COVID-19/Coronavirus Discussion and Support Thread (see OP for useful links)

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TJ13

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Omicron may have picked up some of the common cold.
Making it more transmissible but less severe. Making it more "human" as they say.
While it's only preliminary, but still it's transitioning into something that we'll just have to live with.
 
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Given testing requirements for travel to the United States and the fact that Omicron is already present (likely was prior to discovery), can travel bans reasonably be said to be effective?
 

Joey D

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It's a small study and still in preprint status, but initial findings point to the current Pfizer vaccine being somewhat effective against Omicron:

The good news is that Pfizer is currently working on an Omicron specific booster that should be ready around March:
 
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Got my booster tonight. Had a little wait which is a good thing. Two people were in front of me and three more came in after I did but I was there probably no more than 10 minutes total. Because my other two shots in April were Pfizer and this booster was also Pfizer I didn't have to wait around after receiving the booster.
 

Whitestar

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I'm anxiously waiting for my booster shot. Anxious as in I cannot wait for it 🤗. It's scheduled for the 15th, exactly six months after my second dose, so just another week to go.
Coincidentally I'm also scheduled for my booster on the 15th, also six months after my second. :)
It's a small study and still in preprint status, but initial findings point to the current Pfizer vaccine being somewhat effective against Omicron:

The good news is that Pfizer is currently working on an Omicron specific booster that should be ready around March:
Kudos for continuing to link to actual credible sources here. Appreciate that! 👍
 
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TJ13

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From this morning breaking news
Pfizer 3 dose naturalizes Omicron in lab settings.

With Pfizer 2 dose it's significantly lower but with the booster it increased by a factor of 25.

We'll have to wait to see what the real world data shows.
Think Israel will be the key factor for Pfizer to see how well it holds up.
 

Joey D

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Yup, here's Pfizer's press release on how its vaccine holds up to Omicron:

I wonder if this means the CDC will change the definition of "fully vaccinated" from two doses to three?

Also, GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine candidate has passed Phase 3 trials:

Unlike the other vaccines on the market, GSK's vaccine is a Virus-Like Particle type. It's sort of similar to the Novavax, but instead of using nanoparticles, a VLP vaccine is assembled to be a similar shape to a virus (round with a shell of spike protein). For a better explanation of VLP's by a source that clearly knows more than I do, you can go here: What is a VLP Vaccine?

VLP vaccines are pretty common too, right now probably one of the most common is the HPV vaccine along with the Hep B one.
 

Joey D

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I understand this is probably a pretty difficult question to answer but any idea how a double Pfizer shot with a Moderna chaser fares?
I don't think we know for sure yet, but some preliminary data from the UK suggests a better immune response when you mix vaccines:v

In theory, I would say that any booster will give you better protection than no booster at all when it comes to Omicron. Still, it looks like a new gen of vaccines will be needed to combat it more effectively.

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I also just realized today is the world's "vaxxiversary" since the first person to receive a non-trial dose of the vaccine happened on December 8, 2020.

If you would've told me a year ago that things would be somehow worse right now, I would've told you to go pound sand.
 

TB

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I don't think we know for sure yet, but some preliminary data from the UK suggests a better immune response when you mix vaccines:
I had heard that, which is why I had no reservations when Moderna showed up on booster day. :)
 

Joey D

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Hey @Joey D I'm certain it's been said before (possibly even by me) but I just want to say that your efforts to keep people here informed, particularly given your proximity to the healthcare industry, are very much appreciated.
Thank you! Weirdly enough, I've found keeping up with the COVID information to be a good way to deal with the whole pandemic since it makes me feel like I know what's going on. Sure, there's a bunch of stuff I don't know, but knowing what to expect, how to prepare for it, and most importantly how to stay safe has certainly helped my mental state these past two years. Plus, we're told in the COVID meetings that I'm in that we can and should be a defense against misinformation.

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With some more good news, the FDA has just granted EUA to AstraZeneca’s long-acting monoclonal antibodies called Evusheld (that can't be a word) to be used as a prophylaxis for certain individuals. Essentially this gives people 12 and up who legitimately cannot be vaccinated a way to get protection from COVID. It's not as effective as the vaccines we have, but it's better than nothing, especially for an immunocompromised individual.

Also, I'm not sure if this got posted or not, but last week the FDA also updated the EUA for bamlanivimab and etesevimab (a monoclonal antibody treatment) to allow newborns and up to be able to receive it. This is huge since there really hasn't been an effective treatment for young kids who are really sick.

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This is also an interesting read about where COVID could go after Omicron.

The gist of it is that there are a few ways SARS-CoV-2 could evolve.

The first is that it seems like it could become endemic and shares similar patterns to human coronavirus 229E, which most of us have probably gotten more than once in our lives since it manifests itself as the common cold. However, one of the bad things about SARS-CoV-2 sharing similarities to 229E is that 229E constantly evolves to evade the body's immune response.

