By Horatio Kemeny|2022-02-09T20:48:46-08:00February 9th, 2022|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Politics, Science of COVID-19, Life in Vancouver, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: Canada, Science, Research, Money, Economics, Pandemic, Vancouver, Coronavirus, Graphs, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia|6 Comments
Death and taxes aren’t actually the only certainties in life, of course… there are a few more… among them:
1. Have you ever had a cold?
2. Have you ever had the flu?
3. Are you presently alive?
The answer is 100% for all three, for everyone reading this… but if you want to argue it’s not, that it’s probably 99.999 something percent, then ok, I’ll mention that not everyone pays taxes either… exhibit A would be the former president of the U.S. and his entire organization… who are about to find out the hard way that you don’t mess with The Tax Man. Al Capone got away with racketeering and bootlegging and murder… for decades. But he couldn’t defend himself against the charges of tax evasion, and that’s what sent him to prison for the rest of his life.
But this article is neither about Trump nor his ill-fated organization. Rather, it’s a discussion about certainties, and what they look like going forward.
Colds are around. The flu is around. Measles and Mumps and Rubella are all around too, but we rarely worry about them… for good reason. They’ve been vaxxed out of our “worry zone”.
There are some important things to note going forward… and that is, that cases of C19 will come and go. Pockets of cases will flare up here and there, like that group of insane anti-vax moms in California responsible for a measles outbreak. Up next, the glorious state of Arkansas with its deplorable vaccination rates; bring on the completely preventable next wave of C19.
Actually, to clarify, we may see flare-ups of cases here too. Should we be concerned? At some point (and we’re at it, of very close to it…), the thing to watch is no longer cases. They become irrelevant. What becomes important are hospitalizations, ICU cases and deaths… numbers which have plummeted, and there’s every expectation they’ll remain low… because, again… you know… vaccinations.
This pandemic turns into an “endemic” in different places at different times. We’re pretty-much there now around here… because once you’ve done everything you can, and the support infrastructure is in place, there’s really not much else. As odd as it sounds, does it actually matter if you catch C19? If you catch it, but you’re asymptomatic and/or non-infectious to others? I’d never really thought of it before all this, but how many times have I had a cold or flu and not even known? Their presentation can also be so mild as to be asymptomatic.
So… with certainty: It’ll be around for a while, but if you’re fully vaxxed and/or fully immune for other reasons, you have little to worry about. The new seasonal cold will likely hit you harder, because for that one, you have no antibodies.
The one group that needs mentioning here are those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and/or whose immune systems aren’t up to the task of reacting adequately to the vaccine… a group all of us become part of as we get older… which is why research into this will continue forever… or, until it’s eradicated from existence. We did it with smallpox… and we can certainly do it here too.
It really is too hot to sit here any type too much; I hope you’re reading this in whatever version of “Ahhhh… nice and cool…” you’ve managed to find for yourself.
So… as I said… we’re down to incredibly low and optimistic numbers… to the extent the correct number was exactly guessed, and four other people were off by 1. Way to go Denise, Esther, Carey & Sharon… almost!
But congratulations Mark Johnson, who nailed the three-day total of 145 right on the nose… after changing his guess, having realized someone ahead of him had guessed the same. See? Good research pays off! Mark, please let me know where you’d like me to direct the $100 donation.
The last 24 hours saw 38 new cases… the lowest number since last August. And, looking over last August, that was probably also the last time the temperature exceeded the case count. That’d be a nice trend to start today… and especially heading into the fall; any day from now on where the temperature exceeds the case count will be a good one.
And given what the rest of the week looks like, that shouldn’t be too tough to achieve.
OK, back to the shade…
First things first… the contest! Congratulations to Shahar Ben Halevi! – whose guess of 231 was only two off the actual total of 229. Shoutout to Theresa Christina who guessed a few minutes later and was also only 2 off, but in the other direction, with her guess of 227. Shahar, let me know where you’d like it donated!
** EDIT ** Oops… ignore most of that last paragraph. Garry Saitz, congrats… 228 is closer to 229 than anything else. Shahar, I’m not going to pull a Steve Harvey here… we have two winners. Shahar, let me know. Garry… you too!
Secondly, to put to rest my decision-making with respect to dose two: My research, as I’ve written, has led me to think that, given the option, an mRNA vaccine for the second dose would be the way to go… if it was literally a choice, right at that moment. As it turns out, I wasn’t given the choice… I would’ve expected the pharmacy who gave me the AZ on Apr 22nd to have reached out by now, but they haven’t. The provincial system, however… the one I registered with ages ago – they did. And last week, booked me for an appointment for today. So… today I went, received my 2nd shot (Moderna) and, as far as I’m concerned, at least for now… that’s that. Almost exactly 15 months ago, I was writing pieces about how I expected vaccines would be available in 12 to 18 months. In hindsight, given my penchant for little contests, we could’ve held a pool where people guess, to the day, how long it would’ve been till vaccines show up. That would’ve been fun, and we could’ve raised a lot of money for charity. Oh well, a missed opportunity. Maybe next pandemic.
Finally… today, June 21st… often the longest day (ie most sunlight) of the year… the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer… has held, for the last 5 years, a more profound meaning. June 21st, 2016, was the day my dad passed away… and so now, every year, this particular day has a lot more meaning. It sometimes, appropriately, lands right on Father’s Day as well.
I wrote a lot about him five years ago… and, if you missed it the first time around, here you go:
Happy Summer everyone – it’s going to be a good one.
Well, my fellow Gen-X AstraZeneca peeps… our time has come. We’re in the midst of the rolling 8-week follow-ups, and, with a ton of vaccine making its way here (including a bonus one million doses of Moderna that was just announced), we’re in great shape. On top of the endless stream of Pfizer we’re getting these days, we’ll have gotten 7 million doses of Moderna in June. Fourteen million doses of something will have shown up between now and July 1st.
