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SARS-CoV-2 RNA reverse-transcribed and integrated into the human genome

Authors: Zhang L et al

Publication date: 13 December 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.12.422516

Prolonged SARS-CoV-2 RNA shedding and recurrence of PCR-positive tests have been widely reported in patients after recovery, yet these patients most commonly are non-infectious. Here we investigated the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 RNAs can be reverse-transcribed and integrated into the human genome and that transcription of the integrated sequences might account for PCR-positive tests. In support of this hypothesis, we found chimeric transcripts consisting of viral fused to cellular sequences in published data sets of SARS-CoV-2 infected cultured cells and primary cells of patients, consistent with the transcription of viral sequences integrated into the genome. To experimentally corroborate the possibility of viral retro-integration, we describe evidence that SARS-CoV-2 RNAs can be reverse transcribed in human cells by reverse transcriptase (RT) from LINE-1 elements or by HIV-1 RT, and that these DNA sequences can be integrated into the cell genome and subsequently be transcribed. Human endogenous LINE-1 expression was induced upon SARS-CoV-2 infection or by cytokine exposure in cultured cells, suggesting a molecular mechanism for SARS-CoV-2 retro-integration in patients. This novel feature of SARS-CoV-2 infection may explain why patients can continue to produce viral RNA after recovery and suggests a new aspect of RNA virus replication.

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REACT-1 round 7 updated report: regional heterogeneity in changes in prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection during the second national COVID-19 lockdown in England

Authors: Riley S et al

Publication date: 15 December 2020

Source: Imperial College London

Background England exited a four-week second national lockdown on 2nd December 2020 initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior results showed that prevalence dropped during the first half of lockdown, with greater reductions in higher-prevalence northern regions. Methods REACT-1 is a series of community surveys of SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR swab-positivity in England, designed to monitor the spread of the epidemic and thus increase situational awareness. Round 7 of REACT-1 commenced swab-collection on 13th November 2020. A prior interim report included data from 13th to 24th November 2020 for 105,122 participants. Here, we report data for the entire round with swab results obtained up to 3rd December 2020. Results Between 13th November and 3rd December (round 7) there were 1,299 positive swabs out of 168,181 giving a weighted prevalence of 0.94% (95% CI 0.87%, 1.01%) or 94 per 10,000 people infected in the community in England. This compares with a prevalence of 1.30% (1.21%, 1.39%) from 16th October to 2nd November 2020 (round 6), a decline of 28%. Prevalence during the latter half of round 7 was 0.91% (95% CI, 0.81%, 1.03%) compared with 0.96% (0.87%, 1.05%) in the first half. The national R number in round 7 was estimated at 0.96 (0.88, 1.03) with a decline in prevalence observed during the first half of this period no longer apparent during the second half at the end of lockdown. During round 7 there was a marked fall in prevalence in West Midlands, a levelling off in some regions and a rise in London. R numbers at regional level ranged from 0.60 (0.41, 0.80) in West Midlands up to 1.27 (1.04, 1.54) in London, where prevalence was highest in the east and south-east of the city. Nationally, between 13th November and 3rd December, the highest prevalence was in school-aged children especially at ages 13-17 years at 2.04% (1.69%, 2.46%), or approximately 1 in 50. Conclusion Between the previous round and round 7 (during lockdown), there was a fall in prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 swab-positivity nationally, but it did not fall uniformly over time or by geography. Continued vigilance is required to reduce rates of infection until effective immunity at the population level can be achieved through the vaccination programme.

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Household Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Authors: Madewell ZJ et al

Publication date: 14 December 2020

Journal: JAMA

DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.31756

Main Outcomes and Measures: Secondary attack rate for SARS-CoV-2, disaggregated by covariates (ie, household or family contact, index case symptom status, adult or child contacts, contact sex, relationship to index case, adult or child index cases, index case sex, number of contacts in household) and for other coronaviruses.

