Very busy at work this week, but a quick update, starting with breaking news:
(1) After the promising phase III results with the mRNA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna, preliminary results are now also in for the more conventional Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. From the press release, at first sight the vaccine seems to be only 70% effective. Upon detailed reading, however, the study was subdivided into cohorts with different vaccination schedules, and the 70% was an average over the whole population. One of the schedules — where a half-dose is given first, then a full-dose as a booster 4 weeks later — reached 90% effectiveness (meaning, in plain English, that the vaccinated people contracted disease at about one-tenth the rate of the placebo control population).
One advantage of Oxford-Astrazeneca is that it does not require special cooling provisions beyond what hospitals already do on a routine basis for other vaccines. I am looking forward to the full results. Meanwhile, a local clinical trial is ongoing for the Brilife vaccine developed at the Israel Institute for Biological Research.
(2) Somewhat surprisingly, a recent Danish study showed that the effectiveness of masks worn by uninfected persons is not statistically significant. Here is the original research paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine: make up your own minds.
The Spectator also weighs in — hat tip, masgramondou, who also offers an interesting hypothesis on his MeWe timeline: “[Despite the Danish study] there have been various observational studies that showed mask wearing to be somewhat effective.[…]My hypothesis is that volunteer [emphasis mine, NA] mask wearers and healthcare workers (which are two of the prior studies) will tend to also follow other hygiene steps like washing hands. This sort of thing is exactly what those forced to wear a mask in a pandemic don’t do. In other words[,] voluntary mask wearing absent a pandemic is in fact an accurate signal of healthy hygienic behavior, whereas enforced mask wearing is just virtue signalling with no effect whatsoever if the mask wearer is not infectious.”
(3) De Standaard (in Dutch) reports that, in the face of overburdened hospitals, the Swedish PM Stefan Löfven is overruling his COVID czar Anders Tegnell and the country will take a U-turn from its reliance, for COVID19 mitigation, on friendly persuasion and laissez-faire policies.
Faced with overburned COVID wards in hospitals — a resident from Karolinska Hospitals in Stockholm is quoted as saying “it’s a war zone here” — the country is turning toward more restrictive measures, which will also be enforced with fines — although truly hard lockdowns don’t seem to be on the table yet.
ADDENDUM: Hmm (via Mackey C.)