I’m Vaccinated! What Comes Next?

I had my second dose of the Moderna m-RNA vaccine yesterday. What comes next?

It takes three weeks to build immunity, and I don’t plan to change what I’ve been doing until then. I have been isolating rather thoroughly. I haven’t been inside a store since last October. I’m taking piano lessons via Zoom. I wear double masks held tight with a clip that pulls the ear loops to the back of my neck. I haven’t seen friends in person since sometime late last summer. My family is at distances that make a year’s separation not extraordinary.

The CDC has promised guidelines on what to do after you’ve had your vaccine, but they haven’t published them yet. Guidelines are difficult to develop because there are so many variables.

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Covid Likely To Become Endemic

Nature magazine, one of the top two science journals in the world, did a survey of 100  immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists working on the coronavirus, asking if they thought that the virus would become endemic in the human population. Ninety percent of them said they thought it would. From just the mathematics of it, and the fact that it’s everywhere in the world now, I agree with that. I don’t see how it can be otherwise.

But that doesn’t mean that our current situation continues. People will be vaccinated; some will acquire immunity by being infected (although current guidance is that they should be vaccinated anyway); and more will continue to die. As immunity spreads, we will be able to relax social precautions, probably this summer or later. We will, perhaps in a couple of years, be able to go back to something like normal.

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We’ve Got To Do Better

I received my first dose of the Moderna covid-19 vaccine yesterday. I’m incredibly grateful and find my free-floating anxiety much relieved. I have an appointment for the second dose. No more reaction than a sore arm so far.

But the method of getting it leaves much to be desired.

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Light At The End Of The Tunnel

One of the things that has made endurance difficult through the pandemic is the lack of an endpoint. A great many yardsticks are available from many sources – cases by day or month, numbers of hospital beds available, hospitalizations, deaths – but not when things are likely to get better, when we can see our friends and family in person again, when children can return to school, when we can feel safer.

The measures we have go up and slightly down, then up again. They can be tied to the early call to “open things up” long before it was wise to, with no plans for stopping the spread. They can be tied to the politicization of measures, like mask-wearing, that might have helped to stop the spread. The general movement in numbers has been upwards, to our current state of almost 4000 deaths daily and a total of 400,000 dead, a medium-sized city of Americans gone forever.

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Dr. Fauci’s Warning

Dr. Fauci is warning us that it may take more than we thought to get to herd immunity. Now that anti-science Donald Trump is on the way out and Fauci is advising President-elect Joe Biden, he’s telling us what he thinks.

A year ago, we knew next to nothing about SARS-CoV-2. Since then, experts have bootstrapped us all the way to effective vaccines. The bootstrapping started from what we know about other coronaviruses and pandemics in general. It’s a matter of informed guesses, testing them against each other and observations, modifying them, and testing again.

Because the math of epidemiology is similar to the math of chemical kinetics, I’ve been following the modeling. It is also bootstrapping, guessing parameters, testing them, and modifying them. It’s a set of multiple parameters (an unknown number of them) being fitted to data that has serious limitations. The estimates get better as we get more data. That’s what Fauci is saying. Our first guess for herd immunity was around 70%. With almost a year of data, it looks like that could be as high as 90%.

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The Pandemic Cabinet

Job One for the Biden administration is controlling the pandemic. The economy won’t recover until people feel safe going shopping, to restaurants and movies, and all the rest. We can’t effectively work with other countries until we can think beyond full hospitals and people sick and dying and losing housing and going hungry. The justice system can’t work well with Zoom hearings and prisons as hotbeds of infection. We need to sort out priorities among education, bars, gyms, and yoga classes.

Simultaneously, the Biden administration must repair the government, hiring back to full agency capabilities and reversing malign policies. Assessment of the situation has already started in the transition. We need a fully staffed government, not hobbled by ridiculous policies, to control the pandemic.

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The Biden Administration’s Job One

Congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris! Biden has already announced Job One.

The numbers of sick and dead from Covid-19 are shooting up the steep part of the exponential curve, where they become hard to control. Most of the country is seeing uncontrolled spread of the virus – that means that people don’t know how they contracted it. The numbers set records every day now.

Biden has already announced that he will name, on Monday, a 12-member COVID task force.

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How To Tell A Real Vaccine From A Political Stunt

Donald Trump hinted that he could have an “October surprise” in a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. That isn’t going to happen. The closest is Pfizer’s announcement that it may apply for emergency authorization for its vaccine before the end of November. But, of course, that’s after the election.

The pharmaceutical companies, fortunately, are more interested in preserving their credibility than in currying Trump’s favor. Perhaps they have calculated that Trump is unlikely to win a second term.

ProPublica has a long article on how vaccines are approved. If you want the whole story, check it out. Here’s a tl;dr to provide more of a checklist.

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Where We Are – 36 Days Out

The New York Times now has Donald Trump’s income tax returns “extending over two decades”. They say that the returns come from a person who had legal access to them. The Times’s first article provides eighteen takeaways. They promise more to come. Each takeaway is a string that other news organizations can pull.

Trump runs through money and then manages to find yet another source to bankroll him. At this point, he owes $421 million to unknown parties. There are hints and guesses about connections to a hotel deal in Azerbaijan that appears to have laundered money for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and to Deutsche Bank through Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s son.

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PSA: Donald’s New Drug Can Kill You

Man, I hate articles like the one in Axios about Donald’s latest snake oil. I’m not going to link to it. It should have started with

OLEANDRIN CAN KILL YOU, AND OTHER EXTRACTS FROM THE OLEANDER PLANT WILL KILL YOU

Instead, it cites papers to look authoritative and buries a quote from one researcher that translates to

DO NOT DO THIS

and shows pretty flowers in the pill bottle.

One of the heuristics I’ve carried with me from my time in California is “Oleander is poison. Do not eat.” The flowers are pretty, and it’s everywhere in California. So when I saw this a week or so ago, I did some research. Apparently oleandrin is one of the less toxic oleander components. It’s being used experimentally against cancer. God only knows why anyone is researching it for COVID-19, because it’s still pretty toxic. Not a path I would take until less toxic alternatives are exhausted.

It also looked like people refer to broader extracts from oleander as “oleandrin,” not just one component. So it’s only a matter of time until someone dies.