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Oxford COVID-19 vaccine prompts immune response among adults old and young, AstraZeneca says

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LONDON – The COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford produces a similar immune response in both older and younger adults, and adverse responses were lower among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc said on Monday.

A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, hammered the global economy and shuttered normal life across the world.

“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman told Reuters.

“The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222,” the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine.

The news that older people get an immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus.

The Financial Times reported earlier that the vaccine, being developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca, triggers protective antibodies and T-cells in older age groups – among those most at risk from the virus.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate.

If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some measure of normality after the tumult of the pandemic.

Immunogenicity blood tests carried out on a subset of older participants echo data released in July which showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged between 18 and 55, the Financial Times reported.

Details of the finding are expected to be published shortly in a clinical journal, the FT said. It did not name the publication.

Oxford vaccine

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a vaccine was not yet ready though he was preparing logistics for a possible roll out.

“I would expect the bulk of the roll out to be in the first half of next year,” Hancock told the BBC.

Asked if some people could receive a vaccine this year he told the BBC: “I don’t rule that out but that is not my central expectation.”

“We want to be ready in case everything goes perfectly but it’s not my central expectation that we’ll be doing that this year, but the programme is progressing well, we’re not there yet,” Hancock said.

Called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the vaccine was developed by Oxford University scientists and licensed to AstraZeneca in April, which took on the task of scaling trials and production.

The vaccine is likely to provide protection for about a year, CEO Pascal Soriot said in June.

The British drugmaker has signed several supply and manufacturing deals with companies and governments around the world as it gets closer to reporting early results of a late-stage clinical trial.

AstraZeneca resumed the U.S. trial of the experimental vaccine after approval by U.S. regulators, the company said on Friday.

Staff at a London hospital trust have been told to be ready to receive the first batches of the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc, The Sun newspaper reported on Monday.

The Sun said the hospital, which was not identified, was told to prepare for the vaccine from the “week commencing the 2 November”.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201026/oxford-covid19-vaccine-prompts-immune-response-among-adults-old-and-young-astrazeneca-says/57449.html

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Cher welcomes ‘world’s loneliest elephant’ to new home in Cambodia

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Superstar Cher welcomed “the world’s loneliest elephant” to Cambodia Monday to begin a new life at a specialised sanctuary after the creature was rescued from grim conditions in a Pakistani zoo.

The plight of Kaavan — a 36-year-old bull elephant at Islamabad’s dilapidated zoo and originally from Sri Lanka — sparked global uproar from animal rights groups, who launched a campaign to save him.

His cause was boosted by spirited social media support from actress and musician Cher, who travelled to see him off from Pakistan and then to Cambodia to welcome him to his new home.

Wearing a black face mask, the Oscar winner was on hand at Siem Reap airport and waved excitedly at the plane after it landed around 2:30 pm (0730 GMT).

“I am so proud he is here,” she told AFP, after greeting Kaavan through an opening at the base of the crate.

“He’s going to be really happy here,” said Cher, adding that she was hopeful his ordeal was over.

Dubbed the world's loneliest elephant by the press, Kaavan was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

Dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant by the press, Kaavan was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

Mammoth undertaking

Kaavan’s much-anticipated journey was “uneventful”, said Amir Khalil, a veterinarian from animal welfare group Four Paws, adding he behaved “like a frequent flyer”.

“Kaavan was eating, was not stressed — he was even a little bit sleeping, standing, leaning at the crate wall,” he said.

Transporting an adult elephant by plane is no small task, and has only been undertaken a handful of times.

Helpers packed his trunk with 200 kilos (450 pounds) of food to snack on during the seven-hour flight, while a tube system was installed in his transport crate aboard a jumbo Russian cargo plane to handle up to 200 litres (58 gallons) of urine.

After Kaavan touched down, monks offered him fruit, chanted prayers and sprinkled holy water on his crate to bless him.

For the last leg, he was loaded onto a truck for the three-hour journey to his new home, a wildlife sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey province which already hosts three female elephants.

Cher followed behind in her own vehicle as Kaavan made his way through farmland and past the famous Angkor Wat temple.

“Cambodia is pleased to welcome Kaavan. No longer will he be ‘the world’s loneliest elephant’,” deputy environment minister Neth Pheaktra said.

“We expect to breed Kaavan with local elephants — this is an effort to conserve the genetic fold,” the minister told AFP.

