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COVID-induced nightmare for a big school in a developing country

It is important for us to appreciate the challenges facing education around the world, particularly in developing countries.  Following a recent post by Monday Osagie Adenomon, “Data speak louder than words” (22 June 2021), I decided to add to the conversation, by reflecting on my experiences as an educator in another African country.

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The devil is in the detail

On August 2, 2021, the US government announced it had met its goal of 70% vaccinated. But what does that mean? 70% of what? And what does vaccinated mean? Well, they meant that 70% of US adults has received at least one dose of vaccine. That actually means 59% of the population in the United States has received at least one shot (and thereby are fairly well protected against the COVID-19 disease with the possible exception of the delta variant). It corresponds to 69% of those 12 and over (who are eligible for the vaccine in the US). But in terms of the entire population, those fully vaccinated (with one or two doses, depending on the vaccine used) make up 50%. The risk of catching the disease for vaccinated people is relatively low, but much higher for unvaccinated individuals.

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The devil is in the detail
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There’s no evidence that …

More exposure means more opportunities to mutate. More selection pressure means more variants. This is certainly true for COVID-19 and it might also be true for political rhetoric. The many additional news conferences, press briefings and talk radio slots brought on by the pandemic are perfect conditions for breeding new sound bites and rhetorical tricks. Angry journalists and members of the public provide the selection pressure, weeding out the phrases that fall flat.

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There’s no evidence that …
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Coronavirus baby bust?

Early in the pandemic, people started speculating about potential effects on birth rates. I started talking about news and research that asked the question, “Will coronavirus cause a baby boom, or is that just a myth?” At the time, I ended with a not-so-satisfying “we’ll know in about 9 months.”

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Coronavirus baby bust?
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Uncertainty is a funny thing: musings on wildfire and COVID

It’s a cliché at this point for news articles to compare COVID spread to a wildfire. But the start of meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere this past week coincides with the start of the north American wildfire season, and COVID still rages across the planet, so bear with me a moment for another take on this metaphor. 

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Uncertainty is a funny thing: musings on wildfire and COVID
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One country’s problem, nobody’s problem, everybody’s problem

When we think about massive migrations and humanitarian crises in the last five to ten years, we probably first picture the migrant waves caused by the conflict in Syria that started in 2011. After 10 years of civil war, 6.6 million people have been forced out of that country, and, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 6.7 million more remain internally displaced. More than 90% of Syrian migrants have found refuge in the neighboring countries of Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Migrants also flee to European countries like Greece, Germany, and Sweden. This unfortunate and sad episode of human suffering might eclipse the second largest migratory movement and humanitarian crisis of recent years: the Venezuelan diaspora.

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One country’s problem, nobody’s problem, everybody’s problem
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Found in translation

We were songbirds, we were Greek Gods

We were singled out by fate

We were quoted out of context – it was great.

Prefab Sprout, “Electric guitars”
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Found in translation
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Did Hamlet wish for better data?

To open or not to open? that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Did Hamlet wish for better data? 

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Did Hamlet wish for better data?
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Data for whom? Being mindful of racial disparities

As the United States makes progress towards a state of “normality,” the country has set an incredible pace for vaccine production and distribution. But what information is lost in the big picture?

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Data for whom? Being mindful of racial disparities
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Missing the evidence

A story in the Guardian on February 28 is headlined Pfizer vaccine may be less effective in people with obesity, says study. As the story says, the ‘study’ in question is a preprint. That’s not necessarily a problem; preprints have been a valuable source of up-to-date information during the Covid pandemic, at least when used with care.

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Missing the evidence