Lockdown must resume

July 15, 2021

by Martin Odoni

I intend to write more about the end-of-lockdown soon. But for now, I need to draw attention to worrying findings regarding the Delta (“Indian”) variant of SARS-Cov2, the virus that causes the Covid-19 fever. (Pleasant experience. Truly. Except for the ‘pleasant’ part.)

As we all know, and really should be doing our best to take advantage of, there are now vaccines that combat the virus, and against the original ‘Alpha’ strain that spread from China last year, they are impressively effective. I myself am just awaiting my ‘booster’ jab, due next month.

I must stress that I am in no way at all arguing that we should not bother with the vaccines. On the contrary. The original strain is still out there and, as I can tell you from personal experience, YOU DO NOT WANT TO CATCH IT. Even a mild Covid-19 fever is just horrible. Even if you survive, it is hell-ish while it lasts. It leaves your whole body constantly uncomfortable, it is very frightening, and it can leave permanent damage behind. My lungs appear to have permanent, if very minor, damage right at the joins with the windpipe due to white blood-cells and the virus using them as a ‘battleground’ and scorching the terrain, so to speak. The result is the tops of my lungs are permanently irritated and I usually feel a futile urge to cough.

And the vaccines do at least help fight the Delta variant as well. So I am in no way at all dismissing the vaccines, and I still strongly urge everyone to get immunised. Even if it does not actually stop you contracting the virus, it could still make the difference between life and death for you, or between a mildly unpleasant fever and a lifelong battle with ‘Long Covid’.

However, the recent Delta variant has changed the picture, and the new one painted by the science suggests we still have a long way to go. That the British media appear to be ignoring the research is shameful, but they seem determined to play along with Boris Johnson’s irresponsible desire to end the last lockdown rules come-what-may this coming Monday. If the media had been a bit louder about this news, we might have known earlier that the vaccines we have do not appear to be as effective against Delta as we had hoped; the peer-reviewed research was published a week ago but attention drawn to it only quietly. That is why I am only writing about it now.

The research is published in Nature. It finds; –

We classified the vaccine recipients as neutralizers and
non-neutralizers, for the four viral strains…
With Pfizer, 13% of individuals neutralized the variant Delta after a
single dose. 81 to 100% of individuals neutralized any of the four stains
after the second dose, at W8 [“week 8”]. This fraction remained stable at
W16, with the exception of variant Beta, which was neutralized by only
46% of the individuals. 74% and 61% of individuals that received a single
dose of AstraZeneca vaccine neutralized D614G and Alpha strains,
respectively. This fraction sharply dropped with Beta and Delta variants,
which were inhibited by only 4 and 9% of the sera.
Four weeks after the
second dose of AstraZeneca, 95-100% of individuals neutralized the four
strains. Therefore, a single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca was either poorly
or not at all efficient against Beta and Delta variants
. Both vaccines
generated a neutralizing response that efficiently targeted variant
Delta only after the second dose…

In individuals that were not previously infected with SARS-CoV-2,
a single dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines barely induced
neutralizing antibodies against variant Delta. About 10% of the sera
neutralized this variant.
However, a two-dose regimen generated high
sero-neutralization levels against variants Alpha, Beta and Delta, in
subjects sampled at W8 to W16 post vaccination. Neutralizing antibody
levels are highly predictive of immune protection from symptomatic
SARS-CoV-2 infection25. A recent report analyzing all sequenced
symptomatic cases of COVID-19 in England was used to estimate the impact
of vaccination on infection. Effectiveness was notably lower with Delta
than with Alpha after one dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines. The
two-dose effectiveness against Delta was estimated to be 60% and 88%
for AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, respectively
. Our neutralization
experiments indicate that Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine-elicited
antibodies are efficacious against variant Delta, but about 3-5 fold
less potent than against variant Alpha. There was no major difference
in the levels of antibodies elicited by Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

Bold emphasis added

Reduced sensitivity of SARS-CoV-2 variant Delta to antibody neutralization, page 3 – source: Nature

All this means from my own perspective that if the Delta variant touches me in the next month and a half, I could well be done for. I had the Pfizer vaccine, and only the first dose so far. It is too early for me to get my second dose, and as the above points out, the first jab has only given me about a ten per cent chance of being able to resist. And I live in Salford. One of the biggest hotspots for Delta has been Bolton – albeit it has calmed down there recently – which is almost immediately to the west. (And remember, these spikes in Greater Manchester are happening during high summer. This is supposed to be the time of year when respiratory diseases naturally go into hibernation.)

That ten per cent chance is still better than nought per cent though, and the mild symptoms I experienced in the days after the jab will have given my immune system the right kind of practice.

What I will say though is that if you have only had your first jab, you must make sure you have the second one as soon as is feasible. Even once you have had both jabs, you will still have to wait several weeks for the second to become fully effective, so get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

Once you have had both jabs, odds are you will be okay, but do not be complacent about that, especially if the vaccine you had was the Astrazeneca one. Sixty per cent coverage still leaves you substantially more vulnerable than the original hope was. And remember even if immunisation has protected you from developing symptoms, it does not necessarily stop you carrying the virus and passing it to others.

They’re uncomfortable, they can make breathing awkward, and they can make your face overheat. But you can get the same symptoms in a far more devastating way, if you are infected with SARS-Cov2

Also, ignore the Government’s confused, idiotic and chaotic non-guidance. One minute they say they are going to trust the British public to decide for themselves, the next they say they encourage continued mask-use, social distancing, and extra hygiene. There is literally no reason for them to stop making these tasks compulsory, except to pander to the greedy fringe of UK society who care only about their own self-gratification; they all normally vote Tory. There is every reason to keep the tasks compulsory, given they are only reliably effective if everyone follows them. So follow them. Ignore the official position that it is not necessary. Keep using facemasks on public transport and in buildings outwith your own home. Keep washing your hands frequently, use hand sanitiser regularly, bump elbows instead of shaking hands, and keep social distancing. Just act like lockdown is still going on, because it should be. And I say it again, get immunised. Give yourself and your family the best chance they can get, in case the Delta variant strikes.

The pandemic has not gone away, everyone, this is not over. It could have been brought under control months ago. We could easily have prevented it from becoming anchored in the UK at all, given the advantage we have as an island nation, if only the Government had taken the simple step of closing the airports. But the Government have shown repeatedly that they do not care about it; their only interests are to protect themselves and their supporters from any financial harm the pandemic can cause, and from being held legally responsible for their dire mishandling of the emergency. They are prepared to compromise human safety at every level in order to keep the tills ticking over. They have already overseen a completely unnecessary disaster – at least 110,000 of the UK’s Covid deaths were perfectly avoidable – and are now seemingly hoping to cause another one.

The Tories truly are inhuman and have no place governing a country.

Actually removing all lockdown controls now, when it is so plainly premature, is the ultimate example of the Tories’ malicious disinterest. It is even worse than last August’s idiotic “Eat-out-to-help-out” scheme that caused a massive resurgence in infection rates at the start of the Autumn. This calamity the Government blamed on ordinary people for not staying at home, when they had been actively encouraged to go out and socialise. They will blame the public again in a few weeks when the end-of-lockdown causes another massive spike. It is guaranteed to happen, the situation is completely wrong for all restrictions (such as they are) to be removed.

None of the Conservatives’ utter disinterest in saving lives or protecting the vulnerable should be in the least bit surprising. Tories have seldom been caring people historically, and the current generation are just a clique of psychopaths.

All of this right now, and that is before taking into account the potential threat on the horizon from the ‘Lambda variant’ first identified in Peru! Who knows what properties that will be found to possess.

This is not over. It really is not over.