessly alarmist coverage of the pandemic: “No opportunity to in?ame the voters was going to be missed by what I now believe are the most despicable group of unprincipled liars one could ever imagine—the American media.”

Atlas says that Trump and senior White House aides told him privately that they disagreed with the troika’s policies, and some wanted to fire Birx because she was so stubborn and defensive. (Atlas tells how, after he contradicted her during a meeting in the Oval Office, she “threw a fit” and screamed at him, “Never do that again! And in the Oval!”) But the aides feared that firing any of the troika, or even disagreeing openly, would cause a media firestorm and doom Trump’s reelection. “We must not rock the boat” was their mantra, Atlas writes. “To which I would reply, ‘The boat is frigging capsized.’”

The politician who comes off best is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who had, Atlas observes, “a far more detailed understanding of the pandemic than anyone I had encountered in the Task Force.” Trump comes off fairly well, too, in his conversations with Atlas, as he frets about the harms of the lockdowns and instinctively recognizes the futility of the troika’s strategies. But Atlas lays the ultimate blame for the lockdowns—“a crime against humanity”—on Trump himself, because he allowed Birx and her allies to remain in charge. “This president, widely known for his signature ‘You’re fired!’ declaration, was misled by his closest political intimates,” Atlas writes. “All for fear of what was inevitable anyway—skewering from an already hostile media.”

When he resigned from the Task Force in a telephone call to Trump, Atlas writes, the president told him, “You were right about everything, all along the way. And you know what? You were also right about something else. Fauci wasn’t the biggest problem of all of them. It really wasn’t him.” Trump meant that it was Birx, and Atlas couldn’t resist a parting shot at the aides who had been so afraid of her. Knowing that they were listening on the speakerphone in the Oval Office, Atlas said, “Well, Mr. President, I will say this. You have balls. I have balls. But the closest people around you—they didn’t. They had no balls. They let you down.” They let down the rest of the country, too.




5 December, 2021

More vaccinated people are dying than unvaccinated people?

Some official British statistcs say so.  I first noted the problem a couple of weeks ago but could not see where the problem lay.  I suspected a sampling problem but could not see where it was. The graph I saw at that time is below:

I do now however understand it, courtesy of the post below.  Let me see if I can put it in a clearer way.

If the vacine is only 90% effective, there SHOULD be many cases of vaccinated people getting ill. 10% is a lot of people.  So the vaccinated who get ill are drawn from an unfortunate remnant of vaccinated people -- only 10%  The vaccinated people who get the virus ARE NOT TYPICAL of vaccinated people.  So comparing their numbers with unvaccinated people is not a valid comparison.  The vaccinated people who get the virus are not a fair sample of all vaccinated people.  

So that explains the large number of  vaccinated people becoming ill.  Why do so few unvaccinated people become ill?  Initially because they a minority of the population but mainly because of who they are.  They will almost always be people who  feel their health is good and that it will beat the virus by itself.  And people who feel in robust health will almost always actually be in robust health.  And the small number who get the virus show that they ARE mostly in robust health and so few of them die. 

So the two populations are very differently selected so are not comparable

The latest data published by the UK Health Security Agency shows that of 3,726 COVID-19 deaths over a three-week period to November 21, 2,903 were people fully vaccinated against the disease, compared to 708 unvaccinated people.

However, those figures do not mean that vaccinated people are at a higher risk of death from COVID-19.

The UK report also provides the rate of death per 100,000 people in each group.

That data reveals that the rate of death among unvaccinated people across the UK was higher for every age bracket when compared to those who were double-dosed.

According to Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, when it came to being infected with the Delta variant of coronavirus, fully vaccinated people were around 90 per cent less likely to die than those who weren't vaccinated.

"We can say mathematically if vaccination reduces your chance of death by, say, 90 per cent, then once more than 90 per cent of the population is vaccinated you would expect the [number of] deaths among the vaccinated and unvaccinated to be similar," Professor Blakely said in an email.

