The talk these days is that Covid will eventually lose its pandemic status and turn into an ordinary, house-trained endemic disease–the kind of disease that circulates in a population and gets us sick but doesn’t give us nightmares, overwhelm hospitals, or kill huge numbers of people. And (they say) this will happen because of two factors: vaccination and the natural immunity that people who’ve been exposed and survived gain.
What are the odds, though, that Covid will pull a fast one and evade our immunities?
Not that high, according to a study that tried to replicate Covid’s mutation pattern using a harmless virus. To completely outrun the immunity we gain from either exposure or vaccination, the virus would have to draw twenty of the right cards out of the mutation deck.
How many cards are we playing with? I’m not sure. As far as I can figure out, the rules of the game keep shifting. But the scientists–the people who study this stuff, as opposed to the people who read one lone article and call themselves experts–say it would be one hell of a trick for it to pick all twenty.
On top of that, the virus isn’t the only thing that evolves. So does the human immune system. After it’s met the virus, either in the form of an infection or a vaccine, it sits down and plays with its antibodies. Think of it as a kid with a Lego set. It spends months working out shapes that bind ever more tightly to Covid’s spike proteins.
People who’ve gotten an mRNA vaccine and also have naturally occurring immunity to Covid have the strongest defense. It’s possible that booster shots will create the same flexible immunity, although that hasn’t been demonstrated yet.
So as surely as the virus doesn’t keep one single form, neither does the human immune system. We will, eventually, get through this mess, although the question is at what cost.
How can we measure Covid’s impact?
In the US, Covid has now killed as many people as the 1918-19 flu epidemic. I’d love to give you comparisons for other countries, but that’s all I’ve found.
To put that into perspective, in 1918 the population of the US was a third of what it is now, so it killed a larger percentage of people. On the other hand, if we’re comparing the inherent danger of the two diseases, massive advances in medicine have kept the death toll lower than it would otherwise have been.
There must be a dozen ways to measure Covid’s impact, but one of them is cold, hard cash. Again in the US, it’s cost almost $6 billion to hospitalize the unvaccianted in just three months, from June through August 2021
The study’s authors say that’s probably an underestimate.
Yet another study says that by March of 2021, Covid had taken 9 million years of life from the U.S. population. Instead of measuring excess deaths, it looked at the mortality burden of the pandemic.
What the hell does that mean? You would have to ask, wouldn’t you? The study looked at QALYs, or quality adjusted life years, using them to measure the length of time people would have lived if they hadn’t, um, died. It says that people between 25 and 64 lost 4.67 million years of life, and Black and Hispanic communities were hit hardest, especially men in those groups who were 65 and older.
I know, I know, I’m supposed to be writing about Britain. What can I tell you? Bloggers are irresponsible cheats.
Question: If you’re not vaccinated against Covid, will gargling with iodine help?
Answer: In a test tube, povidone-iodine kills the Covid virus.
Further information about that answer: Humans aren’t test tubes.
What happens in a human, then? There haven’t been many studies, but what few there are hint that iodine can inactivate Covid in the mouth for a time, but not for a long one. What happens after that? The same thing that was happening before. If you breathe in the virus, there’ll be nothing there to stop it. If you’re incubating the virus, it’ll move back into your throat and ditto–there’ll be nothing there to stop it. It’s like wiping your kitchen counters with antiseptic wipes. You kill 99 point something percent of the germs that are present in that moment. Then you and your antiseptic wipes go away and wherever the germs came from, they come back.
In other words, unless you’re going to spend your days and nights gargling with whatsidone-iodine, this isn’t going to work.
And have I mentioned that the stuff tastes disgusting and smells just as bad?
Other than that, is there any reason not to use it? Well, it can cause skin irritation–sometimes severe, although not necessarily. It can (rarely) cause your thyroid gland to become inactive, especially if you’re pregnant. And especially if you’re both pregnant and a woman.
The most likely side effect, though, is that it will make you think you’re done something to protect either yourself or the people around you when you haven’t.
On Fridays I usually post something about English or British history or culture. This week I’m doing well to do post anything at all. I hope to be back to full speed eventually. In the meantime, bear with me.