Later today, the world Covid case count will break through 100 million – a milestone of sorts, and not of a good kind.
Sometimes I get notes from readers with questions I’m sure many others are wondering, too. I got such a note yesterday which seems all the more on-topic as we break through the 100 million case count.
I think you’ve thought about what I’m going to ask quite a bit.
It’s not just the US. No country appears to be doing a very good job of coping with COVID, excepting China, with everyone capable of being tracked and traced by his/her phone. So what’s the answer to COVID?
Here’s the key part of my reply.
There are a few more countries doing well with the virus, although whether it is due to public health measures in response to the virus or a mysterious “X Factor” that keeps the virus out of those countries remains an open question. Have a look at this page of virus stats and click the “Total Cases/1M pop” column to sort by total cases. While you’ll see many countries with “high” rates of virus infection (whatever one chooses to define as “high”), the world average is 12,715 cases per million, ie 1.27%. This is six times lower than the US (77,000 per million). Not only is the average six times lower than our rate, over 100 countries have rates less than half the world average, and 62 countries have rates ten times or more below than the world average (60 times lower than us).
As I’ve often lamented, why are we not fixated on understanding how countries as unlikely as Guinea-Bissau, or as normal as Australia, have rates ten times less than the world average and 60 times less than the US? Maybe we have little in common with countries such as Guinea-Bissau (1259 cases/million), Burkina Faso (465 cases per million) and Vietnam (16 cases per million), but can we learn something from Australia (1121/million) or Thailand (190/million) or Taiwan (37/million)?
For that matter, are there clues to be gleaned from the difference between ND, SD, UT, RI and TN (all with case rates above 100,000 per million) and VT, HI, ME, OR and WA (cases rates below 40,000 per million)? After almost a year of reacting and responding to the virus, both in the US and in other countries, why are we still arguing about issues such as how much social distancing is necessary, the circumstances in which restaurants can or can not be open, and mask wearing policies? The correct answers to these questions (and implementing them) could have saved many of the 430,000 lives we’ve lost (so far).
Our single-minded focus on developing expensive new treatment drugs, while ignoring cheap existing treatment drugs, and on developing new vaccine processes while ignoring public-health preventative measures, is impossible to understand, and based on the numbers, even more impossible to justify and claim as a success.
As you know, part of the “rigorous” (or so it is claimed) testing, trialing, and approval process for new vaccines involves the drug company determining the optimum dose, and, in the case of two-dose treatments, the time between the doses. The recommendations are, of course, those which the drug company believes will create the best effectiveness for the vaccine. Higher doses start to see no more vaccine effectiveness, while increasing the risk of harmful side-effects and negative reactions. Lower doses see reductions in vaccine effectiveness. There is invariably a “sweet-spot” where the two opposing issues are most in balance. The FDA then reviews the drug companies’ recommendations and checks the data validity supporting the recommendations, before approving the vaccine.
Those approved recommendations are then normally slavishly and exactly followed, and – of course – only varied after a new set of test/trial protocols to validate a different set of recommendations. A rejig of dosages would probably skip the first stage of trialing, and the second stage is usually fairly short and limited in scope. But any third stage trial typically requires 50,000 or more people participating, and somewhere between some months and some years to run.
So it is with a feeling of unreality and disbelief I read about the continued actions by bureaucrats in public health organizations to unilaterally vary these dosing protocols, without any science or studies at all. The same people who refuse to allow us to take hydroxychloroquine after 232 studies, 167 of them peer reviewed, due to “lack of persuasive data” feel able to unilaterally make huge changes to vaccine dosing without any studies or data at all. This is all the more alarming because these are “frontiers of science” new types of vaccines about which we have no existing body of knowledge or general/broad experience to build upon.
The latest two outrages are in France and the US. In France, the national health advisory body now recommends doubling the time between the first and second vaccine dose from three to six weeks. How did it come up with this number? We don’t know, I doubt if they know either.
In the US, the fools at the CDC have come back to the “it is okay to mix water based and oil based paint” concept they’d tentatively espoused a couple of weeks ago, saying that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which shouldn’t normally be mixed, can be mixed in “exceptional situations”.
What does that mean? What is an exceptional situation, and why does something that there’s no science to support, and plenty of reason to be concerned about, suddenly switch from being unapproved and not recommended, and become okay in an exceptional situation? So, if a person has a dose of Vaccine A, then follows with a dose of Vaccine B, should they still subsequently get a “make-up” dose of Vaccine A? If so, how many days later? Or a second dose of Vaccine B (and, if so, how many days later)?
How can the CDC simultaneously say the two vaccines are not interchangeable (correct) but also say they can be mixed and matched in exceptional situations? Details here.
I have to make a further observation on this. A month ago, CDC-apologists would be saying “Don’t blame the CDC, President Trump and his political appointments forced them to do this”. What is the excuse now?
One more delicate point that fairly needs to be expressed. Prior to ascending to the Presidency, Mr Biden was full of criticism for Mr Trump’s handling of the virus outbreak. Much of his criticism was richly deserved. On a positive note, My Biden promised to do very much better. Now, not yet a week into his presidency, he is walking that back, and claiming that nothing can change the course of the pandemic over the next few months.