There is also some thought that SARS-CoV-2 could become like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is a disease that typically affects kids. It's not a good disease for kids at all and is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants. My son got it when he was six months old and spent a week in the hospital and was on high flow oxygen for most of it. The bad thing about this would be it would be another thing parents of newborns need to worry about, but since we already have a vaccine, it's likely we could offer decent protection for kids. Adults would probably need to get it too much like we do with the pertussis vaccine.

Finally, SARS-CoV-2 could become like either Influenza A or Influenza B depending on how quickly it evolves. If it's like A, that means it'd evolve fairly rapidly and vaccines would become less and less effective against it and need to be constantly updated. If it's like B, it wouldn't evolve as quickly and the vaccines would be more effective.

Ideally, I think SARS-CoV-2 ending up like the common cold would be the best outcome. It could even lead to a seasonal vaccine that protects you from getting the common cold and I would pay good money to not have to suffer a cold, or suffer it for a day or two instead of weeks on end.
 

Whitestar

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Ideally, I think SARS-CoV-2 ending up like the common cold would be the best outcome. It could even lead to a seasonal vaccine that protects you from getting the common cold and I would pay good money to not have to suffer a cold, or suffer it for a day or two instead of weeks on end.
Norwegian immunologist and professor of medicine, Anne Spurkland, put out an blog yesterday that is related to what you posted. I'll paste some excerpts (Google translated and slightly edited by me) from the article based on the blog. Please note that I believe she's mostly referring to the situation in Norway and other countries where the vaccination rate is high. Also, it's just a prediction. But whatever, I got a little optimism boost by reading it so I thought I'd share. :)

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-Will 2022 be the last year of coronary restrictions?
-Yes I believe so. But of course it's not possible to be certain of anything. But my gut feeling is that during 2022 the pandemic will be "over" for us.


Changes in the virus are due to mutations, which can also be called inaccurate copies. With a virus in circulation, and countless copies, one might think that we constantly need new vaccines in an eternal race. But that is not the case, according to Spurkland. She explains that our immune system is like a mesh that gets denser and denser every time we are exposed to either a vaccine or an infection.

-If it were that simple for a virus to just change a few amino acids to detect antibodies after a previous infection, we would not be able to live healthy lives without repeated outbreaks of numerous viral infections. The immune system therefore has a solution for stopping viruses that are constantly trying new varieties. The solution is "somatic hypermutation" of antibody genes. This is an active process to alter antibodies to the virus. The process is started every time the immune system is reactivated, either through a vaccine or through infection. This is how you get tailored antibodies against the virus.

Exactly when this limit is reached is difficult to say, Spurkland admits. But on the blog ImmunGlimt she argues that she thinks this will happen during the next year.

-During the coming year (the third year of the pandemic) many more than now worldwide will have been vaccinated or infected repeatedly. We will reach a point where the virus no longer has sufficient room for change before it is either captured by the immune system's antibodies or weakens its own ability to spread effectively. Then SARS-CoV-2 infection will be just like a common cold for most of us, and we will no longer bother putting Greek letters on new variants of SARS-CoV-2. How many more times do we have to expect to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2? We do not know yet, but I choose to be optimistic on behalf of the immune system. Every time the body encounters the spike protein, either in the form of a vaccine or a virus, the immune system will make more and better antibodies against the spike protein. The result will be that we get antibodies that are very well suited to the spike protein the immune system is facing right now, but also antibodies that to varying degrees are almost as good.
However, these not-quite-perfect antibodies will very effectively be able to detect the virus if it tries to alter one or more amino acids. This is possible because such changes in the virus might make these not-quite-perfect antibodies well suited to the new and alternative solution the virus is trying. This is probably the reason why people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and have since been vaccinated have antibodies that can still bind to spike protein with 20 changes. Such broad-spectrum antibodies were not present in those who had just undergone the infection.

-But there may still be new varieties?
-Every time the immune system encounters viruses or pieces of virus that the vaccines contribute to, the immune system will build on what has been done. You start where you left off and expand further. The mesh gets denser and denser and the virus gets less room for maneuver. You get some protection after having the virus, but the protection from the vaccine is better. You have the best protection if you have both had the infection and are vaccinated.


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Chief physician and professor Preben Aavitsland at FHI [Norwegian Institute of Public Health] says the virus is fairly new among humans and has changed significantly several times.
-It is still limited how many new changes the virus can find that give it a better ability to spread. It may also happen that a future variant with greater dispersal ability actually gives milder disease.

He says the situation will be less threatening in the future, but that the disease will not disappear.
- We will also in the years to come see serious coronary heart disease in the unvaccinated and those who have a weaker immune system, such as old people. It may be relevant with constant refreshments of vaccination for them.

