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Astronomers Find Supermassive Black Hole Wandering Around Distant Galaxy

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Can a supermassive black hole have wanderlust? That’s something astronomers have been wondering about for years, and a new study from the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics might have arrived at an answer: yep. By comparing the movement of black holes and their surrounding home galaxies, the researchers discovered one that appears to drift around. This could resolve some long-standing questions about the nature of these enormous dead stars. 

Supermassive black holes are usually found in the centers of galaxies, and they don’t have a reputation for moving around much. After all, they weigh as much as millions or billions of suns! It takes a lot of energy to get something that big moving, but the monster black hole in spiral galaxy J0437+2456, some 228 million light-years away, is almost definitely mobile. 

To spy on black holes, the team used a technique called very long baseline interferometry that relies on networks of radio telescopes. This technique allows scientists to measure the velocity of distant objects, but black holes don’t emit detectable radiation. That’s why the team focused its efforts on a class of active galactic nuclei known as megamaser — supermassive black holes with an accretion disk of material swirling around them. There are several molecules in megamasers that can be measured with high accuracy, including water. 

The M87 supermassive black hole imaged in 2019.

The analysis included 10 megamaser-type galaxies, and nine of them came up normal — the galaxy and the black hole are moving at the same velocity. However, J0437+2456 (top) showed a ton of variation. The neutral hydrogen floating around in the galaxy was moving away at 4,910 kilometers per second, but the water molecules in the black hole’s disk were only moving at 4,810 kilometers per second. What’s more, the inner part of the galaxy is moving at 4,860 kilometers per second. All those different velocities make for a very wobbly galaxy. 

There are several possible explanations for this wobble, including a past collision with another supermassive black hole. It’s also possible the varying velocity is due to another unseen supermassive black hole in a binary system. Scientists believe binary systems like this should exist, but there’s very little observational evidence. In either case, this galaxy could teach us a lot about black holes. It’s also feasible that the galaxy has been disrupted by a nearby massive object like another galaxy. That would be less interesting, but it would still show that central black holes can be nudged off course. The team plans to conduct more observations of J0437+2456 in hopes of figuring out which it is. 

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Astronomers Find Oldest Supermassive Black Hole in the Universe

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Astronomers have discovered about 750,000 quasars, which are among the brightest and most energetic objects in the universe. Despite its uninspiring designation, J0313-1806 is distinct from other quasars. This recently spotted object is the oldest known quasar in the universe, with a supermassive black hole more than 13 billion years old. In fact, it’s so old and huge that scientists don’t know exactly how it could have formed. 

The first quasars were discovered in the mid-20th century, but it wasn’t until several decades later that we began to understand what these objects were. A quasar is an active galactic nucleus in which the supermassive black hole that anchors the galaxy pulls in matter to form a gaseous accretion disk. All this matter colliding as it spirals into the black hole releases a torrent of electromagnetic energy that serves as the hallmark of these objects. J0313-1806, for example, shines 1,000 times brighter than our entire galaxy. 

J0313-1806 is far away — 13.03 billion light-years to be exact. That means we’re seeing this object as it was just 670 million years after the Big Bang, and it’s still huge. Astronomers estimate J0313-1806 to have about 1.6 billion solar masses as its observed age. That’s not out-of-line for a supermassive black hole elsewhere in the universe, but they’ve had longer to vacuum up matter and grow larger. J0313-1806 shouldn’t have had time in the early universe to grow so large. 

The team used ground-based instruments like the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) to spot J0313-1806 last year. It unseated the previous record-holder for oldest quasar, which is about 20 million years younger. Current models of black hold formation assume a star collapses to form a singularity, but the “seed mass” for J0313-1806 would have had to be at least 10,000 solar masses to reach 1.6 billion so quickly. 

The M87 supermassive black hole imaged in 2019.

The study puts forward a hypothesis to explain the existence of this bizarre quasar, known as the direct collapse scenario. In this model, it wasn’t a star collapsing that formed the supermassive black hole. Instead, an enormous cloud of cold hydrogen gas collapsed inward to form a much larger black hole than any stellar source could produce. This could explain why astronomers see so many gigantic black holes in the early universe. 

Unfortunately, J0313-1806 is so distant that we can’t gather much more detail with current technology. The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope could, however, be sufficiently precise to image objects like J0313-1806. After many years of delays, NASA plans to launch the Webb telescope in late 2021.

