Vivian Bercovici: Israel Goes from COVID Triumph to the Brink of Disaster in Only Four Months: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, July 15, 2020
______________________________________________________Dozens of COVID-19 Vaccines are in Development. Here Are the Ones to Follow.
National Geographic, July 31, 2020More than 150 coronavirus vaccines are in development across the world—and hopes are high to bring one to market in record time to ease the global crisis. Several efforts are underway to help make that possible, including the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, which has pledged $10 billion and aims to develop and deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. The World Health Organization is also coordinating global efforts to develop a vaccine, with an eye toward delivering two billion doses by the end of 2021.The candidates, like all vaccines, essentially aim to instruct the immune system to mount a defense, which is sometimes stronger than what would be provided through natural infection and comes with fewer health consequences.To do so, some vaccines use the whole coronavirus, but in a killed or weakened state. Others use only part of the virus—whether a protein or a fragment. Some transfer the coronavirus proteins into a different virus that is unlikely to cause disease or even incapable of it. Finally, some vaccines under development rely on deploying pieces of the coronavirus’s genetic material, so our cells can temporarily make the coronavirus proteins needed to stimulate our immune systems. (Here’s what vaccines are and how they work.)
It can typically take 10 to 15 years to bring a vaccine to market; the fastest-ever—the vaccine for mumps—required four years in the 1960s. Vaccines go through a multi-stage clinical trial process, which starts by checking their safety and whether they trigger an immune response in a small group of healthy humans. The second phase widens the testing pool to include groups of people who may have the disease or be more likely to catch it, to gauge the vaccine’s effectiveness. The third phase expands the pool up to the thousands to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective among a wider array of people, given that immune response can vary by age, ethnicity, or by underlying health conditions. It then goes to regulatory agencies for approval—which can be a lengthy process itself.
Even after a vaccine is approved, it faces potential roadblocks when it comes to manufacturing and distribution, from scaling up the production to meet demands to deciding which populations should get it first—and at what cost. Many vaccines also stay in what’s called phase four, a perpetual stage of regular study. (Here’s how we’ll know when a COVID-19 vaccine is ready.) But vaccine developers are attempting to compress that process for SARS-CoV-2 by running clinical trial phases simultaneously, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has promised to fast-track the approval process.
Though it’s too soon to say which candidates will ultimately be successful, here’s a look at the vaccine prospects that have made it to phase three and beyond—including a quick primer on how they work and where they stand.
Who: A Massachusetts-based biotech company, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.
What: This vaccine candidate relies on injecting snippets of a virus’s genetic material, in this case mRNA, into human cells. They create viral proteins that mimic the coronavirus, training the immune system to recognize its presence. This technology has never been licensed for any disease. If successful, it would be the first mRNA vaccine approved for human use. (Here’s how mRNA vaccines work.)… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
‘Eliminating’ COVID Won’t Happen Soon
Zain Chagla, Isaac Bogoch and Sumon Chakrabarti
National Post, July 17, 2020
This past Friday, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, noted that in the current context, COVID-19 “elimination” in most places is unlikely. Elimination refers to zero cases of COVID-19 in a particular geographic area, such as a country, while eradication refers to bringing the global burden of cases to zero, which would be extremely difficult to achieve. Exceptions to this mainly included such geographically isolated countries as New Zealand that have been able to drastically reduce COVID cases, which is not possible in other areas of the world; however, even in these situations, as borders reopen, there will likely be a resurgence.
What does it take to get an infectious disease eliminated? There are four major principles to eliminate an infection within the human population:
❚ A biologic intervention that prevents transmission of the disease in nearly all individuals, for example, a vaccine.
❚A diagnostic test that picks up the vast majority of, if not all, cases.
❚ A surveillance system to detect cases as the disease nears elimination and afterwards to ensure there is no rebound.
❚ No other place for this infection to hide, and then reinfect humans, such as an animal “reservoir” — a disease that exists naturally among animals and can be transmitted to humans cannot be eliminated by defeating it in human hosts alone.
Smallpox fit the prototype of this model. A viral disease that led to a rash similar to chickenpox, smallpox caused significant suffering globally, leading to the death of up to 30 to 50 per cent of individuals affected. A significant reduction in the global burden of smallpox was due to the work of Edward Jenner, who derived the first vaccine from a related virus called cowpox ( its scientific name was Vaccinia — the root word of the word “vaccine”). In the 1950s, through a global effort by the World Health Assembly, a smallpox eradication campaign took place. Two decades later, for the first time in recorded history, the world saw the eradication of an infectious disease.
Based on the aforementioned four principles, smallpox was an ideal candidate for elimination and ultimately eradication. It had:
❚ A biologic intervention — the vaccine that not only prevented disease, but lessened symptoms in those who developed the disease, which in turn led to a decrease in transmissibility.
❚ A diagnostic test — the characteristic rash in nearly all individuals.
❚ A surveillance system set up looking for hot spots and ongoing transmission after elimination.
❚ It could only infect humans. There were no other animal reservoirs.
So how does COVID- 19 measure up when considering the principles of elimination? … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
An Effective COVID Treatment the Media Continues to Besmirch
RealClearPolitics, Aug. 4, 2020
On Friday, July 31, in a column ostensibly dealing with health care “misinformation,” Washington Post media critic Margaret Sullivan opened by lambasting “fringe doctors spouting dangerous falsehoods about hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 wonder cure.”
