Science Friday

Global Vaccination, Malaria Vaccine, Zombie Wildfires. May 21, 2021, Part 1

May 21, 2021

How Do You Solve a Problem Like World Vaccination?

Here in the U.S., it feels as if we’ve turned a corner in the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the population can be vaccinated, and restrictions for masks and distancing are loosening. But we won’t be able to get a handle on the pandemic until the rest of the world has access to a vaccine. If you thought distributing shots to rural areas here in the U.S. was hard, imagine distributing them to every corner of the globe.

President Joe Biden this week pledged to send an additional 20 million vaccine doses abroad, bringing the total promised to 80 million. But the U.S. is hardly the only country that plans to share doses. So where does the world vaccination effort stand?

One international effort, led by organizations including the World Health Organization and UNICEF, is called COVAX, or COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access. Joining Ira to discuss this effort is implementation team member Dr. Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the Director-General at the World Health Organization. Ira also speaks to medical supply chain expert Prashant Yadav, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and professor at the INSEAD Business School, based in Washington, D.C.


Can A New Vaccine Put An End To Malaria?

The World Health Organization estimates that every two minutes, a child somewhere in the world dies of malaria. As of 2018, the parasite-induced disease kills a total of more than 400,000 people every year—most of them children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.

While the quest for a malaria vaccine is more than 50 years old, there is still no licensed, fully approved option. The closest to approval, called RTS,S, is being piloted in several countries, with efficacy estimates hovering around 56 percent.

But after a new vaccine, called R21, demonstrated more than 75% efficacy in a small trial in Burkina Faso, is there hope for a more efficient push to reduce the global burden of malaria?

Ira talks to malaria vaccine researcher Prakash Srinivasan and Biden administration malaria coordinator Raj Panjabi about the implications of a vaccine milestone—and the work remaining ahead. Plus, how the COVID-19 pandemic might inform future progress in global health.


Zombie Wildfires Can Rage On For Months

Wildfires are becoming more intense. California saw a record breaking wildfire season—burning 4 million acres across the state last year. Scientists say there is an increase in another type of wildfires called “zombie wildfires.” Forest fires that ignite in the summer and pop back up during the spring.

Roxanne Khamsi talks about a new study that tracks the occurrence and causes of these wildfires. Plus, a look at a “black fungus” infection COVID-19 patients in India.

 

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