COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP PART V

Utter disaster': Manaus fills mass graves as Covid-19 hits the Amazon |  Brazil | The Guardian

March 02

As the vaccine rolled out across America, the Director fo the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci advised the U.S. would not delay second doses of the vaccine like the UK had.

Accepting that there were risks on both sides of the arguement, Fauci advised leaving people with less protection could help encourage new variants to pop up.

He told of speaking with UK officials and that, “We both agreed that both of our approaches were quite reasonable.

He did cite another consideration was building confidence in the American people with regards to getting vaccinated and not changing policy too much to undermine that confidence.

It is worth noting that during the early days of the pandemic taking off in America, mask usage had been downplayed since there was a serious concern that supplies would run out for frontline workers.

At this point both regulators in the UK and the US had given the green light to use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The U.S. had just approved the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The UK was also using the locally produced Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

Just this week Public Health England reported, “that a single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines had been more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalization of people over age 80 roughly three to four weeks after one dose, though it’s unclear just how long that level of protection will last.

Covid in Scotland: Mass vaccination of health and care staff begins - BBC  News

In Great Britain, during an interview with BBC Radio 4, Oxford University Professor Andrew Pollard who was in charge of running trials of the university’s vaccines advised that booster jabs will take of noticeably new dangerous variants of COVID. He expected a necessary one would be ready from AstraZeneca by August.

These variants from Kent, Brazil, South Africa had been able to reinfect people that had had COVID.

Director of the variant tracking COG UK Institute, Professor Sharon Peacock, had also hopefully said the virus was showing signs of “convergent evolution.” Less mutations were developing and unconnected variants appeared the same.

A comforting thought but for now the Brazillian strain for example was getting a lot of attention. Conservative estimates suggested it was 50 per cent more transmissible and may reinfect anywhere from 25 to 61 pere cent who are already immune. A study today revealed the Brazilian variant discovered in the UK over the weekend is around 50 per cent more transmissible than the original version of the coronavirus.

A published study by the Imperial College London had researched the P1 variant in the Brazillian city of Manaus. Blood testing had suggested 67 per cent of the city’s population had had COVID by October 2020.

A subsequent wave hit the city hard in early 2021, the study found that the number of COVID cases in Manaus with the P1 variant grew from zero to 87 per cent in eight weeks.

A city in Brazil where covid-19 ran amok may be a 'sentinel' for the rest  of the world | MIT Technology Review

The report found that P! was anywhere between 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible and evaded 25 to 61 per cent immunity given from previous infection.

P1 had arrived in the United Kingdom over the weekend.

“If 100 people were infected in Manaus last year, somewhere between 25 and 61 of them are susceptible to reinfection with P1,” Dr Nuno Faria of the Imperial College London told.

The P1 variant has also caused more deaths in Manaus but this was not necessarily due to the severity of the illness but the rate of hospitalisations leading to a lack of supplies and care that could be adminsitered by a health care system that had reached breaking point.

The main mutations that had people’s attention was the N501Y, E484K and K417. The mutations are on the virus’s external spike protein which is used to latch onto the body allowing the virus to spread faster and leading to them becoming the dominant form of the disease. N501Y is found in the Kent strain known globally as the UK strain. E484K and K417 are found in the Brazil and South Africa strains. These latter two mutations make the virus less susceptible to immune cells making previous infections or vaccines less effective against them. However the expectation was the vaccines were likely to still prevent serious illness or death from these new strains.

Brazil Doesn't Seem to Have a Coronavirus Plan, and Results Are Grim

It is difficult because we’re very focused on what we’re seeing today and of course the nature of this virus is that it will continue to throw out new mutations in time. And so, to some extent, we’ve got to start moving away from an obsession with each variant as it appears [and] try to rely on the excellent sequencing that is being run nationally to pick up variants so that new designs of vaccines can be made as and when they are needed,” said Professor Pollard.

Certainly at the moment there are some similarities between the P.1 Brazil variant and the B.1351 South African variant. So the work at the moment is partly to understand whether a vaccine for one of them might actually protect against both. There’s a lot more that we don’t know yet about this, but all the developers are working on new vaccines to make sure we are ready if we need to be.

Professor Peacock was pretty confident that with the new P1 variant being found in Britain that the UK’s own horrible strain would remain the variant to combat with no disturbance to coming out of lockdown or the roll out of the vaccine.

The majority of disease in the UK is caused by the B117 [Kent] variant which we can vaccinate against using the vaccines that we have available to us at the moment. The numbers of cases [of P1] in the UK are very low at the moment and I don’t think there is any threat to our vaccination strategy or effectiveness,” said Professor Peacock.