-Is it likely that 2022 will be the last year of restrictions [in Norway] due to the coronavirus?
-Yes we expect that.
 
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Joey D

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South Africa has joined the RECOVERY trial:

The RECOVERY trial has been in use since March 2020 in four different countries (Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the UK) and looks at repurposing existing drugs to see if they could work to treat COVID patients. Currently, the treatment regimen combines the use of the steroid dexamethasone, the arthritis drug tocilizumab, and a monoclonal antibody treatment known as Ronapreve. With South Africa joining it, it could be our best look yet at how existing drugs that are repurposed could help treat patients with the Omicron variant.

I know the RECOVERY trial has gotten some flak from the right-win conspiracy theory nutcases since it showed that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were ineffective against COVID, but it is a legitimate study. It's led by Sir Peter Horby, a professor with the Nuffield Departments of Medicine at the University of Oxford. I mean make up your own mind, but ask yourself who's more believable, a knighted Oxford professor or your racist Uncle Tim who posts YouTube videos on Facebook while using the word "sheeple".
 

Joey D

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Me and two others (one family member and a friend) got our second dose 4 1/2 month ago and all three of us are currently positiv tested to the delta variant since 5 days. We are lucky that it goes easy on us and I consider it as for sure thats because we're vaccinated. So I can only ask anybody to also get vaccinated. Even we are not to much sick, its not like flue and I dont want to imagine how it would went out without any protection.
 

Touring Mars

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The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has reported that Omicron is likely to become the dominant strain in Scotland within days, and is increasing at an exponential rate, and faster than any previous variant. She also said that in the last week of November, there were no days where Omicron cases were higher than 1% of all cases recorded. By Sunday, however, it was 2%, by Tuesday 4%, and now on Friday it's 15.5%. :ill:

There are also clear warnings about work Xmas gatherings, and I'm afraid to say that mine are probably going to get the boot in favour of hunkering down and spending time with my family instead. My workmates are all concerned about getting the Omicron variant before travelling home, or even having to self-isolate (which could prevent them from travelling), and hence it is a bit paradoxical that we are still talking about which pub(s) to go to next week when it could turn out to be very costly... I have loads of LFTs, but the Scottish government are telling people who are in contact with any positive cases to self-isolate for 10 days irrespective of any negative test results (even PCR) that they personally might get.
 
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Joey D

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Since the Omicron news is difficult at best to follow, The Atlantic put together a halfway decent summary of events and data that we currently know:

Thankfully, South Africa still isn't seeing an uptick in severe illness. As of right now, it looks like Omicron is still thought to be way more infectious but far less severe. This makes sense considering how evolution works

While this is an opinion piece, it does offer good data that people are truly over the pandemic:
This is concerning to say the least, especially given the vaccination rate in many areas. While I agree that you can be moving around more now, you still need to be taking precautions. Masking, physical distancing, and most importantly being vaccinated is your best chance at living a somewhat normal life while still dealing with the pandemic. Since getting my booster, I've been more apt to do things, however, I still mask up and keep my distance. I also avoid places where plague rats tend to congregate.

Unfortunately, so many people who've been vaccinated seem to think it's a free pass to galavant around the globe doing whatever they like without paying any mind to the fact that no vaccine is 100% effective or that they could very well be around people who are immunocompromised. The unvaccinated are still ten times worse though since they galavant around the globe while taking even fewer precautions. Still, at the end of the day, we're in a pandemic whether people like it or not and we need to be mindful of that.

With that said, this will sadly be a lot of people's last holiday with their parents/grandparents because I fully expect another explosion of cases/hospitalizations/deaths about the second week of January.
 

Danoff

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Young healthy people dying is taking a bigger toll on healthcare staff.


I can see why watching young people with young families die is harder than the elderly. It's young people who are are disproportionately unvaccinated at this point. And since covid severity tracks with vaccination rates, young otherwise healthy people are going to be showing up more in the ER as people just give up on social distancing. What a time to be a healthcare worker.
 
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Joey D

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Oof, the tech briefing from the UK Health Security Agency gives a bleak outlook for people with just two doses of the AZ or Pfizer vaccine:


Meaghan Kall is an epidemiologist with the UKHSA and in the Twitter thread, this is the important part to call out:

Real-world surveillance data shows a significant reduction in VE for Omicron vs Delta
  • 2x AZ, VE is ZERO
  • 2x Pfizer, VE is ~30%

BUT! Boosters increase VE to 70-75% (Pfizer, in the 1st month)

So according to Dr. Kall, if you've only gotten your two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine you're basically back to square one with Omicron. However, if you get a booster it significantly helps. I don't really know much about the AZ vaccine since it's not approved or under EUA in the US.