A Ray of Light Emerges – EOH 11/11/20

A ray of light has emerged on the horizon: a coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE showed in an early analysis to be more than 90% effective in protecting people from COVID-19. We are waiting on further details to be released soon.

In other news:

  • On public policy, Jayanta Bhattacharya of Stanford, co-author of the Barrington Declaration, debated Harvard’s Marc Lipsitch, one of the biggest lockdown advocates.
  • New research into immunity persistence against COVID19 suggests it lasts 6-8 months. 
  • The British government continues to grapple with the unintended consequences from the first lockdown even as they plunge blindly into a second one. 

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Additionally, we just released an update on how COVID-19 is playing out on university campuses.

COVID News

Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is strongly effective, early data from large trial indicate

Pfizer and partner BioNTech said Monday that their vaccine against Covid-19 was strongly effective, exceeding expectations with results that are likely to be met with cautious excitement — and relief — in the face of the global pandemic.

The vaccine is the first to be tested in the United States to generate late-stage data. The companies said an early analysis of the results showed that individuals who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic Covid-19 than those who received a placebo. For months, researchers have cautioned that a vaccine that might only be 60% or 70% effective. 

The Phase 3 study is ongoing and additional data could affect results.

In keeping with guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, the companies will not file for an emergency use authorization to distribute the vaccine until they reach another milestone: when half of the patients in their study have been observed for any safety issues for at least two months following their second dose. Pfizer expects to cross that threshold in the third week of November.

Herd Immunity as a Coronavirus Pandemic Strategy

The Journal of the American Medical Association hosted a debate on lockdowns on their influential YouTube channel. The debate was between Harvard’s lockdown architect Dr. Marc Lipsitch and Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya of Stanford, one of three primary authors of the Great Barrington Declaration. It was moderated by Dr. Howard Bauchner, who is the editor of JAMA and a busy podcaster who hosts regular video updates from Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Already the odds here were stacked against Dr. Bhattacharya. The title of the debate has been declared to be “Herd Immunity as a Coronavirus Pandemic Strategy.” The authors of the Declaration have stated many times that herd immunity is not a strategy. It is a bio-probabilistic reality of how pandemics become endemic (predictable and manageable) in a population.

Nonetheless, the venue chooses the title and sets the terms. Even given all of this, for many people who follow this venue, it will be the first time that many viewers will have discovered that there is a serious scientific and medical alternative to lockdowns, which have been so enormously devastating to public health the world over.

For Better Health and a Stronger Economy, Don’t Lock Down Again

https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/11/for-better-health-and-a-stronger-economy-dont-lock-down-again/

European countries are imposing harsh lockdowns again as a second wave of COVID-19 spreads throughout Europe. It was a mistake last spring, when most U.S. states followed Europe’s lead in imposing lockdowns during the first wave, and it would be an even bigger mistake to copy the failed lockdowns again today.

I was stunned when Italy imposed regional lockdowns in late February and a national lockdown on March 9. In short order, most other European countries did the same. Then, influenced by the sensational predictions from Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College London that more than 500,000 Britons and 2.2 million Americans might die from the virus, the United Kingdom and most of the United States followed suit.

Panic and herd mentality drove policy making in March, and frightened populations ceded their personal, economic, and religious liberties on a scale unprecedented even during wartimes. With eight months of hindsight, it seems obvious that the lockdowns did more harm than good on a number of accounts. Not only did they throw tens of millions worldwide out of work, decimating entire industries (think restaurants and bars, travel, tourism, airlines and aerospace), but they also triggered waves of secondary medical problems, including anxiety and depression, increased substance abuse and domestic violence, and other adverse health outcomes as many surgeries and screenings were delayed or missed.

Unhysterical COVID-19 Assessment in Rhode Island Requires More Transparency–And Honesty

An April 30, 2020, Providence Journal editorial by my colleague, veteran journalist, and historian Ed Achorn, exposed the hysterical—and factitious—Brown University “modeling” of projected COVID-19 hospitalizations in Rhode Island. These overwrought, cataclysmic projections, mercifully and predictably, never transpired.

Nearly six months later, despite the absence of clear, justifying data, Governor Raimondo amplified the rhetoric of COVID-19 fear once again at her presser on October 14, regurgitating a warning Dr. Birx gave during a recent Rhode Island visit.

“Where we’re seeing the spread occur now, is in private spaces, where we feel comfortable, where we take off our mask, and we invite in our neighbors and friends.” 

A week later, during her October 21 presser, Governor Raimondo advocated for mass asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in Rhode Island and admonished Rhode Islanders to “Consider staying home for Thanksgiving. It’s in the state’s best interest.”

The Governor’s Reopening RI task force simultaneously proclaimed (see Tips for a safer holiday season), “new COVID-19 cases and deaths are steeply rising in Rhode Island,” while issuing a holiday season “home floor plan,” illustrated in all its bizarre intrusiveness below.

Is such alarmism warranted by honest representations of the data on Rhode Island COVID-19 mortality, hospitalization, or test positivity–so-called “infection/case” rates? Simply put, no.