That is a nonsense statement. Of course there are very many things that can change the course of the pandemic, and to do so in much less time than a few months. As has been shown repeatedly, when countries increase their degree of lockdown, the virus growth rate drops. This is a tremendously simple and obvious cause and effect that has been demonstrated over two or three virus “cycles” in over 100 countries (and even more regions within countries). We’ve had a year of real-world experimenting to see what works, how well it works, and what does not work. Why can’t President Biden order an immediate lockdown for a month or so and drop our virus numbers way down low to a more acceptable “maintenance level” of infection, the same way Belgium just did? If he doesn’t want to go harder on lockdowns, he has other options, too. Why can’t he acknowledge the 76% reduction in deaths from patients treated with HCQ and make it widely available? Or, if that is too “tainted” by the previous Presidency, how about the 78% reduction in mortality from ivermectin, and the 90% reduction in infections among people given ivermectin as a prophylactic? How about making Covid tests more readily available and tracking/tracing of contacts a universally implemented concept?
Most of all, I come back to my opening comments. Why can’t we learn from and adopt what succeeds in countries with virus rates 100 times lower than ours? Other countries have clearly shown us the virus can be effectively combatted. We have even seen that ourselves as we’ve varied our controls up and down in the past, too.
Whether social or medical, Mr Biden has all the tools at his command to massively impact on the virus rate. Why is he now saying “nothing can be done”?
More “words of wisdom” from Saint Tony Fauci. He gently hints the current vaccines might be becoming less effective against new strains of the virus. I guess this would be his technique, that he’s boasted about before, of letting bad news slowly evolve through a series of iterations rather than telling us the entire truth up front. But after having made that cautious statement, he then says that “a less effective vaccine is all the more reason to be vaccinated”.
How does that make sense? Perhaps, if he could reassure us that there will be no problem with repeated mRNA type vaccines being administered to us, it would make sense. But if there might be some issues from multiple mRNA (or any of the other futuristic type vaccines that we know so little about) vaccines, it would surely behoove us to get the best possible vaccine and if the present vaccines are already dropping in effectiveness, to tough it out and wait for new better vaccines to come along. Details here.
There is a growing concern about the rate at which this virus is mutating. We could probably manage ongoing annual vaccines, assuming they are of a type that we can keep taking in slightly changed form. But what if there are significant changes every six months, and what if it takes three months from discovering a new strain to having a vaccine to counter it, and another three months to vaccinate everyone – which brings us to the start of the next six month cycle with another new virus strain, and so on.
Are our lives now to be in a continual cycle of just when we think we’re starting to beat the virus, a new strain comes along and we have to start all over again? Sort of like the common cold – the common cold being a coronavirus with thousands of mutations and which medical researchers have essentially given up on trying to come up with a vaccine for?
One thing is clear. There’s going to be a continuing need for preventative medicines and cures for some considerable time to come. But where is the research in that area, other than for extremely expensive new drugs that are hard to produce and harder to administer?
One other element of virus mutations. The “experts” reassure us that when viruses mutate, they do so to become less deadly rather than more deadly – an explanation that does nothing to explain the origins of the Covid virus, of course. But what if, as impossible as it may seem, the experts are as wrong about this as they have been about almost everything else to do with the virus so far?
While there is still not strong evidence, the UK is starting to fear that their new virus strain may not only be more infectious but also more deadly.
No changes in the US case rankings, although there’s the potential for changes by Thursday’s new report. MS displaced SD on the death rankings.
Some new names in the minor country list. No new entrants in the major country list.
The UK dropped one position on the case rate list, but rose two on the death rate list.
US Best and Worst States
|A week ago||Now||A week ago||Now|
|1 Best||VT (16,117)||VT (17,681)||HI (227)||HI (242)|
|2||HI (17,200)||HI (17,766)||VT (261)||VT (272)|
|3||ME (24,966)||ME (27,226)||AK||AK|
|4||OR (31,582)||OR (32,759)||ME||ME|
|5||WA (38,366)||WA (39,855)||OR (427)||OR (446)|
|47||RI (98,591)||RI (103,586)||SD (1,872)||MS (1,939)|
|48||TN (100,352)||TN (103,778)||RI (1,893)||RI (1,966)|
|49||UT (101,011)||UT (104,931)||MA||MA (2,050)|
|50||SD||SD||NY (2,108)||NY (2,179)|
|51 Worst||ND (125,796)||ND (127,046)||NJ (2,305)||NJ (2,359)|
Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Andorra (117,453)||Andorra (123,476)|
|2||Gibraltar (108,951)||Gibraltar (117,738)|
|4||San Marino||San Marino|
|10||Georgia (62,185)||Liechtenstein (63,917)|
Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (82,945)||Czech Republic (87,462)|
|2||USA (73,709)||USA (77,392)|
|3||Belgium (58,293)||Portugal (62,496)|
|4||Portugal (54,006)||Belgium (59,549)|
|7||UK (49,881)||Sweden (53,988)|
|8||Spain (48,159)||UK (53,570)|
|11||Argentina (39,611)||Argentina (41,101)|
|12||Italy (39,417)||Italy (40,834)|
Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Belgium (1,756)||Belgium (1,784)|
|2||Italy (1,360)||UK (1,438)|
|3||Czech Republic (1,338)||Czech Republic (1,338)|
|4||UK (1,311)||Italy (1,415)|
|5||USA (1,226)||USA (1,293)|
|6||Peru (1,170)||Peru (1,197)|
|7||Spain (1,140)||Spain (1,186)|
|8||Mexico (1,081)||Mexico (1,149)|
|9||France (1,075)||France (1,118)|
|10||Sweden (1,019)||Sweden (1,086)|
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Items below include another possible way of becoming infected, should everyone whisper in public or not talk at all, the problem of faked tests, how it is that people who said we’d not have any vaccine at all for some more months are now complaining we don’t have enough, the mystery of now secret virus data in California that is too complicated for normal people to understand, and United Airlines’ bold display of industry leadership <not!>.
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Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.