This is a case update. I’ll also talk about a report from Kim Iverson from The Hill regarding finding in the trove of documents release by Pfizer in March and April.
Cases are currently flat in the US. During the Omicron wave in December and January, the US lagged behind cases in the UK by 2 weeks. While the Omicron subvariant BA.2 produced a wave in the UK, it has not yet produced a wave in the US, despite it being 5 weeks since the BA.2 wave started in the UK. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the slowing of the decrease of cases in the US is all we are going to see of the BA.2 wave in the US. I’ll let you know if this changes. BA.2 cases now constitute 72% of cases in the US.
Cases continue to go down in California and San Diego County.
XE variant: Just a few days ago, news emerged of a new COVID variant called XE in the UK. The variant is a hybrid of Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.2 and is more transmissible than BA.1. Since XE is very similar to other Omicron variants, I don’t expect it to cause a large wave of cases in the US.
Pfizer Document Analysis from Kim Iverson:Kim Iverson of The Hill released a video claiming that newly released documents from Pfizer confirm what many knew already. The shocking claim is that Pfizer has known the following for a long time:
Natural immunity is as effective as vaccine mediated immunity.
The rate of adverse events is at least 10/100,000 (33,000 for the US population). It’s unclear from Iverson if this is just for Myocarditis or for all adverse events.
It is unknown if the reproductive systems of women are impacted by vaccination. This contradicts public claims that vaccination does not affect reproduction.
The documents were obtained because of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit which required the FDA to produce the documents. Yes, this means that the FDA has had this information and did not disclose these conclusions to the public, instead often releasing information which contradicted these conclusions.
There will continue to be more document releases every month until the end of the year. There will likely be more bombshells, but most of the releases will simply confirm what people have suspected for months but couldn’t prove. I will discuss the most interesting, but not all of these releases.
If you have risk factors like obesity, age, or respiratory problems, you should consider getting a booster. Also, as I said last week, since vaccine effectiveness is substantially reduced after 3 months, those who have been vaccinated with risk factors will need to get a booster every 3-6 months. Try and find a provider who will aspirate before injection! There is no medical reason for someone who has had Omicron or Delta variants to get vaccinated or a booster. Talk to your doctor when making medical decisions.
I am posting about every 2 weeks now instead of every week. I’ll likely post even less unless interesting news comes out.
This is a brief case update. I’ll also make some more comments on BA.2 related waves in Europe, a new paper suggesting that vaccine mRNA persists in the lymph nodes. Also, new evidence from the UK suggests that vaccines lose potency after 6 months and certain vaccinated individuals are more likely to be infected than unvaccinated people.
Cases continue to go down in the US, although the rate of decrease is slowing. As you’ll read below, some suspect that an Omicron variant, BA.2, may cause cases to rise in the US.
More on BA.2: I have commented on BA.2 before. This variant is a version of the Omicron variant, which is slightly more infectious than Omicron itself. It continues to follow the general trend of new variants being more infectious than older ones. Like the original Omicron, equal portions of B.1.1.529 and BA.1.1, BA.2 has a low fatality rate as compared to previous versions, including Delta.
I originally held that BA.2 is not particularly interesting because of its similarity to the first Omicron strains. This still may be true, but some countries like the UK and the Netherlands have seen significant new peaks after BA.2 became prominent. BA.2 is likely contributing to rising cases globally.
Right now in the US, BA.2 is increasing in prevalence, and is currently 1/3 of SARS-2 found in the US. It’s similarity to previous Omicron versions means that it is displacing B.1.1.529 and BA.1.1, just like Omicron displaced Delta before it. We now have 0% Delta in the US.
Does BA.2 significantly change the picture? I still say no, since the fatality rate with BA.2 is still very low, perhaps even lower than with other Omicrons. We may or may not see a significant BA.2 wave, depending on how many Americans already have resistance to BA.2. If you had Delta or Omicron, you almost certainly won’t get BA.2. Vaccination is only partially effective against Omicron variants.
