Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 12 December, 2021

 

The spread of the Omicron variant continues apparently unabated – as of Saturday, cases have been detected in 29 US states.  If cases were reported in 29, it is a fair bet that unreported cases are almost certainly “in the wild” in most of the other 21 states.

Our estimates of when Omicron first appeared in the US continue to be back-dated.  An interesting source of data uncovered this week was in the form of sewage sample testing in California which shows the new variant was present in sewage effluent some weeks earlier.  It just wasn’t acted upon.

One might wonder what is the point of testing sewage – surely not the nicest of tasks – if, when a new variant is uncovered, no timely response follows to its detection.  To be fair, that begs the question as to exactly what we’d do in response, and, as has been shown subsequently, our response to the Omicron variant has been little more than some public braying about the new variant and, predictably, a call for more vaccinating.

As an interesting contrast to the call for more vaccinating, this article reports that the majority of Omicron cases are happening in people who have been vaccinated, rather than in unvaccinated people.  The CDC is aware of 43 Omicron variant cases in the US.  20 of the cases were among “fully double vaccinated” people, and another 14 cases were among “triply vaccinated” people.  So, nine cases among unvaccinated people and 34 among vaccinated people.  That is 79% of the cases occurring in vaccinated people – compare that to 60% of the population being fully vaccinated (including 16% who have had a booster dose).

While the numbers are still very small, the initial conclusion is that your chance of catching the Omicron variant increases if you have been vaccinated.  But you’ll not see that mentioned in the main stream media, not even in the context of explaining why that conclusion might be wrong.

The logic of combining these two statements escapes me :

(a)  The Omicron variant is significantly resistant to our present vaccines

(b)  Therefore, everyone should get more shots of the vaccines that the virus is now significantly resistant to

As we all know, the justification is that “some resistance is better than none” – oh yes, and “the vaccine won’t stop you getting ill, but it will greatly reduce your chances of dying” – and for sure, the second of those two statements seems correct, notwithstanding some conflicting data coming out of the UK.

But has anyone determined what the chances of dying from Covid are for people who have been triply vaccinated compared to people who have been doubly (or quadruply) vaccinated?  There’s a huge assumption that higher levels of antibodies equate to lower risk of death, but is that indeed the case?  We also need to adjust that improvement (assuming there is one – I really don’t think we have any data on that at all, currently) to allow for the increases of risk of other possibly deadly vaccine side effects – what is the net benefit, if any, after that necessary adjustment?

I need to close this analysis with a restatement – I am not anti-vax per se.  I am anti-bad-vax, while also being very strongly pro-good-vax.  The problem is I don’t see any good vaccines currently on offer, just bad ones to a greater or lesser extent.  I am not arguing against vaccination, I am arguing in favor of urgently developing vaccines that actually work.

As was first joked about, the reality these days is we are being told everyone should (and soon it will become “must” rather than “should”) be triply vaccinated, and we are already being prepared for the need of a fourth shot perhaps as soon as three months after our third shot, with the probability of ongoing vaccination every quarter stretching indefinitely into the future.  Why are so few people describing this as a colossal failure, compared to the majority who views it as a wonderful success?  Why are promising new and perhaps truly effective vaccines now on the slow track and being starved of funding and resources to progress their trials?

You might wonder is there a limit to the concept of “if two are good, three are better, and four better still”.  One man in New Zealand took this to its logical (or should that be illogical) extreme – and managed to get vaccinated ten times, all on the one day.

The article hints at two things that aren’t fully detailed.  The first is it seems there might have been some sort of financial incentive being offered, so he got vaccinated ten times to get ten of the incentives.  The second is that possibly he was being paid to get vaccinated on behalf of other people, who would then receive a certificate of vaccination in their name, but without having actually been the person vaccinated.  Those naughty New Zealanders…..

Current Numbers

A stunning rise in new cases in Andorra pushed it up to second place in the minor country list, and the world’s most heavily vaccinated country (Gibraltar) has now dropped one place to fifth.

Big rises in the top three major countries, too, although without any changes in ranking.  Further down the list, Portugal and Argentina swapped places.

There were no changes in the death list.  But, of course, lots of changes in the countries with greatest rates of new cases last week, although numbers seemed to be generally lower across the board.  The UK reappeared on the list, which was again entirely of European countries.

In Europe, Denmark reported a 50% rise, with Norway at 32%.  Then, France and Italy shared a 15% rise, with the UK at 12%.  Germany enjoyed a 12% drop, with the largest drops being in Austria (46%) and Switzerland (32%), while Iceland and Belgium shared a 30% drop.  Overall, Europe recorded a 6% drop in new cases.

