News at a glance: Declining childhood vaccinations, rising ‘superbug’ infections and a controversial Brazilian fossil | science


Pandemic contributes to steep decline in childhood vaccinations

In what UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell called a “red alert”, childhood vaccination rates in many countries around the world have fallen to their lowest level since 2008, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic . UNICEF and the World Health Organization jointly track diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus inoculations – which are administered as a vaccine – as a marker for overall vaccination coverage. In 2021, only 81% of children worldwide received the three recommended doses of the combination vaccine, down from 86% in 2019. As a result, about 25 million children remain adequately protected against the three dangerous diseases. Most of the children who missed out on the shooting live in India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethiopia and the Philippines, but the largest relative declines occurred in two countries with much smaller populations: Myanmar and Mozambique. A similar number of children did not receive the first dose of measles vaccine, and millions also missed polio and human papillomavirus vaccinations. The pandemic has limited the ability of health care workers to provide immunizations and disrupted supply chains, UNICEF says; Armed conflicts and vaccine misinformation also contributed to the decline.


Finally, the US approves the Novavax vaccine

After a long wait, Novavax’s vaccine for COVID-19 last week joined the short list of pandemic vaccines authorized in the United States. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the two-dose vaccine on July 13. Novavax’s product is a “protein subunit” vaccine, containing the spike protein of the coronavirus and an immune stimulant; The company hopes this will appeal to people worried about side effects from Pfizer and Moderna’s RNA-delivered vaccines and Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus-based vaccine. The FDA’s blessing was delayed in part because Novavax struggled for months to meet the agency’s manufacturing standards. The authorization only applies to the primary series of vaccines, but the company hopes that in the coming months the FDA will authorize a booster dose of the vaccine. Uptake of the Novavax vaccine in the European Union, where it was authorized in December 2021, has been slow: Only about 250,000 people have received it so far.

I was worried that my goldfish was getting too hot. Now I am worried about the survival of my family and my neighbors.

  • Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading,
  • on Europe’s worsening heat wave, which she calls “a wake-up call to the climate emergency”.

What makes an old growth forest?

President Joe Biden’s administration last week asked for public comments to help it define what constitutes an “old-growth” forest to inform its efforts to inventory and protect them on federal lands. A better, “universal” definition is needed that reflects the evolving scientific understanding of these “unique” ecosystems, says a formal request for comment issued July 15 by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which together they manage about 80 million hectares. of forests. Although large, ancient trees are often seen as key indicators of old growth, the forests that contain them “vary widely in character” depending on factors such as geography and climate, the agencies note. The suggestions are due by August 15 and there is likely to be disagreement: environmentalists want the new definition to be broad and the timber industry prefers a narrower definition.


US ‘super germ’ infections on the rise

Infections and deaths caused by some of the most harmful antibiotic-resistant pathogens in US hospitals rose by at least 15% during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week. The increase pushed 2020 deaths from these infections to 29,400 and was a turnaround from the decline in “super germ” infections over the previous decade. The causes included overworked hospital workers forced to let sanitary precautions slip and shortages of personal protective equipment, the CDC said. Resistant microbes considered among the most dangerous caused the largest reported increase in the rate of hospital-acquired infections. For example, the rate for Acinetobacter bacteria resistant to carbapenem antibiotics increased by 78%, with 7,500 such cases. The microbe usually infects patients on ventilators, such as those hospitalized for COVID-19.


I want young people to see that this is possible for them and that it’s not off limits because they’re black.

  • Marine geologist Dawn Wright, at Nature,
  • after becoming the first black person to visit Challenger Deep, the deepest point on Earth, aboard a submersible this month. She and a crewmate used side-scan sonar to map the sea.

Controversial fossil to return to Brazil

A German science ministry plans to repatriate an unusual dinosaur fossil to Brazil, where scientists claimed the object was illegally removed. Scientists at the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe (SMNK) published a paper in 2020 describing the chicken-sized spear-feathered dinosaur they named ubirajara jubatus. But after the team failed to provide proper documentation of the fossil’s legitimacy, the journal retracted the paper. Last year, a science the investigation prompted the science ministry of the German state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg, which manages the SMNK, to investigate; this week, authorities concluded that the museum provided false information to the ministry about the purchase of the fossil, prompting the decision to return it.


The center handles ecological data

The University of Colorado, Boulder, will host a new research center to synthesize vast amounts of data about environmental changes, such as increased wildfires and loss of biodiversity. The Environmental Data Science Innovation and Inclusion Lab will fill “a huge need,” said a statement last week from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) announcing it would fund the new center with $20 million during 5 years. The project will train visiting scientists on computational tools, such as machine learning, to make sense of the vast data being collected by efforts such as the NSF-funded National Ecological Observatory Network and the Ocean Observatory Initiative.


Native Hawaiians gain voice in Mauna Kea management

The summit of Mauna Kea is a prime spot for astronomy and sacred ground.THOMAS LINKEL/LAIF/REDUX

The state of Hawaii this month created a new management body for Mauna Kea, one of the world’s best sites for astronomy, that could help resolve a long-running dispute over telescopes at its summit. Many native Hawaiians consider the mountain sacred and have long opposed observatories, particularly the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), an international project led by the US. Under a new state law, control of the summit will be transferred for 5 years from the University of Hawaii to a new body whose 11 members will be appointed by the governor and include representatives of Native Hawaiian groups, Mauna Kea observatories and others. Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, one of the Native Hawaiian groups that has opposed the construction of the TMT, countered that the Native Hawaiian members of the panel would not be elected by the groups and could be greatly outnumbered.

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