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
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.
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.
Let’s take a closer look at out neighbours to the south, where the overall single-jab vaccination rate is around 54% and stagnating…
The top-10 most vaccinated states are: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire & New Mexico.
Vermont tops the list with a vaccination percentage of 73.1%, while New Mexico rounds out the top-10 with 60.8%.
The bottom 10 looks like this…
North Dakota, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Louisiana & Mississippi.
The best of those worst-10 is North Dakota at 43.4%. The worst is Mississippi at 36.0%
That’s quite a divide… where the top state more than doubles the worst one.
Here’s another interesting stat about all of those states…
In the last presidential election, of the top-10, all of them voted Democrat.
Of the bottom-10, 9 of them voted Republican. The one that didn’t, Georgia, is so inwardly-horrified at the result that their Republican-controlled government recently disenfranchised more than 100,000 potential voters, striking them from the rolls… and this was after enacting a number of laws that can only be called “Voter Suppression”. Take a guess which voters are most affected.
None of this is much of a surprise, though the blatant starkness of it is a little eye-opening… but what’s the deal? The blue state/red state divisions largely precede the pandemic, so how does it necessarily follow that raving, unrelenting Trump supporters would also be the anti-mask/anti-vax crowd?
The answer is a bit more complicated than “They’re just a bunch of ignorant rednecks”. The answer, in fact, has a lot to do with distrust of the government. When you’re poor and/or uneducated and/or sick and tired of hearing lies about how the government is going to do so much for you (and then doesn’t), you end up jumping ship to the guy you can relate to… he’s one of us, loud, abrasive, calls it like he sees it, etc. He’s not cut from government cloth.
Which makes Trump all the worse. If anybody could’ve convinced that group about masks and vaccines, it would’ve been him. It could’ve and it should’ve been him. Notwithstanding the shitshow it took to get him elected, it’s like the universe said “Hmm… there’s going to be this pandemic, and a lot of Americans will lose their lives. At least, who could we put in power in the U.S. to mitigate that? Someone that people who’d generally ignore government advice actually listen to?”
Without a doubt, his handling of this pandemic will be what history judges him on, and it’ll be appropriately brutal. When all is said and done, countless American deaths that could’ve been prevented… a figure officially set at over 600,000 at the moment, but the real figure is already a two-comma number.
Trump likes to make shit up as he goes along, depending who he’s talking to. We know he quietly got vaccinated while at the same time telling everyone it’s unnecessary. And then, a couple of months ago, this magnificent quote: ““In a certain way, I’m the father of the vaccine because I was the one that pushed it.”
At least we can end this relatively sad commentary with a good laugh.
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.
If you grew up in these parts and have been around long enough, you certainly remember Expo 86. The world came to visit, and the city hasn’t been the same since.
One thing that most people who visited the World’s Fair had was an Expo passport. You’d carry it around and get stamps from everywhere you visited at the fair. Somewhere in my basement storage is my well-tattered Expo passport, and it’s full of pretty-much every stamp that existed. Every pavilion, every restaurant, every ride, every kiosk… all had their own unique stamp, and it became my mission to get them all. Even the Expo 86 mascot, Expo Ernie, had one… and if you could find him wandering around, he’d stamp your passport too.
There were a few very rare ones… like, for example, Jimmy Pattison. He had his own stamp, and the story of how I got him to stamp my passport is pretty good. Jimmy P, the well-known legendary-yet-ruthless businessman / epic philanthropist / CEO of Expo 86, at least back then, drove a monster of a car… like one of those 8-gallons-to-the-mile Lincoln Continentals from the early 80s. And maneuvering a big car like that around the tight spaces surrounding the fair wasn’t so easy, I guess… and, on one bright sunny summer day in 1986, he almost ran me over. It wasn’t actually that close, and I wasn’t actually that shaken up… but he stopped and made sure I was ok and asked if I needed anything. Yes, Jimmy, in fact I do… and that is how I got the coveted JP Expo 86 passport stamp.
It’s starting to feel like any sort of vaccine passport will have the look and feel of an Expo passport, where instead of visiting countries and getting their stamp, you’ll visit their vaccines and get those.
What’s starting to become apparent is that there is no such thing as *the* vaccine. That was a concept we all collectively came up with last year; “once *the* vaccine shows up, we’ll all be saved.”
Not so simple now, is it.