There’s a sort of “the world is your oyster” feeling you get sometimes… like, if you’re skiing, and you time it just right, and you get to the top of the run just as it opens… and nobody has skied on it yet, and it’s all fresh, pristine snow from the night before; an endless ocean of powder… all yours. Or, on a much simpler level, the feeling you get when you open a box from Amazon, and whatever is in there is packed in bubble wrap… and not the cheap, tiny half-popped useless ones that have been endlessly recycled; I mean a sheet of fresh, un-popped big-bubbles… and there’s no one around, so you can take your sweet time popping every single one of them. Aaaahhhhh……
Anyway, that is the feeling I got this morning when I received my vaccine second-dose invitation. As we all know, the right move at this point is to pick up the phone and call; that is the usual way to get the soonest appointment possible, because the people on the other end of the phone have access to a schedule view that we don’t. We have to go location by location.
But… before I called, I thought I’d check online… on the day I wanted (Monday) at the location I wanted (nearby community center) hoping maybe with some luck, there’s something. Anything.
Instead, I was flooded with options. Every single timeslot at that location had availability, from early morning to late at night. A pristine ski run. A big long sheet of huge unpopped bubbles. And this… oh, how beautiful it was.
For what it’s worth, I’m booked for an mRNA vaccine; whether it’s Pfizer or Moderna, they’re interchangeable with respect to today’s NACI recommendation of following-up an AstraZeneca jab with either version of an mRNA vaccine.
As I’ve said before, I’d “probably” already decided on a Pfizer/Moderna follow-up because of the emerging research; research which was meant to show up right around the time I would’ve been needing to make a decision. As it turns out, both things landed within hours of each other… but I’ll say it again, the “take whatever is given to you” is by far not the worst strategy. If my decision were AstraZeneca tomorrow or Pfizer/Moderna in two weeks, I wouldn’t be waiting. It’d be AZ tomorrow.
Indeed – there’s no wrong answer; some studies seem to imply that two doses of AstraZeneca offers a stronger cellular immune response than the mRNA alternatives. Choose whatever works for you. “The sooner the better” might be the only decision that really needs consideration… but as long as you get it, it was the right choice.
You’ll eventually reach the bottom of the ski hill. You’ll eventually have popped every bubble on the sheet. And eventually, with a notable shout-out to this smorgasbord of vaccines, we’ll have put this pandemic behind us.
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.
History speaks of many examples of products that were designed for a specific purpose, but were ultimately repurposed for something entirely different. For example, bubble wrap… it was originally designed to be cool, textured wallpaper. That market didn’t catch on – especially in households with little kids, I’m guessing – but the inventors, sitting on tons of unused inventory, trying to figure out what to do with it, came upon the bright idea that it’d he useful for transporting fragile goods. They contacted IBM, who they figured would be interested in having a way of safely shipping their delicate electronics, and they were right; that caught on, and we’ve all had the pleasure of popping those little things ever since… the extra bonus when anything fragile gets shipped to us.
Speaking of wallpaper, Play-Doh was originally designed as wallpaper cleaner. I’m not sure how good it is at that, having never actually needed to clean any wallpaper… but as a toy, very successful; there are very few kids who at some point haven’t gotten their grubby little paws on some.
Speaking of toys… there’s the Slinky, originally designed as a spring used on ships to stabilize devices on choppy seas. Until one day, when a slinky was accidentally knocked off a table… and it walked itself over to a guy who had a light-bulb moment; Richard James, the “inventor” of the Slinky. Even he admits he didn’t invent anything; just clued-in to an excellent alternative use for an already existing product.
Speaking of alternative uses for already existing products… toothpaste. Like, for example, white Colgate. Terrific for keeping your teeth bright and healthy, of course… but you know what else? If you have a scratched CD or DVD that’s unplayable, coating it with toothpaste to “fill in” the scratches and then rinsing off the excess… works wonders. I’ve resurrected many dead Discs in my day.
Speaking of health products that have alternative uses… Coca Cola was originally designed to be an alternative to morphine addiction, and to treat headaches and anxiety. The guy who invented it, John Pemberton, was a veteran of the civil war, and a morphine addict. He wanted a sweet, alcoholic drink with some coca leaves thrown in for good measure, so that’s what he invented: Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. Over time, the recipe was tweaked and carbonated… and the rest is history.
Speaking of ubiquitous products that began their existence as something medicinal with a specific purpose, history may end up grouping Covid-19 vaccines into the mix, because the careful research that led to their initial approvals was based on science that described their intended two-dose use, with the spacing of those doses a few weeks apart. I’m not sure those tiny vials have instructions written on them… and if they do, they’re in an unreadably-small font… but anyway, if you take your magnifying glass and read it, you’d find that we, here in Canada, are not following those simple instructions. In fact, that goes doubly-so for us here in B.C… where we are the lowest percentage of fully-vaccinated people in all of North America (!) – but, that’s by design… and I’m totally ok with it because, as we’re finding, and as I wrote about yesterday, if you shift the goalposts a bit… from “not getting sick” to “not getting seriously sick”, the product can indeed be used differently than designed… and very successfully.
Speaking of not following simple instructions… yesterday marked the 3-year anniversary of the devastating Humboldt Broncos bus crash… caused by a driver ignoring a very simple instruction: Stop. Of course, there was far more to it than that, but it’s a good example of how a seemingly tiny rule violation by a single person can have drastic, far-reaching effects… like how Alberta’s outbreak of the P.1 variant can be traced to a single out-of-province traveller. One guy who broke the rules, and here we all are.
Speaking of there being far more to it than that…
Well, there’s always far more to it than that. Enough for now. Speak to you later.