JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
Coronavirus COVID-19: May 2020 – 9 February 2021
The Dogs Trained to Sniff Out COVID-19
Gathered here are images from Russia, England, Chile, Australia, Iran, Finland, and more countries, where these canine COVID-19–detection programs are being developed.
Recently, the Miami Heat announced it will start doing so to screen attendees at its games – (Nick’s Gleanings) “This supposedly has a 90+% accuracy rate & requires no direct human contact. It likely is also cost-effective, for dogs don’t join unions, are ‘cheap keepers’ (typically living with their minders) & don’t draw pensions.”
Our World in Data: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations
Everything you need to know. By country. Updated daily.
Why Australia’s ‘world-class’ quarantine system has seen breaches
(BBC) Australia’s hotel quarantine system has been an extremely effective first line of defence against Covid-19. … But a series of isolated local cases in recent months – all from hotel quarantine leaks – have caused alarm.
…many epidemiologists believe only airborne transmissions are causing cases to slip out, most likely through hotel corridors.
… Current hotel protections work to prevent droplets spreading, but experts argue that aerosols need more barriers. These could include better masks and face shields for workers, upgrading air conditioners, and even picking buildings with better ventilation or windows, balconies, and other openings.
A doctor explains how Singapore has kept COVID-19 cases low
Dr. Lim Hui Ling, 51, is the medical director for the International Medical Clinic in Singapore.
Lim says going through the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic helped prepare her and other healthcare workers to deal with COVID-19.
She also credits fellow Singaporeans for helping stop the spread of the virus by willingly wearing masks, social distancing, and using a contact tracing app.
Why you can’t get the AstraZeneca vaccine
The Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford was supposed to be the world’s vaccine. But the drug’s global rollout is faltering.
AstraZeneca promised it would deliver more than 2 billion doses globally, more than any other vaccine candidate, with about half going to lower-income countries. Unlike the shots from Moderna and Pfizer, this vaccine candidate relies on proven technology that’s been used in other virus vaccines. Plus, it’s low cost, about $3 to $4 a pop, and doesn’t need to stay frozen. It’s already been authorized in several countries including the U.K., India, Mexico and Brazil. Many countries, including the U.S., have inked deals to buy millions of doses of the vaccine.
Now a string of new data has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Bloomberg Politics: As countries race to meet coronavirus vaccination targets, the inclination in some parts of the world to stockpile gives an opportunity for others to fill the void, and to score strategic points in the process.
The European Union is making it harder for locally-produced vaccines to be sent outside the bloc. Other countries may be considering the same. Leaders have promised to quickly inoculate large swaths of their populations, and there’s a lot at stake if they fail to do so.
Some big Western pharma companies are ramping up production to try and meet demand. But the sense of “me first” is opening the door to smaller states taking supply where they can get it – from China and, increasingly, Russia.
Hungary is the first country in the EU to agree to take both the Russian and Chinese produced vaccines. Some other European states, and those in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, are doing the same.
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine got a significant boost yesterday with news an interim analysis of an advanced clinical trial showed efficacy of 91.6%. Mexico has now approved it for use, as has Pakistan. Chancellor Angela Merkel says she’s ready to consider using it in Germany.
China meanwhile said today it’s set to provide 10 million doses to Covax, the World Health Organization’s program to assist developing nations.
Once the pandemic subsides, countries will remember who helped them out in the dark times. Even as they know, when it comes to Beijing and Moscow, there are always political and monetary strings attached. – — Rosalind Mathieson
The Second COVID-19 Shot Is a Rude Reawakening for Immune Cells
Side effects are just a sign that protection is kicking in as it should.
Lost touch: how a year without hugs affects our mental health
(The Guardian) As adults, we may not comprehend the importance of touch even when it disappears. “We might begin to realise that something is missing, but we won’t always know that it’s touch,” says Prof Francis McGlone, a neuroscientist based at Liverpool John Moores University and a leader in the field of affective touch. “But when we talk about the problem of loneliness, we often ignore the obvious: what lonely people aren’t getting is touch.”
As the pandemic continues, many of us will be trying to cope with profound stress without the comfort of touch. We all have different needs and boundaries, but the total absence of touch, particularly when emotions are high, contravenes the hardwiring that regulates us from our preverbal years.
“Touch is a modulator that can temper the effects of stress and pain, physical and emotional. We have seen in our research that a lack of touch is associated with greater anxiety,” says Fotopoulou. “In times of high stress – the loss of a job, or a bereavement, for example – having more touch from others helps us cope better, particularly in calming the effects of [the stress hormone] cortisol.”
As Coronavirus Mutates, the World Stumbles Again to Respond
A South African tip led to the discovery of mutations around the world. With infections skyrocketing, “it’s a race against time.”
Scientists have discovered worrisome new variants of the virus, leading to border closures, quarantines and lockdowns, and dousing some of the enthusiasm that arrived with the vaccines.
The coronavirus has evolved as it made its way across the world, as any virus is expected to do. But experts have been startled by the pace at which significant new variants have emerged, adding new urgency to the race between the world’s best defenses — vaccinations, lockdowns and social distancing — and an aggressive, ever-changing foe.
With the world stumbling in its vaccination rollout and the number of cases steeply rising to peaks that exceed those seen last spring, scientists see a pressing need to immunize as many people as possible before the virus evolves enough to render the vaccines impotent.
‘Like the roaring ’20s,’ but not for everyone: What history tells us about life after COVID-19
Life after COVID-19 could eventually lead to an exuberant period similar to the ‘roaring ’20s’ of the 20th century, but inequality will keep some groups away from the party, say experts who study the social determinants of health.
