Covid: The Reprise

An attempt to bring some clarity amidst the chaos

Posted on Dec 27, 2022 by Prakash Kini (PK)

We had all hoped that the Covid pandemic was a thing of the past, and the world population will vaccinate multiple times over and additionally the Omicron variant will wade through and naturally immunize the world population, making the virus endemic. 

However in recent days, it seems to have reared its ugly head once again and we are all cringing at the potent possibility of masks, lockdowns, death tolls all of it coming back.

Here is a report on the current scenario, which goes slightly deeper into and identifies related crowd-sourced perspectives surfaced by our platform sift, which can hopefully provide us some clarity amidst the chaos.

Outbreak in China and its implications for the rest

The China lockdown received tremendous backlash not only internally, but also from world media and global political circles. Many criticized China of not playing along with the rest of the world and letting herd immunity take its natural turn. The lockdown had also put an artificial cap on world demand for critical commodities, as the world was already coming to terms with inflation, and the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war and post-tremors of the pandemic.

The Chinese authorities, quite recently, unshackled its citizens from the chains of a strict lockdown policy, lifted these restrictions and opened up the country and now its borders too. And yet now, the same media and polity is now up in arms about the Chinese handling of the opening up, and doctoring of covid case and death numbers, citing concerning projections.

Depending on your source, the China numbers are as staggering as a million new cases a day, with over 5000 daily deaths, to as low as zero to 7 deaths over the past couple of weeks.

There has also been a spike in countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the US, UK.

Assuming that the actual numbers probably tilt to the higher side of these two extremes, here is a perspective on what might just be happening:

So to summarize it might very well be a perfect storm caused by:

lifting up the lockdown restrictions leads to the virus sweeping through the populace, the new variation BF.7 and its further mutations with a Ro of 10 to 18.6 (over 4 times the original virus) which implies that it is highly infectious

low natural herd immunity due to incessant lockdowns

low booster vaccination numbers also perhaps caused by the lockdowns; although the population might have received previous vaccination shots, these might have lost their efficacy over time

or could it be the inefficacy of the Chinese vaccines themselves, at least towards the current variant strain?

Here is an analysis of the situation by Dr. John Campbell:

In terms of what this means to the rest of the world, here is what is happening:

  • The current variant strains are still Omicron variants, which produced herd immunity in large populations such as India and the US in the first place
  • Boosters have been quite prevalent in most of the world, providing ongoing protection, if not to infection at least to serious damage and death
  • Prevalent vaccines are expanding into new markets (UK strikes a deal with Moderna, a deal that is not without its own stream of criticism and allegations of corruption), alongside fresh vaccines being introduced to large markets
  • Countries are monitoring local numbers, re-introducing covid norms on cross border travel, and testing their preparedness for another outbreak by conducting drills, readying hospitals, re-energising vaccination drives, and procuring enough vaccines and medications

Though one can never say never, the above data points both on why China is facing perhaps its biggest outbreak, and secondly on the prevailing scene in the rest of the world, should give citizens of the rest of the world some confidence that probability of a global resurgence/recurrence is low.

That said, several countries, as a preemptive step, might be pushed to reintroduce strict covid norms in major cities and towns or even across their country.

Meanwhile all of us need to take basic prudent care of ourselves such as wearing masks in crowded public places, sanitizing our hands regularly etc.

There are several other covid related narratives in the mix, including several conspiracy theories as well …

XBB 1.5 (Kraken)

The XBB 1.5 sub variant is running amok through the US.

It is now responsible for over 40% of the active cases in the US. It is one of the most transmissible and immunity-evasive sub variants to date, and has also traveled far and wide across the world.

Although this could and probably is already leading to a wave, its hospitalisation and death ratios are yet not alarming.

The concern yet is that the more it spreads, the more chances this sub variant gets to mutate into something more lethal.

