2023-10-20 General

Other News

These aren’t COVID-19 pieces, but I think they are important.

I had thought that RSV vaccinations weren’t available in Canada yet because NACI and the province had not figured out the parameters, but they are! My flu shot vaccinator said that they have RSV on hand. It costs a bunch (almost $300), but you can get it if you want.

Note also that they don’t know how long the protection lasts because the trials only went for two years. But you’re assured that it is good for at least two years!

Its protection does wane. The clinical results paper says the GSK vax came in at 82.6% VE against lung infections in the first year, and 56% against lung infections in the second year. (The Pfizer RSV vax has not been approved in Canada yet, but you can get it in the US if you care. Its results were basically the same for the first year and the second year results aren’t in yet.)

This article says scientists can give Alzheimer’s to young healthy rodents by f’ing with its biome!

Mitigation Measures

A firefighter once told me that getting an adequate mask fit with a beard was just flat not possible. This paper describes a technique some bearded dentists came up with that gets them a good fit.

Basically, you wrap a physical therapy band around your chin and tie it over the top of your head, then put a mask on:


Huge news! This very elegant paper from USA found that Long COVID appears to be related to low serotonin levels. (Here’s a lay article about the paper.) They did extensive tests with rodents, coming at the question from a bunch of different directions. This makes me think (I am not a doctor! Not a biologist!) that mitigations might actually be relatively straightforward.

The paper also said that fluoxetine (aka Prozac) improved the serotonin levels and improved the rodents’ cognitive abilities!

This paper found that dogs and cats not only can catch COVID-19, but they can suffer long-term neurological consequences. (Here’s a lay article about the paper.)

This article reports that a study in the USA found that Paxlovid gave a small reduction in Long COVID risk for older people, but a slightly higher risk of Long COVID in adolescents.

This article says that Long COVID is getting misdiagnosed as early menopause because Long COVID can make periods stop.

This preprint from the USA looked at correlations between a bunch of things and road deaths. The only thing they found that road deaths correlated with was total COVID-19 cases. They suggest that people with Long COVID stay off the roads.


This paper from Hong Kong found increased levels of lower urinary tract symptoms in men after coronavirus disease. Men who had COVID-19 had higher risks of several things:

  • 4.55% had retention of urine vs. 0.86% of controls;
  • 1.36% had blood in the urine vs. 0.415 of controls;
  • 4.31% had a urinary tract infection vs. 1.49% of controls;
  • 9.02% had bacteria in their urine v. 1.97% of controls;
  • 0.50% were proscribed 5α-Reductase inhibitors vs. 0.02% of controls.

This paper from Israel found that a COVID-19 infection made people 6.30 times more likely to get Guillain-Barré syndrome than controls. However, a Pfizer vaccination made people 59% less likely to get Guillain-Barré syndrome.

OW! This article mentions a case study from Iran (from December 2021) where a man got excruciating pain in his penis after an erection three weeks after getting COVID-19. He got a blood clot in the major vein halfway down his penis. Ow!


Good news! This article says that in a trial of ensitrelvir — a drug approved in Japan for emergency use — 39% fewer people with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms who took ensitrelvir had 39% taste/smell loss after 7 days. (It did also say that after three weeks, the control/ensitrelvir groups had similar rates of taste/smell loss, however. 🙁 )


This paper from Singapore found that during an Omicron XBB surge, mRNA vaccine effectiveness against infection was 63.3% in fully vaccinated kids under 5 years old who had not had a COVID-19 infection and 74.6% against reinfections in previously infected children with at least 1 vaccine dose.

This paper from Saudi Arabia says that 53% of women who got vaccinated had abnormal vaginal/menstrual bleeding afterwards.


This article looked carefully at different ways that the UK tracked infections, and compared them to the gold standard of the ONS survey, which did weekly in-person testing of random populations.

The study found that:

  • The Department of Health dashboard was faster to update, but only found about 45% as many cases as the ONS survey.
  • The ZOE app‘s estimates — which got geolocated data on symptoms and lateral flow tests from millions of people via a phone app — tracked the ONS survey. In other words, the shape of the curves was basically correct. However, the ZOE numbers were sometimes too high and sometimes slow at spotting a fall in case numbers. Also, the ZOE app’s estimates were occasionally adjusted to better correlate with the ONS survey results, so the ZOE estimates would not have been as good without the ONS survey to calibrate it.
  • General practitioners reported the incidence of influenza-like illnesses. This data source was crap, it didn’t correlate at all with the ONS survey.
  • Google Trends was also crap, with little correlation between searches for “COVID” or “coronavirus” with infection trends.
  • The number of 111 calls (like 911 calls in the US/Canada) correlated only slightly better.
  • There was a website which attempted to identify suspected COVID-19 cases; it correlated a bit better with the ONS survey.
  • Hospital admissions data correlated, but were about a week behind the actual infections.
  • They found that wastewater COVID-19 levels were moderately correlated with the prevalence of COVID in the population.

Health Care System

This press release says that during the pandemic, Canadian inpatient hospital staff took 12 million hours of sick time, which is equivalent to about 6500 full-time positions. To make up for that, staff logged more than 14 million hours of overtime — equivalent to about 7300 full-time positions.