The Daily Dose: The low-down on the three new COVID-19 variants; Algae allows the blind to see again.

The global COVID-19 vaccination drive continues to make tentative steps forward. While adults have had access to vaccines for over 6 months, children remain unable to be vaccinated. A few weeks ago, PfizerBioNTech submitted data showing that it’s vaccine was safe and effective for 12-18 year olds. Now, Moderna has done the same. Per the Associated Press, “Moderna said Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12, a step that could put the shot on track to become the second option for that age group in the U.S. With global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world is struggling to vaccinate adults in the quest to end the pandemic. But earlier this month, the U.S. and Canada authorized another vaccine — the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech — to be used starting at age 12.” Getting vaccines available for young children remains the key to truly pushing back the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the coronavirus variant B. 1.617.1 sweeps across the globe, researchers are gaining a better idea of what the world is up against. Turns out, there are actually three subtypes they are keeping close watch on. Per Nature, “Researchers have since identified three subtypes, known as B.1.617.1 (the ‘original’ B.1.617), B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3, each with a slightly different genetic make-up. They are now rushing to investigate these variants and work out how they might affect the trajectory of the pandemic in countries where they have gained a foothold. Key questions remain about how quickly the variants can spread, their potential to evade immunity and whether they cause more severe disease.” The article goes on to discuss what is known so far about the variants.

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There has been a significant advance when it comes to treating severe blindness. According to a recent a man unable to see has had A small amount of his eyesight restored. According to the journal science,“A blind man who received a gene for a light-sensing algal protein can now see and touch objects with the help of special goggles, researchers report today. His vision gains are modest—he cannot see colors or discern faces or letters. But if the treatment helps other study participants, it may offer advantages over other vision technologies for severely blind people. And for neuroscientists, the result is a milestone: the first published report of using a relatively new technology called optogenetics to treat a disease in people.”

Stories about one person caring enough about a cause to try and make a difference are always inspirational. For one PhD student in Malaysia, the need to protect wild langur’s provided her with her calling. She started the Langur Project Penang and has not looked back. Mother Jones tells her story in a recent article. “Jo Leen Yap is LPP’s founder and director, and a PhD student at Universiti Sains Malaysia. She began focusing on dusky langurs about five years ago, when she noticed many were spending time close to the road, often climbing across on electrical wires and sometimes perishing from electrocution, collisions with vehicles, or falls. She began the LPP citizen science group as a simple Facebook page, but word quickly spread, and more people became involved with the canopy bridge project as well as other research and environmental education work.”

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

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