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In recorded phone call, Trump pressed Georgia election chief to ‘find’ votes for him

U.S. President Donald Trump badgered and pleaded with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call that the official “find” enough votes to hand Trump the victory.

The conversation Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud by the first president to lose reelection in almost 30 years come nearly two weeks before Trump leaves office and two days before twin runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.

Trump confirmed in a tweet Sunday that he had spoken with Georgia’s secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, who tweeted that claims Trump made during the call were untrue.

Audio snippets of the conversation were posted online by The Washington Post. A recording of the call was later obtained by The Associated Press from a person who was on the call.

LISTEN | Trump demands Georgia officials ‘find’ votes in recoded phone call:

The U.S. president is heard pleading with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, according to audio clips obtained by The Washington Post. 1:30

The president, who has refused to accept his loss to the Democratic president-elect, is heard telling Raffensperger at one point: “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Georgia certified election results showing that Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 election by 11,779 votes.

The White House referred questions to Trump’s re-election campaign, which did not respond Sunday to an emailed request for comment. Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer said the recording was “irrefutable proof” of Trump pressuring and threatening an official in his own party to “rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place.”

“It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy,” Bauer said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Dec. 14 in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/The Associated Press)

At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

“That’s a criminal offence,” Trump says. “And you can’t let that happen.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked how Raffensperger ran Georgia’s elections, claiming without evidence that the state’s 16 electoral votes were wrongly given to Biden.

“He has no clue!” Trump tweeted of Raffensperger, saying the state official “was unwilling, or unable” to answer questions about a series of claims about ballot handling and voters that have been debunked or shot down by judges and election authorities.

Raffensperger’s Twitter response: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”

Senate runoffs

There was no widespread fraud in the election, which a range of election officials across the country, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.

The Senate runoffs pit Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock and Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff. With the Senate up for grabs, the candidates and outside groups supporting them have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the contests, deluging Georgia with television ads, mail, phone calls and door-knocking efforts.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loefflerspeaks during a campaign event in McDonough, Ga., on Sunday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Loeffler said she had not decided whether to join Republican colleagues in challenging the legitimacy of Biden’s victory over Trump. The Democratic candidates whose wins Tuesday would help clear roadblocks for the new administration’s agenda awaited a campaign visit from vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.

Trump has persisted in attacking top Georgia Republicans over his election loss in the state, raising fears that his words could cause some Republicans to stay away from the polls.

“I believe that we will win on Tuesday because of the grassroots momentum, the unprecedented movement energy in Georgia right now,” Ossoff told CNN’s State of the Union. He said “it feels in Georgia like we are on the cusp of a historic victory.”

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks at a campaign event in Savannah, Ga., on Sunday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Loeffler, when asked about siding with the growing group of Senate Republicans seeking to contest the Electoral College count, said she was “looking very closely at it, and I’ve been one of the first to say, everything’s on the table.” She told Fox News Sunday that “I’m fighting for this president because he’s fought for us. He’s our president and we’re going to keep making sure that this is a fair election.”

Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta who has continued to preach as he campaigns for office, seemed to allude to the runoff in a message delivered Sunday. He told viewers watching remotely due to the pandemic that they are “on the verge of victory” in their lives if they accept that God has already equipped them with the ability to overcome their adversaries.

“When God is with you, you can defeat giants,” said Warnock, who ended the early morning service by also encouraging Georgians to vote on Tuesday. “It’s so very important that your voice be heard in this defining moment in our country,” he said. “I would not be so presumptuous as to tell you who to vote for.”

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock gestures at a campaign event in Savannah on Sunday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Loeffler was appointed to fill a vacancy when Republican Johnny Isakson resigned his seat, and she will be in the Senate, win or lose this coming week, until the election is certified. Perdue’s seat will temporarily be vacant after his term expires Sunday at the end of six years.

Harris was scheduled to be in Savannah on Sunday afternoon. Trump and Biden plan to campaign in the state Monday, in last-minute efforts to mobilize voters after more than 3 million people cast ballots early.

The president continues to create turbulence for Loeffler and Perdue by questioning Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia and the reliability of the state’s election systems.

Trump also tweeted that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, also Republicans, “have done less than nothing. They are a disgrace to the great people of Georgia!” The president last week called on Kemp to resign; the governor dismissed it as a “distraction.”

