The Covid medical news roundup

First, a fragment of good news, since we’re all in need of one: The Pfizer vaccine has been declared safe for people with food and medication allergies. It’s only a hazard to people who are allergic to components of the vaccine itself–polyethylene glycol and polysorbate

People who have a history of anaphylaxis to an injectable drug or vaccine made with either of those, along with anyone who can pronounce the key words I’ve used so far, should talk to their allergists before getting a vaccination. Everyone else can relax. But people will still be monitored for fifteen minutes or so after they get vaccinated–just in case. So you can relax twice over.

Vaccines cause allergies in roughly 1.3 people out of a million, and the rate’s about the same for the Pfizer vaccine. 

Irrelevant photo: Snow on a camellia bud last February–or possibly the one before–when we had two or three inches. To celebrate, half of Cornwall jumped in their cars and ran off the road.

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Turkey reports that a vaccine developed by the Chinese firm Sinovac is 91.25% effective. 

Why is Turkey reporting on a Chinese vaccine? Because it was tested there. You have to test vaccines where the virus is plentiful and happy to infect people, and it’s not happy in China just now. 

Turkey’s signed a deal to buy 50 million doses.

 

Covid and the brain

Enough good news. It’ll only go to your head. 

Around the world, a handful of wild-ass psychiatric problems are turning up in post-Covid patients who have no history of mental illness. The numbers are small, but the problems aren’t and they can show up after weeks and even months in people who had only mild Covid symptoms.

The patients described in a New York Times article range from their thirties into their fifties–ages when people shouldn’t start having hallucinations, becoming paranoid, or, as an expert might put it, nutting out in these particular ways. And some of them had enough of a grasp on reality to know that something was wrong, which people with this kind of psychotic symptom usually don’t.

The best guess at the moment is that this is somehow linked to the body’s immune response to the virus–maybe to inflammation and maybe to vascular problems. There are records of psychosis and mania after the 1918 flu epidemic and after the SARS and MERS outbreaks. 

One psychiatrist, Dr. Hisam Goueli, said,  “We don’t know what the natural course of this is. Does this eventually go away? Do people get better? How long does that normally take? And are you then more prone to have other psychiatric issues as a result? There are just so many unanswered questions.”

I keep saying this, but younger people aren’t immune to Covid. They’re statistically less likely to have problems if they catch it, but that’s not the same as being immune. The problems it can cause are fucking terrifying. 

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The National Institutes of Health–they’re in the U.S., and I have yet to figure out why they’re plural–are seeing damage caused by thinning and leaky brain blood vessels in tissue samples from people who died shortly after contracting Covid. But they found no signs that Covid itself had invaded the brain, although earlier research did find small amounts of Covid in brain samples. 

The NIH findings may be caused by the body using inflammation to respond to the virus. And no, I don’t know what it means either. Eventually, I trust, someone will. In the meantime, it’s just one more piece of this giant jigsaw puzzle that’s all over the living room floor. If the cat would stop hiding pieces under the chair, we might complete it some day.

 

Controlling the spread–or not

A study of the effectiveness of measures to control Covid reports that you can’t drive the growth of the virus to below zero without paying a high social cost. Limiting gatherings, canceling public events, and suggesting that people stay at home? Nope, that won’t do it. You have to close schools, order people to stay at home, and close workplaces either fully or partially.

The British government will do most, and maybe all, of that eventually, but it wants to wait until the virus has a head start. That’s only sporting.

In fact, after Boris Johnson waffled over whether to reopen the schools on schedule and at the latest possible moment announced that he would, he now says there’s “no question” we’ll have to take tougher measures. But only in “due course.” 

On Sunday, Britain had more than 50,000 confirmed new cases for the sixth day running. But no, we’re not going to rush into this. 

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A Barcelona experiment held an indoor concert, complete with masks, dancing, and rapid Covid tests, to see if an event could be held safely in this pandemic age. Half the people who tried to go were tested and sent home to be a control group and half were tested and allowed in if they were negative. 

Preliminary reports are that eight days later no one in the group that attended had Covid and two people in the group that was sent home did. 

What does it all mean? I’m not sure. A photo from the concert shows dancers wearing masks but they weren’t all wearing them in the right places, so whether this speaks to the effectiveness of the testing, the inability to adult humans to identify the parts of their faces involved in breathing, or pure dumb luck I don’t know. 

 

The great vaccine rollout

Now that Britain has two vaccines going, how long will it take to get everyone vaccinated? 

A while. In the first three weeks, three-quarters of a million people were vaccinated, so (even I can work this out) that’s a quarter of a million people per week. At that rate, it’ll be the end of 2021 before the vaccine reaches everyone in the official list of vulnerable people (anyone over 50 plus a narrow definition of front-line workers and people with underlying medical conditions). Someone else worked that out, so you can probably trust it. 

The health secretary is aiming for 2 million people a week. And I’m still hoping to be a full 6 feet tall, but at 73 I suspect I’ve stopped growing. 

And that’s just the first shot. For the followup, we’re counting on King Arthur to rise from–remind me, where’s he supposed to return from when his country needs him? Avalon? Anyway, he’s traded his now rusty sword for a rust-proof needle and will be helping out with the vaccination effort as soon as he finishes the required online module in identifying and countering radicalization and gets his certificate. 

And the good news is . . . 

