By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

Source: Unsplash

This morning I visited my local farmers’ market, a favorite activity of mine. Here in California’s Central Valley we have access to a world-class assortment of the best fresh local produce. Today a new vendor had a booth. She was selling a variety of bacon. Naturally I was interested. I smiled and asked her to tell me about her wares.

“Our pigs roam free in the foothills,” she said. “They eat acorns in the forest.”

That sounded good to me. I’ve heard the finest European hams are made from acorn-fed pigs.

The vendor continued. “And…

Three months ago, I thought my COVID pandemic blogging days were over. Unfortunately there is still plenty to write about. Today I’ll begin a couple of posts to address the concerns and questions I’ve been hearing. In this post, I present a bunch of raw data about where we are in the fourth wave.

Where are we?

The graph above from the CDC shows where we (the United States) are in our 4th surge of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic. We are experiencing the greatest number of new coronavirus infections since the winter peak of 2021.

Not everywhere…

The US is a large and diverse country…

History of smallpox, public health image library, CDC

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

I try to keep my finger on the pulse of online / social media conversations about the pandemic, and to respond to topics that are on people’s minds. This week I’m seeing more than ever an obsession with the particular details of vaccine risk. Short term. Long term. Risks of flu-like illness, blood clots, heart inflammation, infertility, body magnetism (!). Some of these are real (flu-like illness) and quantifiable (blood clots: 1 in a million with Johnson & Johnson vaccine). Others are completely speculative (infertility) or easily disproved (magnetism).

I started to engage in some of these conversations when it…

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

If you have not yet been vaccinated against the coronavirus, I know some of you have your reasons. In this blog post, I’m talking to you.

Some of you don’t really have reasons. Instead you have an identity so strongly linked to the red/Trump/anti-vaxx tribe that it’s not a question of the merits and risks of the vaccine-it’s a question of belonging to a group. For those people, I can offer nothing. The need to belong is a fundamental human need, and I cannot “talk” you into parting ways with your self identity. Without some basic level of trust, I can’t refute blatant lies (such as, vaccines contain microchips, or alter your DNA, or make you magnetic or infertile).

So…for those of you hesitating for an…

Rise of the “delta” variant of SARS-CoV-2. Percent of new COVID cases, delta in purple. Source: Trevor Bedford of Fred Hutchinson Institute, via Twitter

SARS-CoV-2 Delta and other “variants of concern”

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

People have been asking me questions about the “delta variant” that’s being discussed widely in the media. There’s quite a bit of good reporting on it, but here’s my summary of key points.

What is a variant?

A variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is a strain of the virus that has a particular pattern of changes in its RNA that makes it a little bit different from the original strain that swept the world. Those changes aren’t necessarily significant to us, but some changes make some variants “of concern.” The World Health Organization now names important variants with Greek…

Vaccines enable progress in the fight against COVID

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

Last night I met a Sacramento woman who is a neurosurgeon but during the pandemic has heard a call to do something about equity in vaccine access. Her grass-roots effort to acquire and distribute vaccines in neighborhoods where early uptake was low has probably saved many lives. And not only the lives of those who received the vaccine: widespread immunity in the community reduces the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and that protects everyone.

I have good news from California: The contest isn’t over, but we’re winning.

First of all, here are…

This is who you protect when you get vaccinated. Source: National Cancer Institute, public domain.

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

My hubby saw a series of patients in his clinic last week, and an uncomfortable number of them have not been vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus. As he engaged them in conversation, he discovered a surprising variety of explanations and excuses for hesitancy or refusal. (Here’s a nice article about some of the categories: “COVID skeptics, Cost-anxious, System distrusters, and the Watchful”.) Honestly, a think a lot of people are not really capable of explaining their reason(s). They just have a gut feeling, and they are accustomed to making decisions from the gut.

If humans were creatures of pure reason…

By Amy Rogers, MD/PhD

Victory for the vaccines

{Author’s note: This essay is from a US perspective. Forgive me for this parochial view. Other parts of the world are experiencing their own timeline.}

Over a year ago in April 2020 I started publishing a series of blog posts on the pandemic endgame. We had been in lockdown for some weeks, people were dying by the thousands in New York and New Jersey, and economic activity was at a standstill. Worst of all, as we tried to understand what “flatten the curve” meant, we could not see a way out at the end. I offered…

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

Some people who refuse the COVID vaccines argue there is no point to being vaccinated if you must still wear a face mask in public.

I won’t address the problematic, underlying assumption-that the main (or only?) reason to be vaccinated is to escape the inconvenience of covering your face.

But vaccinated people too may be wondering why the face mask recommendation has not been entirely lifted for them. So here’s the deal.

When Pfizer and Moderna (and Johnson & Johnson, etc.) implemented clinical trials of their new vaccines at warp speed last year, they needed answers to two critical questions…

Misunderstanding COVID vaccine 90% efficacy

Photo by Dragon Pan on Unsplash

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

I shared a recent Zoom call with a woman who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “Fully vaccinated” means she is at least 14 days past her second dose of one of the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer.

This woman has not seen her grandchildren in person in over a year, and she desperately wishes to do so. But she still will not. I had to ask. Why?

She didn’t use this word, but the answer was innumeracy.

Innumeracy is the math equivalent of illiteracy. It’s rampant, and unlike illiteracy it’s socially acceptable. How…

Dr. Amy Rogers

Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, and educator. She blogs about coronavirus at

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