Rebecca writes:

I hope you are all well

Leading up to the Christmas period, it is traditional to send Christmas cards to friends and relatives via the postal service in the UK. 

It occured to me the other day that i’d received at least a dozen Christmas cards all with envelopes sealed shut – This is usually via licking the sticky part of the envelope.

I’ve seen some literature suggesting the persistence of SARS_Cov_2 on paper could be as long as 21 days at 20 degrees C. 

I’m wondering what your thoughts might be as to whether this traditional activity would have contributed to the spike in cases (30,000+ per day now) in the UK, despite the tiered restrictions being in place.

Kind regards

Rebecca Wilkins
(Lead Microbiologist @ Baxter Healthcare UK)

Shoshone writes:

Hello folks at TWiV and greetings from Omaha NE where it is unseasonably warm today with expected high of 58 F and sunny. 

I apologize if this email makes no sense but trying to explain my question is difficult.  

Here it goes:

I have now run across two people in my life who are choosing not to get the vaccine because of fertility concerns. Both are citing statements by a Michael Yeadon stating that the spike protein and a placental protein (Syncytin-1) share a protein sequence. The theory he is sharing is that the vaccine produces antibodies against the spike protein and would thus also produce antibodies that “may” attack the Syncytin-1 protein leading to failure of placenta formation. I see multiple issues with the statement but my biggest question is one of logic: if you get a natural SARS-CoV-2 infection won’t you also then have antibodies against Syncytin-1? Therefore, couldn’t a natural SARS-CoV-2 infection cause sterility along with increasing your risk of death, permanent lung damage, heart damage, kidney damage, stroke, etc…? thus the risk of a natural infection far outweighs the risk of the vaccine, right? 

In addition, I read that Syncytin is one of those proteins found in abundance in ovarian and endometrial cancers as well. So, by his logic, the vaccine may have anti-cancer properties (just kidding – definitely not suggesting this is a thing).

Thank you for all your hard work, humor and dissemination of the nerdy science information. Your podcasts are one of the highlights of my week. I have been able to use what I have learned from your podcast in both my professional (EM Physician) and personal life to help people who feel lost and hopeless.



Juan writes:

Hi guys, listener from the Middle East.  Thanks for all the good work. What do we know about the sinopharm vaccine results? It has been approved in UAE and they are offering it to any resident, I can go get it, but the results from stage 3 haven’t been released. Would you guys recommend me to get it? 

Best, Juan

We discussed on TWIV 700 that the Sinopharm results were announced last week on December 30. 

Elizabeth writes:

Dear TWiV team,

First off, I agree with pretty much every positive thing I’ve heard your other listeners say, or write in. Thanks so much for doing this show!!

Just writing today because I saw a (slightly macabre) joke on Twitter I thought you might like — I’ll translate from the German for you:

The people from whom you really DON’T want to hear the words, “This does not look good:”
The plumber
The mechanic
The hairdresser
The dentist
Christian Drosten 

Stay safe,


PS: maybe I should credit the tweeter: 

their “handle,” if that’s the right term, is @DrWauMiau. If I were to read that aloud, it would sound like “Doktor Vow Meow”.

Brenda writes:

Dear Twivvers all,

Thank you so very much for the plain speaking about what is going on in the UK in your latest podcast.  I have recommended your podcast to as many Scottish MPs and MSPs as I think will listen. 

I have NO belief whatsoever that this variant is more infectious.

I live in Scotland where virus prevalence has been low and falling. Why? We have our own Trace system with trace rates in the nineties. The Scottish Trace system is the devolved Holyrood Government and NHS of Scotland.  We are partly dependent on the UK Lighthouse Test system but ScotGov is working to reduce our usage. From bitter experience we know they do not function properly and must be monitored closely at all times.

The problem is the “test and trace” system in England sucks – I would suggest calling it the ”test and fail to trace system” since the latter description is pretty much what Deloitte and their subcontractors implemented. It was designed as a totally centralized private system and did not involve local English NHS or public health professionals. It is still failing – for example just the other week they failed to notify the Welsh authorities of 1100 positive results, due – they claim – to scheduled system maintenance! As a retired IT professional, I am incandescent at such a lame excuse. 

Last I heard – and it is impossible to find out the figures, – the trace rate in England was in the low sixties and struggling.

I know it is not strictly virology but do you know yourselves or do you have any statisticians or public health contacts who can tell you what the effect of such a poor trace rate does to infection rates?


Black Isle Scotland

PS WHO by its nature as a multi-national body has to be more circumspect.   Watch the last two Press Conferences. For every question on this new “strain,” watch them not say it is more infectious, and then go on to experts stress the use of NPIs and having a functioning Test and Trace system.  They have been banging on about this from the get-go.  Thank goodness you are not bound by the restrictions that prevent them from speaking some home truths.