All vaccines are not created equal. And even if they were, it seems some vaccines are more equal than others. We’re starting to see some hints of vaccine “protectionism”… like, in the U.S., if you want to go to the Springsteen concert (yeah, how appropriate… Born… In The U.S.A….), you will need an American-made vaccine. Pfizer? Yeah man. Moderna? Sure dude. AstraZeneca? Not so fast, old chap.
This morning, Singapore began offering the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, and clinics were overrun with demand. This, notwithstanding the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have been available there for a long time, and half the population of 5.7 million have already had one or the other. And notwithstanding that Pfizer/Moderna have efficacy rates of around 95% while Sinovac is only 51%.
None of that matters. What matters is… that if you’re a Chinese national who lives in Singapore and wants to travel to mainland China, the only way to avoid quarantine upon arrival is to have the Sinovac vaccine. Oh, you’ve already had two shots of Pfizer and are completely immune? That’s nice, but if you want to visit our country hassle-free, you’ll have to have this one as well.
And so, perhaps, once it’s established that there’s no way to O.D. on vaccine, people will have some decisions to make. If AstraZeneca is going to be treated like a second-class citizen south of the border, what do you do? What does it mean for those who’ve had two doses of AZ and want to cross the border? What if you’ve had one AZ and one Pfizer/Moderna? What if you’ve had AZ, Sinovac, J&J *and* Sputnik? What if you’re so loaded with vaccine that you’re immune till 2027 and serve as your own 5G beacon?
These are not irrelevant questions. The U.S. may consider AZ a 2nd-tier vaccine just like China considers Pfizer/Moderna… but Canada will end up making its own policies as well. And it’s going to get messy, because people will scream discrimination. And, of course, that’s exactly what it is. Little of this has anything to do with actual science or vaccine efficacy or actual practicality. It’s mostly just bullshit politics.
One of the tag lines of Expo 86 was about “Inviting The World”, which we certainly did. And we still do… though, in future… well, bring your well-stamped passport with you.
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.
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.
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.
Heading into the weekend without anything too exciting to report… other than I ran into a virulent (haha!!) anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic. The way some people reason things out… it’s quite remarkable. I won’t bore you with the details of it… by now we’ve all had those sorts of discussions with someone… but my front brake needed attention halfway through my ride this morning, so I walk into a random bike shop…
“Hi… I’m sorry, I don’t have a mask… I wasn’t planning on…”
(the guy rips his own mask off)
“Yeah, don’t worry about it… these f’n things don’t do anything anyway”
I’ve wondered out loud before how it is that those two things go so well together. Does anybody know anyone who’s anti-mask but pro-vaccine? Or vice-versa? I’d be interested in listening to rational arguments, but have yet to hear one.
And this guy?
“I’d rather die from Covid than from the vaccine. You don’t know what they put in it.”
The human brain… how it functions, and the twisted logic it supplies to some people… it’s a real mystery.
Instead of pursuing the rest of that discussion… speaking of mysteries… here’s a good one for you to rattle around your brain…
A long time ago, there were three friends who went camping. After a few nights, they’d had enough… and decided to head home early, and spend the night in a motel somewhere. They packed up their stuff, hopped in the car, and drove off, planning to stop at the first motel that had room.
Unfortunately, it was a busy time of year and everything was booked. They passed an endless stream of “No Vacancy” signs… but eventually, there was one where the “No” wasn’t lit up. So they pulled in.
The guy at the front desk told them he only had one room left. They asked if it’d be ok for all three of them to share the room. Yeah, sure, no problem… it’ll be $30 for the room. Great, said the three guys… and each dug into his own pocket and pulled out $10. They each handed their $10 to him; he counted out the $30… all good… and then they got their keys and headed to the room.
A few minutes later, the guy at the counter remembered that there was a special deal going on… and that a room for 3 people was actually only $25. Being an honest person, he opened the cash drawer and pulled out five one-dollar bills…and instructed the janitor, who happened to be sweeping up the lobby, to deliver the $5 to the room.
The janitor, however, wasn’t so honest… and as he walked over to the room, thought to himself… how are 3 guys going to split $5 anyway? He decided to just give them three of the bills and keep two for himself.
So… he knocked on the door… one of the three guys answered… and the janitor handed him three of the $1 bills.
Cool, thought the guy… and took the three bills, and handed a dollar to each of his friends.
So… since each guy originally paid $10 and now got $1 back, you could say each guy paid $9 for the room. $9 x 3 = $27. The bellhop kept $2. That makes $29.
What happened to the other dollar?
It’s a mystery! – and if you know the answer, don’t just blurt it out in the comments… let some people scratch their heads a bit.
Hint: the anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic doesn’t have it.