Thursday, February 24, 2022

How long does a COVID booster shot offer protection against omicron?

Specifically, the researchers found that after a third shot of Pfizer, protection against hospitalizations starts out above 95% (two weeks after the shot) and remains around 80% even after four months.

By comparison, with only two shots of any vaccine, protection against severe disease declines to 40% after six months.

The researchers only have short-term data for the Moderna vaccine, but the results are likely to echo the Pfizer numbers given the similarities of these mRNA vaccines and their comparable behavior with the delta variant.

The findings from the study raise the question of what the future holds for these vaccines, says immunologist Deepta Bhattacharya at the University of Arizona.

"I don't think it's a sustainable strategy to ask people to get boosters of the same vaccine every two months or three months. People just aren't going to do it," he says. "I myself felt awful after I got the second shot."

Perhaps, instead, the goal may need to shift from stopping infections to making sure everyone is protected against severe disease over the long-term.

"Could we get to the point where public health officials recommend a shot once a year," Bhattacharya says. "I think that's fairly likely. Now, whether everyone will absolutely need that shot to prevent severe disease each year, that's a different question, and we'll have to wait for the data

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

COVID still threatens millions. So why are so many Americans eager to move on?

"I'm that disgusted. The lack of care for each other, to me, it's too much," said White, 30, of Los Angeles. She has multiple sclerosis and takes a medicine that suppresses her immune system. "As a Black disabled person, I feel like nobody gives a [expletive] about me or my safety."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a strict definition of who is considered moderately or severely immunocompromised, such as cancer patients undergoing active treatment and organ transplant recipients. Still, millions of other people are living with chronic illnesses or disabilities that also make them especially susceptible to the disease. Though vulnerability differs based on each person and their health condition — and can depend on circumstances — catching COVID is a risk they cannot take.

As a result, these Americans who are at high risk — and the loved ones who fear passing along the virus to them — are speaking out about being left behind as the rest of society drops pandemic safeguards such as masking and physical distancing.

Their fears were amplified this month as several Democratic governors, including the leaders of California and New York — places that were out front in implementing mask mandates early on — moved to lift such safety requirements. To many people, the step signaled that "normal" life was returning. But for people considered immunocompromised or who face high risks from COVID because of other conditions, it upped the level of anxiety.

Pandemic ends Thursday (UK)

The UK is dropping its mandates.  One out of 25 people in the UK is currently infected with COVID-19.  In the United States, it is one out of 12.

The Omicron variant is becoming endemic, where it is far less deadly but far more infectious.  It probably is here to stay.  Possibly everyone will be exposed to it.

Interesting chess games

Friday, February 11, 2022

Risks of myocarditis, pericarditis, and cardiac arrhythmias associated with COVID-19 vaccination or SARS-CoV-2 infection | Nature Medicine


This is the largest study to date of acute cardiac outcomes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination or infection, the first to compare the risk of cardiac events between different vaccine products and SARS-CoV2 infection and the first to investigate the association between cardiac events and the ChAdOx1 vaccine.

Our findings are relevant to the public, clinicians and policy makers. First, there was an increase in the risk of myocarditis within a week of receiving the first dose of both adenovirus and mRNA vaccines, and a higher increased risk after the second dose of both mRNA vaccines. In contrast, we found no evidence of an increase in the risk of pericarditis or cardiac arrhythmias following vaccination, except in the 1–28 days following a second dose of the mRNA-1273 (Moderna) vaccine. Second, in the same population, there was a greater risk of myocarditis, pericarditis and cardiac arrhythmia following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Third, the increased risk of myocarditis after vaccination was higher in persons aged under 40 years. We estimated extra myocarditis events to be between 1 and 10 per million persons in the month following vaccination, which was substantially lower than the 40 extra events per million persons observed following SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Number of active cases

The number of active cases has remained flat for a few days.  Still, with roughly 30 million cases, this means that one out of eleven Americans has COVID-19 right now.  That seems like an astonishing number.  This only includes people who report being infected.  There could be many more who don't.

About a month ago, we were setting records for daily new cases and this continued for a while.  Now it is dropping.  Maybe the virus is running out of people to infect.

I feel like Omicron is a different disease.  It is 10 times less deadly but at least 10 times more infectious.  Hospitalizations did not go down with Omicron but peaked around January 20nth.

Whereas the vaccines were 80% effective against Delta, according to a couple of different articles, the booster vaccine is either 34% or 80% effective against the Omicron variant, but it wanes maybe after 3 months.


Saturday, February 5, 2022

This Mushroom Starts Killing You Before You Even Realize It | Deep Look

Science News: Electromagnetic radiation

Electromagnetic radiation

I just heard the claim that using 5G or a cell phone is equivalent to an X-Ray.  People make these claims because they don't understand how the electromagnetic spectrum works.

Frequencies higher than Visible Light, including Ultraviolet Radiation, X-Rays, and Gamma Rays, are ionizing radiation, which means that they have the power to dislodge electrons from atoms. This can lead to genetic damage inside your cells.  Too much exposure can kill you.  Gamma Rays are the most dangerous.  

