US pharmaceutical company Pfizer says that a preliminary analysis shows that its COVID-19 vaccine is 90 percent effective at preventing the coronavirus, far exceeding the expectations of the US Food and Drug Administration. While it usually takes many years to develop and widely distribute vaccines, scientists have been trying to get one ready within an unprecedented timeframe as COVID-19 has wreaked havoc around the world. Of the hundreds of candidates in development, only 12 have progressed to Phase III of the clinical trial process, when they are being tested on thousands of people and the results are compared with those who receive a placebo drug. Phase III is the final stage before approval. Who's gotten there so far?
Dating and debates, music festivals and dance classes, work and education – an increasing amount of our social interactions now take place online. With this shift to virtual venues, ensuring kindness and respect in everyday interactions and encounters is more important than ever.
The digital space has become a fundamental part of the national and international conversation, and has also, at times, become a breeding ground for bullying, trolling and hate speech. There is a clear need for more "digital good" to ensure that online encounters have a constructive impact on everyone involved. To learn more about digital good and what it means, visit Microsoft on the Issues.
It's not like things are going well in Mexico.
COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.
As the global vaccination race heats up, the most populous country in the world is trying to do three very hard things at once.
India, grappling with the second highest confirmed COVID caseload in the world, recently embarked on what it called "the world's largest" coronavirus vaccination campaign, seeking to inoculate a sizable swath of its 1.4 billion people.
That alone would be a herculean challenge, but India is also making hundreds of millions of jabs as part of the global COVAX initiative to inoculate low-income countries. And as if those two things weren't enough, Delhi also wants to win hearts and minds by doling out millions more shots directly to other countries in its neighborhood.
Passport to the Hajj — Saudi Arabia announced that it will require pilgrims to have vaccine passports in order to enter the country for the annual Hajj later this year. Each year, millions of Muslims from dozens of countries travel to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina to fulfill a religious obligation, in an annual event that brings in billions of dollars for the Saudi economy. The vaccine passport requirement may mean that people without means or access to vaccines in their home countries will be shut out of the Hajj this year, but Riyadh is relying on the scheme to help them pull off the event — after last year's event was mainly cancelled amid the pandemic— without fomenting a COVID outbreak.
Hard Numbers: Australia's farming woes, Texas' reopening, LGBTQ discrimination in South Korea, Americans mistrust China and Russia
26,000: Efforts by the Australian government to keep the pandemic at bay have harmed the country's agriculture sector, which relies on foreign workers to tend to crops and cultivate the land. Australia had a deficit of some 26,000 farmworkers because of entry restrictions in recent months, Agri businesses say, resulting in tens of millions of dollars worth of wasted crops.