Gov. Brian Kemp, left, greets Trump in Marietta, Ga., in March 2020. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Despite the attacks, Loeffler said she believed voters would heed Trump’s expected plea during his upcoming visit that they should turn out.

“He’s going to tell voters the same thing: You have to get out and vote Georgia, because this is too important,” Loeffler said.

Perdue, who is in quarantine because he was exposed to a staff member with the coronavirus and won’t appear with Trump at the Monday rally, said he would have joined the electoral challenge in the Senate if he had been in Washington. “I’m encouraging my colleagues to object. This is something that the American people demand right now,” he told Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures.

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Voyager Probes Find New Electron-Accelerating Physics in Deep Space

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NASA launched the Voyager probes more than 40 years ago, and the fact we’re still talking about the impact of these spacecraft is a testament to how well-planned these missions were. Both Voyager 1 and 2 are outside the solar system now, but there’s plenty to see out there in the interstellar medium (ISM). A newly published study from the University of Iowa says that the Voyager probes have discovered an entirely new kind of “electron burst” related to coronal mass ejections on the sun. 

The Voyager probes were launched within weeks of each other in 1977, taking advantage of a fortuitous alignment of the planets that occurs only once every 175 years. The spacecraft took different routes through the outer solar system, with Voyager 1 swinging past Jupiter and Saturn while Voyager 2 visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The probes got a gravity boost from these massive planets, flinging them out of the solar system. In 2012, Voyager 1 crossed the “heliopause,” the region of space where the solar wind dissipates and gives way to the ISM. Voyager 2, which took a more circuitous route, did the same in 2018. 

Once in the ISM, the Voyager probes were able to look at the bubble of space dominated by the sun from the outside. That’s something no other spacecraft can do. Luckily, NASA planned ahead and equipped the robotic explorers with instruments that could probe the ISM. Cosmic ray detectors on the probes have been used to track the effects of coronal mass ejections (CME), which travel outward through space until they hit the heliopause. It takes about a year for these puffs of hot gas and energy to get there, and a few are powerful enough to punch through the heliosphere and into the ISM. That’s where Voyager 1 and 2 have noted some unexpected behavior. 

The approximate positions of Voyager-1 and 2.

Each time one of these big CMEs reaches the ISM, the researchers have noted an electron burst in advance — the shockwave itself didn’t arrive until 13 to 30 days after the high-energy cosmic ray electrons. It’s counterintuitive to see this signal showing up ahead of the shockwave, but the team says this is all thanks to the properties of magnetic field lines in the ionized gas of the ISM, which are apparently almost perfectly straight. Large CMEs punch through the heliopause and interact with these field lines, causing some of the electrons inside to accelerate along the magnetic straightaways. They can reach relativistic speeds, about 670 times faster than the shockwave that originally delivered them to the edge of the solar system. That’s why Voyager 1 and 2 see the electron burst before the CME shockwave. 

Scientists have never seen electrons accelerated ahead of a shockwave like this. It’s an entirely new mechanism and one that could help us better understand the ISM. We’d never even know this was possible if not for two 40-something space probes.

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Explosions reported in Eritrea’s capital during push to find rebel leaders

The U.S. Embassy in Eritrea said six explosions were heard Saturday night in the capital, Asmara, as the government in neighbouring Ethiopia launched a search for leaders of a rebel group in the northern region of Tigray.

The explosions came just hours after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory in his government’s fighting against forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which runs the northern Tigray region bordering Eritrea. The army said it was in “full control” of the regional capital, Mekele, but the government said TPLF leaders remain on the run.

The TPLF leader earlier this month asserted that Eritrean forces were involved in the fighting in Tigray at the invitation of Ethiopia’s government, something Addis Ababa has repeatedly denied. Fears have grown that 96,000 Eritrean refugees in camps just over the border in Ethiopia are at risk.

WATCH | Thousands of refugees trapped by Tigray conflict:

Tens of thousands of refugees are trapped in the midst of a standoff between the Ethiopian government and a militant group in the Tigray region as a surrender deadline passes. 1:46

The U.S. has accused the TPLF of seeking to “internationalize” the deadly conflict in which humanitarians say several hundred people have been killed, including civilians.

