Coming Soon: The Vaccine Passport

Researchers at Oxford University released new results from their vaccine, which is being manufactured by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, showing it gives 76% protection for three months after just one dose. According to their preliminary findings, the vaccine not only dropped virus transmission by two-thirds, but also improved hospitalization rates and prevented serious disease.

While we should cheer on the latest life-saving developments in science and medicine, governments everywhere are now seriously weighing proposals to make “vaccine passports” a reality and prerequisite for travel. 

As of right now, the federal government is now strictly enforcing its mask mandate for anyone wanting to travel on planes, trains, buses, subways, taxis, car services, boats, and more.

In other news:

  • The Rational Grounds team is hosting a free webinar on Tuesday, February 9th at 9:30 pm ET/6:30 PT. We will share the tools and tactics you need to take back your school. Register here.
  • If you’re looking for specific studies and stats around the lockdowns which have devastated much of the country then look no further, the Rational Grounds team put it all in ONE SPOT
  • A county prosecutor in Michigan dismissed more than 1,600 ordinance violations and misdemeanor citations related to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID emergency orders that have been determined to violate the state constitution.
  • In an analysis for AIER, Jack Nicastro dissects seven cases that exemplify how morbidly inaccurate media coverage of “superspreader” events has been and reveal a pervasive lack of follow-up on the actual outcomes of the events in question.

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

COVID News

The AstraZeneca vaccine is shown to cut transmission of the virus.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/03/us/astrazeneca-coronavirus-vaccine.html

The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca not only protects people from serious illness and death but also substantially slows the transmission of the virus, according to a new study — a finding that underscores the importance of mass vaccination as a path out of the pandemic.

Researchers at the University of Oxford measured the impact on transmission by swabbing participants every week seeking to detect signs of the virus. If there is no virus present, even if someone is infected, it cannot be spread. And they found a 67 percent reduction in positive swabs among those vaccinated.

The results, detailed by Oxford and AstraZeneca researchers in a manuscript that has not been peer-reviewed, found that the vaccine could cut transmission by nearly two-thirds.

Coming Soon: The ‘Vaccine Passport’

Among governments and those in the travel industry, a new term has entered the vocabulary: vaccine passport.

One of President Biden’s executive orders aimed at curbing the pandemic asks government agencies to “assess the feasibility” of linking coronavirus vaccine certificates with other vaccination documents, and producing digital versions of them.

Denmark’s government said on Wednesday that in the next three to four months, it will roll out a digital passport that will allow citizens to show they have been vaccinated.

It isn’t just governments that are suggesting vaccine passports. In a few weeks, Etihad Airways and Emirates will start using a digital travel pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association, to help passengers manage their travel plans and provide airlines and governments documentation that they have been vaccinated or tested for Covid-19.

Federal Mask Cops To Start Targeting Travelers Today

Cue the federal mask cops. Americans are now required to wear masks in planes, trains, buses, subways, taxis, car services, boats, and transportation hubs, per a new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that took effect today. Masks must be of a style approved by the federal government and must fit properly. Failure to comply will result in being prohibited from traveling, booted from the transit in question, and potential criminal penalties.

The order will be enforced by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and “other federal authorities,” as well as state and local officials. “To the extent permitted by law…federal agencies are required to implement additional measures enforcing the provisions of this Order,” the CDC says.

“CDC reserves the right to enforce through criminal penalties,” the agency adds, though it claims not to intend “to rely primarily on these criminal penalties.” The feds may also implement “additional civil measures enforcing the provisions” of the order (which “is not a rule within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act,” the CDC notes, “but rather is an emergency action”).

Wayne County dismisses 1,600-plus violations of Whitmer’s overturned coronavirus orders

https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2021/02/wayne-county-dismisses-1600-plus-violations-of-whitmers-overturned-coronavirus-orders.html

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on Monday announced her office is dismissing more than 1,600 ordinance violations and misdemeanor citations involving violations of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus emergency orders that were later determined to violate the Michigan Constitution.

Police throughout Michigan began enforcing various emergency orders that limited social gatherings, commerce and other activity under the authority of emergency orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer between April and October, when the state Supreme Court ruled a 1945 law underpinning the orders was unconstitutional.

“As a result of the Michigan Supreme Court ruling (the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office) conducted a review of the cases and it was determined that there is not a legal basis to proceed with them,” Worthy’s office said in a statement Monday. “(The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office) will be dismissing all adjudicated cases and all pending cases.

Commentary/Analysis

Lockdowns: pros and cons

Pros of lockdowns

  • Low chance of a possible temporary suspension of a respiratory virus
  • Gives politicians and bureaucrats the appearance of “taking the pandemic seriously”

Cons of lockdowns

People Suffering from Other Diseases

Seven Times “Superspreader” Events Were Overblown

If Woodstock occured today, it would be derided as a “superspreader” event. Superspreader events are events or gatherings (such as a sporting match, religious service, birthday or wedding) at which an infected individual(s) infects a disproportionate number of other individuals, thereby accelerating community spread of a disease.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a superspreader event is one in which the rate of reproduction of the virus is above the basic reproduction number, R0, which is estimated to be 2.2 to 3.6 for exponential growth models.

