kids wearing face mask in school

DAILY DOSE: The youngest among us still go unvaccinated; Solving Canada’s innovation problem.


With its Covid-19 vaccine still unable to be used on children between 5-18 years old, Moderna is hoping to get approval for its vaccine for children 1-4 years old. According to the Associated Press, “Moderna on Thursday asked U.S. regulators to authorize low doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than 6, a long-awaited move toward potentially opening shots for millions of tots by summer. Frustrated families are waiting impatiently for a chance to protect the nation’s littlest kids as all around them people shed masks and other public health precautions — even though highly contagious coronavirus mutants continue to spread. Moderna submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration that it hopes will prove two low-dose shots can protect babies, toddlers and preschoolers — albeit not as effectively during the omicron surge as earlier in the pandemic.” Parents in the United States have been understandably frustrated with the slow approval process for Covid-19 vaccines for children.


Can Canada cure its chronically underachieving ability to innovate in science and technology? The government is sure hoping so. That’s why they’ve created a brand new agency tasked with the responsibility of improving innovation. Per Nature, “The Canadian government has announced that it will invest Can$1 billion (about US$780 million) over the next five years to create a funding agency focused on innovation in science and technology. The unit will buck a trend of countries trying to replicate the renowned US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); instead, it will be modelled on innovation agencies in Finland and Israel. But some critics say that this strategy might not be a good fit for Canada, which is seeking to improve its poor track record of innovation. The country has long lagged behind its peers, ranking last in the G7 group of wealthy nations in terms of business spending on research and development (R&D). Canadian businesses invest just 0.8% of the country’s gross domestic product in R&D, compared with the G7 average of 1.6%.” This is not the first time Canada has tried to tackle innovation.


There’s a lot of uncertainty swirling around the approval of certain Covid-19 vaccines in India. According to Science, “A COVID-19 vaccine named Corbevax looked like a triumph for India’s burgeoning drug industry. Because its U.S. developers hadn’t claimed a patent on it, an Indian manufacturer named Biological E was able to sell the two-dose protein-based vaccine to the government at the extraordinarily low price of 145 rupees ($1.90) per dose. In March, the country began to give the shots to 12- to 14-year-olds, a group for which India did not yet have a licensed COVID-19 vaccine. But the celebration was quickly drowned out by questions over whether India’s drug regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), had properly vetted the vaccine.” While the lack of data has been a cause for concern among public health officials, the drug continues to be used and is even winning approval in other countries.


One of the most obvious issues facing any sustained human presence on Mars is where life-sustaining energy will come from. For some time, consensus agreed that nuclear energy won out over solar. Those views are beginning to shift. Per Frontiers In Blog, “A crewed mission to Mars will require transporting equipment for creating electricity to power life support systems. The choice for the type of device used will require a tradeoff between mass and energy efficiency. Researchers here show that a photovoltaic system using compressed hydrogen energy storage can compete with nuclear energy across about 50% of the Red Planet… The concept is not new. The main source of power for some NASA Mars rovers comes from a multipanel solar array. But, in the last decade or so, most people had assumed that nuclear power would be a better option than solar energy for human missions, according to co-lead author Aaron Berliner, a bioengineering graduate student in the Arkin Laboratory at UC Berkeley.”  The calculations took into account the amount of equipment mass that would need to be transported from Earth to the Martian surface for a six-person mission. Specifically, they quantified the requirements of a nuclear-powered system against different photovoltaic and even photoelectrochemical devices.

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

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