After being unloaded from his giant travelling crate, Kaavan walked around his new enclosure — perhaps glad to stretch his legs after his long journey.

Cher was at Siem Reap airport and waved excitedly at the plane after it landed. Photo: AFP

Cher was at Siem Reap airport and waved excitedly at the plane after it landed. Photo: AFP

Years of campaigning

Kaavan’s move is the culmination of years of campaigning from animal rights groups, who say the animal’s behaviour in captivity demonstrated “a kind of mental illness” likely due to the zoo’s woeful conditions.

In May, a Pakistani judge ordered that all the animals at the zoo be moved.

Upon hearing about Kaavan’s freedom, Cher had tweeted that the decision marked “one of the greatest moments” of her life.

A team of vets and experts from Austria-based Four Paws spent months working with Kaavan to get him ready for the trip — a complicated process due to his size and the amount of food needed en route.

The elephant also had to be taught to enter the four-tonne metal crate that was then secured in the belly of a mammoth Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane for the journey.

Four Paws, along with Islamabad authorities, also safely moved three wolves and some monkeys from the zoo. Currently only two Himalayan brown bears, one deer and one monkey remain.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201201/cher-welcomes-world-s-loneliest-elephant-to-new-home-in-cambodia/58046.html

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New Zealand raises concerns with China over Australian soldier image

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WELLINGTON — New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said on Tuesday that her government has raised concerns with China about its using an image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

Australia has demanded Beijing apologise and take down the fake image, posted on Twitter by a senior Chinese official on Monday, marking another downturn in deteriorating relations between the two countries.

“New Zealand has registered directly with Chinese authorities our concern over the use of that image,” Ardern told reporters in the parliament in the capital Wellington.

“It was an unfactual post, and of course that would concern us. So that is something we have raised directly in the manner that New Zealand does when we have such concerns.”

The tiny, trade-focused Pacific island nation has stayed clear of the growing feud between China and Australia, and has long-standing diplomatic, trade and political interests with both countries.

New Zealand has a shared history, close cultural ties, geographic proximity and a strong economic relation with Australia. China is its largest trading partner, with two-way trade exceeding NZ$33 billion.

New Zealand, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group with Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, joined a statement calling on Beijing to reverse its decision to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong.

Ardern’s government also backed Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization (WHO) despite a warning from Beijing.

New Zealand will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) next year, taking over from Malaysia, where the global event was held this year.

Australia’s relationship with China has deteriorated since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, China outlined a list of grievances about Australia’s foreign investment, national security and human rights policy, saying Canberra needed to correct its actions to restore the bilateral.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201201/new-zealand-raises-concerns-with-china-over-australian-soldier-image/58045.html

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Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon surges to 12-year high

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Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged again over the past year, hitting a 12-year high, according to official figures released Monday that drew a chorus of condemnation of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.

A total of 11,088 square kilometers (4,281 square miles) of forest was destroyed in Brazil’s share of the world’s biggest rainforest in the 12 months to August, according to the Brazilian space agency’s PRODES monitoring program, which analyzes satellite images to track deforestation.

That is equivalent to an area larger than Jamaica, and was a 9.5-percent increase from the previous year, when deforestation also hit a more than decade-long high.

“Because of such deforestation, Brazil is probably the only major greenhouse gas emitter that managed to increase its emissions in the year the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the global economy,” said the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental groups.

Forests such as the Amazon play a vital role in controlling climate change because they suck carbon from the atmosphere.

However, when trees die or burn, they release their carbon back into the environment.

Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic, has presided over rising deforestation and wildfires since taking office in January 2019.

His government is pushing to open protected lands to mining and agribusiness, and has slashed funding for environmental protection programs.

Environmentalists say those policies fuel the destruction of the Amazon, about 60 percent of which is in Brazil.

“The Bolsonaro government’s vision of development for the Amazon is a throwback to the rampant deforestation of the past. It’s a regressive vision that’s far from the effort needed to deal with the climate crisis,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Cristiane Mazzetti said in a statement.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, who presented the figures in a press conference, defended the government’s committment to fighting deforestation.

“The message I bring in the name of President Bolsonaro is that we will continue working with science and technology to support the work of environmental protection agencies,” said Mourao, a retired army general who heads Bolsonaro’s Amazon task force.

The latest annual deforestation figure was the highest since 2008, when 12,911 square kilometers of forest were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201201/deforestation-in-brazilian-amazon-surges-to-12year-high/58043.html

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