Results: A total of 54 relevant studies with 77 758 participants reporting household secondary transmission were identified. Estimated household secondary attack rate was 16.6% (95% CI, 14.0%-19.3%), higher than secondary attack rates for SARS-CoV (7.5%; 95% CI, 4.8%-10.7%) and MERS-CoV (4.7%; 95% CI, 0.9%-10.7%). Household secondary attack rates were increased from symptomatic index cases (18.0%; 95% CI, 14.2%-22.1%) than from asymptomatic index cases (0.7%; 95% CI, 0%-4.9%), to adult contacts (28.3%; 95% CI, 20.2%-37.1%) than to child contacts (16.8%; 95% CI, 12.3%-21.7%), to spouses (37.8%; 95% CI, 25.8%-50.5%) than to other family contacts (17.8%; 95% CI, 11.7%-24.8%), and in households with 1 contact (41.5%; 95% CI, 31.7%-51.7%) than in households with 3 or more contacts (22.8%; 95% CI, 13.6%-33.5%).

Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this study suggest that given that individuals with suspected or confirmed infections are being referred to isolate at home, households will continue to be a significant venue for transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

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Occupation and risk of severe COVID-19: prospective cohort study of 120 075 UK Biobank participants

Authors: Mutambudzi M et al

Publication date: 09 December 2020

Journal: Occupational & Environmental Medicine

DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106731

Objectives: To investigate severe COVID-19 risk by occupational group.

Methods: Baseline UK Biobank data (2006–10) for England were linked to SARS-CoV-2 test results from Public Health England (16 March to 26 July 2020). Included participants were employed or self-employed at baseline, alive and aged <65 years in 2020. Poisson regression models were adjusted sequentially for baseline demographic, socioeconomic, work-related, health, and lifestyle-related risk factors to assess risk ratios (RRs) for testing positive in hospital or death due to COVID-19 by three occupational classification schemes (including Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) 2000).

Results: Of 120 075 participants, 271 had severe COVID-19. Relative to non-essential workers, healthcare workers (RR 7.43, 95% CI 5.52 to 10.00), social and education workers (RR 1.84, 95% CI 1.21 to 2.82) and other essential workers (RR 1.60, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.45) had a higher risk of severe COVID-19. Using more detailed groupings, medical support staff (RR 8.70, 95% CI 4.87 to 15.55), social care (RR 2.46, 95% CI 1.47 to 4.14) and transport workers (RR 2.20, 95% CI 1.21 to 4.00) had the highest risk within the broader groups. Compared with white non-essential workers, non-white non-essential workers had a higher risk (RR 3.27, 95% CI 1.90 to 5.62) and non-white essential workers had the highest risk (RR 8.34, 95% CI 5.17 to 13.47). Using SOC 2000 major groups, associate professional and technical occupations, personal service occupations and plant and machine operatives had a higher risk, compared with managers and senior officials.

Conclusions: Essential workers have a higher risk of severe COVID-19. These findings underscore the need for national and organisational policies and practices that protect and support workers with an elevated risk of severe COVID-19.

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Covid-19 patients

Diverse Functional Autoantibodies in Patients with COVID-19

Authors: Want EY et al

Publication date: 12 December 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.10.20247205

COVID-19 manifests with a wide spectrum of clinical phenotypes that are characterized by exaggerated and misdirected host immune responses. While pathological innate immune activation is well documented in severe disease, the impact of autoantibodies on disease progression is less defined. Here, we used a high-throughput autoantibody discovery technique called Rapid Extracellular Antigen Profiling (REAP) to screen a cohort of 194 SARS-CoV-2 infected COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers for autoantibodies against 2,770 extracellular and secreted proteins (the "exoproteome"). We found that COVID-19 patients exhibit dramatic increases in autoantibody reactivities compared to uninfected controls, with a high prevalence of autoantibodies against immunomodulatory proteins including cytokines, chemokines, complement components, and cell surface proteins. We established that these autoantibodies perturb immune function and impair virological control by inhibiting immunoreceptor signaling and by altering peripheral immune cell composition, and found that murine surrogates of these autoantibodies exacerbate disease severity in a mouse model of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Analysis of autoantibodies against tissue-associated antigens revealed associations with specific clinical characteristics and disease severity. In summary, these findings implicate a pathological role for exoproteome-directed autoantibodies in COVID-19 with diverse impacts on immune functionality and associations with clinical outcomes.

