Rob Verkerk PhD provides an update on the Covid pandemic. Deaths and infection rates, UK's lockdown relaxation, vaccines, the virus' origins and how government's have failed to get behind a cheap and simple preventative that could save lives.
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Hi there – I’m Rob Verkerk – the founder, executive and scientific director of the Alliance for Natural Health International. I’m here to bring you our latest, new look coronacast – brought to you courtesy of the two new members of our media team – Mike Abbott and Ismail Faryad.
I want to take you through some of the latest science on the covid pandemic - where we are on the pandemic wave when it comes to deaths and infection rates. We’re going to comment on the UK’s new one metre plus social distancing rule and an update on vaccines. Then we’ll look briefly at some of the unfolding science on the virus’ origins including the difficulty anyone might have to ridicule the idea that the virus originated from a lab. Finally – we’ll look at the travesty of governments’ failures to get behind the things all of us can do with natural health to build our immune resilience. How about a few pence or cents a day on vitamin D at way higher levels than governments are suggesting – to potentially save thousands of lives.
Let’s try to get this in perspective. The global annual death rate in 2019 based on United Nations data from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs was 58,394,000.
This means that current death rate related to – but not caused by – Covid of 472,539 represents just under 1% - 0.81% to be more accurate - of the death rate in a normal year.
In 2018, based on World Health Organization data 2,947,050 people died from flu and pneumonia this being the 4th leading cause of death worldwide. This was almost the same number of people who died of lung diseases like COPD, the third biggest killer - so in fact in fact if you load covid-related deaths on top of those figures – which is a new kind of viral pneumonia – it would push influenza and pneumonia deaths including covid into third position.
The take home here is that a lot of people have already been dying of lung diseases, influenza and pneumonia. In fact together, using 2018 data, they made up almost 6 million deaths worldwide putting deaths from these diseases ahead of stroke deaths – in second position globally. Coronary heart disease remains easily the biggest killer but you’ll know too that people with heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and obesity – all among the leading killers, especially in industrialised countries, are also much more susceptible to covid than others.
Another way of looking Covid-related deaths is by looking at rolling averages – 7-day rolling averages. This allows us to get a good idea of where we are on the trajectory – how far down the slope of the main epidemic wave we are. Well – in many countries – including the UK – we’re clearly a long way down the slope as we can see here in this Our World in Data graph.
But let’s remember to remind ourselves that death counts have been particularly inaccurate because of the suspension of post mortems and pathology services in most countries meaning it’s been wrong to do as the media often do and refer to these as covid deaths which implies they’re covid caused, whereas they are simply covid associated – or sometimes even just covid allocated – where there’s been a bit of fudging, as so apltly put by Dr John Lee in an article in the UK’s Spectator magazine, for which, ironically, Boris Johnson once acted as editor.
When we don’t know what deaths are caused by covid or not – as we’ve explained in a previous coronacast, a more reliable measure is excess mortality. That’s looking at any excess of deaths compared with those that would be expected in a given month or year – based on previous and recent history. Here it’s useful to look at the 24 EuroMOMO partner countries the data from which are pooled through the European Mortality Monitoring Project established originally by the European Commission in 2008 and is now supported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (the ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
If we look now just at straight death by age across all 24 EuoMOMO partner countries – the first thing you notice is there’s a very clear sharp peak for all ages, but it’s quite short and sharp. So while there were more deaths – a higher spike for this year’s winter – the excess lasted a shorter time than the excess winter mortalities in any of the three previous years – especially for 2018.
This begs the question – who’s been dying most and in which countries?
Let’s look by age first.
Well it’s certainly not the youngsters up to 14 years of age – in fact they’ve been doing great – clearly not being impacted by the diversion of healthcare systems towards covid. While you see a bit of a spike in 15-44 year olds – don’t forget to keep an eye on the vertical axis – the peak is some 1500 over a population in the EuroMOMO 24 of around 400 million. Not so many. As we get into the progressively older groups, the numbers get higher – with a peak for the 65 to 85-year-olds. Those are the group with high rates of comorbidities like the raised blood pressure – hypertension – lung disease, diabetes and so on. But there are lots of other indicators of poor immune function too – one of them that’s interesting is the presence of other persistent infections – like cytomegalovirus – or CMV. Professor Paul Moss from the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Centre in Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK, has shown a very clear correlation between persistent CMV infection and those most likely to die from covid. It all helps build this picture of age-related loss of function of the immune system – the process called immunosenescence – that we know is something that we can help to avert – particularly given the right diets, the right nutrients, the right lifestyle and the right environment.