Going back thousands of years, there’s a pattern to how societies have responded to epidemics, including the flu pandemic that preceded the 1920s, said Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a former hospice doctor, medical sociologist and professor at Yale University.
People get more religious and more risk averse. They spend less and drink less.
“There are all these sort of psycho-social responses and economic responses to the spread of a deadly germ that are pretty typical of human populations. And so when all of this is over … we will unravel a lot of those things.”
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine appears effective against mutation
(Reuters) Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the U.S. drugmaker.
The study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.
Vaccine nationalism – and how it could affect us all
(WEF) As COVID-19 vaccines are developed and approved, national leaders face a dilemma: which to prioritize – country or planet?
Both, most people would answer. Nonetheless, ‘‘vaccine nationalism,” where countries prioritize their own vaccine needs, is forecast to handicap not just the global health recovery but the economic one, too, with one report estimating its impact at more than $1 trillion per year.
China hasn’t granted entry to WHO experts researching origins of COVID-19
An international team of experts had been due to visit the central city of Wuhan in January, where the pandemic first appeared a year ago.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that members of the international scientific team began departing from their home countries over the last 24 hours as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.
The Chinese government has been strictly controlling all research at home into the origins of the virus, an Associated Press investigation found, and state-owned media have played up reports that suggest the virus could have originated elsewhere.
How Israel Became a World Leader in Vaccinating Against Covid-19
Badly hit by the coronavirus, Israel has distributed the first of two vaccine doses to more than 10 percent of its population. Prime Minister Netanyahu is leading the charge, bolstering his own battered image along the way.
We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time
By David Wallace-Wells
(New York Magazine) You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab. In Massachusetts, the Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial. This is — as the country and the world are rightly celebrating — the fastest timeline of development in the history of vaccines. It also means that for the entire span of the pandemic in this country, which has already killed more than 250,000 Americans, we had the tools we needed to prevent it.
Amnesty: rich countries have bought too many COVID-19 vaccines
(Reuters) – Rich countries have secured enough coronavirus vaccines to protect their populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021, Amnesty International and other groups said on Wednesday, possibly depriving billions of people in poorer areas.
Ian Bremmer: What Happens Next as the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollouts Begin
(TIME) Developing countries are likely to be excluded in the first wave of high-caliber vaccines being rolled out at the moment by the likes of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. There will be some goodwill gestures by expanding some limited form of access to them, but the societies able to materially improve their situation and economies on the back of the vaccine the quickest will be the advanced industrial democracies and those developing countries with significant vaccine manufacturing capabilities (think China, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, India and Indonesia)… exacerbating global inequality between countries, not just within them.
UK approves Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine for rollout next week
‘Historic moment’ allows mass immunisation, with 800,000 doses expected to be available next week
(The Guardian) The UK has become the first western country to license a vaccine against Covid, opening the way for mass immunisation with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to begin next week for those most at risk.
The vaccine has been authorised for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), before decisions by the US and Europe. The MHRA was given power to approve the vaccine by the government under special regulations before 1 January, when it will become fully responsible for medicines authorisation in the UK after Brexit.
The first doses of the vaccine would arrive in the coming days, said the company. The UK has bought 40m doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to have 95% efficacy in its final trials.
Moderna becomes second company to request emergency FDA authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate
Biotech company Moderna will apply Monday for an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after receiving more good news about the safety and effectiveness of its candidate COVID-19 vaccine.
After Admitting Mistake, AstraZeneca Faces Difficult Questions About Its Vaccine
Some trial participants only got a partial dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Experts said the company’s spotty disclosures have eroded confidence.
(NYT) At first glance on Monday morning, the results looked promising. Depending on the strength at which the doses were given, the vaccine appeared to be either 90 percent or 62 percent effective. The average efficacy, the developers said, was 70 percent.
Almost immediately, though, there were doubts about the data.
The regimen that appeared to be 90 percent effective was based on participants receiving a half dose of the vaccine followed a month later by a full dose; the less effective version involved a pair of full doses. AstraZeneca disclosed in its initial announcement that fewer than 2,800 participants received the smaller dosing regimen, compared with nearly 8,900 participants who received two full doses.
Another COVID-19 vaccine success? Candidate may prevent further coronavirus transmission, too
(Science magazine) A third COVID-19 vaccine candidate has convincing evidence that it works, and it may be easier to distribute and cheaper than the two other vaccines already shown to protect people.
… AstraZeneca says about 3 billion doses of the vaccine could be ready in 2021. Whereas the apparently powerful COVID-19 vaccines recently announced by Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech collaboration rely on a snippet of messenger RNA coding for the spike surface protein of SARS-CoV-2, the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine stimulates immunity by using a crippled chimpanzee adenovirus as a “vector” to deliver the gene for spike. (A Russian team has also presented evidence its vaccine works, but noted too few COVID-19 cases at the time to persuade many outside scientists.)
(Amanpour & Co.) The pharmaceutical giant is now seeking emergency use listing from the World Health Organization, which would speed up availability for low-income countries.
The world’s G20 economies have pledged to fairly share any vaccine and ensure affordability and accessibility to all, a condition requested by major philanthropists and faith leaders. To discuss all this and the importance of the UK’s international aid commitments, Christiane speaks with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is head of the worldwide Anglican community.
Gates Foundation CEO on vaccine access (transcript)
(CBC The Current)More than a million people have died from Covid-19 over the course of this pandemic, and few countries have been able to stifle the spread of Covid. Now all eyes appear to be on a race for a vaccine. In little more than a week, two promising candidates have emerged. Vaccination is also at the forefront of funding efforts by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That foundation has committed 450 million U.S. dollars to confronting Covid-19, most of which is going towards developing and distributing vaccines and making sure that they are available to some of the poorest countries in the world. Mark Suzman is the foundation’s CEO.
