🦠COVID-19 | What if anti-vaxxers won?

I am a scientist by education, banker at JPMorgan for a few years, then mature PhD student in Chemical Biology at Oxford under the supervision of Christofer Schofield (FRS) and Peter Ratcliffe (Nobel laureate in medicine in 2019). Founder and tech investor focusing on media and education. I care about science, learning and Democracy which are good bedfellows.

📊 Daily Data Brief: 

Cumulative case: 4,494,836 (+77,890cumulative cases 

Active cases:  2,501,556 (+30,084) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  301,778  (+4,463)

Serious/Critical Cases: 45,492 (-440)

Recovered:   1,691,502 (+43,343)

Source: Worldometers

1) Seven-day rolling average of new deaths (updated daily as ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available (Link) (Update❗️) (USUKFranceGermanySweden,  Nordic Comparison) (👈NEW❗️)

2) U.S. states reopening risk map (Link) (No Change)

What if anti-vaxxers won. The article of the day in today’s edition of the Corona Daily reports on a recent study looking at the spread of anti-vaccines groups on Facebook.

The Twitter thread of the day looks at what air travel looks like in countries which have contained the pandemic (with an earlier glimpse on what it looks like in Paris and London).

We then look at cooperation, starting with an article arguing that collaboration is the best way forward for the vaccine, and another article looking at the required multi-disciplinary input needed to inform policymakers and combat the pandemic going forward. A professor of health policy looks at what the future holds as we exit lockdown without returning to the old normal. A Guardian longread celebrates all the good human behaviour that has come out of the pandemic and dreams of it being a catalyst for a new future.

Science Magazine goes deep in Rick Bright’s (former head of BARDA) whistleblowing complaint on U.S. federal funding being driven by other consideration than science. He was testifying in front of a Congress panel yesterday.

Finally two videos, looking at mental health and health disparities.

NEW❗️I have open-sourced my curated feeds and made them freely available below.

Free COVID-19 curated feeds

💉Article of the day: “Vaccine opponents are gaining in Facebook ‘battle for hearts and minds,’ new map shows” for Science. (Link)

Imagine that the most optimistic forecast about when we get a vaccine at scale comes true, but that the anti-vaxxers movement becomes so strong in the meantime that they convince enough people not to take the vaccine on spurious grounds and we do not reach herd immunity. The Corona Daily has reported on the ‘infodemic’ (viral disinformation on COVID-19) alongside the pandemic. If you believe that Facebook (and others) had an influence on elections, this is how it could do deadly harm in Public Health.

Wadman early on outlines what not changing the R (transmission rate) of the anti-vaxxers viral message looks like in 10 years time:

“If the current trends continue, the researchers predict, antivaccine views will dominate online discussion in 10 years—a time when a future vaccine against COVID-19 may be critical to public health.”

Some will question the value of these network maps arguing that the links they identify do not necessarily equate to a change of opinion on vaccines. However, you can look at the analysis done here on Brexit and what these maps looked like on the eve of the referendum and in January 2018 to help you form an opinion on the value of these analysis.

The full paper on pro- and anti-vaccine network analysis published in Nature is here. It is an important issue to investigate given the catastrophic consequence of the anti-vaxxers winning.

✈️ Thread of the day: “Is this the new normal of air travel?”. Laurel Chor is a photographer and journalist. She documented in this thread her airport transit from Paris to Hong Kong via London. Very sharp contrast in how going through these cities’ airport was like. There is also a time-lapse video of her self swab-test in the middle of the thread. (Twitter Thread)

💉 Susan Athey, Kendal Hoyt and Michael Kremer write “Everyone Wins from Vaccine Cooperation” for Project Syndicate. This article appeared at the same time as a controversy about French pharmaceutical Sanofi, whose CEO said that the U.S. might get earlier access to their vaccine then France. Maybe he did it to highlight a market-based thinking or to spur the funding and cooperation which this article advocates. In any case he highlighted that Big Pharma and Public Health do not always look eye-to-eye.

The authors outline four arguments why cooperation and coordination is the way to win for a COVID-19 vaccine:

“First, each country can reduce its own risk of having not invested in the right vaccine”

Second, international collaboration allows for more resource pooling, which is needed to scale up investments in manufacturing capacity. 

Third, global coordination reduces the risk of supply-chain disruptions.

Fourth, to maximize the health and economic benefits of a vaccine, health-care workers and vulnerable populations in all countries must have top priority in receiving it.”

So at the same time as countries are looking inwards, the one event which will take the world to a new normal, advocates for cooperation on a global scale. (Link)

🌎 Vinay Prasad and Jeffrey S. Flier write“Covid-19, a ‘supernova in human history,’ will need multiple perspectives to understand and manage” for STAT news. The authors outline how in the future experts across will study the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Over the next few decades, economists, epidemiologists, public health experts, historians, philosophers, sociologists, physicians, psychologists, and others will work to untangle the interwoven threads.”