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UK report on 18,063 patients critically ill with COVID-19

Institution: Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC)

Publication date: 11 December 2020



Impact of Population Growth and Aging on Estimates of Excess U.S. Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic, March to August 2020

Authors: Shiels MS et al

Publication date: 15 December 2020

Journal: Annals of Internal Medicine

DOI: 10.7326/M20-7385

Background: Excess death estimates quantify the full impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Widely reported U.S. excess death estimates have not accounted for recent population changes, especially increases in the population older than 65 years.

Results: From March through August 2020, 1 671 400 deaths were registered in the United States, including 173 300 COVID-19 deaths. An average of 1 370 000 deaths were reported over the same months during 2015 to 2019, for a crude excess of 301 400 deaths (128 100 non–COVID-19 deaths). However, the 2020 U.S. population includes 5.04 million more persons aged 65 years and older than the average population in 2015 to 2019 (a 10% increase). After population changes were taken into account, an estimated 217 900 excess deaths occurred from March through August 2020 (173 300 COVID-19 and 44 600 non–COVID-19 deaths). Most excess non–COVID-19 deaths occurred in April, July, and August, and 34 900 (78%) were in persons aged 25 to 64 years. Diabetes, Alzheimer disease, and heart disease caused the most non–COVID-19 excess deaths.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an estimated 218 000 excess deaths in the United States between March and August 2020, and 80% of those deaths had COVID-19 as the underlying cause. Accounting for population changes substantially reduced the excess non–COVID-19 death estimates, providing important information for guiding future clinical and public health interventions.

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Serum 25(OH)D Level on Hospital Admission Associated With COVID-19 Stage and Mortality

Authors: De Smet D et al

Publication date: 25 November 2020

Journal: American Journal of Clinical Pathology

DOI: 10.1093/ajcp/aqaa252

Objectives: Vitamin D deficiency was previously correlated with incidence and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We investigated the association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) level on admission and radiologic stage and outcome of COVID-19 pneumonia.

Methods: A retrospective observational trial was done on 186 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)–infected individuals hospitalized from March 1, 2020, to April 7, 2020, with combined chest computed tomography (CT) and 25(OH)D measurement on admission. Multivariate regression analysis was performed to study if vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D <20 ng/mL) correlates with survival independently of confounding comorbidities.

Results: Of the patients with COVID-19, 59% were vitamin D deficient on admission: 47% of females and 67% of males. In particular, male patients with COVID-19 showed progressively lower 25(OH)D with advancing radiologic stage, with deficiency rates increasing from 55% in stage 1 to 74% in stage 3. Vitamin D deficiency on admission was not confounded by age, ethnicity, chronic lung disease, coronary artery disease/hypertension, or diabetes and was associated with mortality (odds ratio [OR], 3.87; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.30-11.55), independent of age (OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.03-1.14), chronic lung disease (OR, 3.61; 95% CI, 1.18-11.09), and extent of lung damage expressed by chest CT severity score (OR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.01-1.25).

Conclusions: Low 25(OH)D levels on admission are associated with COVID-19 disease stage and mortality.

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Three-quarters attack rate of SARS-CoV-2 in the Brazilian Amazon during a largely unmitigated epidemic

Authors: Buss LF et al

Publication date: 08 December 2020

Journal: Science

DOI: 10.1126/science.abe9728

SARS-CoV-2 spread rapidly in the Brazilian Amazon and the attack rate there is an estimate of the final size of a largely unmitigated epidemic. We use a convenience sample of blood donors to show that by June, one month after the epidemic peak in Manaus, capital of Amazonas state, 44% of the population had detectable IgG antibodies. Correcting for cases without a detectable antibody response and antibody waning, we estimate a 66% attack rate in June, rising to 76% in October. This is higher than in São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil, where the estimated attack rate in October is 29%. These results confirm that, when poorly controlled, COVID-19 can infect a high fraction of the population causing high mortality.

