Image: National Institutes of Health, public domain

A major new peer-reviewed study of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine published in the medical journal The Lancet yesterday has some really good news, and some other news that may help make the case for booster shots, depending on whose headlines you're reading. The Washington Post emphasizes that six months after the second dose, the vaccine remains 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. Well that's pretty good news, and it also includes the vaccine's effectiveness against the Delta variant.

The study included more than 3.4 million people, and its other major finding made for the more dour headline from Reuters, which is that six months after the second dose, the vaccine's ability to prevent infection with the coronavirus dropped from an initial 88 percent to 47 percent, which might be a big factor in federal agencies deciding whether to expand the availability of Pfizer booster shots.

The researchers concluded that the decline in effectiveness was not due to the Delta variant, noting that patients fresh off a new vaccination were equally protected from both the original strain and Delta, and that even as Delta spread in California this year, hospitalization rates remained low. Finally, the rate of breakthrough infections was more closely related to the time elapsed since the second vaccination than with which variant of the virus people were infected.

Earlier this month, the CDC approved booster shots for adults over 65, residents in long-term care, and people aged 50-64 who have underlying health conditions, and said that younger people with underlying health conditions and people who regularly come in contact with people at high risk, like medical workers, may also receive a booster.

So what's the upshot of the study? Breakthrough infections after a vaccination may become somewhat more common, but they're far less likely to put you in the hospital or a coffin, so for fuckssakes we need to keep encouraging and mandating vaccinations. [WaPo / Reuters / LAT]


'Natural' Immunity Drops Quickly, Increasing Chances Of Reinfection

The University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease and Policy reports on another major study that found that among people who've been infected with SARS-CoV-2, immunity from the virus wears off relatively quickly, with modeling showing that reinfections with the virus "will most likely occur at a median of 16 months." The researchers found that "natural" immunity could wear off as early as 3 months after initial infection, or as long as five years (which yes, the virus hasn't been around that long, that's why "modeling").

"Reinfection can reasonably happen in three months or less," said lead author Jeffrey Townsend, PhD, in a University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte press release. "Therefore, those who have been naturally infected should get vaccinated. Previous infection alone can offer very little long-term protection against subsequent infections."

The study authors conclude, "Our results caution that reinfection will become increasingly common as pandemic disease transitions into endemic disease."

What that probably means for policy is that Ron Paul and Scott Atlas should shut their fucking mouths about how wonderful it is for people to get infected with the coronavirus. It probably means that booster shots will become common for everyone, although at this point it's not known whether a third shot's effectiveness will wane over time, or will provide very long-term protection. [CIDRAP]

New Zealand Ends 'Zero COVID' Strategy

The extreme virulence of the Delta variant has led New Zealand, which has had one of the strictest virus control policies in the world, to abandon its goal of eliminating all COVID infections, because Delta is so much more infectious than the original variant of the virus that extreme lockdowns, extensive testing and contact tracing, and tight border controls just don't work to shut down the virus anymore. CNBC reports:

New Zealand has been notoriously strict in its tackling of Covid; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the entire country under a strict lockdown in August after a single suspected case of Covid caused by the delta variant — at that time the country's first coronavirus case in six months — was reported in Auckland.

But on Monday, Ardern said that the city's lockdown would be eased gradually and that the country's strategy towards tackling Covid was changing.

"For this outbreak, it's clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases," Ardern said during a press conference. "But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didn't have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things."

Ardern said it was important that the country maintain strict controls, however, saying it still needed to "contain and control the virus as much as possible, while we make our transition from a place where we only use heavy restrictions to a place where we use vaccines in everyday public health measures."

Australia, which we are given to understand is a whole different country, gave up on its "zero tolerance" approach to the virus earlier this month, although both nations are only slowly phasing in relaxations in lockdowns as they ramp up vaccination rates. New Zealand has had, to date, only 4,408 cases and 27 deaths during the entire pandemic, which might seem incredibly good until you remember that people in Hobbitland have no freedom at all and living there is worse than China, according to American idiots. [CNBC]

No Business Travel For Unvaccinated JP Morgan Employees

Banking giant JP Morgan Chase is preparing to ban business travel for employees who refuse to get vaccinated, and will also take a larger portion of their pay to cover the cost of COVID testing. The company also won't allow people to participate in in-person meetings if they aren't vaccinated or refuse to disclose their vaccination status. GOOD.

The travel and meeting bans will become effective immediately, and the higher payroll deductions will start January 1. The restrictions won't apply to branch workers, so we're sure some loonies are hankering for a demotion to the sticks. So, who's forcing this tyranny, Joe Biden, or maybe Australia? Haha, don't be silly: It is the not particularly invisible hand of the market, which would rather not wear rubber gloves or full PPE over a suit:

"Clients are increasingly asking us to ensure meetings are restricted to vaccinated employees," the bank wrote in the internal memo. "We agree with medical authorities that being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, loved ones, colleagues and communities from the virus."

JP Morgan has not actually mandated vaccines for employees, but it does require employees to register whether they've been vaccinated or not, and is now offering some really strong disincentives to going unvaccinated. The company does require that face masks be worn in its offices.

Way to go, rapacious capitalists! Come the revolution, you might be among the last ones up against the wall.

[Business Insider]

Short Covid Idiocy Takes

Lindsey Graham suggested at a Republican gathering at a country club in South Carolina that folks might could get vaccinated if they haven't been, but got no further than "If you haven't had the vaccine you ought to think about getting it because if you're my age —" before being drowned out by boos and shouts of "No!" [WaPo (no paywall)]

In New York City, hundreds of anti-vaxxers marched through parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan to protest in favor of people dying, and while they were at it, they tore down a vaccine testing site, because that's how patriots do. Despite the protests, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's vaccine mandate for public school employees has been a success, with 95 percent of full-time employees having gotten at least one dose by yesterday, the deadline to get the jab or lose the job. [Also WaPo (no paywall)]

In Farragut, Tennessee, a well-off suburb of Knoxville, antivaxxer protesters picketed at the entrances to several public schools, including Farragut Intermediate, Middle, and High School, the Oppossum Press reports. To get into their schools, kids as young as seven had to make their way past adults screaming at them and calling them "sheep." Many of the protesters aren't even parents, but they really hate a mask mandate ordered by a federal judge, presumably because having to wear a mask is traumatic to little kids, while having complete strangers scream at you is all about protecting your rights. The local sheriff's office has pledged not to enforce any mask mandates of any kind, so no deputies were sent to stop the protesters from screaming at little kids on school property. [Opossum Press on Twitter]

At Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, two administrators of a cool program where high school seniors finish their last year of school at the university got fired this month, two weeks after asking kids if they'd been vaccinated. The administrators weren't told why they were being shitcanned, because employment at will, but they noted that the dean in charge of the program was not pleased that they had asked about the kids' vaccination status, even though the program already requires proof of other immunizations. One of those fired, former student services coordinator Bruce Hodge, told the Washington Post he'd been worried that since the kids are minors, program staff might have to act in place of their parents.

"I could foresee a situation with an incapacitated student where I couldn't reach a parent and a doctor is asking me if they're vaccinated," Hodge told The Washington Post.

My god, what a tyrannical monster.

The story notes that Hodge said none of the students objected to the question being asked as they checked into the dorm, but that after the dean found out, she called him and the other administrator in to let them know she was unhappy. Also, weirdly, campus police showed up and confiscated the informal sheets of paper they'd used to jot down whether the kids were vaccinated.

[WaPo (paywalled / partial story not paywalled]

So people are still being fucking idiots, even as the vaccine news is pretty good, hooray.

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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