Effectiveness Over Time & Delta

On Sunday, Metropole brings you a COVID-19 update from Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer, an Austrian virologist who works and teaches at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City.

March 14, 2021

Here is the weekly update again. We are now at about 120 million officially registered SARS-CoV-2 infections and 2,661,000 official COVID-19 deaths worldwide. The number of cases per day is on the rise again globally. 354 million doses of vaccine have been administered so far.

Problems in Europe

Europe looks very problematic at the moment.

Most of the European countries are at the beginning of a new wave (Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia etc.) or already in the middle of it (Italy, Czechia, Hungary, Serbia etc.).

A few other countries are either holding up well at the moment or at least don’t see an upward trend in cases (Portugal, Spain, UK, Switzerland, Slovenia, Belgium, Denmark, etc.). Norway and Finland are also struggling with a wave, though in both countries we are talking about well under 1,000 new cases per day.

Better Situation in North America, Hard Times in Brazil

The situation in North America is somewhat better. In Canada, case numbers are stable, at a high level but well below the peak of early January. In the US, a slight downward trend in cases continues, we are now back to the October/November level.

In Mexico, the downward trend is also holding at the moment. In Brazil, unfortunately, it looks quite different, new records are being set, they have already had a few times over 2,000 deaths per day. The rest of Latin America is mixed. Some countries look quite OK, others have settled at a very high level, Chile has seen a strong increase in cases.

Small Waves in Asia, Increases in the Middle East

Asia looks good, for the most part.

The Philippines are in a new wave and it looks like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also seeing a wave, at least there are increases in cases again.

In the Middle East and in the Maghreb it looks partly quite good, but there are also strong increases in some countries (e.g. Jordan, Iraq) and I don’t think that we have reliable figures e.g. from Yemen or Syria. Israel looks good. Africa is basically looking pretty good, including South Africa. Ethiopia and Kenya are seeing strong increases in cases, otherwise it’s pretty quiet.

What About AstraZeneca?

So, what’s going on with AstraZeneca now?

Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Ireland are not using the vaccine at the moment, until it has been clarified whether there is a link between pulmonary embolism and thrombosis after vaccination.

Of course, what you read in the media can seem frightening. A nurse died several days after the vaccination in Austria and two others got pulmonary embolisms. Then you find the same thing in Denmark and Norway. It all sounds like there is a huge problem – at least according to media reports.

But you have to be very careful. First of all, such incidents always have to be investigated, of course, and you have to be very transparent. What the media then do with this transparency is another story.

And then, of course, you have to know that pulmonary embolisms and thromboses generally occur frequently. The rate of pulmonary embolism in Europe is about 60-70 per year per 100,000 inhabitants, for thrombosis, the rate is about 120 per 100,000 inhabitants per year (basically, the rates are higher in old people, but these problems also occur in younger people).

This is quite high in both cases, and one would expect that if very many people are vaccinated, there would be such cases after vaccination.

Not because they were caused by the vaccination, but because they would have occurred anyway.

What you have to do now is look to see if that occurs more often among the vaccinated than among the non-vaccinated.

In the clinical studies, this was not the case.

I don’t think there is a correlation, but as I said, it has to be investigated. If there is a correlation, we have to find out what the biological mechanism is and what the rate is. After the vaccine has been used millions of times in Europe, the rate – if there is a connection – would be very low. By the way, thrombosis is very common in SARS-CoV-2 infections.

For all these reasons, I still recommend getting vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine if you have the option.

Good News From Novavax & Austria’s Vaccination Campaign

Now for some more good news: Novavax has released new data on their phase II and phase III vaccine trials. The efficacy data looks about as good as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, but it’s a fairly classic recombinant protein vaccine with an adjuvant derived from a tree. I assume they’ll be applying for approval in the EU soon.

Austria set a vaccination record this week and I hope the numbers will continue to rise, despite the supply problems with AstraZeneca and J&J. The US also set a vaccination record yesterday, we vaccinated 4.6 million doses in one day (the average is just about 2.5 million per day). Many places are now vaccinating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy

So, be careful, especially because of the rising case numbers. But also despite the rising numbers: It won’t last forever. The number of vaccinated people is increasing and hopefully the weather will get warmer soon.

And one thing to keep in mind: Pandemics with respiratory viruses do not last forever but usually about 1.5 to 2 years. I am still convinced that the whole thing will largely end in summer.

Best regards,

Florian

PS: If you are interested in how vaccinated people should behave, the CDC has issued new guidelines. You can trust the US CDC again, since there is a new, competent leadership (replaced after Trump’s departure). I will write something about it next week.

Register for free  to read Metropole’s essential coronavirus articles and daily news and lifestyle coverage.

Or subscribe for €4/month and get unlimited access to all Metropole content.

Free

✓ Read all essential coronavirus articles for free
✓ Read all daily news from Vienna & Austria for free
✓ Monthly newsletter with article highlights
✓ Event invitations
All-access

✓ Unlimited access to all metropole.at content
✓ Access all daily coronavirus updates
✓ Access to Metropole e-paper and print copy,
delivered to your home 4 times a year
✓ Newsletters
✓ Event invitations
✓ Special offers & sweepstakes
✓ No targeted ads

Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer
Prof. Krammer is the Principal Investigator of the Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC). Currently Prof. Krammer holds a position as a Professor of Vaccinology at the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He has published more than 100 papers, is member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology, Plos One and Heliyon and is a peer reviewer for more than 30 journals.

Current Status

If you live in Vienna, make sure to register for getting a vaccine against COVID-19 under impfservice.wien.  Here you can book your vaccination appointment.

The City of Vienna offers free vaccinations without an appointment to everyone – regardless of citizenship, residency or insurance status – at multiple locations across the city. 

Vienna has reinstated a number of coronavirus restrictions for the fall. The Austrian government has presented a plan for schools and universities.  

Here’s an overview of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Vienna and how the free PCR “gargle” tests at home work. 

If everything is a bit much for you or you experience domestic violence of any kind, here is our mental health resource article.

Numbers

For current coronavirus numbers, check the website of Ministry of Health and the AGES dashboard.

The Austrian Ministry of Health also publishes daily vaccination statistics and a preview of scheduled deliveries.

Resources

The City of Vienna has compiled comprehensive information on questions and answers regarding coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in English.

The Austrian Ministry of Health has put together FAQs on the coronavirus and also provides material to download on how to protect yourself and others from the disease, also in English.

Furthermore, the ministry will constantly update its German-language website with information on the number of people tested and cases of COVID-19 in Austria.

Hotlines

Health advice by telephone1450

If you show symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties) or fear that you are ill, stay at home and dial health number 1450 for further procedures (diagnostic clarification).

Coronavirus hotline AGES+43 0800 555 621

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) answers questions about the coronavirus (general information on transmission, symptoms, prevention) 24 hours a day at +43 0800 555 621.

VKI hotline for travel law questions+43 0800 201 211

For legal questions concerning trips that have already been booked (e.g. whether a trip can be cancelled free of charge), the experts of the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) provide advice free of charge from Monday to Sunday between 09:00 and 15:00 at +43 0800 201 211.