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Covid-19 news: Moderna’s omicron booster has promising immune response

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A Moderna covid-19 vaccine is prepared

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Latest coronavirus news as of 1pm 9 June

Moderna’s omicron-tailored booster candidate produces eight times as many virus-neutralising antibodies against the variant as its original booster vaccine

An updated version of Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine that targets the BA.1 sublineage of omicron leads to an eight-fold increase in antibody levels against the variant of concern, according to a small, preliminary study.

Moderna’s new booster is the first covid-19 vaccine to combine the jab that targeted the original strain of the coronavirus – which emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019 – with a vaccine that specifically targets the omicron variant.

In the clinical trial, the updated vaccine was given to 437 people who had already received two full-dose Moderna vaccines and its booster.

One month after receiving the updated booster, the participants’ neutralising antibody levels against omicron had risen by about eight times.

“The data we show today are really important because we get a really strong antibody response against Omicron,” Moderna’s chief medical officer Paul Burton told The Guardian on 8 June.

“For the first time, we could really be looking at the potential for just once-yearly boosting, because we can get people to such a high level that they will take longer to decay.”

Whether these raised antibody levels translate into a reduced risk of hospitalisation or death with covid-19 is unknown.

“These antibody measurements provide an indication that is likely to translate into clinical effects, but an element of uncertainty in extrapolating the results to clinical effectiveness must, inevitably, remain,” Stephen Evans at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said in a statement to the Science Media Centre.

Other coronavirus news

India has reported its highest number of daily covid-19 cases since March. The country’s health ministry reported today that 7240 new coronavirus infections had occurred in the last 24 hours.

Shanghai in China will lock down 2.7 million people while it conducts mass coronavirus testing. This comes just one week after the city eased restrictions that had confined about 25 million people to their homes since March.

As of 11 June, people living in the south-western district of Minhang will be placed under “closed management” until they have all been tested.

Essential information about coronavirus

Where did coronavirus come from? And other covid-19 questions answered

What is covid-19?

Covid-19 vaccines: Everything you need to know about the leading shots

Long covid: Do I have it, how long will it last and can we treat it?

What’s the fairest way to share covid-19 vaccines around the world?

Covid-19: The story of a pandemic

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Jump is a BBC Radio 4 series exploring how viruses can cross from animals into humans to cause pandemics. The first episode examines the origins of the covid-19 pandemic.

Why Is Covid Killing People of Colour? is a BBC documentary, which investigates what the high covid-19 death rates in ethnic minority patients reveal about health inequality in the UK.

Panorama: The Race for a Vaccine is a BBC documentary about the inside story of the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against covid-19.

Race Against the Virus: Hunt for a Vaccine is a Channel 4 documentary which tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of the scientists on the frontline.

The New York Times is assessing the progress in development of potential drug treatments for covid-19, and ranking them for effectiveness and safety.

Humans of COVID-19 is a project highlighting the experiences of key workers on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus in the UK, through social media.

Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth is a BBC Panorama investigation of the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga from covid-19, following reports she had been coughed and spat on by a customer at London’s Victoria Station.

Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

Stopping the Next Pandemic: How Covid-19 Can Help Us Save Humanity by Debora Mackenzie is about how the pandemic happened and why it will happen again if we don’t do things differently in future.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how diseases spread and why they stop.

People walking along Westminster Bridge in London in May

People walking along Westminster Bridge in London in May

Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock

1 June

An estimated 2 million people in the UK have lingering covid-19 symptoms more than four weeks after their initial coronavirus infection

Based on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey of people living in private households in the UK, an estimated 3.1 per cent of the population were experiencing long covid symptoms as of 1 May.

This is 200,000 more people than the ONS’s previous estimated prevalence of 1.8 million, as of 3 April.

Of the estimated 2 million people with long covid, 1.4 million are thought to have been infected, or suspect they were infected, at least 12 weeks prior to their ongoing symptoms.

Meanwhile 826,000 are estimated to have been infected with covid-19, or had a suspected infection, at least one year earlier. About 376,000 would have first been infected at least two years ago.

Of those surveyed, 55 per cent with long covid had fatigue, the most commonly reported symptom. This was followed by 32 per cent of people experiencing shortness of breath, 23 per cent having a cough and 23 per cent experiencing muscle aches.

