Case Update, October 19th, 2021; Project Veritas video on HEK293 cell lines.

This is a case update.  I’ll also talk about yet another Project Veritas video that may have you concerned. This discussion will deal candidly with the very controversial issue of abortion.

Cases continue to come down in the US, California, and San Diego County.  So far, we aren’t seeing any uptick from a possible Fall/Winter wave, except perhaps in Minnesota and Michigan. The rate of fall of cases is slowing down, however, suggesting that we may see a new persistent number of cases that is higher than we had before, as has been seen in other countries.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Cases for India. Note the larger number of persistent cases after the Delta wave in May.
Cases for the Netherlands. Note the larger number of persistent cases after the Delta wave in July.

Yet another Project Veritas video was released last week, this time about the allegation that Pfizer used aborted fetal tissue to develop and/or produce the COVID v@¢¢!nes. Pro-life Americans are concerned about this development.  As a pro-life person myself, I wanted to provide some context to this issue.  I’m not going to tell you want to think about the issue, since it is largely a matter of conscience, but I do think when making moral decisions, it’s good to make them for the right reasons.

Scientists often use human cell lines to perform certain studies that require human cells that can be grown in a petri dish outside the body (doing biological things outside an organism is called in vitro, Latin for “in glass”).  Generally, human cells do not grow when removed from the body.  Human cells signal to each other and cells that are separated from others will undergo programmed cell death.  For human cells to grow in a lab, they need to be “immortalized” in some way.  This can be done in several ways.  You may have heard of HeLa cells, human cancerous fibroblasts taken from a patient, Henrietta Lacks, in 1951. These cells grow well in vitro and have been used by countless scientists in countless labs since then, including by me.  Another way is to use embryonic stem cells. 

Many in the US, including me, think it is unethical to collect fresh embryonic stem cells, because this usually requires an abortion. It can also be done after a miscarriage.  The HEK293 cell line was created using embryonic stem cells collected in the Netherlands in 1973.  The specific origin of the stem cells is unclear. Like HeLa cells, HEK293 cells have been very useful to scientists because they grow well in the lab and have other useful properties.

It does appear that Pfizer used these cells in the development of the current COVID v@¢¢!nes, and perhaps even in the manufacturing process.  I need to point out that no new cells were collected for this purpose.  The creation of the COVID v@¢¢!ne does not create a new market for embryonic stem cells.

As I’ve stated before, I am generally pro-v@¢¢!ne, but I am not getting the COVID v@¢¢!ne, mostly because of the ADE issue and because of the potential toxicity of the Spike protein.  However, when deciding how to think about an issue, it’s very helpful to develop your position based on facts and evidence rather than on assumptions.

As a matter of conscience, many pro-life people will take the position that taking a v@¢¢!ne which used HEK293 cells in any part of the process is unethical. I’m not going to ask you to violate your conscience.  I will say again, however, that the cells used to create HEK293 cell line were collected long ago, and no new tissue has been collected for this process.  For me, this means that getting the v@¢¢!ne would not be ethically illegitimate, at least not for this reason. I think people of good will can land on both sides of this issue.

Please let me know in the comments if you have questions.  You can help me be more clear.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update, October 5th, 2021; Project Veritas video regarding Pfizer

This is a case update. I’ll also discuss a new video from Project Veritas featuring interviews from employees of Pfizer.

The Delta wave continues to wane in the US, with cases overall continuing to go down sharply.  This is great news, but I have to caution that last year’s Fall/Winter wave started in October, so there is a chance we will see a new wave starting in the Northern states.  In fact, cases are starting to increase right now in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine, while they are going down in the Southern states.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, October 3rd, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, October 5th, 2021

Cases are also going down in California and San Diego, although there was a spike in cases last week.  Since both regions saw the same spike, it suggests that the event causing the spike may have taken place in Southern California, but this is only speculation.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Pfizer employees discuss immunity:  I always hate making politically charged posts, but this is another occasion when I must.  Project Veritas posted another video just yesterday.  In it, 3 scientists at Pfizer discuss the v@¢¢!nes, saying among other things that natural immunity is actually better protection against the virus than v@¢¢!ne mediated immunity. This is in agreement with the data from Israel published as a pre-print a few weeks ago.