Most people in my area, northern San Diego County, are basically going back to normal. This is warranted for most. If you have risk factors like age, obesity, or respiratory issues, you will want to remain vigilant and consider a booster. I do not recommend a booster for those without risk factors, and certainly not for those with natural immunity. Talk to your doctor when making medical decisions.
mRNA and Spike Protein Persist in Lymph System for up to 8 weeks: The Journal Cell just published a paper (Röltgen et al) which argues that mRNA and spike protein are present in vaccinated individuals for up to 8 weeks after vaccination. Cell is the third most highly respected journal in cell and molecular biology.
The cells in your body are surrounded by a fluid called “interstitial fluid”. This fluid carries nutrients from nearby blood vessels to your cells, and also carries waste back to the blood vessels. The lymph system is a one-way circulatory system that carries excess interstitial fluid from the extremities of your body back to veins near your arm pits. On the way, they pass through the lymph nodes, a biological filter and part of your immune system that checks for invading particles.
The Röltgen et al paper suggests that vaccine mRNAs from the interstitial fluid collect in the lymph nodes and can persist there for many weeks. They continue to produce spike protein during this time. Remember that vaccines are intended to be given in an intra-muscular manner, meaning that they are intended to be injected to a muscle and stay there. This paper shows that they are able to migrate to the lymph nodes.
The paper does not discuss the medical importance for this in terms of adverse events. Given the relative rarity of adverse events, I would guess that the presence of vaccine mRNA does not produce adverse events, and that these events are caused by vaccine injection into a vein. Again, the data is not conclusive on this, so this is just my guess at this point.
mRNA technology note: At this point, I have no evidence to suggest that the problem with the new vaccines is the mRNA technology. In my estimation, the likely reason the new vaccines lead to adverse events is that they produce the SARS-2 Spike protein which likely causes inflammation throughout the body. This may only be in vaccine recipients who receive a vaccination in a vein rather than an intra-muscular injection. If you choose to get a vaccination or booster, ask the health care provider to aspirate before injection.
Certain vaccinated individuals are more likely to be infected by Omicron than the unvaccinated: A UK surveillance report shows that vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic Omicron infection goes from around 65% effective soon after 2 doses of vaccine, to around 5% 6 months later. Protection from hospitalization goes down to just 35% after 6 months. These findings suggest that to maintain full protection against Omicron, a vaccinated person will need to get a booster every 3 to 6 months.
In another finding from the report, people with 3 doses of vaccine are 3x more likely to be infected with Omicron than unvaccinated individuals. This is the clearest evidence yet that Omicron may be using Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE) to infect people. The Lewnard et al paper from a few months ago has a similar finding. For both studies, a certain number of vaccine doses are more likely to increase the chance of infection. If viruses are using the ADE pathway, this effect would be explained more by the timing than by the number of doses per se. For ADE to work, a person needs to have a mediocre immune response to an agent, not a strong or weak one. Since we know vaccine mediated immunity goes down over time, then a person becomes more likely to be reinfected as their immune response goes from strong to mediocre.
So should you get a booster? Again, if you have risk factors like age, obesity or respiratory problems, you might want to get a booster every 3 – 6 months. Otherwise, you may choose instead to just take extra precautions as Omicron cases continue to fall in the US. If you choose to get a booster, ask them to aspirate before injection. Talk to your doctor when making medical decisions.
I know this is all very complicated. Your questions will help me make this more clear.
Here’s a brief case update. I’ll also have a brief comment about vaccine mandates.
Cases continue to come down in the US, California and San Diego County. Cases in the US are now approaching being as low as they were in the Spring before Delta started. The only current outbreaks, according to endcoronavirus, is in the Twin Falls area in Idaho. Cases are dropping in San Diego County too, but unfortunately, not as fast as other places. LA and San Diego Counties are now #1 and #2 for new case numbers in the US.
World wide, the US is now in 8th place for countries with the most new COVID cases in the last month. This is a welcome change, since the US has spent large majority of the pandemic in 1st place. Ironically, the country in first place right now is South Korea, which has been doing well for the majority of the pandemic, serving as an example for other countries to follow. The majority of cases country wide have happened in the last month, due to the super infectious but less virulent Omicron variant.