Other coronavirus news

Three doses of a coronavirus vaccine, regardless of what type, are the most effective defence against covid-19, a study has found.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) analysed 53 vaccine studies conducted throughout the pandemic. The studies included over 100 million participants who together received seven different types of covid-19 vaccines in 24 dosing combinations.

Results suggest three doses of any mRNA vaccine, such as those manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, is 96 per cent effective against asymptomatic and symptomatic covid-19 infections, accounting for the different variants.

An mRNA booster after two doses of an adenovirus vector vaccine, such as those manufactured by AstraZeneca/The University of Oxford and Johnson & Johnson, is 88 per cent effective.

Despite higher efficacy with a three-dose mRNA vaccine regimen, three doses of any covid-19 vaccine is still very effective, according to the researchers.

A third of people in the UK think the government is exaggerating the number of covid-19 deaths, a study has found.

Researchers at King’s College London surveyed 12,000 people about their views on covid-19 across six countries: the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway and Poland.

A third (33 per cent) of people in the UK believe the government is exaggerating the number of covid-19 deaths, a figure that is even higher in Poland, at 43 per cent. Norway has the lowest proportion of people who do not trust the government’s mortality figures, at 24 per cent.

The researchers also found that 15 per cent of people in the UK do not believe that nearly all scientists think the covid-19 vaccines are safe.

“Across both the UK and other European countries included in this study, there is a stubborn minority who still question not only the scientific consensus on vaccine safety but also government reporting of Covid deaths,” Bobby Duffy at King’s College London in the UK said in a statement.

See previous updates from May 2022, April 2022, March 2022, February 2022, January 2022, November to December 2021, September to October 2021, July to September 2021, June to July 2021May 2021, April to March 2021, February 2021, January 2021, November to December 2020, and March to November 2020.

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‘It’s absolute hell’: a paramedic in England on why he backs strike | Emergency services

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Ambulance workers across England have voted to strike over pay and staffing levels, and action is expected before Christmas. Thousands of 999 call handlers, ambulance technicians, paramedics and others working for ambulance services are expected to take part. Joshua, a paramedic in northern England, shares why he’s striking.

“I’ve been a paramedic since 2016 and it’s absolute hell doing this job currently. I genuinely believe most of the public have no idea how bad the situation is. We’re being pushed beyond limits, constantly [having] dispatchers pleading for crews to come through. A massive part of the issue is that ambulances are just sat at hospitals for hours on end.

“We’re going to patients who have waited for 12-13 hours. Ambulance crews are seeing [patients die] day in and day out. I think to myself, god, please don’t let any of my family members need an ambulance. It’s terrifying.

“The cost of living is astronomical, as everyone well knows. [We’ve had] real-terms pay cuts year after year. I’ve gone from living a relatively comfortable life to just counting every penny that I have. I feel sick [when I] have to spend fuel on the car.

“I’ve seen co-workers crying, single parents who can’t afford to do this job any more. So many people are leaving because we’re treated [badly] and not paid anywhere near enough.

“Patient safety has fallen through the floor, paramedics can’t reach them in time, there’s simply not enough staff to get to those patients. If the government wanted to do something about that, they would pay paramedics properly and then people would see it as a good job that’s rewarding and consider doing a career in [it]. Patient safety is directly linked to pay. People are quitting at a time where staffing is below critical.

“The issue is absolutely systemic across the entire NHS. Staff going off sick with burnout, stress and suicidal thoughts is endemic across the ambulance service. I feel completely burnt out currently – I’ve been considering calling in sick every night shift this week. I don’t want to come to work because you don’t know what you’re going to come across. It’s stress beyond stress. We’re finishing hours late every shift. And the government is saying you don’t deserve to be paid properly.

“The GMB has a policy of no harm to patients. And there’s already catastrophic harm being done to patients by the government. [The ballot gives a mandate for full strike action but the form it takes will be decided by a committee of GMB ambulance members, according to the union.]

“No one [in the NHS] wants to walk away from patients. We’re in a caring profession for a reason. But we’re not listened to by [people] with no idea of the reality of what it’s like out on the road.

“Most paramedics don’t want to strike. We want a government that respects us, values our work and cares about the public we look after.”

