(a) Dr. John Campbell reviews the last year in clinical trials of drugs for COVID
A few highlights from his discussion of double-blind clinical trials (particularly the WHO SOLIDARITY and UK RECOVERY trials):
- not just hydroxychloroquine proved disappointing, but so did remdesivir
- dexamethasone and other low-cost steroids unambiguously show a clinical benefit in more severe disease, i.e., at the point where your enemy is your own immune system going amok
- RECOVERY found a clear clinical benefit for tocilizumab (the “-mab” stands for monoclonal antibody) in severe disease
- There is conflicting evidence about the antiparasitic medication ivermectin (widely used in veterinary medicine) — which is known to have antiviral properties in vitro. However, Dr. Campbell found one of his videos “fact-checked” on Fa[r]cebook as “partially false”, and sarcastically wonders what he is allowed to say.
China won the first half of the Covid Cold War decisively. It executed lockdowns with immaculate precision, cuffing dissenters to balcony railings and sealing citizens in their homes. Having near-enough eliminated Covid within its own borders, it fired up its industrial engines to meet roaring demand for Chinese goods. A diplomatic coup over the United States followed, as the World Health Organisation ruled out the Wuhan lab leak theory. Most powerful of all was China’s psychological victory; as Beijing exulted in the liberating discipline of the Chinese Way, the locked down West brooded over the selfish inadequacies of freedom.
Now, though, a lousy vaccine strategy and a counterfeit economic recovery are coming back to haunt the Chinese Communist Party. A Western world that has spent a year luxuriating in existential crisis might dare to wonder: is the brute force of the authoritarian, centralised state no match after all for the innovative agility of a free capitalist society?
In an astonishing admission of weakness, China’s top disease control official has confirmed that the efficacy of the country’s Covid vaccines is low. With trials abroad suggesting that protection rates could be as poor as 50 per cent, the country’s regulator is now considering whether to mix jabs to boost their effectiveness.
This is a catastrophe for China. The country is stuck in an unsustainable zero Covid trap, only able to maintain an upper hand over the virus by closing its borders to almost all foreigners and limiting domestic travel. Beijing could be left behind within months, as rival countries reach herd immunity and reopen for global business. On this point, even the Chinese commentariat has been remarkably candid. State epidemiologists have taken to the airwaves, warning that China’s vaccine rates are insufficient to reach herd immunity by the end of year, let alone the end of the summer. Newspaper column inches that usually foam against the “putrid ambitions” of anti-Chinese forces are instead analysing the progress of Britain, Israel and the United States with sober dread.
Nor are China’s vaccine woes the only threat to the country’s apparent Covid advantage. Doubts are starting to grow about Beijing’s miraculous economic recovery. A recent IMF forecast stirred controversy, projecting that while Western economies would almost completely avoid permanent scarring – and US GDP in 2024 would be even higher than it was anticipated to be before Covid – China’s economy will end up 1.59 per cent smaller than pre-pandemic expectations.
This exposes the drawbacks of a Chinese model that prioritises ambition over invention, saving face over doing the groundwork, and scale over quality. Perhaps in all those official Maoist castigations of Chinese backwardness in the 20th century, the country lost a sense of its essential Self. The pioneering civilisation that gave us the wheel and the compass has “renewed” itself by becoming a piracy powerhouse that cannot innovate. This, it turns out, is a handicap in a pandemic.
(c) Tonight and tomorrow until sundown, 4 Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, is Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day [for the Fallen] in Israel, ending tomorrow night with Yom HaAtzma’ut, Independence Day. Through this juxtaposition, we remind ourselves that the former is the price of the latter.
Last year, the Memorial Day ceremony was a basically virtual one. This time around, with Israel’s epidemic data in de facto herd immunity territory, the traditional ceremony was held in person, albeit still with face masks. (Police quietly stopped enforcing the mask mandate outdoors, and it is expected to be abolished outright next week.) The usual memorial gatherings at military cemeteries will also take place as usual, unlike last year.
A virtual memorial candle lighting site has however been launched, in addition to the above.