I have a brief case update today. I’ll also do some more complaining about the CDC, with some vindication from other sources. I’ve complained about them a lot before, so if you’re not interested in more complaints, you can skip the last part of the post.
Cases are still coming down in the US, California, and San Diego County. Cases are about as high in the US now as they were in November, before the Omicron variant appeared. They are still not as low as they were in late June and early July, when the vaccines had been released to everyone, but Delta had not yet ruined the party. Things are improving greatly, and I’m enjoying going out with my new hard won immunity, but the pandemic isn’t over quite yet.
A brief look at endcoronavirus state and county level maps shows that Maine is having an outbreak right now. Looking at a higher resolution graph, the outbreak is actually already over, and cases are dropping again. This may be a real outbreak, but it may also reflect reporting practices in Maine.
Trouble at the CDC: If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I regard the CDC as one of the main villains of the US response to the pandemic. I don’t have enough data to say that they intentionally under performed, and most pundits I’ve heard chalk this up to simple incompetence. Early on, they basically agreed with whatever the WHO said, even though is was clear that the WHO was repeating Chinese government talking points. Later, I assumed that their slow release of information was because they were just very careful, waiting until there was certainty before releasing information that was already nearly obvious to everyone.
Later, however, things took a dark twist. As useful papers began to come in from other countries like Japan, South Korea, the UK, Israel, South Africa, Sweden and Denmark; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly (MMWR) and Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID), the CDC’s own journals, produced very few useful papers on the pandemic. This despite the fact that the CDCs mission, it’s only job, and supported by 11,000 employees, is to produce information and guidance on the prevention of infectious disease. They don’t even have to implement or enforce their recommendations. The federal and state governments do that.
Then OSHA produced it’s official vaccine mandate. On the FAQ page, OSHA waived the requirement that employers must report adverse events from the COVID vaccination of it’s employees. They explicitly state that “OSHA does not wish to have any appearance of discouraging workers from receiving COVID-19 vaccination, and also does not wish to disincentivize employers’ vaccination efforts.” Yes, as of today, February 25, 2022, this ridiculous and damning statement is still on their website. Many have been suspicious that the CDC has not been diligent in collecting data for the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), but it was hard to prove it. The statement from OSHA confirmed that the CDC was intentionally blinding itself to data that would help answer questions about the vaccines.
The New York Times has been supportive of the CDC for much of the pandemic. However, on February 20th, 2022, the Times published an article claiming that the CDC has been withholding information from the public. Better late than never, I suppose. Data withheld includes hospitalization rates for various categories including vaccinated individuals, and the effectiveness of boosters for those younger than 50. Unfortunately, the author says that this is likely only a fraction of the information the CDC has been sitting on like an egg. When asked why so much information had been withheld, a spokesperson said it was because they feared the data would be misinterpreted. This from 11,000 people we pay to communicate to the public.
The United States is the third most populace country in the world, and we have 53 separate approaches to pandemic. The CDC has or could have had a wealth of data that could provide science based guidance to the world. Unfortunately, it appears to me that they have mostly been motivated to sell vaccines, rather than to serve their central function.
FDA corruption: In the meantime, Project Veritas released 2 videos featuring an FDA official revealing corrupt relationships between the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies. These relationships influenced regulation of COVID treatments.
What should be done about the CDC: In general, I’m not for abolishing things willy nilly. I will say, however, that the CDC needs top to bottom review and serious reform. The Director as well as much of senior leadership should be fired. Will any of this happen? Not for the foreseeable future. The CDC is empowered by Congress and overseen by the Executive Branch. Members of Congress are typically motivated by political considerations more than by producing sensible policy. I know I’m stating the obvious. Only when Congress changes will reforms happen. I will also point out that members of all political parties are prone to being absorbed into the Washington Hive. So vote carefully in primary elections! Do your best to select honest people to Congress, and don’t forget to vote local too.
