The Daily Dose: Russian vaccine shows 92% efficacy; UK variant picks up a potentially deadly mutation.

There’s some welcome news on the COVID-19 vaccination front. According to the BBC, “Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine gives around 92% protection against Covid-19, late stage trial results published in The Lancet revealed. It has also been deemed to be safe – and offer complete protection against hospitalisation and death. The vaccine was initially met with some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released.” Tackling the pandemic needs to be a global effort and having as many effective vaccines as possible can only help.

On a less optimistic note, the so-called UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 appears to have undergone another change, this time picking up the worrying mutation seen in the South African and Brazilian variant. The BBC reports, “The Kent variant of coronavirus that has been spreading in the UK appears to be undergoing some ‘worrying’ new genetic changes, say scientists. Tests on some samples show a mutation, called E484K, already seen in the South Africa and Brazil variants that are of concern. Although this change may reduce vaccine effectiveness, the current ones in use should still work, say experts.” As the UK variant continues to spread quickly, it will have more opportunities to undergo mutations. The best way to prevent this is to decrease the chances of mutation by decreasing the total number of infections.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed America’s crisis of leadership for over a year. One of the biggest lingering failures has been the lack of a coordinated effort to sequence and track domestic variants. Per the Guardian, “As researchers around the world scramble to understand the dangers of several newly discovered variants of the deadly coronavirus, the US remains woefully behind in its ability to track the mutations, scientists say. The federal government has had its “head in the sand”, failing to develop a coordinated surveillance system for tracking the genetic footprints of the virus, according to academic researchers, scientific panelists and private entrepreneurs, who say they have been urging US officials for months to make better use of the hi-tech resources already sitting in labs around the country.” Hopefully, the new administration will add this to their high priority list.

The new coronavirus variants have already shown an ability to evade the immune responses elicited by current vaccines. Now, there are reports that they can also evade the only therapeutic options as well. The Guardian reports that “The great hope for drug treatments against Covid-19 – the monoclonal antibodies – are failing against variants of the virus, such as those that have emerged in South Africa and Brazil, scientists have found. But to the dismay of those who work on therapies against the disease, all three leading contenders – Regeneron’s, and drugs from Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline – fail against one or more of the variants.”

There have been so many anti-lockdown protests around the world that it’s difficult to keep track. Al-Jazeera made an interactive map of all the civil unrest caused by the pandemic.

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

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