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UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, rollout due next week

The U.K. on Wednesday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, making it the first coronavirus shot to be backed by rigorous science….

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A worker passes a line of freezers holding coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate BNT162b2 at a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium in an undated photograph.

Pfizer | via Reuters

LONDON — The U.K. on Wednesday authorized the PfizerBioNTech vaccine for emergency use, marking another step in the global battle against the pandemic.

The vaccine will now be rolled out in the country next week, with elderly people in care homes and medical workers first in line. The U.K. government is reportedly the first in the world to formally approve the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for widespread use, and it means Britain will be one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population.

“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use,” the government said Wednesday. “The vaccine will be made available across the U.K. from next week.”

Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO, Albert Bourla, said the authorization was a “historic moment.”

“This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.,” he said.

“With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.”

Pfizer and BioNTech announced in July an agreement with the U.K. to supply 30 million doses of its mRNA-based vaccine, formally known as “BNT162b2,” once authorized for emergency use. That agreement was increased to 40 million doses in early October. As a two-dose vaccine, the U.K. will have enough doses to vaccinate around a third of its 66 million population.

BioNTech said Wednesday that the delivery of the 40 million doses will occur throughout 2020 and 2021, with complete delivery fulfilment expected next year.

A spokesman for the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care said it would soon be known which parts of the population would be the first to receive the vaccine.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) will shortly publish its final advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable,” he said.

The U.K.’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine, which was seen to be 95% effective at preventing Covid-19 in late-stage clinical trials, has prompted questions over when we could see regulators in the rest of Europe, and the U.S., make their respective decisions on whether to authorize the vaccine.

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had applied to the European Medicines Agency for the conditional marketing authorization of the vaccine. If the authorization is granted, it could enable use of the vaccine in Europe this month, BioNTech said, although the EMA later said on Tuesday that it would complete its review of the vaccine by December 29.

For its part, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in late November that it had scheduled a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Dec. 10 to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech’s request for the emergency use authorization of its vaccine, so a decision could be announced soon after.

Time is of the essence when it comes to rolling out a vaccine, particularly for the U.K. It has the third highest number of confirmed cases in Europe, after France and Spain, with over 1.6 million infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It has seen the highest number of deaths due to the coronavirus in Europe, however, with almost 60,000 fatalities.

The number of daily infections has been steadily falling due to a second lockdown, that was lifted on Wednesday and replaced with a tiered system of restrictions, with the severity of the rules dictated by regional infection rates.

One EU lawmaker described the U.K.’s decision to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine as “problematic.”

“I consider this decision to be problematic and recommend that EU Member States do not repeat the process in the same way. A few weeks of thorough examination by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is better than a hasty emergency marketing authorization of a vaccine,” Peter Liese, an EU lawmaker who is a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/02/uk-approves-pfizer-biontech-coronavirus-vaccine-for-use.html

uk-approves-pfizer-biontech-coronavirus-vaccine,-rollout-due-next-week

Ventureburn

ZwartTech launches Talent Foundation to equip Africans with digital skills

Lagos-based ZwartTech has announced the launch of its new edtech, Zwart Talent Foundation (ZTF) in a statement on 30 July 2021.

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Lagos-based ZwartTech has announced the launch of its new edtech, Zwart Talent Foundation (ZTF) in a statement today.

The foundation aims to equip young Africans with ICT skills necessary to close the growing African skills gap. The project has also set aside 70% of recruitment positions for African women.

87% of African CEOs are concerned about the digital skills gap

According to a report by PwC, featured in 2020’s Digital Skills Insights publication, 79% of global CEOs are worried about the availability of digital skills in their workforces, with 87% of African CEOs sharing the same concern.

“We launched the Zwart Talent Foundation to help Africans quickly combat poverty by giving them the chance to acquire tech skills as well as connecting them to international job opportunities. This will enable them to earn more and boost their economic status,” commented Nelson Tosin Ajulo, Chairman of ZTF in a statement.

