Booster shots

While I reconsider what I should write about, I’m also thinking about when to get a Covid booster shot. I had planned to do so in February, six months after my second AZ shot. But now, I’m thinking I should wait until the vaccines have been updated for Omicron, maybe in March.

The question I need to assess is how rapidly, if at all, case numbers will grow in Queensland once borders are reopened. So far, it seems clear that Queensland has R < 1, though not so clear why. A string of local outbreaks have been detected, then fizzled out. With vax rates rising, and a combination of vax passports and employment mandates coming into force, that should continue even with regular arrivals of new cases, suggesting that waiting is not a bad idea.

Omicron could change all that, but if it does, it seems even more sensible to get an updated vax. It’s going to be a nervous few months.

76 thoughts on “Booster shots

  1. Or try to get a booster sooner. Then an updated variant vaccine later.

    The current vaccines likely do make some antibodies against epitopes in the Omicron spike – just far fewer (40x?) than the D614G variant.

  2. The other issues to consider might be Original Antigenic Sin. So, the original AZ vaccine you got has created a particular immune response with a variety of T and B cell clones predominating. The Omicron booster might actually just boost the exisiting immune cells in previously vaccinated individuals. This might not be terrible as the exisiting response may be effective, but they may also decide to not release the variant vaccine. (I.e. easier to keep the exisiting manufacturing lines open rather than going through the effort to retool for marginal value). Or, they may release it for vaccine naive individuals, but for those with vaccines, it might not make any difference.

  3. While Omicron vaccines might be ready by March, the chance of them being available in Australia is surely almost zero*. So getting a booster six months after AZ is a much safer approach.

    *and in any case you’ll know better in February.

  4. I would be guided by when ATAGI makes boosters available for one’s age group and with respect to the time of one’s 2nd vaccination. As soon as the booster is available, get it, I would say. At a wild guess, an Omicron booster won’t be available in Australia for another 90 to 180 days.

    The way immunity wanes, it could be okay to have an Omicron booster maybe 90 days after a previous booster. Again, we will have to be guided by ATAGI. They don’t know everything but I hazard a guess they know more than we laypersons in such matters. I don’t quite have the same dilemma, yet. My 2nd Pfizer shot was only a month ago.

    OmIcron likely will change everything. It’s showing very concerning signs.

    “‘Milder omicron’ news is a dangerous distraction”

    https://www.dw.com/en/milder-omicron-news-is-a-dangerous-distraction/av-60049074

    As Deepti Gurdasani says, there is far too much hopium/copium being generated and consumed.

  5. I wanted the booster last month (but that was only 5 months since last shot so not allowed) because I wanted to have another booster before the worst of winter next year. I am booked for my booster on 24 December 2021 so my next booster will be around 24 June 2022. Of course I’ll take a vaccine updated for Omicron if it becomes available. Hopefully by June 2022.

  6. “One thing I’m sure of is that I won’t pay any attention to ATAGI”. – J.Q.

    Why, what grand sins have they committed against science and humanity? They ain’t perfect but have they really been that bad?

  7. ATAGI screwed up advice on AZ*, leading to current outbreak (unvaxed driver waiting for Pfizer). Now they are holding up approval for kids 5-11 while they wait for more data. Not only a bad decision but dumb reasoning ignoring that they are dealing with an infectious disease. Need I go on?

    * Amplified by Queensland CHO and now Governor Young unfortunately

  8. ATAGI made some mistakes. The government(s) made more. Fed. government also pressured ATAGI, who did not seem strong enough to withstand that pressure. I suppose I am being a little bit legalistic re ATAGI’s advice. I mean in that we won’t get boosters until they and/or Fed, Govt say so. Current Fed Govt. advice is:

    “You are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose if:
    (a) you are 18 years and older, and
    (b) have had your second dose of your primary dose course of COVID-19 vaccination at least 6 months ago.”

    Not saying I support that advice, just saying it’s a legal fact at the moment.

    We should not forget that (part of) the mass of the people also bear some responsibility for this mess. There are plenty of things ordinary people can do but they aren’t doing these things in the main, except for vaccinations. I was in a pathology service the other day for routine blood tests unrelated to COVID-19. Eight “customers” counting me in a small waiting room with poor ventilation and I was the only one with a mask. I did debate going outside again. One person had sniffles and was using tissues another sneezed into his elbow, sort of. If Delta or Omicron was in there then I probably have it despite being double-vaxxed.People think double-vaxxed equals immune. There’s no such thing with this virus.

  9. Agree with the advice not to wait. If an Omicron shot is necessary, it will because it’s so different and the standard booster delays may not apply. It may not be needed at all, if either existing vaccines are protective, or hints of lower severity are confirmed. The ethical vase for avoiding any booster is vaccine inequality, but that is apolitical not a medical issue. I’ve just had mine – Spain has made all foreign residents eligible for free shots regardless of insurance status. Buen hecho.

  10. Deepti Gurdasani explaining why we should worry about Omicron

    Also see Eric Feigl-Ding’s Twitter. Some excerpts:

    “Bad early signal—The 7-day average coronavirus level found in Boston-area wastewater has now reached their highest levels since the start of the pandemic. Wastewater always precedes a wave.”

    “The Omicron variant in the UK. And these are just the confirmed, not even the probables.” (Early numbers still small but showing rapid exponential increase.)”

    “The Great Resignation—the dramatic drop-off of people in the workplace—is a huge worry. Doctors & nurses are now resigning (in the US). And it could get worse with the winter COVID19 surge —especially if Omicron gets out of control.”

