Pandemic Psychology

I’ll kick this off with some quotes from The Lancet a medical journal.


“The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) was developed at Oxford University and consists of a replication-deficient chimpanzee adenoviral vector ChAdOx1, containing the SARS-CoV-2 structural surface glycoprotein antigen (spike protein; nCoV-19) gene.


Efficacy of 90·0% seen in those who received a low dose as prime in the UK was intriguingly high compared with the other findings in the study. Although there is a possibility that chance might play a part in such divergent results, a similar contrast in efficacy between the LD/SD and SD/SD recipients with asymptomatic infections provides support for the observation (58·9% [95% CI 1·0 to 82·9] vs 3·8% [−72·4 to 46·3]). Exploratory subgroup analyses, included at the request of reviewers and editors, that were restricted to participants aged 18–55 years, or aligned (>8 weeks) intervals between doses, showed similar findings. Use of a low dose for priming could provide substantially more vaccine for distribution at a time of constrained supply, and these data imply that this would not compromise protection. While a vaccine that could prevent COVID-19 would have a substantial public health benefit, prevention of asymptomatic infection could reduce viral transmission and protect those with underlying health conditions who do not respond to vaccination, those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons, and those who will not or cannot access a vaccine, providing wider benefit for society. However, the wide CIs around our estimates show that further data are needed to confirm these preliminary findings, which will be done in future analyses of the data accruing in these ongoing trials.

Other coronavirus vaccine developers have released preliminary high-level results in public statements, including more than 90% efficacy reported for the lipid nanoparticle mRNA vaccine BNT162b2, 92% efficacy for the Sputnik V vaccine (developed at the National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology), and 94·5% for the Moderna lipid nanoparticle mRNA-1273 vaccine. The possibility that more than one efficacious vaccine against COVID-19 might be approved for use in the near future is encouraging. However, control of pandemic coronavirus will only be achieved if the licensure, manufacturing, and distribution of these vaccines can be achieved at an unprecedented scale and vaccination is rolled out to all those who are vulnerable.”


The daily news wave of COVID related stuff continues unabated. There is, in my opinion, a fair bit of spin. We get given a picture that salvation is nigh, the great God vaccine will bring back normal. There is even a sense of my vaccine is better than yours like boys comparing who can piss highest up the wall at the urinal. Strangely nobody mentions that the AstraZeneca vaccine is made from a chimpanzee vector. That would be a bit too much Planet of the Apes. The UK press is reporting that some don’t want the “foreign” vaccine, best get the British one.

People do not get statistics, if you have a 60% efficacy this means you still have approximately a 50:50 chance of having no immunity. If you want to do things that you used to do, it is possible that you will convince yourself that you are immune, engage in risky behaviour and get infected. It could make the situation worse, because of that wishful thinking. “I am immune. I have had the wonderful Oxford boffin jab. Those guys are geniuses. I can shag that person who I fancy down the gym at last. I have gone six months without a knee trembler.”

The spin is saying “we are following the science”, this is not true. They are listening, a bit to it, and still trying to keep the country going. The magic of Oxford, in a Harry Potter like way, is being woven into the spin. The scientists if you look above have kept their heads and spoken in a detached way as is their professional responsibility. People hear what they want to hear. This is called confirmation bias.

I personally have one concern about the efficacy trials. It is this. At times of pandemic human behaviour is modified. The statistics used to evaluate vaccines in non-pandemic times are those for an altered behaviour set. It is possible, likely even, that people on the trials engaged in safer behavioural practises than they would have done under normal conditions. By this I mean recipients and controls. It is possible that this has skewed the efficacy data.

The pandemic is doing something weird to ALL of us. Those who don’t like rules are getting het up. Those who think everybody must obey are getting frustrated and angry with the disobedient. We are all getting a bit bored, even me.

Hanging wistfully on to the notion of normal might aid sanity but it also might harm it. I think that I may be detecting an increase in the number of suicides reported, not sure. Certainly, domestic violence is on the up.

Living day to day and in the moment is probably best. Yearning for the past and a bright future, may cause angst.

I was just reminded of a brilliant film “The Life of Pi”. We are in a tricky situation which we need to make the best of. I don’t think spin helps. Are we little children to be sold Tooth Fairies?

We are kind of worried that orange man will press THE button before he moves to a new house.

The resilience of the health systems and their workers is sorely tested. One intensive care guy interviewed yesterday was a mixture of anger and fighting off tears.

More people will freak out, civil unrest will grow. As the police enforce, backlash will increase.

Forbearance is the order of the day, perhaps for months to come.

Weird there will be a whole new bunch of science, pandemic psychology. There will be an awful lot to learn from these few years…