Attention-grabbing headlines have bombarded us for months, decrying large events and even family gatherings as “superspreader” events that pose an imminent threat to public health. The typical news trajectory is to raise tremendous public alarm in the planning stages and when the event happens. Once it is over, there is mostly silence, thus leaving the impression that something terrible happened without any real empirical evidence.  

While major news outlets are quick to disseminate doomsday predictions surrounding ‘superspreader’ events, a comparison of the predictions to the actual outcomes of such events shows that they have often been exaggerated. The following seven cases exemplify how morbidly inaccurate media coverage of “superspreader” events has been and reveal a pervasive lack of follow-up on the actual outcomes of the events in question.

We Should Worry about a Permanent Covidocracy

Freedom once surrendered can be hell to claw back.

That’s why I sympathize with those opposing even Covid-19 control measures that have some merit such as masks. Masks can reduce spread by blocking virus that’s attached to droplets, either outgoing or incoming, although they are of little value with the main problem which is fully aerosolized virus. Even for droplets a mask is hardly foolproof, which is why of late the omnipotent Dr. Fauci has told us that double masking “just makes common sense” (before pointing out that there’s no data to support that claim) while others now urge triple masking. Can a plastic bag be far behind?

Further, masking is usually just part of a wider package of measures such as curfews (the virus spreads more easily at night, you see) and represent the controversial strategy of focusing not on the ill but the healthy. 

But what about those surrendered liberties? Herewith a couple of examples in which we find that, mirabile dictu, regulators love to regulate for the sheer sake of it and will not stop until the public seriously fights back.

Research

Single Dose Administration, And The Influence Of The Timing Of The Booster Dose On Immunogenicity and Efficacy Of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) Vaccine

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3777268

Abstract:

Background: The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine has been approved for emergency use by the UK regulatory authority, MHRA, with a regimen of two standard doses given with an interval of between 4 and 12 weeks. The planned rollout in the UK will involve vaccinating people in high risk categories with their first dose immediately, and delivering the second dose 12 weeks later.Here we provide both a further prespecified pooled analysis of trials of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and exploratory analyses of the impact on immunogenicity and efficacy of extending the interval between priming and booster doses. In addition, we show the immunogenicity and protection afforded by the first dose, before a booster dose has been offered.

Initial viral load of a COVID-19-infected case indicated by its cycle threshold value of polymerase chain reaction could be used as a predictor of its transmissibility – An experience from Gujarat, India

https://www.ijcm.org.in/article.asp?issn=0970-0218;year=2020;volume=45;issue=3;spage=278;epage=282;aulast=Sarkar

Abstract:

Background: Transmission dynamics of the infectious disease Corona Virus Disease – 19 (COVID-19) is yet to be understood fully. The study aimed at exploring whether quantitative viral load of COVID-19-infected case indicated by cycle threshold (Ct) value of real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction could predict about transmission pattern in the community. 

Materials and Methods: An observational study was conducted involving 1976 individuals, suspected to be suffering from COVID-19 and contacts, of laboratory confirmed cases from selected districts of Gujarat, India. A total of 138 persons were detected to be positive. Weekly positivity showed an overall increasing trend during the studied weeks. It was observed that only 7% had high, 9% as moderate and rest, 84% had low viral load based on Ct values of real-time RT-PCR. 

Results: Most secondary cases clustered around index cases with high viral load whereas fewer secondary cases clustered around index cases with low viral load. Each index high viral load case transmitted an average of 6.25 secondary cases whereas the same of low viral load transmitted an average of 0.8 case. 

Conclusion: If cases with higher viral load are selectively isolated on detection from the rest of the community along with contact tracing of all individuals, who came in contact with them during the previous 5 days, the quantum of transmission will reduce subsequently. Moreover, health-care workers often get infected while working, probably due to the fact that they often handle cases with higher viral load. The Ct value of all may be provided along with test report to safeguard everybody’s health including health-care workers.

Charts and Graphics

Florida – Annual Adjusted Mortality Rate

In 2020, Florida has only 3% excess deaths yet it had some of the least restrictions.

Japan – Daily New Deaths

International News

WHO admits Chinese mission likely won’t determine COVID-19 origin

https://nypost.com/2021/02/04/who-admits-chinese-mission-likely-wont-determine-covid-origin/

A World Health Organization-led team looking for clues into the origins of COVID-19 warned that it’s unlikely their mission to the Chinese city of Wuhan will provide all the answers.

“We’re not going to come up with the ultimate full understanding of the origins of this virus, but it will be a good first step,” said Peter Ben Embarek, who is the WHO’s top expert on zoonotic diseases that originate in animals, Agence Frace Press reported.

Hung Nguyen-Viet, co-leader of the Animal and Human Health Program of the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, also attempted to temper expectations from the long-awaited visit to the original epicenter of the pandemic.

“I keep saying that we need to be realistic, a short mission like this one will not have all the answers but it helps advance the understanding of the #virusorigin #wuhan,” he wrote in a tweet.

The MoH assessed the medical records of almost a million people in total – 743,845 of whom were over the age of 60 – until at least seven days after they received a second dose of the vaccine.

There were three deaths in vaccinated over-60s – although it is possible they contracted the infection earlier, before their immunity had time to build.

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