As I’ve stated many times, for at risk people, a v@¢¢!ne is very likely to be of benefit. I have recommended that at risk people get v@¢¢!nated. If you’ve already had COVID, 1 dose of v@¢¢!ne is likely to provide extra benefit.  However, if you’ve had COVID, your natural immunity is likely to provide better protection than “full v@¢¢ination”.

They also make the claim that v@¢¢!nation benefit drops over time because the antibodies gained from v@¢¢!nation drop off over time.  I would also point out that another cause may be that new variants may diverge from the original Wuhan strain enough to makes v@¢¢!nes less effective, but this point is not addressed in this video.

One person even states “I mean, I still feel like I work for an evil corporation.” I want to make a comment about this.  It’s easy for us to blame big corporations for some of the decisions they make, since most of us aren’t in that position. I worked for Quest Diagnostics, a large medical testing company.  The vast majority of the people who worked there believed in the mission of providing high quality information to our client doctors and patients.  However, as with any large organization, there were those who were focused on profit, at times over the interests of the clients.  Most often this came in the form of passing over projects that would help patients, but would not bring in a lot of income. They would argue something like “We aren’t a charity.  We need to bring in money to survive as a business.”  This is of course partially true.  Director Spike Lee once commented in an interview that the most interesting conflicts are those in which both sides are correct.

Of course, a company or an individual can cross a line after which their actions become unambiguously wrong.  This often happens because they’ve made well intentioned compromises until they have lost their moral sensitivity. But I want you to remember something important.  The Presidents and CEO of companies work most directly for the board of directors. The board of directors works most directly for the shareholders. In our modern investment environment, which includes mutual funds, many of the shareholders don’t even know they are part owners of a company!  As far as they know, they just own a mutual fund.  As far as their mutual fund goes, they only care if it’s making them money, since they don’t know what companies they hold, or what their business practices are!  So the CEOs are ultimately working for people for whom profit is the only concern.  Folks, those people are you and me!

Yes, companies that behave unethically should be held accountable.  If Pfizer has misled the public, then they should be held accountable.  But we can’t forget that anyone who holds a mutual fund that includes Pfizer has a voice in this as well.  I will tell you that I am talking to myself as well.  I currently have no idea what companies are in the mutual funds that I own. We should all take the time an find out what companies we hold the most stock in, and consider finding out what they are doing.  You can then contact your mutual fund company and make suggestions about what they can communicate to these companies, or consider selling funds with stocks you don’t like. The small choices we make every day do have an impact.

V@¢¢!ne mandates:  V@¢¢!nes will certainly benefit at-risk individuals.  In addition, it is clear that countries with large v@¢¢!nation programs have had lower fatality rates during the Delta wave than other countries.  However, I am not v@¢¢inated, and am firmly against v@¢¢!ne mandates.  It is especially counter productive for hospitals and other organizations to be letting go of highly trained people who have chosen not to be v@¢¢!nated. I hope this new information will bring some balance to the current discussion.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update, September 29th, 2021

This is a brief COVID case update. The number of cases in the US is definitely going down right now. In California and San Diego County, there was an uptick in cases last week for some reason, at least using date from the Johns Hopkins site. This is not seen on the endcoronavirus site. Discrepancies in reporting may explain this difference.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, September 27th, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, September 29th, 2021
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.

As I’ve said before, we may still see cases rise in the US now that we’re entering the Fall months. Look for cases to rise in the Northern states first. Whether this happens depends on how many people in the North are immunized, and how well immunization works against Delta.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

World wide, the Delta peak is definitely losing steam. For most countries the Delta peak is over or is ending, but some are still struggling. Some countries who have done well early on, still struggled with Delta, like South Korea and Japan.

I have to admit, I predicted that the US would not see many deaths from the Delta peak. While the death rate during our Delta peak has been lower than for previous peaks, it has certainly been higher than I thought. Just wanted to point that out for full disclosure.

In most countries with large vaccination programs, the death rate has been lower during the Delta peak. But this has not always been true. Israel has a very high vaccination rate, as does the UK, but they have both seen higher death rates than the Netherlands during COVID, so the issue is more complex than just the vaccination rate. It will take some time to understand these relationships.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update, September 23rd, 2021; Project Veritas Video on Vaccines

This is a case update. With some trepidation, I’ll also discuss the new video by Project Veritas concerning vaccines.

