Technology

COVID-19 variants proceed to threaten our capability to finish the pandemic

Novavax, a bio-tech company based in Maryland, released results of its phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial last week.

Novavax, a bio-tech firm based mostly in Maryland, launched outcomes of its part three COVID-19 vaccine trial final week. (Pixabay/)

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The variety of COVID-19 photographs given worldwide now stands at over 350 million. For all the worldwide public well being shortcomings across the pandemic, that is nonetheless the most important single vaccine marketing campaign in human historical past. The US now accounts for over 100 million of these photographs, and had its largest day but on March 13—with practically 5 million photographs reported.

Right here’s every part you may need missed this week.

Variants proceed to threaten the progress we’ve made to finish the pandemic

Globally, the numbers of latest COVID-19 circumstances day-after-day have plateaued after a promising decline. However some public well being consultants are warning of a brand new surge, fueled by variant strains of the coronavirus that may unfold sooner and infect extra furiously.

Take what’s now one of many worst-affected nations, Brazil, which continued to set tragic new data for every day deaths final week. Powered by a fast-spreading variant known as P1 and catalyzed by the ailing administration of a far-right COVID-denialist president, this newest wave appears to haven’t any finish in sight. There’s very actual—and mounting—concern amongst public well being consultants that the wave might overwhelm a healthcare system that’s already urgent in opposition to its limits.

There may be nonetheless hope. Whereas the present crop of vaccines could be much less efficient in opposition to variants like P1, it’s essential to notice that they nonetheless appear to stop just about all extreme circumstances of the sickness. And scientists assume they’ll quickly produce up to date vaccines and boosters for such variants if it’s mandatory.

There’s no proof to recommend the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine hit a hurdle final week. Studies surfaced of newly vaccinated individuals growing blood clotting, one thing that may be life-threatening as a result of they put an individual in danger for stroke, coronary heart assault, or injury to organs from restricted blood movement. Though most nations utilizing that vaccine carried on as traditional, a number of European nations suspended the usage of sure batches of the shot. Others resembling Denmark, Norway, and Thailand have taken much more drastic steps, halting their total vaccine rollouts in order that they’ll make sure the photographs are protected.

Regardless of the alarmed reactions, public well being consultants say there’s nothing to worry. European authorities are investigating, however they don’t count on to seek out something out of kinds. For the over 11 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which have been delivered within the UK, fewer than 100 cases of blood clotting have been reported. Each within the UK and Europe, officers reported that the variety of clotting cases had been no increased than what can be anticipated within the normal inhabitants, and to this point there was no proof proving a causal hyperlink between clotting and the vaccine.

Biotechnology firm Novavax releases the outcomes of a part three medical trial for its coronavirus vaccine

Vaccine watchers could have had their eyes firmly mounted on Johnson & Johnson these previous couple of weeks, however it appears they’ll quickly have one thing else to have a look at. Novavax has launched the information from a UK-based late-stage trial for its shot, and the outcomes are trying good. This trial is an important step in the direction of getting the vaccine authorized to be used, and the corporate plans to file for approval in some nations as quickly as subsequent month.

If US regulators resolve that this research proves enough efficacy, then the vaccine may very well be authorized and begin filtering into US arms by round Might. If not, in line with the corporate, it might take a number of months longer. Information from a North American research is anticipated to reach a while in April.

With variants on many individuals’s minds, the vaccine does appear to be much less efficient in opposition to the B.1.1.7., which was first recognized in Nice Britain. Information from a separate research means that it’s somewhat much less efficient in opposition to the N.501.Y, which was first recognized in South Africa, however nonetheless manages to stop extreme circumstances of the latter.

[Related: What the first year of COVID tells us about the next]

Johnson & Johnson offers COVAX a booster

COVAX—a world vaccine-sharing scheme that goals to donate photographs to lower-income nations who can’t afford them on the open market—obtained a boon final week when the World Well being Group listed the Johnson & Johnson shot for emergency use. That vaccine can now be a part of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccines for world distribution. Critically, Johnson & Johnson’s is the primary COVAX vaccine that makes use of just one dose.

COVAX’s advantages are beginning to be felt around the globe, from Ethiopia to Afghanistan to Colombia. Whereas the majority of the world’s richest nations have made important headway with their vaccination campaigns, solely a small few of their lowest-income counterparts have carried out the identical. The Biden administration is going through growing scrutiny for not doing sufficient to share, after promising to ship vaccines for all US adults by Might.

Fb is attempting to type out the best way to combat vaccine skepticism

In public, Fb could be flailing haplessly in opposition to a tide of vaccine-related misinformation that has flooded its platform and is inflicting very actual hurt. Internally, nevertheless, the corporate appears to be enterprise a research to grasp how anti-vaccine messages are spreading on its platform—within the US, at any price.

Dividing its US customers and pages into a number of hundred inhabitants segments, Fb researchers discovered that almost all of anti-vaccine content material is concentrated in solely 10 of these segments. Even inside these segments, anti-vaccine sentiment appears to be pushed by a small, vocal minority of customers. And whereas the strongest anti-vaccine segments are unsurprisingly linked with QAnon, vaccine hesitancy spreads far more broadly and in additional nuanced methods.

Fb is actually in a singular place to do such a research, with billions of customers throughout apps, together with Instagram and WhatsApp. That stated, it’s the identical firm that has been accused of facilitating ethnic cleaning and whose information was harvested and bought to political advertisers, so it’s going to take fairly some work to persuade the general public (or regulators) that its far-reaching information assortment is helpful.

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