He noted that high rates of natural COVID-19 infection in the UK community added complexity.

"For example, if 90 per cent of the population are vaccinated and, of the remaining 10 per cent half of them (that is, 5 per cent of total population) have already had a natural infection, they will be better protected than the vaccinated," he explained.

"So, because an increasing fraction of the unvaccinated have had an infection in the past, this will tip more of the infections, hospitalisations and deaths to be among the vaccinated.

"But the bottom line remains — the unvaccinated have a much much higher chance of death on their first infection than do the vaccinated."

Additionally, in footnotes attached to its data, the UK agency notes that vaccinations were prioritised for individuals who were more vulnerable to catching COVID-19, while "individuals in risk groups may be more at risk of hospitalisation or death due to non-COVID-19 causes, and thus may be hospitalised or die with COVID-19 rather than because of COVID-19".


Omicron is being grown in labs and studied as scientists race to unlock the COVID-19 variant's mysteries

Every day for the last week, Thumbi Ndung'u and his team of researchers have spent hours inside a room with the world's most feared coronavirus variant.

To keep themselves from becoming infected, they pull on white plastic cover-alls and wear industrial respirators slung around their waists.

While the rest of the world braces for the possible spread of the new Omicron variant, Professor Ndung'u is doing something seemingly counterintuitive: He's growing it in a laboratory.

His team is among a vanguard of scientists across the world racing to examine the mysterious new variant under tightly controlled conditions to understand how it behaves.

Omicron, more a distant cousin than a direct descendant of the Delta variant, has strange and concerning features. 

In the worst-case scenario, this evolution could mean a more transmissible version of COVID-19, with the ability to evade existing vaccines. 

For Professor Ndung'u, a Kenya-born Harvard-educated virologist from the Africa Health Research Insitute in Durban, none of that is certain until he and his colleagues do their work.

"What we have been doing so far is speculate," he said. 

"This is a very important next step."

The three big questions about Omicron 

Although the variant has already driven governments the world over to slam borders shut and healthcare systems to bristle, there is still remarkably little known about Omicron.

What began with reports of a new variant first identified in Botswana and South Africa late last month has now grown to a smattering of cases in Europe, the US and Australia, where authorities remain on high alert.

There are three key questions about the variant that are yet to be answered: How transmissible it is, how effective current vaccines will be against it, and what severity of symptoms it might cause in those infected?

In the absence of much real-world data on how Omicron affects human populations, laboratory testing is needed to see just how dangerous it is. 

But the world is in for an anxious wait. Results may still be some weeks away.

For Professor Ndung'u and his team, unlocking the secrets of the variant is what they do best. 

"From a scientific point of view, it's exciting," he said. 

Even so, some South African doctors who have treated patients infected by Omicron are adamant the variant is different to what they have encountered in previous waves, though there is not enough data yet to decide that.

Angelique Coetzee, a GP at a family practice in Pretoria, was among the first to raise the alarm over Omicron with South African authorities last month.

So far, Dr Coetzee estimates she has seen about 30 patients infected with Omicron come through her clinic. 

Her experience with Omicron is anecdotal, but she does have cause for cautious optimism. 

"The majority of patients that we are seeing have mild symptoms," she said

"Most of the adults will phone us [after they recover] and say they are so much better. This is not something that you would see with the Delta variant."

One mystery that will likely take more time to solve is where Omicron originated. 

Although it was first detected in Botswana and South Africa, earlier cases have since been reported in other countries.

Some have speculated it could have mutated inside a person with an already weakened immune system because of an HIV infection.

The immunocompromised tend to have viral infections persist for longer, increasingly the likelihood of a mutation occurring.

It's possible that higher rates of HIV in southern Africa, coupled with low COVID-19 vaccination rates, could have created an environment where the new variant was more likely to mutate.  But there is simply no evidence this has actually happened, according to Professor Ndung'u. 

"At the moment, I think the scientific evidence for that is sketchy," he said. 

