close up photo of the coronavirus

The Code COVID19 International Update – 21 October 2021

The Code COVID19 International Update – 21 October 2021

Dr Priscilla Robinson

The Code COVID19 International Update is a weekly snapshot of the COVID-19 pandemic, assessing efforts by nations around the world to test, track and fight the virus. It’s compiled by Dr Priscilla Robinson, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Health at LaTrobe University, and an editor for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

View the latest spreadsheet here

This week’s snapshot shows the ‘catch up’ from the reporting problem reported by WHO last week in the Americas, and this week WHO reports a problem with data from Europe. As I have no idea what the problem is I cannot adjust the numbers in the table – so for now just remember that it is what it is, and that things are not as bad as they look in the Americas.

Many countries which were previously distinct trouble spots now have low numbers. South Africa for example is reporting far fewer cases that we are in Australia, despite having more than twice the population. Other countries seem to be reporting extraordinarily high case numbers; for example Romania (not currently on the list of countries I regularly follow) has had an increase of many thousands over the past few days.

Vaccinations remain very interesting (and concerning). Australia lags behind some much less wealthy countries in terms of coverage (both partial and total), and a number of countries are up to 80% partial and 70% total overall now, if children are left out of the count (which I am n at all sure is a good idea; it makes numbers look better than they really are). Afghanistan is not reporting at all at the moment, and most war zones remain in trouble – bring on those national immunisation days as has happened in the past (including in Afghanistan). Immunisations might be a gateway drug to peace, as has happened with polio vaccination days.  The Maldives seems to have unvaccinated some of its people, as their X2 dose number has dropped this week. A few countries seem to not being reporting at the moment (see the red highlighted numbers for countries such as Monaco) and others seem to have slowed down a lot (Mongolia for example).

All of this suggests that there are pockets of herd immunity – where just about everybody has either had COVID and recovered, or been vaccinated, or both, so vulnerable people are not so easy for it to find. Vaccines remain terribly important for the places which have so far been totally or relatively unaffected, because their peoples remain very vulnerable, particularly as the vaccines do not prevent carriage, so vaccinated people can pick it up and pass it on –  but vaccinated people are much less likely do so, or to be sick themselves. Many people are unaware that they are carting nasty bugs around because they do not make them sick, not just with COVID but other diseases too. So keep up the handwashing and masks, they really do work, and important even if you have been vaccinated.

Boosters are now being rolled out in some places, and I will add these to the vaccination chart when the data become available. It does seem unfair when some countries have had almost no vaccines so far though. Vaccination rates in low income countries remains what can really only be described as pathetic, and is obvious if the African continent is compared with the rest of the world.

Here is a reminder that all of those protective measured definitely worked to keep ‘flu at bay again (as well as COVID) this year in Australia. For people in Australia and New Zealand, don’t forget to join Flutracking, if you haven’t already. The project has been redesigned to track the effect of COVID primary course vaccinations and boosters, and the regular updates are interesting.

A chart showing influenza-like illness activity in 2021.



The Journal Nature has published a couple of interesting papers have been this week:

“COVID super-immunity: one of the pandemic’s great puzzles: People who have previously recovered from COVID-19 have a stronger immune response after being vaccinated than those who have never been infected. Scientists are trying to find out why.”  (at

“Drug companies are racing to apply messenger-RNA (mRNA) technology, which has been so successful in COVID-19 jabs, to influenza vaccines. But making mRNA vaccines against the flu might be more challenging than crafting ones against COVID-19.”  (at Nature Reviews Drug Discovery)

A kind colleague sent me this YouTube link: An evolutionary biologist looks at Variants, and the role of rapid testing in Covid.

It is a really interesting and informative one-hour ZOOM lecture, and you might need to skip the first bit. Enjoy.

Personally, if we are going to need COVID as well as flu shots every year, hope they can be delivered in one syringe!

See you next week,



About Dr Priscilla Robinson and The CODE COVID 19 International Update

Dr Robinson is a public health epidemiologist with particular interests in international health and communicable diseases, and public health competencies. She has worked in health departments in England and Australia, has managed public health teaching programmes, and taught and researched many aspects of public health epidemiology and policy in many countries. She is an adjunct Associate Professor at LaTrobe University, and to stop herself being bored is an editor of PHAA’s journal ANZJPH, and holds board positions (almost all unpaid) on various NGOs, journals, and at her local hospital. Otherwise, 10 acres of untamed bushland on a hill in South Gippsland, VIC, makes weight-bearing gym exercise and strength training a bit redundant.

The CODE Update is a regular Intouch feature to keep readers informed of COVID-19 developments around the world.

The CODE Update originally began at the start of the SARS CoV-2 pandemic as Priscilla’s way of explaining to her friends and family around the world what was happening, and counter their experiences of information overload and misinformation. The update provides links to practical materials and papers written for people who are not versed in the language of outbreaks and epidemic curves. Published weekly, it includes a short commentary to provide context to the numbers included in the spreadsheets.

Note: While every attempt is made to transcribe all data faithfully, every now and again mistakes are made and not noticed until the next Update. Also, on occasion, numbers are revised after posting at the source databases.

We hope you will find these updates to be a helpful tool, and the links to current information useful.



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