Here's the latest from @AnnaSophieGross and I on the Indian variant, digging into how serious a threat it is currently believed to pose…
One thing I think it's important to be clear about is that public health officials and epidemiologists are looking extremely closely at this stuff.
To the extent that policy has not followed one particular path or another, it's because the people looking at the evidence have yet to determine where it points. This is the scientific method, not complacency.
It's not clear if there is any vaccine escape, or if so how much (it's unlikely any escape would apply to severe disease). It's likely but by no means certain that there is increased transmissibility, and if so it's not clear how much.
Epidemiological modellers and their models disagree over exactly how a new variant of increased transmissibility x% would pan out.
We're covering the developments as closely as possible, whichever direction they point in, and bringing them to you as we get them.

You can follow all our coverage of the pandemic here
And here's this morning's thread summarising what we do know so far

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More from @jburnmurdoch

16 May
Good, measured thread from @JamesWard73 as ever.

If B.1.617.2 does prove to be more transmissible, we may need to keep things like indoor masking and tests for entry to large events for a while beyond June 21.
My thoughts:
• No, that wouldn't mean "lockdown never ends". No, it wouldn't be curtailing freedom. It would be a very small compromise for a very large benefit
• As vaccination rates continue to climb further into the year, those few remaining measures could then be eased
• It's still entirely possible any transmissibility advantage will prove to be much smaller than some have estimated. In that event, June 21 plans can proceed as planned
Read 4 tweets
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.
(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 📉
Read 14 tweets
12 May
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.
Read 18 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

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