It appears that the US has reached the peak of the Delta Variant, with cases clearly starting to come down.  On the other hand, as numbers start to come down in the South, we may already be starting to see increasing cases in the North, as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa are experiencing increased cases right now.  If last year was any pattern, we may see large case numbers in the North as people start to spend more time indoors.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, September 13th, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, September 23th, 2021
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, September 13th, 2021

California and San Diego County are continuing to improve. LA County has “achieved” something in the last week, improving enough to give up the spot as the county with the most cases since last Winter.  2 counties in Texas, Harris (Houston) and Tarrant (Fort Worth), have had more cases in the last 2 weeks than LA County.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Project Veritas released a video of a taped conversation between medical workers at a medical center in Phoenix. In it, the workers use, shall we say, colorful and scientifically imprecise language to suggest that the COVID vaccines are not performing as expected. 

There is a lot to say about this! First, let me say that available data is still insufficient to say with any certainty how many adverse effects there are, and of what kind.  I will speculate here, so keep in mind that I am mostly guessing, since I don’t have sufficient information to know exactly what’s going on.

Anecdotal evidence is based on the experiences of a few people, often relayed as a story or rumor.  This kind of evidence is an important pointer that something may be going on, but very often, it is insufficient to understand the situation with any clarity or as a foundation for policy.  At best, anecdotal evidence gives researchers the motivation to conduct a careful study of a situation so there can be more understanding.  At worst, they can cause rumors to overwhelm careful thinking, and lead to wrong conclusions in the minds of many.  This kind of evidence must be taken with a grain of salt, with final judgement reserved until more information is available.

My own thinking on adverse events has evolved a lot since the vaccines came out.  All vaccines carry risks, with a few adverse events happening with even routine vaccines like the flu.  On balance, vaccines have been extremely beneficial to individuals and society as a whole, effectively ending diseases like smallpox and polio. So when rumors of adverse reactions to the COVID vaccines first started coming out, I initially dismissed them as the standard rare event.

But then came the suggestion that the Spike protein itself was responsible for the vaccine’s toxicity.  While still not proven, this idea makes sense to me because it could explain the wide variety of reported adverse events. Increased inflammation aggravates the part of your body that is already under stress.  The Spike protein causes inflammation, so it’s no wonder that the vaccine causes strange and varying symptoms in some individuals. As someone with an auto immune disease, inflammation is a big deal for me.

Unfortunately, the vaccines cannot work without producing the Spike protein, because the protein is needed to produce a working immune response. The Spike protein is an unavoidable risk.

The recent Project Veritas video is a remarkable piece of anecdotal evidence.  It does not provide scientific or statistical evidence, but it does demonstrate that more information on adverse events is desperately needed. 

The most disturbing part of the video to me is the claim that adverse events are not being reported to the CDC VAERS system simply because the forms take too much time to fill out!  If true, this is frankly typical of a program from the CDC.  Since long before the pandemic started, the CDC has sought to keep tight control of information and guidance regarding the spread of infectious disease and related matters.  Legitimately, they try very hard to be accurate.  During a pandemic, however, information changes too quickly for this approach to be effective.  They are so careful to publish only accurate information, that information is often hopelessly out of date.  Ironically, in an effort to always be right, the CDC has usually been wrong. Nothing illustrates this better than the mixed messaging on masks.  Now almost everyone is hopelessly confused on this issue.

When there is a large vacuum of information, people will attempt to fill it with speculation. People from the federal government often complain about misinformation, but the CDC has contributed to it by leaving a huge hole for people to fill with guesses.

A form that takes 30 minutes to fill out is useless if no-one has the time to fill it out.  In response to the video, the CDC should immediately re-make the form, making it take only 5 minutes or even 30 seconds to fill out. Yes, they will be missing some information from each patient, but they’re getting nothing on them right now, so it will still be an improvement. Instead of making the necessary changes, the CDC will probably just call the video misinformation, and try to send it behind the Digital Curtain.

