By Horatio Kemeny|2021-09-10T20:00:35-07:00September 10th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Politics, Business & Economics, Science of COVID-19, History|Tags: Vaccine, Canada, Ontario, Science, Research, News, Pandemic, Vancouver, Masks, Trump, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Numbers, Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia|9 Comments
I’m overwhelmed by all of the messages I’ve received… thank you. I realize I said my last post is on Tuesday… and some took it to mean yesterday… but I meant next Tuesday – July 6th – the day the official State of Emergency is lifted. That being said, everyone in the news is saying the SoE ends tonight. What’s certainly true is that Phase 3 starts tomorrow… but that’s not necessarily tied to the SoE, which, according to the official government EmergencyInfoBC site… still says July 6th.
… so, guess what… one more week of my ramblings, because I think I have about another 6 days of “wrap-up” to provide… of the “broad brushstrokes” sort… and we can’t end all of this without one final “guess the numbers” contest over the weekend…
So, with that… a final word about vaccines and their effectiveness:
There’s an interesting sort of Darwinism that’s emerging from this pandemic… of the “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it” sort. To follow up on that well-known saying, I’ve added a corollary (n. a proposition that follows from (and is often appended to) one already proved) – which is, “you can take that horse’s head and jam it into the water and hold it there… but there are some stubborn old horses that’d rather drown than take a drink.”
I would hope nobody’s tried this experiment, and I should note… I’ve met a lot of horses in my time. Some are very smart. Some are as dumb as a mule… but, to be honest, perhaps all of them would be smart enough to take a drink if that’s what it’d take to not die. But humans, on the other hand… the sort that’d never admit they were wrong… that’s another story.
The data that has emerged is pretty straightforward.
In the U.S., there were 18,000 C19 deaths in May. Of those, around 150 (0.8%) were in fully vaccinated people. I don’t have the age or breakdown of those people, but I’m assuming age and compromised immune systems are part of it for some, if not most.
Also in May, in the U.S., there were 853,000 C19 hospitalizations. Of those, fewer than 1,200 (0.1%) were people who were fully vaccinated.
The U.S. is down to a few hundred deaths a day these days, and virtually all of them are people who are unvaccinated.
In English: Ninety-nine percent of people dying from Covid-19 are unvaccinated. Virtually all of those deaths are preventable.
In mid-January, 4,000 people a day were dying. The significant decrease began exactly at the time the vaccination campaigns began in earnest.
I’m really not entirely sure what more persuasive evidence someone would need. To me, and fortunately, many others… it’s all startlingly obvious.
What can you do…? You can lead a person to a vaccination clinic. But you can’t make them take it.
You know… it’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok to change your mind. As long as your fragile ego can take a hit, and as long as you have the capacity to do some critical thinking, if you haven’t gotten sick… it’s never too late. The overwhelming data coming from every trustable scientific source agrees. The guy in the basement with the red tinfoil hat disagrees.
Horses don’t always have choices, but humans do… and sometimes, they make the right choice. And sometimes, they let Darwin make it for them.
C’est la vie… or, in some unfortunate future cases… lack thereof.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that I like to play with numbers and present them in interesting ways, you’re right… because sometimes, a picture is worth not necessarily 1,000 words, but maybe 1,000x the understanding.
I wrote a while back what I would consider a logical strategy for gearing up second doses. At some point, for numerous reasons, after going nuts with first doses, we need to turn a corner and start giving out lots of seconds. When and how many? I provided my optimized formula that gets us hitting numerous finish lines on exactly July 1st… and, in my version, it meant really firing up the second doses starting last week… at the expense of first doses.
I’m not saying the province is listening to me, but it’s at least nice to feel a bit validated that whatever I came up with isn’t complete nonsense, and that someone in some provincial health office came up with something very similar.
Accordingly, check out the cool new graph on the bottom right; there’s a very visual breakdown of first/second doses… with firsts being the lighter colour and seconds being the darker colour… stacked up, on top of each other; the sum of the column is the total doses administered that day.
Even though vaccinations began trickling in back in December, this graph only goes back to March, up to which point is was all first doses, just in smaller numbers. In fact, it wasn’t till late April that we even began with anything more than a handful of second doses. You can see the dark spots barely a pixel big appearing on the top of those columns.