    “I have seen the vaccine efficacy % drops for #Omicron. It’s not published yet, but the CDC of South Africa has presented it to White House twice now. It’s not looking good.”

    “Omicron Variant is growing so fast in South Africa — now doubling every 3 days. Most the of country had been infected by COVID19 over 2020-2021, yet no match for Omicron, which is very evasive against past COVID immunity.”

    “As time goes on, more and more reports of Omicron being much more severe than expected in South African children. I think the “it’s mild” narrative is not holding up in face of so much data that is doubly confirmed on the ground.”

    Summing up.

    Omicron is a very dangerous development, mostly because it is more transmissible, showing more immune escape, possible vaccine escape and is hitting younger people harder than Delta. Also Omicron has shown us this virus’s massive capacity for multiple mutations and for undergoing the process of hybridization or “chimera-ization” where parts of two variants can get spliced together. This virus can do anything within its total evolutionary possibility space (of unknown extent yet) and it has hardly even started. This crisis will be with us for many more years, maybe for decades. We will be having boosters every six months for the terms of our (now actuarially much shorter) natural lives. This is what failing to lock and eradicate has led to.

  11. Rubbery numbers from my memory of Dr Norman Swan on Coronacast last month.

    1 shot – t cell count 5-800 ish healthy adult, waning to 300 ish after 3+ mths.

    2nd dose above 800 slower waning.

    3rd dose tcell count over 1,500 – and awaiting data.

    Tried searching for ref but my time, skills and access not able to find asap.

    But in the ball park.

    ATAGI needs to say “vaccinated = 3 doses”.

    And more data needed it seems as Harry suggests, a 4th dose. And and and ….

    Pfizer saying specific Omicron vax by March 2022.

    Pity the rest without access. 3 months to stand up vaccine manufacturing plant. We have had, since March 2020, 20mths, so no excuses for a 3mth emergency manufaturing blitz in ‘countries who won’t let us profit that our investors and protectors dont really care about”. Pfizer et al, care to comment?

    JQ said, “ATAGI screwed up advice on AZ*, leading to current outbreak (unvaxed driver waiting for Pfizer). Now they are holding up approval for kids 5-11 while they wait for more data.”.
    An excellent angle for Royal Commission into Vaccinatiin of Australia” submission entitled “The Consequences of Vaccine Delays”.
    Over to you JQ.

  12. Can’t seem to post with a link.

    Okay, to summarize. Omicron is the sign that we are in serious trouble. So don’t overthink boosters. Get every one as soon as you legally can, whether or not it is tailored to Omicron etc. Also, stop going out anywhere except for absolutely essential trips. Wear masks, stay 5 meters away from all non-householders. Stay out of poorly ventilated rooms and venues.

    Why is Omicron the sign that we are in serious trouble? It shows that SARSCov_2 can;

    (1) Mutate WAY beyond Delta;
    (2) Splice mutations together (most likely);
    (3) Evade immunity and vacines and that vaccines are becoming more useless by the month (though they still work a bit).

    Also, our populace has shown it does not have the patience or ability to fight this thing. Our governments and political economy system (neoliberal capitalism) have also shown they are not fit to stop this crisis (or climate change). Now, things could change. A fluke mild variant could evolve, though unlikely in the short to mid-term. Also, people and more left-ish governments could get really serious about fighting our existential crises. It is possible. Sadly, to date I see no signs that it is probable.

  13. Australia is wide open to a deadly new wave of COVID-19. Just 41.6% of the TOTAL population is fully vaccinated. That puts Australia just 48th in the world, an abysmal performance. The fact that so many over and under 16 are still vaccinated means Australia will suffer a massive wave, most likely, without other measures. Every unvaccinated and indeed most vaccinated persons can easily catch Delta and Omicron variants and transmit them. Omicron is also showing some signs of being more dangerous to children.

    Time and again we keep under-estimating this virus. When will we ever learn? Maybe summer and open air events will save us somewhat. Who knows? Essentially, we are just rolling the dice. There is nothing cautious or sensible about the current opening up. Indeed, it is reckless, given the probability levels.

  14. Mary-Louise McLaws (@MarylouiseMcla1) / Twitter

    “Professor of Epidemiology @UNSW with an eye on infection at all times. … With risk from Omicron circulating we should boost around 4mths” …

    Not 5 months and definitely not 6.

    ATAGI?

  15. Case numbers will probably explode: Omicron*more people entering internationally *weaker international isolation requirements*weaker state borders. Three Pfizer shots will probably provide some protection but it is not clear that it will be substantial.
    I am getting my third shot Jan and will hope that that won’t inhibit access to an omicron-tailored booster.

  16. JQ, I don’t understand your concerns about ATAGI. The various revisions of advice regarding AZ started with the company’s initial tests submitted in the UK to get emergency approval. To the best of my knowledge (based on EU virologists and epidemiologists public statements at the time) the tests had an insufficiently large sample of older people). To what extent AZ was put under pressure by the UK government is not known to me. My hypothesis is there was pressure because the UK had huge case numbers at the time. Then the serious side-effect (blood clots in veins in the brain and low platelets) was discovered in younger people. Real life data on reactions in older people emerged. The US never gave any form of approval to AZ. Surely, ATAGI couldn’t do anything more than what all other institutions of this kind did, namely to gather international information as it came to hand and evaluate it. I understand there are many variables (population age structure, public health system ,….) which require local assessment of international data.

