By Horatio Kemeny|2022-01-06T20:08:06-08:00January 6th, 2022|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19|Tags: Dr Bonnie Henry, Vaccine, Quebec, Canada, Ontario, Science, Pandemic, Vancouver, Numbers, Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia|5 Comments
When this pandemic started, my daughter Sophia had recently started grade 11. That was at the time when we were all worrying about this getting totally out of control; watching those exponential-growth graphs; looking closely at the TTD (Time To Double) numbers. I can still tell you… that if cases are growing at 10%, they’ll double in a week. At 6%, it’ll take 12 days.
Slowly, those percentages dwindled to the point where they became far less concerning… and, eventually, irrelevant. Today’s percentages are actually close enough to zero that unless something drastic happens, I should just remove them. But in March of 2020, that number was over 40% in Quebec… a TTD of 2. Cases doubling every two days. Today, that number is 0.02%. Go Habs.
And that’s not the only thing that’s changed. Sophia went from grade 11 to grade 12, and today is the last day of that particular adventure. Right around the time I’m posting this, she and her classmates will be walking across the stage, receiving their well-deserved awards and diplomas, and putting the whole high-school experience (with a pandemic thrown in for good measure) behind them.
The crappy part is I can’t be there. I’m watching the livestream from home, as are all the other parents. The good part is that family from all over the world can also watch. And even though I’m not there, I think the screaming and cheering at the TV will be loud enough that even though the school is several kilometres away… they’ll hear it.
For Sophia, the end of a big adventure… and, also, the start of an even bigger one.
For us… well, this uncalled-for adventure isn’t quite over yet… but if we were all in grade 12, we’d be at the point where the final papers are all handed in, and all of the exams have been written. The stage is set… and soon, we all get to walk across it. And then we get to collectively throw our caps (ie masks) in the air and, with the same sense of anticipation being felt by this awesome group of graduates… get on with our lives.
I managed to get out to the racetrack last night, for the first time in ages. It was wonderful to see many familiar faces, many of whom are reading this (Hi again!)
My horses didn’t win (a second and two thirds), but, regardless, just being there was a win. A huge win.
On a similar note, I look at the graph on the bottom left… the inter-provincial vaccination rates, which is some ways has turned into a two-horse race; Quebec out in front and B.C. trying to catch up… and never quite getting there. But again, there are no losers in this race… only different rates of winning.
And… on that note… in the global vaccine horse race, check out the next two graphs. As of this moment, when it comes to “at least one vaccination”, Canada is number one in the world. And if this were a music chart, we’d be number one with a bullet.
Just a month ago, we were behind the U.S, Israel, the U.K. and Chile. And… we are now ahead of all of them. The steepness of the angle with which that thick red line cuts through all of them is impressive. Let’s hope we don’t chart like a one-hit wonder that starts tailing off, never to be heard from again.
That being said, the graph on the right tells an important story; the darker colour means fully vaccinated. Above that is the single-dose crowd. By that measure, we’re still far behind… but…
… as per below, you can see the rate at which we caught up and continue to run. It’s impressive, and there is, from everything I can tell, no letting up. Recent numbers in Canada have implied that the anti-vax crowd has shrunk… and that the sum of “hesitant to no way” is now below 10%. All of this while we’re vaccinating 450,000 arms a day, whether it’s first or second dose. More than one out of 100 people is getting one shot or another… every single day.
The staggeringly impressive drop-offs in case numbers is indicative of a strategy that seems to be paying off… what’s better, give a single dose to 100 people, or fully vaccinate 50 and leave the other 50 un-jabbed. Clearly, from what we’re seeing – and as much as some might disagree with messing with the science – it would appear the former strategy, the one Canada adopted a while back… was the way to go. “Lots of people who may get a little sick” is a lot better than “some people who won’t get sick, coupled with others who definitely will.”
I think the analysis, in hindsight, will show that single-vaccine people infect far less people than those with no vaccination… so illness (serious or not aside), the more people are jabbed, partially or not, the quicker this all goes away. We’re in the home stretch.
Shocking news to report… we didn’t win the Lotto Max. And… nobody else did, either. I’ll spend a bit of time analyzing whether what I predicted was in any way statistically significant. Of the top 10 tickets generated, 5 of the 7 numbers picked were on them. Never more than 2 together though. I’m not sure if a monkey throwing darts would’ve done better, worse, or simply the same.
In the meantime, other numbers… my vaccination numbers and graphs differ from the official ones because I’ve never used “eligible people” as a denominator; I’ve always simply used everyone. That two-month-old baby? One day he’ll get a C19 vaccine – not sure when… but as far as vaccinated/not-vaccinated, I’m counting him.
As such, here’s something interesting; in Canada, at this moment, B.C. has taken the lead with respect to vaccinated population. We’ve vaccinated 61.3% of everybody (at least one jab). Now in second place is Quebec (61.0%). The country overall is at over 58.4% with at least one dose (which is really good), and 6% fully vaccinated (that certainly has a ways to go).
