Welcome to 2021. For us all, I am certain it is a year of hope, a year in which we desperately want to be free of the virus and to have life return back to normal. The promise of vaccines seems to all but guarantee us that outcome. I dare to be hopeful, too, but I don’t find myself as certain as some people about what 2021 holds, or on what schedule our return to normalcy will proceed.
The vaccine situation is already turning out to be an unbelievable mess. Now, many of us over-use the word “unbelievable”, just like we do “unique”. We use “unique” to mean “rare or unusual or distinctive” rather than to literally mean “the only one of its kind”. And we use the word “unbelievable” to mean “surprising or unlikely or implausible” rather than “impossible to accept”.
But I feel the way we’re mismanaging the vaccines is about as close to unbelievable as anything that is really truly happening, in front of our very eyes, ever can be.
As I described in last Thursday’s diary entry, we are astonishingly slow to distribute the vaccines and to actually get them where they are needed – into the arms of at-risk people. We have also experienced appalling incompetence, injecting people with the wrong thing, and even deliberate sabotage of vaccine doses.
But Thursday was a year ago, wasn’t it. 31 December 2020. A lot has happened already, now that we’re in 2021, but none of it very good. In Britain, two things in particular were unbelievable.
First was an announcement that the country had decided, based on almost no medical grounds whatsoever (other than – and you can’t make this up – some thin results as a result of errors and mistakes in their AstraZeneca vaccine trials), to change how it administered the vaccine. Instead of a pair of doses either three or four weeks apart (depending on which vaccine was being used), Britain said it would use up all its vaccine doses now, to give twice as many people the first dose, and then wait 12 weeks or so and hopefully by then there would be enough additional supply of vaccine to give a second dose to everyone who had been dosed once.
But there has been no testing of the main Pfizer vaccine Britain is deploying for a delayed second dose. Pfizer says the second dose must be 21 days after the first dose, with a maximum variation of plus or minus four days, but ideally, as close to 21 days as possible. Our oracle, Dr Fauci, confirmed there was no basis in fact for being able to delay the second dose.
Then, the next day, Britain may or may not have gone even crazier, by saying it doesn’t really matter which vaccine be used for the second dose. At present Britain has two vaccines approved for use, one by Pfizer, and the other by AstraZeneca. But – and this is the crucial thing – they are not merely different brands of the same vaccine formula. They represent totally different methods of creating immunity in our body. There is no evidence at all that mixing together a dose of one type of vaccine with a second dose of a totally different type of vaccine would work. Britain is hoping – with, again, no medical evidence at all to support this hope – that by mixing half and half, you end up with something that works two ways. The danger of course is that you end up with something that doesn’t work well in either way, because you’ve only had half the necessary dosage of each vaccine.
The howls of outrage reached new levels after than nonsensical statement, so Britain tried to walk it back, by saying it never recommended such a strategy, but indicated that, in an emergency, it would be better than nothing (which is essentially how it had been originally and accurately reported). We don’t even know if that is a true statement – would it be better than nothing? Might the immunity from the first half of the first vaccine then fight the new vaccine, rather than coexist with it? There’s an abundance of imponderables and unknowns. And we also know that in the real world, as soon as you allow something to be used as a fall-back scenario, people start to rely on that and make less effort to ensure the preferred outcome occurs.
The biggest imponderable and unknown is : What happened to the earlier concept of requiring a formal testing and approval process before vaccines are allowed to be used? Where are the Phase 1/2/3 trials, the research, results, and analysis, to support these two massive shifts in vaccine dosing regimens? Has the public health leadership in Britain collectively lost their minds?
There is also now a slightly disquieting fear for all of us, whether we’re living in the crazy UK or elsewhere. Can we be certain, when we have the first dose of a vaccine, that there’ll be a matching second dose of the vaccine waiting for us three (Pfizer) or four (Moderna) weeks later? Seriously, that’s a question we have a right to insist on being answered, positively, before we bare our arm for the needle the first time. (And, just for the record, in case anyone tells you otherwise, both vaccines can be stored for more than three or four weeks in their frozen state.)
In the US CT has reclaimed its 47th position from SD on the death list (ie got worse), and NE has moved up (improved) two spots on the case list, no longer appearing.
In the minor country list, Bahrain, which had dropped three places in the previous week, has now dropped two more and no longer appears, while Gibraltar has soared to fifth place.
In the major country list, the Czech Republic opened still further its lead on the US, while Belgium moved further behind. The UK has moved up three places. Of course, usual disclaimer, these results over the Christmas period have to be considered unreliable, normal reliable reporting will only recommence in this coming week.
There were some shifts of position on the death list, but the US is staying at seventh, and getting extremely close to overtaking Spain and going up to sixth place.
US Best and Worst States
|A week ago||Now||A week ago||Now|
|1 Best||VT (11,265)||VT (12,489)||HI (201)||HI (204)|
|2||HI||HI||VT (204)||VT (224)|
|5||NH (30,013)||WA (33,387)||OR (338)||OR (356)|
|47||UT (82,619)||UT (88,421)||SD (1,635)||CT (1,711)|
|51 Worst||ND (120,024)||ND (122,091)||NJ (2,113)||NJ (2,180)|
Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Andorra (101,143)||Andorra (105,938)|
|4||San Marino||San Marino|
|10||Bahrain (53,028)||Georgia (57,504)|
Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (62,563)||Czech Republic (69,080)|
|2||USA (58,965)||USA (63,596)|
|3||Belgium (55,007)||Belgium (55,889)|
|12||UK (33,622)||Italy (35,677)|
Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Belgium (1,653)||Belgium (1,691)|
|4||Spain||Czech Republic (1,116)|
|5||UK (1,040)||UK (1,102)|
|6||Czech Republic (1,030)||Spain (1,087)|
|7||USA (1,028)||USA (1,085)|
|8||France (960)||France (995)|
|9||Mexico (945)||Mexico (979)|
|10||Argentina (935)||Argentina (958)|
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Items below include details on instant Covid testing at LAX and the weaknesses of such things, concern about other illnesses on planes, the true story of the more infectious strain of the virus, healthcare leaders do one thing while frontline workers do the opposite, when should you take the virus, and is the CDC undercounting deaths by as much as 50%.
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Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.