    I understand more scientific information on omicron is expected to become available within the next 8 to 10 days. And there will be a lot more until your decision time in February next year.

    Apropos. From the privileged position of living on a relatively large block of land on the North Shore in Sydney (so far the least affected area in Greater Sydney) and being retired, I wonder what China will do. Sars-Cov-2 and its many variants is going to become endemic in just about all regions in this world while Chine pursues eradication. Out of necessity, local production of stuff currently imported from China will have to increase in many countries. China’s belt and road program involves a lot of Chinese people going to foreign countries and presumably returning to China. Since this virus travels via humans, I see a problem. Will China retreat to isolation? And prosper in splendid isolation as in the more distant past?

  17. Ikon,
    According to covidlive.com.au 74.5% of Australians 0+ ( ie all ) have had their second shot. Far higher than your figure. Perhaps this is the reason for your hysteria?

  18. Stop press on Omicron, from the EMA’s vaccine chief:
    “Cases appear to be mostly mild, however we need to gather more evidence…”
    https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/european-medicines-agency-omicron-cases-so-far-appear-mostly-mild-2644360
    The EMA may be wrong, and it ma be trying to head off an irrational panic. But it’s a reputable and cautious regulator, so this caries weight. Put it this way. if Omicron were significantly more lethal than Delta, we would know by now from South Africa.

  19. Retraction. I made a mistake about total vaccinated in Australia. It seems to be approaching 80% (as it approaches 90% of all person aged 16 years and over). That was my mistake and a stupid one.

    However, this will still not be enough without other measures. Delta and Omicron spread easily through vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike. The main difference is that the vaccinated die at about 1/10th the rate of the unvaccinated. We will still likely see a major wave of COVID-19 which will hit at least the 2 million or so persons 16 and over who are still unvaccinated: an epidemic of the unvaccinated as it is called.

    Most Australian states are experiencing ambulance ramping right now. This means hospitals are not coping with normal admissions even before any COVID-19 wave starts. Given our starting point, it seems unlikely we will cope with a COVID-19 wave. Opening up is unwise but of course we will do it and people will die unnecessarily as a result.

    The claim that Omicron is mild is still being promulgated even though the data are not yet in. It’s too soon to let our guard down. There is actually some evidence that Omicron’s infectiousness will more than obviate any decline in virulence. People should remain very cautious.

  20. For whatever it’s worth, Norman Swan responded to related questions from listeners on today’s Coronacast with the line ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. We don’t know when there will be an Omicron-specific vaccine (we can’t even be 100% sure that there will be one), and having had a third dose of an existing vaccine won’t exclude getting an Omicron-specific one later; in the meantime, the added protection from a third dose is worth having.

    I’m in New South Wales, not in Queensland, which makes the calculations a little different; I’ve booked for a third dose in February exactly six months after my second, and the only thing I’m going backwards and forwards on in my mind is whether I should try to get it sooner.

  21. J-D,

    I thought that one could not elect to get an early booster.

    “You are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose if:
    you are 18 years and older, and
    have had your second dose of your primary dose course of COVID-19 vaccination at least 6 months ago.” – health dot gov dot au

  22. Iko: “The claim that Omicron is mild is still being promulgated even though the data are not yet in. ”
    Let’s see.
    “As of 6 December, all 212 confirmed Omicron cases across 18 European Union countries were classed as asymptomatic or mild.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/09/omicron-spreads-to-57-countries-but-too-early-to-tell-if-variant-more-infectious-who-says
    “The Omicron variant has been detected in at least 38 countries but no deaths have yet been reported, the World Health Organization has said, amid warnings that it could damage the global economic recovery.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/04/who-says-no-deaths-reported-from-omicron-yet-as-covid-variant-spreads
    “At a briefing convened by South Africa’s Department of Health on Monday, Unben Pillay, a GP from practising in Midrand on the outskirts of Johannesburg, said that while “it is still early days” the cases he was seeing were typically mild: “We are seeing patients present with dry cough, fever, night sweats and a lot of body pains. Vaccinated people tend to do much better.”” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/30/despite-reports-of-milder-symptoms-omicron-should-not-be-understimated
    “According to a South African private healthcare provider, the recent rise in infections – which includes the Omicron and Delta variants – has been accompanied by a much smaller increase in admissions to intensive care beds, echoing an earlier report from the country’s National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD).” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/30/despite-reports-of-milder-symptoms-omicron-should-not-be-understimated

    I do get it that public health experts and officials have to be cautious, that “less severe” does not mean “harmless”, and that greater infectiousness may well compensate for lower case severity But at some stage, any rational Bayesian has to accept that the evidence, inconclusive and anecdotal though it is, all points one way.

  23. James Wimberley,

    You are reading the evidence incorrectly.

    “Reminder: You cannot compare seriousness of Omicron with delta or wild strain by comparing crude rates of hospitalization or deaths. Omicron faces a different, more immune population: half the world is vaccinated and/or had Covid (now). Millions of vulnerable have (already) died due to COVID.” – Vincent Rajkumar, Editor, Blood Cancer Journal; Professor, Mayo Clinic.

    The early evidence appears to be showing that Omicron is more dangerous AND of course we (some of us) also have more protections. That’s the complex situation we are in now. Unvaccinated people and vulnerable people may well be at more risk now than at any time in the global pandemic. That’s still half the world at full and increasing serious risk.

