Scott Johnson at Powerline keeps trying to get accurate information from the state DOH, which is about as likely as asking Joe Biden to speak extemporaneously for ten minutes. Apparently ain’t going to happen. Scott asked a series of questions about masking, vaccinations and whether telling people they couldn’t change how they lived even if fully vaccinated might not contribute to vaccine hesitancy. The response was a master class in evasion. There was no real answer to the question of whether not allowing behavior changes might contribute to vaccine hesitation, instead we were told that Minnesotans understand why we have to keep wearing masks. A complete failure to answer the question of whether they have any evidence that vaccinated people transmit to others. You can safely assume that they have no data supporting even one case of a vaccinated person transmitting. And we got more gibberish about asymptomatic spread, again with no actual data to support it, other than saying 50% of cases were asymptomatic, which contradicts the CDC.
Just a brief update in regard to Dr. Osterholm. We have had some communication and I must say it is very generous and decent of him to communicate with me at all. He could ignore what I say, but he considered it and he has his own points that he feels strongly about. He shared some data I had not heard or seen elsewhere which was interesting. He is not convinced there is clear seasonality. He is very concerned about variants and about their apparent link to more cases and more serious disease in children and younger people. I believe it is pretty clear there are meteorological factors that affect spread. Other factors play a role as well, such as population density, population age structure, population health, contact patterns and potentially the level of adaptive immune responses to coronaviruses in general; but meteorology seems to have a strong influence, just looking at the moving geographic patterns. I am not sure I see in the Minnesota data clear evidence that variants lead to more serious disease. The research is mixed and the strongest study, the Lancet one, indicates that they don’t. But worth following. Anyway, I give the Doctor strong credit for engaging, when I know he is incredibly busy.
Some people are reading way too much into this study. Everyone is trying to figure out why some areas, parts of Africa, parts of Southeast Asia in particular (although cases are rising there) seem to have such low case rates. Some is much lower average age of population, a lot is no testing madness (see Kenya, where antibody surveys show far higher prevalence than do reported cases) and some is likely more pre-existing immunity. This study suggests that the latter is a likely factor. (Medrxiv Paper) The researchers examined antibodies reacting to CV-19 among pre-epidemic blood donors in the Congo with a group in France. Spike protein antibodies were present in 19% of Congo donors and about 2% of the control group. Another spike antigen raised antibodies in 9.3% of Congo donors and 1.6% of the control donors. Surprisingly, there was no statistical difference in antibodies to the receptor binding domain. That raises alarm bells about the quality of the study. But it could also suggest exposure to coronavirus strains with very similar spike sequences but not RBD sequence. And it is interesting that the French donors also showed some reactivity. Please note that this was not a matched cohort, particularly in age, which is relevant when looking for pre-existing immunity. And most importantly, several studies have been looking at pre-existing animal and human samples going back several years and have begun to identify a number of coronaviruses that seem to be a link or bridge between existing CVs and CV-19. Human infection with those intermediate strains would like leave antibody presence. The researchers claim that their assays rule out reactivity due to seasonal coronavirus, so it is likely some other strain. The authors note that the distribution of fruit bats, a source of coronavirus, matches low prevalence countries. But see the recent surge in India.
Yet another study examining antibodies after infection. (Medrxiv Paper) The study comes from the US and involved active service military personnel. The group was followed for 12 months and antibodies persisted, with strength varying both by age and severity of disease. Older age and more severe disease were associated with more durable antibody response. Another suggestion that immune protection after infection will last for an extended time.