Closer to home (for many of us), Canada had a 20% rise and Mexico a 2% fall.  Canada is now reporting new cases at five times the rate of Mexico (677/million compared to 130/million).  As for the US, that’s anyone’s guess.  The last time the US provided a reasonably reliable number was Thursday.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday are all laughably under-counted, so far.

South Africa had another strong increase (discussed in the extra content below) as did also Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia.  The African continent as a whole reported a doubling in cases compared to the previous week.

The world claimed a 5% drop in new cases, although much of that is probably due to the inability of the US to count its cases in a timely manner.

Top Case Rates Minor (population under 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

RankOne Week AgoToday
1Montenegro (252,262)Montenegro (254,366)
2SeychellesAndorra (251,020)
3Andorra (232,564)Seychelles
4Gibraltar (218,873)Georgia (223,546)
5Georgia (217,506)Gibraltar (223,453)
6SloveniaSlovenia
7LithuaniaLithuania
8San MarinoSan Marino
9EstoniaEstonia
10Maldives (166,414)Maldives (167,998)

 

Top Case Rates Major (population over 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

RankOne Week AgoToday
1Czech Republic (208,685)Czech Republic (217,392)
2Netherlands (160,100)Netherlands (167,567)
3Belgium (156,709)Belgium (165,468)
4UK (153,000)UK (158,177)
5USA (149,713)USA (152,188)
6FranceFrance
7SwedenSweden
8ArgentinaPortugal
9PortugalArgentina
10SpainSpain
11TurkeyTurkey
12Brazil (103,128)Brazil (103,332)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

RankOne Week AgoToday
1Peru  (5,988)Peru  (5,995)
2Czech Republic (3,135)Czech Republic (3,208)
3Romania (2,997)Romania (3,028)
4Brazil (2,867)Brazil (2,873)
5Argentina (2,548)Argentina
6ColombiaColombia (2,499)
7USA (2,423)USA (2,450)
8Belgium (2,330)Belgium (2,358)
9Poland (2,267)Poland (2,342)
10Mexico (2,256)Mexico (2,266)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million) for Countries over one million population

RankOne Week AgoToday
1Slovakia  11,259Czech Rep  8,685
2Czech Rep  10,922Slovakia  8,306
3Belgium  9,302Denmark
4NetherlandsNetherlands
5HungaryBelgium
6IrelandNorway
7CroatiaIreland
8GeorgiaCroatia
9SloveniaFrance
10AustriaUK  5,210
11DenmarkHungary
12Germany  4,715Switzerland  4,921

 

The rest of this newsletter is for the very kind Travel Insider Supporters – it is their support that makes all of this possible, and it seems fair they get additional material in return.  If you’re not yet a Supporter, please consider becoming one, and get instant access to the rest of the Diary Entry, all the additional material on previous diary entries, and much extra content on other parts of the website too.

If you’re a contributor, you should make sure you’re logged in to the website, and when you are, you’ll see the purple text and balance of the newsletter below on the website.  If you’re not logged in, or reading this via email, you need to log in on the website first.

Items below include some guesses about Omicron and a look at the current numbers of cases and vaccination rates.

SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT

……….

END OF SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.

Please click here for a listing of all our Covid-19 articles.

3 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 12 December, 2021”

  1. I agree 100% that there needs to be far more urgent work on more effective vaccines to target the new variant. But until more facts are in I don’t think we should be discouraging boosters with existing vaccines. The current data showing more vaxed than unvaxed people getting infected by Omicron is of course unsurprising, as more people are vaxed than unvaxed, and the S. Africa experience has already demonstrated that this variant will break through. We need to wait for more stats on hospitalization, but there is anecdotal evidence that when it does break through the most common results are cold-like symptoms for a few days. I agree that that is insufficient grounds for mandatory boosters, but if I had to choose — I don’t as I’ve already had a booster — I would choose a third shot.

  2. You do report this, but it’s based on extremely limited data, certainly not enough to draw any inference that vaccination makes one more vulnerable, if that is what you are suggesting. It does seem likely that everyone — vaxed and unvaxed — is vulnerable. That’s true of flu shots too. The key issue is how sick we get. And now that, most unfortunately, it appears that Covid has become endemic, our attention needs to turn to mitigation instead of immunization. So we desperately need good data on infection outcomes in South Africa and elsewhere. My guess/hope would be that vaxed victims get off rather more lightly than unvaxed victims.

    I’ve had three shots AND had a (mild) case of C-19. I fully anticipate I’ll be infected once more as, where I am in England, Omicron cases appear to be spiking dramatically and should become the dominant strain within days. I hope the worst of it would be sniffles and maybe a sore throat, but who knows?

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