    “UK went up 10x in Omicron prevalence in just 10 days. South Africa meanwhile hit 99% in just a month. Both really bad trajectories.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    As an example, if a new disease variant is half as lethal but twice as infectious, the new situation is far more dangerous overall. The results of lethality are linear. The results of infectiousness are exponential.

    “Scientists analysed data from 581 Omicron cases and thousands of Delta cases.
    The analysis is based on limited data, but showed a dramatic drop in effectiveness for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and a significant drop off for two doses of Pfizer. The 75% protection against Covid symptoms after a booster is not as high as against previous variants. The real-world data backs up laboratory studies that showed a 40-fold reduction in the ability of antibodies from double-vaccinated people to take out the virus. There is (still) optimism that vaccines will still keep many people out of hospital even if more do get Covid. We should not become blasé about the micron variant “being milder” — there is no good data that proves that. They (people who make such claims) don’t age adjust or vaccine adjust or infection adjust and don’t followup long enough to know yet.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    The drop in vaccine effectiveness is very concerning. People are buying into the “It’s Milder” myth because they want to. It’s as simple as that. All the early data (so far) point in the other direction. Omicron is likely more dangerous because of infectiousness times immune evasion times vaccine evasion. But it is still true that those who have had two or three vaccines are somewhat safer than those who haven’t.

    After each major variant thus far has been worse, I do not understand why people would instantly assume that the next major variant will be milder. It’s pure wishful thinking. One would have thought that the dangers of wishful thinking about this virus had been adequately demonstrated thus far. Apparently not. I think we would be far wiser to assume the worst (since each major variant has been worse so far) and to over-correct and over-protect. If the new variant is worse, we save some more lives. If the new variant is milder (highly unlikely IMHO), we probably suppress or even eradicate the disease.

    The political and popular thinking in relation to COVID-19 astonishes me. Would we think it a good idea to allow malaria or dengue fever to spread everywhere or would we try to suppress them? Clearly, we have always tried to suppress them, at least in first world countries (as is our hypocritical, self-serving and rather short-sighted wont). But along comes a disease equally as dangerous (due to super high infectiousness) and people argue to let it spread everywhere. It’s bizarre. [1] I feel I am living on a planet of lunatics. Obviously I am but I am only just realizing it.

    What is really dangerous is the amount of punctuated equilibrium evolutionary space this novel virus still has left to explore. It is new to humans and humans are new to it. This punctuated equilibrium evolution process is one where an evolution rate, especially of a pathogen, accelerates stupendously. People don’t understand this and its profound consequences. I don’t know why they don’t understand. It’s not really a difficult concept. I think denial is their problem.

    My prediction. Omicron is a very dangerous development. Even worse is in store after Omicron. Many more even more dangerous variants will yet arise. We have made an enormous and tragic mistake in not eradicating this virus. We will pay a huge price. The global average life span will plummet. It will even plummet in developed countries.

    Note 1: It is clear why this bizarre response exists. One, there is a lot of disinformation out there and that’s because of point two following. Two, it’s the natural outcome of market fundamentalist capitalism where dollars count and people do not. COVID-19 and Climate Change are capitalism destroying itself.

  24. 6 December 2021 is a long time ago. For example, on 6 December NSW reported 208 cases. Today, 11 December 2021, NSW Health reported 560 cases. That is, case number more than doubled in 5 days (2.69 times or 1.69% over 5 days). Unless the NSW government immediately takes measures to restrict mobility, I assume we shall have to cancel our trip to QLD over X-mas once again.

  25. “A virus that spreads more rapidly, even if milder, could cause much more deaths. Hypothetical ex. of 10x less deadly variant (IFR=0.08%) with 2x higher effective transmissibility (green). In 20+ days “Mild & Fast” outpaces Severe & Slow variants in the number of new ppl it kills.” – Malgorzata (Gosia) Gasperowicz.

    Above statement refers to a graph. I will see if I can successfully post the graph link below.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FGSMKVrVEAADZXJ?format=jpg&name=4096×4096

    The public are not being told the scientific truths and potential dangers. There seems to be a pattern of deliberate minimization of the genuine and dangerous possibilities. This minimization and encouragement of recklessness, foolishness and indifference to real risks is far more dangerous than any so-called alarmism. What happens when there is a big shark near a popular beach? They ring the shark ALARM! Obviously. Do the surf lifesavers get accused of alarmism? Of course not.

    I’ve been looking for the correct term for the blindly over-optimistic attitude which has prevailed since the start of this pandemic. Perhaps it is “pollyanna-ism” but this seems rather tame. In the current climate and COVID-19 emergencies, pollyanna attitudes are highly dangerous. Such attitudes have and will continue to lead to many and escalating preventable deaths. As long as the political class and the manipulated populace continue with these attitudes these crises will worsen. This virus is not nearly done and will worsen for several years yet, at least, without a new approach.

  26. It is desirable to read the fineprint of ATAGI advice

    ATAGI statement 3 December 2021
    ‘ATAGI advises that in certain circumstances, the routine six-month interval for booster doses may be shortened to five months for logistical reasons, for example:

    for patients with a greater risk of severe COVID-19 in outbreak settings;
    if an individual is travelling overseas and will be away when their booster dose is due; or
    in outreach vaccination programs where access is limited.’

    So on the basis of this advice you can get the booster at 5 months if you’re older (and therefore at greater risk of severe COVID-19) in an outbreak setting which includes NSW, ACT, Vic and SA at present.