The levels for the 85s and over are less raised, possibly as there’s been a very conscious effort to shield the oldest groups. It also shows that avoiding transmission into care homes that’s been a hot topic in the mainstream media, hasn’t been a failure across the board – at least among EuroMOMO partner countries.
When you look at excess deaths by country – things get really interesting. Here we’re looking at the z-score by country which is statistic based around the changes in the standard deviation of excess mortalities compared against baseline data – according to a model that was developed in 1996. It tells you a lot about the pattern of excess mortality over time. Here you’ll see that some European countries like Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany – the list goes on – have seen absolutely no excess mortality whatsoever.
Others like Ireland have seen a small blip, followed by a negative excess – yes, that’s a kind of double negative meaning there’s been no excess at all, in fact, deaths are significantly lower than baseline.
That same negative excess is seen in France, Ireland, Italy, Northern Ireland and Wales. We’ll know later in the summer where we’ve got to across the board. But when we see this negative excess what it shows is a kind of concertinaing of deaths. Where the most vulnerable who were most likely to die because of their comorbidities, their susceptibility – including if they represent black or Asian ethnic groups - and if they have weakened immune systems courtesy of their age - these get taken out quickly, rather than their deaths being spread out over the next month or two. Then the virus has to face more resistant hosts so fewer people die – so you end up with an apparent reduction in excess mortality because those who would have died during the normal time course have already been taken out.
When it comes to rates of infection, the UK infection rate has dropped to 1 in 1700 from 1 in 400.
The fact the UK is so far down the wave is of course the trigger for easing lockdowns despite a pretty ropey start to the UK’s supposedly world-beating NHS Test and Trace system.
But it begs the question of why not open up everything while still shiedling the vulnerable – effectively the Swedish model? You’ll remember the reason given to the public ofr locking down the population was to protect the NHS. That’s what Ferguson’s now partially discredited model was all about. Well the hospitals are certainly not spilling over with Covid cases – where’s the rationale for not being more Swedish and trying to enable the virus to move more freely through the healthy population so you can reduce the risk of a second wave this autumn?
Well - we’ve been unable to find any such rationale – scientific or otherwise.
The big news is that UK moves from the 2 metres social distancing rule to the 1 metre plus rule on 4 July. Just like a lot of European neighbours. The science on this? Flimsy to say the least, and mostly on other respiratory viruses like influenza A.
Flimsy science put in the hands of politicians makes for confusing directives. That’s why it’s going to be OK in the UK to go to the pub, or meet 100 of your friends in a shopping centre, but you can’t meet more than 6 friends in your backgarden. Or why hairdressers will open, but massage and beauty therapists must still wait in the sidelines.
The fact is, there are many other factors involved in transmission other than just the proximity of people from one another.
Critical is the length of time virus particles are able to remain viable in different environments. The answer is a very short time in outdoor, more exposed environments and hours potentially a day or 2 in indoor environments. Then, in what form do virus particles get transferred? Well either through contact of dried or still wet surfaces – particularly hard surfaces – which is where handwashing comes in. When it comes to aerial droplets it’s long been known that it will either be via larger airborne droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking – the spluttering effect especially on hard consonants like t’s or p’s – or it will be via tiny aerosols that can stay airborne for hours. The more people in an indoor space and the worse the out-to indoor ventilation – the greater the risk of transmission.
So while masks might reduce the potential for droplets and aerosols, they far from reduce the risk from contact – in fact some studies suggest they might increase it because we tend to handle our faces more when we wear masks and touch other things and the masks become uncomfortable and damp – effectively creating on the mask and within us a perfect breeding ground for lots of different respiratory disease organisms.
A Chinese study on kids in 3 or 6 person dorms published in PLoS One in 2011 looking at the other well known coronavirus – the common cold – found that kids in crowded dormitories with poor ventilation suffered 7 times greater risks of getting more than 6 colds a year than kids sleeping with moderately well ventilated dorms. The take home – which is what your grandma suggested – keep the windows open. Don’t live, sleep or recreate in hermetically sealed environments. Open the doors and windows and get some good cross-flow ventilation going with the outside world.
It’s all go in the vaccine community. There’s dozens of different vaccines in development – there’s 8 currently in Phase 1 trials and according to a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association – JAMA – the earliest date of roll out will be January 2021.
