The Daily Dose: J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine nears approval; Small step to the robot apocalypse.

Another COVID-19 vaccine appears set to garner emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Per Fierce Biotech, “Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is one step closer to emergency authorization as FDA staffers endorsed it as safe and effective in briefing documents released (PDF) on Wednesday, ahead of an advisory committee meeting scheduled for Friday… The documents confirmed the safety and efficacy profile of the vaccine, known as Ad26.COV2.S, reiterating that it was 66.1% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection at least 28 days after vaccination, with a ‘favorable safety profile’ and ‘no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an EUA.’ The vaccine is given in a single injection and Johnson & Johnson is seeking an emergency nod in adults aged 18 and older.” The J&J performed better in the U.S. than on places with greater numbers of known variants. In particular, the vaccine showed only 52% efficacy in South Africa.

Superspreader events have been a major driver of the pandemic. Increasing evidence is confirming its role. Per Nature, “As the pandemic enters its second year — a time marked by news of fast-spreading variants of the virus — researchers are now more convinced than ever of the importance of superspreading in how the COVID-19 pandemic has played out, and how it will do so in the future. They have found that superspreading events are one of the main ways in which SARS-CoV-2 has gained a foothold in communities around the world, so far infecting more than 100 million people and killing more than 2.4 million. Without effective control measures, superspreading events might even become larger and more frequent as more-transmissible variants first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil push out other strains of the virus.” It ain’t over till it’s over as they say.

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Sometimes, the answer to a public health problems has nothing to do with vaccines or chemotherapies. Soil-transmitted helminths are serious dangers in developing countries. Quite often, dirt floors inside homes account for a significant amount of infections. One proposed solution to the problem is to simply install non-porous flooring in homes. A Lancet Global Health paper studied whether there were any benefits. According to the authors, “In this prospective, observational cohort, we found that household finished flooring was associated with lower soil-transmitted helminths and G duodenalis infection in young children. In Bangladesh, household finished flooring was associated with lower prevalence of A lumbricoides, N americanus, any soil-transmitted helminths, and G duodenalis, but not A ceylanicum and T trichiura. In Kenya, we found protective associations with A lumbricoides, any soil-transmitted helminths, and G duodenalis, but not N americanus or T trichiura.” Seems like common sense.

The industrial robot company, ABB, has announced that it is introducing two new robots to its catalogue. “The new GoFa and SWIFTI cobots, which cost $25,000 to $35,000 each, are packed with sensors to prevent accidents and so do away with the need for protective cages. Both robots are faster than previous models, with the Swifti able to move its arm at up to 5 meters per second while carrying a load of 5 kg. They could be used by smaller companies like bakeries which have never had a robot before, Atiya said, although they will never totally replace human.” Yeah, right. The slow creep toward the total robot takeover continues.

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

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