Actually, it was Sullivan who was spouting dangerous falsehoods about this drug, something the Washington Post and much of the rest of the media have been doing for months. On May 15, the Post offered a stark warning to any Americans who may have taken hope in a possible therapy for COVID-19. In the newspaper’s telling, there was nothing unambiguous about the science — or the politics — of hydroxychloroquine: “Drug promoted by Trump as coronavirus game-changer increasingly linked to deaths,” blared the headline. Written by three Post staff writers, the story asserted that the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 is scant and that the drug is inherently unsafe. This claim is nonsense.
Biased against the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 — and the Washington Post is hardly alone — the paper described an April 21, 2020, drug study on U.S. Veterans Affairs patients hospitalized with the illness. It found a high death rate in patients taking the drug hydroxychloroquine. But this was a flawed study with a small sample, the main flaw being that the drug was given to the sickest patients who were already dying because of their age and severe pre-existing conditions. This study was quickly debunked. It had been posted on a non-peer-reviewed medical archive that specifically warns that studies posted on its website should not be reported in the media as established information.
Yet, the Post and countless other news outlets did just the opposite, making repeated claims that hydroxychloroquine was ineffective and caused serious cardiac problems. Nowhere was there any mention of the fact that COVID-19 damages the heart during infection, sometimes causing irregular and sometimes fatal heart rhythms in patients not taking the drug.
To a media unrelentingly hostile to Donald Trump, this meant that the president could be portrayed as recklessly promoting the use of a “dangerous” drug. Ignoring the refutation of the VA study in its May 15 article, the Washington Post cited a Brazil study published on April 24 in which a COVID trial using chloroquine (a related but different drug than hydroxychloroquine) was stopped because 11 patients treated with it died. The reporters never mentioned another problem with that study: The Brazilian doctors were giving their patients lethal cumulative doses of the drug. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Vivian Bercovici: Israel Goes from COVID Triumph to the Brink of Disaster in Only Four Months
National Post, July 15, 2020
Within a week in late June, Israel descended into full-on second-wave COVID-19 hell.
The number of newly infected individuals was stable and well under 100 per day throughout May. In early June, a slow upward trajectory began, but the big surge occurred between June 28, with 380 cases, and July 2, when numbers soared to 1,138. Monday’s tally exceeded 1,700.
Unlike the first round, which went quite swimmingly, the health-care system is on the verge of collapse, the government is paralyzed by petty political brinksmanship and the population is beyond enraged.
The population is beyond enraged
Rage has roiled Israel during the past week with non-stop demonstrations organized and led by an impressively diverse range of interests. As always, the largest and rowdiest assemblies have been in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and have degenerated into mini-riots on several occasions.
Last Saturday night, more than 10,000 Israelis converged on Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest the almost total lack of financial support for independent business owners. In spite of government promises months ago, funds have trickled, if they’ve been distributed at all. Small businesses are being slaughtered.
Organizers of the Tel Aviv rally were painstakingly careful to bill this as an economic — not political — protest. And, for the most part, it was.
I live a few hundred yards from the square and popped over once it was in full swing to compare reality to what the politicians and pundits would spin.
Yes, it was crowded and social distancing was not scrupulously practiced. Virtually all attendees were properly wearing masks and avoiding direct contact with strangers. And, to the degree that one can judge by comportment — attire, conduct, general behaviour — most people appeared to represent a cross-section of society by any measure.
But it’s always the rowdies who steal the show and this was no exception. Israeli pop celebrity Assaf Amdursky screamed into a TV mike that “Bibi has to either go to prison or a lunatic asylum.” Of course, the head of a mental-health association was incensed, as were the usual right-wing commentators and political types who used Amdursky’s petulance, accented by a few thugs who threw rocks at a bank window, to dismiss the lot as “the usual left-wing Tel Aviv types.”
Until, that is, the numbers came in.
It’s always the rowdies who steal the show.
In mid-May, when a triumphant Israel emerged from lockdown, 75 per cent of the population approved of the government’s handling of the health crisis.
Throughout the first wave, there was general consensus, even among Bibi-haters, that the government managed the public-health threat proactively, decisively and with good outcomes. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
Ingraham: The Real COVID Record: Laura Ingraham, Fox News, Aug. 05, 2020 – – Media and left rewriting history on COVID-19
Here’s How Trump Needs to Explain the United States’ Coronavirus Response: Matt Margolis, PJ Media, Aug. 4, 2020 — Axios’ Jonathan Swan interviewed President Donald Trump last week, and social media has been abuzz about it since it aired on Monday.
WorldOMeter: Israel – Coronaviru Cases
Israeli Firm Developing 30-Second Coronavirus Breath Test: Jonah Mandel, CTV News, July 24, 2020 — An Israeli company is developing a coronavirus breathalyzer test that gives results in 30 seconds, billing it as a “front line” tool that can help restore a sense of normality during the pandemic.
How A Jewish Ghetto Beat a Typhus Epidemic During the Second World War: Alice Klein, New Scientist, July 24, 2020-– Jewish people confined inside a Nazi ghetto during the second world war were able to curb a massive typhus outbreak by introducing similar infection control measures to those being used to fight covid-19 today.