Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Good news on Facebook this morning–a friend got her first vaccination this morning after othena.com told her appointments are available! She checked at 5:30 AM, so maybe I haven’t been checking early enough. When I check, around 10:00 AM I get this message: “Thanks for your interest in the COVID-19 vaccine. You are in the waiting room. We will update you based on the availability and priority set by CDPH.” I’ll try being the early bird tomorrow and see what happens.
In the meantime, there is good news today on three fronts: Vaccination, mitigation, and therapeutics.
- Vaccination has several benefits: First, it protects you from getting COVID-19. Second, it protects the community by limiting the spread, getting us closer to the day when the unvaccinated population is so limited that the virus has trouble finding someone to infect (yes, herd immunity). Third, reducing replication worldwide makes it less likely that new variants will be able to form and spread. Variants result from rampant reproduction. Here’s some good news about vaccines this week:
- India, while undertaking a huge immunization program at home, has also donated millions of vaccines to neighboring countries, such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles. With a huge vaccine-manufacturing infrastructure, India is participating in COVAX, the WHO’s program to immunize countries that can least afford it. The Japan Times (below) notes that this is “vaccine diplomacy,” but what a good example of diplomacy this is.
- Norway has also committed to donate vaccines to low-income countries. Both India and Norway are donating vaccines concomitantly with vaccinating their own populations.
- More than 71.3 million shots have been given worldwide, including 24.5 million in the United States. (See Bloomberg, below). Yes, it’s uneven and no, it’s not perfect, but the world is attacking this virus on an unprecedented scale and I think we are off to a great start in 2021. Johnson & Johnson is expected to release its third-phase clinical data next week and apply for approval. Having their single-dose vaccine available should be an enormous advantage to the massive effort already underway.
- Mitigation: These are visible protective measures recommended to avoid infection or prevent its spread. Frustration arises when the rules keep changing, but this virus is new (novel coronavirus, remember?) and learning took place in a very public way.
- Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article “New Playbook for Covid-19” (link below) itemized some of the changes over ten months of experience. Effective measures include: Masks, good ventilation, and frequent rapid testing because people who feel just fine can transmit the virus. Not as effective: wiping off surfaces, taking temperatures, and plexiglass barriers.
- But mitigation strategies are more nuanced than we once thought. A plastic barrier might make sense for a hotel reception desk or store checkout counter where one person greets the public all day long. Maybe not so good when plastic walls enclose four people at lunch, cutting off air circulation in the very space where they laugh and talk.
- A number of articles have decried the practice of wiping down surfaces as “sanitation theater,” but it makes sense for a restaurant or hotel to show their commitment to cleanliness by wiping down surfaces between use. This was brought to my attention by a blog article “The Importance of Sanitation Theater for Restaurants + Hotels.” They may have signs announcing their hygienic measures, but making them visible adds credibility.
- Therapeutics: If you do get Covid, there are more treatments–not just to keep you alive, but to keep you out of the hospital altogether.
- Eli Lilly announced that their monoclonal antibodies can reduce hospitalization and deaths by 70%. This is the cocktail you may have heard about combining bamlanivimab and etesevimab. The results of a trial involving over 1000 patients can be seen in their press release:https://investor.lilly.com/news-releases/news-release-details/new-data-show-treatment-lillys-neutralizing-antibodies.
- Regeneron announced yesterday that their antibody combination (casirivimab and imdevimab–you could write a song with antibody names) reduced symptomatic infections by 100% and overall rates of infection by 50% in a study of 400 people sharing a home with a Covid-19 patient. In other words, the treatment can be used on a short-term basis to prevent people in an at-risk situation from coming down with Covid. Their press release: https://investor.regeneron.com/news-releases/news-release-details/regenerons-regen-cov2-first-antibody-cocktail-covid-19-received.
It’s been almost a year–322 days to be exact–and the news seems to specialize in gloom-and-doom scenarios of slow rollouts and full ICU’s. But as we approach the anniversary of March 11, Pandemic Day, we are also approaching the time when vaccines and more focused interventions, both medical and non-medical, will enable us to see the viral load that surrounds us begin to decline.
At least there’s room for hope.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“Free vaccines and India’s humanitarian diplomacy,” Japan Times, Jan 27, 2021. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2021/01/27/commentary/world-commentary/free-vaccines-india-coronavirus-diplomacy/
“Norway Commits to Donating COVID-19 Vaccines to Low-Income Countries,” Global Citizen, Jan. 20, 2021. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/norway-commits-to-donating-covid-19-vaccines/
“More Than 71.3 Million Shots Given: Covid-19 Tracker,” Bloomberg, Updated Jan. 26, 2021. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/
“New Playbook for Covid-19 Protection Emerges After Year of Study, Missteps,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 26, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-playbook-for-covid-19-protection-emerges-after-year-of-study-missteps-11611680950
“The Importance of Sanitation Theater for Restaurants + Hotels,” Streetsense, June 16, 2020. https://streetsense.com/blog/the-importance-of-sanitation-theater-for-restaurants-hotels/
“Eli Lilly says monoclonal antibody cocktail cuts hospitalizations by 70% for high-risk COVID-19 patients,” USA Today, Jan. 26, updated Jan. 27, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/01/26/eli-lilly-monoclonal-antibodies-high-risk-covid-19-patients-coronavirus/4263087001/
“Regeneron study shows antibody cocktail effective in preventing COVID-19 infection,” Reuters, Jan. 26, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-regeneron-pharms-idUSKBN29V1DY
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an estraordinary world crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.