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DAILY DOSE: Covid-19 protection for young children in the U.S.; Scientists wary of COP26 pledges.

Young children will now be able to receive vaccinations against Covid-19 in the United States. It’s been coming and the approval process has been closely followed by parents across the country (at least the ones willing to vaccinate their children). Per the Associated Press, “The U.S. enters a new phase Wednesday in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with shots now available to millions of elementary-age children in what health officials hailed as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and disrupted education. With the federal government promising enough vaccine to protect the nation’s 28 million kids ages 5-11, pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, schools and health clinics were poised to begin the shots after the final OK late Tuesday.” Needless to say, it’s an important step forward for public health in the U.S.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re vaguely aware that the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is under way in Glasgow, Scotland. Basically, it’s a big get together where countries promise to take decisive action to fight climate change. Unfortunately, nobody keeps their promises. According to a poll conducted by Nature, scientists are wary as well. According to the journal, “Nature conducted an anonymous survey of the 233 living IPCC authors last month and received responses from 92 scientists — about 40% of the group. Their answers suggest strong scepticism that governments will markedly slow the pace of global warming, despite political promises made by international leaders as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Six in ten of the respondents said that they expect the world to warm by at least 3 °C by the end of the century, compared with what conditions were like before the Industrial Revolution. That is far beyond the Paris agreement’s goal to limit warming to 1.5–2 °C.” So yeah. Next.

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While the United States stumbles its way towards some state of Covid-19 vaccination, its oft-slandered commonwealth, Puerto Rico, has done a stellar job protecting its population. An article in STAT looked at how they were able to achieve what America has failed to do. According to the article, “Puerto Rico achieved this with late-summer mandates that drove up vaccination rates, but also by making shots widely accessible for months, even at beaches and bars. And unlike on the mainland, political polarization over the vaccine was uncommon. ‘The Republican/Democrat divide that is driving differences in vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. does not exist in PR,’ said Rafael Irizarry, a professor of applied statistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That’s because ‘status’ is the main political divider on the island, and the four major parties are proponents of vaccination, he said. Irizarry thinks this might also explain why vaccination rates are high in heavily Democratic states, such as Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. But the path to such high vaccination rates in Puerto Rico also took much planning and effort, which was led in large part by the National Guard.” Good for them.

The microbiome has revolutionized the way organisms are viewed. A recent essay in PLOS Biology highlights the way an animal’s microbial landscape can be used to shed light on its evolution, particularly when it comes to analyzing hybridization and speciation. The authors conclude, “Awoken and now conventionally studied, investigations of the microbiome offer increasing relevance to diverse subfields of biology, yet speciation in various macrobial systems has lagged behind other fields that have intensively interrogated and integrated the microbial world. To exclude the host-associated microbiome in experiments, concepts, and theory is to exclude vital parts of the biological system of a holobiont. We conclude with a suggestion and call to action that studying hybrid microbiomes is likely to be one of the most fruitful areas of future speciation research based in part on the case systems outlined above. As Carl Woese also wrote, ‘Biologists now need to reformulate their view of evolution to study it in complex dynamic-systems terms’” It’s a fascinating article worth the reading time.

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

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