Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

No “aspiration before vaccination” causing serious side effects?

March 26, 2021

We are still waiting for our turn and when vaccine is available. The shambles in the EU is especially telling. The EU’s incompetence in acquiring vaccines has been remarkable and the the go/stop/go/pause/go strategy regarding the Astra Zeneca vaccine has not helped.

However it now seems that one of the causes of the vaccine side-effects may be because basic vaccination techniques are not being followed.

From Swedish Radio this morning:

An expert group at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will now investigate whether the explanation for the unusual but severe side effects that may be linked to corona vaccination can be found in the way the vaccination is given. This is a special procedure that must be performed during vaccination, but which is not always done. One of those who reacted to that is Hans Bendroth. He is a retired nurse who now works extra as a covid vaccinator.

“I have seen it several times during the pandemic now, in news items from both abroad and Sweden, how to just knock the needle into the muscle and push the vaccine. Then you have no idea where you have ended up”  he says.

To aspirate means to withdraw the plunger itself in the syringe, before injecting the medicine, to see where the needle is located. If blood then flows back into the syringe, it is a sign that the needle is in a blood vessel, and not in muscle tissue, and then you have to start again. Hans Bendroth, his wife and son all work in healthcare, and are some of the nurses and doctors who contacted Vetenskapsradion after reacting to the lack of aspiration.

In Denmark, the Serum Institute now recommends that for the time being always aspirate in covid vaccination, while investigating a possible link between vaccination and the unusual but serious events with blood clots and bleeding, as a precautionary principle.


EU vaccine shambles “an advertisement for Brexit”

January 28, 2021

There is little doubt that the EU member states would each have done much better if they had taken care of their own and not relied on the EU negotiating for them or believing in EU solidarity. It is not just incompetence that the EU was late in placing vaccine orders. It became gross incompetence when the orders they placed were “junk orders” with pledges for “best efforts” and with no commitments. The EU contract with AstraZeneca has a “best efforts” clause and no specific time-table.

The EU did not allow member countries to negotiate for themselves but, instead, insisted on negotiating for the block – late and apparently without much display of competence. Ursula von der Leyen is catching the blame but it is the cowardly, risk-averse and cover-your-ass attitude of the EU bureaucracy which is the main culprit. That is the EU sickness.

La Grande Guerra:

German media savages EU for vaccine shambles which it calls ‘an advert for Brexit’

German media has rounded on the EU over Europe’s vaccine debacle today – calling it ‘the best advert for Brexit’ while blaming chief Ursula von der Leyen for the delays. The EU is acting ‘slowly, bureaucratically and protectionist… and if something goes wrong, it’s everyone else’s fault’ fumed a front-page editorial in Die Zeit, one of Germany’s best-respected broadsheets. Meanwhile Bild tore apart Von Der Leyen’s explanation of the vaccine delays and threat to stop supplies heading to the UK line by line, accusing her of placing ‘junk’ orders for vaccines three months behind Britain. ‘She says: “We know that there is no time to lose in a pandemic,” but what she means is: “We may have wasted time. But we will NEVER admit that”,’ the newspaper wrote. ……..

Bild added: ‘[Von Der Leyen] is responsible for EU junk orders. ‘Also for the fact that the EU only reached an agreement with AstraZeneca in August, not in June – as [German health minister] Jens Spahn wanted but was not allowed to. Valuable preparation time passed. Von der Leyen cannot do anything for the current audacity of AstraZeneca. The criticism is justified. But it must also be self-criticism.’

‘In the UK,’ Die Zeit adds, ‘the government’s independent and swift vaccination policy is seen as evidence that the EU is too bureaucratic and slow – and is now left behind.’ 

The criticism came as the CEO of AstraZeneca – the company which sparked the row by cutting EU vaccine supplies by 60 per cent – spoke out to defend himself, while also pointing the finger at delays in Brussels. Asked why supplies were being cut to the EU but not the recently-departed UK, Pascal Soriot said it had nothing to do with national favourtism and everything to do with the fact that the EU placed its vaccine order late. ‘We had problems in the UK too,’ he told a trio of European newspapers including Italy’s Repubblica. ‘But the contract with the British government was signed three months before the one with the EU, therefore we had time to prepare and resolve similar issues. The UK and the EU have two different production chains and at the moment the British ones are more efficient because they started earlier.’

