The Triple V

Social distancing, vaccine hesitancy, economic recovery, conspiracy, plandemic, scamdemic—just some of the words and phrases that permeate our day.

The coronavirus vaccines have made excellent progress—never has a set of vaccines been produced so quickly. Partly, this is because the new vaccines work by using a different approach—they’re based on ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

The coronavirus genome—how can something so nasty look this pretty?

RNA is the lesser known sibling of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, and like its big brother, it provides cells with a blueprint for manufacturing the compounds they require. Our DNA makes messenger RNA, known as mRNA, which is then translated to make proteins.

In this case, mRNA strands that contain code to make virus-specific antigens are injected into the cells—this can only be done if we know the genome of the virus, i.e. if it has been sequenced.

Once inside a cell, the mRNA instructs the cell’s production apparatus to make the appropriate antigen, and the antigens fight off the viral infection.

In both the US and UK, the vaccination tide is turning, but in mainland Europe things are not as good—the supply line isn’t working well, but as soon as that improves there will be a marked fall in hospitalizations and death rates.

As I write, the UK has vaccinated more of its population than any other nation in Europe—Brexit supporters are gloating that this would not have been possible within the EU. However, Member-States do their own purchasing and make their own decisions on approval and safety, as evidenced by Hungary—the militant Magyars are busy shooting up both the VladVac and its Beijing sibling, so this is another example of Brexit bollocks.

What the Brits did right (and it’s great to see them do something right considering the dog’s breakfast they made of the pandemic) was the procurement—the Israelis did the exact same thing, but far better, which is why they’ve now vaccinated one-third of their nine million population, while Portugal is at less than 400,000 out of ten million souls.

Vaccination nation—everyone pales when compared to Israel. The chart shows doses administered as a percent of population.

When it comes to delivery, the UK National Health Service has worked wonders—that’s the second thing the Brits got right—using a trained, competent, national infrastructure instead of sub-contracting the work to Tory chums whose healthcare business experience consists in making rubber ducks and paper clips.

Of course, you cannot examine the triumvirate Virus-Vaccine-Variants without discussing the two large elephants in the room.

The first is the duration of immunity and the vaccination rate: in the US, about five percent of the population has been vaccinated over a period of about one month, considering a double dose is required, or about eleven percent, if you assume everyone so far has had only a single dose.

Even if we roll with a single dose, it would take seven months to reach the magical seventy percent number where the virus cries uncle and goes away. By then, the first groups vaccinated may well have lost their immunity, since it is thought to last five months or so.

Seventy is only magic if that percentage of the population is immune at the same time.

As for the variants, the jury is still out. Faster spread means more deaths, even if the virus isn’t nastier—it’s just a numbers game. Vax resistance is another matter altogether, and a number of people have pointed out that immunizing the first world is going to bite us in the butt, because wealthy nations leave large swathes of Africa, Asia, and South America open to development of vax-resistant strains—instead of fine-tuning with bats or pangolins, the virus will fine-tune in humans.

As Europe and America make plans to see the end of this plague, a true hundred-year event, and reboot their economies, I leave you with a couple of pre-vac thoughts.

The first is that informal economies, prevalent in southern Europe but also significant in northern nations—think gig economy—naturally encourage virus spread. Folks who don’t have a declared formal occupation cannot confine because they won’t get paid, and neither are they eligible for compensation—for builders and other contractors, sharing vans, tools (yes, that sounds bad), and meals are all virus brushfire. Often, they won’t get tested to avoid being quarantined—if the spouse also has an informal job, both wage earners spend fourteen days without income.

The debate around education and the hot topic of teacher vaccination has also, if you excuse the pun, gone viral. Apart from the flu shot (and in recent years also pneumonia), vaccines are a childhood experience. Children’s immunity becomes adult immunity, and all is well.

Vaccinating teachers is a good thing, since it’s a high risk profession—they get Covid from the kids—but it certainly won’t stop the spread of coronavirus to the wider population because the parents get it from the children.

Vaccinating children isn’t an option either, because the vaccine doesn’t stop you from infecting others—it only protects you, or put another way, turns you into an asymptomatic carrier–which is what kids are anyway.

As Uncle Winston famously said, “This is not the end, it is not the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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