COVID-19 Discussion (No Politics)

My first shot was so painless I asked the guy if he really did it and he laughed. The next two hurt and continued to hurt for a few days. I wish I got that first guy’s number (not in THAT way!).

I also was inexplicably tired after the booster and I had no idea if it was because I stepped up my workout regimen or if it was the shot. A couple of naps fixed it.

(ouch, spinal shots)

Reinfection from Covid-19 is rare, severe disease is even rarer, a study of people in Qatar finds

By Jen Christensen, CNN

(CNN)When people got reinfected with Covid-19, their odds of ending up in the hospital or dying were 90% lower than an initial Covid-19 infection, according to a new study.

The study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that there were few confirmed reinfections among 353,326 people who got Covid-19 in Qatar, and the re-infections were rare and generally mild.

Covid-19 reinfections are rare, but more common in people 65 and older, study finds

The first wave of infections in Qatar struck between March and June of 2020. In the end about 40% of the population had detectable antibodies against Covid-19. The country then had two more waves from January through May of 2021. This was prior to the more infectious delta variant.

To determine how many people got reinfected, scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar compared the records of people with PCR-confirmed infections between February of 2020 and April 2021. They excluded 87,547 people who got the vaccine.

Researchers found that among the remaining cases there were 1,304 reinfections. The median time between the first illness and reinfection was about 9 months.

Covid-19 antibodies may protect against reinfection later, study suggests

Among those with reinfections, there were only four cases severe enough that they had to go to the hospital. There were no cases where people were sick enough that they needed to be treated in the intensive care unit. Among the initial cases, 28 were considered critical. There were no deaths among the reinfected group, while there were seven deaths in the initial infections.

“When you have only 1,300 reinfections among that many people, and four cases of severe disease, that’s pretty remarkable,” said John Alcorn, an expert in immunology and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh who was not affiliated with this study.

The study has limits. It was done in Qatar, so it’s not clear if the virus would behave the same way anywhere else. The work was done when the alpha and beta variant were the cause of many re-infections. There were 621 cases where it was undetermined and 213 from a “wild type” virus. There was no mention of the delta variant, which is now the predominant strain. That could have an impact on the number of reinfections.

Can you get infected with Covid-19 twice? It’s complicated

Earlier studies have shown that natural immunity lowers ones risk of infection. One study done in Denmark published in March found that most people who had Covid-19 seemed to have protection from reinfection that remained stable for more than six months, but a check of the demographics of who was getting infected again showed it was mostly people 65 and older. That study does not make it clear how long protection lasts, and neither does the new Qatar study.

Alcorn’s own research on natural immunity shows that antibody levels also vary significantly from person to person. Scientists still don’t know what level of antibodies is protective, but in some cases, levels after infection may not be enough to keep someone from getting sick again.

“It needs to be determined whether such protection against severe disease at reinfection lasts for a longer period, analogous to the immunity that develops against other seasonal ‘common-cold’ coronaviruses, which elicit short-term immunity against mild reinfection but longer-term immunity against more severe illness with reinfection,” the study said. “If this were the case with SARS-CoV-2, the virus (or at least the variants studied to date) could adopt a more benign pattern of infection when it becomes endemic.”

Covid-19 cases are on the rise with Thanksgiving just a day away

Dr. Kami Kim, an infectious disease specialist who is not affiliated with this study, said people need to be careful not to come away with the wrong impression that it means people don’t need to get vaccinated if they’ve been sick with Covid-19.

“It’s sort of like asking the question do you need airbags and seat belts?” said Kim, director of the University of South Florida’s Division of Infectious Disease & International Medicine. “Just because you have airbags doesn’t mean that seatbelts won’t help you and vice versa. It’s good to have the protection of both.”

Kim said it isn’t worth taking your chances with the disease, particularly because an infection could bring with it long-term effects. “The incidence of long-Covid is way higher than the risk of getting a vaccine,” Kim said.

Also vaccinations don’t just protect an individual from getting sick, it protects the community.