"But it's certainly a very important issue because of the fact that we have high HIV infection rates in southern Africa." 

The rise of a new variant has forced experts in wealthier countries, including the United States, to reconsider the need of booster shots where previously they had been wary to endorse them without further evidence.

Australian authorities say they won't speed up the booster program for most people, despite Omicron concerns. 

In Israel, the first country to widely distribute booster shots to teenagers and adults, the population might enjoy much better immunity to Omicron, said Professor Nadav Davidovitch, a public health physician at Ben Gurion University.

"Israel has an excellent vaccination campaign, so in this sense we are better prepared," he said.

"Probably the vaccine won't be exactly covering the variant. But there will be some coverage for sure."




3 December, 2021

Drug cocktail that could be a saviour: New Covid treatment is FOUR TIMES more effective at keeping patients out of intensive care, tests suggest

A new drug cocktail is four times more effective at keeping Covid patients out of intensive care, initial tests have suggested.

While the steroid dexamethasone was the first drug to be licensed for treating the virus, trials indicate that combining it with heart failure medication spironolactone yields better results.

A study, conducted by former vice-chancellor of Newcastle University Sir Christopher Edwards, analysed hospital patients in Delhi.

He found that, in hospitalised patients taking the ‘Spidex’ cocktail, just 5.4 per cent were admitted to intensive care compared to 19.6 per cent of those taking dexamethasone alone.

Now he is calling for wider trials of the Spidex regime as he believes more lives could be saved.

His findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, revealed 40 Covid patients taking Spidex performed better on every clinical, biochemical and radiological measure than 40 patients on a high dose of dexamethasone.

The treatment works by ‘turning off’ the impact the virus has on the body, rather than targeting the virus itself.

Sir Christopher hopes the combination should also work against the mutated Omicron virus.


Researchers shoot holes in study touted for confirming 'masks work' in curbing COVID

I rubbished this study <a href="">on 3rd. September</a>

An acclaimed study on the effectiveness of masks in reducing symptomatic COVID-19 is facing new scrutiny after a researcher highlighted the minuscule infection differences between "treatment" and control groups randomized across 600 Bangladeshi villages.

Accused of design flaws and overstating its findings when it was released in late August, the study's newly released data show only 20 more symptomatic COVID cases in the villages that didn't receive masks and related education, reminders and "role modeling by community leaders."

In a total study population of 342,126 adults, 1,106 people in the control group tested positive, compared to 1,086 in the treatment group. The latter group represented 52% of the study population.

"I have a hard time going from these numbers to the assured conclusions that 'masks work' that was promulgated by the media or the authors after this preprint [not yet peer reviewed] appeared," University of California Berkeley professor Ben Recht, who studies machine learning, wrote in an essay last week.

He said he was frustrated that the "raw number of seropositive cases" was left out of the preprint by researchers led by Yale University economists Jason Abaluck and Ahmed Mobarak, preventing him from "computing standard statistical analyses of their results."

The researchers posted the replication code and data in early November, long after media coverage touting "the largest randomized trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of surgical masks, in particular, to curb transmission of the coronavirus."

In light of the full release, "a complex intervention including an educational program, free masks, encouraged mask wearing, and surveillance in a poor country with low population immunity and no vaccination showed at best modest reduction in infection," Recht said.

The newly provided raw numbers exacerbate other weaknesses of the study, according to Recht, who was also initially skeptical of the research because of its "statistical ambiguity."

The study was not blinded, did not exclude pre-intervention infections, and was "highly complex" because of the mixed interventions, he said. 

The three-percentage-point differential between household visit consent rates for the treatment and control groups, by itself, "could wash away the difference in observed cases," he explained, adding that relative measures of risk are "[o]ne of the dark tricks of biostatistics," which unlike hard case counts have a tendency to exaggerate effects.

'How robust can this possibly be?'