Teri writes:

Hi Vincent and the whole TWIV team,

I am another fan addicted to the knowledge that you each kindly and intelligently provide every week. As many others have said before me, I do not know how I would have survived this pandemic without you keeping me grounded in science and educating me on virology. I have learned so much and enjoyed every minute of it.

I am “just” an HR Manager in a large entertainment company, but I was born with an insatiable curiosity and a love of science. In recent years I became fascinated with neuroscience, then the microbiome, sleep science, and now, of course, virology. So as the citizens of this beautiful blue marble of ours prepare for our newest miracle of science, the Covid-19 vaccination, it is in all our best interest that these vaccinations are as effective as possible. I have read that getting a good night’s sleep both the night before and the night after vaccination can increase the vaccination’s effectiveness. Can you please comment? And if this is backed by science, please encourage your listeners to prioritize their sleep window when they receive their golden ticket.

Thanks again for all you do!

Orlando, FL
Currently 54 F and clear.

Steven writes:

Dear Team TWiV,

I have been listening to your podcasts for several months, trying to improve my understanding of what is happening with COVID-19. I do not have a scientific background, but nonetheless I’ve found the material accessible (most of the time) and immensely enlightening. Thank you for the great work.

In TWiV 696 you discussed this paper on excess mortality for 25-44 year olds:,otherwise%20healthy%20demographic%20likely%20contributed.

I’m fully aligned with your view that ‘even’ 25-44 year olds should not be dismissive about the risks associated with the virus. However, I worry that your strong statements about the conclusions of the paper could actually risk pushing some people in this age bracket to believe that you are ‘over-egging the pudding’ as it were, and could be counter-productive. Let me explain…

The paper (similar to other reviews/reports of this nature) provides no information regarding the circumstances/factors for the 4535 COVID-19 deaths recorded. This may well be due to a lack of data. It leaves open the question – did these 4535 individuals have underlying health conditions or circumstances that placed them at unusually high levels of risk of death due to COVID-19?

Without clarification of this nuance, (for example) a 30 year old with no known health problems, who eats well, exercises and generally takes good care of themselves could easily conclude that COVID-19 represents an insignificant risk to them, and that the 4535 deaths in the group related to people with existing health problems and/or who lead unhealthy lifestyles.

To make the more general point – there seems to be a lack of data regarding the relative risk factors for COVID-19 (whether in terms of death, or serious illness, or ‘long COVID’) across different population segments. Data for broad groups (such as 25-44 year olds in this paper) gets reported, but there is a lack of any detail beyond the high level segmentation (age in this case). Without that detail, people who wish to see themselves as ‘low risk’ can easily conclude ‘well, I’m different from those people’ – and, even worse, they might feel that the risk levels are actually being exaggerated.

My questions to you are then:

  • Have you considered the issues raised above, and is my concern regarding the risk of counter-productivity valid?
  • Is there data that can be used to help to provide a more granular view on relative risks for different population segments?
  • Can, and importantly, should (perhaps they shouldn’t) scientists/doctors/governments strive to deliver a more granular/detailed message about risk factors to communities?

I would love to hear you discuss these questions in a forthcoming episode.

Kind regards and seasonal best wishes from Cheshire, England,


Keith and Carol write:

Howdy all and happy holidays!

Thanks for all you do, it means a lot! I started viewing Vincent’s Virology course on January 2nd 2020 (how prescient!) and highly recommend it to all twiv listeners.

With all the changes this holiday season our family decided instead of being gloomy about everything that is happening we’d instead include this tiny non-living particle that has had such an impact on all our lives, and in a tiny sense “own it”, this coronavirus Christmas.

Included is a couple of pics of our SARSCoV2 tree, which we named Vinnie the Virus. 

In the spirit of itself, while making it we were not allowed to go outside to get any supplies and had to make do with what was lying around the house, everyone had to wear sweatpants, and no one was allowed to shower. I think my beard grew three sizes that day. 

We are particularly proud of both the S and M proteins, and the genetic variance we gave some of them. 

After finishing we stood there admiring our work, and my kid said “Too bad the virus wasn’t this big in real life, at least we’d see it coming.” Truer words have never been spoken, and that is why it behooves all of us to physically distance, mask up, and wash our hands, and simply assume that everyone, including ourselves, are carrying these terrible and wondrous buggers inside us, so that we can all be around next Christmas to celebrate with our loved ones that we did the right things and kept each other alive and well.

All the best to EVERYONE,

and let’s all stay safe.

Keith and Carol and family.

Btw, it’s -1C and looking like snow!