Britain signed a contract for 300million doses of vaccine in mid-May, he revealed, but it took the EU until August to put pen to paper on the same deal. Embarrassingly for the bloc, it appears that Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy had originally been looking to do a deal with AstraZeneca in May – but were blocked by the EU, which insisted it take over negotiations. ………

Meanwhile Bild newspaper accused Von Der Leyen of shirking blame and wasting time, while adding that ‘Brexit Brits’ have escaped the crisis. According to ITV’s Robert Peston: ‘The extra talks with the European Commission led to no material changes to the contract, but wasted time on making arrangements to make the vaccine with partner sites.’ The delays in producing the vaccine are now thought to be due to under-production at one of those sites, located in Belgium. Face with growing public anger over the failings, Italy threatened to sue to get its vaccine doses, while Von Der Leyen has ordered AstraZeneca  to ‘meet your obligations.’ But, according to Soriot, the company is meeting its obligations because it only signed a ‘best effort’ deal with the EU – promising to try and achieve 300million vaccines, but acknowledging that the complex process might be hit by delays. ‘We are two months behind schedule,’ Soriot admitted. ‘But we are working to solve these problems.’


A failure of Public Health policy, globally and in Sweden

January 25, 2021

A Monday morning rant.


One thing is certain.

The pandemic has shown, globally and in Sweden, an utter failure of public health policy. Epedemiology is not a science. It may use scientific methods but science is a process which leads to knowledge. And the level of knowledge of pandemics and human behaviour is clearly not so very high. The media and governments – and the general public – have been incredibly gullible and have swallowed speculation as being knowledge.
Health organisations (WHO and FHM) were not even certain to begin with whether to encourage the spread of the virus to get to herd immunity or to contain the spread. Even now, one year later, the only real advice is “avoid infection”. Social distancing, lockdowns, closed schools, closed shopping centres, isolation bubbles, face masks are no different to the advice available 500 years ago when infection was experienced.

The Lancet: “From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten (FHM), embarked on a de-facto herd immunity approach, allowing community transmission to occur relatively unchecked”.

For every crazy proposal from the scientific community there was another scientist available to present the opposite view. For every crazy idea there was a politician available to promote it. Governments abdicated their own responsibility by relying on bureaucrats pretending to have knowledge. In the case of the Swedish government there was first denial followed by abdication of responsibility. The excuse given was that they were following the advice of “expert institutions” – except that the experts did not actually know very much.

In any case, all those old people who died were going to die anyway.


En misslyckande i folkhälsopolitiken

En sak är säker.

Pandemin har visat en misslyckande i folkhälsopolitiken globalt och i Sverige. Epedemiologi är ingen vetenskap. Det kan använda vetenskapliga metoder men vetenskap är en process som leder till kunskap. Och kunskapsnivån om pandemier och mänskligt beteende är uppenbarligen inte så hög. Media och regeringar – och allmänheten – har varit otroligt lättlästa och har svalt spekulation som kunskap.
Hälsoorganisationer (WHO och FHM) var inte ens säkra på att börja med om de skulle uppmuntra spridningen av viruset för att komma till flockimmunitet eller att begränsa spridningen.

The Lancet: “From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten (FHM), embarked on a de-facto herd immunity approach, allowing community transmission to occur relatively unchecked”.

Redan nu, ett år senare, är det enda riktiga rådet att “undvika infektion”. Social distansering, lockdowns, stängda skolor, stängda köpcentra, isoleringsbubblor, ansiktsmasker skiljer sig inte från de råd som fanns för 500 år sedan när infektion upplevdes. För varje galet förslag från det vetenskapliga värld fanns en annan forskare tillgänglig för att presentera motsatt uppfattning. För varje galen idé fanns en politiker tillgänglig för att marknadsföra den. Regeringar avstod från sitt eget ansvar genom att förlita sig på byråkrater som låtsas ha kunskap. För den svenska regeringen var det första förnekandet följt av avstående från ansvaret. Ursäkten var att de följde råd från “expertimyndigheter” – förutom att experterna faktiskt inte visste så mycket.

 I vilket fall som helst skulle alla de gamla människorna som dog ändå dö.


Vaccine philanthropy is only possible if you first have vaccine nationalism

January 23, 2021

There have been a number of sanctimonious platitudes about the dangers of vaccine nationalism from the usual suspects (UN Sec Gen, WHO Dir Gen, …). This has been virtue signalling at its worst. Any national government which did not first secure its own citizens would be failing in its primary task. It is again a case of people forgetting that international is not possible without first securing the national. Philanthropy between countries cannot happen unless there is first nationalism.

And so it is between India and Brazil.