To avoid Covid, here are four questions to ask family and friends ahead of Thanksgiving gatherings

“Modern medicine is much better, and people get cancer and survive and autoimmune diseases and thrive. Unless you are super close, you don’t always know who is vulnerable to more severe disease, and you literally could be putting people you care about at risk if you get sick and expose them,” Kim said. “Without vaccination you can’t go back to a normal life.”

Limiting the number of illnesses also limits the potential of more variants to develop, variants that could be even more dangerous than what’s in circulation now.

Alcorn said there’s another important lesson from this study.

“Vaccines are still our best method to get to the same place these people that have been infected are, absolutely,” Alcorn said. “The major takeaway from this study here is that there’s hope that through vaccination and through infection recovery that we’ll get to the level where everybody has some level of protection.”

Interesting but note they point out it doesn’t consider Delta which I think we have seen here - initial infections with base or Alpha then again with Delta. Each variant probably brings new risks that somewhat resets the game (frustrating to those that don’t understand why and how things can change and say things like, “they told us XYZ, now …”).

To me this is actually encouraging. I expect to get Covid someday, and I think we all will, especially when it becomes more endemic. If I stay vaccinated, I can look forward to a mild case (like my sister-in-law had a few weeks ago) and then even greater immunity. That’s probably where this is all going, eventually. Sadly, a lot of unvaccinated people will go to their graves. Maybe at that point they can at least be content that they preserved their independence.

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Darwin 101.

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At some point even Darwin is saying WTF???

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I wouldn’t shed too many tears, except that those folks will be dragging a lot of innocent people along with them.

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My in-laws are staying away this year (again). This time because of my infected (but not infectious) daughter. Her taste is coming back, but the ability to smell…much slower. The headaches and low grade fever are gone.

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Give me liberty and give me death!

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I mentioned my neighbors with Covid, supposedly unvaccinated, she’s spent a number of days in the hospital. I’m very worried.

I’ve been a little merciless on the unvaccinated but this has shifted my view quite a bit because I know them. They are fantastic neighbors, all summer they give us produce from their garden. They take in our garbage cans when we are out of town and even have shoveled my driveway just to be nice. They go around and help all kinds of people in our neighborhood without any fanfare. Just salt of the earth great people.

Unfortunately they also watch Fox News and have simply been deceived.

So to all of those propagating lies and deceiving the public for personal gain, yeah your time will come. For people like my neighbors I just feel sad and sorry for them.

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November 26, 2021

New COVID-19 variant triggers global alarm as WHO urges caution

By Costas Pitas and Stephanie Nebehay

  • Summary

  • UK bans flights from South Africa region, EU plans similar

  • Variant has a protein dramatically different to original

  • Fauci says no decision yet on U.S. travel ban

  • Epidemiologist warns travel curbs may be too late

  • Scientist says bans a symptom of ‘vaccine apartheid’

LONDON/GENEVA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Global authorities reacted with alarm on Friday to a new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.

Hours after Britain banned flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries and asked travellers returning from there to quarantine, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against hasty travel bans.

The head of the UN World Tourism Organisation called for a quick decision.

“It depends on WHO recommendations, but my recommendation will be to take decisions today, not after one week, because if it continues to spread as we are expecting then it will be late and will make no sense to apply restrictions,” organisation chief Zurab Pololikashvili told Reuters.

One South African scientist expert labelled London’s ban a symptom of “vaccine apartheid”, though European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU also aimed to halt air travel from the region and several other countries including India, Japan and Israel toughened curbs. read more

“It is now important that all of us in Europe act very swiftly, decisively and united,” von der Leyen said. “All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clearer understanding about the danger posed by this new variant.”

In Washington, top U.S. infectious disease official Anthony Fauci said no decision had been made on a possible U.S. travel ban. There was no indication that the variant was in the United States, and it was unclear whether it was resistant to current vaccines, he told CNN. read more

The WHO said it would take weeks to determine how effective vaccines were against the variant, which was first identified this week.

The news pummelled global stocks and oil amid fears about what new bans would do to the global travel industry and already shaky economies across southern Africa. read more

‘MOST SIGNIFICANT VARIANT’

The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on, the UK Health Security Agency said, raising fears about how current vaccines will fare.