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Safety and immunogenicity trial of an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine-BBV152: a phase 1, double-blind, randomised control trial

Authors: Ella R et al

Publication date: 15 December 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.11.20210419

Background: BBV152 is a whole-virion inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine formulated with a TLR 7/8 agonist molecule adsorbed to alum (Algel-IMDG). Methods: We conducted a double-blind randomized controlled phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of BBV152. A total of 375 participants were randomized equally to receive three vaccine formulations (n=100 each) prepared with 3 μg with Algel-IMDG, 6 μg with Algel-IMDG, and 6 μg with Algel, and an Algel only control arm (n=75). Vaccines were administered on a two-dose intramuscular accelerated schedule on day 0 (baseline) and day 14. The primary outcomes were reactogenicity and safety. The secondary outcomes were immunogenicity based on the anti-IgG S1 response (detected with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA] and wild-type virus neutralization [microneutralization and plaque reduction neutralization assays]). Cell-mediated responses were also evaluated. Results: Reactogenicity was absent in the majority of participants, with mild events. The majority of adverse events were mild and were resolved. One serious adverse event was reported, which was found to be unrelated to vaccination. All three vaccine formulations resulted in robust immune responses comparable to a panel of convalescent serum. No significant differences were observed between the 3-μg and 6-μg Algel-IMDG groups. Neutralizing responses to homologous and heterologous SARS-CoV-2 strains were detected in all vaccinated individuals. Cell-mediated responses were biased to a Th-1 phenotype. Conclusions: BBV152 induced binding and neutralising antibody responses and with the inclusion of the Algel-IMDG adjuvant, this is the first inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that has been reported to induce a Th1-biased response. Vaccine-induced neutralizing antibody titers were reported with two divergent SARS-CoV-2 strains. BBV152 is stored between 2°C and 8°C, which is compatible with all national immunization program cold chain requirements. Both Algel-IMDG formulations were selected for the phase 2 immunogenicity trials. Further efficacy trials are underway.

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Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine

Authors: Polack FP et al

Publication date: 10 December 2020

Journal: The New England Journal of Medicine

DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2034577

Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and the resulting coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) have afflicted tens of millions of people in a worldwide pandemic. Safe and effective vaccines are needed urgently.

Methods: In an ongoing multinational, placebo-controlled, observer-blinded, pivotal efficacy trial, we randomly assigned persons 16 years of age or older in a 1:1 ratio to receive two doses, 21 days apart, of either placebo or the BNT162b2 vaccine candidate (30 μg per dose). BNT162b2 is a lipid nanoparticle–formulated, nucleoside-modified RNA vaccine that encodes a prefusion stabilized, membrane-anchored SARS-CoV-2 full-length spike protein. The primary end points were efficacy of the vaccine against laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 and safety.

Results: A total of 43,548 participants underwent randomization, of whom 43,448 received injections: 21,720 with BNT162b2 and 21,728 with placebo. There were 8 cases of Covid-19 with onset at least 7 days after the second dose among participants assigned to receive BNT162b2 and 162 cases among those assigned to placebo; BNT162b2 was 95% effective in preventing Covid-19 (95% credible interval, 90.3 to 97.6). Similar vaccine efficacy (generally 90 to 100%) was observed across subgroups defined by age, sex, race, ethnicity, baseline body-mass index, and the presence of coexisting conditions. Among 10 cases of severe Covid-19 with onset after the first dose, 9 occurred in placebo recipients and 1 in a BNT162b2 recipient. The safety profile of BNT162b2 was characterized by short-term, mild-to-moderate pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache. The incidence of serious adverse events was low and was similar in the vaccine and placebo groups.

Conclusions: A two-dose regimen of BNT162b2 conferred 95% protection against Covid-19 in persons 16 years of age or older. Safety over a median of 2 months was similar to that of other viral vaccines.

