LETTING THE DATA GUIDE YOU - HOW BCG VACCINE BECOMES A MAJOR PLAYER IN THE PANDEMIC
Friday May 16th, 2020
Some people have noticed that there's no commenting on this blog any more. It's because I haven't implemented a spam protection mechanism that I'm satisfied with. Unfortunately there are thousands of bots out there waiting to spam any site that takes external posts and my ratio of spam to real content was like 100:1. So when I have time to write something up that works they way I want direct comments will return. Until then, the best place to reach me is via twitter or Facebook. I post links to each of these articles to both services as they are posted. It's a good place to ask questions or add your own ideas into the mix. I get a mix of "hey Wuhan-virus is racist!" idiots who have managed to keep point 3 of this post at a 100% success rate, and comments that pose interesting questions that may even inspire their own follow up posts.
This post is an example of one of the latter comments from Veronica Cazorla, a friend of a friend on Facebook. Veronica saw my ealier post about the remarkable correlation between BCG vaccinations and impossibly low death rates due to Wuhan-virus. She asked: "...how you became aware of this particular idea that somebody out there was finding a correlation between the number of Covid infections and BCG in the population. I’m guessing the Lancet came out with it and you subscribe to The Lancet and that’s how you discovered it was even a thing. It could even be in newspapers or in the news in your non Western country. I don’t know, I was curious about that too."
Here's the short pithy answer:
tl;dr - I just followed the data and how it confirmed or conflicted with reality. It led me here all by itself by simply being open to whatever the possibilities might be even when it conflicted with my world view.
Here's the longer play by play which, when I went back and read the posts that led up to it, I found quite interesting how my view of the pandemic was altered. I've included links to the original articles so you can see my perspective at that time and how it evolved. Hope you find it interesting as well:
I think I became aware of this relationship with BCG vaccine because, coincidentally, I happen to reside in Thailand which has had a strong active BCG vaccination campaign for many years as does most of SEASIA. You can see the upper arm shoulder scar on most Asians who have received it. There are also two variants of the BCG formula, one from Japan, considered the strongest used in SEASIA, and another from Denmark which was an attempt to formulate protection against a wider number of TB sources as I understand it. I had no initial insight that BCG was related to response to Wuhan-virus, however.
Back in late March I was still trying to identify the peak rate of growth in cases and deaths in USA based on the worse-case assumption that we were aligned with Italy's situation on a delayed timeline. (This ended up being true in terms of the initial hot spots in America). I also opined that Thailand was on track for being one of the hardest hit areas in the world because we had the very first case discovered outside Thailand (LOTS of Chinese tourist and business people come through Thailand, especially Bangkok) and the Thai government had just conducted some policy decisions in a reverse order which guaranteed maximum infection opportunities to areas with little or no ability to identify or treat them.
Afterwards we didn't see many new cases and only a few deaths in Thailand. Almost all of those deaths were foreign elderly men and the few remaining Thai deaths were almost all elderly and sick as well. The numbers of cases and deaths made absolutely no sense with the experience in China, Europe, or America. The default and safe assumption was that the Thai government simply wasn't providing accurate numbers at all. But then the rest of SEASIA, which did exhibit outstanding protocols in response to the virus also saw ridiculously low numbers that couldn't be explained by lockdowns or government interventions alone because many actually did very little except testing quickly (where the West completely failed). So I was actively speaking out about this conundrum and loudly wondering what could explain this discrepancy. Note that the west was just starting its lock downs and there was credible reason to believe at the time that such measures would be effective because of Asian outcomes.
Then Kulawat Wongsaroj, a friend and former colleague shared a paper with me that raised the question of BCG vaccination and correlation to low deaths. I reported this on April 7th : Does BCG Vaccine Inhibit Wuhan-virus? . It wasn't conclusive but, if true, absolutely explained what the data was showing us. I kept it in my mind as something to follow up on as I was also now actively trying to determine whether or not the lockdown was responsible for the initial hotspots peaking on March 19th or whether it has naturally burned itself out as Dr. Levitt had predicted it would. Sweden was the "control" group that we were all interested in and, despite having relatively high numbers compared to its neighbors, there were still very small in absolute numbers and deaths per capita and performed better than many states and countries with strict lockdown policies. Spoke very well for their policies but still argued that lockdown was having significantly better than a 5% correlation amongst Scandinavia which didn't really make sense. I checked against city population densities and such and these countries were still outliers. Why?
Aprils 17th and 18th made it clear to me that Dr. Levitt was correct and that our data was completely and absolutely wrong about the actual numbers of cases. The data was screaming this out in a manner that couldn't be ignored. On April 30th I confirmed that, in USA, there was only a 5% correlation between states who locked down and those who didn't but an over 40% correlation between population density and deaths - at some non-linear scale. I decided to test this outside of America and it didn't fit as well in Europe (probably about a 30% correlation for population density and something higher than 5% for lockdown). Then I looked at Asia which I describe in this post: WUHAN VIRUS DAILY UPDATE FOR MAY 2 - VACCINE AGAINST WUHAN-VIRUS? WAIT NO LONGER! .
That's when the BCG correlation came back full circle. The correlation between low death rates and long term BCG vaccination programs completely overwhelmed all other factors, including the biggest regional factor thus far, population density. Scandinavia? Yep - Sweden had ended theirs in 1975 and Denmark and Norway had it mandatory throughout 1980 and continue to offer it optionally to this day. Pick a country's death and case results and lookup their relationship with BCG vaccine and you don't even need to consider another variable unless they don't have one. I've yet to find an exception. A guy from Lebanon posted on Twitter that they were doing extremely well there. I asked if they had a long term BCG vaccination program. Well - you already know the answer I received.
So that's my long answer to your short question. I think it's worth making its own post so I think I will (You're reading it!). Hope you found it as interesting as I did writing it and following the process.