(The Conversation) The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines — a new type of platform that hasn’t been used before.
Today in The Conversation Canada, physician scientist Julian Willett of McGill University explains how these mRNA vaccines work, and what they might mean in terms of an eventual return to normal.
‘A special day’: End of Pfizer trial paves way for a COVID shot this year
The efficacy rate of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech BNTX.O is the highest of any candidate in late-stage clinical trials so far, and experts said it was a significant achievement in the race to end the pandemic.
Final results from Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine trial showed its shot had a 95% success rate and two months of safety data, paving the way for the drugmaker to apply for an emergency U.S. authorization within days, it said on Wednesday.
Global daily coronavirus deaths cross record of 10,733 single-day deaths
(Reuters) The number of reported global daily deaths from the coronavirus stood at 10,816 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest single-day death count … The United States leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported, accounting for one in every 12 deaths reported worldwide each day, according to a Reuters analysis.
Brazil, with 166,699 coronavirus deaths, followed by India with 130,993 are the only two other countries who have reported more than 100,000 deaths since the first coronavirus-related death was reported in Wuhan, China this January.
Ten trends to watch in the coming year
1 Fights over vaccines. As the first vaccines become available in quantity, the focus will shift from the heroic effort of developing them to the equally daunting task of distributing them. Vaccine diplomacy will accompany fights within and between countries over who should get them and when. A wild card: how many people will refuse a vaccine when offered? See article
We can stop COVID-19: Moderna vaccine success gives world more hope
(Reuters) – Moderna Inc’s MRNA.O experimental vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, the company said on Monday, becoming the second U.S. drugmaker to report results that far exceed expectations.
Together with Pfizer Inc’s PFE.N vaccine, which is also more than 90% effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could have two vaccines authorized for emergency use in December with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available this year.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s shot can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, which should make it easier to distribute, a critical factor as COVID-19 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the United States and pushing some European countries back into lockdowns.
(BUSINESS WIRE)– Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech SE (Nasdaq: BNTX) today announced their mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, against SARS-CoV-2 has demonstrated evidence of efficacy against COVID-19 in participants without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, based on the first interim efficacy analysis conducted on November 8, 2020 by an external, independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) from the Phase 3 clinical study.
This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic
k, the measure of its dispersion
(The Atlantic) By now many people have heard about R0—the basic reproductive number of a pathogen, a measure of its contagiousness on average. But unless you’ve been reading scientific journals, you’re less likely to have encountered k, the measure of its dispersion. The definition of k is a mouthful, but it’s simply a way of asking whether a virus spreads in a steady manner or in big bursts, whereby one person infects many, all at once. After nine months of collecting epidemiological data, we know that this is an overdispersed pathogen, meaning that it tends to spread in clusters, but this knowledge has not yet fully entered our way of thinking about the pandemic—or our preventive practices.
Multiple studies from the beginning have suggested that as few as 10 to 20 percent of infected people may be responsible for as much as 80 to 90 percent of transmission, and that many people barely transmit it. (30 September)
China Is Winning the Vaccine Race
How Beijing Positioned Itself as the Savior of the Developing World
(Foreign Affairs) Worldwide, 11 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are currently in phase three trials, the final stage before regulatory approval. Four are Chinese. The most promising of these, developed by Wuhan-based Sinopharm, is already being given to frontline workers in the United Arab Emirates. According to Wu Guizhen, chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Sinopharm’s candidate is on track for full approval this month or next.
Singapore firm invents coronavirus breathalyser with results in seconds
(Reuters) – A company in Singapore has developed a breathalyser test for the new coronavirus which it says will enable people to know whether they are infected in under a minute.
Breathonix, a startup firm from the National University of Singapore, says its test achieved more than 90% accuracy in a pilot clinical trial of 180 people in the city-state and hopes to get regulatory approval early next year.
Countries worldwide are looking to develop alternative tests to the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) nasal swab, which is invasive and in short supply in some places where demand has outstripped manufacturers’ production capacity.
How Long Does the COVID Virus Live on Surfaces?
A new Australian study suggests SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces for up to 28 days. But that’s probably not as concerning as it sounds.
(McGill Office for Science and Society (OSS)) A new study from the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness has suggested that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can survive on surfaces for up to 28 days. The study, as reported by many media outlets, was worrisome. It implied that the virus could linger on surfaces for much longer than previously thought and meant that even the most meticulous person might come into contact with some virus during normal activities. But an important detail was often omitted in the reporting. Researchers studied the virus under ideal lab conditions, and lab conditions can differ greatly from everyday life.
…. In lab studies, researchers will spray a virus-containing solution onto a surface and repeatedly measure for traces of the virus until no more virus can be detected. In these types of controlled situations, viruses would be likely to survive for much longer than they would in the real world. Viruses can’t replicate outside a host and if left on an inert surface, they will simply die off after a while, although how long that takes depends on the conditions in the environment. Factors like heat and UV light can speed up viral degradation, so researchers tried to control for these factors in their experiment. Viral samples on various surfaces were kept in incubators to keep the samples at a constant temperature. Another unreported detail is that the experiments were also carried out entirely in the dark.
Experts Forcefully Push Back on Barrington Declaration
A letter signed by 80 researchers says the concept put forth by the Great Barrington Declaration is “a dangerous fallacy.”
The herd immunity approach championed by the Great Barrington Declaration would, if actually put into practice, prove disastrous for society as a whole and the healthcare system in particular. That’s the message in a memorandum that was written by 80 international researchers and published in The Lancet this week. That open letter, called the John Snow Memorandum, warns that a herd immunity approach to managing COVID-19 by allowing immunity to develop in low-risk populations while protecting the most vulnerable is “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by the scientific evidence.” That’s also a point made by Kevin Kavanagh, MD, a member of Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board in his rebuttal to the Declaration.
