The new year started with Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 at the World Health Organization, warning people to limit their reinfections because there is uncertainty around what SARS-CoV-2 might do to long-term human health. She highlights the prospect of organ damage and increased morbidity and mortality from reinfection1.

Anyone paying attention will note that the mainstream public health advice is shifting away from the idea that we can live with SARS-CoV-2 without mitigations beyond vaccination. The message from the US National Institutes of Health, World Health Organization and other national and international public health agencies is that SARS-CoV-2 presents more of a risk than many people had anticipated.

2024 has also seen the publication of another important study setting out the immunological dysfunction seen in people with Long Covid2. The study by a University of California, San Francisco team, suggests improper communication between two arms of the immune system in people with Long Covid, leading to immune dysregulation, long-term inflammation, immune activation and exhaustion, and clinical symptoms associated with Long Covid. 

This study joins many others in setting out the biological markers that evidence the physiological differences in people with Long Covid compared to people who don’t develop Long Covid following COVID-19 infection or people who have never had COVID-19. In light of the accumulating evidence of increased risk of Long Covid with COVID-19 reinfections, these are concerning findings3. The HELP Senate Committee on Long Covid recently heard startling evidence from Long Covid researchers and members of the Long Covid community on the scale of the challenge now facing the world. Watch the hearing here

The John Snow Project has long argued that the harms of COVID-19 would be cumulative and that there would likely be immunological dysfunction in at least a subset of people who have COVID-19. The slow drift of mainstream public health agencies towards reality is frustrating, because people are being harmed in the interim, and even when there is finally a consensus, it will take time for governments to act to protect their populations.

In the meantime, the John Snow Project will continue in its mission to inform the public. One of the biggest challenges of the pandemic is combatting disinformation and misinformation. This ranges from the ignorant, which might include scientists making ill-informed pronouncements about Long Covid or the lack of immunological harm caused by COVID-19 infection, to the malevolent, people who are on a mission to undermine public confidence in all vaccines or in the fundamental trust we have in the scientific method.

Some of that misinformation has targeted the John Snow Project itself. The John Snow Project is volunteer run. Our members donate their time and expertise. Most are clinicians working with patients or scientists researching the field, and they support the aims of the John Snow Project because they’ve seen the harms of COVID-19 up close or in their labs. 

In 2022, the John Snow Project received an award of £23,874 from the Balvi Fund. We also briefly enabled donations on our website, which received £253.59 from the public. This is the only external funding we’ve received and in 2022 and 2023 it was used to fund the production of five videos, financing creative, editorial, footage and talent costs - with more projects in production.

Don’t Breathe It In

Provides the missing public awareness video on the mode of transmission driving the pandemic. By popular demand, we also produced versions in Spanish and Chinese. The video gained 1M views in 24 hours from a brand new twitter account with no paid promotion, with 7.2M impressions to date. It has become one of the most popular videos people share to demonstrate the airborne transmission of COVID-19, and has been used in universities, dental practices, webinars, by the World Health Network, as well as by OzSAGE in their collaboration with Australian public health agencies.

Which Halloween mask is the best?

This was a ‘scary’ video designed to encourage respirator mask use and racked up almost half a million impressions.

Will Australia choose to prevent Covid deaths?

In collaboration with OzSAGE (Australia’s independent advisors for public health emergencies) this video was designed to contrast the care and attention given to road safety with the relaxed attitude towards COVID-19 and is now approaching almost one million impressions.

Will we choose to prevent Covid deaths?

The international version of the video is approaching 150,000 impressions.

A Very COVIDY Christmas

A Christmas-themed video on the everyday consequences of bad advice from doctors who are advising people that infection is protection. This controversial video upset people who were more concerned about the death of a fictional character than real life people who are harmed by their minimizing stance. This video has received almost a million impressions so far.

In total, the small, but greatly appreciated, grant from Balvi, has enabled us to reach almost ten million people and shared advice that will have hopefully helped people better protect themselves and loved ones. 

In addition to the grant-funded videos, the John Snow Project produces a range of Insights, Primers and Perspectives sharing evidence from trusted public health or scientific sources, and experiences from people who have been impacted by COVID-19 in different ways. These written pieces have reached hundreds of thousands of people.

We encourage people to read our pieces and go and explore the sources for themselves. Every written piece is fully referenced and we rely only on official guidance or high quality evidence to inform our insights and primers. Explore it all for yourselves and reach your own conclusions. The Covid-cautious community who are still masking and taking precautions will feel reassured they are taking sensible steps to protect themselves from harm. 

And people who perhaps haven’t thought about COVID-19 since 2021, when governments around the world encouraged people to show their smiles and return to normal, might realize they’ve been misled. As they cast around looking for reasons to explain why they might feel more fatigued after their third or fourth COVID-19 infection, or to explain why they are constantly ill with a run of infections, they might read our pieces and the official sources cited and realize that politicians haven’t been entirely forthright in sharing the advice of official government public health agencies.

Public health experts, clinicians and scientists who understand this virus all agree it is not something we should risk catching multiple times. The harms are becoming clearer. We will continue communicating the latest scientific evidence and public health guidance in the hope that more people will take steps to protect themselves while most governments struggle to engage with reality.

Click here for advice on how to protect yourself from COVID-19.