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Science Editor-in-Chief warns against ‘dangerous rush’ to find a Covid-19 vaccine

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science editor in chief warns against dangerous rush to find a covid 19 vaccine

The head of one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals has written an article pumping the brakes on the international scramble for a Covid-19 vaccine.

In it, Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of the Science journals, urges politicians not to cut corners as part of a ‘dangerous rush’ to find a vaccine, and to instead ensure existing protocols and rigorous testing are adhered to. 

It comes just days after Russian leader Vladimir Putin claimed his country created a jab which confers two years of immunity against the coronavirus

Official documents reveal the vaccine was approved after tests on only 38 people and ’causes side-effects including fever, pain and swelling’. 

The scientific community was outraged after learning of this ‘reckless, foolish and unethical’ development, and a leading voice has now further urged policymakers to proceed with caution.

Holden Thorp (pictured), editor-in-chief of Science journals, penned an editorial article urging politicians against cutting corners as part of a 'dangerous rush' in quest for a Covid-19 vaccine

Holden Thorp (pictured), editor-in-chief of Science journals, penned an editorial article urging politicians against cutting corners as part of a ‘dangerous rush’ in quest for a Covid-19 vaccine

‘Premature approval of a vaccine in the United States (or anywhere) could be a disastrous replay of the hydroxychloroquine fiasco but with much higher stakes’, writes Professor Thorp.

‘Countless lives are at stake  —no compromises on the vaccine.’

In his article he discusses the purported Russian vaccine, which Putin says has been administered to his own daughter, and the approach of US president Donald Trump.  

The much-trumpeted drug was registered after just 42 days of research, Fontanka news agency says – and its effectiveness is said to be ‘unknown’.

One of the documents submitted for registration says that ‘no clinical studies have been conducted to study the epidemiological effectiveness,’ despite Putin’s claims that the vaccine has passed ‘all the necessary tests’.

Thorp says: ‘The Russian vaccine remains shrouded in mystery — there is no published information about it, and what has been touted comes from the mouths of politicians.’

He adds that the race to the finish line for a vaccine is ‘dangerous thinking, driven by political goals and instant gratification’.  

Professor Thorp, who previously held top positions at Washington University in St Louis and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, addresses the debacle that is the US response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

‘In the United States, the pressure applied to government scientists by the administration on any aspect of the pandemic is becoming increasingly palpable, as they have been criticized or quieted in plain sight by the administration and Trump,’ he says. 

‘Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost leader on infectious diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been the most willing to state things clearly, but he has had to deal with muzzling and outright abuse from Trump and White House adviser Peter Navarro (not to mention shameful threats of violence against him and his family).’

Vladimir Putin claims Russia has a coronavirus vaccine and says one of his daughters has already been injected - prompting widespread scepticism

Vladimir Putin claims Russia has a coronavirus vaccine and says one of his daughters has already been injected – prompting widespread scepticism

While politicians in the US seem prepared to push ahead in pursuit of a vaccine with reckless abandon, the Science Editor-in-Chief congratulates US government scientists  for ‘holding strong’.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does have the ability to authorise emergency use of a developmental vaccine, as was done for anthrax when there was fear it could be used as a biological weapon. 

But he urges this not to be granted for Covid-19, and that any vaccine should instead go through the robust existing channels designed to protect public health in the long-term.  

‘The majority of epidemiologists worldwide who work on infectious diseases are firmly committed to randomized controlled trials (‘phase 3′) for all interventions, but especially for vaccines to be given to healthy people,’ he explains. 

‘This method allows comparison to a control group that receives a placebo. 

‘The phase 3 studies now underway on promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates involve approximately 30,000 patients. 

‘A randomized controlled trial is particularly important for determining the effectiveness of the vaccine, and the trial must continue until individuals in the control group become infected. 

‘It is impossible to predict how long that will take. Physicians who seek to advise healthy patients on taking the vaccine will rightfully require these data.’ 

The letter of Professor Holden Thorp in full 

The chasm between science and politics continues to grow, with Russian President Putin announcing this week that a fast-tracked vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is ready for use, and President Trump indicating days earlier that a vaccine could be ready in the United States before the 3 November presidential election. 

There’s been a dangerous rush to get to the vaccine finish line first. 

In a race of “Sputnik” proportions (as Putin puts it), quick approval by regulatory agencies is needed to “win.” 

This is dangerous thinking, driven by political goals and instant gratification: short cuts in testing for vaccine safety and efficacy endanger millions of lives in the short term and will damage public confidence in vaccines and in science for a long time to come. 

The Russian vaccine remains shrouded in mystery—there is no published information about it, and what has been touted comes from the mouths of politicians. 

In the United States, the pressure applied to government scientists by the administration on any aspect of the pandemic is becoming increasingly palpable, as they have been criticized or quieted in plain sight by the administration and Trump. 

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost leader on infectious diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been the most willing to state things clearly, but he has had to deal with muzzling and outright abuse from Trump and White House adviser Peter Navarro (not to mention shameful threats of violence against him and his family). 