The next big issue will be vaccine passports or immunity certificates or green passes or whatever you want to call them. Many countries and even some provinces are starting to talk about how it’ll look, how it’ll be implemented and how it will affect things. The “Freedumb!!” crowd will start screaming, etc… perhaps without realizing that vaccine passports in some fashion have been around for centuries, and many places have always required them… for your protection as well as theirs. Of course, the vast majority of people complaining are not those who typically travel to malaria-infested river basins or parts of the world known for Dengue Fever outbreaks.
Just remember, the couple dining next to you in the restaurant has rights too. They have to the right to know they’re in a safe environment. And the restaurant itself has rights too… to do whatever they want to provide that.
I hope you got your good dose of sunshine in yesterday, because around here, we’re back to “the usual” for a week. The big Vancouver Weather Wheel (VWW) has only three sections… “It’s about to rain”, “It’s raining” and “It just rained.” A recent spin landed in section 2, and that’s where it’ll sit for a while… and actually, that’s ok. The freshest air on the planet exists when things transition from section 2 to section 3.
The other thing going on these days is the transition from the NHL regular season to the NHL playoffs –lots of rain equals Spring equals NHL playoffs… and there’s an interesting correlation… you can sort of map playoff performance with Covid-19 numbers.
Here in B.C., our numbers have recently tanked, which is very good. The Canucks have also tanked… which is good or bad, depending on whether you like to see a strong finish or a better draft pick. Either way, both our pandemic numbers and our team’s performance have crashed down noticeably. Playoffs? LOL.
One province east of us is Alberta, whose pandemic numbers were riding high. Also riding high were the Edmonton Oilers… who seem to have hit a brick wall when they entered the playoffs. And right around the time the Oilers began their journey to falling down two games to zero to the Jets, so did their C19 numbers. That’s an impressive meltdown, their daily new-case numbers… falling like a rock. Much like the Oilers’ chances of getting much further in the playoffs. They might go down 3 games to 0 to the Winnipeg Jets, who are flying high these days.
Unfortunately, so are the C19 numbers in Winnipeg. Manitoba is the one province that isn’t yet headed in the right direction, though perhaps they’re turning the corner too.
As has happened numerous times in the past, the Leafs and Habs are battling it out; that series is tied, similar to the C19 numbers in those two provinces, as far as things getting better… though I’d have to give the “trending advantage” to Quebec… which, in this warped correlation of mine, is good news for Leafs fans.
Two of those four teams will meet in the next round of the playoffs, and only one will make it to the semi-final round… where they’ll run into an American powerhouse team.
I hope at that point, the team is Las Vegas… and I hope that’s there this correlation breaks down. Las Vegas numbers are looking so good these days, the place is almost back to normal. They’ve already thrown the doors open in most places, and will do so entirely in the next couple of weeks; any Las Vegas hockey game will play to a packed house, and that’d be a great way to watch a game… whether live or on TV. I’ve been to games in Las Vegas; usually it’s the Canucks getting beaten up, but it’s always a memorable experience… one I hope to partake in once again, sooner than later. I don’t see myself in that crowd anytime soon… but watching something that real will be a very good indication we’re in the final stretch.
And, for what it’s worth, it rarely rains in Vegas.
Encouraging local numbers today… and if you don’t like analyzing numbers, just look at the pretty pictures… specifically the B.C. one… which, in a nutshell, shows the rise and fall of the 3rd wave. Our numbers these days are exactly where they were at in early March, when things started to go sideways.
And, actually, not sideways… just up… sharply. But as you can see, as quickly as they went up, they’ve come down. That little plateau was in the second week of April, and it’s been downhill (in the good sense) ever since then. What’s going up sharply these days is the temperature… and vaccinations.
Looking across the country, as it turns out, nobody has managed this third wave as well as B.C. Quebec would be a close second though; their worst is over and they’ve slid down to the bottom of their own hill.
Alberta has turned the corner, but has a ways to go. Saskatchewan as well, though slower… but Manitoba is still arguably headed in the wrong direction; really not sure what happened there, but this week will tell a lot.
And Ontario… certainly headed in the right direction… their daily numbers and their average is lower… but it’s still wildly volatile and it always feels like they’re near a tipping point. Aided by warmer weather and lots of upcoming vaccinations, their worst is also likely over.
I don’t want the maritimes and the northern territories to feel left out… all looking good.
Locally, nothing will change before the May long weekend… but, by then, we may be poised to see some significant relaxations. Don’t hold me to it; I don’t make the rules… but given all of the above, given what we’ve learned in a year, given where we are with vaccinations, given what we now know about the colossal difference in risk between indoor and outdoor gatherings, given that we know it’s a tiny number of people who infect lots of others.. not everyone infecting one or two others… given all that, it wouldn’t be difficult to put some rules in place that really open things up in an effective way.