    ATAGI then goes onto say
    ‘It should be noted that there are very limited data on benefit for boosters given prior to 20 weeks after completion of the primary course, and the duration of protection following boosters is not yet known. More information is available in ATAGI’s Clinical Guidance.’

    This is important as it indicates that the evidence is not there yet that boosters earlier than 5 months is of benefit. It probably would be of benefit, but if the evidence isn’t there yet, ATAGI shouldn’t recommend that public money be spent on boosters earlier than 5 months for the general population -(though they do recommend boosters at 2 months for the immunocompromised population. See next point ).

    ‘In addition, a third dose is recommended for anyone with immunocompromising conditions, a minimum of two months after their second dose. Refer to ATAGI’s statement on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised.’

    And finally the big let out clause

    ‘Providers should use their clinical judgement to determine whether it is appropriate to administer the dose early.’

    So, if you can persuade your doctor to give you a booster at 2 months or 3 months or 4 months, you can receive it. You may have to pay for it yourself, as ATAGI and the Government are not convinced yet that it is a cost-effective use of community resources, but there is nothing stopping you from getting it.

    ATAGI have a very difficult balancing act in making their recommendations, but they are not dictators.

    And on the AstraZeneca sideeffects they were very explicit early in 2021 that you could have an Astra Zeneca vaccine if you were under 55/65 if you took clinical advice on that decision, but they would prefer you took Moderna or Pfizer, as there was a 1 in a million chance of dying from an Astra Zeneca shot. And it would have been irresponsible for them not to point out the 1 in a million chance of dying.

    It was the Government and also some Health Department spokespeople, and then the media, who misrepresented the ATAGI advice as saying you couldn’t have Astra Zeneca if you were under 55/65.
    (And the media made it worse by exaggerating the side effect by giving blanket coverage to every death from Astra Zeneca administration)..

    So ATAGI have been blamed for a lot which is not their fault.

  27. New data allows us to answer J.Q.’s original question much better. Don’t wait J.Q. , especially as you had 2 doses of AZ some time ago (4 months?). Get your Pfizer booster right now! It’s possible as per John Goss’s advice above.

    “UK scientists are extremely worried and concerned about #Omicron given the low efficacy of 2 shots of especially the AstraZeneca shot, but also relatively low Pfizer 2 shot VE. Thankfully booster VE is moderately okay at 71-75%.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    Note: This is V.E. (vaccine efficacy) against symptomatic infection.

    “This study was not by some rogue scientific group. This study was by UK’s leading UKHSA agency as well as from leading universities in the UK. It’s been endorsed by UK govt as well yesterday.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    “Time for VE data—2 shot vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic #Omicron is not good. United Kingdom data says 2 doses isn’t strong—Pfizer 2 dose VE for 15+ weeks is 34-36%; AstraZeneca 2 doses VE after 25 weeks is just 5.9%. Pfizer booster yields 71-76%.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    Iko editorializes:-

    People this is EXTREMELY concerning news. The Omicron variant is clearly highly infectious (far worse even than Delta!) and its vaccine escape from double vax is VERY significant. With Omicron, AZ vaccine efficacy is JUST 5.9% against symptomatic infection 25 weeks after 2nd dose!!!

    Lethality studies are not in yet (AFAIK) for Omicron. Until when and if it is proven less lethal than Delta we HAVE to assume it’s at least as lethal. It is the only wise precautionary thing to do.

    I repeat, J.Q. and anyone in his approximate timing position, get a 3rd booster (Pfizer!) NOW! AZ is a second best vaccine as we are learning and it is a distant second to Pfizer (and probably Moderna).

    Our politicians (Morrison and Frydenburg) are telling absolute lies about Omicron being mild. The net effect of its extremely high infectiousness multiplied by rapid vaccine escape makes Omicron very dangerous. Take it lightly at your peril. We await just the lethality data now. I very much doubt that we will get any good news on that front. I’d say prepare to do your own lock down and take all safety measures, whether or not our gormless government says to or not.

  28. Don’t worry about ATAGI or whoever, just ring up the doc and book your shot. They won’t refuse you.

    ATAGI have just recommended a 5 month gap for a booster.

    ATAGI has been appointed by the DoH to advise the DoH – they are a political arm of the govt.

  29. JQ: – “While I reconsider what I should write about, I’m also thinking about when to get a Covid booster shot. I had planned to do so in February, six months after my second AZ shot. But now, I’m thinking I should wait until the vaccines have been updated for Omicron, maybe in March.

    I’d suggest you don’t wait – rebook for earlier booster shot in January.

    A media release, published Dec 12, by the Aus Gov Department of Health begins with (bold text my emphasis):

    Spikevax (Moderna) joins Comirnaty (Pfizer) as the preferred vaccines for the booster doses – irrespective of what vaccine a person received for their primary course of vaccination.

    ATAGI has also updated its advice and recommends booster doses be provided from five months after completion of the primary course, given the likelihood of ongoing transmission of both Omicron and Delta variants.

    Everyone living in Australia aged 18 and over who has completed their primary two-dose course of vaccination at least five months ago is now eligible to have an additional booster shot. This was previously recommended to be six months from a second dose.

    https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/moderna-joins-australias-vaccine-booster-program-and-covid-19-boosters-to-be-available-from-5-months

  30. A report from Aljazeera says:

    1. The UK has raised its COVID alert level due to the rapid increase in cases of the Omicron variant.
    2. The new public health risk assessment rises from level three to four – the second-highest level.
    3. Transmission is high and pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising.
    4. Transmission of COVID-19 is already high in the community, mainly still driven by Delta.
    5. The emergence of Omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk.
    6. Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta.
    7. Vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.
    8. Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks.
    9. Hospitalizations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.