“As scientists have described, (this is) the most significant variant they’ve encountered to date,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News.

In Geneva the WHO - whose experts on Friday discussed the risks that the variant, called B.1.1.529, presents - warned against travel curbs for now. read more

“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing.

It would take several weeks to determine the variant’s transmissibility and the effectiveness of vaccines, Lindmeier said, noting that 100 sequences of it had been reported so far.

British health minister Sajid Javid said the sequence of the variant was first uploaded by Hong Kong from someone travelling from South Africa.

“It is highly likely that it has now spread to other countries,” Javid told lawmakers.

The head of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium said it was likely the new variant will arrive in Britain. read more

South African scientists suspect the sudden spike in infections in the country is linked to the new variant, but it is not clear how far it has spread beyond its borders.

Belgium identified Europe’s first case, adding to those in Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong. Denmark has sequenced all COVID-19 cases and found no sign of the new mutation, Danish health authorities said on Thursday.

Israel imposed a travel ban covering most of Africa.

“We are currently on the verge of a state of emergency,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. “Our main principle is to act fast, strong and now.”

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa recommended that travel be restricted from some African countries, but President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to dismiss such measures.

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized by public health experts for his management of the pandemic, railing against lockdowns and choosing not to get vaccinated. Brazil has the world’s second-highest death toll from the virus, behind only the United States. read more

TOO LATE FOR TRAVEL CURBS?

One epidemiologist in Hong Kong said it may be too late to tighten travel curbs.

“Most likely this virus is already in other places. And so if we shut the door now, it’s going to be probably too late,” said Ben Cowling of the University of Hong Kong.

European states had already been expanding booster vaccinations and tightening curbs as the continent battles a fourth COVID-19 wave, with many reporting record daily rises in cases. read more

Discovery of the new variant comes as Europe and the United States enter winter, with more people gathering indoors in the run-up to Christmas, providing a breeding ground for infection.

Italy imposed an entry ban on people who have visited southern African states in the last 14 days, while France suspended flights from southern Africa and Bahrain and Croatia will ban arrivals from some countries. read more

India issued an advisory to all states to test and screen international travellers from South Africa and other “at risk” countries, while Japan tightened border controls.

The coronavirus has swept the world in the two years since it was first identified in central China, infecting almost 260 million people and killing 5.4 million. read more

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open The latest global coronavirus statistics, charts and maps in an external browser.

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More here about B.1.1.529…

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Not good. Meaning bad news bears.
The other two had a couple of spike protein changes, apparently this has dozens of new proteins.
We’ll have to see how transmissible and fatality come to play

Moderna Vaccine more Effective than Pfizer Against COVID-19, Study Finds

Nov. 25, 2021

By Tribune News Service

By Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg News

The Moderna and Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines both edged the version from Pfizer and BioNTech in effectiveness in a large-scale study of five different immunization shots conducted by Hungarian researchers.

Moderna’s vaccine was 88.7% effective in protecting against coronavirus infection and 93.6% effective against COVID-related mortality, compared with 85.7% and 95.4%, respectively, for Sputnik, according to the paper published Wednesday on the website of the Clinical Microbiology and Infection medical journal. Pfizer came in third with 83.3% and 90.6%, respectively.

The research reviewed the effectiveness of five vaccines in people at least seven days after they received their second dose. Data from more than 3.7 million vaccinated people aged 16 and over were reviewed from January to June of this year.

“The wide range of vaccines available in Hungary allows for the assessment of vaccine effectiveness in a real-world setting in a Central European country and puts Hungary in the unique position of providing detailed information on multiple vaccine types from the same country,” the authors, including Hungary’s minister in charge of health care, Miklos Kasler, and chief medical officer Cecilia Muller, wrote in the study.

Pfizer was administered most frequently, to 1.5 million people, followed by China’s Sinopharm at 895,465, Russia’s Sputnik V at 820,560, AstraZeneca at 304,138 and Moderna at 222,892, according to the study. Pfizer and China’s Sinopharm had the highest share of vaccines administered to those aged 65 and over, while Sputnik had the lowest share, data showed.

