A friend’s COVID-19 journey

A friend here in Maskachusetts has been fairly careful to avoid COVID-19. He’s supposedly in a “bubble” with three kids, their mom, the outside nanny, and her boyfriend. He’s in a suburban fortress to which everything is delivered by an army of essential workers. Nonetheless, he began feeling unwell on December 7. On December 9, he had a PCR test, which came back negative. He and his wife both lost their senses of taste and smell, but otherwise the symptoms were milder than a typical cold. A December 14 sample tested positive. He is in his 40s and was fully recovered by December 17. The wife (30s) and kids (1-year-old twins; 3) recovered sooner. The children had mild symptoms for just a day or two (one of the 1-year-olds did test positive).

The source of the infection was traced to the nanny, a young migrant from Latin America. Perhaps her boyfriend was in a bubble with some gals from Tinder while the nanny was bubbling with the kids? Her immigration status is unclear, but “individuals detained by ICE were 13 times more likely to have COVID-19 than members of the U.S. general population in April-August 2020” (“Impact of COVID-19 on the Immigration System”).

Arranging testing here in Maskachusetts was burdensome and slow. After a couple of days to arrange a test, results took as long as four days to come back. As with roughly half of tests of folks who are infected, my friend’s first test was a false negative (probably due to his body not putting virus on the swab, not due to a mistake in the PCR process). He didn’t receive laboratory confirmation of his disease until after the end of the CDC-recommended quarantine period for the disease (i.e., Kary Mullis‘s invention wasn’t medically or epidemiologically useful).

Along with a higher rate of current COVID-19 infection than never-masked never-shut South Dakota (CDC), we also had more than a foot of snow fall on the ground prior to the official start of winter:

Where is global warming now that we need it?


4 thoughts on “A friend’s COVID-19 journey

    • Don’t worry, now that the vaccine is ready there is a mutant COVID that still provides plenty of reason to self imprison. Your old set of antibodies won’t stand a chance against the new threat!

  1. At least now they have antibodies of their own. The evidence is developing inre: the prevalence of anaphylactic reactions due to the Pfizer vaccine among the susceptible. There have been 6 documented cases of severe allergic reactions in the U.S. out of approximately 272,000 vaccinations, or approximately 1 per 45,000 individuals, versus the usual 1 per million with most other vaccines. Why this is happening is a big question. Early speculation is that the polyethylene glycol nanoparticles used to package the mRNA in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may be the cause. PEG is used often in laxatives, shampoos, cosmetics, and other consumer products, but it is not normally injected. Some estimates are that 76% of people have antibodies to PEG, but only about 7% of those folks develop severe anaphylactic reactions.


    “Szebeni says the mechanism behind PEG-conjugated anaphylaxis is relatively unknown because it does not involve immunoglobulin E (IgE), the antibody type that causes classical allergic reactions. (That’s why he prefers to call them “anaphylactoid” reactions.) Instead, PEG triggers two other classes of antibodies, immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG), involved in a branch of the body’s innate immunity called the complement system, which Szebeni has spent decades studying in a pig model he developed.”

    If the 1/45,000 number continues to hold and we vaccinate 330 million people, we can expect something on the order of 7,500 severe anaphylactic reactions requiring immediate medical intervention and/or hospitalization. The advice right now is: “Get the vaccine but make sure you wait around for at least 30 minutes afterward in case you go into shock.”

    “If PEG does turn out to be the culprit, the question is, what can be done? Screening millions of people for anti-PEG antibodies before they are vaccinated is not feasible. Instead, CDC guidelines recommend not giving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to anyone with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. For people who have had a severe reaction to another vaccine or injectable medication, the risks and benefits of vaccination should be carefully weighed, CDC says. And people who might be at high risk of an anaphylactic reaction should stay at the vaccination site for 30 minutes after their shot so they can be treated if necessary.”


    This is the first time PEG has been used as an adjuvant in a vaccine. Every time you do something for the first time, there are going to be unanticipated problems. Especially at this scale.

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