The UC Berkeley professor's analysis drew attention on Twitter, including from Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff, whose own skepticism of the protective power of masks for unvaccinated elderly people got him suspended by Twitter for a month.

"One of the problems of the study is that despite the vast size of the study, the primary endpoint depends on ~5000 blood samples collected" each from the treatment and control groups, Philadelphia cardiologist Anish Koka wrote in a related thread.

"So we are left to extrapolate from a 20 case difference tested in ~10,000 patients to a 300,000 patient study," he continued. "But how robust can this possibly be?"

Koka noted that Yale's Abaluck, a lead author, floated the idea of fining people for not wearing government-supplied cloth masks, the least effective kind, early in the pandemic. "It seems a bit much to go from these small differences to the police tracking down and fining people who don't mask in public," the cardiologist wrote.


Vaccines can kill
At what risk do you take a vaccine that might do more harm than good? Newly released documents support decisions by those who have been reluctant to get a COVID shot. Attorney Aaron Siri has published an initial report addressing information he demanded from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

In a discussion with a U.S. Congressional panel led by Senator Ron Johnson, Siri said his law firm had received hundreds of legal requests about COVID vaccination problems. The documents reveal over 150,000 incidents involving side effects have been reported to Pfizer.

Of the thousands of documented side effects, the data indicate more than 25,000 of these have directly affected the central nervous system. These numbers become even more disturbing when we consider the period for claims fell within a short two-and-a-half month window.

This timeframe was during the initial months when Pfizer was distributing vaccines under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Pfizer even admits that the company was overwhelmed by, “the large numbers of spontaneous adverse event reports received for the product.”

The alarming ramifications of this data are further supported by shocking revelations within the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS) for COVID. There have been over 18,000 deaths resulting from the COVID vaccination and nearly 100,000 hospitalizations.

Nearly 100,000 more adverse vaccination incidents have required urgent care. There are thousands of reported cases of Anaphylaxis and Bell’s palsy. No one expected that there wouldn’t be problems with a hastily approved vaccination.

There aren’t many people fighting against the mandates who dispute that the vaccines have at some level been useful. They take issue with the tyrannical mandating of the COVID vaccine. Joe Biden has overstepped his authority. He is not a dictator, although he thinks he is.

The choice to receive a COVID vaccination should be a personal one. It should involve a thorough consideration of individual health circumstances. “The jab” may not be for everyone. The increasingly disturbing number of reported side effects must be part of the conversation. However, the mainstream media refuses to engage in open discussion.


Get ready for boosters every year: Pfizer boss says annual jabs needed to maintain 'very high protection'

Britons might need a Covid booster every year to maintain 'very high' levels of protection against the, Pfizer's boss said today after the UK ordered 114million more shots from his company and Moderna to vaccinate everyone until 2023.

Dr Albert Bourla, chief executive at the company which delivered the world's first Covid vaccine a year ago today, said global economies will probably need to rely on jabs for years to come to stay on top of new variants and counter waning immunity.

The UK has ordered another 114million doses that can be tweaked to fight off variants — including 54million Pfizer jabs and 60million Moderna doses in a deal thought to be worth around £2.05billion 

Officials did not reveal how much the Pfizer jabs cost, but EU contracts show the bloc is spending about £16.50 per dose of Pfizer and £19.50 on Moderna's. They will arrive in 2022 and 2023, with plans already being drawn up to boost the nation's immunity for at least the next two years.




2 December, 2021

UNC and Duke Offer Hope for a Universal Coronavirus Antibody Therapy

This is a report from a month ago.  Strange that it has not been widely reported

A research team at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) and Duke University, in Durham, NC, identified an antibody that attacks SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but also its variants and other types of coronaviruses. In their studies, the antibody, DH1047, works at preventing infection and fighting it after a person is diagnosed with COVID-19.

The investigators isolated two other antibodies that worked against some types of coronaviruses that infect animals and humans, but not all. These were DH1235 and DH1073. DH1073 was only effective against SARS-CoV-2.