This week I’ll have a case update, then discuss variant BA.2, and Dr. Fauci’s announcement about the end of the Pandemic.
Cases in the US, California, and San Diego County are all still going down sharply. Cases are now at the same level as in mid-December. According to Endcoronavirus, most states have decreasing cases.
Variant BA.2: This new variant is now increasing slightly over the original Omicron. This is no reason to be concerned, however, since BA.2 is just a slightly more infectious version of Omicron. Antibodies against Omicron are expected to be effective against BA.2, so this does not represent a new variant that will cause case numbers to rise.
Dr. Fauci announces the end of the Pandemic: In an article in Financial Times, Dr. Fauci stated that he expects that the pandemic phase of COVID will be over in the next few months. I agree, with the exception that I think a reasonable time frame is more like weeks than months.
He also stated that he thinks boosters will continue to be necessary to keep the virus at bay. On this I have to disagree. The vaccines had a minimal impact on new infections due to Omicron, although they probably had a positive impact on disease severity. Given that the new cases are now very low, and the unknown but real danger from adverse reactions, I think there is now almost no reason to get a vaccine booster. For vaccines to continue to be useful, we need a more current version, against something like Delta or Omicron. I don’t expect we’ll be getting that.
Many scientists, including those I respect, think the virus will become endemic, meaning it will continue to circulate at a low level in different forms basically forever. With some trepidation and perhaps over-optimism, I think Omicron will eventually peter out and SARS-2 will be over. We’ll see if that happens.
Just a brief case update today. New cases are still dropping fast in the US, California, and San Diego County. Cases are now about as many as their were just before Christmas when the Omicron wave was just starting in the US.
The great news is, deaths appear to have peaked in the US 2 weeks ago, and were indeed very low, about as many as last Winter when the cases were far fewer than in the Omicron wave. A little math says that Omicron is roughly a quarter as deadly as the Alpha variant from last Winter.
Another plug for data: Last week I asked for folks to answer the following questions:
1) Have you ever had COVID? If so, when?
2) Have you been vaccinated? When?
3) Have you had COVID multiple times? If so when? What were your symptoms like each time? Were you hospitalized? If so for how long?
4) Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Obviously, a lot of people don’t want to go public with this information. You can post below or direct message me. I want to get an idea of how vaccination and previous infection produced protection for future infection. When you were infected will tell me what SARS-2 variant you had, and whether that variant protected you from future versions.
So far, I’ve only gotten about 30 responses, too few to be useful. If you want chime in, please do so! Thanks!
Just as the Pandemic seems to ending with a bang, so my personal COVID story ended dramatically. But first, the case update for this week.
The US, California, and San Diego County are all well past the peak of Omicron cases, and cases are dropping rapidly. In some Northeastern states like New York, New Jersey, and Vermont, the Omicron wave is already nearly over.
According to the CDCs variant proportion site, Omicron is now 99.9% of new cases. I will not report on this again, since this has now become uninteresting. There have been reports of a new subcategory of Omicron, BA.2, which is even more infectious than Omicron, but just as mild.
The end of my COVID story: I tested Positive for COVID on Friday the 14th, and finally tested Negative this Thursday morning, the 27th, almost exactly 2 weeks later. COVID actually got worse for me during course of the 2 weeks, with me getting more fatigued as time passed. Thursday night and yesterday were particularly bad, with extreme fatigue, sleeplessness, dehydration, uncontrollable shaking, and finally mental incoherence on Thursday night and Friday. Finally last night I was able to sleep for 11 hours and I finally feel like I’m recovering. I ate a full breakfast this morning and am actually doing some chores around the house.
I really only have 1 co-morbidity, celiac disease, an auto-immune disease. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen research on how auto-immune diseases interact with COVID or vaccination. It may be safe to assume for now that my auto-immune disease put me at greater risk from an immune system intensive disorder, but I don’t know for sure. While most of my COVID symptoms were indeed very mild, I was very surprised by the severity of my fatigue, which had multiple other negative effects. I sought medical attention twice, but they were never nearly as concerned as I was.