The U.S. Embassy statement overnight advises American citizens to exercise caution and be aware “of the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region.” It also advises citizens to “monitor local news” in a country regarded by watchdogs as being highly repressive and having no independent media.The fighting has threatened to destabilize Ethiopia, which has been described as the linchpin of the strategic Horn of Africa, and its neighbours.

Food, fuel, cash and medical supplies have run desperately low. Nearly 1 million people have been displaced, including more than 40,000 who fled into Sudan. Camps home to 96,000 Eritrean refugees in northern Tigray have been in the line of fire.

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Nvidia: RTX 3000 GPUs Will Remain Hard to Find Into 2021

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The Nvidia RTX 3000 family isn’t going to be any easier to find as we head into Christmas, 2020. Any hope to the contrary was dashed during the company’s conference call for calendar Q3 2020.

According to Colette Kress, executive vice president and CFO of Nvidia, continued incredibly strong demand has kept the card difficult to find. “While we had anticipated strong demand, it exceeded even our bullish expectations,” Kress said. ” Given industry-wide capacity constraints and long cycle times, it may take a few more months for product availability to catch up with demand.”

Jensen echoed these comments, calling the demand overwhelming, and then pivoting to pinning it on the idea that Nvidia has “invented a new type of computer graphics.” Right. Albrecht Dürer invented ray tracing, conceptually speaking, in the 16th century. Extensive work was being done on ray tracing algorithms by the late 1970s. Beyond these points, the degree of ray tracing integration into modern game engines is insufficient to declare this new feature a “new type of computer graphics.” Nvidia deserves credit for being the first company to integrate hardware ray tracing capabilities in a desktop GPU, and for bringing the feature to market. Early benchmarks against the 6800 and 6800 XT show that top-end Ampere cards outperform Radeon GPUs with this feature engaged.

Nvidia is, in other words, doing a lot of good work to help push real-time ray tracing to market and bring products to market. It has certainly helped popularize real-time ray tracing. It’s a vital part of the reason RTRT is now part of the discussion for gaming going forward. But inventing a new type of computer graphics? That’s a bit much. Nvidia has invented a new type of computer graphics in exactly the same way that Apple’s new M1 is faster than 98 percent of PC laptops. Like the M1, Ampere is a genuinely great product, just not quite that great.

Separately from that, it’s still not clear how much of Nvidia’s Ampere problem is being driven by demand. Demand for Ampere is undoubtedly high — the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070 are great GPUs, full stop, and the ray tracing performance levels they achieve make them far better investments than the old Turing GPUs — but none of the data we can find suggests these cards are making it to the channel in significant quantities.

Most of the top-selling GPUs for-sale on Amazon and Newegg are a mishmash of lower-end Nvidia cards, a handful of midrange Turing models, and AMD cards like the 5600 XT and 5700 XT. As of this writing, there are only three Ampere GPUs in Newegg’s Best Selling Top 20. Amazon has four in the Top 21. Reports from other vendors have suggested there aren’t many Ampere cards in-channel.

Data from Proshop.de on RTX 3080 sales and shipments, from 11/19/2020

That doesn’t mean Nvidia can’t manufacture them — it may just mean that the company is choosing to prioritize the OEM boutique market above the channel right now. Alternately, there’s always the chance that Nvidia’s 8nm yields with Samsung are fine, but supplies are limited due to poor availability of underlying components. Nvidia, after all, is not the only company having trouble getting brand-new products into customer hands.

Finally, we have to acknowledge that both AMD and Nvidia had real problems getting their new GPUs into market back in 2016, when there was no pandemic and both companies were working with TSMC rather than Nvidia utilizing Samsung. Even in the best of times, it can be difficult for manufacturers to ensure reliable supplies of their products. These are not the best of times.

Rumors suggest AMD isn’t going to have much better luck with availability than Nvidia has had. We’ll see what happens in the weeks to come.

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Scientists Find Planet Where It Rains Molten Rock

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You could argue that Earth hasn’t been an ideal place to live lately, but it could be worse. Scientists from Canada’s McGill University have released a new analysis of an exoplanet called K2-141b. This world orbits its star so closely that its ecosystem is profoundly hellish. The ground is rock, the seas are rock, and yes, even the air is rock. 

Astronomers first detected K2-141b several years ago — it has the distinction of being the first planet identified during the Kepler Space Telescope’s “second light” mission, often called K2. It’s a few hundred light-years away, making it an impractical vacation spot. Not that you’d want to go anyway with a 100 percent chance of flaming rock storms spoiling all your outdoor activities. 

