Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job. She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up. The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds.

Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done. “I had just had it,” said Twidt, 33, who lives in Marietta, Georgia. With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions. “They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.” The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.

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Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February. “During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes. One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person. But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs.

Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said. “If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said. At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines.

But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good. Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.” For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.” The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.” Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote. Some employees have enjoyed working from home so much that they’d rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full time, a new survey found.

Out of 1,000 US adults polled in May, 39% said they’d consider quitting if their bosses weren’t flexible about them working from home. The Morning Consult survey was first reported by Bloomberg. The survey showed that 49% of the respondents who said they’d consider quitting were millennials and Gen Z — i.e., adults born after 1980.

Many global companies are embracing a hybrid work model as staff start to return to offices post-pandemic. Finance giants, who were known for having a strict work culture, are now adopting more flexible work models. Some have decided to redesign the workplace for more collaboration, and keep solo tasks for remote working. Others plan to cut back on office space entirely.

But some firms, such as JPMorgan, are not won over by the idea of remote work and want to see the majority of their workforce in the office. Jamie Dimon, the company’s CEO, said on May 4 that remote work “does not work for young people” and “those who want to hustle.” Chris Biggs, a partner at the consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors, told Insider that employers need to be “tuned into people’s mental health” as staff return to the office.

“You could do a lot of damage to those who don’t want to go into the office,” he said, adding that employers shouldn’t force people to come into the office.

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

By: and

Source: Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home – Bloomberg


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FDA Aims for Quick Review of Omicron Vaccines and Drugs


From Miners To Big Oil, The Great Commodity Cash Machine is Back, Energy & Commodities

JUST over five years ago, Anglo American was in deep trouble. The natural resources giant, beset by a collapse in commodity prices, scrapped its dividend and announced plans to close mines and cut thousands of workers. Amid talk of an emergency capital raise, its market value fell to less than US$3 billion.

Last week, the trials of 2016 probably seemed like a parallel universe to its chief executive officer Mark Cutifani.

Fuelled by a rally in iron ore and other commodity prices, he announced record first-half earnings and billions in dividends. Anyone who took a punt on Anglo’s shares when they reached their nadir, would have seen a 14-fold increase as the market capitalization soared to US$55 billion.

“High commodity prices have been very important to us,” Mr Cutifani told investors last week. “We don’t think this is as good as it gets.”

Anglo American is one of many. With raw materials prices surging, the whole natural resources sector is showering shareholders with special dividends and buybacks as miners, oil drillers, trading houses, steelmakers and farmers reap billions in windfall profits.

The sector, marked down by investors because of its contribution to climate change and a reputation of squandering money on mega projects, is again a great cash machine.

The economic rebound from last year’s Covid slump has powered an explosive rally in commodity prices as consumers forgo vacations and dining out and spend their money loading up on physical goods instead: everything from patio heaters to start-of-the-art TVs. Politicians are helping, too, lavishing hundreds of billions on resource-heavy infrastructure projects.

The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, a basket of nearly two dozen raw materials, surged to a 10-year high last week and is rapidly closing in on the record set in 2011.

Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, has again surged above US$75 a barrel, copper is headed back towards US$10,000 a tonne, European natural gas is at its highest ever for the summer season, and steel is changing hands at unprecedented levels. Agricultural commodities such as corn, soya beans and wheat are also expensive.

“Demand continues to improve with increasing global vaccinations,” Joe Gorder, the chief executive of Valero Energy, one of the world’s largest oil refiners, said last week.

Even commodities long left for dead, like thermal coal, are enjoying a new life in 2021. Coal, burned in power stations to produce electricity, together with huge volumes of carbon emissions, is trading at a 10-year high.

While commodities prices are the main reason behind the turnaround, there are structural factors at play as well.

Miners and oil companies have cut spending in new projects savagely, creating a supply shortfall. The miners were first, as they curbed investment from 2015 to 2016 as investors demanded more discipline; oil companies followed up last year and some major energy companies last week announced further cuts in spending for 2021.

The result is that while demand is surging, supply is not – at least for now. The oil majors are benefiting too from the work of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries alliance of oil producers, which is still holding back a large share of output.

Anglo American, which announced US$4 billion in dividends, is probably the most remarkable turnaround story in the natural resources sector, but its profits were still dwarfed by its bigger rivals. Rio Tinto and Vale, the world’s two leading iron ore miners, together vowed to hand back more than US$17 billion in dividends recently. There is still more to come for investors, with both BHP, the world’s biggest miner, and Glencore, another big miner and commodity trader, yet to report.