More importantly AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna were all working on new jabs for variants.

It could be there’s a point at which the virus has optimal fitness in terms of transmission and immunity… what we don’t know is what happens after that. I don’t anticipate that things are going to get worse from this point. We seem to have reached a relative plateau in terms of what the virus is doing in terms of evolution. But we need to keep our eye on it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t predict what’s going to happen next,” she said.

The Brazillian variant has been found in 15 countries that are not on the UK’s Red List of banned international travel.

Covid-19: First travellers arrive in UK for hotel quarantine stay - BBC News

The first arrival of UK residents that needed to quarantine in hotels for ten days after returning from 33 countries where variants of concern were currently had arrived on the 15th of February, 2021. That was  almost a year after a similar policy had been made by Australia on the 27th fo March, 2020 for all international travel from all countries.

Restricting international travel from red-listed countries may slow down the introduction of new variants from elsewhere, but eventually, such variants will likely spread to non-red-listed countries from red-listed countries – then to the UK from there – if different countries have different red lists,” Dr Julian Tang, a virologist from University of Leicester, said.

It was also reported by the BBC that capturing variants before the spread further through the community is a hope.

Professor Jeffrey Barrett, a researcher at the Sanger Institute and in charge of Britain’s Covid-19 genome sequencing programme told, “We’re still sequencing on the minority, maybe 20 per cent of the infections that happen.

“But when we do see examples of – in this case – P.1 that information can then be used to detect specific kinds of interventions such as the ones we’re seeing now to try to keep the onward transmissions as low as possible. The hope being that as the case numbers continue to go down and our capacity for sequencing continues to go up we can be capturing a larger and larger fraction of all of these infections,” he said.

Covid: New Oxford vaccine 'ready by the autumn' to tackle mutations - BBC  News

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and expert at the University of Bristol, said on BBC Breakfast today: ‘At the moment, the evidence we have suggests that certainly the South African variant, and potentially this Brazilian variant – which is somewhat similar – the vaccines that we have at the moment are less effective at reducing at least mild disease and possibly transmission. We’re optimistic that the vaccines will continue to prevent severe disease but the evidence for that is still fairly limited. But for the moment the vaccines that we’re using are very effective against the strains that are predominantly circulating in the UK and it’s important that people understand that that’s still the case because we do need people to get immunised as fast as possible to get things under control.” said Professor Adam Finn who was a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Imperial College London immunoligist Professor Danny Altmann told Times Radio, “When I look at the data on how well this variant gets neutralised, it’s not that all immunity is gone, it’s that the vaccines look so much less potent, so there’ll be more people who have low antibody responses where it can break through and get affected. It all comes back much harder.

Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium COVID Vaccine Super Site in 13 Photographs |

March 03

In America as the vaccine rollout continued there were troubling patterns emerging.

Take for example in Los Angeles where in Vernon one in 27 people had been vaccinated. Over the past year one in five residents had contracted COVID. Yet in Bel Air one in four had been vaccinated and one in 27 had contracted the virus in the past year. The income of Bel Air residents on average was five times the amount of money made by Verson residents.

Across LA County, we’re seeing that the vaccines are going to more affluent areas, and it is not necessarily those who are hit hardest by the pandemic,” nurse Anita Zamora, deputy director of community health service Venice Family Clinic, said.

The disparties reflected race and wealth in those areas but there were other factors at play.

Maybe it’s not a volume question as much as it is a value question to get to those communities,” Zamora said.

Homelessness can be a factor, the elderley or anyone needing a car to be driven to a mass vaccination site and people with limited internet access and time to book an appointment including shift workers at grocery stores.

Then there is also the factor of those hesitant in communities to get vaccinated. Some recent polls suggested a third of Americans intended to not get vaccinated.

For Nurse Zamora though the need was to get more vaccines. Her clinic get a couple of hundred Moderna vials each week but she believed a larger allocation to centres like the Venice Family Clinic which has deep connections to the local community would lead to more vaccinations.

More people dying and in a disproportionate way,” she said.

Just another hero trying to make a difference in the City of Angels.

-Lloyd Marken

A mobile clinic brings vaccine to Vernon workers - Los Angeles Times

COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL ON ROLL UP – PART IV

Ladakh to Kerala, vaccine rollout begins | India News,The Indian Express

February 28

On Sunday 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Western Sydney from Europe.

CSL Limited was going to produce 50 million doses of the vaccine locally and starting from late March the hope was for them to produce 1 million doses a week.

The hope was to have the whole population vaccinated by October. Of course I am writing this from a later date that saw has seen a dramatic change to those projections but at the time there was great hope in these new arriving and administered vaccines.