K2-141b is such a hellscape because it’s dense, rocky, and orbits incredibly close to its star. The planet has a density in the neighborhood of Earth’s, so we have reasonably good models to estimate its conditions. Like most close-orbiting planets, K2-141b is tidally locked to the star. That means one side gets roasted during an eternal day while the other is locked in permanent night. This dynamic is what makes K2-141b so inhospitable — if it rotated, things wouldn’t be nearly so deadly. 

On the day-side, temperatures on K2-141b can reach 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit (2,982 degrees Celsius). That’s hot enough to melt rock, creating seas of lava to cover most of the surface to a depth of tens of miles. It’s also hot enough to completely vaporize rock to create a thin, scorching atmosphere. On the far side of K2-141b, the temperatures are roughly -328 degrees Fahrenheit (-200 degrees Celsius), which is substantially below the melting point of rock. So, as the vaporized rock atmosphere wafts over to that side, it falls back to the ground. Earth has a water cycle, but K2-141b has a rock cycle. It’s fascinating! But also incredibly hostile to life as we know it.

Kepler spotted thousands of exoplanets during its mission.

We don’t know the exact composition of K2-141b, so the team had to create a few models to describe a world with rock-based rain. For example, if the atmosphere is mostly silica or silicon monoxide, the “rain” would be molten rock, like a volcanic eruption that never ends. If the crust is high in sodium, the rain would slosh back into the molten oceans like glaciers on Earth. 

Of course, this is all an educated guess based on our limited data on K2-141b. We might find out how close this is to reality in the next few years. Scientists believe the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to scan the atmospheres of some exoplanets like K2-141b. NASA hopes to get this telescope into space in 2021.

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Scientists find signs of waning antibody immunity to COVID-19 over time in England

Antibodies against the novel coronavirus declined rapidly in the population in England during the summer, according to a preprint posted on Tuesday, suggesting protection after infection may not be long-lasting and raising the prospect of waning immunity in the community.

Scientists at Imperial College London have tracked antibody levels in the population in England following the first wave of COVID-19 infections in March and April.

Their study found that antibody prevalence based on finger-prick tests of blood fell by a quarter, from six per cent of the population around the end of June to just 4.4 per cent in September. That raises the prospect of decreasing population immunity ahead of a second wave of infections in recent weeks that has forced local lockdowns and restrictions.

Although immunity to the novel coronavirus is a complex and murky area and may be assisted by T cells as well as B cells, which can stimulate the quick production of antibodies following re-exposure to the virus, the researchers said the experience of other coronaviruses suggested immunity might not be enduring.

“We can see the antibodies and we can see them declining and we know that antibodies on their own are quite protective,” Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, told reporters.

“On the balance of evidence I would say, with what we know for other coronaviruses, it would look as if immunity declines away at the same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication of waning immunity at the population level.”

University of Calgary microbiologist Craig Jenne, who was not involved in the research, said antibodies can start to fade in as little as eight weeks.

“People who get mildly sick, the body doesn’t seem to think it’s that severe, and we don’t put a lot of resources into overcoming [the infection],” Jenne said. “Unfortunately [in] those people, it looks like the immunity fades much quicker.”

Those for whom COVID-19 was confirmed with a gold standard PCR test had a less pronounced decline in antibodies, compared to people who had been asymptomatic and unaware of their original infection.

There was no change in the levels of antibodies seen in health-care workers, possibly due to repeated exposure to the virus.

Vaccine may be more protective

The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed to flag flaws, backs up findings from similar surveys in Germany. The German researchers found the vast majority of people didn’t have COVID-19 antibodies, even in hot spots for the disease, and that antibodies might fade in those who do.

WATCH | The limits of pursuing herd immunity:

A group of international experts push back against the Great Barrington Declaration and its pursuit of COVID-19 herd immunity, calling it “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.” 2:05

World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said that uncertainty over how long immunity would last, and the fact that most people had never had antibodies against the coronavirus in the first place, showed the need to break transmission chains.

“Acquiring this collective immunity just by letting the virus run through the population is not really an option,” he told a UN briefing in Geneva.

Imperial’s study was based on a survey of 365,000 randomly selected adults.

