”…It took more than a year for the world to reach 100 million confirmed infections: The first cases were identified in late 2019, and the 100 millionth in January 2021…. It took only seven months to double that number, and now six months to double it again. Daily case counts have begun to decline, but there have been an average of more than 2.7 million infections reported every day, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University…The world surpassed 400 million known coronavirus cases on Tuesday, just one month after reaching 300 million, a staggering increase driven by the highly transmissibleOmicron variant…The actual number of cases is undoubtedly higher, and probably drastically so. Many at-home rapid test results are never officially reported, and not all infected people get tested because they may lack access, have no symptoms or choose not to.
”…In summary, our results suggest a substantial waning of vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection of any severity across all subgroups, but with variations related to vaccine types and schedules. By contrast, protection against severe COVID-19 was better maintained for up to 9 months of follow-up, although some waning became evident after more than 4 months. These findings might have implications for vaccination strategies and public health by strengthening the evidence-based rationale for administration of a third vaccine dose as a booster, where the priority should be specific populations who are at higher risk of severe consequences of COVID-19 due to weaker and more rapidly waning vaccine-elicited immunogenicity
(J. Harris: A controlled study with over 800,000 people proves that vaccines are safe, functional, and need boostering.)
‘ ‘…There was already a volatile landscape of public sentiment around vaccines before COVID-19,4 but public sentiment around COVID-19 vaccines has been even more dynamic and rapidly changing than they have been around other vaccines,5 reflecting the evolving epidemiological context and the multiple waves of infection, anxieties about the newness of the COVID-19 vaccines, the reported risks of side-effects, misinformation circulating on (social) media, and distrust of government and pharmaceutical industries. Against this backdrop, there have been protests in several European countries against not only COVID-19 vaccination, but broader pandemic control measures….
”…It is important to acknowledge that immunisation is only one element of a wider package of control measures to address COVID-19. Communication with the general public should avoid overemphasising the role of vaccination in ending the pandemic without acknowledging that other measures such as use of masks, ventilation, or physical distancing are also needed.22 In the early stages of the pandemic, optimism around rapid vaccine delivery in some European countries turned to distrust among some people when vaccine delivery was delayed, highlighting the importance of managing expectations,23 which is particularly relevant as new variants are identified and campaigns for vaccine booster doses are implemented.
Efforts to increase vaccine confidence should be transnational. COVID-19 can easily spread between countries, and regular travel and the movement of returning diaspora can further contribute to the spread of the virus. Rumours, misinformation, and concerns about COVID-19 vaccination can travel across borders even faster than the virus, especially when facilitated by online social and digital media platforms. Coordinated approaches across European countries such as the European Joint Action on Vaccination are essential in providing consistent and harmonious communication. Increased efforts should also be placed on developing mechanisms for sharing lessons learnt about strategies that have successfully increased confidence in vaccination in Europe and globally, both for the uptake of routine vaccines and for future pandemic preparedness…”
3. Pandemic preparedness and COVID-19: an exploratory analysis of infection and fatality rates, and contextual factors associated with preparedness in 177 countries, from Jan 1, 2020, to Sept 30, 2021
National rates of COVID-19 infection and fatality have varied dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. Understanding the conditions associated with this cross-country variation is essential to guiding investment in more effective preparedness and response for future pandemics….
Efforts to improve pandemic preparedness and response for the next pandemic might benefit from greater investment in risk communication and community engagement strategies to boost the confidence that individuals have in public health guidance. Our results suggest that increasing health promotion for key modifiable risks is associated with a reduction of fatalities in such a scenario.
The factors that explained the most variation in cumulative rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection between Jan 1, 2020, and Sept 30, 2021, included the proportion of the population living below 100 m (5·4% [4·0–7·9] of variation), GDP per capita (4·2% [1·8–6·6] of variation), and the proportion of infections attributable to seasonality (2·1% [95% uncertainty interval 1·7–2·7] of variation). Most cross-country variation in cumulative infection rates could not be explained. The factors that explained the most variation in COVID-19 IFR over the same period were the age profile of the country (46·7% [18·4–67·6] of variation), GDP per capita (3·1% [0·3–8·6] of variation), and national mean BMI (1·1% [0·2–2·6] of variation). 44·4% (29·2–61·7) of cross-national variation in IFR could not be explained. Pandemic-preparedness indices, which aim to measure health security capacity, were not meaningfully associated with standardised infection rates or IFRs. Measures of trust in the government and interpersonal trust, as well as less government corruption, had larger, statistically significant associations with lower standardised infection rates. High levels of government and interpersonal trust, as well as less government corruption, were also associated with higher COVID-19 vaccine coverage among middle-income and high-income countries where vaccine availability was more widespread, and lower corruption was associated with greater reductions in mobility. If these modelled associations were to be causal, an increase in trust of governments such that all countries had societies that attained at least the amount of trust in government or interpersonal trust measured in Denmark, which is in the 75th percentile across these spectrums, might have reduced global infections by 12·9% (5·7–17·8) for government trust and 40·3% (24·3–51·4) for interpersonal trust. Similarly, if all countries had a national BMI equal to or less than that of the 25th percentile, our analysis suggests global standardised IFR would be reduced by 11·1%.
(J. Harris: And now Denmark is infested with BA-2! Covid’s just not fair.)
If white-tailed deer become a reservoir for the virus, the pathogen could mutate and spread to other animals or back to us. Adaptation in animals is one route by which new variants are likely to emerge…. [In] Iowa’s white-tailed deer….When scientists sifted through bits of frozen lymph node tissue — harvested from unlucky deer killed by hunters or cars — they found that more than 60 percent of the deer sampled in December 2020 were infected.
1. WASTEWATER SURVEILLANCE The US CDC has added wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA to its COVID Data Tracker, as virus levels in sewage water may be capable of providing an early warning signal for transmission surges. The tool comprises data from more than 400 testing sites in 37 states, with more than 34,000 samples representing 53 million US residents collected so far. Hundreds of additional testing sites are expected to begin submitting data to the system in coming weeks. The CDC initiated the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NEWS) in September 2020, and it has become a critical tool for public health officials since it can show where viral loads are changing, which communities are at risk of a surge in cases, and where medical supplies should be deployed.
An additional benefit of the COVID wastewater tracking system is the identification of novel and “cryptic” variants of SARS-CoV-2. Cryptic variants are lineages of SARS-CoV-2 that contain mutations never before observed in humans. A number of cryptic lineages have been detected in the New York City sewer system. The origin of these out-of-the-ordinary lineages, which also have been detected in Missouri and California, has not yet been determined, but the most popular hypothesis is the mutations arose simultaneously in similar animal hosts, such as rodents that live in the sewer systems. Whatever the source, the new surveillance system could be critical in identifying and tracking the next major variant of concern.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEASED:
Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.
Men have two motivations: hunger and hanky-panky, and they can’t tell them apart. If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.
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