The majority of epidemiologists worldwide who work on infectious diseases are firmly committed to randomized controlled trials (“phase 3”) for all interventions, but especially for vaccines to be given to healthy people. 

This method allows comparison to a control group that receives a placebo. The phase 3 studies now underway on promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates involve approximately 30,000 patients. 

A randomized controlled trial is particularly important for determining the effectiveness of the vaccine, and the trial must continue until individuals in the control group become infected.

It is impossible to predict how long that will take. Physicians who seek to advise healthy patients on taking the vaccine will rightfully require these data. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to consult on the approval of vaccines and any associated emergency use authorizations. 

There are calls for assurances that there will not be any such authorization for COVID-19; the only emergency use authorization ever granted for a vaccine was for one against anthrax because of the purported threat of biological warfare involving this agent. 

In any event, the scientific community in the United States must insist that approvals of an emergency use authorization or for a COVID-19 vaccine itself should be made with consultation with the FDA’s Committee—and actions around the world should involve similar scientific oversight. 

Premature approval of a vaccine in the United States (or anywhere) could be a disastrous replay of the hydroxychloroquine fiasco but with much higher stakes.

Approval of a vaccine that is harmful or isn’t effective could be leveraged by political forces that already propagate vaccine fears. 

So far, U.S. government scientists are holding strong. 

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, emphatically called for phase 3 trials of vaccines, and FDA director Stephen Hahn also has stated that he will follow the science. 

There’s a lot riding on Hahn, and as long as he holds firm with the science, the scientific community should support him. 

He made a mistake in granting an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine but withdrew it once he saw the data—randomized clinical trials showing that the drug was useless against COVID-19. 

Now the other faces of the U.S. government’s science apparatus—Robert Redfield (director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Deborah Birx (response coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force), and Brett Giroir (assistant secretary for Health)—need to push all their chips onto the table in favor of a phase 3 randomized controlled trial on any COVID19 vaccine. 

Despite their periodic squirming and equivocation, these leaders all deserve and need the nation’s support as long as they continue to respect the science on this issue. 

Countless lives are at stake—no compromises on the vaccine. 

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Paris faces new coronavirus restrictions

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paris faces new coronavirus restrictions

France is set to announce tougher lockdown measures in Paris today, including a ban on gathering of ten or more people to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases. 

The sale and consumption of alcohol in public places after 8pm is also expected to be banned by city officials, who could also reduce the maximum number of people at mass gatherings from 6,000 to 1,000 people.

The new rules mark a major step backwards for the French capital, but are more relaxed than those brought in by this week by the UK – which has banned gatherings larger than six across the country, and ordered all pubs to close by 10pm.

Paris is set to be hit with new lockdown measures today that will ban gatherings of more than 10 people, along with alcohol consumption in public places after 8pm

Paris is set to be hit with new lockdown measures today that will ban gatherings of more than 10 people, along with alcohol consumption in public places after 8pm

France, Spain and the UK are all seeing spiking Covid cases - but only the UK has imposed new national measures, while France and Spain have used more-relaxed local lockdowns

France, Spain and the UK are all seeing spiking Covid cases – but only the UK has imposed new national measures, while France and Spain have used more-relaxed local lockdowns

That is despite France having more than double the UK’s daily coronavirus cases, based on a seven-day rolling average.

France, Spain and the UK are bearing the brunt of a second wave of coronavirus cases in Europe, which comes after countries across the continent eased lockdown.

Until this week, all three countries had been dealing with problem using local lockdowns, targeted at areas where cases were rising fastest.

But on Tuesday the UK suddenly broke ranks with a raft of new nationwide measures, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said will last for the next six months.

In addition to cutting the size of gatherings and closing pubs early, he also urged workers to return to working from home – despite an earlier drive to get people back into offices – and banned indoor team sports.

He also increased fines for rule-breakers, and made the army available to help police enforce the measures.

That is not the case in Spain or France, where both countries have resisted imposing new nation-wide measures on focused on local lockdowns.

Parts of Madrid have been plunged back into full lockdown as coroanvirus cases in Spain have soared, but most of the city is still allowed to move around freely

Parts of Madrid have been plunged back into full lockdown as coroanvirus cases in Spain have soared, but most of the city is still allowed to move around freely

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the new nationwide measures will need to remain in in place for the next six months to keep infections down over winter

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the new nationwide measures will need to remain in in place for the next six months to keep infections down over winter 

In Spain, parts of Madrid with rapidly rising infections have been thrown back into full lockdown, with authorities calling on the army to help enforce the rules.

The remaining 6.6million residents have been encouraged to say indoors, though are not required to do so – yet. New measures are due to be announced next week.

Meanwhile Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, has also announced bans on gatherings larger than six people.

Spain saw 11,300 new cases of coroanvirus on Tuesday this week, based on a rolling seven-day average. 

In France, the cities of Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Nice have all already been hit with tougher new lockdown measures, though country-wide restrictions have remained the same.

Measures include no drinking in public places after 8pm, all bars to close by midnight, and the size of gatherings cut.

Masks are already compulsory across France in all indoor spaces, though many cities have made them compulsory outdoors as well.

