Should you take a supplement for COVID-19?

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Mostly a waste of time. Source: Pexels

Note: because not everyone reads to the end, I’d like to say right up here that the best advice I can give you is to go and talk to your doctor. Taking a supplement or not is a medical decision, and those are best made in consultation with experts who know more about your health than articles you find on the internet.

There’s something quite magical about the supplement aisle. You walk down a row of brightly-coloured bottles, each one trying to outdo the others on its wonderful benefit to your body. …


Or, more specifically, what it DOESN’T mean

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Laced with meaning. Source: Pexels

In the year of COVID-19, many things that are really scientific questions have become absurdly politicized. There’s hydroxychloroquine, which as an anti-malarial drug really shouldn’t be the topic of much political conversation, but somehow is. There’s herd immunity, which has gone from a fairly niche epidemiological concept mostly discussed by experts to one of the most political topics in the world.

And, of course, there’s masks, which have somehow become arguably the key political battle in the COVID-19 war.

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Weirdly political. Source: Pexels

This is very strange, because ultimately wearing a mask is arguably the easiest way to reduce your risk of COVID-19 infection. While the benefits of mask mandates — especially those that only target public, open areas — are perhaps more debatable, at an individual level the idea that a mask should be an extreme political choice is really just bizarre. …


Pfizer says they have a 90% effective vaccine. What does that mean?

Image for post
Image for post
Life-saving. Source: SELF Magazine

The holy grail of Covid-19 has been, for most of the year, a vaccine. We’ve all been using “when we’ve got a vaccine” as a synonym for “back to normal,” because the only return to normalcy that we can really envision is based on everyone being immunized against infection. In all the conversations about how the pandemic might end, the one thing that is always featured is a vaccine that prevents the disease in the people who get it.

Which is why the recent Pfizer news feels momentous. The preliminary results from one of the first Phase 3 trials for a vaccine against Covid-19 have been reported, with Pfizer and BioNTech announcing that their vaccine is 90% effective at preventing Covid-19 at 28 days after the vaccine was given. All of a sudden, the hazy dreams of tomorrow where we are all safe from Covid-19 have become much more realistic in the near future. …


Why the rise in COVID-19 cases is very worrying

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: We’re all in this together, and other reassuring slogans. Source: Pexels

As cases of COVID-19 skyrocket across Europe and the United States, a new myth has emerged to add to our ever-increasing list of coronavirus-related nonsense. The idea is that the current massive epidemic in Europe and elsewhere is not an issue, because this is a ‘casedemic’ — an increase in cases without any concomitant increase in sickness or deaths.

Basically, it’s another way of saying that the pandemic is over, from people who’ve been saying that it was over every month since March.

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Not over yet, unfortunately. Source: Pexels

Thing is, this new piece of disinformation is simply factually inaccurate, and is driven by a simple misunderstanding: that the second wave of COVID-19 was dramatically different to the first. In fact, the two waves are much more alike than you’d imagine, because the disease probably hasn’t changed enormously in the last 6 months or so no matter how much we wish that it has. …


Why one good study is better than hundreds of bad ones

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Stock photo results for “Study”. You just have to love stock photo websites sometimes. Source: Pexels

In the Age Of COVID-19, scientific research has gone from the esoteric mutterings of geeks like me to the everyday parlance of pretty much everyone the world over. Instead of discussing the weather, or politics, suddenly you’ll find yourself dipping into seroprevalence results, or the potential benefits of anti-malarials for the treatment of viral disease.

Truly, 2020 is a weird time for us all.

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Dinnertime conversation topic, suddenly. Source: Pexels

But something keeps coming up in almost every discussion about COVID-19. It’s a pretty simple mistake to make, and very easy to understand — one of those things that we all intuitively think, because it just makes sense. I’m talking about adding up studies numerically, and counting that as the best evidence. …


A very difficult question to answer

Image for post
Image for post
Sometimes I long for the days when I had hair so I could do something like this. Source: Pexels

In this era of vast uncertainty, one thing that has remained constant is the innumerable questions. When is this going to end? Are children at risk to the virus? Is ordering fried chicken three nights in a row a terrible idea?*

And one really quite important query: is COVID-19 getting less lethal over time?

Image for post
Image for post
Something that can really only be properly answered while staring into a crystal ball. Source: Pexels

If you listen to the headlines, the answer is an emphatic yes. …


A difficult question to answer

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Sad. Source: Pexels

2020 has been the year that vague epidemiological theories that were mostly of interest to us nerds suddenly became mainstream. Herd immunity, which previously was mostly the purview of epidemiologists in mouldering public health departments, suddenly became worthy of mainstream discussion and endless debate. Infection fatality rates, which were previously restricted mostly to infectious diseases conferences, have suddenly become headline news around the world.

And most recently, we have the debate about cost and benefit. Cost-benefit analyses are a pivotal part of the epidemiological landscape, because as public health experts we are all too aware that there are limited resources to play around with when it comes to health interventions, something that has been even truer this year than ever before. …


Why aiming for herd immunity still makes no sense for COVID-19

Image for post
Image for post
Gotta love how many photos of “COVID” on stock websites are just…weird. Source: Pexels

In this year of unexpected nonsense, the one thing that I would’ve never predicted is the hydra of herd immunity. When I was first asked by a journalist what I thought of herd immunity as an exit strategy for the pandemic, way back in April, I laughed nervously and said “No one is actually suggesting that are they? It’s absurd”.

Reader, not only were people suggesting it then, they’ve continued to do so almost every day since.

Image for post
Image for post
“What are we going to do tonight?” “The same thing we do every night — spread nonsense about COVID-19!” *Maniacal laughter* Source: Pexels

So, let’s talk herd immunity, what it is and isn’t, and why it still isn’t a solution to COVID-19 no matter what has been reported. …


Why we still don’t know whether a vitamin D supplement helps for coronavirus

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: More of a mystery than you might imagine. Source: Unsplash

We all want a miracle cure. We want a silver bullet, a single source of salvation that can save us from everything. This isn’t news, or particularly surprising, but it’s amazing how much this desire permeates everything we say and do when it comes not just to COVID-19, but to every aspect of our lives. It would be so much simpler if there was one cure that could fix everything.

Unfortunately, there almost never is. But that doesn’t stop us from wanting one.

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: A wall full of hope, with very little promise. Source: Unsplash

But while this is true of every aspect of our lives, it’s so astonishingly true for COVID-19. From hydroxychloroquine to ivermectin, this year has been filled with nothing but miracle cure after miracle cure, and thus far they’ve all failed*. …


Why it’s nonsense to say that 90% of COVID-19 tests are false positives

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: Science! Source: Pexels

In all of the times that we thought about a pandemic, in some hazy future that would probably never happen, the one thing that we mostly never foresaw was the truly epic amount of nonsense that would be produced. It seems like every second minute that a new myth about COVID-19 springs up that needs to be debunked, whether it’s the idea that drinking hot water can kill the virus (remember that from way back in April?) to the newer absurdity spreading around that most coronavirus deaths were actually caused by buses (spoiler: they weren’t).

Image for post
Image for post
Pictured: At least 50% bigger than your average virus. Source: Pexels

And so, when the newest misconception sprang up, instead of feeling elated that my purpose as a science communicator and blogger was being fulfilled, I instead felt the bone-crushing weariness that comes from total nonsense going very every single day of the year. And because this nonsense is about a pandemic disease, and policy makers do sometimes base their decisions on trash analyses published online, I felt like it’s important to address this inaccuracy as soon as possible. …

About

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store