This week, the biggest science story was the news (so far only available in press releases and derived news stories) that both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s experimental COVID-19 vaccines appear to be very effective. We need to see actual, peer-reviewed data of course, and a critical question will be whether these vaccines – both based on the same strategy – confer immunity from infection or only from disease. It’s exciting news in any case.
When COVID comes again
Effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 can’t come too soon, as there’s now even more evidence that immunity acquired through natural infection is highly inconsistent. Some people appear to be carrying the virus for long periods of time, with occasional resurgences, while others seem to clear it but then get reinfected again only a few months later.
Folks calling for a “let it rip” strategy, in which we lift quarantines and let the virus burn itself out through “herd immunity,” are now demonstrably wrong on at least three levels. First, that strategy has never worked for any human virus in history. Second, there’s ample evidence that SARS-CoV-2 will be especially resistant to natural herd immunity, now including numerous papers reporting reinfections, chronic infections, and poor antibody responses in many infected people. Finally, such a global “pox party” would be certain to kill millions of people whose lives could’ve been saved by a more responsible strategy.
Here comes the groom, bearing viral doom
As has become increasingly clear over the past few months, SARS-CoV-2 loves parties. This virus is even more prone to “superspreader events” than most respiratory contagions, likely because of its high rate of spread through asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic people. An analysis in PLOS Biology describes ways we can limit these events to minimize the pandemic’s impact. It’s a great idea, but it means people have to stop doing stupid shit like this. I mean, really, hosting a big wedding reception in the middle of a pandemic? What did they think would happen?
Pressing for change
While pandemic news is the big headline right now, followed by the ongoing saga of the world’s worst loser, I hope every working journalist will take a moment to step back and think about where the media industry is going next. We’re at a critical juncture. As usual, Jay Rosen does an excellent job dissecting the current situation. I’m not going to give a “too long, didn’t read” summary, because everyone in journalism needs to read Jay’s essay in full and think about it. It’s important.
That’s all for this time. As always, if you have a story you think will fit through our filter, please let us know directly.