A note on the VAERS system: the system is meant to capture all data that may point to a vaccine producing a pattern of adverse reactions.  Any negative medical event that happens within a few days after a vaccination is recorded.  This even includes events that are unlikely to be attached to the vaccination. The hope is that patterns may be recognized by immunologists that will point to a problem with a vaccine.  For example, if you notice that a lot of people report hitting their head after a vaccination, this may suggest dizziness or disorientation.

Because of this practice not all adverse reactions are vaccine related.  Careful study of cases by a scientist may be required to notice patterns.  The data is not presented in a user friendly fashion!

Of course, the usefulness of this system is limited if a systematic problem, like a long form, is preventing events from being reported!

Vaccine rumors:  I still get questions about vaccine rumors like the following:

The vaccines will re-write your DNA
The vaccines will keep women from getting pregnant.
The vaccines will make you shed Spike protein into the environment

When addressing questions like this, I always ask “What evidence do you have that this is happening.”  Almost always, it’s just something they heard.  I can’t disprove that any of these things are happening.  Trying would take an enormous amount of time.  I can say, however, that I haven’t seen any evidence that they are. This doesn’t mean they aren’t happening! But if there isn’t any evidence for them, we don’t have to spend time and emotional energy worrying about them.

If you have any evidence, aside from persistent rumors, that any of above things or things like them are happening, please let me know.  If you see an article or blog post that argues for any of the above, they should contain actual data that supports these ideas, not just speculation.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update, September 13th, 2021; Israel data, Mu variant

This is a case update. I’ll also discuss a hack for poorly ventilated areas, the paper from Israel everyone is talking about, as well as the new variant, the Mu variant.

For the US, it definitely looks like we’ve cleared the peak for the US. Cases in many states have started to go down. States in which case numbers are still rising include Utah, West Virginia, Maine, and Pennsylvania. A word of caution is that COVID spreads indoors in poorly ventilated areas. Last Summer, we had large case loads in the South, and the winter had even larger case loads starting in the North. Both phenomena were probably caused by the virus spreading indoors, where there was air-conditioning and heating respectively. As Summer ends, we may end up seeing a large number of cases starting from the Northern states and spreading south, just like we did last Fall. If this happens, it will likely begin in October.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, September 13th, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, September 13th, 2021

Cases continue to fall for California and San Diego County.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Indoor virus filter: I recently heard a podcast from physician Mike Osterholm (Osterholm Update, Episode 66). He argued that indoor ventilation was actually much more protective than masks. For those who can’t ventilate a space well, he suggested making a large scale air filter (Corsi box) using a box fan and a MERV 13 air filter. This is equivalent to a number 10 Honeywell furnace filter like you’d get at Home Depot. If you have a space where people gather that you can’t ventilate, buy a filter roughly the same size as your fan and tape it firmly to the front of the fan. Make sure the filter supports are toward the fan blades. On a side note, he also argues as I do that loose fitting masks are nearly worthless, but N95, KN95, and KF94 respirators are very good.

Data from Israel: Lots of folks are talking about the pre-print paper from Israel (Gazit et al) on vaccination vs natural immunity (infection by COVID). The data was from a database of patient information. They compared breakthrough infections (a person who was vaccinated and later was infected with Delta) to reinfection (a person who was infected with a previous SARS-2 variant and was then infected with Delta). They did this as a whole and also in a time matched way, meaning that the date of likely infection was around the same as the date of the 2nd dose of vaccine. Note that the vaccines are against the original Wuhan strain, so the paper is also discussing the rate at which Delta infects those who had natural vs vaccine exposure to non-Delta strains.

The results show that naturally infected people were almost 6 times less likely to get infected by Delta than vaccinated people, and 7 times less likely to have symptoms. The results are even more striking for the time matched data. For these patients, naturally infected people were 15 times less likely to get infected, and 27 times less likely to be symptomatic. Over all, it looks like natural immunity is better than vaccination for resistance to the Delta Variant.

Protection from Delta infection from vaccination and natural immunity. Protection from vaccination is arbitrarily given a value of 1, while other categories are shown in fold increased protection.

They did another study comparing natural immunity to natural immunity plus 1 dose of vaccine. Those previous infected with COVID AND having 1 dose of vaccine were about half as likely to be infected with Delta. Or you could say that having 1 dose of vaccine made them almost twice as resistant to reinfection.

