LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG
This marks the 50th column I’ve written in this series.
It’s hard to believe on many levels: How long we have been restricted or locked down, that I am still doing this weekly when we figured we would need to do this for at best a few months, that there remain new things to write about (in fact, every week brings new information), that my publisher makes me pay for my own subscription.
I am very grateful to my readers who have given me useful feedback, my publisher for giving me a forum to spread this information, and to my daughter who is a real scientific editor and has helped me with advice and, at times, review of my work.
In celebration, I’ve decided to write a column with good news for a change. (This is NOT to mean that we don’t still have to be vigilant, maintain masks and social distancing, avoid crowds, etc.)
Just that there’s finally some good news to write about.
►In a study of 600,000 people in Israel, which has vaccinated a higher proportion of its population than any other country, there has been a 94-percent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections. The vaccinated group was also 92-percent less likely to develop the severe form of the illness if present.
►The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use. This markedly increases the number of doses available worldwide. The COVAX initiative, which will use this vaccine, aims to vaccinate 20 percent of the populations of the world’s poorest countries by the end of this year.
►Some data suggests that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, given as a single dose, supply greater than 90-percent immunity, at least in the short run. While this is controversial, and the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA) was for the two-dose protocol, some scientists are using this data to call for at least delaying the second, or booster, dose several months, saying this would have little long-term change in effectiveness. This would allow those doses currently manufactured or in the pipeline that are being saved for second doses, to be used in more people as a first dose now, thereby decreasing the risk of incurring and possibly transmitting the disease.
►Pfizer has announced that it expects to increase the amount of vaccine produced and to cut its manufacturing time almost in half. This would effectively double their production from the facilities already online, almost doubling the daily production of new doses. The company said it can do this because of efficiencies in the process.
►Both AstraZeneca and Janssen/J&J should be getting FDA EUA soon, releasing those doses already made and currently being manufactured to be released, also increasing the speed of vaccine availability.
And this: The FDA announced there is no evidence that you can catch SARS-CoV-2 from food or packaging. No more spraying down pizza boxes and slices.
“After more than a year since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak was declared a global health emergency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to underscore that 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.”
Again, none of this good news means we can stop being vigilant and careful.
We have a long way to acquiring herd immunity especially if a large segment of the population refuses the vaccine, but at least there is something to cheer about.