New Scientist

New Scientist 15-Aug-20

New Scientist covers the latest developments in science and technology that will impact your world. New Scientist employs and commissions the best writers in their fields from all over the world. Our editorial team provide cutting-edge news, award-winning features and reports, written in concise and clear language that puts discoveries and advances in the context of everyday life today and in the future.

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51 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
elsewhere on new scientist

Virtual events What were the Neanderthals really like? Archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes reveals the untold and fascinating story of the Neanderthals, shedding new light on their complex lives. Thursday 27 August at 6pm BST/1pm EDT. newscientist.com/events What is life? with Sir Paul Nurse Nobel prize-winner Paul Nurse takes up the challenge of answering perhaps the most important question in science: what is life? Thursday 3 September at 6pm BST/1pm EDT. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly The origin of life on Earth; the evolution of miscarriage; the second wave of the coronavirus. Plus: glaciation on ancient Mars and the ongoing Arctic heatwave. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Health Check Our free newsletter brings you a weekly round-up of all the health and fitness news you need to know. newscientist.com/sign-up/health Online Instagram Keep in the loop with our daily Instagram posts featuring a selection of the best of New Scientist, from a bizarre extinct…

2 min.
global thinking

THE covid-19 pandemic has exposed some major fault lines in public trust of science and medicine. From conspiracy theories about 5G phone masts, Chinese bioweapons and Bill Gates to some people’s refusal to wear masks even when required to do so, it is clear that a significant minority of people are worryingly resistant to the facts. These conspiracy theories and their fallout are going to look like very minor skirmishes if and when a covid-19 vaccine becomes available. Already there are worrying signs that many people will refuse to get vaccinated. A survey released last week found that around half of the UK may decide to decline. International polls have found similar levels of anti-vaccine sentiment. You might be tempted to condemn refuseniks to their fate. But of course, their actions will…

3 min.
rapid tests questioned

THE UK government has announced that two 90-minute tests will, between them, provide more than 6 million coronavirus assessments to individuals at care homes and National Health Service hospitals across the UK. But while the companies behind both tests say they have validated their accuracy, the details haven’t been published. “I’d never heard of these two tests,” says Jon Deeks at the University of Birmingham, UK, who has been comparing the evidence behind a range of rapid tests to diagnose covid-19. One of the tests was developed by DnaNudge, a company that offers diet-based shopping advice for customers who share their DNA. The coronavirus test is based on a nasal swab, which is inserted into a disposable palm-sized cartridge. Up to 12 cartridges are then put into a machine the size of…

8 min.
who gets to have the vaccine?

IT IS August 2021, and the moment the world has been waiting for has finally arrived. After many false dawns, a vaccine against covid-19 has passed all the tests and is ready to be rolled out. It has been an arduous journey, but at last vaccine manufacturers around the world are cranking out thousands of doses a day. The end of the pandemic is on the horizon. But this isn’t the end. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. There are more than 7.5 billion people in need of vaccination but perhaps only a billion doses available in the first six months of production. Who gets one? Everyone agrees that front-line healthcare workers must be first in the queue. But who should be next? What is the best way to attain herd…

1 min.
in short supply

Even if an effective vaccine is developed, it will take years to produce the estimated 14 billion doses needed to protect the global population. Why so slow? Making vaccines at scale is a laborious process, with quality control taking up a big share of the resources. The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, produces about 1.5 billion doses of various vaccines a year, which shows the scale of the challenge. “Trying to come up with an approach for 7 billion people is an enormous undertaking,” says Robin Shattock, who leads the vaccine team at Imperial College London. “Currently the biggest number of vaccines that are made a year is about half a billion doses of polio vaccine. Nobody has made a billion doses of any vaccine globally in any…

2 min.
vaccine nationalism

During the flu pandemic of 2009, high-income nations were criticised for hoarding vaccine doses. Will “vaccine nationalism” raise its ugly head again? Some world leaders seem to have learned the lessons of 2009, says Gavin Yamey at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “There is clearly enormous political will that when vaccines are developed, rich countries don’t monopolise them,” he says. “We’ve heard world leaders like Emmanuel Macron saying that vaccines should be a ‘global public good’. That is significant because underlying it is a realisation, at the very highest levels, that without global herd immunity it’s going to be very difficult to bring this pandemic to an end.” The World Health Organization (WHO) covid-19 vaccine prioritisation plan (see main article) emphasises the need for “equitable and fair global allocation”, and a…