Covishield is the brand name of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. So far India has despatched over 3 million doses of Covishield to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Seychelles, Mauritius and Brazil. Brazil receives 2 million doses today. President Bolsanaro has invoked images from the Ramayana in his message of thanks. Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are to also receive vaccines in the next despatch. This vaccine can be transported and stored at between +2 and +8 degrees Celsius and has a shelf-life of 6 months. This vaccine philanthropy by India is only possible because sufficient stocks, greater than the rate of vaccination, are available for its own citizens.

The EU has not yet approved this vaccine but this approval is expected on 29th January. Neither has the US approved. I have my own theory that the EU delay in approval is not unconnected with protecting some market for the other, more expensive, more difficult to transport vaccines. Not quite a conspiracy theory but at least some unconscious collusion.



Science has delivered the vaccines but blindly “following the science” caused the pandemic to spread

December 31, 2020

Science is not knowledge. Science is the process of acquiring knowledge.

It is inevitable that the the bulk of scientific effort produces no new knowledge. Gullibility lies in blindly “following the science” rather than following the knowledge.

Following the knowledge and applying the scientific method has led to the remarkably quick production of a number of vaccines but the spread of the pandemic was, without doubt, due to “following the science” even when the science was leading down false and fruitless trails. Epidemiology is still primarily about theories of behaviour which are far removed from being knowledge. Epidemiology is still more art than knowledge. Merely following the scientific method does not bestow credibility to the field. Applying the method does not make alchemy or homeopathy or witchcraft or “social sciences” into sciences. Every crazy idea about treatment or preventing the spread of the virus was, in fact, proposed by a “scientist”.

Only a minority of supposed “scientists” (probably around 20% by the 80:20 rule) actually do original science. Only a minority of postulates become hypotheses and only a minority of those ever become theories. That is the nature of science. In a majority of cases “following the science” will inevitably lead down fruitless paths. But there has been very little effort by journalists or politicians to distinguish between “following the science” and knowledge. In the absence of knowledge skepticism has been suspended and fake science and junk science have been elevated to be knowledge.


Social distancing needs both space and time

December 25, 2020

For airborne infections social distancing of 2m is not going to be enough. I presume the new London mutation of Covid-19 is particularly infectious because it is airborne. Face masks are not very helpful if the virus is airborne.

From the CDC

Airborne transmission is infection spread through exposure to those virus-containing respiratory droplets comprised of smaller droplets and particles that can remain suspended in the air over long distances (usually greater than 6 feet) and time (typically hours). 

I take this to mean that to avoid infection you must avoid the space occupied by an infected person by 2m or by (say) 2 hours. Social distancing then has physical and temporal components.

But which also means that following in the footsteps of an infected person (for example in the supermarket checkout) does not have the necessary temporal distancing. Ventilation only shifts the virus further doing the time it stays “alive”/active. While ventilation to the the outside (on a plane, for example) will be helpful, airflow within an enclosed space only increases the distance needed in space to avoid infection.


Baby, It’s dark outside

December 22, 2020

Even without the dark, menacing shadow of Covid-19 the days are dark.

At our latitude of 58.7075° N, Winter solstice was yesterday Monday, 21 December 2020, at 11:02. The length of the day is down to just 6h 16 m. But at least the trend is now positive though Covid puts a dampener even on that. By the end of this month we will have all of another 9 minutes to play with. But it’s dark outside. I feel dark inside. It’s dark when I get up. It’s still dark long after breakfast. And its dark again when I doze off after lunch (albeit lunches are a bit late these days). Our outside lights, which are on light sensors, switch on before 3pm.

The sun does not rise in the East but 48 degrees South of East. When it sets, it is closer to the South than to the West (48 degrees South of West). Just a measly 84 degree journey across the sky from sunrise to sunset. The highest point the sun reaches is a miserly and a miserable 8 degrees above the horizon.

Dark days in a dark time

Dark days in a dark year. But it is not the length of the day which is the main cause of the blackness of mood. 

The challenge for 2021 is whether the lengthening days will bring any light.


Vaccination trivia

December 22, 2020

It’s trivia because Halal, Kosher, Vegan and Vegetarian are high principles based on low reasoning and spurious logic.


Coronovirus blues: The virus is mutating to counter and survive human actions

December 21, 2020

It’s Monday morning. All is not well. But I remain an optimist – just.

Viruses are not living, say scientists. Of course, there are other “experts” who say that viruses are alive – sort of. We are both old enough and with other health conditions to put us among the higher risk groups. The probability of not surviving if either of us is infected is now in percentages and no longer in parts per 100,000. We cannot afford to get infected. So we are quite careful. We isolate ourselves and exercise large social distancing. We have become asocial. We have been waiting for the vaccine in the belief that 2021 is going to be annus mirabilis after the annus horribilis that has been 2020. But I am beginning to realize that this is more delusion than belief. After 9 months of self-imposed isolation and asocial behaviour I am beginning to see the coronavirus as a living, evolving form of life which has the purpose of culling humans.

