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The Daily Dose: Booster shots in the U.S.; Primates will be getting their shots too.

In probably the most telegraphed COVID-19 vaccination move, it appears as if a booster shot will be recommended in the United States. Per the Associated Press, “U.S. health experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, to ensure lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country. Federal health officials have been actively looking at whether extra shots for the vaccinated would be needed as early as this fall, reviewing case numbers in the U.S. as well as the situation in other countries such as Israel, where preliminary studies suggest the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.” Needless to say, the World Health Organization and global health officials won’t be too thrilled.

While the current crop of COVID-19 vaccines are, for the most part, effective in what they were designed to do, there’s room for improvement. Not only that, with the possibility of looming mutations threatening to give rise to resistant viruses, scientists are trying to find ways of making better drugs. Per Cell, “Most vaccines are based on the spike antigen alone, and although they have shown efficacy at preventing severe disease and death, they do not always confer sterilizing immunity. Here, we interrogate whether SARS-CoV-2 vaccines could be improved by incorporating nucleocapsid as an antigen. We show that after 72 hr of challenge, a spike-based vaccine confers acute protection in lung, but not in brain. However, combining a spike-based vaccine with a nucleocapsid-based vaccine confers acute protection in both lung and brain. These findings suggest that nucleocapsid-specific immunity can improve the distal control of SARS-CoV2, suggesting the inclusion of nucleocapsid in next-generation COVID-19 vaccines.”

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The Philippines’ economy grew steadily for the past two decades, allowing the island nation to shed the unwanted title as the “sick man of Asia.” Then came COVID-19 and that all changed. Now, there are fears that the country will slip back into past troubles. Per Channel News Asia, “The rude awakening from the pandemic was that a services- and remittances-led growth model doesn’t do too well in a global disease outbreak. The Philippines’ economic growth faltered in 2020 – entering negative territory for the first time since 1999 – and the country experienced one of the deepest contractions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that year.”

With primates being the closest relative to us humans, there has been growing concern about them being infected by SARS-CoV-2. Experts have considered vaccinating them for sometime but have now made the decision to move forward with immunizations. Per Science, “As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has continued in the United States, a parallel vaccination effort has taken place in some U.S. zoos to protect their animals, particularly great apes. Now, a chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia is ready to do the same, saying it intends to soon give an experimental COVID-19 vaccine to its primates, who are likely also vulnerable to the coronavirus.” Primatologists have worried about great apes, both captive and in the wild, since the start of the pandemic. Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos all share versions of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, the cell surface receptor to which SARS-CoV-2 binds to initiate infections.

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

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