White House Embraces Covid-19 ‘Herd Immunity’ Declaration
(NYT) The declaration has more than 9,000 signatories from all over the world, its website says, though most of the names are not public. The document grew out of a meeting hosted by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian-leaning research organization.
Its lead authors include Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an economist at Stanford University, the academic home of Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s science adviser. Dr. Atlas has also espoused herd immunity.
The declaration’s signatories include Sunetra Gupta and Gabriela Gomes, two scientists who have proposed that societies may achieve herd immunity when 10 to 20 percent of their populations have been infected with the virus, a position most epidemiologists disagree with.
The Great Barrington Declaration
The Great Barrington Declaration – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
NB Wikipedia: Critics of the declaration’s recommendations, including academics and the World Health Organization, have stated that the proposed strategy is dangerous and unethical, that it would be impossible to shield those who are medically vulnerable, that the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still not fully understood, and that the herd immunity component of the strategy is undermined by the limited duration of post-infection immunity.
The declaration was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University. It was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think tank that is part of a Koch-funded network of organizations associated with climate change denial.
J&J pauses COVID-19 vaccine trials due to unexplained illness in participant
(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson said on Monday it had temporarily paused its COVID-19 vaccine candidate clinical trials due to an unexplained illness in a study participant, delaying one of the highest profile efforts to contain the global pandemic.
J&J said that such pauses are normal in big trials, which can include tens of thousands of people. It said the “study pause” in giving doses of the vaccine candidate was different from a “regulatory hold” required by health authorities.
Coronavirus can last 28 days on glass, currency, study finds
(Reuters) – The virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on banknotes, glass and stainless steel for up to 28 days, much longer than the flu virus, Australian researchers said on Monday, highlighting the need for frequent cleaning and handwashing.
Training our immune systems: Why we should insist on a high-quality COVID-19 vaccine
(The Conversation Canada) Obviously a COVID-19 vaccine will affect how our immune systems respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus — that’s the whole point. It won’t make us immune to all coronaviruses, but it could “train” our immune systems to launch a specific type of attack against any such virus in future. …our first exposure to a pathogen, either naturally or via vaccination, influences future responses to similar pathogens.
University of Guelph immunologists Byram W. Bridle and Shayan Sharif and University of Toronto clinician-scientist Samira Mubareka explain that a properly developed COVID-19 vaccine provides an opportunity to train our immune systems to mount optimal protective responses to other coronavirus infections and vaccines in the future.
Vaccine Chaos Is Looming
The COVID-19 vaccines furthest along in clinical trials are the fastest to make, but they are also the hardest to deploy.
By Sarah Zhang
(The Atlantic) On the day that a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, a vast logistics operation will need to awaken. Millions of doses must travel hundreds of miles from manufacturers to hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies, which in turn must store, track, and eventually get the vaccines to people all across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state and local health departments, coordinates this process. These agencies distributed flu vaccines during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic this way, and they manage childhood vaccines every day. But the COVID-19 vaccine will be a whole new challenge.
The leading vaccine candidates both deploy a new, long-promised technology. Their core is a piece of mRNA, genetic material that in this case encodes for the spike protein—the bit of the coronavirus that helps it enter human cells.
… Lastly, both Moderna’s and Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccines require two doses per person over time, and the second dose has to come from the same manufacturer as the first dose. It also has to be administered 28 days, for Moderna’s, or 21 days, for Pfizer and BioNTech’s, after the first dose—in both cases longer than the vaccines can be stored in the fridge. All of this means that having the right number of vaccines for the right people will require extensive and careful record keeping.
Can airport testing and Covid immunity passports unlock travel?
(CNN) — In the current Covid-created travel maze, passengers face constantly shifting rules as airports, countries and even airlines impose their own restrictions on who can cross international borders.
Testing has been adopted by various places as a key to allowing transit, leading to more widespread calls from the travel industry to use this to facilitate the return to a more normal flow of passenger traffic.
Travelers too favor testing. According to a recent SmartBrief for the Business Traveler poll, more than 65% think a test should be required to travel.
But is testing — and the introduction of so-called Covid immunity passports that show when someone has recovered from the infection — really the key to getting the world in the move again?
IATA calls for COVID-19 testing at airports, says quarantine ‘killing’ industry
About 83% of air travellers from 11 countries said in an IATA poll they wouldn’t fly if there was a chance of being quarantined at destination.
IATA’s call comes as countries including France, Spain and Canada grapple with a spike in COVID-19 infections. The surge in cases is one reason Canadian transport minister Marc Garneau — in a recent interview with Presse Canadienne — wouldn’t commit to cutting the 14-day quarantine that Canada imposes on travellers entering the country.
What is COVAX, the ambitious global plan for a coronavirus vaccine?
(WEF) The only real hope of ending the COVID-19 pandemic is with a vaccine. But at a time of rising nationalism and fraying global cooperation, how can we ensure rich countries don’t stockpile the shots, leaving poor countries out in the cold?
There is a plan to ensure the whole world has fair access to a potential vaccine: COVAX. It’s coordinated by the World Health Organization in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; CEPI, the Centre for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations, and others. So far, 156 economies have signed up, representing nearly two thirds of the global population.
Under COVAX, countries will have “guaranteed access to the world’s largest portfolio of vaccine candidates,” according to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
World Health Organization unveils plan for distributing coronavirus vaccine, urges cooperation
(WaPo) More than 150 countries, representing 64 percent of the world’s population, have agreed to participate in the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, which aims to develop and distribute $2 billion in doses of a vaccine by the end of next year.
