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A person in protective clothing, mask and goggles fills a syringe in a fume hood.

A technician preparing a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for use in a clinical trial.Credit: Michael Ciaglo/Getty

One-shot COVID vaccine offers hope

Another vaccine has been shown to protect against COVID‑19 — and this time, it takes only a single dose. On 29 January, Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey, announced that its vaccine was 66% effective overall in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19, 28 days after trial participants received a single shot.

An effective single-dose vaccine would be a welcome boost to efforts to quell the pandemic. It would offer faster protection than most of the vaccines approved for use so far, which are administered in two shots given weeks apart.

But although the vaccine was 72% effective in the United States, it was only 57% effective in South Africa, where a variant of the virus that can evade some immune responses has been spreading.

These vaccine studies demonstrate the implications of emerging coronavirus variants, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. “Now we have the real-world, clinical consequence, and we can see that we are going to be challenged,” he told reporters at a press briefing. “It’s really a wake-up call for us to be nimble and to be able to adjust, as this virus will continue for certain to evolve.”

Survey exposes inequalities faced by LGBTQ scientists

Scientists who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) are more likely to experience harassment and career obstacles than are their non-LGBTQ colleagues, according to a survey of more than 25,000 researchers, including more than 1,000 who identify as LGBTQ.

Sociologists Erin Cech at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Tom Waidzunas at Temple University in Pennsylvania analysed data collected from US-based members of 21 scientific societies as part of a larger study on inclusivity in science.

Sick and Tired: Barchart of survey results. LGBTQ scientists experience health problems more often than their non-LGBTQ peers.

Source: E. A. Cech and T. J. Waidzunas Sci. Adv. 7, eabe0933 (2021)

They found that LGBTQ scientists were 20% more likely than non-LGBTQ ones to have experienced professional devaluation, such as being treated as less skilled than their colleagues, and were 30% more likely to have been harassed at work in the past year (E. A. Cech and T. J. Waidzunas Sci. Adv. 7, eabe0933; 2021).

These incidents can harm LGBTQ scientists’ health and well-being, the survey suggests. LGBTQ researchers experience insomnia, depressive symptoms and work-related stress more frequently than their peers. And around 22% of LGBTQ scientists reported an intention to leave science within the past month, compared with 15% of their non-LGBTQ peers.

Chefs prepare food as they stand in boxes marked out to assist social distancing

One analysis found that during the first phase of the pandemic, cooks’ risk of death was 60% higher than it would have been in the absence of COVID-19.Credit: T. Narayan/Bloomberg/Getty

The workers who face the highest COVID risks

The death risk for essential workers in some sectors was 20–40% higher than expected during the first 8 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis of death records in California.

Yea-Hung Chen and his colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, analysed state data for people aged 18–65 to estimate how many more deaths occurred among working-age adults during the pandemic than would have been expected without the onslaught of SARS-CoV-2 (Y.-H. Chen et al. Preprint at medRxiv; 2021). The team found that, compared with a no-pandemic scenario, deaths were 39% higher for food and agriculture workers, 28% higher for transportation and logistics workers and only 11% higher for non-essential workers.

The workers with the highest COVID-related risk included cooks, bakers, agricultural labourers and people who pack and prepare goods for shipment. Risk also varied by race and ethnicity: compared with the no-pandemic scenario, mortality during the pandemic was 36% higher overall for people aged 18–65 of Latin American descent and 59% higher for food and farm workers in this group.

The authors say that essential workers should receive free personal protective equipment and easy access to testing. The findings have not yet been peer reviewed.

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