And for once, the world’s biggest steelmakers were not only able to absorb the costs, but pass them on. An industry that has spent much of the last decade in crisis is now also able to reward long-suffering shareholders.

The world’s largest steelmaker outside China, ArcelorMittal, that was forced to sell shares and scrap its dividend just five years ago, posted its best results since 2008 last week and announced a US$2.2 billion share buyback programme.

The miners have stolen the spotlight from the energy industry, traditionally the biggest dividend payer in the natural resources industry.

Still, Big Oil recovered from the historic price collapse of 2020, when a vicious Saudi-Russian price war and the Covid-19 pandemic briefly sent the value of West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, below zero. Supported by rising oil, natural gas, and, above all, the chemicals that go into plastics, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and TotalEnergies delivered profits that went to pre-covid levels.

With cash flow surging, Shell, which last year cut its dividend for the first time since World War II, was able to hike it nearly 40 per cent, and announced an additional US$2 billion in buybacks. “We wanted to signal to the market the confidence that we have in cash flows,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said.

Chevron and Total also announced they will buy shares. Exxon, though, is still licking its wounds and focused on paying down debt.

The more opaque world of commodity trading has also cashed in. Glencore said last week that it was expecting bigger trading profits than forecast, with rivals Vitol and Trafigura, two of the world’s largest oil traders, also benefiting from lucrative opportunities created by rocketing prices.

The agricultural traders have cashed on higher prices and unusually strong demand from China.

Bunge, a trader that is the world’s largest crusher of soya beans, told investors it expected to deliver its best earnings-per-share since its initial public offer two decades ago. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co, another big American grain trader and processor, also flagged strong earnings. And Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural trader, is heading towards record earnings in its 2021 fiscal year.

Whether the natural resources boom can last is hotly contested. Many investors worry climate change makes the long-term future of the industry hard to read and they also fret about the tendency of executives to approve expensive projects at the peak of the cycle.

Mining executives fear Chinese demand will slow down at some point, hitting iron ore in particular. But the current lack of investments may support other commodities, like copper and oil.

But Shell’s Mr van Beurden summed up the bullish case last week: “Supply is going to be constrained, and demand is actually quite strong”. BLOOMBERG

Source: From miners to Big Oil, the great commodity cash machine is back, Energy & Commodities – THE BUSINESS TIMES


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The mRNA Vaccines Are Looking Better and Better


A year ago, when the United States decided to go big on vaccines, it bet on nearly every horse, investing in a spectrum of technologies. The safest bets, in a way, repurposed the technology behind existing vaccines, such as protein-based ones for tetanus or hepatitis B. The medium bets were on vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which use adenovirus vectors, a technology that had been tested before but not deployed on a large scale. The long shots were based on the use of mRNA, the newest and most unproven technology.

The protein-based vaccines have moved too slowly to matter so far. J&J’s and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19—but a small number of recipients have developed a rare type of blood clot that appears to be linked to the adenovirus technology and may ultimately limit those shots’ use.

Meanwhile, with more than 180 million doses administered in the U.S, the mRNA vaccines have proved astonishingly effective and extremely safe. The unusual blood clots have not appeared with Pfizer’s or Moderna’s mRNA technology. A year later, the risky bet definitely looks like a good one.

The U.S. has ordered enough mRNA vaccines to inoculate its entire population. In that context, the CDC and FDA’s call to pause the J&J rollout this week is a blow to the American inoculation campaign, but hardly a devastating one. (J&J’s vaccine accounts for less than 5 percent of doses administered so far, and AstraZeneca’s has not yet been authorized in the U.S.) But the rest of the world has been banking on the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, which are both cheaper and easier to distribute because they don’t require the same cold storage as mRNA vaccines.

If the blood-clot risk is real, the divide between the mRNA-vaccine haves and have-nots will only grow. The U.S. will be fine; the rest of the world will face difficult questions about balancing the risks and benefits of an affordable, good-but-not-best vaccine against a disease that has killed nearly 3 million people.

The blood-clot events with the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines are so rare—appearing in one in 100,000 to one in 1 million vaccine recipients—that they would not have shown up in clinical trials, even ones conducted within more leisurely, non-pandemic timelines. (The COVID-19 vaccine trials, which generally included tens of thousands of participants each, were actually unusually large because researchers wanted data as quickly as possible.)

