The Daily Dose: Making sense out of puzzling COVID-19 vaccine trial data; Cambridge University lost some of Charles Darwin’s notebooks.

A day after Oxford University and AstraZeneca released preliminary data from their COVID-19 Phase III clinical trial, scientists are trying to make sense of the positive but puzzling data. Per Nature, “A top priority for researchers is understanding why the vaccine seems to have performed so much better with a lower first dose. One explanation could lie in the data: the trial might not have been big enough to gauge the difference between the two regimens, and the differences will vanish once more cases of COVID-19 are detected, says Luk Vandenberghe, a virologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston. The more effective ‘half-dose, full dose’ results were based on 2,741 trial participants, whereas the less efficacious arm included 8,895 volunteers. The press release did not specify in which group cases occurred.” As data continues to accumulate, a clearer picture should probably emerge.

COVID-19 continues to highlight and victimize vulnerable segments of society, mostly members of lower socio-economic strata. Around the world, delivery persons are the most exposed but least supported workers. South Korea is the latest country to show the trend. Per Reuters, “The big delivery firms are enjoying strong profits. CJ Logistics reported a 21% rise in first-half operating profit and Hanjin Transportation posted a 35% increase. Those companies represent about a 64% of the delivery market. Most of South Korea’s 54,000 delivery workers are hired under subcontracts that deny them the safeguards and benefits regular employees get.” Gig economy workers often occupy precarious positions where they are legally contract workers and do not enjoy full-time employee benefits.

Japan’s chicken farms have been struggling to contain an outbreak of avian influenza. Per the Japan Times, “The Kagawa Prefectural Government said Saturday that avian influenza infections have been confirmed at a poultry farm in Mitoyo, reporting this year’s eighth outbreak at such a facility in Japan. Some 77,000 birds being raised at the farm will be culled. After receiving a report on an increase in the number of dead chickens Friday, the prefecture conducted simple testing and found positive cases. Genetic testing conducted later indicated that the virus is very likely to be highly pathogenic.” The Mitoyo avian influenza outbreak is the eighth in Japan this year.

Al-Jazeera is doing a five-part, in-depth examination of the effects of the various global COVID-19 lockdowns on economics, society, and politics. All Hail the Lockdown can be viewed on the website over the course of November and December.

A pair of Charles Darwin’s notebooks have been missing for two years. Per the BBC, “Cambridge University Library has announced that two notebooks written by Charles Darwin, worth many millions of pounds, have been missing for 20 years. One of them contains the 19th Century scientist’s famous Tree of Life sketch, exploring the evolutionary relationship between species. Following an ‘extensive search’, curators have now concluded they have probably been stolen.” It’s hard to imagine the notebooks being sold on the open market or even the black market without someone taking notice.

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