Nothing too exciting to report in the U.S. today – well, other than the revelation that the insurrectionists did indeed intend to take hostages and assassinate government officials. But other than that.
So… let’s get back to vaccines…
As promised, some Canadian jurisdictions have blown through their supplies, jabbing as many arms as they can, with the vast majority of those being first doses… many people having now decided that that’s the way to go – get it into as many people as possible, stretch the time frame a bit, and catch up in due course.
The advantage of that is that it maximises the number of people who are at least a bit immune, which is obviously better than nothing at all. If not being vaccinated is a 0 and being fully vaccinated and immunized is a 9.5 (there is no 10; there are no guarantees), it’s not like the first dose gets you to 2 or 3. Depends who you ask, it’s anywhere from a 5.2 to a 9.0… and then the second dose gets you up to 9.5.
That being the case, the right strategy for the big picture is to give everyone a first dose… and counting on getting the second dose in time. But don’t pick 50 people and give them both. Or don’t do it where 33 people get two, 33 people get one, and 33 get zero.
Here in B.C., we’ve administered 98% of the vaccine we’ve received, and the plan is in place to keep doing that; that we have the infrastructure to dish it out as fast as they can serve it to us, and that the limiting factor is supply. It should be noted that 100% of that 98% are first doses.
Interestingly, Alberta has administered 112% of their vaccine. They’ve received 74,000 doses from Pfizer and have injected 84,000 arms… also all first doses. How is that possible? Notwithstanding the fact that every vial of vaccine ostensibly ships with enough for 5 doses when thawed and diluted, doctors have found you can squeeze out perhaps 5.2 or 5.3… so 5 doses per vial might turn into 6 or even 7 after a while of collecting scraps. Pfizer has not said that’s ok, but they haven’t said it’s not. We’ve all scraped the bottom of the peanut-butter jar… with a spoon, with a finger, with whatever… because we all know there’s no difference in yumminess. Hopefully the vaccine is the same.
In Quebec, though… they may be stretching things a bit far. They’ve similarly administered 110% of their vaccine… but that’s not the issue; it’s not the extra doses they’re squeezing out… it’s that they’re aiming to measure those second-dose timings in months, not weeks… and the risk is that Pfizer pulls the plug on that. The province has said that of course they’ll follow those guidelines if it comes down to not getting the vaccine at all, but for now… they will pedal-to-the-metal red-line it while they can. And for the moment, 100% of that 110% has been first doses… over 127,000 of them. Why does this sound like it might be even remotely ok? Because there’s some British science to back it.
According to Pfizer, the vaccine is only 52% effective after the first dose. But according to British scientists, who are measuring the results differently, that number is 89%.
For comparison, according to Moderna, their vaccine is 80% effective after one dose, 96% after two…. and with respect to the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac in China… none of these results have been peer-reviewed and they’re all over the place, so hardly worth comparing… but here they are. The press releases from countries using it vary widely: Turkey says 91% effective… Indonesia 66%, Brazil 50%… and all of those results are based on the full two doses.
A few days ago, I wrote about this aspect of it, and was corrected by a few people… in my case, I was uneasy about B.C. stretching the dose-gap to 35 days. As I’ve learned, that’s no big deal. In fact, even though Pfizer has recommended 21 days for their vaccine, and Moderna 28 days for theirs… Canadian guidelines, ie the Federal Public Health Advisors have OK’d up to 42 days for both.
But, Quebec… 90 days. Three months instead of three weeks. Their argument for doing that? Well, see above. Good idea? Again, as per above… it’s a definite maybe.
Meanwhile, New Brunswick has administered around 8,000 doses, but 2,000 have been second doses. That being said, New Brunswick today had 25 new cases and zero deaths. Quebec had 1,918 new cases and 60 deaths. A very different sense of urgency.
Today we hear the dire projections from models that imply things could get a lot worse if we don’t clamp down… and immunizing as many people as possible in that scenario is the right call. About the only thing that could mess this up is if not enough vaccine shows up for those first doses (let alone the second).
Since early 2021 hasn’t completely let go of the 2020 shitshow quite yet, today we hear that there will be vaccine delays. To be sure, don’t worry, we’ll be able to catch up in due course, a minor hiccup, etc… but of course, the issue is that we need them now. We’ve been assured that the timeline to get everyone vaccinated by the end of the year is not in jeopardy… and I believe it, especially given the quantity of vaccine Canada has procured… 10 doses for every person, specifically to mitigate this sort of situation. But it’s the bird-in-hand vs. birds-in-the-bush situation… I’d rather have one rickety old fire engine show up quickly… than five glistening bright-red new ones after everything has already burned down.
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