“It’s true with all new medications of any sort. You only find rare events when things are rolled out to very vast numbers of people,” says John Grabenstein, the associate director of scientific communication for the Immunization Action Coalition, who used to work on vaccines for the pharmaceutical giant Merck. “One-in-a-million events are just barely measurable.” That faint signal is especially difficult to see against a noisy background: Some people get blood clots for reasons unrelated to the vaccine, too.

In Europe, the strange nature of these blood clots tipped doctors off to a possible link to AstraZeneca’s vaccine. The patients with clots also had low numbers of platelets, which are tiny blood cells that help with clotting. Normally, someone with a low platelet count cannot form clots and bleeds as a result. But in these people, who had all recently gotten an AstraZeneca shot, an immune reaction may have set off uncontrolled clotting that bound up all their platelets.

Some scientists now hypothesize that the immune reaction is triggered by some part of the adenovirus-vector technology. If that’s true, these blood clots might show up as a rare side effect with other adenovirus-vector vaccines. But they clearly are very infrequent. The AstraZeneca and J&J coronavirus vaccines are the first adenovirus-vector shots to even be deployed widely enough in the U.S. and Europe for such rare events to emerge, but vaccines including Russia’s Sputnik V,  China’s CanSino, and J&J’s Ebola vaccine also use the technology.

mRNA vaccines are similarly new, but they have so far racked up a good safety record. So many doses have been administered that these unusual blood clots—or any serious one-in-a-million event—would very likely have shown up by now. Back in December, experts quickly noticed and warned the public about a handful of severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which is why vaccination sites now monitor recipients for 15 to 30 minutes after the jab.

In addition, doctors have picked up on a possible one-in-a-million risk of a bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenia, which happens when the immune system attacks platelets after vaccination. (It’s a rare but documented side effect of some other vaccines, such as the one against measles.) These patients do have low platelet counts, but they do not have the accompanying blood clots that seem unique to adenovirus-vector vaccines.

Immune thrombocytopenia is easily diagnosed and treated, James Bussel, a pediatrics professor at Weill Cornell Medicine who studies the condition, told me in an email. But the unusual combination of blood clots and low platelets is trickier. For example, one standard treatment for clots is a blood thinner called heparin, but the drug can, in very rare cases, cause the exact combination of low platelets and blood clots that doctors are concerned about. Experts now fear that heparin might make the potential vaccine reaction even worse. This combined condition also seems to be more dangerous than immune thrombocytopenia, but the prognosis may improve as more doctors learn how to treat it.

U.S. officials expect the J&J pause to last no more than a few days, as experts review the safety data and potentially revise recommendations. After a similar pause and review of the AstraZeneca data in Europe, several countries restricted that vaccine to older residents. (Most of the 86 blood-clot cases observed with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe were in women under 60, as were all six cases observed with the J&J vaccine in the U.S.) The U.K. now recommends that people younger than 30 be offered a different vaccine if possible.

The recommendations take into account individual risk: For older people at high risk of severe COVID-19 complications, the benefits of the vaccine clearly outweigh the risks of a blood clot. But for young people at lower risk from the coronavirus, the benefits are not so clear. For regulators, that balance also depends on whether a country has any other vaccines available and the severity of its local COVID-19 outbreak. The European Union and the U.K. do not have as many mRNA vaccines as the U.S., and less wealthy nations have even less supply. Ultimately, every country will have to do its own benefit-risk calculation.

The U.S.’s recommendations may end up diverging from other countries’, but they may also influence them. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrician at the University of Colorado and a liaison to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, notes two historical examples. Although the United States has discontinued use of the oral polio vaccine—which is more effective and easier to administer than the shot, but also carries a one in 2.5 million risk of paralysis after infection with the live virus in the oral vaccine—the World Health Organization continues to recommend it in countries where polio is endemic.

But when the U.S. in 1999 stopped using a vaccine against rotavirus because of rare reports of intestinal blockage, the rest of the world fell in line, despite the fact that the virus was killing about half a million kids worldwide each year. “The decision was made, essentially, if it’s not good enough for you, it’s not good enough for us,” O’Leary says. Eventually, two newer rotavirus vaccines with a lower risk of complications were developed. They are now used in the U.S. and around the world.

With rotavirus, the vaccine conundrum became moot as new alternatives became available. With COVID-19, those alternatives already exist in the form of mRNA vaccines. There was no guarantee that the mRNA shots would be ready so quickly, or turn out to be so good and so safe. That they did is a great stroke of luck. But in the near future, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines’ limited supply, high price, and distribution challenges will make them functionally unavailable to much of the world. The U.S. can afford, literally, to vaccinate most of its population with Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines. Most other countries cannot.


