Well just when you thought that it was safe to get back in the water we have news of the rise of mutant corona viruses proliferating seemingly at will. I have covered this likelihood repeatedly and even joked with my brother about the Jackson Hole mutant heading to him in California. In fact mutant variants are popping up all over even in Ohio and Texas. Recall a recent post where I showed an almost vertical exponential spike in Ireland from the B1.1.7 UK variant. The other major variant is the B188.8.131.52 variety originating in the East Cape of S. Africa. However it is the Brazilian variants that are the most concerning and there are at least three labeled P.1, P.2 and P.3. The P.1 is the major one to be worried about. It seems that Manaus , a city of 2 million in NW Brazil had encountered its big pandemic last fall . It was estimated that 75% of its inhabitants had had Covid by late December when all of a sudden a new spike hit and hit hard. Among its unique features was rapid spread and infection of ever younger people. 40% of the victims were under the age of 60. Most alarming was the increase in pathogenicity. Dr Leopolina, a front line Doc, said that this new virus was more transmissible and more pathogenic. He described details such more rapid progression of symptoms. As an example he said while it used to take about 10 days for the lungs to show clinical and radiologic changes, it now only takes seven or eight days and the chest xrays looked far worse than clinical auscultation of the lungs would seem to indicate. It is certainly not coincidental that these new and possibly more pathogenic viruses are emerging from poor and populated areas in the world where the governments response has been weak and ineffective. Keep in mind that our US response and the Russian response has also been ineffective. It does appear that the incoming Biden administration is gearing up for a fight with a mass vaccination program. But will it be effective against these new variants? In Brazil which finally has been vaccinating with the Chinese Sinovac product, authorities are finding that it is only about 50% effective. It was 90% against the original Wuhan Covid virus according to Chinese researchers. Similarly in Israel which has vaccinated the largest percentage of any country , the Health minister Nachman Ash yesterday in the Guardian said that the immunity after the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine was “less effective than we had thought” or that Pfizer had indicated.I saw no mention of which virus was dominant in Israel. 13000 people were coming down with Covid after vaccination “at a greater rate than expected“. This includes at least 69 who were infected after the second jab. Specifically,at 14-17 days post jab there was only a only a 38% improvement in protection as compared to a matched unvaccinated group of 2000,000. This fact alone should be prove positive that we need to question the dubious strategy of trying to vaccinate US citizens with just one dose at the very least even if it means a delay getting the second dose. My opinion is that this was a dangerous and stupid idea emanating out of an administration of dangerous and stupid ideas since last January. A recent long article in Der Spiegel goes into greater detail over the risk of Germany falling victim to these new variants. Here is a telling comment from that article: The virus from Wuhan ravaged the world like a smoldering fire, but the pandemic now more closely resembles a sea of flames raging across the globe.
I have some final comments before closing this post. I said a year ago that this Covid pandemic was likely to be a very big deal but even I may have underestimated how big it was to become. I am willing to speculate that it is going to be a VERY BIG DEAL this year as well because of several factors. The most important is that this Trump Pandemic was ignored for far too long allowing the virus to get a firm toehold just like in Brazil .Incompetence by the government and resistance from US citizens has in many ways sealed our fate. Most of us are sick and tired of living under the cloud of Covid and whether we can at this late date gird our loins and do what needs to be done to abrogate the spread of the Wuhan parent virus and its evil spawns remains to be seen. I have a nagging fear that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may underwhelm but they are the best we have for now and we need to push forward at warp speed while not neglecting ongoing testing and research. Importantly we need more new and rapid testing far quicker than the plodding PCR nasal swab and we need massively increased genomic testing. In Denmark the government wants every positive PCR test to be sent for genomic sequencing and I read that a similar program is being proposed in Manitoba. That will be a difficult task here because the US has only between 21 to 45 sequencing facilities that I was able to find. If the Pharmaceutical companies are to keep ahead of the curve they will need to be developing upgrades and without current genomic information they will fall behind. It would seem to me that right now we should be developing and administering multivalent vaccines to address these variants and not waiting to be overwhelmed by them after they arrive. We KNOW they will arrive. I also think we need to stop administering the vaccines to the aged and nursing home population. It should be given to the groups encountering and spreading the virus. Forget prioritizing the aged. After front line personnel are taken care of, give it to all ages ASAP especially those people like teachers who sit in rooms with 30 to 40 children. My final demand is that we shut down all international air travel. We should also stop all domestic air travel except in an emergency as well. Close the airports to stop the circulation of the virus. For example in Wyoming Teton County at 21000 people has had as many or more new cases than the other two largest counties with the cities of Casper and Cheyenne. They have 4 to 5 times the population and yet we have the same number of cases! Why? We have the busiest airport in the state. Do you think there might be a causal connection? The reason we have a world pandemic is because of unrestricted excessive cross pollination of millions of infected people crowded into small aluminum tubes without adequate ventilation. Shutting down arrivals from only certain countries hasn’t worked.