The Daily Dose: Scientists come out against COVID-19 herd immunity strategy; Microsoft the crime fighter.

The COVID-19 situation in Europe is beginning to look grim. A proper second wave is has caused new infections to spike across the continent. Governments are beginning to panic. Per Reuters, “The European Commission urged member nations on Thursday to step up preparations against the new surge of coronavirus infections and recommended common measures to roll out vaccines should they become available. With new cases hitting about 100,000 daily, Europe has by a wide margin overtaken the United States, where an average of more than 51,000 COVID-19 infections is reported every day.” Like the United States, Europe has experienced a significant degree of mitigation fatigue. Face masks and social distancing has not been universally adopted by citizens.

Scientists and public health officials have come out against the Great Barrington Declaration which promotes herd immunity as the only possible way of addressing the pandemic. In a commentary in the Lancet, the authors dispute the strategy decisively. Per the Lancet, “The arrival of a second wave and the realisation of the challenges ahead has led to renewed interest in a so-called herd immunity approach, which suggests allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak in the low-risk population while protecting the vulnerable. Proponents suggest this would lead to the development of infection-acquired population immunity in the low-risk population, which will eventually protect the vulnerable. This is a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.” With increasing evidence showing that reinfection is possible, it’s hard to see how herd immunity can be achieved.

Influenza vaccine production has lagged advances in biochemistry and applied science. Egg-based vaccines continues to be the only viable means of production. It’s far from ideal. That’s why the news that two phase 3 trials of plant-derived influenza vaccine candidates is so exciting. Per the Lancet, “Brian Ward and colleagues report two efficacy studies that are, to the best of my knowledge, the first randomised phase 3 trials of a plant-derived quadrivalent influenza vaccine. The vaccine material was generated in Nicotiana benthamiana, a relative of the tobacco plant. The plants were transfected with an attenuated plant viral vector (Agrobacterium tumefaciens) expressing influenza haemagglutinin genes and the vaccine was recovered from the transfected plants in the form of virus-like particles.” Plant-derived flu vaccines would also eliminate problems for people with egg allergies.

Microsoft has assumed the role of crime fighter. The tech giant is trying to knock offline command-and-control servers for a global botnet that uses an infrastructure known as Trickbot to infect computers with malware. Unfortunately, it may not be enough. “Cybersecurity experts said that Microsoft’s use of a U.S. court order to persuade internet providers to take down the botnet servers is laudable. But they add that it’s not apt to be successful because too many won’t comply and because Trickbot’s operators have a decentralized fall-back system and employ encrypted routing.” Do they at least get an A for effort?

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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