Better COVID vaccines are on the way



Paul Griffin
Better COVID vaccines are on the way

Better COVID vaccines are on the way

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Regulators in Australia and the United States last week of August 2022 approved Omicron-specific boosters, following approval in the United Kingdom in mid-August.

In Australia, a Moderna Omicron booster has been provisionally approved for use in adults aged 18 and over. Supplies are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, however the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is yet to advise the government on how the vaccine will be used.

So what’s new about the Omicron booster? And what sorts of advances in vaccine technology might we see next?
Why do we need new vaccines?
The current COVID vaccines will go down in history as one of the greatest achievements of medical science. Developed at record pace – without omitting any of the usual steps to ensure safety and efficacy – the vaccines significantly decreased the risk of severe disease and death.

But they’re less effective at reducing infection. Frequent boosters have been required to protect against new sub-variants. This is because the spike protein, which the vaccines target, has changed. And over time, our protection has reduced due to waning immunity.

What are the Omicron-specific vaccines?
Most manufacturers of approved COVID vaccines began making boosters targeting previous variants as far back as Alpha. But until Omicron, these variant-specific boosters offered no significant advantage over vaccines targeting the original, or Wuhan, strain.

The new Omicron boosters combine two different targets in the one vaccine, known as a bivalent vaccine. This provides broader cross-protection – against the currently circulating variants but possibly against future variants too.
The first of these boosters, manufactured by Moderna, targets the BA.1 Omicron sub-variant in addition to the original or Wuhan strain. It also provides some protection against BA.4 and BA.5. This is now approved in the UK, Australia and US.

The US has also approved the Pfizer bivalent booster, which targets the spike of BA.4/BA.5 as well as the original strain.

What vaccine technology might we see next? Scientists are working to develop COVID vaccines that:

Offer longer lasting protection.

Protect against new variants and sub-variants.

Provide similar levels of protection from a single dose.

Don’t require freezing or refrigeration, and that have an extended shelf life.

Deliver a strong response from lower doses of active ingredient.

[Paul Griffin is affiliated with The University of Queensland, Nucleus network and Mater research where he has been the principal investigator on 8 COVID-19 vaccine studies and also serves on the advisory boards of AstraZeneca, MSD, Pfizer (covid therapy) and GSK and has received speaker honoraria from AstraZeneca, Seqirus, Novartis and Gilead.]

World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow



News Desk, Barta24.com
World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow

World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow

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The tide of international opinion appears to be decisively shifting against Russia, as a number of non-aligned countries are joining the United States and its allies in condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine and its threats to the principles of the international rules-based order.

According to media reports, Western officials have repeatedly said that Russia has become isolated since invading Ukraine in February. Until recently, though, that was largely wishful thinking. But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, much of the international community spoke out against the conflict in a rare display of unity at the often fractured United Nations.

The tide had already appeared to be turning against Russian President Vladimir Putin even before Thursday’s U.N. speeches. Chinese and Indian leaders had been critical of the war at a high-level summit last week in Uzbekistan. And then the U.N. General Assembly disregarded Russia’s objections and voted overwhelmingly to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be the only leader to address the body remotely, instead of requiring him to appear in person.

That shift against Russia accelerated after Putin on Wednesday announced the mobilization of some additional 300,000 troops to Ukraine, signaling the unlikelihood of a quick end to the war.

Putin also suggested that nuclear weapons may be an option. That followed an announcement of Russia’s intention to hold referendums in several occupied Ukrainian regions on whether they will become part of Russia.

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Socrates and the life worth living



Oscar Davis, Bond University
Socrates and the life worth living

Socrates and the life worth living

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Socrates was notoriously annoying. He was likened to a gadfly buzzing around while one is trying to sleep. The Oracle of Delphi declared him the wisest of all human beings. His life and death would go on to shape the history of Western thought.

And yet he proclaimed to know nothing. The genius of Socrates lay in his professed ignorance of what it means to be human.

Socrates (469-399 BCE) grew up in Athens over two and half thousand years ago. At the time, the Athenians were recovering from a devastating war with the Persians. As they rebuilt, the military general and politician, Pericles, championed democracy as the form of government to bring Greece into its Golden Age.

The Athenians practised a direct (as opposed to representative) form of democracy. Any male over the age of 20 was obligated to take part. The officials of the assembly were randomly selected through a lottery process and could make executive pronouncements, such as deciding to go to war or banishing Athenian citizens.

The Athens of Pericles flourished. Bustling crowds of traders from around the Mediterranean gathered at the port of Piraeus. In the Athenian agoras – the central marketplaces and assembly areas – the active social and political lives of the Athenian citizens would inspire the mind of Socrates.

Socrates teaches us that philosophical contemplation prepares us for the good life. The experience of aporia – in all of its discomfort and disruption – is the very catalyst of wonder. The philosopher, the lover of wisdom, is anyone who dares to escape the cave and look upon the sun, anyone who lives for the values Socrates died for.

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Putin signals a coming escalation



News Desk, Barta24.com
Putin signals a coming escalation

Putin signals a coming escalation

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Vladimir Putin accelerated his war effort in Ukraine yesterday and announced a new campaign that would call up roughly 300,000 additional Russian troops.

In a rare address to the nation, the Russian president made a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons. “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” Putin said. “This is not a bluff.”

His comments appeared to be a shift in his domestic strategy to the war. Ukraine said Putin’s remarks reflected his desperation: Russia’s military has suffered humiliating setbacks this month.

It also seemed to be an effort to startle the U.S. and its Western allies into dropping their support. But at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Western leaders looked undeterred. President Biden said the U.S. and its allies would “stand in solidarity” against Russia and accused Moscow of violating the U.N. charter.

Protests erupted across Russia in response to the “partial mobilization,” and at least 1,252 people have been detained. Russians also rushed to buy one-way flights out of the country.

Experts say Russia currently has 200,000 troops, or fewer, in Ukraine. Putin’s campaign would more than double that, but those called up need training and weapons.

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Britain buried Queen Elizabeth II



News Desk, Barta24.com
Britain buried Queen Elizabeth II

Britain buried Queen Elizabeth II

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Queen Elizabeth II was buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, next to her husband, Prince Philip. It concluded the period of official mourning — a time of unifying grief and disorienting change.

The state funeral began with a majestic service at Westminster Abbey. International dignitaries and about 200 people who had performed public services joined members of the royal family.

The queen’s coffin then moved through London in a procession as tens of thousands of people watched. “They don’t make them like her anymore,” one woman said. “She was a one-off.”

The funeral closed with a more intimate service and private internment. Before the final hymn, the crown jeweler removed the imperial state crown, the orb and the scepter from the queen’s coffin and placed them on the altar. The lord chamberlain broke his wand of office and placed it onto the coffin, a symbol of the end of his service, to be buried with the sovereign.

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