Storm delays for vaccines, extended virus sequencing and other coronavirus news

Vaccinations continue through country amid weather complications, US expands genome sequencing and vaccine distribution takes shape around the world. Here’s what you need to know:

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Vaccinations in the United States continue even as some shipments are blocked by winter storms

This week, harsh winter conditions swept across the country causing a host of problems, including delay shipments hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccine across the country. In Texas, where conditions were particularly brutal, a shipment of more than 700,000 doses was postponed due to weather conditions. Despite the hiccups, the vaccination continued to accelerate in the USA. As of Thursday, more than 41 million people received their first dose and more than 16 million have been fully immunized. And earlier this week, Biden announced that his administration was increase the number of doses shipped to states and pharmacies.

As time goes on, new research is emerging that refines our understanding of how these plans work. Two new studies suggest that a vaccine may suffice to stimulate antibody production and protect people who have already had Covid-19. And a peer-reviewed study conducted in Israel found that a dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is 85 percent effective in the prevention of symptomatic diseases. It appears that the vaccine can also be stored in regular freezers instead of being stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

US devotes more resources to virus genome sequencing to track mutations

According to the CDC, more than 1,200 infections caused by variant B.1.1.7 have been detected in the United States. That’s more than double the number reported two weeks earlier, and it’s probably still much lower than the actual number. Since the start of 2021, US scientists have more than doubled the number of viral genomes sequenced each week, but to stay on top of new viral mutations, we’ll need even more robust sequencing efforts. Earlier this week, similar efforts in Japan led to the discovery of a new variant.

This week, the Biden administration announced it would provide nearly $ 200 million to further speed up sequencing. And if the president’s proposed $ 1.9 trillion Covid relief bill passes, more funds will soon be available for genomic surveillance.

Biden pledges $ 4 billion for global vaccine distribution as other countries explore solutions

The Biden administration will engage $ 4 billion to COVAX, the WHO program to ensure equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the world, at today’s G7 summit. This funding has already been approved by Congress and comes at a time when the COVAX program needs additional resources. Officials added that the United States will not donate none of the doses of vaccine he bought from poorer countries until most Americans were vaccinated.

Meanwhile, other countries and regions are also implementing their own immunization plans. Cuba says one of the four vaccines under development in the country will enter its final testing phase next month, bringing it closer to producing its own shot. And on Friday, Russia offered the African Union 300 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine. This proposal comes at a time when only a handful of countries on the continent have started to roll out vaccination programs.

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A question

What new possibilities has the pandemic opened up for higher education?

Online learning has its drawbacks (hello, zoom fatigue) but it also creates a multitude of exciting opportunities for teachers and students. Nearly a year later, many instructors have found that shorter, asynchronous classes made the material more digestible. Virtual learning also removes geographic barriers, allowing students to learn with people from all over the world. And the use of technology makes any given session more scalable: you can customize chats based on what best suits the conversation rather than the size of the conference room. Virtual classrooms also break down barriers of formality. All of these things could actually help make higher education more accessible – and not just during the pandemic, but also after.

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