Under the plan, rich and poor countries pool money to provide manufacturers with volume guarantees for a slate of vaccine candidates. The idea is to discourage hoarding and focus on vaccinating high-risk people in every participating country first.
Coronavirus: Oxford University to resume vaccine trial after pause
(BBC) On Tuesday, AstraZeneca said the studies were being paused while it investigated whether the adverse reaction was linked with the vaccine.
8,000 jumbo jets needed to deliver coronavirus vaccines globally, IATA warns
The delivery of any future coronavirus vaccine requires “careful planning” with the air transport industry now. Calling it the “largest single transport challenge ever,” the air transport body called on governments to prepare now.
Coronavirus: Oxford University vaccine trial paused after participant falls ill
(BBC) Hopes have been high that the vaccine might be one of the first to come on the market, following successful phase 1 and 2 testing.
Its move to Phase 3 testing in recent weeks has involved some 30,000 participants in the US as well as in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Phase 3 trials in vaccines often involve thousands of participants and can last several years.
The Munk Debates podcast: Swedish Model
Be it resolved, Sweden is the model for how to fight this pandemic and the next.
Guests: Jonas F. Ludvigsson and Lena Einhorn
In a world where shutdowns and quarantines have become the norm, Sweden stands out for choosing a pandemic strategy that is markedly different than its peer nations. The Swedish model for fighting the pandemic does not enforce quarantines for infected households let alone entire cities and counties. Mask wearing and social distancing are entirely voluntary. Supporters of the Swedish model argue that its strength lies in being sustainable over the long haul, grounded in the recognition that the virus will be with us for many years. Critics say this strategy has come at way too high a price. … They fear that without a complete rethink of its pandemic strategy the country is headed for a public health disaster in the autumn.
U.S. says it won’t join WHO-linked effort to develop, distribute coronavirus vaccine
(WaPo) The Trump administration said it will not join a global effort to develop, manufacture and equitably distribute a coronavirus vaccine, in part because the World Health Organization is involved, a decision that could shape the course of the pandemic and the country’s role in health diplomacy.
More than 170 countries are in talks to participate in the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, which aims to speed vaccine development, secure doses for all countries and distribute them to the most high-risk segment of each population.
The plan, which is co-led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, was of interest to some members of the Trump administration and is backed by traditional U.S. allies, including Japan, Germany and the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.
Vaccine nationalism or vaccine multilateralism?
(UN Dispatch) That choice is facing governments around the world as they prepare for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine — but the choice is really a false one. When a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, chances are that it will have been brought into the world through a little-known platform for international cooperation on vaccine research and development.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, lets governments pool resources for the manufacture and development of a COVID-19 vaccine. So far, nine CEPI-supported vaccine candidates are in clinical trials. This includes two of the most promising vaccines in large scale human trials: the Moderna Vaccine and the Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine.
What makes CEPI investments unique is that in return for early and ongoing support from CEPI, the drug makers agree to equitable access to the vaccine when it becomes available. In other words, when a CEPI-supported vaccine comes to market it will be accessible to people in poorer and wealthier countries, alike.
Britain lines up more potential COVID-19 vaccine supplies with J&J and Novavax deals
(Reuters) Britain will buy potential COVID-19 vaccines from drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, the companies said, boosting the number of deals it has with drugmakers as the global vaccine race rages on. Britain and the United States are in the lead with six vaccine deals with drugmakers each, as companies and governments worldwide work overtime to find a vaccine against the global pandemic. The latest agreements bring Britain’s total number of doses secured to 362 million for a population of 66 million.
Russia’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine is less than meets the press release
An experimental COVID-19 vaccine made by a Russian research institute needs more testing, many scientists say
(Science) In a startling and confusing move, Russia claimed today [Tuesday] it had approved the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, as the nation’s Ministry of Health issued what’s called a registration certificate for a vaccine candidate that has been tested in just 76 people. The certificate allows the vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, to be given to “a small number of citizens from vulnerable groups,” including medical staff and the elderly, a Ministry of Health spokesperson tells ScienceInsider. But the certificate stipulates that the vaccine cannot be used widely until 1 January 2021, presumably after larger clinical trials have been completed.
Scientists around the world immediately denounced the certification as premature and inappropriate, as the Gamaleya vaccine has yet to complete a trial that convincingly shows it is safe and effective in a large group of people. Even some within Russia challenged the move.
COVID-19 Data Reveal That Urban Density Is Not the Enemy
(New York) The arguments over density and this latest contagion have been largely speculative, resulting in an orgy of confirmation bias. One study, which came out in early April, correlated density with cumulative deaths but not with rates of death or infection. The researchers found that the more people live in any given place, the more will get sick and die. They did not find evidence that living in high-rise buildings or on blocks of townhouses makes it any more likely that you will contract the coronavirus or die from it. Now, finally, we have data — preliminary, partial, and inconclusive, but data nevertheless. A new report in the Journal of the American Planning Association (by Shima Hamidi, a public-health expert at Johns Hopkins, and Sadegh Sabouri and Reid Ewing, both urban planners at the University of Utah) concludes that density doesn’t make a city sick; crowding and connectivity do.
‘Vaccine nationalism’: Is it every country for itself?
(Reuters) – It’s dog eat dog in the world of COVID-19 vaccines.
That’s the fear of global health agencies planning a scheme to bulk-buy and equitably distribute vaccines around the world. They are watching with dismay as some wealthier countries have decided to go it alone, striking deals with drugmakers to secure millions of doses of promising candidates for their citizens.
The deals – including those agreed by the United States, Britain and the European Union with the likes of Pfizer (PFE.N), BioNtech (22UAy.F), AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Moderna (MRNA.O) – are undermining the global drive, experts say.