The rapid waning of antibodies did not necessarily have implications for the efficacy of vaccine candidates currently in clinical trials, Imperial’s Barclay said.

“A good vaccine may well be better than natural immunity,” she said.

Jen Gommerman, a professor of immunology at the University of Toronto, is studying antibody levels in response to the spike protein of the coronavirus in the saliva of people who recovered from COVID-19.

“If we can make a good antibody response to the virus, we should be able to make a good antibody response to the vaccine, and that antibody response should be reasonably durable,” Gommerman said.

The caveat she said is that the data on how long the immune system’s antibody response lasts is limited to six months so far. 

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Cavallini, Whitecaps find extra gear in comeback win over RSL

Lucas Cavallini and his Vancouver Whitecaps teammates knew what was on the line Saturday night.

The squad was on a four-game losing streak with their playoff hopes consistently growing more dim.

“We knew that today was fundamental, that we had to win, no matter what, to stay in the fight,” Cavallini said.

That knowledge propelled the ‘Caps to 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake (4-7-6) in Portland on Saturday.

At times, however, the end result seemed in doubt.

Vancouver (6-11-0) gave up the game’s first goal in the 37th minute due to some weak defence.

Salt Lake’s Justin Meram put the ball at the feet of an unmarked Damir Kreilach, who tapped it in for a 1-0 lead.

The goal marked the first on-target shot by either team on Saturday.

WATCH | Cavallini’s winner helps snap Vancouver’s 4-game losing skid:

Lucas Cavallini’s goal in the 75th minute gives Vancouver a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake. 1:24

Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said his team knew just how dangerous Kreilach and Meram are after watching video of the duo earlier in the week.

Dos Santos went into halftime “incredibly upset,” but focused on what his team could fix over the following 45 minutes.

His message to the players was simple: you have a choice.

“[I said] we have the choice to decide to get the excuse of it’s such a hard year and blah blah blah or the choice of saying `No, let’s prove everybody wrong,”” he said after the win. “A lot of people don’t believe we can make the [playoffs]and a lot of people don’t believe in this team. So it’s a huge opportunity.”

The team responded, forcing an own goal by RSL’s Douglas Martinez in the 71st minute.

Four minutes later, ‘Caps striker Fredy Montero got off a nice shot but was stopped by Andrew Putna. The RSL ‘keeper couldn’t control the rebound, though, and the ball popped out to Cavallini instead. The 27-year-old Canadian striker immediately sent a rocket into the Salt Lake net for the go-ahead goal.

Keeping faith

Dos Santos was proud of how his group responded on Saturday.

“A group that’s not together doesn’t bounce back the way we did,” he said. “We kept believing.”

RSL pushed hard for a draw through the final 15 minutes, even bringing Putna out of his net and into the attacking area in injury time.

Vancouver netminder Evan Bush withstood the barrage despite a pair of collisions with RSL players.

The 34 year old joined the ‘Caps in a trade from the Montreal Impact late last month and is the fourth man to start in goal for the club this season. Canadians Maxime Crepeau (fractured thumb) and Thomas Hasal (concussion and tibia stress fracture) both had their seasons cut short by injury.

The injury history wasn’t lost on Bush, who spent several moments on the field being looked at by the trainers.

“Looking at what’s happened to other Whitecaps’ goalkeepers this year, it might be a cursed position,” he said with a laugh after the game.

The victory was his first Saturday since Aug. 28, 2019.

Playoffs still in sight

The group has talked a lot recently about how games don’t stop after one goal, Bush said.

“I think maybe in the past few games we’ve put our heads down after we’ve gone down a goal and then we’ve kind of taken ourselves out of the game and things kind of snowballed,” he said. “I think the way we handled the second half was very professionally done and I was very proud.”

The win moves Vancouver up the standings in Major League Soccer’s congested Western Conference. The ‘Caps now have 18 points and sit two spots back from a playoff position.

Winning also changed the mood in the locker room, Cavallini said.

“After the game today, I saw a different mentality in the players,” he said. “We have to enjoy it today, enjoy the victory. And then tomorrow, get ready for the game on Wednesday.”

The Whitecaps will play their fourth game in 16 days Wednesday when they host Los Angeles FC in Portland.