To be honest, they would’ve done it already if they could count on people sticking to the important parts. Like, golf? Out golfing with friends? Risk of transmission on the golf course… near zero. Risk of transmission on the 19th hole, downing a pitcher of beer? Much higher. Can we count on people to play a round of golf, but then not spend three hours in a crowded, poorly-ventilated pub? This is where the give an inch/take a mile issues come into it, and managing that, going forward, will be the bigger challenge.
We’ve all had colds before… the little sniffles. It’s annoying, but nothing some chicken soup and/or lemon tea and/or NeoCitran and/or a warm blanket and/or lots of water can’t cure.
And if someone said to you ok… here’s the deal… the pandemic is now over, but you have a 50% chance of catching a mild cold in the next 6 months… would you take it?
The overwhelming “HELL YEAH!” that you’re all screaming leads to a path we’re on now, though probably not by original design… because there’s a fundamental aspect to C19 and vaccines that perhaps wasn’t entirely expected, but that emerging data suggests… which is that a single shot of any vaccine of our “big 4” – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and now Johnson and Johnson – prevents serious illness 100% of the time. Yes, it’s a bold statement, one worthy of marketing departments… but this one is coming from the science.
Two shots of Pfizer and Moderna suggest a 95% chance of not getting sick at all… and the appropriate doses of the other ones also suggest a remote chance of illness if you follow the directions… but proper recommended usage aside, one single shot… and you’re good.
Entering the mix (in Canada) as of Friday is the newly approved J&J vaccine… which, in the context above, is a true game changer. Its numbers don’t reach the lofty heights of 95% efficacy, but it’s becoming apparent that’s not so important. Should we take the Ferrari with a top speed of 340km/h? Perhaps the Porsche, but it only goes to 280kmh. How about the Tesla, which accelerates faster than those two… but is capped at 200km/h?
Dude, we’re going to the 7/11 that’s a block away. Take the bike. Or walk. We don’t need to get fancy here.
The J&J vaccine efficacy is in the 65%-75% range… compared to the 95% of Moderna and Pfizer. J&J serious illness and death rate 28 days after the dose (at which time its full effects have kicked in): Zero. Not a single case of hospitalization or death.
From a “fancy” point of view, J&J isn’t top 2… but who cares. It gets us there… and it does so in game-changing ways: It’s single dose, and it’s easily stored at convenient temperatures… for months. Don’t like needles? It’s only one. Don’t like side-effects? Far less reported with J&J. Allergic to preservatives in vaccines? J&J seems more tolerable. And, unlike mRNA vaccines, this one is optimized to both antibody and T-cell responses. Accordingly, it doesn’t need tuning to new variants… and therefore has been shown to be more effective against the South African variant. Pfizer and Moderna have modified their vaccines for these new variants, but J&J doesn’t require it… which implies it probably won’t require it for future variants either.
Red-lining the first doses seemed a little premature and perhaps not-so-well thought out when it started. In fact, I wrote some words to that effect; why mess with the science? The answer to that rhetorical question is the basis of science itself. To some extent, we’re all part of a big experiment… but assuming it’s being handled correctly, we should be able to trust the results… and the results are telling us a lot. Different people interpret them in different ways, but this is all not speculative guesswork… there’s a method to the madness. For example, it’s dawned on me that perhaps the province of Quebec has no intention of *ever* giving out second doses of Pfizer or Moderna… because, as per above… what’s better…. 95 people out of 100 who will never get sick at all… or, 200 people, none of whom will develop a serious illness or die? They’re betting on the latter, and so far, perhaps correct in their assumptions. Their hospitalizations and ICU admissions have been trending sharply down consistently; just look at the pretty pictures. They might just keep doing this until the pandemic fizzles out, and the answer to “When do we get our second shot?” will be “Next flu-shot season”.
The issue with vaccines that we’re quickly approaching has more to do with vaccine acceptance, though that’s also turning a good corner in some places. There seems to be a core of around 20% of people that adamantly refuse to consider the vaccine. The other 80% has been a spectrum based on hesitancy, but it’s mostly sliding in the right direction; more and more people seeing what’s going on around them and realizing that indeed… the vaccine is useful, the vaccine is safe and the vaccine is an integral part of all of us getting back to normal. That’s here in Canada. Our neighbours down south?
Last November, before any vaccines had actually been approved, 51% of Democrats said they’d get vaccinated when possible… as opposed to 43% of Republicans. Asking that question today yields this: 78% of Democrats would say yes… but only 47% of Republicans would agree. In fact, 44% of Republicans say, adamantly, “Never”. Interesting — but not surprising — that their cult leader and his entire family all quietly got vaccinated when no one was looking.
I’ll stop here because you know exactly what the next 3 paragraphs would say.
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