France reported 10,155 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, based on a seven-day rolling average. The figure for the UK was 3,928.

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Prince William and Kate Middleton appoint Zeinab Badawi as Royal Foundation director

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prince william and kate middleton appoint zeinab badawi as royal foundation director

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have appointed BBC broadcaster Zeinab Badawi as a director for their Royal Foundation.

Prince William and Kate Middleton, both 38, selected the Sudanese-British broadcaster, 61, who is an Oxford University graduate and has spent years working for the BBC, to join the team heading up their organisation. 

Projects that Zeinab will likely oversee include the couple’s Royal Foundation Covid-19 Response Fund, which was launched in July 2020 and helps a range of projects, from ensuring all emergency workers have access to individual grief trauma from Hospice UK, to helping early years charity Best Beginnings support an extra 20,000 new mothers.   

According to the Court Circular, the presenter met with the Duchess yesterday at Kensington Palace, with royal reporter Rebecca English confirming news of the appointment on Twitter this afternoon.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both 38, have appointed BBC broadcaster Zeinab Badawi as a director of their Royal Foundation

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both 38, have appointed BBC broadcaster Zeinab Badawi as a director of their Royal Foundation

She studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University and obtained a Masters Degree (with distinction) in Middle East History and Anthropology from SOAS 

She has also been named several times in Powerlist as one of Britain’s top 100 most influential members of the black community and has been named as one of the Top 50 Most Influential Members of the African Diaspora.

The broadcaster is a trustee of BBC Media Action (the charitable broadcasting company’s charity), as well as the Chair of the Royal African Society, of which the Duke of Cambridge is patron.

She was the first presenter of the ITV Morning News, and co-presented Channel 4 News with Jon Snow from 1989 to 1998, before joining BBC News. 

The Sudanese-British broadcaster, who is an Oxford University graduate and has spent years working for the BBC, has been chosen by the royals to join the team heading up their organisation

The Sudanese-British broadcaster, who is an Oxford University graduate and has spent years working for the BBC, has been chosen by the royals to join the team heading up their organisation

The news comes as it emerged Simon Case, who was Prince William’s private secretary, has resigned as a trustee of the foundation. 

Simon spent almost two years working as Prince William’s right-hand man before temporarily moving to Downing Street earlier this year to assist with the coronavirus response. 

Earlier this month he was confirmed as the youngest head of the civil service in living memory. 

It comes as news emerged that Simon Case, who was Prince William's private secretary, has resigned as a trustee of the foundation

It comes as news emerged that Simon Case, who was Prince William’s private secretary, has resigned as a trustee of the foundation

The appointment of the 41-year-old, who officially started on September 9 and said he was ‘honoured’, represented the latest stage in the Government’s dramatic shake-up of Whitehall. 

Last July the Cambridges announced their former communications secretary Jason Knauf would become the chief executive of the organisation, when Lorraine Heggessey stood down in the autumn. 

The Royal Foundation became the ‘principle charitable vehicle for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’ from October 1, after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex broke away from the foundation last year.  

The Royal Foundation was set up by William and Harry in 2009 to run all their charitable campaigns and ventures, with Kate joining in 2011 and Meghan joining in 2018, before she and Prince Harry split last year

The Royal Foundation was set up by William and Harry in 2009 to run all their charitable campaigns and ventures, with Kate joining in 2011 and Meghan joining in 2018, before she and Prince Harry split last year 

The Foundation had an income of £7.83million in 2018, on top of £9million in 2017.

The Royal Foundation was set up by William and Harry in 2009 to run all their charitable campaigns and ventures, and joined by Kate when she became Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

The Foundation focuses on issues such as helping young people, wildlife conservation, cyberbullying and supporting the military. 

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Footballer knocks 18-year-old off fence with accidental stray ball as she poses for photo

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footballer knocks 18 year old off fence with accidental stray ball as she poses for photo

A Northern Irish teen chose a beautiful spot to pose for a picture – but didn’t study her backdrop close enough to notice the football game going on behind her.

Aimee McFadden, 18, and her friend Mia Scullion decided to stop to for a sunset photoshoot in Lurgan, Northern Ireland one evening.

They set up their camera and balanced themselves on a fence, without considering the football pitch behind them.

The pair strike a pose, balancing precariously with one foot in the air, and smiling for the camera. 

Aimee McFadden, 18, (right) and her friend Mia balance precariously with one foot in the air during a sunset photoshoot - without considering the football pitch behind them

Aimee McFadden, 18, (right) and her friend Mia balance precariously with one foot in the air during a sunset photoshoot – without considering the football pitch behind them

Behind them, the footballers kick a ball around, until a poor kick sends an accidental stray ball flying towards Aimee. 

It hits her full force and boots her right off balance, legs flailing in the air, as she desperately tries to cling onto the fence with one arm.

She falls to the ground but seems unharmed and bursts out laughing along with her friend Mia.

The hilariously fail was caught on camera as the embarrassed footballers hung their heads in shame.

An accidental stray ball comes flying towards Aimee and hits her full force, knocking her off the fence

An accidental stray ball comes flying towards Aimee and hits her full force, knocking her off the fence

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