    Australia is opening up at the precise moment that Omicron has hit our shores. Queensland in particular, which has maintained a near COVID-19 free status, is now blindly opening up with inadequate protections just before Xmas gatherings. This is very unwise and exposes us and our hospitals (which cannot even cope with normal medical pressures) to a potential public health disaster.

    The myth that Omicron is milder continues to be promulgated without data. The media and certain politicians like our Morrison and Frydenburg, promote the myth that it IS (not “might be”) milder. Here is headline from the New York Post:

    “Omicron variant ‘almost certainly’ less severe than Delta: Fauci”

    What Fauci actually said was “It might be, and I underscore might, be less severe.” How does an underscored “might” become “almost certainly”? Answer, when the MSM distort.

    But if OmIcron happened to have 50% less lethality while having 50% increased infectiousness, this would actually result in more deaths as lethality behaves linearly and infectiousness exponentially.

    “Fauci also said early studies suggest that people who have contracted earlier versions of the virus may be more vulnerable to Omicron. There’s a study, again, from South Africa, which showed that there’s an increased propensity for reinfection among people who were previously infected with Beta or Delta to get reinfected more readily with Omicron rather than with Beta or Delta.”” – NY Post.

    The bottom line here is that there are already enough data to strongly suggest Omicron is considerably more dangerous than Delta when taking into account the combined effects of all factors: similar lethality (most likely) times greater infectiousness times greater immune escape times greater vaccine escape times possible priming for more severe outcomes IF the person has previously had an earlier variant. These are all very concerning factors and when combined indicate a likely high level of public risk from Omicron.

    Queensland is now going to be a guinea-pig (along with the other states). Our vaccinated levels are inadequate (about 75% of total population). An epidemic of the unvaccinated is very possible. This is the most dangerous time yet in Australia’s COVID-19 trajectory.

    The salient underlying feature in all this is the push by the owners of capital (the bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie alike) to open up for business and sacrifice minorities, poor people, vulnerable people, unvaccinated people and even children. Children as a full demographic are by no means entirely unaffected by COVID-19.

    Maybe our hot summer weather and open air gatherings will prevent a serious outbreak. However, it seems like an unnecessary roll of the dice. Our mostly COVID-19 free status has underpinned our better economic and public health performance compared to much of the rest of the world. It appears we are about to throw this all away. On the probabilities, it looks like a bed bet.

  31. Don’t worry about ATAGI or whoever, just ring up the doc and book your shot. They won’t refuse you.

    Listeners to ABC’s Coroncast reported instances of people being refused third doses less than six months after second doses. It seemed as if it varied depending on the provider. That’s why I wrote above that I was going back and forth in my mind about whether to try to get my third dose earlier.

    With the change over the weekend, I just contacted my provider and brought forward the date for my third dose from February to January.

  32. You can get a 3rd jab earlier than 5 months – you just need your doc to agree to your request.

    I’m having mine on Wednesday, which will be 5 months, at the local chemist. No appt needed.

    I’m not waiting for Omicron.

  33. Yep, 22 weeks and 4 days gone, a cool wet summer for covid spreading mass terry tourists here already, so a Qld Health walk in pfizer booster for me tomorrow.

    McGowan is handing WA over to the pandemic at a press conference right now as the army is brought in to deal in the UK! It’s Nuts.

  34. What the smart, educated experts are saying:-

    “By now, i hope everyone understands how much worse Omicron is in evading vaccines and past infection immunity — by leaps and bounds worse than old strain(s) and worse than Delta. We need some radical realism, not delusional dismissive-ness that Omicron won’t hit hard. Booster now!” – Eric Feigl-Ding, Epidemiologist & health economist.

    “With 2 shots of Pfizer, the VE starts at 88% between 2-9 weeks after the 2nd shot. Good, but it quickly drops to 48.5% by weeks 10-14. Then drops to 31% by 15-19 weeks. Then it hovers at 36.6% at 20-24 weeks. Then 34.2% at 25+ weeks. But 75.5% with booster!” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    “Waiting until hospitalizations increase to take any additional preventive action against Covid-19 is like having a missile defense system but only deploying it when missiles start exploding around you: instead of deploying it while the missiles are still in the air.” – Josh Michaud, Assoc. Director Global Health, Hopkins. Prof. U.S. & International Health Policy, Health Security, Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

    “In countries that have tried to live with the virus, some people are now experiencing their third or even fourth bout of COVID-19. Reinfections are not always mild.” – Dr Zoë Hyde, Epidemiologist and biostatistician,.

    “This (counting only hospital admissions) is a mistake. The vast majority of people with longCOVID will never see the inside of a hospital. I would love to understand why the millions facing long term disability get nearly zero consideration in all this.” – Jennifer Brea, Filmmaker, Disability rights activist.

    “Denmark, already up sh** creek because of Delta, has just met Omicron. Near-vertical growth. ” – Henry Madison. – PhD.

    “I told you all about that dual surge.” – Anthony J Leonardi. PhD, T-Cell Immunologist.

    What the ignorant and foolish are saying:-

    “Omicron is milder.” – Scott Morrison.
    “Omicron is milder.” – Josh Frydenburg.
    “It’s a happy day.” – Annastacia Palaszczuk.