Probably by around September we’ll get the first news of efficacy but researchers will need to show that it’s not just raised antibodies – they’ll need to show the vaccine works when vaccinated people are exposed to naturally acquired infections – assuming there’s enough about. By then, given the extent of lockdowns, it’s looking fairly likely that there’ll be pockets of infection out there as we move towards the northern hemisphere winter.
The big one for us is safety. 3 months is just not enough time to determine if there is long-term safety. On top of that, there’s the long history of vaccine makers and regulators concealing the raw data from trials – as well as not clearly declaring the adverse effects caused by the vaccine or the adjuvants in the vaccine. This is the reason why we launched our vaccine transparency manifesto last month. Only with full transparency of data, which allows the data to be analysed and evaluated by independent researchers and scientists, can there be properly informed consent.
The scientific literature on vaccines is currently awash with more concerns about vaccine hesitancy – so you’ll need to expect more and more information coming from governments and mainstream media that’s designed to allay concerns. The problem is they’ll often be doing this without any meaningful data. The vaccine lobby is going to have to learn that the public’s hesitancy is driven by a lack of confidence in it being given accurate information based on transparent data. That needs to change – which is why we need to keep pushing our elected representatives to demand vaccine transparency.
Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson remind us in their article in Independent Science News that it’s going to be tough for governments and health authorities to dispel the idea that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is naturally evolved in its ability to transmit human-to-human, as opposed to it coming out of a lab.
While there’s more and more evidence that bats must have been the main reservoir species – there’s still no clear evidence that properly solves the mystery of the virus’ adaptation to humans. Pangolins are still in on the equation – and we now know too that even the original story of Person 0 in China being infected in the wet animal market of Wuhan is wrong. In fact, 14 of the original 41 first cases – including the first – have been shown conclusively to not have originated from the wet market.
And while governments try to suggest that escapes from biosafety level 4 facilities are rare – that’s patently untrue. It happens quite often.
Or this report on US Today that shows it happens regularly. The public just doesn’t get told about it.
Both the US National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have pulled their trials on hydroxychloroquine. They argue that while they’ve not shown significant harm, there is also no evidence of benefit compared with placebo controls in hospitalised patients. One wonders what the raw data really say.
On top of that there’s more evidence that natural products are the answer. For those of us immersed in the world of natural health – this should be no surprise. The immune system has evolved over millennia relying on resources and information it gets from compounds we ingest or imbibe that are derived from food.
A paper just published in the journal Nutrients reminds us of the epidemic associated with the standard American diet relating to deficiencies in key micronutrients like vitamins A, C, D, E and zinc.
Montreal researchers have announced the start of a clinical trial they will supervise in China on the plant based compound quercetin that you get naturally in foods like capers, herbs like dill and coriander or cilantro, red onions, watercress and kale.
The reality is a simple one – the prejudice shown by many governments, particularly Western ones to the use of natural compounds to treat covid patients has cost lives. That’s well demonstrated if you look at the success of the group of emergency doctors in the US that’ve come together under the Frontline Covid-19 Critical Care Working Group using their MATH+ protocol. Their clinical experience that shows around 98% survival among their patients, dispersed between different critical care centres around the USA, speak for themselves. Yet they’ve been met by a brick wall, such is the need by governments and the pharma industry to rely on patented medicines.
Orthomolecular doctors who rely on the use of the use of micronutrients have been just as frustrated by this and have released a statement called ‘Fix Covid Now” through the Orthomolecular Medicine news Service – the OMNS – that we’ve uploaded to our website.
Two vitamins, vitamin D and C, can reduce our risk of dying by 90% if taken in the right amounts – much more than that advised by governments. The cost is less than $2 a day. Slovenia and Egypt have picked this up. Why can’t Western countries like the UK and the USA that have been hit hard by Covid do the same?
I’ll leave you with this. History tells us that most governments will continue to strongly resist admitting the value, the power and the cost effectiveness of using foods, natural products and other natural means to manage our health – especially when the patented medicine toolbox has got nothing in it that works. But this fails to recognise how our immune systems have evolved – and what resources and information they need to function optimally. The only solution available to most of us is to put ourselves in the driving seat of our own health.
This way – you’ll not only protect yourselves and your loved ones – you’ll also take the pressure off the healthcare system – which frankly – isn’t currently under pressure in most countries anyway – but of course will be if infection rates start rising again because lockdowns have prevented the building up of naturally-acquired herd immunity.
I’ll leave you with that thought.
Thanks for watching – and if you’ve found this coronacast helpful, please don’t forget to like and to share it. See you next time!