“This antibody (DH1047) has the potential to be a therapeutic for the current epidemic,” said Barton Haynes, M.D., director of Duke Human Vaccine Institute and co-author of the study. “It could also be available for future outbreaks, if or when other coronaviruses jump from their natural animal hosts to humans.”

The new antibody was isolated from the blood of a patient infected with SARS in early 2000. That illness is caused by SARS-CoV-1, a close relative of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19. They also isolated it from a current COVID-19 patient.

In their research, they identified more than 1,700 antibodies from the two individuals. Of them, 50 could bind to SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. Then they discovered that one of those cross-binding antibodies was particularly potent, able to attach to a range of coronaviruses as well as to SARS-C0V-1 and 2.

“This antibody binds to the coronavirus at a location that is conserved across numerous mutations and variations,” Haynes said. “As a result, it can neutralize a wide range of coronaviruses.”

The UNC team was led by co-senior author Ralph S. Baric, Ph.D., William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. That group tested DH1047 in mice to see if it could block infections or minimize ongoing infections. It did both. Not only did it prevent the mice from developing SARS and COVID-19, but it also prevented variants such as Delta and other animal coronaviruses.

“The findings provide a template for the rational design of universal vaccine strategies that are variant-proof and provide broad protection from known and emerging coronaviruses,” Baric said.

In animals with severe lung symptoms, treatment with the antibody decreased the symptoms compared to the control group.

“The therapeutic activity even after mice were infected suggests that this could be a treatment deployed in the current pandemic, but also stockpiled to prevent the spread of a future outbreak or epidemic with a SARS-related virus,” said David Martinez, Ph.D., co-lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at UNC’s Gilling School. “This antibody could be harnessed to prevent maybe SARS-COV-3 or SARS-CoV-4.”

The journal article is: "A broadly cross-reactive antibody neutralizes and protects against sarbecovirus challenge in mice".  See


Veteran icu nurse reveals shocking covid administrative policies that killed patients

Helen Smith is a veteran nurse who has worked in the Intensive Care Units of hospitals for more than two decades.

During an interview, Smith revealed some shocking stories about patient COVID treatment. The longtime nurse specifically said she did not cast blame on the doctors she worked side-by-side with.

Smith blamed the hospital bureaucrats for disastrous COVID policies forced on the medical staff. She began the interview talking about how she had never witnessed anything like this in her 25 years as an ICU nurse.

Smith said that doctors were not allowed to act in the best interest of each patient. She insisted that, “Everything is being regulated by higher-ups in the hospitals.” Her interview revealed that hospital administrators set policies that were dangerous.

She said that she had never seen such “unorthodox and unhygienic medical practices” used, especially during the height of a deadly pandemic. One of the most shocking things Smith said during the interview was the automatic treatment steps given to many COVID patients.

Smith explained, “They were dying because doctors were immediately intubating patients and providing them with remdesivir.” Remdesivir is an expensive drug that made the hospitals a huge amount of money.

However, it did nothing to help alleviate respiratory distress or help treat COVID. What it did do was to shut down many of these patients’ organs. Because hospital administrations were overly guarding against viral spread, they instantly stuck patients on intubation with a breathing tube.

Smith insists that the combination of remdesivir and intubation led to the deaths of hundreds of COVID patients. At $5,000 per bag, remdesivir as the go-to instant treatment for COVID was lining the pockets of the hospital administrators.

Astonishingly, Smith says the hospital is still using remdesivir despite the obvious dangers. In her experience, Smith said she had never seen anything like this. She said that immediately intubating patients is like signing their death certificates.

One doctor attempted to do something different. Smith said the doctor reverted to using ivermectin instead of remdesivir. He was saving patients. However, the hospital administration threatened to fire him if he didn’t stop.

Smith also sounded the alarm about how the hospital is reporting admissions and deaths related to the COVID vaccine. As part of Cleveland Clinic’s stroke center, Smith was shocked at the rise in the number of recent stroke cases.

