Vaccines – a perspective

This section is from BB, a healthcare consultant who’s been working with me for several months. He graciously provided the text for the following section, summarizing what’s happened up to now and what we might look forward to regarding vaccines.


What else could possibly go wrong?

The Trump Administration’s response to the covid-19 pandemic has been a series of calamities proving Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong will. This started with the dismissal of the seriousness of the pandemic from January 2020 through March 2020. The White House dismissed the need for a national plan, leaving the states to fend for themselves. This led to an explosion of cases, severe shortages of PPE, and hundreds of thousands of deaths. By April, the economy was shut down. Meanwhile, Trump was criticizing public health officials, both nationally and in the states.

By June, the virus was exploding in the Southeast and Midwest, just weeks after the economy started reopening. More than ten Midwestern states did not issue stay at home orders. Saving the economy outweighed public health concerns. When to reopen the schools became the next issue to divide the country.

By July, the USA led the world in infections and deaths. Once again herd immunity was considered as a policy, protecting the vulnerable and allowing the virus to spread uncontrolled. Trump and other administrative officials continued to downplay the utility of facial masks and social distancing despite the objections of public health officials and the clear science regarding the use of masks.

In September, the FDA announced it would consider emergency approval of an experimental vaccine by November 1. Drug companies start phase 3 trials involving up to 30,00 volunteers. But only half are enrolled by September 1.

It usually takes 3 months to start up phase 3 trials and at least 6 – 9 months to collect and analyze data. Data on phase 1 and phase 2 trials have not been published and peer reviewed. Initial reports of the experimental vaccines includes side affects such as fever, muscle pain and headaches.

Unsurprisingly, Trump has promoted the approval of a vaccine by Election Day.

There are two basic methods for developing vaccines. The traditional method involves growing large amounts, disabling the virus and using it to warn the immune system. But this process can take years. The second method, using mRNA, is new and experimental.

The experimental vaccines are based on gene editing techniques that are unstable. mRNA stands for Messenger Ribonucleic Acid. RNA regulates cellular processes related to DNA, Deoxyribonucleic Acid.

The process takes a snip of the Covid RNA and embeds it in a coronavirus that is both rare and has minimal infection impact. Being unstable, it must be kept at -100 degrees F, too high for liquid nitrogen and too low for conventional refrigerators. That means expensive refrigeration must be developed to transport and distribute the vaccine.

THE QUESTION IS: Will the vaccine be effective and for how long?

The plan is to make the vaccine available to the vulnerable and front line providers, such as hospital workers, police, firemen, EMTs, etc.

But he vulnerable — aged, people of color and those with underlying conditions — are not well represented in the trial population and the impact of the vaccine may not be as planned. What if the front line providers have reactions to the vaccine and are unable to work, or if the effect of the vaccine is limited and they believe they are protected but they are not?

Also, given the administration’s record of denial and disinformation, what segment of the public will trust that the vaccine is safe and effective?

Nine drug companies competing to be the first to develop a coronavirus vaccine have issued a pledge that they would “stand with science” and not release a vaccine until it was proven to be safe and effective.

This is especially important in light of the halt of the Phase 3 trial by AstraZeneca because of adverse reactions in one patient. AstraZeneca is working on what is reported to be the most promising of the vaccine candidates. This is standard procedure for an event like this, allowing an investigation into the event.

The big question for the future is this: What if Trump uses the Defense Production Act to overrule the drug companies and release a vaccine that has not been proven safe or effective?

By BB, healthcare consultant


Sturgis Rally – a superspreader event?

You may have heard about the new study out that claims that the Sturgis rally is linked to 250,000 covid-19 cases around the country, with an estimated cost of around $12 billion. As tempting as it is, I’m not going to comment on this, because it has not been peer reviewed and I’m not an epidemiologist. It’s something worth watching, though, especially since there are a few religious “leaders” in SoCal who seem intent on holding superspreader events of their own.

Election Day is in 55 Days

Tired of this trumpian dystopia? Your vote counts, no matter where you live. So plan now: check your registration, make sure your family and friends do that, and motivate others to save our democracy. And don’t wait until the last minute to drop your ballot in the mail!

Have you completed your census form? If not, please DO IT!

Updated numbers available, even if not in this post

Interactive pages on zorgi.me:

Today’s charts

covidactnow.org
covidactnow.org
covidactnow.org

Rt – the effective rate of transmission

For an explanation of how covidactnow.org calculates Rt, please see their methodology. Rt is a valuable metric, since values above 1.0 indicate the virus is still spreading. An Rt between 1.0 and 1.4 indicates a slow but controllable spread rate. Rt’s above that are often indicative of exponential growth.

TOMORROW: County charts for fatalities and testing

Finally, I wanted to share this graphic from the site, informationisbeautiful. It’s a handy guide for assessing risk when you go out in public.

2 comments on “Vaccines – a perspective

  1. Hey Zorgi the Corgi! You are one smart dog. I am guilty of having gone into shelter in place mode for a while – both physically & mentally . However, just noted your blog and now eager to catch up on all the writings and viewpoints. The research you have done to bring explanations for our current state of affairs is much appreciated. As we head into the election showdown, I hope that voters will be influenced by science and what true experts & data are sharing.

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