Coronavirus Tidbits #106 12/24/20

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First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I’m getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don’t be shy about that.


Mutant Covid:

First, as Ian Mackay said:

“This isn’t a magic virus. It’s a variant of a respiratory virus. So the measures that protected us from the earlier variants, will protect us from this one. If we weren’t taking sufficient measures before, this variant will be even more likely infect you.”

Experts add that there is no immediate concern about the vaccines becoming ineffective from the mutations…but they may need to be modified, just as the influenza vaccine is modified every year.

Q&A: from Daily Mail

Q&A: Does the mutant strain of coronavirus make you more ill – and will the vaccine still work?

A strain is a version of a virus that carries particular genetic mutations…which makes it more contagious than others in circulation.
It’s been named VUI-202012/01 which is code for the first ‘variant under investigation’ of December 2020. Its technical name is N501Y + 69/70del, which refers to specific genetic mutations. HOW MUCH MORE EASILY DOES IT SPREAD?
Based on preliminary evidence, Government scientists think it spreads up to 70 per cent more easily than other strains. WHERE AND WHEN DID THIS STRAIN FIRST APPEAR?
It seems to have emerged in London or Kent in September. HOW WIDESPREAD HAS IT BECOME SINCE THEN?
A month ago, around a quarter of cases across the South East, London and the East of England were the new variant– but by mid-December it made up more than half. WHAT DO THESE NEW MUTATIONS DO?
Many occur in what’s called the ‘receptor binding domain’ of the spike protein which help the virus latch on to human cells and gain entry. The mutations make it easier for the virus to bind to human cells’ ACE2 receptors.
The changes might also help the virus avoid human antibodies which would otherwise help protect us from infection. WHAT CAUSED THESE GENETIC CHANGES TO ARISE?
Every time the virus replicates there’s a chance that parts of it will mutate due to what is known as genetic ‘copying error’. All individual mutations are random and most make no practical difference.
Certain conditions can put evolutionary pressure on the virus to change. One group of geneticists have speculated that growing natural immunity in the UK population, which makes it harder for the virus to spread, might have forced it to adapt.
Another theory is that the mutation arose in a patient who was fighting the virus for a long time which was then passed on to another individual. ARE WE SURE IT’S DRIVING HIGHER INFECTION RATES?
Government scientists are all but certain that it is. DOES IT CAUSE A MORE SERIOUS DISEASE?
According to Prof Whitty, ‘the answer seems to be ‘No’, as far as we can tell at the moment’.
He said there was no evidence it causes a higher rate of hospitalisations or deaths, but if more people caught it because the new strain spread more easily, then ‘inevitably’ more people would end up in hospital.
The three main symptoms to look out for remain the same: a new and continuous cough, a fever or high temperature, and a change in smell or taste. HOW CAN THE NEW STRAIN BE TREATED?
As the mutations do not appear to affect the severity of illness, those who have it will be treated in exactly the same way as those who have other strains. SHOULD WE TAKE THE SAME MEASURES TO STOP ITS SPREAD?
Yes. The current advice is continue to practise ‘Hands, Face, Space’ – washing hands, wearing a mask, and keeping two metres from others – and abide by the tier restrictions in your area. WILL THE VACCINE STILL WORK ON THE NEW MUTATIONS?
Government scientists are still working on the assumption that ‘the vaccine response should be adequate’ for this variant, but Prof Whitty admitted last night: ‘We need to keep vigilant about this.’
Scientists say the vaccine produces antibodies against many regions in the spike protein, so it is highly unlikely that a single change to the spike – or even a couple – would render a vaccine useless.

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Muge Cevik adds:

And it’s important to note that this variant has also been identified in other European countries. In addition, in South Africa, scientists also identified a lineage separate from the U.K. variant that also has the N501Y mutation. @Tuliodna  et al. 16/


still an incredible, negligent lack of accurate, rapid testing.


Makers of successful COVID-19 vaccines wrestle with options for placebo recipients

ScienceInsider By Jon Cohen Dec. 22, 2020

Now that regulators around the world have begun to issue emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for COVID-19 vaccines—the United States authorized a candidate vaccine from the biotech Moderna on Friday—a theoretical debate that has simmered for months has become a pressing reality: Should ongoing vaccine efficacy studies inform their tens of thousands of volunteers whether they were injected with a placebo or the vaccine, and also offer an already authorized vaccine to those who got the placebo?

Vaccine makers must now quickly decide how to handle this issue, called unblinding. And if they do choose to unblind, they will also need to get regulatory approval. Adding to the pressure: The choice arrives as many trial participants in the United States who are now eligible for an authorized COVID-19 vaccine are dropping out of studies in order to make sure they get immunized.

[Very interesting discussion and explanation of trial designs cont at:] more…

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COVAX initiative secures deals for nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines

Tuesday, December 22, 2020 by Chris Galford Homeland Preparedness News

On behalf of 190 participating economies, the global COVAX initiative has secured access to nearly 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine candidates and plans to begin dispensing those doses early next year to protect vulnerable groups.

While most of the vaccine candidates involved are still under development, COVAX is still growing its portfolio. Meanwhile, it intends to deliver at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to 92 low and middle-income economies eligible through the funding mechanism known as the Gavi COVAX AMC. This will allow targeting of up to 20 percent of the population by the end of 2021. For many of these deals, COVAX has already guaranteed access to a portion of the first production wave.


Epidemiology/Infection control:

Tips, general reading for public:


Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.


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Given Trump’s sickening pardoning spree, this seems apt:

Feel good du jour:

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And a baker’s homage to Ian Mackay:

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Comic relief:

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Video of her:

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This was a fun thread:

Bits of beauty:


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  • Connie Valentine

    Once again, thank you for your inspiring, informative tidbits interlaced with humor and beauty. May you stay healthy and warm during this frigid spell!
    With gracious love and appreciation,

    • Judy Stone

      And thank you, Connie, for always cheering me on and encouraging me to keep at this. Wishing you the best for the New Year.

  • Joe McDaniel

    To complement your “Incredible Lack of Testing:”

    How in the world are we going to allocate vaccine doses. As far as I can determine, nobody seems to have thought through actually inoculating anyone outside of hospital or nursing home sites. In the UK, you would, apparently, get an invitation from the NHS. Here, nothing seems to be in-process.

    My suggestion, considering the late date, is to do it simply by birth date/age since that is about the only ‘random’ number we all have and it will have some epidemiology value. Start with the oldest and work toward younger people. Perhaps a refinement would be to allow for all people living with you to also be inoculated to save transportation and cross-infections?

    Announcing the ‘date/age’ number to the public would be done by broadcasting via all media — radio, TV, Facebook, Twitter, Cell Phone Emergency, newspapers, etc. — to reach most people.