Friday Update for 2021-05-21: Long Grief
Three items of recent pandemic news: Pfizer’s vaccine can keep for 30 days at refrigerator temperatures; neutralizing antibody levels emerge as a correlate of protection; and the long stretch of post-trauma grief that awaits us. Plus news briefs and a frippery.
Ed Yong has a well-sourced piece (as is his wont) in the Atlantic on the mental health and psychological toll that is being and will continue to be exacted by the 15 months of rolling trauma we have collectively endured.
Millions of us have had a close brush with the worst of Covid-19 — one or more relatives, friends, acquaintances, loved ones, or co-workers who died in the pandemic. A sizable fraction of those might be living with grief for years to come. Tens of millions more dealt with daily danger, unemployment, eviction, or the impossibility of doing long-term, full-time work alongside child care and home schooling. All of us have lived with disruption, loneliness, uncertainty, liminality. Once the pandemic eases — and it is doing that — we may expect things to get better quickly; this is misguided. Yong quotes Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, founder and director of the Trauma Stewardship Institute:
Yong paraphrased these thoughts in an interview on The Atlantic’s Social Distance podcast (15 minutes beginning at 17:23): “[There is a] disconnect between expecting to feel better, and actually — not. [People need to be] taking time for that to happen… It’s when you get to stop swimming and reach dry land that you start to feel like you’re actually drowning.”
Research into communities recovering from trauma has found that three factors are protective from long-term harms such as widespread PTSD: confidence in authorities, a sense of belonging, and community solidarity. Guess which three factors the pandemic has shredded in this country.
A correlate of protection identified
A large study out of Australia has added to the accumulating evidence that the level of neutralizing antibodies circulating in the blood is highly correlated with protection against symptomatic Covid-19. Ars Technica has a good summary of the research and what it means.
It’s known that antibody levels decline with time. This work also gave hints about how long protection against disease might last after natural infection or vaccination — which bears on whether or when we might need a booster shot. The Ars reporter writes:
The model the researchers developed was able to predict, with good accuracy, the efficacy a vaccine should show in Phase III trials based on the antibody levels measured in Phase I and II.
Pfizer’s vaccine can keep for 30 days in the refrigerator
This week, regulators, first in Europe and then in the US, accepted Pfizer / BioNTech’s evidence that their vaccine, Comirnaty, is stable and safe for 30 days at refrigerator temperature. Previously the vaccine, once thawed, had to be used within 5 days.
In terms of handling, this expansion of the EUA (and the European equivalent) puts Pfizer just about at par with Moderna, whose mRNA vaccine is also good for 30 days in a refrigerator. Moderna’s vaccine has to be put into arms (undiluted) within 12 hours of its vial’s seal being broken. For Pfizer / BioNTech, the requirement is to use it within six hours of breaking the seal and diluting the mixture.
Comirnaty still needs lower temperatures for long-term storage: -80°C to -60°C (-112°F to -76°F) vs. Moderna’s -50°C to -15°C (-58°F to 5°F).
- How to buy a fake vaccination card — A Vice reporter paid $15 plus shipping to an Etsy site and received a perfectly plausible-looking card attesting (falsely) to his vaccinated status. While this demonstration is disturbing on its face, I’m not sure what use such fakes will be. Yesterday I asked a Trader Joe’s checkout clerk what their masking policy is (everyone I saw in the store was masked, me included). The policy is essentially “don’t ask don’t tell.” No one was showing proof of vaccination.
- EU to OK non-essential travel — As expected, the EU on Wednesday agreed to allow entry to travelers vaccinated with an authorized vaccine, from countries with low infection rates such as the US. All three vaccines in use in the US qualify, but those produced by Russia and China do not.
- Coronavirus spillovers from pigs and dogs — Vincent Raciniello’s blog has news on two newly discovered spillovers, in Haiti and Malaysia. The Haitian one was several cases of fever and other symptoms in children in 2014-2015. That turned out to be caused by a porcine delta coronaviruses (PDCoV) similar to samples isolated from pigs in Arkansas and China. (SARS-CoV-2 is a beta coronavirus.) The Malaysian study involved a canine alpha coronavirus (CCoV) in 2017-2018. In neither case did the virus transmit to others; the takeaway is the need for continued and increased surveillance of coronavirus hot spots to catch spillovers early. Here is CIDRAP’s summary of the Malaysian incident.
Your frippery today is an introduction to the musical group The Kiffness. These innovators from South Africa have scored a few viral hits and the new one embedded below — a looped duet featuring Alugalug Cat — looks set to join that pantheon. Here is a (somewhat breathless) introduction to the group and its lead, David Scott. Their website currently links to an earlier worldwide viral hit, a remixed collaboration with the blind Turkish street artist Bilal Göregen performing a previously obscure Finnish folk song. (There’s a cat in that one too.)
Couple of comments on today’s posting:
1. Vera, my wife, and I are rare – truly fortunate – in that we personally know of no one who has died from Covid-19. Several of my family members and a few friend had contracted the virus, however none of them had serious infections or complications post-recovery. The two of us have tried to a live reasonably safe coronavirus era lifestyle, sticking around our home in south-central PA, only occasionally venturing into the wilds of our county to either shop or purchase an unexciting take-out meal from a few of the places remaining open during the crisis.
Interestingly enough, our community overwhelmingly comprises 55-plus seniors, and has only had less than 10 infections, and (I heard from friends) only a single death!
So, I can’t say that we’re in the same boat as many of the folks whom that post-Covid impact has affected — as per your post this week.
2. Absolutely loved that mix from The Kiffness & Cat! It got me bopping’ all over the room! Incredible innovation.
Yes, we are among the truly fortunate who could stay close to home and safe. Yet I think even those of us who had it easy have taken damage. I know I have. Nothing that can’t be recovered from, but recovery won’t be instantaneous.
Now I notice that The Kiffness made an appearance way back at the start of all this, in the song parodies post from March 29, 2020 — the ninth post in the blog’s history.