On Sunday news came that the U.S. had approved the previously covered Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Vaccines were being dispersed throughout the world but the race was on.

Six billion people to be vaccinated or at least enough to reach herd immunity.

To stop the virus from continuing to mutate.

To stop one more person dying that could have been saved.

Logistically there was nothing like it. It was the greatest undertaking we had ever undertaken. Against the greatest crisis of our lifetimes.

The Indian government was racing to get an inital 300 million it most at risk vaccinated like police, defence, teachers, sanitation workers and health care staff. The next phase was to include people over 60 and those younger with underlying health care conditions. The vaccines being administered were AstraZeneca and the Indian produced Covaxin which had been rushed into service before trials were completed. The government aimed to reach a goal of 5 million jabs administered daily.

The Australian Broadcasting News reported on the recent uptick in cases in India following a lull. They cited a report that showed over half of New Delhi residents had developed COVID anti-bodies meaning so many people had caught COVID that the population was nearing achieiving herd immunity. To say nothing of the high amount of deaths. Worse yet that immunity would not protect against new variants in the community.

India was about to expereince a crashing second wave.

Their vaccine roll out continued in earnest.

On the 28th of February the World Health Organisation reported there had been 113,443,826 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 401,933.

There had been 2,525,729 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 8,582.

In Australia there had been 28,965 confirmed cases with a daily increase of seven. There had been 909 deaths.

In Canada there had been 861,472 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,255. There had been 21,915 deaths with a daily increase of 50.

In the United Kindgom there had been 4,173,691 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,567. There had been 122,705 deaths with a daily increase of 290.

In India there had been 11,096,731 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 16,752. There had been 157,051 deaths with a daily increase of 113.

India had reached 11 million cases on the 22nd of February with 11,005,850.

Brazil had reached 10 million cases on the 20th of February with 10,030,626. Only three countries had reported 10 million or more cases. The South American nation had also reached 243,457 deaths the same day.

On the 28th of February in the United States of America there had been 28,174,978 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 72,812. There had been 506,760 deaths with a daily increase of 2,106.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP – PART III

Timeline: How the US reached 500,000 COVID-19 deaths | Coronavirus pandemic  News | Al Jazeera

February 23

Tuesday.

Jobkeeper was set to end shortly and Jobseeker that had seen a double of payments for those on benefits at the beginning of the pandemic was going back to the original amount but would see an increase of $25 per week. Recipient obligations were due to increase too. The number of people getting support has decreased and this was seen as a way to hopefully manage this latest transition with minimal harm to the economy. Also with less people on the dole it would be easier to play hard ball with them now.

Same old song.

The increase came at a cost of $9billion dollars to the government. That gave someone on the dole $4 extra a day.

On the second day of the Pfizer vaccine roll-out in Australia with 1,200 jabs adminitered the hope was to have 30,000 completed by end of the week.

When interviewed on Channel 9 Australia, Infection Disease physician Professor Sanjaya Senanayake noted, ” The reality is if we want to get 75% of the population vaccinated by end of October we’ll need to do a lot more than that. Probably about a 150,000 people per day but I think it is very reasonable to start slowly and ramp up and iron out any wrinkles.

He also suspected around mid year the Novavax vaccine may become available too. The interview highlighted that the vaccine rollout was highly ambitious in comparison to what had been achieved so far overseas.

In the United States of America over half a million American lives had been lost to COVID.

The loss of life figure equivalent to the loss of life experienced during September 11, 2001 being repeated every day over a six month period.

The U.S. had reached more than 400,000 lives lost barely more than a month earlier.

President Joe Biden remembered the fallen.

February 24

In New South Wales there were further easing of restrictions including having 30 people on the dance floor come Friday rather than just the bridal party.

Fifrty visitors can vistir your home, larger numebrs in churches, cinemas and gyms.

Standing up and have a beer in the pub come March 17 too which was St Patrick’s Day.

More than 3,000 people had been vaccinated in the past 48 hours in the state.

Closer to home in the first week of administering vaccinations to the elderly two aged care residents in Carseldine, Brisbane recieved four times the prescribed dose by a doctor who had not yet completed his online COVID vaccination training.

The Doctor working for Healthcare Australia took too many doses out of the six dose Pfizer vial.

Fortunately the Healthcare Australia nurse working with him identified his mistake.

Despite this he administered a second dose before she raised the alarm again and this time he ceased.

The doctor was stood down by Healthcare Australia and referred to the industry regulator.

Those who received the dose were an 88 year old woman and a 94 year old woman who were rushed to hospital for close observation.

Such a bungle so early on in the vaccine roll out in the country was not the best for growing confidence in the general public to get vaccinated.