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Countries around the world are scrambling to find a COVID-19 vaccine, but access remains uncertain

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world hard, and countries around the globe are anxious to get their hands on a vaccine as soon as possible in the hopes that it will bring a return to normalcy

Those vaccines are expected to be in short supply when they first hit the market, meaning not everyone will have access initially. Within countries, some groups will be prioritized for vaccination.

But what about globally? Which countries will get the vaccines first?

Many wealthier nations are already making bets on vaccines still in relatively early stages of development, with no guarantee that they will ever perform well enough to gain approval or protect their populations.

That has many concerned about “vaccine nationalism,” where countries look out for their own interests at the expense of others.

Here’s a closer look at what wealthier countries are doing to ensure supplies for their own citizens, how that might affect other countries, how Canada might fare and what efforts are being made to distribute a vaccine more fairly.

What can countries do to obtain a vaccine first?

There are a few different ways wealthier countries can try to ensure their own supplies:

  • Provide funding for the development and manufacture of their own candidates to help speed it up.
  • Manufacture a vaccine within their own country and prevent it from being exported.
  • Make deals to reserve or preorder large numbers of doses.

What impact does that have on other countries?

In previous pandemics, such as an H1N1 outbreak in 2009, wealthier nations were able to buy up the first batches, leaving no supply for lower-income countries.

And even some richer countries, including Canada, weren’t always first in line if they didn’t have their own manufacturing facilities. During the swine flu outbreak in 1976, for example, the U.S. decided to vaccinate its entire population before it would allow vaccine producers to export their products to Canada.

What are countries doing to ensure their own supply?

The U.S. has a program called Operation Warp Speed, which aims to produce a vaccine faster than anyone else. President Donald Trump has said he hoped it would be available before the end of the year.

The program has already announced that it’s providing more than $ 6 billion US to pay for development, manufacturing and preorders or reservations for hundreds of millions of doses of promising vaccine candidates from U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Merck, along with U.K.-based AstraZeneca.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, holds up a model of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on July 2 in Washington on the plan to research, manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, known as Operation Warp Speed. (Saul Loeb/Pool via The Associated Press)

Similarly, the European Commission has a plan to use an emergency fund worth €2.4 billion (almost $ 3.7 billion Cdn) to buy up to six vaccines in advance for 450 million people.

Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands have also signed a deal with AstraZeneca for over 300 million doses of its vaccine, which they say all EU members can participate in. 

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has preordered nearly 200 million doses from AstraZeneca, BioNTech/Pfizer  and France-based Valneva.

There are concerns such preorders could reduce the initial availability of vaccines in the rest of the world, which has happened in previous pandemics  

The European Commission has specifically said it will not buy vaccines produced exclusively in the U.S. over concerns that might delay supplies to Europe.

What is Canada doing to ensure its own supply?

The federal government has created a $ 600 million fund to support vaccine clinical trials and manufacturing in Canada.

It is also “closely monitoring vaccine development efforts — domestically and internationally — and will work quickly to negotiate advanced purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturer(s) to secure supply for all Canadians as soon as it is feasible,” Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, told CBC News in an email.

However, as of July 30, it hadn’t yet announced any such agreements.

The government has also announced it is ordering enough equipment, such as syringes, alcohol swabs and bandages, to give at least two doses of a vaccine to every Canadian when one becomes available.

Still, experts warn that Canada currently doesn’t have much manufacturing capacity for vaccines, even those developed in this country — many of which would be manufactured elsewhere and some of which would likely be licensed to foreign companies for manufacturing. 

Vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes are used on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the potential vaccine for COVID-19 in March. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Quebec City-based Medicago is the first Canadian vaccine candidate to begin clinical trials. But CEO Bruce Clark has said that his company’s main manufacturing plant is in the U.S., meaning there’s no guarantee that a supply would reach Canada in a timely manner.

“‘Guarantee’ is a strong word,” Clark told The Canadian Press in July. “Strange things happen to borders in the context of a pandemic.”

Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, said Canada is a very small market.

“And we will not have a vaccine if the manufacturer doesn’t apply for approval,” said MacDonald, who has done research on ethical issues surrounding vaccines.

In the past, some manufacturers have not prioritized Canada, she said. For example, the manufacturer of the chicken pox vaccine didn’t apply for approval in Canada until it had already been available in the U.S. for five years.

Why should all countries have access to a vaccine?