In Oregon, Pfizer’s vaccine has also been given most broadly. But Moderna’s also has been widely administered, with the Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccine, which was not included in the Hungarian study, much less widely given.

The Oregon Health Authority reported Wednesday that the state’s residents have received 3,479,971 doses of Pfizer Comirnaty, 58,111 doses of Pfizer pediatric, 2,222,628 doses of Moderna and 241,258 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

The Hungarian study raised questions about the effectiveness of two vaccines not given in the U.S. for very elderly patients. Both the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines had less than 50% effectiveness against COVID-19 infection in people aged 85 and older, according to the study. That compared with 84.1% for the same age group for Moderna and 74.3% for Pfizer.

Hungary had among the world’s highest COVID-related deaths per capita earlier this year. The country, whose vaccination rates lag the western European average, reported a record number of daily infections on Wednesday as the fourth wave of daily infections on Wednesday as the fourth wave of the virus continued to spread.

– Bloomberg News via Tribune New Service

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Apparently the new variant is now called Omicron. This article is a bit less alarming (more rational?) than others I’ve seen and has some good info. The bottom line is, not much is known yet.

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My wife works professionally with a woman who is from South Africa, but happened to be in Vietnam when the pandemic shutdowns began. She was trapped there until about two weeks ago and she finally got home to South Africa. It took her a week to make that trip. Now she’s landed right there in South Africa when this new variant is emerging. What rotten luck.

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Lot of concern by the epidemiologist community over…

Omicron, a new Covid-19 variant with high number of mutations, sparks travel bans and worries scientists

By David McKenzie, Ghazi Balkiz and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

November 26, 2021

(CNN)The discovery of a new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant by South African health authorities has sparked a forceful reaction across the world, with a number of countries banning travelers from several southern African countries.

The World Health Organization announced Friday that it has designated the newly identified coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern, named Omicron.

Besides South Africa, the newly identified variant has been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Belgium.

It appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of South Africa and scientists are concerned that its unusually high number of mutations could make it more transmissible and result in immune evasion.

WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE), an independent group of experts, met Friday to discuss the variant, a WHO statement said.

The advisers recommended that WHO designate the variant as “of concern,” referencing the variant’s large number of mutations, the possibility of increased risk of reinfection and other evidence.

A number of studies are underway, and WHO will update member states and the public as needed, the WHO statement said.

WHO called on countries to enhance their surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand coronavirus variants.

“Initially it looked like some cluster outbreaks, but from yesterday, the indication came from our scientists from the Network of Genomic Surveillance that they were observing a new variant,” Joe Phaahla, South Africa’s Minister of Health, said Thursday, stressing that it is currently unclear where the variant first emerged.

South African officials initially said there was one confirmed case in a traveler from South Africa to Hong Kong. Then Hong Kong health authorities on Friday identified a second case of the B.1.1.529 variant among returning travelers on the same floor of a designated quarantine hotel.

Also on Friday, the Belgian government said that one individual who had recently arrived from abroad, and was not vaccinated, had tested positive for the new variant, marking the first case in Europe.

Reinfection from Covid-19 is rare, severe disease is even rarer, a study of people in Qatar finds

Tulio de Oliveira, the director of South Africa’s Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation, said the variant has “many more mutations than we have expected,” adding it is “spreading very fast and we expect to see pressure in the health system in the next few days and weeks.”

Viruses, including the one that causes Covid-19, mutate regularly and most new mutations do not have significant impact on the virus’s behavior and the illness they cause.

Passengers walk through the arrivals area at London's Heathrow Airport on November 26, after the UK suspended flights from several nations in southern Africa.

Passengers walk through the arrivals area at London’s Heathrow Airport on November 26, after the UK suspended flights from several nations in southern Africa.

What we know about the new variant

Lawrence Young, a virologist and a professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, said the variant was “very worrying.”

“It is the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen to date. This variant carries some changes we’ve seen previously in other variants but never all together in one virus. It also has novel mutations,” Young said in a statement.

