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When tabulating instances of astonishingly bad luck, spare a thought for the person that participated in the Moderna vaccine trial, was given the placebo, contracted COVID, and died of complications relating to their diabetes.


Given the 95% efficacy of that vaccine, even for those with conditions like diabetes, had they been given the vaccine in the trial instead of the placebo, they may still be alive. In fact, it’s almost certain they would be, since no one in the vaccine cohort died, or even really experienced major “adverse events,” as they put it.


The Moderna vaccine is extraordinarily safe. Of the 600,000 doses administered in Canada by January 9, Health Canada had received only 90 reports of “adverse events” following the vaccination, 27 of which were considered “serious.” Quite often it is unclear whether the serious AEFI (adverse event following immunization) is causally linked to the vaccination, or due, say, to some bad salmon.


The United States FDA’s approval of the Moderna vaccine notes similarly that the vaccine is very safe. Common side effects are a sore arm, a bit of fever, wooziness, and a “general sense of ennui,” although they concede the latter may be related to finishing Bridgerton.


Most of us feel a lot worse for a long longer after polishing off a Margaret River Pinot Grigio.


But what do they mean they say it is 95% effective? That 5 out of every 100 will still get COVID even if vaccinated? Sort of. First up, we need to be clear that that 95% is related to “efficacy,” not effectiveness. Even Saskatchewan’s own vaccine cheat sheet gets those two mixed up. The efficacy figure of 95% is the Moderna study’s statistical determination based on the relation between the number of people in the trial that got the placebo and got COVID, and the number in the vaccine cohort that didn’t.


It might be easier to put it like this:


So far, there have been 33,000 vaccinations in Saskatchewan. If we took a random sample of 33,000 who hadn’t been vaccinated and compared them to the 33,000 which had, this is what we’d come up with–based on Moderna’s figures: 15 out of 33,000 in the vaccine cohort would contract COVID, compared to 270 in the placebo cohort.


The reason we don’t say that 5 out of every 100 would still get COVID even if vaccinated is because that would assume the rate of infection is 100%, which it clearly isn’t, and never will be.

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Social media feeds came alive with snaps of bemasked northerners exposing their wanly naked arms and gamely shooting a “thumbs up” as they too demonstrated that they were up for whatever the ice-bucket challenge version of getting a COVID-19 vaccination is, which, as it turns out, is just getting the COVID-19 vaccination.


After initially dissing the far north east “zone,” wiser, and likely more numerate, heads soon prevailed within SHA, as both sides of the north saw doses arriving via aircraft during the first weeks of January.


The Northern Village of Pinehouse Lake, which spontaneously orchestrated their own major outbreak to prove a point, is still, as of writing, proving that point.

It turns out that the province’s discovery of the far north east zone on a map they had themselves created and subsequent decision to send doses there was linked to a loosening of the guidelines around whether to hold back sufficient numbers of vaccines to administer a second dose, necessary to bring the vaccine’s tech-sheet stated effectiveness to 95%. While one dose is still good, people really need two doses, the second one within a month of the first.


In a declaration so resplendent with hubris that even Greek tragedians would probably have thought it was too over the top, the province said that they felt they didn’t need to hold back any doses because the supply chain was looking pretty, pretty secure, based on guidance from the feds.


After the feds denied any knowledge of that, the province confessed that, yes, it was all them, and then, in a show that everything was in hand, went back to their wedding preparations.


The feds did release a document detailing expected vaccine deliveries until the end of March, which showed Saskatchewan getting about 19,000 Moderna vaccines–the ones that the north gets–before February 28. Based on the January numbers, virtually every dose administered in the last two weeks of February will need to be earmarked as a “second dose” in order to stay within thewarranty.


The chart containing the Pfizer distribution list was taken offline mid-month when the company said they were cutting their supplies in half to focus on “other projects” including a new smallpox vaccine and an album of Beatles covers.


In an outcome as inevitable as who’d get pinned for it, by the last week of January the province had declared that they had no doses left, neither the Moderna or the Pfizer. They blamed the feds, of course, for not securing enough.


All in all, as of writing, the province had administered more than 33,000 vaccines–at a rate of about 1000 a day–and was on pace to have everyone in province done by 2025, at which time most of us will already have moved on to wondering if yogurt is fattening.


There had been 3,493 Moderna doses administered in the far north zones through January. The original plan released in December said authorities were aiming to administer 18,000 doses in Phase 1. They will effectively be half way there by mid-February when another expected 6000 doses arrives (assuming they go north)–since every person needs two doses to complete the course.


Although COVID case numbers in Saskatchewan continue to fall, especially in the north, there doesn’t as yet appear to be a link between vaccination rates and a decrease in new infection rates.


A complicating factor is that the vaccine doesn’t really develop its ability to protect against

COVID right away. People are still vulnerable for at least a week if not longer, and maximum efficacy doesn’t really occur until after the second dose.


A Long Term Care home in Saskatoon claimed that seven residents developed COVID following a vaccination raid in the complex a week earlier, although, for reasons known only to them, they couldn’t say if those who’d come down with COVID had actually been vaccinated, or just seen something about it on TV.


Apart from that, the most common “adverse reaction,” as they call it, appears to be a tenderness around the site of the jab and some post-vaccination garment reassembly issues.


In late news, Johnson & Johnson have released their Phase 3 clinical trial data. While their vaccine is less effective at preventing COVID than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, it should be outstanding at preventing nappy rash.