A small test of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has come back with bad news: It gives people only minimal protection against the mild form of the South African Covid variant. It may, though, prevent the most serious forms of the disease.
May. The study involved only 3,000 people–yeah, that’s a small test–and they were young, with an average age of 31. In other words, they’re less likely than older people to get serious Covid, which limits the information the test could deliver.
AZ is frantically working to tweak its vaccine and expects to have a modified vresion–a booster shot–in the fall.
But there’s a way to broaden and deepen people’s immunity, according to an expert I can’t link to because he was on the evening news, and that’s to mix vaccines: one dose of AstraZeneca, one of Johnson & Johnson, or of Pfizer. If you were drinking that way, you’d have a hell of a hangover the next morning, but you’re not, you’re sampling vaccines. It’s a way to keep ahead of the virus’s evolution, at least for a while.
The expert said he was fairly sure that the virus will turn out to be seasonal, in which case we should get some breathing room come summer.
For the UK, the good, if tentative, news is that the South African variant doesn’t seem to have spread widely in the country. Note the weasel-word there: seem. A lot of frantic testing’s going on, trying to identify the variant and contain it. I haven’t seen much about how competently the testing’s being handled. In spite of itself, the government’s managed the vaccination process well. It handed it to the National Health Service instead of contracting it out to Conservative Party donors and friends. Who’d have thought that asking experts to do the job would work so well?
The government’s also done good work in sequencing the virus, which is turning out to be important. But its test and trace system has been an expensive farce. Until further notice, I’m skeptical about them containing the virus.
A number of people sound like they’re betting on the Kent variant out-competing it, because it’s believed to be more contagious. That’s sort of like–
Well, I was once on a committee with two difficult people who disliked each other. I counted on their dislike to keep them busy enough that the rest of us could get some work done. It wasn’t one of my better ideas. But they were humans, not viruses, although at the time I might have said differently. I don’t see how one variant will block the other, although it might outspread it.
If the AZ virus protects against the serious forms of the virus, what does that leave? Mild or moderate Covid, and they’re nothing you’d volunteer for.
With mild Covid you get to choose from a list of symptoms: fever, tiredness, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose, and loss of your sense of smell or taste, but you won’t be breathless and you’ll still be able to take care of yourself. You get to keep your appetite but you may be sad and weepy. So basically, you feel like shit and it lasts seven to ten days.
And moderate? That’s even more fun. You get to choose from a cough that may be worse than the one they forgot to mention in the mild case, a higher temperature, breathlessness when you do normal stuff like going up stairs but not if you just bump around the kitchen, disturbed sleep, diarrhea, headache, and a dry mouth.But you can still take care of yourself, even if you don’t really want to. You can sit still and not be breathless. You can make sense when you talk to people. You may feel not just weepy or low but downright miserable. You may want to stay in bed for a couple of days. And that goes on for a week or two.
Is either version likely to lead to long Covid? If anyone knows, they haven’t told me. I’m sure it was just an oversight.
Could we have some good news, please? Why, yes, I think we can: A bunch of sciency types have found a nanobody that looks like it’ll block Covid.
Let’s chop that into little pieces and try to figure out what I’m talking about. Nanobodies aren’t people who’ve lost a lot of weight. They’re synthetic versions of tiny antibodies that were originally found in llamas and camels–who for the sake of simplicity should probably be known as llamels but aren’t.
Viruses work by hijacking human cells. Or any cells, but it’s humans we’re interested in just now. To do that, Covid uses those spikes we keep seeing pictures of. I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of seeing them.
The researchers’ idea was to give the virus the right nanobody to grab onto–something that isn’t a human cell. Better yet, the nanobody they found is cheap to produce, easy to store and transport, and can be delivered as an aerosol–a couple of sniffs and you have nanobodies.
The problem–there’s always a problem, isn’t there?–is that the next stage, testing, is expensive and they’re still looking for a partner with money. But pharmaceutical companies are focused on vaccines right now, so they’re not being overwhelmed with offers. Still, it’s hard to believe that someone won’t show up, cash card in hand.