The authors look at why given the multifaceted nature of this pandemic, policy choices need to be guided by advice stemming from collaboration across many disciplines. It is normal and to be expected that epidemiologists, public health experts and physicians provided the early core information to inform policies whilst building the learning which opens up new policy choices. The collaboration amongst these discipline and the speed at which we have learned about COVID-19 are unprecedented.

But as we look forward, a number of other discipline will increasingly inform and advise our policy choices. They have been present in most countries since the beginning. It is just that their input was not as much in the foreground. (Link)

🤝 Rebecca Solnit writes “The way we get through this is together” in the Guardian. This is a long-read in which Solnit gives a hopeful account of the good deeds witnessed during this pandemic and how they could lead to a different world going forward. While most of the media often focuses on and portrays the brutality and dark side of human behaviours, history tells us that goodness is more prevalent:

“But studies of historical disasters have shown that this is not how most people actually behave. There are nearly always selfish and destructive people, and they are often in power, because we have created systems that reward that kind of personality and those principles. But the great majority of people in ordinary disasters behave in ways that are anything but selfish, and if we’re stuck with veneer as a metaphor, then it peels off to reveal a lot of creative and generous altruism and brilliant grassroots organising. With the global pandemic, these empathic urges and actions are wider and deeper and more consequential than ever.”

A good read to ease into the week-end. (Link)

🇺🇸 Dr. Makary (surgeon and professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) writes “How to reopen America safely” for the New York Times. Dr. Makary was a proponent of a 3-month lockdown early on. In this article he looks at steps which could be taken locally (depending on local risk of outbreak) to start re-opening economies and communities.

“Early on, we didn’t quite know what we were dealing with. But now that we have better information, we should use a more surgical approach to fight the virus to minimize the damage.”


❗️ Jon Cohen and Charles Piller write “Emails offer look into whistleblower charges of cronyism behind potential COVID-19 drug” for Science. The article centres on Rick Bright who was head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) until he was removed on April 20. BARDA’s role is to fund R&D (including drugs and vaccines) to protect the U.S. public from bioterror attacks and pandemics.

Bright was testifying yesterday in front of a House of Representatives panel examining the U.S. government’s response to COVID-19.  During his testimony yesterday Bright said:

“I spoke out then, and I am testifying today, because science - not politics or cronyism - must lead the way to combat this deadly virus”

The article reports on Bright’s whistleblower complaint supplemented by exclusive e-mails obtained by ScienceInsider. According to Rick Bright the funding request (which could have ultimately amounted to “$300 million or more) for EIDD-2801 - an “4-decade-old antiviral” drug, was not following the science… (Link)

🎬 Videos

  1. “Francis Collins: Home Edition Episode 9: Eliseo Pérez-Stable on COVID-19 Health Disparities” (33 min 57 sec)

    “NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Director Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable discuss which groups of people are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, the factors that are contributing to these disparities, and what NIH is doing in this area of research.”

  2. COVID-19: Impacts on mental health” (Prof Dinesh Bhugra, King's College London) (4 min 50 sec)

    “The mental health impacts of surviving COVID-19 infection, living and grieving through a pandemic and the resultant expected economic downturn with Prof Dinesh Bhugra, former President of the World Psychiatric Association and Emeritus Professor of Mental Health and Cultural Diversity at King’s College London”

📊 A picture is worth a thousand words:  Global (🌎) and local (with relevant flag) visualisation and forecasting tool

  1. 🇺🇸 NEW❗️ “Is your community ready to reopen?”: A map of the US (50 states and 2,100+ counties) looking at reopening risks with metrics around 3 criteria: 1. Is COVID in retreat? 2. Are we testing enough? 3. Are our hospitals ready? (Link)

  2. 🌎 The Financial Times (visualisation) has a data tracking page which is in front of the paywall, looking at cases and fatality curves for selective countries and metropolitan areas/region. It is not as extensive as the Madlag link below, where you can see static as well as animated images for a greater number of individual countries. (Link)

  3. 🇺🇸  The Johns Hopkins University resource center was the first one I used back in January they have now made available in their latest iteration a county by county dashboard in the US including information about health capacity, insurance coverage, ethnicity and age breakdown of the populatio (Link)

  4. 💊 The "Map of Hope" provides a geographical overview of planned, ongoing and completed clinical trials. It is put together with data from WHO Clinical Trials Search Portal by the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation technology. (Link)

  5. 🌍 MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis started to publish weekly death estimates for countries (Link)

  6. 🇺🇸 The US Center for Disease Control and Surveillance (CDC) publishes “A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity” (Link)

  7. Google has published a new website to “See how your community is moving around differently due to COVID-19”. They have a lot of data to do so… (Link)

  8. 🌎 Country by Country Curves: This is a GitHub made by my friend Francois Lagunas. He has written a script to scrape deaths and number of cases in order to visualise the rate of growth on a logarithmic scale.  Great resource (Link)

  9. 🌎A great resource put together by Ben Kuhn and Yuri Vishnevsky.  At a time when we need solidarity and cooperation, I prefer their subtitle “We need stronger measures, much faster” than their title. It’s a simulator on what case growth looks like depending on your community’s measures. Fantastic resource to stir communities and governments to action (Link)