By: Sarah Zhang

Source: Johnson & Johnson Blood Clots Make mRNA Vaccines Look Great – The Atlantic


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What’s The Difference Between Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccines

Coronavirus COVID-19 single dose small vials and multi dose in scientist hands concept. Research for new novel corona virus immunization drug.

The world can’t return to normal without safe and effective vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus along with a coordinated global vaccination programme.

Researchers have been racing to develop potential drugs that could help end the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. There are currently around 200 vaccine candidates and about a quarter passed preclinical tests and are now undergoing clinical trials.

What’s the difference between the various candidate vaccines?

A pie chart of candidates can be cut several ways. One is to slice it into six uneven pieces according to the technology (or ‘platform’) that’s used to produce the drug. Those six technologies can be grouped into three broader categories: dead or disabled viruses, artificial vectors, and viral components.

Dead or disabled viruses

Traditional vaccines contain a dead or disabled virus, designed to be incapable of causing severe disease while also provoking an immune response that provides protection against the live virus.

1. Live-attenuated viruses

Attenuated means ‘weakened’. Weakening a live virus typically involves reducing its virulence — capacity to cause disease — or ability to replicate through genetic engineering. The virus still infects cells and causes mild symptoms.

For a live-attenuated virus, an obvious safety concern is that the virus might gain genetic changes that enable it to revert back to the more virulent strain. Another worry is that a mistake during manufacturing could produce a defective vaccine and cause a disease outbreak, which once happened with a polio vaccine. MORE FOR YOUJapan Has Opened Hayabusa2’s Capsule, Confirming It Contains Samples From Asteroid RyuguDonald Trump’s Presidency Will End On The Day Of A Comet, A Meteor Shower And A Total Eclipse Of The SunIn A New Epidemiological Study, Daily Doses Of Glucosamine/Chondroitin Are Linked To Lower All-Cause Mortality

But using a live-attenuated virus has one huge benefit: vaccination resembles natural infection, which usually leads to robust immune responses and a memory of the virus’ antigens that can last for many years.

Live-attenuated vaccines based on SARS-CoV-2 are still undergoing preclinical testing, developed by start-up Codagenix and the Serum Institute of India.

2. Inactivated viruses

Inactivated means ‘dead’ (‘inactivated’ is used because some scientists don’t consider viruses to be alive). The virus will be the one you want to create a vaccine against, such as SARS-CoV-2, which is usually killed with chemicals.

Two Chinese firms have developed vaccines that are being tested for safety and effectiveness in large-scale Phase III clinical trials: ‘CoronaVac’ (previously ‘PiCoVacc’) from Sinovac Biotech and ‘New Crown COVID-19’ from Sinopharm. Both drugs contain inactivated virus, didn’t cause serious adverse side-effects and prompted the immune system to produce antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Sinopharm’s experimental vaccine has reportedly been administered to hundreds of thousands of people in China, and both drugs are now being trialled in countries across Asia, South America and the Middle East.

COVID-19 vaccine landscape (left) and platforms for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development (right)
The global COVID-19 vaccine landscape (left) and Vaccine platforms used for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine … [+] Springer

Artificial vectors

Another conventional approach in vaccine design is to artificially create a vehicle or ‘vector’ that can deliver specific parts of a virus to the adaptive immune system, which then learns to target those parts and provides protection.

That immunity is achieved by exposing your body to a molecule that prompts the system to generate antibodies, an antigen, which becomes the target of an immune response. SARS-CoV-2 vaccines aim to target the spike protein on the surface of coronavirus particles — the proteins that allows the virus to invade a cell.

3. Recombinant viruses

A recombinant virus is a vector that combines the target antigen from one virus with the ‘backbone’ from another — unrelated — virus. For SARS-CoV-2, the most common strategy is to put coronavirus spike proteins on an adenovirus backbone.

Recombinant viruses are a double-edged sword: they behave like live-attenuated viruses, so a recombinant vaccine comes with the potential benefits of provoking a robust response from the immune system but also potential costs from causing an artificial infection that might lead to severe symptoms.

A recombinant vaccine might not provoke an adequate immune response in people who have previously been exposed to adenoviruses that infect humans (some cause the common cold), which includes one candidate developed by CanSino Biologics in China and ‘Sputnik V’ from Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Centre — both of which are in Phase III clinical trials and are licensed for use in the military.

