Coronavirus Tidbits #124 2/25/21


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.

NEW Post:

Mutual Aid – How You Can Help Texas, While Calling From Home

Volunteering through Powered by People  is easy and gratifying. There is still a need.


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Maryland ranks 49th in #COVID19Vaccine distribution.

Doses distributed to state: 1,634,945
Doses administered: 1,132,483
Percentage of distributed vaccines that have been administered: 69.27
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How Deadly Is the U.K. Variant?

— Updated analyses support worse clinical outcomes

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J&J vaccine will go to FDA for EUA vote this week.
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still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

The Lancet: 3-month interval between first and second dose of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine results in higher vaccine efficacy than 6-week interval

  • Exploratory analyses including 17,178 participants find that higher vaccine efficacy is obtained with a longer interval between the first and second standard dose (81% for 3-month interval vs 55% for up to 6-week interval). In addition, a single dose of vaccine is highly efficacious in the first 3 months (76% efficacy from 22 days after vaccination onwards).
  • The study also includes updated estimates of overall vaccine efficacy against symptomatic disease for two standard doses, which confirm that the vaccine is effective. There were no hospitalisations or deaths among those receiving the COVID-19 vaccine from 22 days after the first dose, compared with 15 instances in the control group.
  • Authors say this provides further support for current policy of extended intervals between doses in the UK and is consistent with the WHO's new policy advice.

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Flu Shots Reduced COVID-19 Infection Rates and Severity

The American Journal of Infectious Diseases published a major articleImpact of the Influenza Vaccine on COVID-19 Infection Rates and Severity. These researchers stated on February 22, 2021, 'Influenza vaccination is associated with decreased positive COVID-19 testing and improved clinical outcomes and should be promoted to reduce the burden of COVID-19.'

This study found the odds of testing positive for COVID-19 were reduced in patients who received an influenza vaccine by 24%.

And, influenza-vaccinated patients testing positive for COVID-19 were less likely to require hospitalization or mechanical ventilation and had a shorter hospital length of stay.

...a hypothetical yet plausible immunologic mechanism that could explain the apparent protective effects of influenza vaccine against COVID-19 is a process called trained immunity.'

'Until the COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available, the influenza vaccine should be promoted to reduce the burden of disease during this pandemic.'

This was an electronic medical records-based retrospective cohort study. Future prospective studies are needed to establish a causal relationship between the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 susceptibility and severity.

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No-Fault COVID-19 Vaccine Injury Compensation for Certain Countries

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Chubb Limited announced they signed an agreement to administer a no-fault compensation program for the 92 low- and middle-income countries and economies eligible for support via the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) of the COVAX Facility.

Signed on February 17, 2021, the WHO says this is the ‘first and only vaccine injury compensation mechanism operating on an international scale.’ All COVID-19 vaccines procured or distributed through the COVAX Facility receive regulatory approval or an emergency use authorization.

As with all medicines, even vaccines that are approved for general use may, in rare cases, cause ‘serious’ adverse reactions, says the WHO.

The program will offer eligible individuals in AMC-eligible countries and economies a transparent process to receive compensation for rare but ‘serious’ adverse events associated with COVAX-distributed vaccines.

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‘Held to ransom’: Pfizer plays hardball in Covid-19 vaccine negotiations with Latin American countries

Pfizer insisted some governments cover the potential costs of civil cases that result from its own acts of negligence, fraud, or malice.


Epidemiology/Infection control:

U.S. officials say there’s nothing to suggest food or food packaging spread of COVID-19

There is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19,  according to the Department of Agriculture , the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Acting USDA Secretary Kevin Shea and Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., issued a statement that takes exception to China’s latest contention about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast. Consumers should be reassured that we continue to believe, based on our understanding of currently available reliable scientific information, and supported by overwhelming international scientific consensus, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2,” the statement says.

“It’s particularly important to note that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person, unlike foodborne or gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food. While there are relatively few reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging, most studies focus primarily on the detection of the virus’s genetic fingerprint rather than evidence of transmission of the virus resulting in human infection. Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.

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Superspreading drives the COVID pandemic — and could help to tame it

Uneven transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has had tragic consequences — but also offers clues for how best to target control measures.\

As the pandemic enters its second year — a time marked by news of fast-spreading variants of the virus — researchers are now more convinced than ever of the importance of superspreading in how the COVID-19 pandemic has played out, and how it will do so in the future. They have found that superspreading events are one of the main ways in which SARS-CoV-2 has gained a foothold in communities around the world, so far infecting more than 100 million people and killing more than 2.4 million. Without effective control measures, superspreading events might even become larger and more frequent as more-transmissible variants first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil push out other strains of the virus.

With a year’s worth of data, researchers have amassed ample evidence of some chief ingredients of superspreading events: prolonged indoor gatherings with poor ventilation. Activities such as singing and aerobic exercise, which produce many of the tiny infectious droplets that can be inhaled by others, are also common components.

But key questions remain.

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Backed by Google, epidemiologists launch a sweeping Covid-19 data platform

STAT By Katie Palmer  Feb. 24, 2021

Last January, Samuel Scarpino wasn’t sure what to make of Covid-19. The director of Northeastern University’s Emergent Epidemics Lab, he, along with every other epidemiologist in the world, was trying to interpret the earliest data on the new virus.

He was soon pulled into working on a spreadsheet, started by a group of international epidemiologists, to collect and openly share granular data on individual Covid-19 cases around the world. Today, that project launched its complete website,, which will enable open access to more than 5 million anonymized Covid-19 records from 160 countries. Each record can contain dozens of data points about the case, including demographics, travel history, testing dates, and outcomes.

The project is supported by $1.25 million in funding and other resources from, with additional support from the Rockefeller Foundation, and is led by academics from the University of Oxford, Harvard, Northeastern, Boston Children’s Hospital, Georgetown, University of Washington, and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

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We’re Just Rediscovering a 19th-Century Pandemic Strategy

The first way to fight a new virus would once have been opening the windows.

The Atlantic SARAH ZHANG

The obsession with ventilation—and miasma theory in general—was indeed wrong when it came to pathogens such as cholera and yellow fever that we now know spread through other means (water and mosquitoes, respectively). But it did make sense for the diseases that invisibly stalked people through 19th-century air: measles, tuberculosis, smallpox, influenza—all much diminished as threats in the 21st century. “We’ve gotten so good at preventing so many diseases, there’s been a loss of knowledge and a loss of experience,” Jeanne Kisacky, the author of Rise of the Modern Hospital, saysScience is not a simple linear march toward progress; it also forgets.

Today, amid a pandemic caused by a novel airborne virus, these old ideas about ventilation are returning. But getting enough schools and businesses on board has been difficult. Fixing the air inside modern buildings, where many windows don’t or barely open, means fighting against the very nature of hermetically sealed modern buildings. They were not built to deal with airborne threats. Nineteenth-century hospitals were.

Tips, general reading for public:


Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.


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Feel good du jour:

A delivery driver got stuck in a client’s driveway during the Texas storm. The couple took her in for five days.

Comic relief:

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Hits close to home

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Bits of beauty:

First hint of spring coming--Hellebore emerging

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