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China’s failure to vaccinate makes giving up on zero covid a huge risk

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Widespread protests against China’s zero-covid policy have led the country to ease some restrictions, but its failure to vaccinate older people means this could lead to millions of deaths



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| Analysis

1 December 2022

There have been protests against China’s strict covid-19 restrictions in cities including Beijing and Shanghai

JEROME FAVRE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In response to protests in many parts of the country, China is easing some of the draconian measures it imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But the government’s failure to vaccinate the most vulnerable people means that the relaxation of restrictions risks causing a vast number of deaths.

A big wave of infections in the country could lead to between 1.3 million and 2.1 million deaths, according to UK science analytics company Airfinity. …

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How Blacks and Jews can come together again – New York Daily News

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We have just finished an election that underscored sharp division in our country. Among those divisions have been race-based attacks on both Blacks and Jews. We have all received an earful of the controversy concerning the ignorant statements made by Kanye West and the misguided social media post of Kyrie Irving. Both are emblematic of what is wrong with the discourse surrounding Blacks and Jews. Both controversies center around a divisive, distorted and flat-out incorrect characterization of history. We believe our nation will be served by setting the record straight and healing those divisions.

One of us, Markus Green, is Black, the other, Victor Schwartz, is Jewish. We have worked together on challenging civil justice problems for over a decade. We devote most of our professional time toward prevention of unjust liability claims. More important than our professional link is our friendship based on unyielding mutual respect. It cannot be broken.

Our experience in life and our study of history strongly suggests that Blacks and Jews in general should foster such feelings. They have had both adversity and success.

Both Blacks and Jews have suffered the ignominy of slavery. For nearly 400 years, millions of Africans were forcibly placed on slave ships and sent to America. The Bible tells us that the Jews were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. Each Passover holiday, Jews relive that history and celebrate their liberation. That story was a powerful one for enslaved African-Americans, who sung the spiritual, “Go Down Moses.” Harriet Tubman is said to have used that song to announce her arrival when she helped people escape on the Underground Railroad. Tubman herself is referred to as the “the Moses of her people.”

Blacks and Jews have a shared history of being attacked because they are considered different. For a long time, the United States ignored its founding premise of “Equal Justice for All.” But even after the Civil War ended slavery, for generations, Blacks had essentially no civil rights. Jews can relate to the horrors of post-Civil War Black experience in America. Jews fled other countries to escape death from Nazi concentration camps only to experience continued anti-Semitism in America.

Fortunately, many of these barriers have been overcome. Joint efforts by Blacks and Jews have been part of those accomplishments. Jews were allies with Blacks in the fight for civil rights. Several Jewish people were among the founders of the NAACP and Jewish lawyers helped successfully battle Jim Crow legislation.

Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the mutual interest of Blacks and Jews.

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“My people were brought to America in chains,” King said in a 1958 speech to the American Jewish Congress. “Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility.”

In 1965, the Civil Rights Act outlawed many forms of discrimination in public places and in employment, but racism and anti-Semitism persist. Both Blacks and Jews understand that prohibiting blatant discrimination is only a partial victory. Today, racism toward Blacks and Jews takes place in many more subtle ways.

Blacks and Jews have seen so-called spokespersons utter remarks against each group. But such folks are a minority in a minority. Without a doubt, both of us as lawyers know that legal battles won for Blacks have helped Jews, and legal battles won for Jews have helped Blacks.

Finally, and often overlooked, is the fact that Black and Jewish culture can be a bond between the two groups — one that includes humor, emotion and love of family.

So at a time where many are planting and growing seeds of division, we ask that Black and Jewish leaders, and ordinary men and women in each group, build a united wall of mutual respect. After all, racism and anti-Semitism racism are two ugly cousins. Anti-Semitism is racism and racism is anti-Semitism. Jews and Blacks must be united against hate and bigotry.

Jews and Blacks have far more in common than we will ever have differences. Both have suffered and survived monumental atrocities and the aftershock is still being felt. We both understand survival and perseverance. But most of all, we both understand the power of love in the face of hate. We are one people. Unity, not divisiveness, is our path forward.

Green is vice president and assistant general counsel at Pfizer. Schwartz is a former law professor and law school dean, and current co-chair of the public policy group of the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P.

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