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BNT162b2 induces SARS-CoV-2-neutralising antibodies and T cells in humans

Authors: Sahin U et al

Publication date: 11 December 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.09.20245175

BNT162b2, a lipid nanoparticle (LNP) formulated nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein (S) stabilized in the prefusion conformation, has demonstrated 95% efficacy to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Recently, we reported preliminary BNT162b2 safety and antibody response data from an ongoing placebo-controlled, observer-blinded phase 1/2 vaccine trial1. We present here antibody and T cell responses from a second, non-randomized open-label phase 1/2 trial in healthy adults, 19-55 years of age, after BNT162b2 prime/boost vaccination at 1 to 30 µg dose levels. BNT162b2 elicited strong antibody responses, with S-binding IgG concentrations above those in a COVID-19 human convalescent sample (HCS) panel. Day 29 (7 days post-boost) SARS-CoV-2 serum 50% neutralising geometric mean titers were 0.3-fold (1 µg) to 3.3-fold (30 µg) those of the HCS panel. The BNT162b2-elicited sera neutralised pseudoviruses with diverse SARS-CoV-2 S variants. Concurrently, in most participants, S-specific CD8+ and T helper type 1 (TH1) CD4+ T cells had expanded, with a high fraction producing interferon-γ (IFNγ). Using peptide MHC multimers, the epitopes recognised by several BNT162b2-induced CD8+ T cells when presented on frequent MHC alleles were identified. CD8+ T cells were shown to be of the early-differentiated effector-memory phenotype, with single specificities reaching 0.01-3% of circulating CD8+ T cells. In summary, vaccination with BNT162b2 at well tolerated doses elicits a combined adaptive humoral and cellular immune response, which together may contribute to protection against COVID-19.

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Predictors of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance across time and countries

Authors: Kerr JR et al

Publication date: 11 December 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.09.20246439

Understanding the drivers of vaccine acceptance is crucial to the success of COVID-19 mass vaccination campaigns. Across 25 national samples from 12 different countries we examined the psychological correlates of willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (total N = 25,334), with a focus on risk perception and trust in a number of relevant actors, both in general and specifically regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Male sex, trust in medical and scientific experts and worry about the virus emerge as the most consistent predictors of reported vaccine acceptance across countries. In a subset of samples we show that these effects are robust after controlling for attitudes towards vaccination in general. Our results indicate that the burden of trust largely rests on the shoulders of the scientific and medical community, with implications for how future COVID-19 vaccination information should be communicated to maximize uptake.

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A Study to Evaluate the Safety, Reactogenicity, and Effectiveness of mRNA-1273 Vaccine in Adolescents 12 to <18 Years Old to Prevent COVID-19 (TeenCove)

Publication date: 04 December 2020

Source: ClinicalTrials.gov

The mRNA-1273 vaccine is being developed to prevent COVID-19, the disease resulting from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infection. The study is designed to primarily evaluate the safety and reactogenicity of a single dose level of mRNA-1273 vaccine administered in 2 doses 28 days apart to an adolescent population.

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Epidemic curves

Awareness-driven behavior changes can shift the shape of epidemics away from peaks and toward plateaus, shoulders, and oscillations

Authors: Weitz JS et al

Publication date: 01 December 2020

Journal: PNAS

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2009911117

In contrast to predictions of conventional epidemic models, COVID-19 outbreak time series have highly asymmetric shapes, with cases and fatalities declining much more slowly than they rose. Here, we investigate how awareness-driven behavior modulates epidemic shape. We find that short-term awareness of fatalities leads to emergent plateaus, persistent shoulder-like dynamics, and lag-driven oscillations in an SEIR-like model. However, a joint analysis of fatalities and mobility data suggests that populations relaxed mobility restrictions prior to fatality peaks, in contrast to model predictions. We show that incorporating fatigue and long-term behavior change can explain this phenomenon, shed light on when post-peak dynamics are likely to lead to a resurgence of cases or to sustained declines, and inform public health campaigns to control COVID-19.

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Government and Health Authorities

Black and Asian ethnic groups

Why have Black and South Asian people been hit hardest by COVID-19?