“Everybody doing bilateral deals is not a way to optimize the situation,” said Seth Berkley, chief executive of the GAVI alliance which co-leads the scheme called COVAX designed to secure rapid and fair global access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Pfizer said this week it was in concurrent talks with the EU and several of its member states on supplying them with its potential vaccine.
And in the latest swoop, Britain announced a deal on Wednesday to secure advanced supplies of potential COVID-19 vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Sanofi (SASY.PA).
This, according to global health charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), will further fuel “the global scramble to hoard vaccines by rich countries” and feed “a dangerous trend of vaccine nationalism”.
The concern is that vaccine supply and allocation in this pandemic will echo the last – caused by the H1N1 flu virus in 2009/2010 – when rich nations bought up the available supply of vaccines, initially leaving poor countries with none.
In that instance, since H1N1 turned out to be a milder disease and the pandemic ultimately petered out, the impact on infections and deaths from vaccine imbalances was limited.
However COVID-19 is a far greater threat, and leaving swathes of the world’s people vulnerable will not only harm them, but also extend the pandemic and the damage it can cause, health experts say.
More than 75 wealthier countries including Britain have expressed interest in the COVAX financing scheme, which is also co-led by the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, joining 90 poorer ones who would be supported through donations.
But the United States, China and Russia are not among countries expressing interest in COVAX, according to GAVI.
And an EU source said last week that the European Commission, which is the bloc’s executive arm and leads EU talks with drugmakers, has advised EU countries not to buy COVID-19 vaccines via COVAX.
Experts estimate the world can reasonably hope to have around 2 billion doses of effective COVID-19 vaccines by the end of next year, if several of the leading candidates prove effective in expedited late-stage trials currently underway. COVAX’s aim is to distribute doses for at least 20% of its signed-up countries’ populations.
U.S., Britain and Canada say Russian cyberspies are trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research
(WaPo) Hackers linked to a Russian intelligence service are trying to steal information from researchers working to produce coronavirus vaccines in the United States, Britain and Canada, security officials in those countries said Thursday.
The hackers, who belong to a unit known variously as APT29, “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear,” are targeting vaccine research and development organizations in the three countries, the officials said in a joint statement. The unit is one of the two Russian spy groups that penetrated the Democratic Party’s computers in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.
The announcement comes as reported coronavirus cases globally have topped 13.5 million, deaths have surpassed the half-million mark, and the stakes for being first to develop a vaccine are high.
Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, responsible for gathering foreign signals intelligence and the Canadian equivalent of the NSA, said the attacks “serve to hinder response efforts at a time when health-care experts and medical researchers need every available resource to help fight the pandemic.”
A CSE bulletin said that a Canadian biopharmaceutical company was breached by a foreign actor in mid-April, “almost certainly attempting to steal its intellectual property.”
The joint announcement comes two months after the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned that China was also targeting covid-19 research, and that health-care, pharmaceutical and research labs should take steps to protect their systems.
As U.S. buys up remdesivir, ‘vaccine nationalism’ threatens access to COVID-19 treatments
Are we really all in this together? ‘Vaccine nationalism’ must be addressed to ensure equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
(The Conversation) In March, there were reports that Donald Trump’s administration tried to buy a German company working on a COVID-19 vaccine in order to secure the entire supply for the U.S. A group formed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands struck a deal in the past few weeks to secure 400 million doses of AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine, although other countries are also encouraged to join the group on the same terms. Whether poor countries could afford the terms is another question.
It certainly doesn’t seem that “we’re all in this together” — it’s looking more and more like a dog-eat-dog world. The group that’s most likely to be eaten are those living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Gilead, the maker of remdesivir, has licence agreements with manufacturers to supply remdesivir in 127 LMICs, but those agreements exclude large middle-income countries such as Brazil, China and Mexico.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is creating a facility that will enter into advance purchase agreements with pharmaceutical companies guaranteeing the purchase of any eventual vaccines. But this proposal has generated significant global concerns about its impact on equitable access for populations, especially in developing countries. Under the agreement, rich countries will get the first crack at enough vaccine to cover 20 per cent of their population, and only then will poorer countries be guaranteed the vaccine — and only for their highest priority populations.
239 Experts With One Big Claim: The Coronavirus Is Airborne
The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby. If airborne transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, the consequences for containment will be significant. Masks may be needed indoors, even in socially-distant settings. Health care workers may need N95 masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients. Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimize recirculating air and add powerful new filters. Ultraviolet lights may be needed to kill viral particles floating in tiny droplets indoors. The World Health Organization has long held that the coronavirus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that, once expelled by infected people in coughs and sneezes, fall quickly to the floor.
South Korea’s second wave
(Reuters) Health authorities in South Korea said for the first time the country is in the midst of a “second wave” of the coronavirus infections focused around its densely populated capital. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously said South Korea’s first wave had never really ended. But on Monday, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it had become clear that a holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a new wave of infections focused in the greater Seoul area, which had previously seen few cases.
The race for a vaccine
Scientists at Imperial College London will start the first clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine this week with funding from the British government and philanthropic donors. About 300 healthy volunteers will receive two doses of the vaccine to test whether it is safe in people and whether it produces an effective immune response.
In Singapore, scientists testing a vaccine from U.S. firm Arcturus Therapeutics plan to start human trials in August after promising initial responses in mice. AstraZeneca’s potential coronavirus vaccine is likely to provide protection against contracting COVID-19 for about a year, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.
More than 100 potential vaccines are in development around the world.
The Protests Will Spread the Coronavirus
The country should expect a spike in less than two weeks, public-health experts say.
