Messenger RNA—or mRNA—vaccines have been in development for decades, and are now approved for use against COVID-19. Here’s how they work and what you should know about them. Visit https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19 for even more resources.
It’s one of the tiniest machines on the planet — about a hundred times smaller than the average cell. It’s so small that no scientist can spot it through a typical light microscope. Only with an electron microscope can we see its spiky surface. It’s not alive, and it’s not what most of us would think of as “dead.” This teensy machine seems to survive in a kind of purgatory state, yet it has traveled across continents and oceans from host to host, and brought hundreds of nations to a standstill. Despite its diminutive size, the novel coronavirus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, has seemingly taken the world by surprise with its virulence.
Benjamin Thompson, Noah Baker, and Amy Maxmen discuss the role of antibody tests in controlling the pandemic, and how public-health spending could curtail an economic crisis. Also on the show, the open hardware community’s efforts to produce medical equipment.
In this episode:
02:08 Betting on antibodies
Antibody tests could play a key role in understanding how the virus has spread through populations, and in ending lockdowns. We discuss concerns over their reliability, how they could be used, and the tantalising possibility of immunity.
10:25 Economy vs public health, a false dichotomy
Jim Yong Kim, former president of the World Bank, argues that strong investment in public health is crucial to halt the ongoing pandemic and to prevent a global financial crisis. We discuss his work with US governors to massively increase contact tracing, and his thoughts on how researchers can help steer political thinking.
19:00 One good thing this week
Our hosts talk about staying positive, and pick a few things that have made them smile in the last 7 days, including a tiny addition to the team, a newspaper produced by children in lockdown, and a gardening update.
22:51 Open hardware
Researchers are stepping up efforts to design and produce ventilators and personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff. We hear how the open hardware movement is aiding these efforts, and the regulations that teams need to consider if their designs are to make it into use.
Medicare for All? ACA? Another option? This event will explore health insurance proposals during the 2020 Presidential election year. Webcast, Jan 13, noon-1pm ET.