A retired British shop clerk received the first shot in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program Tuesday, signaling the start of a global immunization effort intended to offer a route out of a pandemic that has killed 1.5 million. The U.K. is the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program after British regulators last week authorized the use of a COVID-19 shot developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. U.S. and European Union regulators may approve the vaccine in coming days, fueling a global immunization effort. Britain’s program is likely to provide lessons for other countries as they prepare for the unprecedented task of vaccinating billions of people.
U.K. health officials have been working for months to adapt a system geared toward vaccinating groups of people like school children and pregnant women into one that can rapidly reach much of the nation’s population. Amid the fanfare that greeted Britain’s first shot, authorities warned that the vaccination campaign would take many months, meaning painful restrictions that have disrupted daily life and punished the economy are likely to continue until spring. “We still have a long road ahead of us, but this marks the route out,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC.
Pairing CRISPR with a Smartphone Camera, This COVID-19 Test Finds Results in 30 Minutes
Researchers in California aim to develop a new CRISPR-based test for COVID-19 that can be read anytime, anywhere by turning a basic smartphone camera into a microscope capable of detecting the coronavirus’ genetic material. The team consists of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and the Gladstone Institutes—including a collaboration with Jennifer Doudna, president of the Innovative Genomics Institute, and winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for co-discovering CRISPR-Cas genome editing, the technology that underpins the test.
“It has been an urgent task for the scientific community to not only increase testing but also to provide new testing options,” said Melanie Ott, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and one of the leaders of a study evaluating the test, published in Cell. “The assay we developed could provide rapid, low-cost testing to help control the spread of COVID-19.” The smartphone diagnostic aims to provide a positive or negative result in less than 30 minutes, as well as gauge the amounts of SARS-CoV-2 virus present in a nasal swab sample.