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

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

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

Right here’s every little thing you might need missed this week.

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

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

Take what’s now one of many worst-affected international locations, Brazil, which continued to set tragic new data for each day deaths final week. Powered by a fast-spreading variant referred to as P1 and catalyzed by the sick 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 specialists that the wave may overwhelm a healthcare system that’s already urgent towards its limits.

There’s nonetheless hope. Whereas the present crop of vaccines is likely to be much less efficient towards variants like P1, it’s essential to notice that they nonetheless appear to forestall just about all extreme instances of the sickness. And scientists assume they’ll quickly produce up to date vaccines and boosters for such variants if it’s crucial.

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

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine hit a hurdle final week. Experiences surfaced of newly vaccinated folks 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 harm to organs from restricted blood movement. Though most international locations utilizing that vaccine carried on as ordinary, a number of European international locations suspended the usage of sure batches of the shot. Others resembling Denmark, Norway, and Thailand have taken much more drastic steps, halting their whole vaccine rollouts in order that they’ll make sure the pictures are secure.

Regardless of the alarmed reactions, public well being specialists say there’s nothing to worry. European authorities are investigating, however they don’t anticipate finding something out of kinds. For the over 11 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which were 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 have been no larger than what could be anticipated within the common inhabitants, and to date there was no proof proving a causal link between clotting and the vaccine.

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

Vaccine watchers might have had their eyes firmly mounted on Johnson & Johnson these previous few weeks, nevertheless 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 wanting good. This trial is a vital step in direction of getting the vaccine accredited to be used, and the corporate plans to file for approval in some international locations as quickly as subsequent month.

If US regulators determine that this examine proves ample efficacy, then the vaccine may very well be accredited and begin filtering into US arms by round Might. If not, in keeping with the corporate, it may take just a few months longer. Knowledge from a North American examine is anticipated to reach a while in April.

With variants on many individuals’s minds, the vaccine does appear to be much less efficient towards the B.1.1.7., which was first recognized in Nice Britain. Knowledge from a separate examine means that it’s reasonably much less efficient towards the N.501.Y, which was first recognized in South Africa, however nonetheless manages to forestall extreme instances of the latter.

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

Johnson & Johnson offers COVAX a booster

COVAX—a worldwide vaccine-sharing scheme that goals to donate pictures to lower-income international locations who can’t afford them on the open market—received 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 international locations have made important headway with their vaccination campaigns, solely a small few of their lowest-income counterparts have executed the identical. The Biden administration is dealing with rising scrutiny for not doing sufficient to share, after promising to ship vaccines for all US adults by Might.

Fb is making an attempt to kind out methods to struggle vaccine skepticism

In public, Fb is likely to be flailing haplessly towards a tide of vaccine-related misinformation that has flooded its platform and is inflicting very actual hurt. Internally, nonetheless, the corporate appears to be endeavor a examine to know 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 rather more extensively and in additional nuanced methods.

Fb is definitely in a novel place to do such a examine, with billions of customers throughout apps, together with Instagram and WhatsApp. That mentioned, 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’ll take fairly some work to persuade the general public (or regulators) that its far-reaching information assortment is helpful.

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