It's a tale of two pandemics.
In some of America, we're on the cusp of victory. We hit another single-day record this week, doing 4.6 million shots yesterday. That means over 1% of all Americans got their first shot yesterday. 45%+ of adults have now received their first shot. 78%+ of those 65+ have received their first shot. Most states are relatively stable or decreasing in infection count.
In other parts of America, the infection rate is as bad as it's ever been, or cases are going back up. This week 117 became the dominant variant, and it's as bad as we thought. It's more infectious and more fatal. We're still on the knife's edge, but I think most places will avoid a 4th wave. Instead, they'll just have a minor bump, and it will take longer to finish the epidemic.
This week's big news was the Chinese CDC head stated that the Chinese vaccine efficacy is "not high," referring to Sinopharm and Sinovac. In some sense, this isn't surprising. The Chinese vaccines are inactivated virus ones, which is an outdated, ineffective technology. The reason this is so important is that they have exported millions of doses.
Chile is one of the leading countries in terms of vaccination, with 38%+ having had their first dose. However, their Covid new case rate is one of the worst in the world because they've been using the Chinese vaccines. Any country that has been using these vaccines will likely need to redose its entire population. Brazil is also in the midst of the worst outbreak they've ever had, and they were also using the Chinese vaccine.
More data on the AstraZeneca blood clotting issue came up, and it appears to be very real, though still rare. UK has stopped administering the AZ vaccine to people under 30. They ran the numbers. The probability of serious harm from the vaccine is greater than the probability that the age group will end up in the ICU due to Covid. This will put a hard cap on the overall percentage of the population that can be vaccinated. I don't know how much access to the other vaccines they'll have in the near term.
Partly as a result of this, the UK is now launching a mix and match study. This will give some people the AZ vaccine first and then the Pfizer second, and they'll also run a group that does the opposite order. The consensus seems to be this will be effective. Still, it's hard to predict where it will land on the rankings of overall efficacy. They also released data showing that immunity was still robust after seven months, likely indicating it'll last for years.
The bad news for America this week is that vaccine deliveries will drop for at least the next two weeks. The J&J factory in Maryland had an accident that caused them to lose 15 million doses of their vaccine. The factory was producing vaccines for both AstraZeneca and J&J. The theory is that a worker didn't correctly sanitize before moving from one area to another and contaminated the J&J side with the virus from the AZ side.
Warp Speed had previously written up the factory for poor quality control, so this isn't a shock. It's also just really, really hard to work with these types of things. People who work in cell growth environments are advised not to bake with yeast or, if they do, to shower extra diligently because it's so easy for them to contaminate and destroy the final product accidentally.
More data from Israel and South Africa came out this week regarding how effective the vaccine is against the variants. The short story is that the mRNA vaccines seem to be very effective against all the variants—fantastic news for us.
Pfizer also announced they would apply for a EUA for kids 12-15 years old; it might be granted within a month. They also are going for the full authorization for the vaccine in adults.
We're currently on track to vaccinate enough people for herd immunity on the entire planet in 21 months. That's at current vaccination rates, a lower bound; many more factories will come online in the next six months. I'd guess we have a real shot at getting to worldwide herd immunity in about 15 months. That's simply incredible. In the US, we're on track to be at herd immunity in less than three months.
Take care out there.
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