Protection from Delta infection from vaccination and natural immunity. Protection from natural immunity is arbitrarily given a value of 1. Natural immunity plus 1 dose of vaccine gives 1.88 fold increased protection.

Some cautions are in order. Countries are not responding to the Delta Variant in exactly the same way. As discussed before, countries with large vaccination programs are seeing much fewer deaths due to Delta than other countries. However, rates of infection in vaccinated people by Delta seem to be higher in Israel, suggesting a slightly different version of Delta is in that country. Some reports suggest the Pfizer vaccine is only 39% effective against Delta in Israel.

The Mu Variant: News is only starting to circulate regarding the Mu variant (pronounced “mew”). First detected in Colombia in January 2021, this variant is currently classified as a Variant of Interest, not a Variant of Concern, suggesting it does not have characteristics that are very different from other versions, and may not have a large impact. A recent paper from Italy suggests that currently available vaccines do neutralize Mu, although with less efficiency. On the other hand, a WHO press release suggested that it may be able to escape immune responses raised to other variants. Since there is some disagreement, more studies will need to be done.

Don’t fear, but be smart!
Erik

Case Update, September 8th, 2021

This is a brief case update. Last week may represent a lowering of cases in the US, and we may finally have reached the peak of the Delta Wave in the US. Deaths continue to increase but they are proportionally lower than for previous waves. Endcoronavirus shows many counties and states in the country finally recovering from Wave 5.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format. Wave names are mine, not necessarily endorsed by healthcare officials.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, September 8th, 2021.
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, September 8th, 2021

A word of caution on interpreting some case graphs that you may see. As you can see on my graphs, there is usually a disproportionately higher number of cases reported on Friday and Monday, and a lower number reported on Sunday. Some maps will report very high cases for an area (see Endcoronavirus state map for Louisiana) but zooming in on the map shows that the very high peak just shows cases for Fridays. So look for this when interpreting some data you might see.

Endcoronavirus State Level Map, September 8th, 2021. Delta wave in this view appears to be higher than the Fall/Winter wave.
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, September 8th, 2021. Clicking on the Louisiana graph on the Endcoronavirus state map gives you this graph. Note that the average case number is not nearly as high as is suggested by the higher days. This is not true for every state, so check your own state’s information.

California and San Diego County both continue their downward trend in new confirmed cases. It’s still to early to say, but deaths in San Diego County may have already peaked for the Delta peak. If this is the case, then deaths due to Delta have been very low. Hospitalizations have been proportionally as high as the Winter peak during the Delta Wave, however, at least in San Diego County.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Weekly update, San Diego County, 9/1/21
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Many have been interested in the Israel data on vaccination. The paper associated with that data has finally been pre-printed. I haven’t had a chance to read it myself yet, but I’m providing the link in case you’re interested in it.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update, September 1st, 2021; FDA approval for Pfizer vaccine, 2 shots of vaccine, or 1 after COVID infection improve protection from Delta.

This is a case update. I’ll also discuss the potential for a Fall peak, new branding for the approved Pfizer vaccine, and whether you should get a vaccine shot if you’ve had COVID.

In the US, cases continue to rise, but the rise is slowing. Numbers from this last weekend suggest we may be seeing a peak in cases, but it’s too early to say. Deaths from the Delta peak are increasing also, but are proportionately less than for previous peaks.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

We are starting to see fewer cases in the South. Last year, the Summer peak was centered in the warmer states, California to Florida, and then we had a very large wave starting in the North starting in October. With cases still high at the start of September, we may see another large surge of cases in the North as we head into Fall.

Endcoronavirus County Level Map, August 31st, 2021. New cases slowly receding in the South and growing in the North. Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska still appear to not have strong outbreaks as of now, likely because of large case numbers during the UK variant wave in the Spring of 2021.
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, August 31st, 2021

New cases continue to fall in California and San Diego. Tentatively, it even looks like deaths are falling as well.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

The Pfizer vaccine recently received FDA approval. The confusing part, is that legally speaking, the approved vaccine is not the same legal entity as the Emergency Authorized vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine we’re used to is called “Pfizer-BioNTech COVID‑19 Vaccine”. The FDA approved one is called “COMIRNATY (COVID-19 Vaccine, mRNA)”. I’m not a legal expert at all, but my understanding from watching some legal analysis is that the original vaccine is still only EUA authorized, and has some liability protection for Pfizer. However, Pfizer does not have liability protection for the COMIRNATY vaccine. According to the approval letter from the FDA, the formulations of the 2 vaccines are the “same formulation” and “can be used interchangeably”.