We don't get much ionizing radiation naturally.  The Earth's ozone layer blocks most of the UV radiation from the sun.  On the other hand, radioactive substances can give off dangerous radiation.  Nuclear reactions give off a great deal, such as gamma radiation, but also particle radiation such as alpha, beta, and neutron particles.

Visible light is not ionizing.  The frequency is not high enough.  Radio waves and microwaves are way below visible light, which means that they are not ionizing either.

A Microwave Oven emits a frequency of 2.4 GHz inside a Faraday Cage to keep the electromagnetic radiation from getting out.  A small amount does leak out through the window in the door.  This happens to be the frequency best absorbed by water, which causes the water molecules to vibrate creating heat.  I have a Wi-Fi router that can operate either at 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.  I only use the 5 GHz band.  The difference between the router and the Microwave Oven is that the router emits a tenth of a watt and the Microwave Oven emits 1100 watts.  That is enough to cause burns and heat damage.  A tenth of watt is not likely to be noticeable even if you were standing next to the transmitter.  Imagine having a light bulb that only uses a tenth of a watt and standing next to it.  You might not feel anything.

The human body gives off about a hundred watts of infrared radiation.

Mobile phones emit between a tenth of a watt and 2 watts.  Most mobile phones use frequencies between 800 Mhz and 1.9 GHz.  The 5G frequencies are between 24 and 54 GHz.  On the other hand, visible light, which is not high enough to be ionizing, goes from 400 to 700 terahertz. 

There was a fake video that was temporarily popular showing people using multiple mobile phones to make a kernel of popcorn pop.  This doesn't actually work since the frequencies are wrong and the power levels are too low.

Power lines give off 60-hertz radiofrequency.  This is classified as extremely low and therefore is not ionizing.

I don't know if it is safe to stand for any length of time next to a 50,000-watt radio transmitter, which is the most power that AM radio stations can use.   Perhaps the worst that would happen is that some of the energy would be transferred to you causing you to feel slightly warmer.  Maybe nothing at all would happen.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Mathematical Challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

Larry wrote:

>You'll probably find this discussion to be garbage, but I think you will enjoy the discussion, the discussion style, and the men involved....

If I were a believer in creationism I would probably take this argument as definitive proof.

The claim is that the chance of producing a useful protein is around 10 to the 77nth power, making it too improbable.  I was going to make the following points:

"The fallacy here is obvious. Gelernter assumes there is a useful, pre-specified target protein that must be reached from a "nonsense" sequence of amino acids. Then he multiplies together the small probabilities needed to convert each amino acid in the starting "gibberish protein" into the ones in the final target. The resulting probability is so minuscule that, he concludes, the Darwinian evolution of useful proteins is impossible.

This argument rests on several big errors. First, evolution doesn't start with "gibberish proteins"; it continues with what it had before: useful proteins that evolved via natural selection from earlier sequences, but can still improve further. Second, evolution doesn't drive proteins toward pre-specified target sequences. All that's required for evolution to work is a mutation changing a gene (and its protein product) in such a way that the new gene leaves more copies than its antecedent. It's an incremental form of improvement, not a narrowing-in on a specified target.

In fact, we have plenty of examples, in our species and others, in which a small change in an existing protein leads to a better protein."

Even if you could make the argument that this is extremely improbable, there are 10^25 estimated planets in the Universe.  One of these could produce intelligent life that remarks on how unlikely their existence is.  We could be the only one, although I very much doubt it.  I think that the natural forces that produced us are likely to be found everywhere in the universe.

I shouldn't need to mention this since it is obvious, but we have seen the rapid evolution of the COVID virus.

It is a fallacy to say that evolution occurs gradually.  It is my understanding that modern theory claims that evolution occurs in spurts, usually in response to environmental changes.

The simplest argument for evolution goes like this:

1. The Earth is very old.

2.  Simpler organisms came before more complex ones.

3.  Therefore the complex organisms came from the simpler ones.

For 40 years I have seen arguments about why the Theory of Evolution couldn't happen, but the fact is that we know that it did happen.  It is history.  Otherwise, you would have to assume Divine Intervention every step along the way, which would still be evolution by a different means.  However, science isn't in the business of supernatural explanations.  We can leave that job to the philosophers.  Science is in the business of explaining natural causes.

One argument that I have heard is that there hasn't been enough time for all the genetic changes to accumulate in us.  This argument ignores that massive parallelism that occurs in evolution where we all might have up to billions of human ancestors.  Combinations of genes that didn't work died off, leaving the combinations that did work.  Roughly half of all pregnancies spontaneously abort before the mother knows that she is pregnant.  This is one way nature eliminates bad genetic combinations.

I was skeptical about evolution until I became a Biology major.  I studied and dissected enough animals to understand how similar we are on the inside.  The biggest differences are morphological.