. . . that astronomers in Australia have found a radio wave that (important missing word: apparently) comes from a nearby star. It was picked up for thirty hours during April and May of, um, 2019 I think. They’ve been analyzing it ever since and so far haven’t found anything earth-based that would account for it.

What’s more, It’s apparently shifted frequency in a way that’s consistent with the movement of a planet, and the star it seems to come from, Proxima Centauri, has a rocky planet in the habitable zone, where water doesn’t freeze permanently or sizzle itself into something not helpful to the creation of life.

No one’s ruling out some really boring explanation for the signal, but at the moment it’s called the Wow! Signal because an astronomer wrote “Wow!” in the margin next to the data. 

Why is this good news and what’s it got to do with Covid? You know the concept of deus ex machina? That’s when a writer traps her- or himself in a corner and can’t resolve the plot problem in an even vaguely credible way, so–let’s shift to the plural; it’s not as clunky–they bring in some unexpected power or event to save the day, the play, and the paycheck. 

Well, I try to include something hopeful in these posts, but my shipment of hopeful material got stuck at the Brexit border with the wrong paperwork and will be delayed for several days. Or months. So this is a deus ex machina ending. These folks, whoever they are, are radioing us instructions that, as soon as we translate them, will save us from our silly selves.

And if you believe that, I heard about a bridge in Brooklyn that’s going at a knockdown price.

Deus ex machina literally means “god from the machine” and it comes from ancient Greek drama (even though the words are Latin; don’t ask). They’d use a crane to lower a god onto the stage at the end of the play and nothing would have to make sense after that. If god said the undeserving character got the full bowl of Cheerios, the deserving one got yesterday’s cold toast, and the important Greek phrase got to be in Latin, who could argue? 

44 thoughts on “The Covid medical news roundup

  1. My sincere thanks to the astronomers of Australia for this good news which I will personally translate as a confirmation of my belief in what’s going on elsewhere in the universe.
    My sincere thanks to you for bringing the news to my attention.
    As for the vaccines, well, I’ve got nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s amazing that we have been waiting for and, one would think, planning for the arrival of vaccines for nine months, but now that they’ve arrived we scratch our collective heads trying to figure out what to do with them.

    I had to look it up. This is fro the NIH website under the heading “Organization”
    which is doubtful. I offer it as one reason why things might take longer than we think they should.

    “The National Institutes of Health is made up of 27 different components called Institutes and Centers. Each has its own specific research agenda, often focusing on particular diseases or body systems. All but three of these components receive their funding directly from Congress, and administrate their own budgets.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m impressed by the speed with which scientists are uncovering the secrets of Covid-19. Although I’ve read and watched a lot of science fiction, I know that discovering the ins and outs of a new virus is a slow process.

    I suspect that this evening’s announcement is going to mean back to lockdown as it was in March, or worse … or better if you want to get rid of the virus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you can’t pronounce them, you should be safe. And if you haven’t had a problem with either of them before–well, I don’t actually know how common they are. If you had had a problem–something like anaphylaxis–you’d know. It’s not subtle.

      And I only pass for knowledgeable because I look a bunch of stuff up, read a serious newspaper or two, and do stuff like that. Unfortunately, my memory’s basically nonfunctional, so I forget a good part of it first chance I get.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. PM doing his ‘grave news announcement’ face, possibly with combed hair I suppose, because it’s serious, this evening at 8pm.
    He’ll it say it gives him–HIM!–no pleasure, he is–HE IS!–very sorry to say… blah..blah..blah… greek myth reference tortured metaphor blah…pull together… common sense…every confidence it’ll all be over by Easter.
    I’ve got ‘alas’ on my drinking game bingo card as well, so I’ll be locked in but inebriated and relatively happy by about 8.04pm I expect.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sometimes, usually in the wee, small hours, when crooners used to sing love songs…sometimes strange thoughts occur to me. Like Covid-induced brain dysfunction. Both the Prime Minister of Britain [are we still using the “great”?] and the President of the US have been hospitalised for treatment of this disastrous virus.
    I’ll just leave that thought there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, our evening news chronicled your lockdown foe some months. Just be happy there is less access to automatic weapons in your Kingdom. Lord -(google – spaghetti monster – Harry – whichever Lord you prefer…) help us all !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The ineptitude we have seen in 2020 continues into 2021 from the powers that be… and let’s face it, they don’t actually do anything, do they? They just are. Just like a piece of cardboard……..although to be fair, cardboard actually serves a purpose sometimes.
    But thank you Ellen for your observations, which always give us a laugh, despite the inertia of Boris and co.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If we get a choice, I’m voting for the cardboard cutouts. Then the civil service can run things. I may not like their decisions, but I suspect they’ll be competent. I don’t believe they’d open the schools for one day, then close them again.

      Stay well. And thanks for the thanks. It helps keep me going.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I guess we all have our cross to bear. As of yesterday France had vaccinated 500 people. Using the same method you report, they should be done by 2029…
    Here in Mexico, the vaccine is stored in some hospitals (including the one my daughter works at) but all shots (no pun intended) are performed by the military at a nearby military camp.
    Happy 2021. Hopefully you will be vaccinated before we are. Let’s race! 😉
    🙏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure about a race. My knees have never forgiven me for the one and only one I did run.

      Countries–many of them, anyway–seem to have given as much forethought to the vaccination campaigns as they gave to the pandemic itself, which is to say none. They just got out of bed one day and said, Oh. Vaccines are here. We’ll need to do something about that, won’t we?

      Liked by 1 person

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