DAILY DOSE: Fledgling COVAX program already in need of reform; Whales aplenty off the New York coast.

Earlier this year, when countries were still beginning to roll out their COVID-19 vaccine programs, COVAX, the World Health Organization-led vaccination-distribution program, allotted the United Kingdom half a million doses. Unfortunately, the countries in which COVAX was designed to help got almost nothing. According to Reuters, “By contrast Botswana, which hadn’t even started its vaccination drive, was assigned 20,000 doses from the same batch of millions of Pfizer mRNA vaccines, according to publicly available documents detailing COVAX’s allocations… Other poorer nations, with fledgling vaccination drives at best, also received fewer shots than Britain. Rwanda and Togo were each allotted about 100,000 doses, and Libya nearly 55,000.” Now, there are pledges to reform the fledgling program. https://reut.rs/2ZCfPWb

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Accounting issues has plagued countries’ assessment of local outbreaks since the nascent days of the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend continues as the Delta variant brings spikes in infections to areas previously spared the virus’ wrath. Case in point, Vietnam. Per Channel News Asia, “Authorities in Vietnam’s biggest city are urging the government to recognise positive rapid tests for COVID-19 to present a clearer picture of its outbreak, state media reported on Monday (Sep 27), a move that could increase the city’s case total by 40 per cent… Positive rapid tests of 150,000 people in the city since Aug 20 have not been included in the overall tally, Tuoi Tre newspaper said, citing the deputy head of the city’s health department, Nguyen Huu Hung.” https://bit.ly/3m4mvnn

Astronomers are puzzled by traces of minerals and water-vapor seen in lower-than-usual atmospheric altitudes on a distant exoplanet. According to space.com, “First, when probing different regions of WASP-127b’s atmosphere scientists detected sodium. Normally, the presence of this element would not come as much of a surprise in such an alien planet, but the element was found at a much lower altitude than expected, according to study leader Romain Allart, iREx/Université de Montréal and Université de Genève…That wasn’t the only surprise. Scientists also observed strange water vapor signals that were strong in the infrared but non-existent at visible wavelengths.” WASAP-127b is a massive gas planet 1.3 times the size of Jupiter yet has less density than Saturn. https://bit.ly/3kI5TCp

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The United Nations General Assembly meeting provided an opportunity for countries to address the many pressing issues facing the world’s environment. Many countries pledged to address them in diverse ways. People said the right thing. It remains to be seen whether anyone follows through. There’s a lot on the line. The BBC investigated the ways in which climate change and pollution are exacerbating the inequities facing children in the developing world. Per the BBC, “Children born in high-income countries will experience twice as many extreme climate events as their grandparents, new research suggests. But for children in low-income countries, it will be worse. They will see three times as many, say researchers at the University of Brussels.” https://bbc.in/3i7Ag3t

A team of researchers have discovered that large whales such as humpback and minke whales may frequent the waters of the New York and New Jersey shores. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, “From their boat surveys, the team studied three species of baleen whales: humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), and minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). They found that large, mixed-species groups – often including all three whale species, common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and various seabirds – gathered in certain areas mid-shelf (6.2 – 37.2 miles from shore) to feed on schools of sand lance (Ammodytes spp.), a slender species of baitfish. In nearshore waters less than 6.2 miles from shore, whales were more scattered and fed mostly on schools of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), a larger, oily species.” That is great news. Hopefully, whale watching boats will leave them alone now that everyone knows they are there. https://bit.ly/3o83H9H

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

IMAGE CREDIT: Jérémie Silvestro / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

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