Publication date: 14 December 2020

Source: Office for National Statistics

The coronavirus pandemic has hit some parts of society harder than others. When looking at social, economic and environmental factors there are differences, particularly for Black and South Asian ethnic groups.

We have looked in detail at coronavirus deaths. We know COVID-19 mortality is higher for men than women, it is higher for older people than younger people, and people with certain health conditions such as cancer or heart disease are more at risk.

Analysis took into account other factors that could affect how exposed people are to the coronavirus, such as where people live and some social factors, like how many people live in a household.

We can see death rates for most ethnic minorities are higher compared to White ethnic groups. After accounting for where people live and social and economic factors (including people’s jobs, education and housing conditions), the gap lessens but is still significant.

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UK Vaccination Policy

Publication date: 09 December 2020

Source: House of Commons Library

This Commons Library briefing paper provides an overview of UK vaccination policy. It includes an introduction to the science of vaccination and covers UK vaccination programmes, as well as considering the response of the Government to the UK's loss of the World Health Organization's (WHO) measles elimination status.

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Media – Science related


Arab nations first to approve Chinese COVID vaccine — despite lack of public data

Author: David Cyranoski

Publication date: 14 December 2020

Source: Nature

Two Arab nations have become the first countries to approve a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, a significant boost for China’s plans to roll out its vaccines worldwide. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) approved a vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned Sinopharm on 9 December, and Bahrain followed days later. But researchers say a lack of public data on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine could hinder the company’s plans to distribute the vaccine in a range of other countries.

The Sinopharm vaccine is probably safe and effective and could be a great help in fighting the pandemic, says Jin Dong-Yan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong. But he notes a lack of available clinical-trial data, and adds that confidence in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy will be key to its successful international distribution.

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Covid-19: Global attitudes towards a COVID-19 vaccine

Publication date: November 2020

Source: Imperial College

This report looks at attitudes towards a COVID-19 vaccine in 15 countries between November 11th and November 24th, 2020. Countries included are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The total sample is of ~13,500 people.

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Media – Reporting

Government controls

The ethics of using covert strategies - a letter to the British Psychological Society

Author: Gary Sidley

Publication date: 13 December 2020

Source: Coronababble

In a previous blogpost, I described how psychologists working in the Government's 'Behavioural Insight Team' had recommended the use of covert psychological strategies - or 'nudges' - to promote people's compliance with the draconian coronavirus restrictions. In particular, I proposed that the deliberate use of fear inflation, peer pressure, and feelings of self-virtue as ways of ensuring the general public's acquiescence with lockdowns and mask mandates was ethically dubious. Also, I highlighted how the promotion of psychological interventions that act subconsciously on the recipients seemed to be at odds with the Code of Ethics and Conduct (2018) of the British Psychological Society (BPS) (the lead organisation for practising psychologists in the United Kingdom).

In light of these ethical concerns, it was decided to write to the BPS to clarify their stance on these issues. A draft of the letter is duplicated below. 

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Covid-19 patients

'Autoantibodies' may be driving severe Covid cases, study shows

Author: Ian Sample

Publication date: 13 December 2020

Source: The Guardian

Dramatic levels of “friendly fire” from the immune system may drive severe Covid-19 disease and leave patients with “long Covid” – when medical problems persist for a significant time after the virus has been beaten – scientists have said.

Researchers at Yale University found that Covid-19 patients had large numbers of misguided antibodies in their blood that targeted the organs, tissues and the immune system itself, rather than fighting off the invading virus.

The scientists compared immune responses in patients and uninfected people and discovered scores of aberrant antibodies in the former.These blocked antiviral defences, wiped out helpful immune cells, and attacked the body on multiple fronts, from the brain, blood vessels and liver to connective tissue and the gastrointestinal tract.

Further tests revealed that the more “autoantibodies” patients had in their blood, the worse their disease. The Covid-19 patients had more antibodies that had turned on them than people with lupus, an autoimmune disease caused by similar wayward antibodies.