Anti Vaccine (#antivaxx)

There is a fairly strong anti-vaccine movement going around the world, pretty much since vaccines started landing in the market.

Various reasons are given for this that range from the logical to the absurd:

  • Conspiracy theory - the virus is all a big hoax perpetrated by pharma companies
  • Side effects such as a higher risk of blood clots, cardiac arrest and brain damage
  • Anti-mandates - freedom of choice

Cardiac Arrest and Covid Vaccines

This is perhaps the concern about covid vaccines that has caught on the most, and I daresay, though this might have started as an anti-vaxx thread, recent reports call out that it might just have an element of strong scientific evidence.

Several qualified medical reports and papers across the world are now coming out which are drawing the strong possibility of causation between vaccination and cardiac arrest or vaccination induced myocarditis.

Though not conclusive, several agencies including the WHO are having a serious look at this plethora of evidence.

A few reports call out the risk in young adults, whereas in others sample sets were adults between ages of 45-75.

Stating an excerpt from the above WHO 2021 statement:

The Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at its recent meeting on 5-8 July 2021 reviewed the latest data from Europe and has confirmed that there is a plausible causal relationship between myocarditis and the mRNA vaccines. A strong signal of myocarditis/pericarditis has been reported recently with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in the United States (US). However, the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has concluded that the benefits of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis even among young people. According to the data in the US Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), approximately 40.6 cases of myocarditis per million second doses among males and 4.2 cases per million among females have been reported as of 11 June 2021  in persons 12-29 years of age who received the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. For persons over 30 years of age, the reporting rates were 2.4 and 1.0 per million second doses, respectively, for males and females.

Brain Damage and Covid Vaccines

A link between covid vaccines and degenerative brain disease has also been reported in media.

Studies are being carried out to prove or disprove these theories:

Association of Cerebral Venous Thrombosis with mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines: A Disproportionality Analysis of the World Health Organization Pharmacovigilance Database

Long Covid (#longcovid)

There is lots of research going on in the area of long covid, or longer term debilitating impact of covid on patients who have otherwise recovered, which include fatigue, respiratory issues, mental health issues, memory loss, blood clots and deaths. Several doctors and support organisations provide relief, with solutions ranging from supplements to therapy.

Indoor Air Quality

The importance of indoor air quality, especially in public places such as classrooms, offices, cafeterias, malls, theatres is being called out by several scientists including Dr. Jeff Gilchrist.

Meanwhile, the sale of home, car and office air purification systems and associated HEPA filters has indeed hit the roof.

DIY approaches are also becoming popular

Vaccination for infants and children

Debates are still on on whether and how much vaccination for children, especially infants, is safe.

The Covid Virus also impacts the Brain

It is a widely known fact that the covid virus impacts our respiratory systems.

There is another thread that claims that it also impacts our brains. A clue here is the symptom of losing our sense of smell. The severity of this impact is being studied.

The unvaccinated and road accidents

Even after massive drives and global awareness on vaccination, several sections of society are yet to be vaccinated due to several reasons:

  • Illiteracy, or lack of awareness
  • Unaffordability of vaccines
  • Conspiracy theorists: virus and its vaccines all being a pharma fabricated myth
  • Anti-vaccination: vaccines cause more damage than good

A statistical correlation has apparently been observed between the unvaccinated and road accidents,

and there has even been a call to increase insurance premiums for such sections of the population.

Twitter suppressed public health commentary at odds with US Government policy

Genome Sequencing

Amidst all the chaos, perhaps one critical activity that brings clarity, is genome sequencing.

This helps us study the spread of the virus (especially in international travellers), and identify any new sub variants or mutations, which inform the future course of action for world bodies and health agencies.

Several countries have continued or ratched up genome sequencing activities which is heartening, however a few others have stopped it or do not share the data, which is quite concerning.

Other variants and viruses

As if we did not have enough on our hands with the coronavirus, stories on monkeypox keep popping up from time to time as well.