There is a new, mutated strain of the Covid-19 virus, said to be 70% more infectious than its predecessor, running rampant in the UK. It came, it is said, from Spain to the UK in September. It honed its skills in London and is not thought to be more deadly or more severe in its effects. It has already been found in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia. It is not more deadly but is thought to be 70% more effective in transmitting itself from one host to another. More of the transmission is thought to be air-borne and from the asymptomatic. Air borne means that a safe social distance increases by a factor of about 5. Air-borne means that simple face masks can be penetrated. It is almost as if the mutation is specifically about countering lock-downs, social distancing and face masks. Its next survival step will be to mutate to counteract the vaccines.

The vaccines, they say, will still be effective against this mutation. Our best guess is that we could reach the top of the priority list sometime in March, perhaps as late as April. It takes a month for immunity to develop. That takes us into May before we can begin exercising lost social skills again. That assumes that there is not another wave in Spring and that another more deadly mutation has not appeared. But we are living in a dream world if we think the virus will not continue to mutate. A best case scenario suggests that vaccines will give immunity for about 6 months. The Spring wave is more likely to be of a mutated virus – perhaps this current London virus. But it will change again for the Autumn and the next time around it could be more deadly. And then there will have to be an Autumn wave again as vaccines catch up. Even flu vaccines have their compositions adjusted every year.

 Flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated as needed based on which influenza viruses are making people sick, the extent to which those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine protects against those viruses. More than 100 national influenza centers in over 100 countries conduct year-round surveillance for influenza. This involves receiving and testing thousands of influenza virus samples from patients.

I am getting despondent this Monday morning. 2021 will be another bad year.

70% more infectious

Where did Covid-19 go in the summer?

December 20, 2020

Even as vaccinations are due to begin, Europe is struggling with the second wave of the pandemic. The effectiveness of the vaccinations are a little jeopardized by reports that a new, more infectious strain of Covid-19 is sweeping across the UK and is on its way to Europe. Hopefully the vaccines developed in record time will cope even with the new strains of the virus if they are not too dissimilar.

While I welcome the vaccines and will take mine as soon it becomes available to me (probably late February) I am not so foolish, or gullible, as to believe that the science is settled. I have read many, but no convincing explanation, as to where the virus went during the summer of 2020.

image SvT

The peaks in late spring, followed by the trough during the summer and the new peaks in late autumn are a common feature across all countries. The same pattern appears in countries applying hard lockdowns as in those with less stringent restrictions. It was clearly not the lockdown regimes which restricted the pattern of deaths in the summer. Yes, of course, people spent more time outdoors in the summer. But when Spain and Sweden exhibit the same pattern, this can be no explanation for the reduction in infection rate over the summer.

There is a great deal of speculation but most of it is just speculation.

Nature News: 

Seasonal trends in viral infection are driven by multiple factors, including people’s behaviour and the properties of the virus — some don’t like hot, humid conditions.

Laboratory experiments reveal that SARS-CoV-2 favours cold, dry conditions, particularly out of direct sunlight. For instance, artificial ultraviolet radiation can inactivate SARS-CoV-2 particles on surfaces and in aerosols, especially in temperatures of around 40 °C. Infectious virus also degrades faster on surfaces in warmer and more humid environments.  ……… To assess whether infections with a particular virus rise and fall with the seasons, researchers typically study its spread in a specific location, multiple times a year, over many years. But without the benefit of time, they have tried to study the seasonal contribution to SARS-CoV-2 transmission by looking at infection rates in various places worldwide. 

A study published on 13 October looked at the growth in SARS-CoV-2 infections in the first four months of the pandemic, before most countries introduced controls. It found that infections rose fastest in places with less UV light, and predicted that, without any interventions, cases would dip in summer and peak in winter. In winter, “the risk goes up, but you can still dramatically reduce your risk by good personal behaviour”, says Cory Merow, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and a co-author of the study. “The weather is a small drop in the pan.” But Francois Cohen, an environmental economist at the University of Barcelona in Spain, says that testing was also quite limited early in the pandemic, and continues to be unreliable, so it is impossible to determine the effect of weather on the spread of the virus so far. ………… If SARS-CoV-2 can survive better in cold conditions, it’s still difficult to disentangle that contribution from the effect of people’s behaviour …. .

The simple reality is that we don’t know where corona viruses go for vacation during European summers and where the Covid-19 virus went during the summer of 2020.

But it is back.



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