But… recently… a major shift. These days, the majority of jabs are second doses. The vast majority.
Notwithstanding the gaps of weekend data (which I’ve extrapolated to smooth out gaps), the B.C. trend is still upwards. The provincial government has stated the infrastructure is in place to deliver as many shots as we get, and for now, I’m not doubting it. Today saw 62,237 jabs… that’s 12 out of 100 British Columbians getting a dose, and 95.4% of available doses have been administered.
All of this bodes very well for the near future… the sum of even more vaccine shipments coupled with demand that is still going strong.
When you combine it all together, all things considered, it paints a very pretty picture indeed. Far more than a thousand words’ worth.
Happy rainy Sunday!
And you know what that means… it’s bragging-rights-and-$100-to-your-favourite-charity contest time!
Yes… whoever guesses closest to the total number of C19 new cases (Saturday, Sunday, & Monday) that’ll be revealed tomorrow wins! Just enter your best guess in the comments below.
To clarify the rules… there will be exactly one $100 prize awarded, and it will go to person who guesses the closest answer first. If there’s a tie (and there are many versions of ties), whoever was first will win. It might be worth it to scroll down the list of guesses before placing your “hopefully-not-a-duplicate” entry.
Here’s the recent data, leading up to today, to help you a bit…
Apr 24,25,26: 2,729
May 1,2,3: 2,174
May 8,9,10: 1,759
May 15,16,17: 1,360
May 22,23,24: 974
May 29,30,31: 708
June 5,6,7: 482
And just to confuse things… the last three days of numbers before the weekend — the appropriately-named collection of WTF: 481
Hmmm… basically a flat line all week, on average. Indeed, hello Delta variant… what do you have in stock for us?
Fortunately, probably not a notable increase in hospitalizations or death… but certainly in cases. Not ideal, but at least it makes for a more-interesting contest.
While the effects of the Delta variant remain to be seen, there’s reason to be quite optimistic around here.
The usual timeline sees infections on day 1, a spike in hospitalizations 10 to 14 days later, anddeaths a week after that. Those are rough numbers, but purely from a “leading indicator” point of view, they’ve been pretty consistent.
One thing that’s emerging is that the May long-weekend didn’t cause any big outbreaks. We’re not seeing growing hospitalization numbers; on the contrary.
There are, at present, 195 people in B.C. hospitalized with C19. That’s the lowest number since Nov. 16th. Of those, only 47 are in the ICU, also the lowest since mid-November. And for the first time… More
“What could possibly go wrong?” – famous quote, and not words that should be spoken out loud. It’s a rhetorical question, best left to your inner thoughts; when you speak it out loud, you’re daring the universe to answer: “Well… let me show you…”
In the midst of the optimism of re-opening and getting back to normal comes a curveball being thrown at the world… the Delta (formerly “Indian”) variant of C19.
To begin with, it’s undoubtedly more contagious than any predecessor. The original UK variant (now known as Alpha) is 50-100% more contagious than the original strain that dominated 2020. And Delta is 50% more contagious than Alpha. Let’s hope this frat-house-inspired naming convention never gets to Omega.
One positive is that, generally, the more contagious it is, the less harmful it is. That’s not for sure, yet… but quite likely, this strain isn’t going to cause disease any worse than the previous strains. It’s just that it’s much easier to catch. Indeed, all the little spikes we’re seeing in different places – little spikes for now, but we all know what that can grow into – are caused by upticks predominantly of the Delta variant.
So… vaccines… how much protection do they have against it?
To begin with… the vast majority of people who’ve become infected with Delta have had zero vaccinations.
With one dose – you’re not there yet; the one-shot effectiveness of Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneneca on Delta is only about 33%, compared to north of 60% for other variants. It’s the second dose that makes a huge difference in this case.
But, beyond that… in the U.K., only three people who’ve been fully vaccinated have been hospitalized as a result of Delta. Three people out of 40% fully-vaccinated people out of a population 66 million people equals one in 9 million.
So, there’s no guarantee you won’t catch it. You may well catch it and never know it. You may be exposed to it and never know it… or catch some mild symptoms. But the big takeaway: If you’re fully vaccinated, you have a one in 9 million chance of being hospitalized due to the Delta variant. Sure, those numbers will get worse… bit it’s a good starting point. The equivalent of throwing 9 dice onto the floor. As long as they don’t all land on the same number, you’re good.