  35. Broadcast last night on ABC’s 7.30 was a segment titled COVID-19 booster shots fast-tracked due to concerns over Omicron variant, where Norman Swan displayed a graph indicating the waning effectiveness over time of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines for the Omicron strain of the COVID-19 virus.

    The graph indicated at the first week after the second dose of primary vaccination, for:
    * AstraZeneca: has 76% effectiveness for Omicron, waning to 0% after week 15-19. A booster shot brings effectiveness back to 71%.
    * Pfizer: has 88% effectiveness for Omicron, waning to 34% after week 15-19. A booster shot brings effectiveness back to 76%.
    https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/covid-19-booster-shots-fast-tracked-due-to/13675236

  36. Because we let COVID-19 spread and opted to “live with COVID-19” we will soon look like pincushions. It seems a reasonable surmise at this point that we will need boosters every 3 months. In any given “vaccination year”, after initial double vaccination, boosters 1 and 3 will be of the current variant type and boosters 2 and 4 will be for the latest nasty variant that appeared circa 3 months ago.

    With rampant and continuous evolution I do not see how we can escape this fate in the short to mid term. In the longer term, maybe 10 years or more hence we may fall back to annual variant-specific boosters, like the flu. There will be plenty of break-through infections during all this and plenty of people will continue to die. In particular as people age, they will get more vulnerable and face much higher chances of dying even if vaccinated and boosted. People are living in fantasy land if they think the coming world situation will be benign for old people or people with medical pre-conditions.

    The “game” has changed entirely. This disease and its consequences are being massively minimized by the powers that be for reasons of their own. There are also likely to be burgeoning cases of people becoming affected by chronic COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters and developing vaccine-associated hypersensitivity. Yes, of course one has to get the vaccines and boosters if one tolerates them. It’s much better than getting the disease but all these problems could have been averted by eradicating the virus entirely in the first place. However, capitalism said we have to live with it to support profits to rich people.

  37. As a post-script to the above. Is it coincidence that after an influenza vaccine I had a second retinal tear necessitating a second eye operation? Is it coincidence that after two COVID-19 vaccinations between my third and fourth eye operations I have had a seeming complete loss of macular foveal vision in the operated eye despite no visible signs or macular degeneration or retinopathy at that site?

    Of course, it is very possible that these events are coincidences. There are definitely other possible causes. However, there is also an outside possibility that they are not. Vaccines are always an insult (technical medical term) to the body. They can do collateral damage even while meeting the prime purpose of the vaccination.

    “Ocular Adverse Events After COVID-19 Vaccination” – Xin Le Ng, MBBS, a Bjorn Kaijun Betzler, MBBS, b Ilaria Testi, MD, c Su Ling Ho, FRCS, a Melissa Tien, FRCOphth, a Wei Kiong Ngo, FRCOphth, a Manfred Zierhut, PhD, d Soon Phaik Chee, FRCSEd, e , f , g Vishali Gupta, PhD, h Carlos E Pavesio, FRCOphth, b Marc D. de Smet, PhD, i , j and Rupesh Agrawal, FRCS a , b , e , f , g , k

    Excerpt:

    “Historically, vaccines have been known to be associated with ocular phenomena. For example, vaccinations against influenza, yellow fever, hepatitis B, and Neisseria meningitidis have been associated with uveitis, acute idiopathic maculopathy, acute macular neuroretinopathy (AMN), Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease (VKH), and multiple evanescent white dot syndrome (MEWDS).1–7 The surge in the literature on COVID-19 and rapid development of vaccination regimens has produced reports on the ocular manifestations of COVID-19, as well as ocular adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccinations. Some of the reported ocular manifestations of COVID-19 infection include conjunctivitis, episcleritis, uveitis, vascular changes in the retina and cotton wool spots, optic neuritis, ocular motility deficits from cranial nerve palsies, and transient accommodation deficits.8–13

    There are currently four types of COVID-19 vaccines. These include mRNA vaccines (BNT162b2, Pfizer-BioNTech14; mRNA-1273, Moderna15), protein subunit vaccines (NVX-CoV2373, Novavax16), vector vaccines (Ad26.COV2, Janssen Johnson & Johnson17; ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/ AZD1222, Oxford-AstraZeneca18), and whole virus vaccines (PiCoVacc, Sinovac19; BBIBP-CorV, Sinopharm20). While their respective trial reports on vaccine safety have shown that ocular adverse effects are rare, the possible manifestations are still a cause for concern, given the scale of the current vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

    This review provides a comprehensive overview of COVID-19 vaccine-induced ocular adverse effects. A review of the incidence of such conditions is timely and would be beneficial to ophthalmologists and general physicians alike, in identifying patients who may be at a higher risk of ocular adverse events so that protocols for close monitoring of patients at risk can be designed and implemented.”

    The potential eye problems as sequelea of the COVID-19 pandemic and the now necessary vaccinations as well, are just one of the many manifestations of extra medical problems a sub-set of the population will face due to the refusal of the neoliberal capitalist system to attempt eradication and the preference it placed on business as usual, infecting the public and “living with” the virus over protecting public health. It is also the case that many people have died, many quality life years have been lost, and societies and economies which permitted rampant spread (as opposed to suppression) did worse medically, socially and economically: at everything basically.