The “Final” Verdict on Antibody Dependent Enhancement: As most of you know, ADE has been a major concern of mine from almost the beginning. I’m finally willing to give an assessment of how ADE impacted the pandemic. There were a smattering of cases in previously infected people who may have had more severe cases because of possible ADE, but not more than a smattering. It’s also becoming well acknowledged that Omicron infected everyone regardless of vaccination status and may have even preferentially infected vaccinated people. I know MANY people who are double vaxxed and boosted who got Omicron.
All that being said, I never saw any evidence that conclusively suggested that ADE was causing more severe symptoms because of natural or vaccine mediated immunity. In fact, even during Omicron, during which ADE was most likely to be operating, those with previous immunity clearly fared better than those without. Because I think Omicron is the death rattle of the pandemic, I’m willing to say that ADE never became the threat I was concerned about. For this reason, IF I didn’t already have natural immunity because of Omicron, I might actually get vaccinated IF I could find someone who would aspirate before injecting!
I never saw any paper that dealt with the issue of ADE, not even a little. Those that mentioned it did so only in passing.
Don’t go looking for Omicron: Lastly, I’ll just say that while most of my friends had an undramatic time with Omicron, I did not. If you haven’t gotten Omicron yet, don’t go out looking for natural immunity from an Omicron infection. For me, it was no fun at all, and not worth the lost time and anxiety, even though I’m glad to now have hard earned natural immunity. The vaccines may not actually help you against Omicron infection, but they do seem to help you have an easier time of Omicron. Also, if you haven’t gotten Omicron yet, I recommend taking precautions and wearing an N95, KN95, or KF94 when in public.
Precautions against Delta are not adequate for Omicron, so kick it up another notch if you haven’t had Omicron yet.
After 12 days of symptoms, I still have COVID. My symptoms are considered mild, but I’m still tired, have no appetite, and am frequently feverish, so writing a long post is not my favorite activity right now. I also have a small amount of viral pneumonia, but not enough to be treated for. For an update, I’ll just state for now that cases are coming down rapidly in the US right now. I may add a real update to this post later.
Aspiration by vaccinators: I did want to point out that I saw a very interesting video recently from John Campbell that is very instructive. He points out that vaccines are intended to be given in an “intra-muscular” fashion, meaning the injection is supposed to remain in the muscle it’s injected into. If this happens, the vaccine makes Spike protein just in that localized area, and your immune system finds it there and mounts a response. Unfortunately, if a vaccine is injected into a blood vessel, the vaccine can travel throughout the body, making adverse events much more likely. For the flu, this is still not a big risk because the flu proteins only really interact with respiratory cells. But for COVID, the Spike protein can interact with cells all over the body and cause various effects including inflammation.
There is a simple way to avoid injecting in to blood vessels. A vaccinator can simply push the needle in, then pull the plunger back slightly to make sure there is no blood, then inject (Demonstration of this process starts at 22:00 of the video). This eliminates the possibility of a blood vessel injection. Unfortunately, this procedure is standard practice in just a few countries like Denmark, S. Korea, and Japan. Most countries including the US, UK, Canada, and many others do not practice this. John Campbell is very pro-vaccine, but wishes aspiration was standard.
My doctor friends tell me blood vessel vaccine injections are very rare.
In the US, lots of people in the health care industry basically ignored adverse events due to COVID vaccination. This includes me for a time. The CDC is still not capturing all of the available data on adverse events. Many of these events could have been avoided with a small change in policy.
Vaccination has helped a lot of folks have milder COVID symptoms. It’s too bad that the lessons from adverse events were not absorbed sooner. If you get vaccinated or get a booster, see if you can get them to aspirate before they inject!
The UK drops COVID restrictions: The Omicron wave has come and gone in the UK, and the country has basically dropped all COVID related restrictions. The US is a few weeks behind the UK, so we may be able to drop restrictions here soon too.