While two doses of any vaccine will do the trick, we’re talking about the U.K. here… and when we talk about the U.K., we’re talking almost exclusively about AstraZeneca. Over there… whether it’s one or two doses, almost all are AZ.
Which leads me (and anyone who’s had the AstraZeneca vaccine) to one again ponder the dilemma of AZ or Pfizer for the second dose, especially factoring in timing. I had my AZ dose April 22nd. I think I’d be able to get AZ relatively soon; Pfizer, I’m not sure. And so… while I’ve been waiting patiently for Pfizer, now I’m wondering about the alternative. Maybe go right back to that little mom-and-pop pharmacy a few blocks away and get the AZ… and then, that’s it.
My decision will be based on what happens around here in the next week or two. I was always a proponent of “get whatever is offered to you”. I changed my mind, watching the data from the European studies (Spain/UK/Germany) implying mixing AZ with Pfizer yields better results. But I’m not against changing it back if the situation calls for it.
And that’s more than ok. There’s another famous quote… from the father of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono: “If you never change your mind, why have one?”
What you read here is often thought up while I’m lost in thought, riding my bike… and today, I started by thinking about this crazy anti-vaxxer who decided to drive her car through a vaccination tent set-up in a parking lot in Tennessee. Fortunately, nobody was hurt… but there were plenty of near-misses. I was pondering from which angle to approach that – and there are many – and was specifically thinking about how some people are just assholes, plain and simple… and while having that illuminating thought, the following happened…
I was cycling on the seawall, near English Bay, heading west… somewhere between the Burrard Bridge and Cactus Club… it’s a nice stretch of road between BB and CC these days – a whole street lane dedicated for bikes. As such, there is plenty of room for two-way bike traffic… and what I saw was a guy on a bike, coming towards me. There was also a Canada Goose sitting on the street, right next to the curb. This guy had plenty of room to go by… enough room that he had to make an extra effort to stick out his right leg and kick the bird as he went by. This happened about 20 feet in front of me. The goose wasn’t seriously hurt… it just squawked and fluttered a bit. But I slammed on the brakes and yelled after him… I guess what one would call a declarative sentence – like “Have a nice day!” – except that’s not what I said. He barely slowed down and didn’t look back; just held up one solitary finger as he rode off into the distance. Seriously, what an asshole.
I resumed my ride now trying to figure out where the overlap of assholes might fit into what I have to say; what does a psycho-anti-vaxxer have in common with a guy who kicks an innocent bird for no reason?
The quick conclusion I came to is that I’ve already wasted enough time thinking about these pieces of crap… so we’ll leave it at that.
Moments later, I saw a sign that announced that tonight’s Lotto Max is up to $65 million… so I started thinking about how I might analyze previous draws, and try to use that to predict future ones. Turns out there’s 4,000 draws of historical data to analyze, and that’s what I’m doing right now… potentially far more rewarding than writing about assholes. With some intelligent analysis, I might reduce the odds of winning from a gazillion to one to just one in a zillion.
So… on that note… I’m going to get back to it now… still a few hours before the draw… wish me luck… and if you’ve read this far, tell you what… if I win $65 million dollars, I’ll take $5m of it and split it with everyone who likes this post.
You’ve heard me say, “Start at the finish line and work backwards from there.” It’s a strategy that’s served me well in life, and looking at today’s B.C. graph reminded me of something.
Back in high school, grade 12 — our science teacher wanted us to figure out absolute zero experimentally. This isn’t a complicated experiment; it’s simply based on the assumption that the volume of a gas changes with temperature. The hotter the gas, the more space it wants to occupy… so if you’ve got the gas locked into a fixed-volume chamber, by measuring the pressure at different temperatures, you can learn a lot.
Side-note… I got into an argument once with someone who insisted that it’s possible to have a temperature colder than absolute zero. Given that temperature is really just measuring the speed of molecules, and that absolute zero is the speed at which they stop, I think it’s impossible for anything to be colder that that… in much the same way it’s impossible for your car to be going any slower than “stopped”. If any experts want to tell me how it might be possible, I’m listening. In fact, like the speed of light, I believe you can’t even get to it… you can just get really close… but if you reach it, all sorts of universal rules break down.