The virus seems to spread the most when people yell (such as to chant a slogan), sneeze (to expel pepper spray), or cough (after inhaling tear gas). It is transmitted most efficiently in crowds and large gatherings, and research has found that just a few contagious people can infect hundreds of susceptible people around them. The virus can spread especially easily in small, cramped places, such as police vans and jails.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common
In April, blood clots emerged as one of the many mysterious symptoms attributed to Covid-19, a disease that had initially been thought to largely affect the lungs in the form of pneumonia. Quickly after came reports of young people dying due to coronavirus-related strokes. Next it was Covid toes — painful red or purple digits.
What do all of these symptoms have in common? An impairment in blood circulation. Add in the fact that 40% of deaths from Covid-19 are related to cardiovascular complications, and the disease starts to look like a vascular infection instead of a purely respiratory one.
WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Trial Over Safety Concerns
(NPR) The World Health Organization says it is temporarily halting its clinical trials that use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients over published concerns that the drug may do more harm than good. The move comes after the medical journal The Lancet reported on Friday that patients getting hydroxychloroquine were dying at higher rates than other coronavirus patients. The WHO has 3,500 patients from 17 countries enrolled in what it calls the Solidarity Trial. This is an effort overseen by the WHO to find new treatments for COVID-19. The patients in the trial have been randomly assigned to be treated with hydroxychloroquine which is a common malaria drug, or 3 other experimental drugs for treating COVID-19 in various combinations. Only the hydroxychloroquine part of the trial is being put on hold. “The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and in particular robust, randomized available data to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug [hydroxycholoroquine],” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during an online press conference from Geneva on Monday.
Stockholm Won’t Reach Herd Immunity In May, Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist Says
(NPR) Sweden’s controversial approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic has so far failed to produce the expected results, and there are calls within the country for the government to change its strategy.
Sweden’s Covid-19 policy is a model for the right. It’s also a deadly folly
(The Guardian) … No one, however, would have predicted this news item from last week: “Covid-19 deaths in Sweden were the highest in Europe per capita in a rolling seven-day average between 12 and 19 May.” It confirmed that Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell’s “mitigation” strategy of allowing shops, restaurants, gyms, schools and workplaces to remain open was a deadly folly. It does not even seem to have produced herd immunity. Just 7.3% of Stockholm’s inhabitants had developed Covid-19 antibodies by the end of April. …
The Swedish sickness is a political as well as a medical disaster. Professor Johan Giesecke, an adviser to the Swedish government alongside Tegnell, became a star of the rightwing web as he lectured other governments on the futility of their tough measures. British Conservative commentators have boomed out claims that Sweden showed there was no need to close the UK economy.
The tragedy of the Swedish outbreak is that it is a warning of what happens to countries that trust too much. We are not used to thinking about such dangers of too much deference. Across the world, strongmen have successfully undermined it in country after country. The media are biased against the leader. The civil service is filled with saboteurs. The judges aren’t impartial. As they suspend parliaments and persuade their supporters that bad news is fake news, they leave them with nothing left to believe in except the leader and his party.
Sweden has resisted the global turn towards demagoguery. Every foreign visitor notices the respect for institutions and the faintly stultifying conformity.
A New Entry in the Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine: Hope
More than 100 research teams around the world are taking aim at the virus from multiple angles.
Scientists are increasingly optimistic that a vaccine can be produced in record time. But getting it manufactured and distributed will pose huge challenges.
In a medical research project nearly unrivaled in its ambition and scope, volunteers worldwide are rolling up their sleeves to receive experimental vaccines against the coronavirus.
In labs around the world, there is now cautious optimism that a coronavirus vaccine, and perhaps more than one, will be ready sometime next year.
Scientists are exploring not just one approach to creating the vaccine, but at least four. So great is the urgency that they are combining trial phases and shortening a process that usually takes years, sometimes more than a decade.
Experimental COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna Inc produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, according to very early data released by the biotech company on Monday.
(Reuters) – Moderna Inc’s (MRNA.O) experimental COVID-19 vaccine, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, according to very early data released by the biotech company on Monday.
The Moderna vaccine is one of more than 100 under development intended to protect against the novel coronavirus
Moderna said the vaccine appeared to show a dose response, meaning that people who [received] the 100 mcg dose produced more antibodies than people who got the lower dose.
The vaccine has gotten the green light to start the second stage of human testing. Last week, U.S. regulators gave the vaccine “fast-track” status to speed up the regulatory review.
Unprecedented World Health Assembly Convenes Online As Pandemic Rages
(NPR) The World Health Organization’s annual oversight convention will be held by teleconference beginning Monday, as the worst pandemic in modern history continues around the globe. The 73rd annual World Health Assembly typically brings together representatives from the WHO’s 194 member states in Geneva to discuss a wide range of health topics. However, this year’s meeting will be held by teleconference for the first-time ever. It will also be much more focused — on the novel coronavirus that’s infected more than 4.5 million people, killed 300,000, crashed the global economy and shows no sign of going away on its own. “It’s probably the most important assembly in their history,” says Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy for Oxfam America. “We have a global pandemic. We have half a billion people at risk of falling into poverty. And we need the World Health Assembly to come up with the core solutions. And that is getting a vaccine out, manufactured, distributed and freely available to everyone as soon as possible,” he says.
The viral spillovers that created the coronavirus are only worsening
The novel coronavirus is the latest in a long list of pathogens that have jumped from animals to human beings, triggering pandemics that have killed hundreds of millions, Axios’ Bryan Walsh writes.
Why it matters: COVID-19 underscores the desperate need to better understand and control the intersection of animal and human health. Preventing future pandemics will come down in part to better policing the border zones between animal health and human health.
The 21st century has already experienced four major spillovers: SARS (horseshoe bats via civet cats), H1N1 flu (pig), MERS (bats via camel), and COVID-19 (bats via an intermediate).