The variant has high number of mutations, about 50 overall. Crucially, South African genomic scientists said Thursday more than 30 of the mutations were found in the spike protein – the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.

Neil Ferguson, the director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, said in a statement that the number of mutations on the spike protein was “unprecedented.”

“The spike protein gene [is] the protein which is the target of most vaccines. There is therefore a concern that this variant may have a greater potential to escape prior immunity than previous variants,” Ferguson said.

Sharon Peacock, a professor of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said that while the overall number of Covid-19 cases is relatively low in South Africa, there has been a rapid increase in the past seven days.

She said that while 273 new infections were recorded on November 16, the figure had risen to more than 1,200 cases by November 25, with more than 80% coming from Gauteng province.

“The epidemiological picture suggests that this variant may be more transmissible, and several mutations are consistent with enhanced transmissibility,” Peacock said in a comment shared by the UK’s Science Media Centre.

She added that while the significance of the mutations and their combination is unknown, some of those present in the latest variant have been associated in others with immune evasion.

What we don’t know

Peacock, de Oliveira, Ferguson and other scientists said it was too early to tell the full impact of the mutations on vaccine efficacy.

De Oliveira stressed that the Covid-19 shots are still the best tool against the virus, adding that lab studies still need to be carried out to test vaccine and antibody evasion.

More studies also need to be conducted to understand the clinical severity of the variant compared to previous variants.

It is also unclear where the new mutation emerged from. While it was first identified in South Africa, it may have come from elsewhere.

“It is important not to assume that the variant first emerged in South Africa,” Peacock said.

Quick reaction

Scientists have praised South African health authorities for their quick reaction to a Covid-19 outbreak in the country’s Gauteng province, which led to the discovery of the new variant.

When cases in the province started to rise at a higher rate than elsewhere, health experts focused on sequencing samples from those who tested positive, which allowed them to quickly identify the B.1.1.529 variant.

Peacock said the South African health ministry and its scientists “are to be applauded in their response, their science, and in sounding the alarm to the world.”

She added that the development shows how important it is to have excellent sequencing capabilities and to share expertise with others.

The reaction to the announcement of the new variant discovered by South African health authorities was also prompt. A number of countries have imposed new travel bans and markets in the US, Asia and Europe took a plunge following the news.
UK officials announced on Thursday that six African countries will be added to England’s travel “red list” after the UK Health Security Agency flagged concern over the variant.

UK’s Health Minister Sajid Javid said flights to the UK from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday Friday and all six countries will be added to the red list – meaning UK residents and British and Irish nationals arriving home from those points of departure must undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Speaking on Friday, Javid said it was “highly likely” that the B.1.1.529 variant has spread beyond southern Africa. In a statement to the UK House of Commons Friday Javid expressed concern that it may “pose a substantial risk to public health.”

Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Israel, Jordan, Italy, Austria, France, the Netherlands and Germany have also announced new restrictions on travelers coming from the region, and the European Commission proposed banning flights from South Africa to the bloc.

The Emirates airline said on Friday it would restrict flights from the region to Dubai, citing Dubai’s Covid-19 Command and Control Centre (CCC).

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Friday that the United States will make a decision as quickly as possible on blocking travel from some African countries in the light of the new variant.

South Africa, like much of the region, has suffered through three significant Covid-19 waves since the pandemic’s start. While the number of new infections across the country is now still relatively low and positivity levels are under 5%, public health officials have already predicted a fourth wave because of a slow vaccine uptake.

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The US stock market lost 2.5% of its value today and West Texas Intermediate oil price fell by an astounding $10.22 for the January contract, a drop of over 13% in one day.

You cannot have a robust economy without public health. That is the message here.

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That’s what I don’t understand. There are all these people who want to get back to normal asap but aren’t interested in the (not that hard) work it takes to get there. So we all suffer for their indiscretion.

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And part of said ‘not-that-hard work’ includes getting vaccinated. Of course, the more people are unvaccinated, the more the virus can spread and mutate (and become more deadly and evasive)… which the anti-vax crowd will point to as evidence that vaccines don’t work. Extremely frustrating vicious cycle.

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