So why the name change? An analyst I watched said that Pfizer would like to continue to use the original vaccine under the new approval, but avoid liability. So those getting the vaccine now would still be getting the vaccine with liability protection for Pfizer. If you want to get a 3rd shot, you may want to wait until the legally approved COMIRNATY vaccine is available. Again, I am not a legal expert, so my analysis may be wrong on this.

If all this is true, you may regard this as a dirty trick by Pfizer. I try not to be cynical about things that I have only a vague understanding of, but if you thought that, I couldn’t disagree with you.

2nd shot improves protection against Delta, even for those with natural immunity. In a video by Dr. Roger Seheult, he argues that another shot greatly improves the immune response to the Delta variant. This follows both for those with only a single shot of the Pfizer vaccine, or with natural immunity. All this to say, if you’ve had COVID, 1 shot of a vaccine will help protect you from a breakthrough infection from the Delta Variant.

From Planas et al, 2021. Data suggests boosted binding of antibodies to Delta Variant after natural immunity (COVID infection) and 1 shot of the Astra Zeneca or Pfizer vaccine.
From Planas et al, 2021. Data suggests boosted binding of antibodies to Delta Variant after 2 shots of Pfizer vaccine.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Possible low efficacy of current vaccines against Delta, possible Delta enhancement in the future.

This post is detailed, but adds an important new set of facts regarding the Delta Variant, the current vaccines, and prospects for a new booster shot.

You may have heard commentators in the last few days talking about the reduced efficacy of the current set of vaccines. There has also been a lot of discussion about a study from Israel about relatively high numbers of Delta COVID cases among vaccinated individuals.

First a little background on antibodies. Your immune system is making a random set of new antibodies all the time. In an ingenious mechanism, your immune cells “mix and match” pieces of a gene in your immune cells, producing the ability to make a zillion (scientific language for a whole lot) of different antibodies. Your body is basically making different “keys” that can fit into the “lock” of some new protein.

When you get an infection, several different antibodies may bind to the invading agent, on different regions, so you may be protected by several different “keys”. When this happens, a bunch of different things happen, including the manufacture of Memory B cells which makes just the antibody that binds to a particular protein. These cells get activated if you get re-invaded by something with that protein. All this to say, if you’ve had COVID, or been vaccinated, your body will have B cells with antibodies on them that bind to different parts of the Spike protein.

Before I say anything else, I want to repeat that I have not been vaccinated, but have recommended that high risk individuals get vaccinated! I’ve also pointed out many times in the past few weeks that countries with large vaccination programs have lower death rates due to Delta than other countries!

Literally 30 minutes after Thursday’s post on vaccine myths, a doctor friend of mine sent me a pre-print paper from a lab in Japan. Please note, this is a pre-print paper and has not yet finished peer review! The paper describes experiments using antibodies derived from patients infected with the Wuhan strain, as well as with the Delta Variant. They then studied binding of these antibodies to artificial viruses. The paper argues that Delta variant viruses are less neutralized by vaccines against “wild-type” or Wuhan strain vaccines. While the “wild-type” antibodies against Wuhan can neutralize a region of the Delta Spike protein called the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) (Figure 1C), other antibodies binding to another region of Delta Spike protein actually enhance infectivity. Figure 1D from the paper shows negative levels of “neutralization” for antibodies that bind the N-terminal domain of the Spike protein. The paper calls this “enhanced”. Yes, this is the ADE I’ve been talking about.

Figure 1 from Liu et al 2021.

They suggest that with rapid changes in COVID variants, a new version of Delta is going to be able to use the ADE pathway in the near future, when Wuhan era antibodies will no longer be able to neutralize a mutated Delta strain.

To sum that all up in simpler language, it basically says that Delta is more infectious because it is partially using the ADE method of infection. Future versions may be less prone to be neutralized by Wuhan antibodies, making them fully enhanced. If this happens, we may have more severe disease in those who get infected with this new enhanced Delta.