Anyway, with this experiment, you measure the pressure of the gas at different temperatures… and then you graph it. You plot the points on a graph; pressure vs. temperature. And since this is a linear relationship, you should be able to find the temperature by finding the line that cuts through all the data points and then eventually hits the graph at zero. This process is called extrapolation… where you take certain data, figure out the rules that apply to it, and make intelligent guesses with data points you haven’t actually measured experimentally. If your car passes a fence post every 10 seconds at 50km/h, can you figure out how fast you’d need to be going if you wanted to pass a fence post every one second? You can measure and graph it at 50, 100 and maybe even 150km/h… and if you plot that, there’s a perfect straight line to show you you’d need to be going 500km/h. Much easier than trying to do it experimentally.
Of course, if you’re relying on the graph to give you the answer, it’s important the measurements be accurate because a couple of dots just a bit off will move the line significantly. An extrapolation of absolute zero that’s +/- 3 degrees of the real answer is a good result.
But I chose to start at the finish line… and found exactly where, on the graph, absolute zero would be (-273.15 C.)… and drew my line from there to my first data point. And then, magically, all of my results landed perfectly onto the line.
When the teacher was handing back the lab books next class, he stopped at my desk.
“Congratulations on your excellent result, Mr. Kemeny.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Don’t you find it extraordinary that, armed with just some rudimentary equipment, you managed to find a result accurate to within a 10th of a degree?”
“It’s quite remarkable, sir.”
“How do you explain it?”
“It must be due to the excellent science instruction I’ve been receiving in this course, sir.”
“Thank you, but I’m not that good. Please keep in mind, Mr. Kemeny, that life rarely offers you shortcuts.”
“I suppose that means that when it does, we should take them?”
He just handed me back the lab book. I got 8/10. Everyone else got 10. I didn’t argue.
Looking at today’s B.C. graph, it’s a linear descent towards zero new cases a day. Like bad data, a couple of bad days can significantly affect the landing point, but until it does, let’s have a bit of fun with the numbers.
You’ll see below three new graphs. The first one is a consolidation of all of the vaccination rate graphs. Yes, we get it, they’re all going up, nobody is getting un-vaccinated, and those graphs are small enough that the nuanced differences between provinces are indistinguishable. So now, they’re all on one graph… if you want to compare apples to apples.
The other two graphs, as per above, are extrapolations… one is Canada and the other is B.C. The thick line is the real data up to today. The dotted line is where we’re headed if nothing changes. This is still very much a work in progress… so, we shall see. I’m no expert… just some guy plotting points and drawing lines.
It’d be nice to be able to work backwards; certainly, it’s what our provincial health ministry has tried to do with our 4-step re-opening plan… but here we’re stuck doing the actual experiment… and, it should be noted… if these numbers and graphs are anywhere close to reality, we will easily achieve the targets of out provincial 4-set plan. I’d certainly give that a well-deserved 10/10.
Just to briefly touch upon a big question mark… that’s slowly being answered as research emerges… what’s the deal with the delayed second doses? Why are we playing with the science, etc…
To rewind a bit, let’s remember that the timeline for these vaccines to be released into the wild was compressed – things happened much faster than usual. This doesn’t mean the science was skipped or compromised; it was the bureaucracy around it.
That being said, in an effort to get the thing out the door as quickly as possible, a different sort of question was asked; not one that’s typically asked of vaccines.
The question was: What’s the shortest period of time where a two-shot regimen would be effective? It was known that one dose of an mRNA vaccine wouldn’t generate enough of a response… and the answer to the question of spacing doses has two answers, because there are two different questions. One is how soon can it be to be effective? And two is… what’s ideal?
The former question was chosen to be answered in the same way that many of life’s problems get solved – decide what’s most important. “Good enough” far outweighs “Ideal” in this case, and that’s what we got. This is not to say that people who got the shots 3 weeks apart got anything bad; on the contrary… that’s what was tested, verified safe, and verified effective with a 95% efficacy.
So, what’s the problem? There is no problem… but now we have enough time and data to answer question two, and it’s what most experts expected… because it’s what’s typically seen with these sorts of vaccines.
