Posted by Editor: FDBobko
February 4, 2021
Dr. George Rutherford
Chair, Department of Epidemiology at UCSF
Article by Steve Wilson
Photos by Dianne Bobko
Ginger Minoletti introduced our featured and much-awaited speaker was Dr. George Rutherford, head of the Department of Epidemiology at UCSF.  Dr. Rutherford has a public health focus as his position suggests, and has been a Fellow at CDC, in addition to considerable time spent in less-developed nations where epidemiology is an even greater concern than here.  Previous research and public health program efforts in the field have included such things as HIV, Ebola and the original SARS variant.  He and his department are truly on the cutting edge of Covid research and immunization.  
Dr. Rutherford began with an update and overview of statistics, at a level of analysis that was well beyond what we see in media.  the good news today is that we are "on the backside" of the third wave of Covid-19, with a significant drop in the number of U.S. and CA cases and deaths.  the great majority of CA cases are now in LA County and Southern CA generally, with the seven counties with highest incidence all in Southern CA. There is data indicating a significant decline in transmission.  In CA, the rate of positive testing for Covid is now 6.4%, with a case incidence of 41.2 cases per 100,000 population.  ICU use is falling.   The number of secondary cases is falling.  More people have acquired immunity from either infection or vaccination.  As we head into warmer weather and greater vaccination numbers, this should be cause for guarded optimism. There is also evidence that asymptomatic infection (passive carrier) is being reduced.
Dr. Rutherford reviewed the new seven-point national strategy and endorsed it.  Three new products in the pipeline are from Johnson & Johnson (release imminent), AstraZeneca and Novavax.  the first two are adenovirus vaccines.  Novavax is a protein vaccine.  the reader is referred to wikipedia or other impeccable source of knowledge for a fuller  understanding of those terms.  Of interest is the fact that J & J requires only one shot and doesn't need to be super-frozen.  Efficacy of the two two-shot vaccines now available (Moderna and Pfizer) appears relatively close.  Moderna data indicates that the efficacy rate of its vaccine after a couple of weeks, with one shot is 92% and after two shots is 95%.    Bear in mind that this is short-term data.  It is certainly recommended to get both shots.
Dr. Rutherford spent considerable time discussing the variant strains of Covid, which he and his staff have studied closely.  the UK Strain is more transmissible, and it is believed likely that this strain will eventually replace the original Covid-19 as the dominant form of infection. On the other hand, the UK Strain responds well to the two current vaccines in the US market, with relatively little difference in vaccine efficacy.  The South African and Brazilian strains are more problematic, with less efficacy (but still significant) shown for current vaccines.  On the other hand, those reinfected by either the Brazilian or South African strains have had markedly less need to be hospitalized, and fewer have died.  There is no valid data on other strains yet as they are too new.  
There were a number of interesting questions from our attendees.  We addressed theraupeutics employed in severe cases.  Remdesivir is now widely used.  For highly at-risk patients in the earlier stages of the illness, monoclonal antibodies are also widely employed.  Studies continue on the presence duration of of antibodies, with some favorable trends.  Studies also continue on aftereffects of illness, with many of the symptoms (aching, tiredness, loss of taste, memory, etc.) going as long as six months in some cases.  The supply line for vaccine has grown greatly and will continue to expand rapidly.  the federal government has gotten better about advising states how many doses to be expected in the near term.  It is too early to tell whether the appearance of other Covid variants will require re-vaccination in the future.  Dr. Rutherford cautioned against treatment or therapy other than those approaches supported by reputable clinical testing, advising to regard most of this as "snake oil" unless proven otherwise.  He had a pithy sound bite for people in conversation with vaccine skeptics or anti-vaxxers:  "This virus has taken more U.S. lives in 11 months than in all of World War II, and we have a vaccine that is 95% effective."
A final sobering thought was that the biggest piece of luck  we've had in the last 12 months was that the 49ers did NOT win the Super Bowl a year ago.  Imagine the infection consequences of multiple celebrations.
Club Meeting - February 4, 2021 
Our February 4 meeting started later, at 12:45, to accommodate our speaker.  We were joined by a number of members of Coastside Women's Club, as well as Caroline from Belgium and Laura from Brazil two of our recent RYE alumnae.   Caroline and Laura shared briefly about how they are surviving the pandemic.  
Inspiration Thought - Susan opened the meeting with a quote from Thoreau about seeds.