She stressed that dozens of these were directly caused by the COVID vaccination. There were other types of critically ill patients, all who succumbed to sickness after getting vaccinated. Smith said the hospital refuses to attribute any death or critical illness to the vaccine.

What Helen Smith revealed during her interview must be validated before her claims can be broadcast as truth. However, there is little doubt that public trust in our medical system has been undermined by questionable COVID policies.

Most are well aware that hospital administrations add unnecessary procedures to pad patient bills. They are trying to make money for their hospital. However, there may be some evidence that these medical bureaucrats have set policies that killed people unnecessarily.


Pfizer Covid vaccine works against Omicron, Israel claims

Those up to date with a Pfizer Covid vaccine or booster shot should have high protection against the Omicron variant, the Israeli Health Minister has said.

While not citing any data, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Tuesday that there was “room for optimism” based on “initial indications”, reported The Sun.

Hours later a report by an Israeli news channel claimed the Pfizer jab was 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection from Omicron.

Mr Horowitz told reporters on Tuesday: “In the coming days we will have more accurate information about the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron.

“But there is already room for optimism, and there are initial indications that those who are vaccinated with a vaccine still valid or with a booster, will also be protected from this variant.”

Epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely said it is very likely that cases of Omicron will continue to rise in Australia, while speaking to Sunrise on Thursday.

“We do expect case numbers to rise. It has probably got its tentacles into NSW, and it will rise, as it has overseas,” he said.

Professor Blakely said initial indications suggest the Omicron strain could be more mild than the Delta variant – and that could actually be a good thing for Australia.

“This one should be more mild, but we don’t know exactly how much more mild it is, so that means that the hospitalisation rate should be less severe. It might become our get out of the pandemic card,” he said.

“This may be a blessing if it displaces Delta and becomes the more mild version, it might help us get out of this pandemic.”

The Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa, though the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have now all reported cases of the variant circulating before it was officially reported.




1 December, 2021

South African centre of the Omicron variant shows increase in hospitalisations

Figures emerging from the epicentre of South Africa’s Covid outbreak show a staggering rise in hospitalisations that indicate the new Omicron variant may not be as mild as hoped.

Covid cases in the City of Tshwane, a municipality that encompasses one of South Africa’s capitals Pretoria, in the Gauteng province, now account for more than half of the country’s infections.

Known for being a centre of academic excellence and home to a number of universities and foreign embassies, Tshwane has been thrown into turmoil by the emergence of the new Omicron variant.

The new strain was first detected in specimens collected in Gauteng on November 12 and it now dominates Covid infections in the area, accounting for about 76 per cent of genomically sequenced samples, although the numbers of samples are low.

Omicron now seems to have spread around the world and led to many countries closing their borders, including Australia. The World Health Organisation has declared it a variant of concern.

While much is still unknown about Omicron, it seems to be more infectious than the Delta strain, which may be due to a large number of mutations that could also make it harder to control with current vaccines.

There is hope though that the variant could induce a milder form of the disease, although this is yet to be proven.

Experts have cautioned about “misinformation” that Omicron is “mild”. Respected United States epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding said it was “nonsense” and the theory was based on an “out-of-context quote”.

South African doctor Angelique Coetzee, who first alerted authorities about a possible variant, told The Telegraph in the United Kingdom that many of the patients she had seen had mild symptoms.

However, what was not as widely reported is that she was talking about a specific group of young, healthy patients. In the same article she also voiced concern about more severe illness in older people.

Hospitalisations in Gauteng now appear to be on the rise.  Across the province, the number of hospital admissions increased by 330 per cent over two weeks from 135 cases in the week ending Saturday, November 13, to 580 cases last week, figures from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) show.

The total number of Covid cases also increased dramatically in Tshwane from 547 on Thursday, November 25, to 1204 cases on Monday, November 29, the Mayor Randall Williams said in a statement. Tshwane’s cases made up more than half of the 2273 cases recorded across South Africa on Monday.