• Scientists agree the rate of such events appears to be increasing, raising the risk for future pandemics.
The big picture: Nearly 1.7 million as yet undiscovered viruses are believed to exist in wildlife. Thomas Gillespie, a disease ecologist at Emory University, notes that we still lack data for almost 90% of zoonotic viruses in wild mammal species.
• Despite the clear biological connections between animals and humans, animal health receives perhaps $1 for every $50 that goes to human health, estimates Gregory Gray, an epidemiologist at Duke University.
• Experts are urging more funding to characterize those pathogens and track wet market workers and others who are likely to be the first people infected in a spillover.
• The government funding for PREDICT, a program that was meant to do just that, was initially not going to be extended by the Trump administration last year, but an extension was granted last month. The U.S. Agency for International Development is also launching a similar program called STOP Spillover.
“If we could get hold of emerging viruses before they fully adapt to humans, it would help us better understand it and develop better treatments. That might help us avoid the next viral crossover.” — Peter Ben Embarek, WHO zoonoses expert
What’s Behind South Korea’s COVID-19 Exceptionalism?
Seven weeks ago, South Korea and the U.S. had the same number of virus deaths. Today, South Korea has fewer than 300, and the U.S. has more than 70,000.
(The Atlantic) South Korea’s COVID-19 response strategy sits atop three pillars: fast and free testing, expansive tracing technology, and mandatory isolation of the most severe cases. Each pillar was shaped by the epidemics that preceded the 2019 novel coronavirus.
One of the key lessons of MERS was that bending the curve required an accelerated plan for designing, manufacturing, and distributing accurate tests. In the coronavirus pandemic, no large democracy has been better on these counts than South Korea.
Expansive High-Tech Tracing
In most countries, contact tracing—or, simply, tracing—refers to the practice of interviewing recent patients to learn where, when, and to whom they might have passed along the disease. South Korea combines that approach with high-tech surveillance made possible by the post-MERS legislation mentioned above.
To separate the sick from the healthy—and the somewhat sick from the very sick—South Korea’s patients are divided into several groups. … International arrivals are also subject to isolation rules. South Korea requires that foreign arrivals self-isolate for two weeks. Koreans arriving from overseas are required to download an app that registers their symptoms in the days after their arrival. … (Individuals who violate self-isolation rules face steep fines or, for foreigners, immediate deportation.)
Dr. Scott Gottlieb says rare, ‘unusual phenomena’ affecting kids may be linked to coronavirus
(CNBC) Gottlieb’s comments came a day after New York City health officials warned of an inflammatory disease impacting 15 children that could possibly be associated with Covid-19. The condition is characterized by persistent fever and was likened to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Children who have had this complication have been admitted into intensive care. There have been no reported deaths among the patients, whose ages range from 2 to 15.
According to the New York City Health Department, four of the children tested positive for Covid-19 through diagnostic testing. Six other children who initially were negative through diagnostic screening later tested positive from an antibody test.
The coronavirus has mutated and appears to be more contagious now, new study finds
The new strain began spreading in Europe in early February before migrating to other parts of the world, including the United States and Canada, becoming the dominant form of the virus across the globe by the end of March, researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory wrote in a 33-page report published Thursday on BioRxiv.
If the coronavirus doesn’t subside in the summer like the seasonal flu, it could mutate further and potentially limit the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines being developed by scientists around the world, the researchers warned. Some vaccine researchers have been using the virus’s genetic sequences isolated by health authorities early in the outbreak.
Coronavirus and the Sweden Myth
The country’s approach to the pandemic sets a seductive example. But the United States shouldn’t copy it.
By Ian Bremmer, Cliff Kupchan and Scott Rosenstein, international political risk analysts.
(NYT) While the world’s biggest economies have shut down, one small, well-governed Scandinavian country has allowed most businesses to stay open. The strategy apparently relies on “herd immunity,” in which a critical mass of infection occurs in lower-risk populations that ultimately thwarts transmission.
But the reality is not so simple for Sweden. Government authorities there seem to be for this strategy, then against it, then for it again if the data look promising. And it’s dangerous to assume that even if the strategy works in Sweden, it will work elsewhere. Leaders are grasping for strategies in a time of great uncertainty — but the Swedish model should be approached with caution.
It is too early to tell whether the approach has worked. Stockholm isn’t all of Sweden. And 25 percent of its population with antibodies is not cause for an immunity celebration. We don’t know if that percentage is accurate because the data isn’t available, the antibody tests still appear to be of uncertain accuracy, and we don’t even know what a positive antibody test means. There is some optimism that most people who are infected will have some temporary immunity. But if immunity is short-lived and only present in some individuals, that already uncertain 25 percent becomes even less compelling. We also still don’t know what total population percentage would be necessary to reach the herd immunity goal. It could be as high as 80 percent of the population.
Even if we had perfect knowledge of the Swedish case, there are huge risks with copying the strategy in a country like the United States.
Sweden is a model for the new coronavirus normal, says WHO
(The Times) The World Health Organisation lavished praise on Sweden as “a future model” in the next phase of fighting the outbreak because it has trusted people to observe social distancing rules.
Uniquely in Europe, Sweden chose not to tackle the pandemic with an enforced lockdown even though the policy has led to a higher death toll than in Denmark and Norway.
Dr Mike Ryan, of the WHO emergencies team, said it was wrong to believe that Sweden had “just let the infection spread”, adding: “Nothing can be further from the truth. Sweden has set a very strong policy on public health, it is about physical distancing and how to protect the elderly in various nursing homes and much more.”
Instead of schools, bars, restaurants and shops being closed, Swedes have been advised rather than compelled by the police or fines to adopt social-distancing measures.