With Britain’s Covid deaths having passed 100,000, the prime minister exuded as much feeling as he could locate and told us he’s sorry for every one of them. And that he takes full responsibility.
That led to the predictable flurry of reminders that the government’s bungled every chance it had to get on top of the disease, but he refused to discuss that. I’ll be kind and not list the screw-ups, I’ll just ask if the government’s trying to figure out what it could have done differently.
Umm, no. Taking responsibility for what’s happened didn’t mean Boris Johnson was going to take responsibility for doing anything better. His responsibility-taking went about as deep as the apology of a seven-year-old who’s been strong-armed: I’m sorry I called you a shithead (you shithead). (And next time I see you, I’ll remind you that you’re still a shithead.)
But it seems to have been enough. He hasn’t been sent to sit in the corner. He still gets his dessert. Even though until the government looks at the ways it’s screwed up, it’ll keep right on screwing up. But the pieties have been mouthed and we can all move on.
Twice as many people have died of Covid as died during the Blitz.
Germany, vaccines, and the elderly
You may have read somewhere that Germany said the AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t effective in anyone over 65. To which Germany, along with AstraZeneca itself, says, “Bullshit.”
In slightly more diplomatic terms.
The first statement came from a couple of news stories that quoted unnamed sources. The second one comes from Germany’s health ministry, which said that whoever made the first statement seems to have mixed up “two things . . . in the reports.
“Around eight percent of the volunteers in AstraZeneca’s efficacy studies were around 56 and 69 years old and three to four percent are above 70 years old.
“However, this does not mean that it is effective only in eight percent of older people.”
Damn, even I could’ve worked that one out, and I have a certificate in mathematical incompetence.
AstraZeneca said more or less the same thing. Both refrained from adding, “You idiot.”
Russia has a second vaccine, EpiVacCorona, ready to go into production. It was developed in Novosibirsk, which has no bearing on the story but it’s such a great name that I just had to toss it in.
Russia’s health regulator says it’s 100 percent effective in early trials.
In the U.S., Johnson & Johnson is expected to report the results of its vaccine’s trials next week. Judging by the way the letters vibrate in the articles I’ve seen, a lot is expected of it.
Other Covid treatments
If you’ve been reading about monoclonal antibodies–and hey, who doesn’t read about them late at night when you’re tired and want to distract yourself from the worries of the day?
Let’s start that over: If you’ve been reading about monoclonal antibodies and all the promises they dangle before us, here’s an update. Because vaccines aren’t the only game being played, even if it is the one playing on every TV in every bar in town.
Eli Lilly has been developing monoclonal antibodies, which it hopes will keep people who’ve been exposed to Covid from developing serious forms of the disease. They can be used on people who are already ill and on people who are at high risk of becoming infected.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has developed a similar treatment.
They haven’t been widely used at this point because they have to be used early in the course of the infection and because they have to be infused in a hospital or a clinic. So basically, they’re clunky and they’re expensive.
But now it looks like they might effectively prevent even a mild case of the disease, and Eli Lilly plans to ask for approval in the U.S. In a nursing home trial, they were 80% effective and there were no deaths in the group that received the antibodies. They were less effective for the nursing home’s staff than for residents, but that’s a statistical glitch: The study measured risk, and the residents were at higher risk than the staff.
That makes intuitive sense to me but don’t expect me to explain it. Certificate in mathematical incompetence, remember? World-beating mathematical incompetence.
It’s not clear how the antibody cocktails will be used, given that vaccines are available and easier to use. Possibly in nursing homes to combat outbreaks or for people with compromised immune systems, because they may not pull together a good immune response to a vaccine. And possibly not at all.
It’s also possible that they’ll undermine the vaccines. The problem is that they target Covid’s spike protein and so do antibodies, so they could get in a vaccine’s way. That remains to be tested.