They conclude by saying a booster against the Wuhan strain will not be effective in improving protection from Delta, and that a new vaccine against Delta will be required.

The material in the paper may help to explain why we have been seeing lowering levels of vaccine effectiveness in some countries.

Just to be very clear, they are not saying that this new enhanced Delta exists now, just that it may exist in the future.

I will pay close attention to this issue. If you have already been vaccinated or had COVID, a new Delta vaccine will be your best defense against possible ADE arising from a possible enhanced Delta.

If an enhanced Delta arises, and you have had Wuhan COVID or a Wuhan vaccine, and you haven’t had Delta, then you may be at greater risk for severe disease.

If you have had COVID since July 2021, you are likely already immune to the Delta variant, and this will not be an issue for you.

I am fully aware this complicated. Also, the CDC has rarely if ever discussed this possibility, so unfortunately, most of the people you talk to about this will not believe it. I am sharing this with you so you can make wise decisions for you and your family.

Some companies are already working on Delta versions of the vaccine. If you have had the current vaccines, or had COVID, you should get the Delta vaccines as soon as they are available.

Of course, discuss your medical history with your doctor before making medical decisions.

Another note on misinformation: My post from last Thursday generated a lot of discussion regarding censorship and misinformation. I argued strongly that the dangers of misinformation do not outweigh the benefits of free speech. Many of you are pro-vaccine and others are suspicious of the vaccine. I would simply urge this:

1) If you use the words “misinformation” and “disinformation” in a post or in a discussion, please come ready with evidence to support whatever claim your making! Don’t just throw out this word, support it!

I recently saw a video with a pro-vaccine medical person saying “we just need to keep pounding this information into people”. That is the wrong approach. With someone who is not yet convinced to get a vaccine, “pounding” away on them is just going to raise their defenses and exasperate you. Instead, gently show them your reasons for believing what you do! Explain to them what the data means. You may not convince them, but you may move them toward being more open to your view.

2) If someone makes a claim that sounds unfounded or that you don’t trust, don’t just tell them they’re wrong or make a counter claim, ask them to provide evidence, or where they got their information. You don’t have to do their homework for them! If they can’t produce any evidence, you are under no obligation to counter it. I’ve saved myself A LOT of work with this approach. It’s OK that they just heard it somewhere IF their source is reliable and has evidence themselves. You can still ask them to provide you with a link or something to that person’s statement. However, “I just heard it somewhere” is not evidence.

Part of the reason I’m not so worried about “misinformation” for myself is because of my regular use of suggestion #2.

Don’t fear, but be smart!
Erik

Video: “Top 3 vaccine Myths” and Tech Censorship

In the interest of openness and full disclosure, I need to share a video with you that I just watched. Dr. Zubin Damania is a Youtube commentator that I actually listen to a lot, and I find him more reliable than many. He just posted a video “Top 3 COVID Vaccine Myths“. Two of his myths are:

2) The Spike protein is toxic.
3) Antibody Dependent Enhancement may cause vaccinated individuals to experience more severe disease if infected with SARS-2.

If you have been reading my posts, then you know I have been concerned about both these issues. So am I spreading myths?

2). My concerns about Spike protein toxicity are based on persistent rumors of people having moderate severe reactions to the vaccines. For awhile, I dismissed these as just the standard reaction that some have had to any vaccine, including those for flu. But more and more rumors piled up and made me wonder if something else was going on. Then I saw the video by Bret Weinstein and Robert Malone. Dr. Malone is the inventor of the mRNA vaccine technology. The video argues that the Spike protein itself is toxic. Dr. Malone’s credentials are at least as good as Dr. Damania’s on this matter, likely better, so I can’t dismiss his view.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to find enough reliable information on adverse events to form my own opinions based on the data, so I’ve been relying on others to inform me. Frankly, because of the politicized nature of the vaccine issue, I don’t feel at all confident that I can get reliable information. So I may never be able to develop an informed opinion on this matter.

Dr. Damamia claims that convincing evidence exists that demonstrates that Spike protein is not toxic, but he doesn’t give it in this video. This of course is very common.