    The “let it rip” strategy has been a total disaster and one that Western corporate capitalism, compared relatively or differentially with Chinese state capitalism, may not recover from. That is to say Western capitalism will suffer (and has already suffered) very significant relative decline and perhaps even absolute decline for the very “simple” mistake of failing to suppress and eradicate COVID-19. The effects are provably this profound and far-reaching. Western capitalism is now maimed as surely as my left eye central vision is now maimed but the causes of Western capitalism’s injury (self-inflicted by sheer ideological idiocy) are much clearer.

  38. Qld Community Health walk-in booster done early today: 10+

    No cueing and waiting, nor fuss. That shall change. They said they had a crowd peak yesterday afternoon…

    Two weeks now for best effect, but whenever I get covid now I’ll be doing my best to pass it on in crowds and shops, etc, as much as possible. People want it, they can have it.

  39. Ikon, “a second retinal tear necessitating a second eye operation? ”

    All I can do is from here Ikon is wish you well. I am sure you are keeping your ophthalmologist on their toes.

    And thank Mrs Ikon for being there.

  40. Svante,

    Well done on getting the necessary booster. I was quite late getting my double vaccinations (Pfizer as it turned out) finished about a month ago so I won’t need a booster for about 4 months or.. probably less as soon as they decide that boosters need to be even earlier (which decision I am expecting shortly as the bad news racks up further about Omicron).

    Yes, we probably all will get COVID-19 sooner or later no matter how careful we are. The Coinfection Party has seen to that with its ludicrous policies. If you get infected (and confirm it with a test) I am sure you are a responsible person who will not share it knowingly. Many vaccinated people will still remain at risk for age and medical pre-condition reasons. Vaccination is nothing like a silver bullet despite the Coinfection Party pretending that it is.

  41. KT2,

    Yes, all professionals and home carers have been excellent. It’s just my left eye retinal material that has let us down. It’s not quite made of the right stuff. Luck of the genetic lottery maybe or else attributable to the misadventures of a misspent youth. 😉

  42. I have attended a hospital in central west NSW twice in the past week. All good.

    Yesterday I had to get a covid test as a close contact had symtoms. Very much doubt a covid infection.

    Yesterday the receptionist was in mask AND face shield.

    “A new directive” from NSW Health 2 days ago.

    Perhaps because…
    “Unvaccinated people will now have the same freedoms as vaccinated people.”
    https://abc.net.au/news/2021-12-15/nsw-covid-restrictions-ease-for-vaccinated-and-unvaccinated/100685704

  43. All will not remain good for long. That is my prediction. Omicron is phenomenally infectious and phenomenally adroit at immune escape and vaccine escape. This means that a society with people circulating with few containment measures will see explosive epidemic spread of Omicron to almost everyone who goes out and about and/or attends gatherings. Then their entire households will get it too.

    Being double-vaxed and boosted as soon as appropriate (at about 3 to 5 months after the 2nd dose) and NOT being old and NOT suffering medical preconditions will mean that you will be relatively safe from hospitalization, ventilation and death. However, the unvaccinated adult population (even some quite young adults) will not be safe. They will suffer in many cases from any or all of bad symptomatic infections, long covid, hospitalization, ventilation and possibly even death. There will be an epidemic of the unvaccinated (mainly).

    Our hospitals and hospital staff will not cope. They are ambulance ramping now and we have next to no spread compared to what is coming. Other medical procedures, elective and even emergency will be un-actionable and hospitals may well be forced to triage Omicron emergencies and treat mainly only those who like to have a good probability of survival with treatment. This will turn into a disaster. The authorities will try to cover up this disaster (of their creation). I hope Australia’s investigative journalism will be up to exposing the terrible truth.

    Things are rapidly turning disastrous overseas with new combined Delta-Omicron waves overwhelming country after country. Why Australians think it will be different here I do not know. Possibly a hot summer plus our propensity for outdoor gatherings might help us somewhat plus the fact that many Australians live in detached housing (nice little islands of isolation on the suburban or bush block. However, on balance, I predict a disaster. If Australia does not have a COVID-19 disaster by the end of winter 2022, I will leave blogging on this site for at least a year from say 1 Sep. 2022, as my due punishment for failed prognostication. Either that or I will be dead and I will disappear for good.

    Of course, one will need to define “disaster” in this context. I am open to suggestions. I am sure people will be happy to hear the last of “Hanrahan” Ikonolast for at least one blissful year. That’s Hanrahan of “Said Hanrahan” of course.

  44. I hope, Ikonoclast, you do not leave blogging for a year if your prognostication is not borne out. We need the Hanrahans to set one side of the confidence interval for predictions. I’m happy to supply the optimistic side of the confidence interval. And I will be watching closely to see who turns out to be more correct of Quiggin and Collignon’s latest SMH article.

  45. Ikonoclast, best wishes for that bung eye of yours. On the other matters you mention, in the land of the blind being one-eyed may see you safely through. I’ve a cataract growing in one eye, a simple enough thing to fix once, but not in the always sick trickle-up medicare and decaying population crushed Qld health systems now. Was it not better for the average punter with Joh and the Qld lottery system? i’ll go on. Life altering/ending emergency hospital procedures have now largely replaced Qld hospital bowel cancer screening procedures due to the crushing rapidly increasing susceptible older immigration demographic and failure of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program testing procedures. The test kit samples and reagents break down under over long broken Australia Post transit times in Northern Australian temperatures let alone the days they spend in the ovens called post boxes. Australia as run from the frigid deep south alternate reality is drowning, not waving.

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