ZTF’s three-pronged approach to tackling this skills gap means participants are led through the process from initial skills training to launching successful, sustainable careers.

The foundation aims to equip 2 000 Africans with critical ICT skills and recruit them into global companies over the next five years.

The Zwart Academy

Participants are first trained through the Zwart Academy in cybersecurity and Javascript for six months at no cost, giving them the necessary foundation to complete a one-year internship with Zwart Tech on completion.

“We have also realised that the quality of ICT education in Africa is inadequate. Considering this, students who join the Foundation will become Junior Developers in less than three years compared to attending a university and spending four or five years on the same course,” stated Ajulo.

Zwart Recruit

Zwart Recruit aims to support African ICT developers by connecting them with international companies looking for employees specialising in digital skills.

The Zwart Hub

The Hub is an accelerator programme that takes startups from concept to scaling their business on a global scale through mentorship and support from successful, experienced startup owners and investors.

While the global skills gap is worrying, considering automation may render many digital jobs obsolete in the near future, ZTF’s approach is different, according to Ajulo.

“Our approach is not only innovative, but it also saves time and will help tackle inequality faster, bridging gaps between social classes. The Academy training program involves a lot of practicals and it is free,” she concluded.

Read more: Edtech Go1 is SA’s first unicorn after closing $200m round

Read more: Transforming B2B payments could grow Africa’s local businesses [Opinion]

Featured image: Zwart Talent Foundation Chairman, Nelson Tosin Ajulo (Supplied)

“We launched the Zwart Talent Foundation to help Africans quickly combat poverty by giving them the chance to acquire tech skills as well as connecting them to international job opportunities. This will enable them to earn more and boost their economic status,” commented Nelson Tosin Ajulo, Chairman of ZTF in a statement.

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2021/07/zwarttech-launches-talent-foundation-to-equip-africans-with-digital-skills/

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Reduced microbial stability linked to soil carbon loss in active layer under alpine permafrost degra

Credit: NIEER Chinese researchers have recently discovered links between reduction in microbial stability and soil carbon loss in the active

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Chinese researchers have recently discovered links between reduction in microbial stability and soil carbon loss in the active layer of degraded alpine permafrost on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP).

The researchers, headed by Prof. CHEN Shengyun from the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources (NIEER) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and XUE Kai from University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, conducted a combined in-depth analysis of soil microbial communities and their co-occurrence networks in the active permafrost layer along an extensive gradient of permafrost degradation.

The QTP encompasses the largest extent of high-altitude mountain permafrost in the world. This permafrost is different than high-latitude permafrost and stores massive soil carbon. An often ignored characteristic of permafrost is that the carbon pool in the active layer soil is more active and directly affected by climate change, compared to deeper layers.

Triggered by climate warming, permafrost degradation may decrease soil carbon stability and induce massive carbon loss, thus leading to positive carbon-climate feedback. However, microbial-mediated mechanisms for carbon loss from the active layer soil in degraded permafrost still remain unclear.

In this study, the researchers found that alpine permafrost degradation reduced the stability of active layer microbial communities as evidenced by increased sensitivity of microbial composition to environmental change, promoted destabilizing network properties and reduced resistance to node or edge attacking of the microbial network.

They discovered that soil organic carbon loss in severely degraded permafrost is associated with increased microbial dissimilarity, thereby potentially contributing to a positive carbon feedback in alpine permafrost on the QTP.

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The results were published in PNAS in an article entitled “Reduced microbial stability in the active layer is associated with carbon loss under alpine permafrost degradation”.

This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Strategic Priority Research Program (A) of CAS and the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program.

Triggered by climate warming, permafrost degradation may decrease soil carbon stability and induce massive carbon loss, thus leading to positive carbon-climate feedback. However, microbial-mediated mechanisms for carbon loss from the active layer soil in degraded permafrost still remain unclear.

Source: https://bioengineer.org/reduced-microbial-stability-linked-to-soil-carbon-loss-in-active-layer-under-alpine-permafrost-degra/

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