3) I’ve talked a lot about the ADE issue. In this video, Dr. Damania claims that ADE has not been an issue in the vaccine roll out, and the new variants have not caused more severe symptoms. I agree with both of these points. I point these out in my November 2020, December 2020, and April 2021 updates to my ADE post. I am still concerned about that new variants may someday arise that can use the ADE pathway, or that a new SARS strain, a hypothetical “SARS-3” will arise that will be different enough to trigger ADE. So while I agree with Dr. Damania’s point on ADE, it’s not quite the point that I’m still concerned with.

As I’ve stated many times, the vaccines are likely to help you if you have a risk factor and I have several friends and family members that I have recommended get the vaccine. So I am not anti-vax per se. But I don’t think it’s the obvious choice for everyone, and I’m staunchly for personal medical freedom in regards to COVID vaccines.

So what do I do now? What should a thinking person do when confronted with new information from a trusted source that you’re not sure about? These things are all true when dealing with complicated issues:

People you generally agree with may say something you don’t agree with.
People you generally disagree with may say something you agree with or makes you think about an issue in a new way.

Both of these are normal. When dealing with a complicated issue like COVID, race relations, worldview, politics in general, it is critical to keep an open but critical mind. You have to read widely from both your side and others to hope to get a clear view of the issues involved.

I respect Dr. Damamia. He might be right! I’ll have to think about his points, do some more homework, and reassess my opinion. There are 3 possibilities.

I will abandon my position and accept his.
I will learn new things that will reinforce my position.
I will do a bunch of research, but will not find conclusive information that will allow me to form a new opinion either way.

If I can arrive at a place closer to the truth, then the exercise will be a good one. If I decide I think Dr. Damania is wrong on these points I’ll likely still watch his videos, since I think he is right more often than he is wrong, and he’s more open minded than most, so I think he is at least being honest about what he believes, which is a very valuable trait! Dr. Damania is both for COVID vaccination and against vaccine mandates.

I started out posting on COVID because as a scientist I felt a responsibility to help my non-scientific friends and family members make some sense of the pandemic, especially when scientific communication is so often poor. I hope I have done that. I can’t claim to always be right, and have changed by view several times. But I have given you the truth as best as I can find it, and supported it with evidence.

A word on tech censorship: The WHO said 2 false things early on:

SARS-2 is not human to human transmissible
SARS-2 is not transmissible as an aerosol.

Both of these things were demonstrably false, and perhaps politically motivated, even at time the WHO stated them. In in spite of this, the social media platforms came to hold the WHO as the gold standard for the truth on COVID matters. To this day, F@¢3b00k may place a tag on the end of this post claiming the WHO as the authority on COVID matters. Most platforms would delete or restrict anything that ran against the WHO. Yes, computer programmers in Silicon Valley are still pulling down information posted by medical doctors and scientists. Even Dr. Damania has had videos censored!

One of the worst results of the pandemic in the US is censorship of divergent opinions. Freedom of speech allows 3 things:

All opinions to be held up to public scrutiny.
True things to rise to the surface.
False things to be discredited.

When freedom of speech is restricted, none of these can happen. If a wrong thing becomes the “orthodox” view, and no other views are permitted, then the orthodox view will always be wrong, and we will end up solving all of the wrong problems. If there is a hole in your gas tank, it doesn’t matter how many times you put gas in it. It will always be empty. Fix the real problem first.

This is why all the claims of misinformation, from all sides, are so insidious. When you claim misinformation, you are claiming to have the whole truth on an issue. Sure, we can and should argue against views we think are false. But we must also protect the right to air all views! Or we are doomed only to have the first view that becomes dominant, and we are less likely to find the truth!

I also found an article on why some are still vaccine hesitant. For those of you who are wondering, you should read it.

As always, Don’t fear, but be smart!
Erik

Case Update, August 25th, 2021

This is a brief case update. The US is still increasing in new cases, but the number of new cases is slowing. Several states appear to be past the peak new cases are now headed down, including Louisiana, Texas and Vermont. New COVID deaths in the US are on the rise, but are still far lower then during last wave. It will take several weeks to know how many new deaths we’ll see, since new deaths trail new cases by between 1 and 4 weeks.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, August 25th, 2021


Endcoronavirus State Level Map, August 25th, 2021

New cases in California and San Diego continue to go down for the second week. New deaths are starting to creep up for both regions, but remain relatively low.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik