The BA.5 Wave in Central Europe Has Peaked
Vaccines are failing, not many are dying, but people are on balance sicker than usual at this time of year.
Wastewater monitoring from Switzerland …
… strongly suggests that Central Europe is just past its Omicron BA.5 peak.
In every jurisdiction that I know of, official Corona mortality remains well below the death numbers seen in the first Omicron wave …
… while excess mortality is less optimistic and suggests something closer to a repeat of those late-winter peaks:
The hospitalisation statistics will not re-achieve their winter peak, not even close. German ICU admissions won’t even break 2,000:
Remember, as always, that a substantial portion – as many as half – of these numbers are incidental. Summer infections are less deadly than winter infections, but widespread suppositions that BA.5 would be more pathogenic than prior Omicron strains remains a theory in search of clinical evidence.
It’s not all good news, though. The German fever gauge data, Grippe Web, estimates the rate of acute respiratory infections across the whole population peaked at 6%, or 50 to 100% higher than normal for this time of year:
The German sentinel clinic data, despite the extremely small and unrepresentative sample size, carries some clues as to what’s going on:
Yes, SARS-2 is surging right now, but so is parainfluenza virus, or PIV – dark blue in the chart above. PIV was hit hard by mass containment and for much of the pandemic it was basically nowhere to be found. In the absence of repeated exposure, human immunity to PIV waned, making way for its out-of-season resurgence. Omicron BA.5 is one reason that people are sicker right now, but it’s not the only one. Lingering lockdown effects, in the form of fading immune protections against other common viruses, are also responsible.
As for vaccine efficacy, it continues to circle the drain. The Robert Koch Institut, like many other public health authorities, have banished the numbers from their weekly reports, stashing them in separate monthly updates where fewer will notice them.
Here’s the incidence of hospitalisation (per 100,000) for unvaccinated (dashed line), double-vaccinated (solid line) and triple-vaccinated (dotted solid line) 12-to-17-year-olds, from their last report, published on 7 July:
Note the extremely small scale of the y-axis. Vaccination does absolutely nothing for kids.
Now 18-59-year-olds (blue) and 60+ year-olds (orange):
Interest in vaccination, meanwhile, has flatlined; some enthusiasm will return in the Fall, but the vaccinators will never reachieve the mania of 2021. Declining and even negative efficacy will only become harder and harder to hide beneath the pointless boosting.
If there is any merit to my crazy theory that Omicron marks an important shift in the evolution of SARS-2, from a more harmful vector-borne pathogen that specialised in hospitals and care homes, to a less harmful virus spread primarily by direct contact, the virus will never achieve its prior pathogenicity and will behave increasingly like all the other viruses tracked by flu surveillance projects. The biggest question now, is how badly our mass vaccination project has ruined the ordinary process of endemicity. We have fixed the immune response of billions of people on the obsolete vector-borne form of SARS-2, rather than the direct-contact lineages that we’ll all have to contend with in our daily lives.
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