First Trial of Moderna's Coronavirus Vaccine Produces Immune Response in All Participants
The preliminary report of the trial, published in The New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday, reveals that all 45 participants developed so-called neutralizing antibodies that bind to the virus and stop it from attacking other cells. They developed these antibodies at levels comparable to the upper half of COVID-19 survivors.
"The good news is that this vaccine induced antibodies," director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci told Bloomberg News. "Not just any kind of antibodies, but neutralizing antibodies."
Public health experts agree that a vaccine is necessary to return life to normal in the wake of a pandemic that has infected millions and killed almost 575,000, according to Reuters. More than one vaccine will probably be required, because it will be difficult for any one company to produce the billions of doses needed, The New York Times pointed out.
"None of us are safe unless all of us are safe," Columbia University virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen told The New York Times. "It's not just us. It's everybody in the world."
The Moderna vaccine candidate was the first to be tested on human subjects, and Tuesday's published paper confirms the positive results reported by the company in May.
In the trial, 45 people aged 18 to 55 received two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart, according to Reuters. They received doses of either 25, 100 or 250 micrograms.
More than half of the people who received the middle dose experienced side effects like fatigue, chills, headache and muscle pain and 40 percent of them developed a fever after the second dose, according to Bloomberg. Three of the 14 people who received the highest dose suffered severe side effects, but the company has decided to stop testing that dose.
Fauci said the side-effects were normal and not a cause for concern, but other experts disagreed.
"Man, that is a lot of adverse events," Tony Moody, a doctor and researcher at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, told Bloomberg.
However, Moody also said the amount of antibodies produced was "really encouraging."
The vaccine's safety and effectiveness cannot truly be assessed until a larger study is conducted, University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert Dr. Paul Offit told The New York Times.
"[I]t's reading the tea leaves," he said. "You just don't know anything until you do a Phase 3 trial."
Moderna's Phase 3 trial is set to begin July 27 with 30,000 participants, half of whom will receive a placebo. It should be finished by late October, but it is unclear if the company will know if the vaccine works by then, since it has to prove participants are less likely to contract the virus. If the vaccine does work, Moderna said it would be able to manufacture between 500 million and one billion of the 100-microgram doses a year starting in 2021, Reuters reported.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.