South Africa vs. Portugal: Same Variant, Opposite Outcomes
Summary: The BA4/5 sister variants currently dominate two countries: South Africa and Portugal. South Africa is barely vaccinated (only 35% had a vaccine, 5% had a booster), whereas Portugal is 95% vaccinated and 70% boosted. The situations in these countries could not be any more different: while Ba.4 and Ba.5 were mere blips on the radar in South Africa, these same variants are driving a deadly wave of Covid in highly-vaccinated Portugal, with deaths among the Portuguese nearing January peak and showing few signs of abating.
South Africa and Portugal form a two-country controlled experiment: vaccinate one country and do not vaccinate another, and expose both to Covid Ba4/5. The difference in outcomes is telling.
Let’s explore. South Africa and Portugal are on the opposite sides of the vaccination spectrum: South Africa is barely vaccinated, while in Portugal, reportedly, “there is no one left to vaccinate” (read that story, it is something).
Back in 2021, Portuguese “health experts” and officials promised upcoming “herd immunity”, which Portugal would enjoy once the harshly enforced near-total vaccination would complete. The majority of Portuguese citizens “believed in science” and thought very highly of themselves for that. Most Portuguese “health experts” and officials dismissed ignorant, science-denying protesters, pictured below, who were objecting to forced vaccination.
A year later, things did not quite work out as planned. Instead of herd immunity, Portugal is in the midst of a deadly wave of “Ba.4/5 variants” causing another increase in deaths, with no end in sight.
The deaths in Portugal are coming fairly close to the level of the first Omicron wave and are still rising, so there is no telling how high they will go. In South Africa, however, deaths are about 1/6th of their winter deaths and generally look like Ba4/5 wave was a non-event there.
Mind you, Portugal has a decent Western medical system and South Africa is a poorer country.
- Both countries are experiencing a “BA4/5” wave
- It was no big deal for South Africa
- The same wave is deadly for the overboosted Portuguese and the deaths keep rising
- Covid looks to be “mostly over” for unvaccinated South Africa and is “only getting started” for totally vaccinated and mostly boosted Portugal.
While no two countries are alike, this is a very alarming finding. Mind you, just about everyone in Portugal had Covid by the end of last winter. Thus, this current wave of infections and deaths in Portugal is driven by reinfections.
Infections and reinfections drove vaccinated Portugal deaths way past the unvaccinated South Africa deaths, despite a better medical system in Portugal. (H/T @GabinJean3)
Why are reinfections happening? Because boosted people are unable to acquire proper immunity upon infection. Thus, they are forced to endure endless Covid reinfections, that further damage their immune systems, inviting more illness.
I am very sorry for the people of Portugal. I hope that someone can come up with something to make them healthy again. To make that happen, Portugal needs to fire and prosecute the crooks who got the country into the current situation and look for real solutions, with the crooks removed from influence.
What about other countries?
Ba.5 had an early start in Portugal, so it had time to play out. In other countries, as of now, Ba.5 (and Ba.4, which I will skip for brevity) is growing alarmingly rapidly in highly vaccinated states of the US, as well as in Denmark, the UK and Australia.
Ba.5 is growing in USA, doubling each week. This article is worth checking out.
While BA.2.12.1 gained an advantage by being more transmissible than BA.2 before it, the two newer variants are said to be making inroads at least in part because of their abilities to reinfect.
“We now report findings from a systematic antigenic analysis of these surging Omicron subvariants,” says a recent paper published to the BioRxiv preprint server. “BA.2.12.1 is only modestly (1.8-fold) more resistant to sera from vaccinated and boosted individuals than BA.2. On the other hand, BA.4/5 is substantially (4.2-fold) more resistant and thus more likely to lead to vaccine breakthrough infections.”
What the article does not say, of course, is that Covid-19 is evolving in the often-reinfected boosted people to not only evade immunity but to take advantage of the no-longer-effective antibodies and deprogrammed immune systems, while giving its sufferers no long-lasting protection after reach reinfection.
CDC variant tracker lumps Ba4 and Ba5 together and shows that they double in incidence every week:
Another confirmation: Chile
Omicron is Becoming More Severe
We may soon see yet one more “Covid wave” in the US and several other countries. If South Africa is any guide, it is unlikely to affect the unvaccinated-recovered people as much because it did not do so in South Africa. However, heavily vaccinated and boosted cities and countries may experience another exhausting wave of Covid.
Unfortunately, likely Ba.5 is more severe than Ba.2. It is more fusogenic and thus may be somewhat more lethal to the people to get it.
Summary to my readers: Do not panic, get a healthy tan, and stay in good shape. If you are unvaxed and had Covid already, most likely you will be fine, just like South Africans are. There will be tons of variants coming in the coming months and years, so no reason to overstress yourself over this one.
EDIT: Special note to unvaccinated-uninfected, several of whom inquired in comments: you are the healthiest people of all. Lots of less healthy people, like me, caught covid already. Just stay as healthy as you can and stock up on meds. Tan appropriately and enjoy the outdoors.
Good luck to all.