The Daily Dose: COVID-19 vaccine problems continue to mount; U.S.-China collaboration possible on healthcare.

There appear to be issues with adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccines. First, the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine were linked to serious blood clotting issues on rare occasions. Now, it appears a similar vaccine, this time from Johnson & Johnson, has run into blood clotting side effects. According to the Associated Press, “The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating unusual clots in six women that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48. The reports appear similar to a rare, unusual type of clotting disorder that European authorities say is possibly linked to another COVID-19 vaccine not yet cleared in the U.S., from AstraZeneca.” Although the condition is extremely rare, the news will undoubtedly provide more fuel for the anti-vaxx fire.

If the bad news about the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines wasn’t bad enough. It appears that trouble is brewing in India, thanks to a major surge in COVID-19 infections. The AP reports: “The surge, which can be seen across India, is particularly alarming because the country is a major vaccine producer and a critical supplier to the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative. That program aims to bring shots to some of the world’s poorest countries. Already the rise in cases has forced India to focus on satisfying its domestic demand — and delay deliveries to COVAX and elsewhere, including the United Kingdom and Canada.” More and more, the pandemic is exposing the serious shortcomings of the global medicine supply chain model currently in place.

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In the face of increasing public animosity between the United States and China, an editorial in the Lancet makes the case that the pandemic has provided both countries with an opening. “When it comes to science and health, collaboration is much more productive than antagonism. In a Viewpoint, Liming Li and colleagues argue that strong US–China collaboration on matters of medicine is crucial for efforts against COVID-19 and future pandemics. They also highlight other common health interests of China and the USA, including non-communicable diseases, global health, mental health, ageing, urbanisation, and climate change. They call for the restoration of partnerships on health and medicine between government agencies, as well as the academic and scientific communities.” It sounds like a very good idea but we won’t hold our breath here.

Reproducability is always a significant sticking point in the sciences. It is a very significant hurdle that must be overcome. It is proving to be a major drag on the development of certain quantum computers that are based on theorized particles. According to Nature, “A shadow has fallen over the race to detect a new type of quantum particle, the Majorana fermion, that could power quantum computers. As someone who works in this area, I’ve become concerned that, after a series of false starts, a significant fraction of the Majorana field is fooling itself. Several key experiments claiming to have detected Majorana particles, initially considered as breakthroughs, have not been confirmed.” Microsoft has been a big proponent of this type of quantum computer.

Understanding the origins of the human brain has been a puzzle befuddling scientists probably since the dawn of modern science. Recently, a good protion of research has been dedicated to investigating Broca’s cap for hints. The Broca’s cap of extant humans differs structurally from chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest relatives. Both have one distinct furrow in the frontoorbital sulcus. On the other hand, humans have two vertical furrows. Scientists assum that the chimpanzee and bonobo brains closely approximate the primitive condition for the hominin brain. Within this context, the “single-furrow condition” is interpreted as representing the ancestral condition. A recent study in Science challenges the current consensus. “Through their comprehensive study of the notable assemblage from Dmanisi and their revision of the African and Asian fossil material, Ponce de León et al. cast new understanding on the cerebral organization of early Homo in general, and Homo erectus (sensu lato) in particular, challenging the idea of the emergence of a fully derived human brain at the time of the earliest representatives of the genus Homo.“

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

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