Anyone who’s ever had a vaccine booster barely remembers the timing of what’s being boosted. It’s often measured in years… or, at best, months. Never weeks. My recent Shingrix vaccine against Shingles had a follow-up booster that was to be taken within two to six months after the first dose. But what’s optimal? 2? 4? 6? I couldn’t find anything to support a more specific number, but the answer to all of them was “good enough”.
The answer to the optimal spacing of C19 mRNA vaccines… as it turns out, while 3 weeks is certainly good enough, it seems waiting a little longer is “better”. It should be noted that “better” in this context is similar to how, for the purposes of putting out a candle, a firehose is “better” than a garden hose.
Specifically, for Pfizer… people who received their booster 11 to 12 weeks after their first dose were found to have 3.5 times higher peak-antibody levels.
It’s quite likely this is the same for Moderna. And it’s certainly turned out to be the case for AstraZeneca… just ask the U.K.
The whole point of this isn’t really to say what’s “better” – it’s more to point out what’s “not worse”… and the answer is… all of it. All of it is “not worse”. If you’re getting a second jab, you’re good… no matter when. And yes, of course… if the second jab is 5 years from now, it’s a different story. But it won’t be; given supply and demand… everyone is falling into that range… from “good enough” to “more than good enough”.
This big question mark has been shrinking consistently as more and more results emerge, and I expect it’ll vanish by the time any of us need a 3rd booster. In fact, by then, it’s possible we’ll have learned that all that’s needed from now on is a once-a-year boost – one that could easily be combined with the annual flu shot. Either way, one big question mark extinguished.
If you look at the B.C. chart below, you’ll notice that the black 7-day moving average of cases is remarkably consistent. You could put a ruler to it and not be far off. Someone asked, given that slope, when would we see zero cases?
Extrapolating it, if it stays that consistent, we’d hit zero on June 16th. There’s a picture of it in yesterday’s comment section. Is that actually possible?
Above and beyond the restaurant closures and social restrictions and masks and all the rest of it, is the very real and excellent fact that lots and lots of us are getting vaccinated. Let’s remember… this is a virus, not a live bug. It needs a host. If the virus has exhausted its time on a particular host and wants to go elsewhere, it needs to find a viable destination. A host that’s not immune… and that’s, fortunately, becoming more and more rare.
So… what does that mean for a return to normality?
We’ve been told we need to exceed 75% / 20%… meaning 75% of people with at least one jab and 20% fully immune with two.
If 50% of the population has one jab and 3% of the population has two jabs, what’s the shortest period of time it could take to get to 75% / 20%?
OMG, it’s your worst nightmare coming to life – an actual real-world application of a math *word problem* – the sort your prof promised you’d never have to deal with if you study really hard and just pass this one last final math exam. Wait, come back! – sit down… I’ll do it for you.
We’ll make the math conveniently easy, because it’s very close to this; we are 38,000,000 people and we are vaccinating 380,000 people a day. Exactly 1%. And note that not all 38M can get vaccinated, and that 380,000 number could go up… so these numbers are conservative.
If the intent were to get to 75 / 20 as fast as possible, we’d have to allocate vaccine so that, on a daily basis, we’re incrementing both of those numbers in such a way that we hit 75 / 20 simultaneously… but a simple way to look at it is to get to 75 right away, and given the present strategy, it’s almost what’s happening… all first jabs. In 25 days, well before the end of June, , we’ll be there. And then, there are only 17 days needed for second jabs… if you stop giving people the first ones entirely for 2.5 weeks.
So… might I suggest this strategy… keep red-lining first jabs for another three weeks… that’ll get us to 71% by June 11th, and then, start splitting doses 50/50 till Canada Day… at which point we’ll be at 81% / 14%… and then, spend a week primarily on second doses. Then, another couple of weeks for all of that to kick in. If we do that, by the fourth week of July, we’d theoretically be ready to throw open the border.
We were far behind with our vaccine rollout, but we’re catching up. Perhaps we’re a bit behind with our “back to normal” rollout too, though I still believe in “better safe than sorry.”
But… around here, restaurants are opening up on Tuesday… and given everything I know now, and given that I’d be surrounded by people who already have one or two doses in them… yeah, why not… you might find me in one of them sooner than later.