Because it’s a global pandemic and our world is interconnected, outbreaks in any country have the potential to travel to other countries and cause outbreaks there, MacDonald said. “For you to be safe … your country needs to be safe and all other countries need to be safe.”

That’s even the case if the entire population is vaccinated, she said, as a given vaccine usually doesn’t work for everyone. 

Due to manufacturing and distribution constraints, when a vaccine first becomes available, there isn’t expected to be enough of it to vaccinate the entire populations of even countries wealthy and lucky enough to have preordered it. That means most of their populations could remain at risk for a long time if the pandemic isn’t under control in other parts of the world.

Outbreaks also tend to be worse and harder to control in poorer countries, posing a higher risk to both their own populations and the world.

A volunteer receives an injection of a COVID-19 test vaccine, developed at Oxford University in Britain, at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Siphiwe Sibeko/The Associated Press)

Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor emeritus at York University in Toronto who has studied pharmaceutical policy, said many wealthier countries such as Canada are able to do a pretty good job of controlling the virus without a vaccine through such measures as physical distancing, frequent handwashing, mask wearing and temporarily shutting down certain businesses and services. 

Meanwhile, lower-income countries where many people live in crowded conditions — some of them with limited access to things like clean water and soap — are struggling with both controlling the epidemic and treating those who have fallen ill.

“I think you need to look at where the outbreak is still the greatest threat to public health and also where the medical care resources are the lowest,” Lexchin said.

“You can make the case that however much we need a vaccine in Canada, there they need it much more than we do.”

What about global efforts to ensure a fair distribution?

There are some, but perhaps the biggest is the COVAX Facility, an initiative of the World Health Organization; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is a public-private partnership founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that vaccinates children against deadly diseases; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which aims to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics.

COVAX is pooling money from dozens of countries to invest in vaccine candidates around the world, with a goal of delivering two billion vaccine doses globally by 2021. 

The program is designed to connect developing and developed nations, with all partners getting enough doses of a successful vaccine for 20 per cent of their populations, initially prioritizing health-care workers. So far, it’s signed on 75 higher-income countries — including Canada but not the U.S. — to partner with 90 lower-income countries that together represent more than 60 per cent of the world’s population. It’s also joining forces with vaccine manufacturers.

Health workers screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms at the Deonar slum in Mumbai, India, on July 11. In just three weeks, India went from being the world’s sixth worst-affected country to the third, according to a tally of coronavirus cases by Johns Hopkins University. (Rajanish Kakade/The Associated Press)

The program includes investment in production facilities and incentives to scale up through preorders.

Because most vaccine candidates are not expected to succeed and make it to market, COVAX is designed to get higher-income countries to participate by improving the chance that they’ll invest in a successful vaccine.

“This is an initial opportunity for a wealthy country to kind of hedge their bets and protect their own interests and also contribute to a global effort to secure vaccine for people living in countries where the resources are not there to do it on their own,” said Prof. Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore.

“It’s very smart.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken in favour of and co-authored an op-ed article with leaders of other countries calling for equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s ready. Canada has already pledged $ 850 million to Global Coronavirus Response and $ 120 million toward the broader initiative that COVAX is part of, called the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says it has raised $ 600 million US from higher-income countries and the private sector to provide an incentive for manufacturers to make enough vaccine to ensure access for developing countries.

Will efforts for a fair distribution of vaccines work?

York University’s Lexchin said it’s not clear if vaccines will be fairly distributed. He noted in an article in The Conversation that even for COVAX, rich countries will get the vaccine before poorer countries. And all countries will only be able to vaccinate their highest-priority groups, including health-care workers — just 20 per cent of the population through the program, limiting its influence.

At least one humanitarian group has expressed concern that the program doesn’t stop rich countries from buying up all the supply in advance, limiting what can be distributed to the rest of the world.

Lexchin said in an interview that middle-income countries such as Brazil and Mexico sometimes fall through the cracks, as they’re not poor enough to take advantage of lower prices offered by manufacturers, who set the prices.

He said he thinks leaders, including Canada’s, need to step up as well, by requiring that vaccines and treatments be made available at affordable prices to low- and middle-income countries if government funding was received for their development.

Still, MacDonald of Dalhousie University is cautiously optimistic.

“We’re in better shape to be more equitable about a COVID-19 vaccine globally than we were for the influenza pandemic,” she said.

“Do I think we’re going to get it right? … I hope we’ll get it more right.”

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