Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shows promise for young children


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For people vaccinated against COVID-19, antibody levels eventually drop, but that’s not the whole story.Credit: Kateryna Kon / Scientific Photo Library

As discussions about booster shots intensify, what is known about the duration of vaccine immunity against COVID-19 continues to evolve. Levels of neutralizing antibodies – the shock troops of our immune system – usually rise after vaccination, then decline rapidly months later. The stores, memory B cells and T cells, stay there to fight infection longer. How long, and how effectively, remains a question. Evidence suggests an increasing risk of a breakthrough infection over time, but those vaccinated still appear to be protected against serious illness.

Nature | 8 minutes to read

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech claim that a child-sized dose of their COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong antibody response in children aged 5 to 11. Data from the Phase II / III trial, which have not yet been published or peer reviewed, show that the side effects were “generally comparable” to those seen in young adults. There weren’t enough cases of COVID-19 among trial participants to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness, a Pfizer representative said. The companies plan to submit the data to regulators to extend emergency use approval for the “with emergency” jab. The first results from trials in even younger children, at even lower doses, are expected later this year.

STAT | 6 minutes to read

Reference: Pfizer and BioNTech press release

Australia’s leading research funding body will no longer turn down early-career funding applications for mentioning preprints, under pressure from researchers who called the move “astonishing” and “obsolete”. The change will not automatically apply to applications that were previously found to be ineligible or that are currently under review. Several rejected applicants, who cannot reapply because scholarship application attempts are limited, said Nature last month that the rule had effectively ended their careers.

Nature | 4 minutes to read

Much of the research on economic development does not involve researchers from the countries of the South. An analysis of nearly 25,000 articles found that 73% had authors who were all based in the north of the world. Of a subset of more than 15,000 articles that explicitly focused on a country or region in the south of the world, 62% had no authors from that region. “We know there are structural barriers in the world,” says economist Grieve Chelwa. “But once you start to quantify it in a systematic way, the severity of the problem really comes back home.”

Nature | 4 minutes to read

Features & Reviews

Most single cell studies focus on nucleic acids, particularly the transcriptome, which represents all of the genes expressed in a cell. It’s about to change. Advances in instrumentation, analysis tools and sample preparation allow a closer look at the “worker bees” of the cell: proteins. “The quantities, the post-translational modifications, the proteoform dynamics – this is the closest thing to the phenotype,” says biochemist Neil Kelleher. “And that means the diagnosis of disease, the response to drugs, all of the human biology that we want to engage with – to control, to direct, to detect – needs proteomics. “

Nature | 11 minutes to read

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Where I work

Portrait of Douglas Russell, Senior Curator of Bird Eggs and Nests at the Natural History Museum, Tring.  UK.

Douglas Russell is Senior Curator at the Natural History Museum in Tring, UK.Credit: Alecsandra Dragoi for Nature

Curator Douglas Russell oversees the collection of eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum in Tring, UK. “Our nest and egg collections are the most comprehensive records of bird breeding information in the world,” says Russell. “Next to me is a 1928 Argentine mud nest that was made by the red hornero (Furnarius rufus), known for its large globular nests that protect eggs and young from predators. (Nature | 3 min read)

Quote of the day

Following a debate over rapper Nicki Minaj’s comments, doctors Oni Blackstock and Uché Blackstock are urging influential black musicians to speak to black medical experts before sharing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. (The Washington Post | 5 min read)


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