NEW: is the Indian variant B.1.617.2 escaping the vaccines? @AnnaSophieGross, @AmyKazmin, @jyots43 and I investigate

Story here:…

And now time for a thread where I complain about persistent misreporting of breakthrough infections and vaccine escape:
First, the fact that a small portion of fully vaccinated people can still get infected is not news. That a tiny portion of fully vaccinated people *die* of Covid is not news.

Vaccines greatly reduce your risk of infection, transmission, illness & death. They do not eliminate it.
This is why it’s been so frustrating seeing tweets go viral for screenshotting vaccine trial results with "deaths: 0" in them.

In a trial of hundreds or a couple of thousand people, you may get zero deaths. In the real world (315m people now fully vaccinated) you don’t.
We knew all of that already. Not one vaccine was ever found to be 100% effective at preventing infection, severe disease or death.

The vaccines are still amazing! A @PHE_uk study this week showed 97% protection against death among the elderly…
But we’re now in a situation where every breakthrough infection is suddenly a 🚨🚨 headline 🚨🚨, even when the vaccines prevent those infections becoming severe.

And every death of a vaccinated person is reported as if it somehow shatters everything we knew. It doesn’t.
We’ve seen breathless reports of an outbreak of the Indian variant in a UK care home, infecting 15 elderly residents who had been fully vaccinated.

Those numbers would typically result in 5 or 6 deaths. This time? Zero
And that’s not random luck; it’s how the vaccines work. A particularly nasty variant might evade the barriers against infection, but the second line of defences — against disease and death — is much stronger. We’ve known this all along.
As ever, @nataliexdean has a fantastic diagram illustrating this point. Lab studies will often show reduced levels of vaccine-induced antibodies, but they don’t come close to the magnitude of reduction required to evade protection from severe disease
So time after time, we see the same thing.

Real-world data found the South African variant (thought to have similar levels of immune escape to B.1.617) produced a small drop in protection against infection, but no reduction in protection against disease…
In India B.1.617.2 is dominant, but report after report finds the vast majority of breakthrough infections do not go on to require medical attention

A small number do, but that’s what we’d expect where *millions* have been infected and millions vaccinated
And as tens and hundreds of millions more people get vaccinated, we’ll continue to get reports of breakthrough cases & clusters, and occasional breakthrough deaths.

Just remember, these are the exceptions that prove the rule, and the rule is: vaccines provide enormous protection
All of this is to say:
• I know people are more attracted to negative than positive news
• But it’s critical that we don’t allow ourselves to slide, constantly finding the next risk to worry about, even as we make huge progress, and the risks become fewer and less risky
A year ago, we were in the midst of a pandemic with nothing to protect the vulnerable except staying away from one another, and if an older or vulnerable person got infected, there was a serious risk they could become severely ill or die.
Vaccines have changed the game. Vaccinated people are protected as they mix with others, and if they get infected there is much, much less risk of them becoming severely ill or dying.

To the best of our knowledge, this is as true for B.1.617.2 as it has been for other variants.
Unfortunately some vaccinated people will still lose their lives (so don’t despair that we’re back to square one if you hear reports of this), but the vast majority won’t.
Of course, unvaccinated people do remain vulnerable, whether to B.1.617.2, or B.1.1.7 or any variant, so it remains critically important that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
But please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that stories of breakthrough infections herald a return to March or December 2020. We didn’t have vaccines then, but we do have them now, and they work (including against the new variants).
And a final piece of advice:

A single study of real-world vaccine efficacy is worth 10 lab studies of neutralising antibodies

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with John Burn-Murdoch

John Burn-Murdoch Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @jburnmurdoch

14 May
NEW: this chart is important

It’s early days, but there are signs that the vaccines may be working against the Indian variant B.1.617.2

Resurgences in Bolton & Blackburn are so far confined to younger people. Cases remain low & flat among the mostly-vaccinated older population. Image
(We must also note that in the past, the higher levels of social mixing you typically see among younger people have led cases to rise among them first before climbing in the older groups, so vaccines are not the only thing that can cause this. We need this pattern to hold)
What about in India, where the variant originated and is believed to be dominant?

Age-stratified data on cases & deaths here is very patchy. But what little there is also hints at a vaccine effect: share of cases/deaths taken up by the elderly (the most vaccinated) is falling 📉 Image
Read 13 tweets
7 May
NEW: time for a proper thread on B.1.617.2, the subtype of the Indian variant that has been moved to "variant of concern" today by Public Health England.

First, it’s clear case numbers from this lineage are growing faster than other imported variants have done in the UK.
Here’s the same thing on a logit scale (HT @trvrb), which makes it easier to compare growth rates.

As we can see, B.1.617.2 is on a fairly steady upward trajectory, which other variants failed to achieve.
So we know its trajectory looks different to the other imported variants, but that doesn’t tell us enough. We need a better benchmark: how does its growth compare to B.1.1.7 at the same stage of its emergence?

Remarkably similar, it turns out:
Read 19 tweets
5 May
Quick mini-thread on the Seychelles:

There has been a surge in cases in the last few days, but as we’ve often seen lately, when you dig beneath the surface this is consistent with the vaccines working as advertised.
• More than half of people in the Seychelles are fully vaccinated. The rest are mostly unvaccinated (very few with just one dose)
• But only one-third of active cases there have been vaccinated
• So that means the unvaccinated are roughly twice as likely as the vaccinated to have been infected, which is completely in-line with the 50% efficacy reported for Sinovac (the main vaccine in use in the Seychelles)
Read 6 tweets
4 May
Brief thread on vaccines vs variants (vaccines are winning 💉💪):

[Some] people keep pointing to rising cases in places like Chile and Canada as evidence that the vaccines aren’t working.

That’s completely contradicted by the data coming out of those countries
First, an update from Chile, where cases, ICU admissions and deaths are now all falling among the elderly, who were prioritised for vaccination (while still rising or stable among younger, less-vaccinated groups).
Chile is one of the clearest examples worldwide:
• Rates were on exactly the same path among young & old before vaccines
• They then diverged, with the elderly (💉) faring better
• If deaths among 70+ had stayed on the same path as the 0-59s, 1,500 more people would have died
Read 15 tweets
1 May
Brief interlude from Covid content today

I recently decided work wasn't busy enough (lol) and set out to build a garden table from scratch. Easily one of the most rewarding things I've done.

Here's a step-by-step, starting with ~60m of wood arriving, too big to bring indoors 😅
So the race was on to cut the wood small enough to bring inside before any rain.

Lots of sawing, some with a circular saw until neighbours complained (not unreasonably), and then hand-saw for the rest.

Super useful tool here for calculating cuts:…
With everything cut to size, next step was sanding down all edges to make sure nobody would sit on a splinter.

Unfortunately the electric sander also proved unpopular with neighbours, so I hand-sanded 40-odd planks 😅

Then it was a case of waiting for optimal painting weather.
Read 12 tweets
21 Apr
NEW thread: here’s the latest data on how vaccines are fighting Covid.

My India tweets earlier were grim, but these are more optimistic

Vaccines are working in the UK ✅, working in the US ✅, and contrary to alarmist reports, they’re working in Chile ✅…
First, some more detail on the UK.

Cases, hospital admissions and deaths have fallen steeply among all groups (the 'restrictions effect'), but have fallen furthest and fastest among the older, most-vaccinated groups (vaccine effect).
(For anyone wondering why the UK deaths lines are getting bumpy, that’s a good thing:

The numbers are now so small — 20 Covid deaths per day — that random variation starts making things look noisy)
Read 17 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!