COVID-19 Interest Group

June 1, 2020

CIG Bulletin #13

 

COVID19 Data, Face Masks and Vaccines


This is Bulletin #13 from the CIG (Covid-19 Interest Group of Berkeley Rotary). We are an open group, meeting on Zoom at 4:00 PM on Mondays. If you would like to tune in and participate contact Tina Etcheverry who is hosting the meeting on Zoom. This bulletin includes: a contribution from Arlin Peters who is tracking and helping to interpret the COVID19 cases data, Eva Gero who points us towards a Science article providing a strong argument for the use of face masks, and Tina Etcheverry with a short discussion on vaccines.


Item 1. Greater Bay Area Analysis of COVID-19 - by Arlin Peters
On May 27, the US reached a sad milestone, over 100,000 deaths from Covid-19. As a statistic, it is just a number, devoid of emotion. Behind the number is the suffering and grief of many for the loss of a loved one - grandmother or grandfather, father or mother, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, daughter or son, and friend or colleague. Personally, I have a sense of sadness for all of them.

But as a statistic, it is important to have context and perspective, a way to compare our situation with the others in the world also plagued with Covid-19. Statistically, absolute raw numbers can be put in somewhat of a context by using appropriate populations and related percentages. If you are interested in a copy of my Excel spreadsheet for the analysis of GBA data, please e-mail me at arcapeters@comcast.

I here have defined “Europe” as the 28 counties that comprise the EU plus the UK, Norway and Switzerland.

For the following analysis, see Table below.

“Europe” compared to US By simple numbers, the US has more confirmed cases, 1.70 million vs. 1.44 but Europe has more deaths 165,000 vs. 100,000. Percentage-wise US has almost 2 times the Covid-19 confirmed cases as Europe.  Inversely, Europe’s confirmed case mortality is almost twice as high at 11.4% vs. 5.9% in the US.  Deaths as a percentage of the population are the same, 0.030% for the US compared to 0.031% for Europe.
California, LA, GBA I’ve added these so you can compare our location with the rest of the countries.
NYC New York City looks the worst off with confirmed cases at 2.3% of the population and 0.19% deaths of its 10 million population. Confirmed case mortality is high at 8.4%. This comparison is not a fair one, since I don’t have the data to compare NYC with other densely populated cities in hard hit countries.

 

Location

Population

Covid-19

Cases as

Covid-19

Cases

Deaths

 

Millions

Confirmed cases

% Population

Deaths

% Mortality

% Population

             

California

40.0

101,479

0.254

3,905

3.8

0.0098

LA

10.0

48,700

0.487

2,195

4.5

0.0220

NY City

8.6

198,255

2.305

16,673

8.4

0.1939

GBA

7.7

13,054

0.169

434

3.3

0.0056

             

USA

331

1,702,911

0.514

100,576

5.9

0.0304

Europe

526

1,447,779

0.275

164,998

11.4

0.0314




Item 2. The Evidence for Why We Should all Wear Masks - by Eva Gero
We should all be wearing masks to protect each other from COVID-19. That’s the conclusion of an overview of the current evidence for airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, by atmospheric chemist Kimberly Prather and three colleagues. The authors also looked at the effect of masks in countries where they are commonplace, and the efficacy of other measures, such as people staying 2 meters apart. Although more research is needed, the authors argue that “airborne spread from undiagnosed infections will continuously undermine the effectiveness of even the most vigorous testing, tracing, and social distancing programs.” We hope you take the time to read the following article.
Science | 10 min read 
https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/05/27/science.abc6197.full?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=32f40c7910-briefing-dy-20200528&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-32f40c7910-45467802


Item 3. Vaccines - by Tina Etcheverry
(Nature News Feature “The race for coronavirus vaccines” https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01221-y)

The success of returning to normal life “BC” (Before COVID19) is largely dependent on the availability of safe and effective vaccines and wide levels of immunity in the population. The questions everyone will ask “Am I immune? How long will the protection last?”

There are more than 100 companies with vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 in development. To try to add context to the array of technologies being developed, I have listed the different types of vaccines below:

  • 7 companies describe using inactivated viruses (similar to measles or polio vaccines). This is considered high risk for safety and therefore a long development time line. However this may be the best route and the highest potential for success.
  • 25 studies are testing viral vectors (such as genetically engineered adenoviruses). These vaccines elicit a very strong, protective response, often because most people carry antibodies to the adenovirus components. But this approach can also create serious adverse immune responses in an estimated 10% of the population.
  • 20 programs are using nucleic acid (RNA or DNA) as the delivery system to produce coronavirus components within human cells (similar to gene therapy). Much of this is based on work on MERS and SARS vaccine development but has not been extensively tested in humans yet.
  • 28 are protein based (the SARS-CoV-2 proteins are injected directly into people to elicit an immune response).


Bottom line: vaccine development is an uncertain business. The goal is to mimic a viral infection triggering the body to elicit an immune response and make viral blocking antibodies. To be ready to support a worldwide market, millions of doses will have to be manufactured at risk, unknown if that product will ever be used.

Why are there Anti-vaxers? Currently it is estimated that only 50% of the population will sign up for vaccines when these are first available. Many people are seriously concerned about the safely of the vaccines and want to avoid the possible side effects, especially versions using the adenovirus delivery system. Some people want to push back on pharmaceutical greed and distrust of government authority, especially if medical intervention is mandated as a criteria for returning to work. To them, self-determination is more important than an abstract concept of safety. Social media has not helped with the amount of false information being shared about the potential for autism (although this has been debunked), the conspiracy theories, and skepticism surrounding the ambitious vaccine promises.

Personally, I think science will prevail and we will have multiple successful vaccines available in 2021. Let’s go get ‘em!

 

 

 

 

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