Dr Feigl-Ding said even if Omicron was milder than Delta, the fact that it spread easier or could evade vaccines would still make it more dangerous. “Exponentially more cases is still exponentially more hospitalisation & deaths!” he tweeted.

Concerningly, children under the age of two years old made up about 10 per cent of hospital admissions in Tshwane, although this may be because parents were more likely to take babies to hospital just in case, Bloomberg reported.

“People are more likely to admit children as a precaution because if you treat them at home, something can go wrong – especially very young children because there is a higher proportion of death,” Dr Waasila Jassat from the NICD is quoted as saying.

According to The National, Dr Jassat said indications so far were that Omicron was not more severe than other strains.  She said most of the eight people who died in the two weeks from November 14 to 28 were aged 60 to 69 years old.

Only 1.5 per cent of the children younger than four died and there were no deaths among those aged between five and 19 years old. “It doesn’t look at the moment like there is any increase in severity, but it is early,” she said.

It takes about two weeks for the rate of hospital admissions to reflect any increase in Covid cases and any rise in death rates will take even longer to emerge.

South Africa has very low vaccination rates with only 42 per cent of the population aged over 18 years old double dosed.


The New COVID Drugs Are a Bigger Deal Than People Realize

In infectious diseases, control of a pathogen means reducing its impact even if it remains endemic in the world. Fortunately, the United States is poised to authorize two oral antivirals: molnupiravir and Paxlovid. The former is the generic name of a drug made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics; the latter is the trade name of a drug combination made by Pfizer. Both come in pill form, and a five-day treatment course of each will provide certain patients with significant benefits.

These miraculous drugs arrived with minimal fanfare but represent the biggest advance yet in treating patients already infected with COVID-19. The supply of vaccines in the U.S. has exceeded demand for some time, and authorities recently widened eligibility to include children as young as 5, but uptake is not universal. Millions of Americans have decided, for a variety of reasons, not to get shots, while many more around the globe have yet to be offered a vaccine. And although the vaccines have remained amazingly effective against severe disease, some patients, especially those who are older or immunocompromised, remain at risk of hospitalization if they get a breakthrough infection. 

The widespread use of oral treatments for influenza hints at the value of COVID drugs that can be provided in an outpatient setting and reduce the severity of symptoms for unvaccinated and vaccinated patients alike.

Molnupiravir and Paxlovid are particularly exciting because antivirals that effectively target viruses at specific points in their life cycle are the “holy grail” of viral therapeutics—as past experience with other viruses has shown. 

Infection with HIV was fatal for nearly all patients until antivirals were developed against enzymes crucial to viral replication and researchers figured out how to combine those drugs to maximize their effectiveness and limit the emergence of resistant viral strains. These changes revolutionized HIV treatment, massively improving the prognosis for people who had access to antivirals. Instead of developing severe illness, treated patients could live healthily and expect normal life spans.

The development of these highly active oral antivirals for HIV infection took a decade and a half after the disease first came to light; the incredible progress in COVID-19 therapeutics took 18 months. Intriguingly, the COVID-19-treatment research borrowed many ideas from the HIV field; the two new COVID-19 drugs focus on similar pathways in the viral life cycle that HIV drugs target. In essence, these drugs prevent the target virus from reproducing itself. 

Because they work differently from the majority of COVID-19 vaccines, which teach the immune system to identify and attack the coronavirus’s characteristic spike protein, the antivirals remain effective against mutant variants whose spike proteins are harder for immune cells to recognize. Designing, manufacturing, and distributing vaccines updated for new variants will take time, so the availability of antivirals will be all the more essential.

