COVID-19: Some ignored facts

QUICK THOUGHT: People believe the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in less than a year but that’s not true. Coronaviruses were first encountered in April 1930, when a strange respiratory disease ravaged poultry farms across North Dakota and Minnesota, killing tens of thousands of baby birds. Further scientific research into the virus and recognition that it was not like influenza A, a flu virus known to cause bronchitis, would transpire over the next 30 years.

Based on the virus a number of vaccines targeting the spike protein were designed, tested in animal models and found to be quite promising against SARS and other coronavirus illnesses like Middle East respiratory syndrome. However, the continued study of the virus was shelved because of the lack of funding.

Funding was not the only issue. Testing whether a vaccine can prevent disease requires the disease to still be around. Since there have been no major outbreaks of SARS since 2003, testing vaccine efficacy was difficult. But more instrumental is interest: Few SARS or MERS cases meant pharmaceutical companies were less inclined to invest in a likely rarely used vaccine.

Does this explain the development of the vaccine so rapidly? No. There were other driving factors as well, most notably the potential to earn a LOT of money. Both Pfizer and Moderna stand to make billions, and even though J&J said they would not make money on the first batch, they are already positioning yearly Covid Vaccine shots that could net them billions in sales.

Do Lockdowns Work?

Lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have saved millions of lives and easing them now carries high risks, according to two international studies. The Imperial study analysed the impact of lockdowns and social distancing steps in 11 European countries and found they had “a substantial effect”, helping to lower the infection’s reproductive rate, or R value.

A second study by scientists in the United States, published alongside the Imperial-led one in the journal Nature, estimated that lockdowns in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France and the United States had prevented or delayed around 530 million COVID-19 cases.

Perhaps lockdowns save us from ourselves. Here is SE Florida the mask ordinances have been lifted and people in Miami were partying like the virus never existed. It actually comes down to a very simple aspect; the less people that are exposed to potential carriers the less the COVID cases.

Today there are spikes in COVID cases in states like Michigan where there is little belief in vaccines and social distancing. At a local hospital in Michigan all cases of patients admitted for COVID are patients under 40 who have not been vaccinated.

Keep in mind that even if you are vaccinated you can test positive for COVID. The CDC says “neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.​ If your body develops an immune response—the goal of vaccination—there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results”.

Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 and Moderna vaccines in preventing Covid-19 symptoms in clinical trials are about 90% or greater. But again 90% is not 100%. That means even if you get both doses of either vaccine you will still have a chance of getting Covid-19 with symptoms if exposed to the virus. Plus, clinical trial settings aren’t always the same as real-world settings. The effectiveness of the vaccines in the real world could end up being less than 90%.

It’s also important to understand that we are living this clinical trial in real-time. It’s going to take years to scientifically evaluate the data, including the effect of comorbidities on outcomes. In the end, it’s going to people who determine when this virus subsides. Those who are skeptical and continue to take risks are going to spread the virus.

Finally, some people have very low trust in pharmaceutical companies which is understandable given their pursuit of high profits. I know and have worked with a lot of people who work in R&D and I have faith in their work. What I don’t have faith in is that clinical trials will be done by the book.

I have been vaccinated and still wear masks in public. I will not eat at a restaurant or go shopping until I feel that it’s safe but if I hadn’t been vaccinated, my anxiety level would be sky high right now.