Omicron is milder, but I certainly haven’t had an easy time of it, so I wouldn’t recommend running out and getting your natural immunity by getting Omicron. If you haven’t had it yet, continue to wear your N95, KN95, or KF94 while indoors in public. Or even outdoors in groups. I probably got COVID outside but in close proximity to someone with COVID. The stuff that worked with previous versions doesn’t necessarily work with Omicron.
This is a case update. I’ll also give an update on the state of Omicron in the US, and show some data from a great new paper from California. I’ll also comment on the new mask guidance by the CDC.
New cases have apparently peaked in the US over the past week, reaching a high of 1.5 million cases in 1 day. Cases are now declining for the US as a whole, driven by declines in several Eastern states like New York, New Jersey, and Florida. Cases have not yet declined in most US states, although many may be peaking right now as new cases have slowed. So far, deaths are only slightly up for the US. Hospitalizations appear to have peaked as well.
California and San Diego County new cases appears to be still going up, but new cases have slowed, and I suspect will start declining soon, maybe this week. Again, deaths have not yet started to increase. Deaths usually follow cases by between 2 and 4 weeks.
Omicron Update: Omicron infections now represent 99.6% of infections in the US. Omicron has now almost completely eliminated Delta in the US. It continues to appear that Omicron represents the end of the pandemic, although it will go out with a bang!
I finally got COVID!: Last Friday I tested positive for COVID! I almost certainly got it while in a “gray area” situation that had some risk, but might have been OK with a previous variant. Most symptoms have been very mild, but I was super achy for a day. I’m still not feeling strong and I nap a lot. No loss of taste and smell, or shortness of breath, but I did have a fever during my achy day. As of yesterday, I still test positive, so my body is still fighting.
Omicron much milder than Delta, but evades vaccines much more: As I’ve stated before, it’s a little scandalous how few useful papers have come out of the US this last year. But a UC Berkley lab has a great new paper in pre-print right now. They had the foresight to collect data for a time period in December when both Delta and Omicron were present in the population. The paper is a little opaque because much of the information is in dense tables, with less than useful headings (SGTF = Omicron, non-SGTF = Delta) but has some great information nonetheless.
Table S10 is the most interesting to me. I’ve turned some of the data into graphs to make the meaning more clear. The table compares the number of infections by Delta or Omicron in unvaccinated persons, those with differing levels of vaccination, and with documented previous infection (natural immunity). Vaccination definitely helps prevent infection by the Delta variant, but Delta still infects vaccinated individuals. This may be because vaccine efficacy goes down over time, the Delta variant is too different to be completely stopped by the Wuhan based vaccines, or some combination of both.
Omicron is far more infectious in general, and also is far more infectious in vaccinated individuals. In fact, more people in this study were infected by Omicron if they had 2 doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Since a majority of Southern Californians are vaccinated, it this does not necessarily mean that vaccination made it more likely to be infected by Omicron, but it’s a striking result. Yes, Antibody Dependent Enhancement may play a role in this result, although the exact reasons are likely a complicated combination of factors.
Another interesting result is that infections are far lower among those with previous infections. For the graphs I include, I’ve even normalized this number for the proportion of people who have been infected by multiplying the given number by 6 (see graph for details). In spite of this, infections are FAR lower in those previously infected. This is consistent with the data from Israel suggesting that natural immunity is far better than vaccination at preventing future infection.
Most European countries and Israel include previous infection in immunity requirements. The US still does not accept previous infection as prove of immunity. As we continue to argue about vaccine mandates, it would be wise to include previous infection as proof of immunity.
Better super late than never I suppose: After many months of treating all masks as essentially equal, the CDC released new guidelines regarding masks that points out that simple cloth masks are not as effective as medical grade respirators like N95s, KN95s, and KF94s. They still don’t go far enough in my opinion, since they still promote surgical masks as effective. Blue surgical masks are loose fitting on the side and allow air to enter and exit without being filtered. If you wear a mask, wear a medical grade respirator, not a blue surgical mask.
I believe we are a few weeks away from the end of the pandemic! As for me, I’m really looking forward to eating indoors at a restaurant again!
I know a lot of this post is dense and complicated. Your questions will help me be more clear.