To maximize the chance of provoking immune responses, some vaccines are built upon viruses from other species, so humans will have no pre-existing immunity. The most high-profile candidate is ‘AZD1222’, better known as ‘ChAdOx1 nCoV-19’ or simply ‘the Oxford vaccine’ because it was designed by scientists at Oxford University, which will be manufactured by AstraZeneca. AZD1222 is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus and seems to be 70% effective at preventing Covid-19.

Some recombinant viruses can replicate in cells, others cannot — known as being ‘replication-competent’ or ‘replication-incompetent’. One vaccine candidate that contains a replicating virus, developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck, is based on Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV), which infects guinea pigs and other pets.

4. Virus-like particles

A virus-like particle, or VLP, is a structure assembled from viral proteins. It resembles a virus but doesn’t contain the genetic material that would allow the VLP to replicate. For SARS-CoV-2, the VLP obviously includes the spike protein.

One coronavirus-like particle (Co-VLP) vaccine from Medicago has passed Phase I trials to test it’s safe and has entered Phase II to test that it’s effective.

While there are currently few VLPs being developed for Covid-19, the technology is well-established and has been used to produce commercial vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B.

Viral components

All vaccines are ultimately designed to expose the immune system to parts of a virus, not the whole thing, so why not deliver just those parts? That’s the reasoning behind vaccines that only contain spike proteins or spike genes.

5. Proteins

Protein-based vaccines can consist of the full-length spike protein or the key part, the tip of the spike that binds the ACE2 receptor on the surface of a cell — ACE2 is the lock that a coronavirus picks in order to break into the cell.

Manufacturing vaccines containing the protein alone has a practical advantage: researchers don’t have to deal with live coronaviruses, which should be grown inside cells within a biosafety level-3 lab.

A vaccine against only part of the protein — a ‘subunit’ — will be more vulnerable to being rendered useless if random mutations alter the protein, known as ‘antigenic drift‘, but full-length proteins are harder to manufacture. The immune system can recognize either as an antigen.

One candidate vaccine based on protein subunits is ‘NVX-CoV2373’ from Novavax, where the spike subunits are arranged as a rosette structure. It’s similar to a vaccine that’s already been licensed for use, FluBlok, which contains rosettes of protein subunits from the influenza virus.

6. Nucleic acids

Nucleic-acid vaccines contain genetic material, either deoxyribonucleic acid or ribonucleic acid — DNA or RNA. In a coronavirus vaccine, the DNA or RNA carries genetic instructions for producing a spike protein, which is made within cells.

Those spike genes can be carried on rings of DNA called ‘plasmids’, which are easy to manufacture by growing them in bacteria. DNA provokes a relatively weak immune response, however, and can’t simply be injected inside the body — the vaccine must be administered using a special device to force DNA into cells. Four DNA-based candidates are in Phase I or II trials.

The two most famous nucleic-acid vaccines are the drugs being developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, partnered with BioNTech, and Moderna. Pfizer’s ‘BNT162b2’ and Moderna’s ‘mRNA-1273’ both use ‘messenger RNA’ — mRNA — to carry the spike genes and are delivered into cells via a lipid nanoparticle (LNP). The two mRNA vaccines have completed Phase III trials and preliminary results suggests they’re over 90% effective at preventing Covid-19.

As the above examples show, not only there are many potential vaccines but also various approaches. And while some technologies have already provided promising results, it remains to be seen which will actually be able to defeat the virus.

Full coverage and live updates on the CoronavirusFollow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here

JV Chamary

JV Chamary

I’m a science communicator specialising in public engagement and outreach through entertainment, focusing on popular culture. I have a PhD in evolutionary biology and…




Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, joins the 3rd hour of TODAY to break down the differences between Moderna’s and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine candidates. He also comments on speculation of another national shutdown and whether families should still get together over Thanksgiving. » Subscribe to TODAY: » Watch the latest from TODAY: About: TODAY brings you the latest headlines and expert tips on money, health and parenting. We wake up every morning to give you and your family all you need to start your day. If it matters to you, it matters to us. We are in the people business. Subscribe to our channel for exclusive TODAY archival footage & our original web series. Connect with TODAY Online! Visit TODAY’s Website: Find TODAY on Facebook: Follow TODAY on Twitter: Follow TODAY on Instagram: Follow TODAY on Pinterest:

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