Thoughts on COVID, the vaccine and a possible survey (Level B2/C1)

Earlier this year, my friend invited me to a Facebook group. The Facebook group was about questioning the official line on COVID. I am pretty sure she didn’t believe in the conspiracy theories put forward by the group. I think she joined in part as it’s a novel situation it’s something unnerving as it’s unknown. This kind of situation hasn’t been encountered in our lifetime (hopefully, it won’t be something we encounter again for a while); this will depend on global warming and how we treat livestock).

Anyway, being added to the group is why I started to ask questions about what people thought they knew about COVID. I began to look at things shared in the group and investigate where these were coming from; for example, someone posted a picture that they said was related to increased surveillance and COVID. After a quick google image search, I saw it was nothing of the kind; it was an image associated with a protest in China against an increase in surveillance and happened before autumn 2019, so before COVID was even discovered. I began to point out discrepancies in the group’s information and anything misappropriated, like the image from China. Some people in the group were also challenging the narrative put forward, but people that the whole COVID thing was a conspiracy. While in the group, I argued about, among other things, social distancing and why it was necessary. At one point people from the group targeted Bill Gates, and when I asked them why they said, look, this guy had posted a meme exposing Bill Gates. The obvious response to the meme was, where is the source. Even though there were people open to arguements and willing to consider other views, a number took a lot of things at face value and never actually followed through and looked up the source of information they consumed online.   I began to wonder if maybe it might be a good thing to educate myself and others re COVID measures, hence the interview with the virologist, to increase understanding.

A few months after joining the group, the admins had an overhaul. They booted out anyone who didn’t follow the narrative that COVID was a conspiracy theory, so I was expelled. However, it did have me wondering 1) how can we tackle vaccine hesitancy and 2) why some people were so fixated on certain theories and not open to any challenges wrt their mindset, and 3) who were the people behind the alternative narratives of COVID.

For the first one, the answer is we can have people talk about their experience with the vaccine and make it seem less scary; something I’ve started on my channel with the vaccine vox pops playlist (my first interview below):

For the second one, I did a survey (although there is information out there, I wondered if I could get some different perspective. I also thought it might be a good exercise for me to design something). I started with a kind of pilot survey (designed with the help of my sister, & Susan W), which I posted on my Facebook page. One of the first things in terms of the survey results was that I could have designed the questions slightly better, so it’s back to the drawing board to create survey number 2. The other problem is that most of the respondents are from my Facebook page (I think maybe some kind of incentive like a prize draw might be good next time). As one respondent pointed out, selection bias is the problem as my Facebook friends are likely to have certain characteristics in common.

Apart from survey design, the other thing about having people complete a survey was to make me think about certain aspects of the COVID crisis:

while I am aware that the more people are vaccinated, the better it is in terms of stopping the pandemic, an area I had thought less about was how the vaccine would be distributed in poorer countries which is something one of the respondents bought up.

I asked my sister the font of all knowledge, and apparently, the answer is that an organization called COVAX is coordinating the effort to vaccinate poorer countries.

I plan to do more interviews with people who’ve been vaccinated and want to change the questionnaire and distribute it on a large scale. When I have updates and survey data, I will summarise it here.

Follow-up to the COVID interview (level C1)

I initially had the interview with the scientist earmarked for another blog. The original interview was conducted in March, you can read it here:

https://racheldoesinterviews.com/2020/09/04/coronavirus-some-of-the-science-behind-it/

I moved the interview to this blog because it is more accessible and I wanted to update the science to show how the scientific process works. I hope to interview the virologist again to give readers an update on the COVID situation wrt science.

This blog post will be dedicated to my personal update regarding the situation. 

As stated in the previous interview, certain drugs were trialled for COVID-19.

The first drug mentioned in my previous post was hydroxychloroquine. The initial stages of an investigation into a drug look at what is known as in vitro testing, which is a Latin expression meaning “in the glass”; this stage of the testing tests the medication being trialed by using cells in a test tube. Sometimes, a procedure that works in vitro does not work in vivo (in the body); this is because the body is complex, and what works at the cellular level in a test tube does not necessarily work when it is tried in living humans.

Hydroxychloroquine was tested in multiple trials and showed no benefit when it came to post-exposure prophylaxis* or in treating COVID-19.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanrhe/article/PIIS2665-9913(20)30390-8/fulltext

Trials of Remdesivir were conducted as a medication to treat COVID 19 because it is a general anti-viral medication. Remdesivir blocks the activity of an enzyme that is needed for viral replication. In vitro, Remdesivir, and Interferon-beta had an effect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Results for Remdesivir have been mixed. To find out more, follow this link:

https://acpinternist.org/weekly/archives/2020/10/20/2.htm

Factors that can lead to mixed results in clinical trials include:

  • how long the individual has been ill
  • their age
  • issues with statistical power (i.e., whether there are enough individuals in the trial to make the results meaningful), among other things.

Interferon-beta was trialed for COVID-19 since it worked against hepatitis C which is in some ways similar. Interferon-beta worked against hepatitis C by stimulating the activity of immune cells and resulting in virus-infected cells being more susceptible to the immune response.

The findings for Interferon-beta-1a are promising, and further trials would help determine how effective it is in terms of COVID 19 treatment. See the following link for more details:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30523-3/fulltext

If I am able to arrange a second interview with the virologist, I hope to look at the following:

  • Human trials and how they are used to test certain medications.
  • What we now know about the immune response to COVID-19
  • What the science says about herd immunity (I personally feel that letting a virus run unchecked through the population is a bad idea and that genuine herd immunity achieved through vaccination) and what the stance of the scientific community is in general regarding this question
  • Why the vaccine is fine even though it’s been developed in a faster time frame than is normally the case

Stay tuned for a possible update..

*post-exposure prophylaxis is a preventative medical treatment that needs to be taken in a specific time frame in order to prevent an infection from occurring