Media was already reporting that the vaccine was not being delivered to aged care homes as scheduled which already suggested targets would not be reached.

Having contracted the job out to Healthcare Australia and Aspen Medical the Federal Government was looking to structure their re-election campaign on successfully delivering the vaccine throughout the country but media attention was shifting to a horrifying alleged rape scandal in Parliament House and further allegations were to follow.

The future of the Morrison government rests of getting the vaccine rollout right,” said Channel 9 political editor Chris Uhlmann.

February 25

Jobkeeper was due to end, at the height of the pandemic it kept 3.6 million Australian employed now that number was down to 960,000.

As we neared the 12 month mark of COVID taking off in Australia the roll back of the increased JobSeeker payments (with a $4 a day increase from pre-Covid rates) and the cessation of Jobkeeper was to slow government spending and reflect ongoing economic activity.

There was no doubt anxiety being felt by those affected particarly businesses and employees that had been kept going by these initiatives.

There were different ideas being put forward for specialised industry support.

Following the bungle in Carseldine, the CEO Of Healthcare Australia stood down. Scheduled vaccinations across Sydney were cancelled. The aged care residents who received the overdose of the vaccine were continuing to cover in the Prince Charles Hospital. Thank goodness for the quick and brave actions of the Healthcare Australia nurse who stopped further overdoses being administered.

When interviewed, Prime Minister Scott Morrison offerred, “This is an enormous vaccination that we are doing across the country as we said. It is unprecedented in scale and scope and the people working on this are the best in the world.

In other news as Qantas looked to return to international travel in October they posted a 1.1 billion dollar loss in the first half of the current financial year.

In Ghana the first delivery of COVID vaccines from the UN backed COVAX initiative arrived in the African nation. 600,000 free doses of the AztraZeneca jab arrived free of charge for use.

On the 25th of February, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been in Ghana 81,245 confirmed cases. There had been 584 deaths reported in the West African nation of 30 million.

In the United States the Johnson and Johnson vaccine got closer to being approved for emergency use by the Food and Drugs Administration.

As a side note I was at the Prince Charles Hospital for a medical appointment. I had been to the hospital during COVID we went past a sign about signing in.

My wife started signing in like we often did when going to venues, she seemed faster. I wasn’t even sure if we were in the right building.

I came to a desk and was asked by a nurse if I had signed in and advised that my wife was doing it but I was told I had to do it.

In the confusion another nurse came by and started asking me questions.

I asked the first nurse if I could sign in and was told no so advised I would go back to the sign and use the app.

When I came back the second nurse was asking why Karen was wearing a mask. Because we were in a hospital we explained as a precaution for the safety of our health care workers.

The nurse explained it wasn’t a requirement of health guidelines at the moment as if it had raised her suspicions.

I explained we were just trying to be helpful. Later we walked past very elderly volunteers offering assistance in the hospital corridors.

The kind of people I was thinking about when I wore a mask when health guidelines said I did not have to.

In a few days no hospital staff would think twice of a visitor wearing a mask. Besides staff were wearing masks.

February 27

While the federal government had its setbacks with the aged care roll out of the vaccine, the New South Wales government planned to go bush starting March 15 with major hubs set up in Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga and Woollongong to administer the vaccine across 99 satelittle sites to health and border workers before GPS would administer to the local populace.

The state government had administered 10,000 jabs during the week.

As New South Wales reached another milestone, having administered 5 million tests for COVID since the pandemic hit the state.

In the United States of America there was good news after a long deadly winter that had claimed too many lives while a President formented anarchy rather than spared one thought on how to save lives.

Having reached half a million deaths earlier in the week,  there was now hope to be found in lower case numbers, hospitalisations and daily deaths reported.

A third vaccine loomed on the horizon for use from Johnson and Johnson who promised they could deliver 17 million doses by the end of March and 100 million by the end of March.

The drug was one shot and did not require refrigeration and carried a 72% efficiacy rate.

Pfizer and Moderna between the two of them were promising 220 million doses by the end of March. Enough to have 110 million American vaccinated.

The two companies were also working on vaccines to prove effective against variants.

It was noted on Planet America that countries with 14% of the world’s population accounted for 53% of of orders from the Top 8 vaccines including all of Moderna’s production for 2021 and 96% of Pfizers.

Programs like COVAX and the advice of Boris Johnson at the G7 summit only rang more true in light of this.

We’re only going to get through this if we do it together.

Despite the lower efficiacy rate, the J&J vaccine also had milder side effects, is cheaper and has a billion dollar doses to come in 2021. Johnson and Johnson was shaping up to be the vaccine that would be delivered throught the third world.

-Lloyd Marken