Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


Our Seven Gamechangers

Are we suffering from an underappreciation of vaccine efficacy? We think so.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This is an extract from our now-weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday at 6am. You can read the full newsletter here.

Are we suffering from an underappreciation of vaccine efficacy? We think so, as does The New York Times, again. There’s actually so much vaccine-related success that it’s hard to keep track of. For those lost in a blizzard of news, here’s the current efficacy rundown. (And we promise we’re going to take a break from talking about vaccines so much soon.)

  • Pfizer/BioNTech 95%
  • Moderna 94%
  • Sputnik V 92%
  • Novavax 89%
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca 70%
  • Johnson & Johnson 66%
  • Sinovac 50%

As a reminder, last summer we were calling any potential vaccine with 50% or more efficacy a “gamechanger.” Worldwide, we now have seven of those. So the Johnson & Johnson numbers, for instance, only seem disappointing in a world where Pfizer and Moderna’s near-miraculous ones happened to beat them to the punch.

Speaking of numbers, we appreciated this corrective shared by TPN Member Steven Pinker. Does taking the Pfizer vaccine mean you have a 5% chance of catching COVID, AstraZeneca 30%, and so on? No. This article explains how to properly understand the stats. 

All in all, despite some quibbling on the details here (near 100% efficacy, and that might change as time goes on), we take the spirit of writer Matthew Yglesias’ point . . .

. . . and are also joining the prayer circle around this early evidence out of Israel that might mean that vaccines substantially reduce infections.

What do American Samoa, Alaska, and West Virginia have in common? They’re all currently leading on US vaccine dispersal. There’s a lot of frustration going around about the US’ pace, and we support the push for that to keep rising. But it’s also important to know whether the frustration is grounded in reality or not. You can keep track of your state with this vaccination tracker from the Washington Post, and even get involved personally in the effort—many states are offering volunteer programs. And, while we wait for our vaccine appointments, this roundup of all the available COVID treatments, among other information, is worth keeping on hand.

Does a “sex-crazed roaring twenties” await us post-pandemic? Okay, the headline is a bit much, but TPN Member Nicholas Christakis really did say that in a few years we’re going to be looking at a lot of partying. Clear your schedules for 2024.

Completely unrelated. Why do we care about this? The shoe was designed with disabled people in mind, spurred on by a 2012 letter from a teen with cerebral palsy in which he asked Nike for shoes he could more easily wear. Very cool. And who doesn’t like a slip-on sneaker?

From us: Is COVID the end of big cities or the dawn of a new era? Join us on February 25 for a conversation with Penny Abeywardena, NYC’s Commissioner of International Affairs, and Richard Florida, one of the world’s leading urbanists, as they assess the future of big cities in the short- and long-term.

When you think about our environmental future, do you feel an overwhelm bordering on defeat? If so, it’s no wonder, but the narrative of climate catastrophism may not be doing us any good. Join us March 11 for Maybe We’re Not F*cked, a conversation with Ted Nordhaus, cofounder of The Breakthrough Institute, and Bina Venkataraman, author of The Optimist’s Telescope and a former senior climate change advisor in the Obama White House, about a more helpful approach to meeting the challenge of climate change.

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.