Research

Persistence of SARS-CoV-2 specific B- and T-cell responses in convalescent COVID-19 patients 6-8 months after the infection

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.06.371617v1.full

Summary

Background: The longevity of the immune response against SARS-CoV-2 is currently debated. We thus profiled the serum anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels and virus specific memory B- and T-cell responses over time in convalescent COVID-19 patients.

Methods: A cohort of COVID-19 patients from the Lombardy region in Italy who experienced mild to critical disease and Swedish volunteers with mild symptoms, were tested for the presence of elevated anti-spike and anti-receptor binding domain antibody levels over a period of eight months. In addition, specific memory B- and T-cell responses were tested in selected patient samples.

Results: Anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were present in 85% samples collected within 4 weeks after onset of symptoms in COVID-19 patients. Levels of specific IgM or IgA antibodies declined after 1 month while levels of specific IgG antibodies remained stable up to 6 months after diagnosis. Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies were still present, though at a significantly lower level, in 80% samples collected at 6-8 months after symptom onset. SARS-CoV-2-specific memory B- and T-cell responses were developed in vast majority of the patients tested, regardless of disease severity, and remained detectable up to 6-8 months after infection.

Conclusions: Although the serum levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies started to decline, virus-specific T and/or memory B cell responses increased with time and maintained during the study period (6-8 months after infection).

Charts and Graphics

COVID19 associated deaths per million (cumulative for season 20/21)

Rhode Island Covid-19 Deaths By the Only Valid Metric, Actual Date of Death (3/19/20 – 10/21/20)

International News

‘Toxic lockdown’ sees huge rise in babies harmed or killed

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-54827702

There was an alarming 20% rise in babies being killed or harmed during the first lockdown, Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman has revealed.

Sixty four babies were deliberately harmed in England – eight of whom died. Some 40% of the 300 incidents reported involved infants, up a fifth on 2019.

Ms Spielman believes a “toxic mix” of isolation, poverty and mental illness caused the March to October spike.

Health staff and social workers were hampered by Covid restrictions.

And many regular visits could not take place, while others were carried out remotely, using the telephone or video links.

The second wave peaked before lockdown began

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/11/07/second-wave-peaked-lockdown-began/

There is now little doubt that the second wave of the virus crested before the lockdown began on Thursday. On Friday the Government announced that the number of new positive tests over the previous seven days was 156,742, or 2,006 fewer than in the previous seven days: the first time this autumn the weekly number had not gone up.

The same day the Office for National Statistics published its estimate, based on sampling the population, that the number of cases per day was 45,700, slightly down on the previous week, saying “incidence appears to have stabilised at around 50,000 new infections per day”.

A third source confirms the peak: the ZOE survey of King’s College London, using the Covid Symptom Study app, which estimated 42,049 new daily cases compared with 43,569 a week before. ZOE’s Professor Tim Spector noted on Friday that “while these population changes will take a while to work through, we believe they are a positive sign that we have passed the peak of this second wave”. He estimates R to be 1 for the UK as a whole, as does Alastair Grant of the University of East Anglia.

The ONS finds that case numbers are falling in the North west (they have been falling in Liverpool for nearly three weeks), and flat or rising more slowly than before in the rest of the country. The areas with strict regional lockdowns before the national lockdown are doing best.

The highest percentage of positive tests is among 17-24 year olds, but this is now the group seeing the fastest fall. The disease is rarely dangerous in the young and long-term complications are also rare. The big worry has always been the spread of the virus from the young to the elderly. That clearly has happened to some extent but it is not speeding up. In those over 70 the infection rate is still rising, but more slowly than it was in early October.

So statistics confirm what anecdote suggests: a significant autumn epidemic caused by the return of children to school and students to university, especially in northern cities, now flattening. This contrasts with the first wave, where 20 per cent of infections happened in hospitals and 45 per cent of deaths in care homes.

Vitamin D to be delivered to millions of vulnerable people to help protect them from Covid

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/11/07/vitamin-d-delivered-millions-vulnerable-people-help-protect/

Free supplies of vitamin D will be delivered to more than two million clinically vulnerable people and care home residents over the winter amid growing optimism about the role of the supplement in cutting the risk of death from Covid-19.

Ministers are drawing up plans for four-month supplies of the vitamin to be delivered directly to care home residents in England and those deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable. The move follows a similar move by the Scottish Government.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is said to be seeking to act in light of emerging evidence about Vitamin D, while Boris Johnson told MPs last week that “we are indeed looking at the possible beneficial effects of vitamin D, and … we will be updating the House shortly”.

The Government is expected to commission clinical trials to further examine the link between Covid-19 and vitamin D deficiency. A number of studies have indicated that poor vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of death from coronavirus.

The vitamin helps the body maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphate, keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It is produced naturally by the body when it comes into contact with the sun.

From next month, vitamin D supplements will be delivered to more than two million clinically extremely vulnerable people along with all care home residents, across England. The supplies are intended to last throughout the winter, when the NHS already recommends that people should consider taking the vitamin.

A senior Government source said: “We are going to make sure those most in need of vitamin D can access a free supply over the winter months. Some studies suggest Vitamin D supplementation could have a positive impact for people suffering with Covid-19.”