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The Covid-19 Data is a ‘Travesty’

Author: Insight History

Publication date: 15 December 2020

Source: Off Guardian

Although people have tragically died from Covid-19, the way the Covid-19 death data is recorded in many countries around the world has produced, and continues to produce, an inflated death toll. This inflated death toll has then been, and continues to be, used by fascist-style bureaucracies, in conjunction with scientific priesthoods, to terrify the general public into obedience.


One of the most basic laws of statistics is that correlation does not equal causation. Although this may sound complicated, it’s not. It simply means that just because there is a correlation between two variables, or to put this another way, a close relationship between two things in the world, this does not mean that one thing is causing the other thing to happen.

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2020 Was Especially Deadly. Covid Wasn’t the Only Culprit

Author: Denise Lu

Publication date: 13 December 2020

Source: New York Times

The year 2020 has been abnormal for mortalities. At least 356,000 more people in the United States have died than usual since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the country in the spring. But not all of these deaths have been directly linked to Covid-19.

More than a quarter of deaths above normal have been from other causes, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure and pneumonia, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The Netherlands to go into 5-week lockdown

Author: Eline Schaart

Publication date: 14 December 2020

Source: Politico

The Netherlands will go into total lockdown as of Tuesday, with all but essential shops closing, as well as schools, museums, gyms and hairdressers.

In a televised speech Monday evening, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the country will shut down until at least January 18.

"We realize how intense this [announcement] is, certainly just before Christmas," Rutte said, adding that "2020 is a year of mourning, loss and sorrow for many people."

People are urged to stay home as much as possible and to avoid visitors, with no more than two allowed per day apart from at Christmas, when people can meet a maximum of three guests.

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“We Hadn’t Really Thought Through the Economic Impacts” ~ Melinda Gates

Author: Jeffrey A Tucker

Publication date: 09 December 2020

Source: American Institute for Economic Research

In a wide-ranging interview in the New York Times, Melinda Gates made the following remarkable statement: “What did surprise us is we hadn’t really thought through the economic impacts.” A cynic might observe that one is disinclined to think much about matters than do not affect one personally.

It’s a maddening statement, to be sure, as if “economics” is somehow a peripheral concern to the rest of human life and public health. The larger context of the interview reveals the statement to be even more confused. She is somehow under the impression that it is the pandemic and not the lockdowns that are the cause of the economic devastation that includes perhaps 30% of restaurants going under, among many other terrible effects.

She doesn’t say that outright but, like many articles in the mainstream press over this year, she very carefully crafts her words to avoid the crucial subject of lockdowns as the primary cause of economic disaster. It’s possible that she actually believes this virus is what tanked the world economy on its own but that is a completely unsustainable proposition.

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FDA Recommends Watching Vaccine Recipients for Bell’s Palsy

Author: Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder

Publication date: 15 December 2020

THE FOOD AND DRUG Administration recommends monitoring coronavirus vaccine recipients for Bell's palsy as the shots roll out, but the agency at this time does not have enough evidence to link the condition to the inoculations.

While there were rare instances in which trial participants for both the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines experienced the condition, which can cause a weakness or paralysis in the face that typically resolves itself within six months, the agency has said that the rate it occurred in the trials is consistent with the background rate in the general population.

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Social Impacts

Shelter from the storm

The global need for universal social protection in times of COVID-19

Publication date: December 2020

Source: Oxfam

As 2020 draws to a close, the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating. Without urgent action, global poverty and inequality will deepen dramatically. Hundreds of millions of people have already lost their jobs, gone further into debt or skipped meals for months. Research by Oxfam and Development Pathways shows that over 2 billion people have had no support from their governments in their time of need. Our analysis shows that none of the social protection support to those who are unemployed, elderly people, children and families provided in low and middle-income countries has been adequate to meet basic needs. 41% of that government support was only a one-off payment and almost all government support has now stopped.

Decades of social policy focused on tiny levels of means-tested support have left most countries completely unprepared for the COVID-19 economic crisis. Yet, countries such as South Africa and Bolivia have shown that a universal approach to social protection is affordable, and that it has a profound impact on reducing inequality and protecting those who need it most.

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