Disquieting

There has been a good deal of optimism generated by the growing number of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Despite the fact that the vaccinated can still get COVID and spread COVID, vaccination has been seen as a way out of the COVID mess. Let’s hope so.

However, there seems to be a bit of a problem emerging in such high vax nations as England and the Netherlands are seeing cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise again. Israel, with an over 80% double jab rate, is seeing case numbers rise and attributing that to the “delta variant”.

There is now some talk of the need for a “booster” shot in the Fall.

Not being an epidemiologist I have nothing useful to say about these infection rates in the face of the vaccine. However, from a public policy perspective, it underlines something which has been a weakness from the earliest days of the COVID issue: non-pharmaceutical interventions (masks, social distance, lockdowns) and the arrival and distribution of the vaccine have been the go to public responses. Other responses have largely been ignored.

Were you to rely on the mainstream media and our public health people – not to mention the politicians, you could easily form the impression that there were no other alternatives.

I have banged on about how losing a few pounds, getting outside, taking Vitamin D were all things which, while they will not “prevent” COVID infection, will certainly make you more able to put up a good fight if you happen to catch COVID. (And we are seeing much more evidence that the people who are most at risk of dying with COVID are over 80, often suffering a number of co-morbidities, diabetic or very obese – people at much greater risk of death even before they caught COVID.) Simply encouraging people who can to improve their overall health could significantly reduce the overall risk COVID poses.

Frankly, Public Health officials should have been pushing exercise, weight loss, sun exposure and Vit D pretty much from the go. But there is no reason not to start now. (Especially if the vaccines are not super effective against the delta variant.)

The ivermectin and HCQ questions remain outstanding. It was not helpful that one of what looked like a positive study of ivermectin appears to be an out and out fraud. However, looking at countries and states in which one or both have been used suggests some efficacy. The argument is going to go on for a while but, again from a public policy perspective, it would seem sensible to set up and run proper trials for both substances.

A new entrant, SaNOtize, is an anti-viral nasal spray developed in Vancouver and currently approved for use in Israel. It has been tested and found to reduce viral loads in confirmed COVID-19 cases by 95% in 24 hours and 99% in 72 hours. Here is a report of a double blind clinical trial conducted in England. Is this the silver bullet? I have no idea. However, it shows promise, has been trialed and has a fairly well understood mechanism of action. (And, apparently, no side effects.)

I suspect there are other promising treatments out there which I am unaware of. The point being that we need to be developing alternatives to complete reliance on vaccines which seem to have varying efficacy and worrying side effects which are only now emerging. This is not at all an “anti-vax” position, rather it is a prudent position. If, for some reason, the vaccines’ effectiveness against emerging variants is reduced, having treatment options and a generally healthy population would be, as Martha Stewart used to say, “a good thing”.

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