The rapid development of vaccines against COVID-19—something that doesn’t yet exist for HIV—has overshadowed the progress on treatments. And yet, the need and public demand for effective medications are evident. Doctors and patients have sought out potential oral COVID-19 treatments, including drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, that did not prove effective in clinical trials. But researchers needed to keep working on the question, because COVID-19 will be with us for the long haul. Although health experts agree that preventing a disease is better than treating its symptoms, not everyone will get vaccinated. People who become infected are worthy of compassion and care, regardless of the circumstances of their infection, and medical treatments that shorten the period of viral transmission and keep unvaccinated COVID-19 patients out of hospital beds will protect everyone.

The COVID-19 treatments that have shown some effectiveness up to this point have significant drawbacks. Remdesivir is an intravenous antiviral used for hospitalized patients with COVID-19. But by the time a patient is admitted, the virus may already have caused considerable damage, and viral replication may have stopped. An intravenous drug has far less power to affect the trajectory of the pandemic than affordable, effective, and short courses of oral pills do. 

Until now, the only outpatient therapeutic for COVID-19 has been monoclonal antibody treatments, which are effective in preventing severe disease in high-risk patients. But they are expensive and require intravenous infusion or subcutaneous injection, and health-care providers must monitor their administration closely.

Although molnupiravir—which is named after the Norse god Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir—was being tested for the treatment of the Ebola virus, researchers had not settled upon a purpose for the drug before SARS-CoV-2 arrived on the scene. Early studies of molnupiravir showed that its recipients cleared the coronavirus more rapidly than recipients of a placebo did. The drug did not help patients who were already hospitalized, but in outpatients with mild to moderate disease who had a high vulnerability to severe disease, it reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 30 percent if given within five days of developing symptoms. 

The drug proved so beneficial that the clinical study was called off early. Merck applied for emergency-use authorization, and the FDA is expected to review the drug this week. Merck has promised to share its technology with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which will allow for more affordable global access to molnupiravir.

Paxlovid, a formula developed largely from scratch for the current pandemic, is actually an RNA-virus protease inhibitor called PF-07321332 “boosted” with another drug called ritonavir. It too was the subject of a clinical trial that was stopped early because the treatment looked so effective. Outpatients who had both COVID-19 and medical conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness were 89 percent less likely to be hospitalized if they received Paxlovid twice daily for five days than if they got a placebo. 

The FDA will likely review this important therapeutic before the end of the year. The U.S. government has bought millions of courses of molnupiravir and Paxlovid for Americans in anticipation of the authorization of both. Moreover, Pfizer has promised to accelerate worldwide access to Paxlovid through an agreement with MPP.

The importance of these two highly anticipated outpatient antivirals for COVID-19 cannot be overstated. Both medications were studied in unvaccinated individuals, of which the U.S. and other countries around the world have many. For the vaccinated, “breakthrough” infections are generally mild, but they can lead to time out of work and require cutting back contact with others. Not only should rapid treatment with one of these two antivirals shorten symptoms in breakthrough infections (as is the case with influenza), but bringing down the viral load quickly by inhibiting viral replication should limit transmission.

Further study of the new COVID-19 drugs is under way for potential use in lower-risk individuals and as preventive medications. The development of HIV antivirals also led to the development of “post-exposure prophylaxis,” a strategy in which people who have come in contact with that virus take antivirals to avoid becoming HIV-positive. The new COVID drugs have at least the potential to provide a similar benefit. 

Moreover, the development of these two antivirals is spurring research on other COVID-19-specific antivirals. So despite the arrival of Omicron, we still have grounds for optimism.




For the notes appearing at the side of the original blog see HERE

Pictures put up on a blog sometimes do not last long. They stay up only as long as the original host keeps them up. I therefore keep archives of all the pictures that I use. The recent archives are online and are in two parts:

Archive of side pictures HERE

Most pictures that I use in the body of the blog should stay up throughout the year. But how long they stay up after that is uncertain. At the end of every year therefore I intend to put up a collection of all pictures used on the blog in that year. That should enable missing pictures to be replaced. The archive of last year's pictures on this blog is therefore now up. Note that the filename of the picture is clickable and reflects the date on which the picture was posted. See here

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