Good Day BIO: One year after authorization of vaccines, hesitancy remains a challenge
December 13, 2021
Starting a new week with another important anniversary in the COVID-19 timeline, as well as a deep dive in the plastic problem plaguing our oceans (and how biotech can help solve it). Meanwhile, we’re also keeping an eye on drug price controls in Congress. (767 words,…
The only newsletter at the intersection of biotech, politics, and policy
December 13, 2021
Starting a new week with another important anniversary in the COVID-19 timeline, as well as a deep dive in the plastic problem plaguing our oceans (and how biotech can help solve it). Meanwhile, we’re also keeping an eye on drug price controls in Congress. (767 words, 3 minutes, 50 seconds)
One year after authorization of vaccines, hesitancy remains a challenge
It’s been one year since the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were authorized for emergency use in the U.S.—an incredible feat for the biotech industry and for humanity. But now, vaccine hesitancy keeps us from being able to declare victory over the virus.
We’ve come a long way in the past two years—with 60.8% of the U.S. population (201.7 million people) fully vaccinated and 26.2% boosted, according to The Washington Post.
And the vaccines work: “In Europe alone, research shows they’ve saved about half a million lives among people age 60 and over,” says Bloomberg.
But we still have a long way to go. Initially, experts estimated that 60-70% of the population would have to be fully vaccinated to reach herd immunity. “But with stronger variants emerging, experts now put that number at 90% or higher,” according to The New York Times.
The real barrier to reaching herd immunity is vaccine hesitancy. “Research shows that the most frequently given reason for not getting the vaccine is worry about side effects—coupled with a generalized lack of trust in vaccines,” finds Gallup.
Plastic pollution is choking our oceans—but biotech offers solutions
The United States is the biggest producer of plastic pollution worldwide, generating 130 kilograms of plastic waste per person every year, according to a new federal report—but luckily, biotech offers solutions that can help eliminate our plastic problem.
Most plastic produced quickly becomes waste, according to “Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste,” written at the request of Congress by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS): “From 1950 through 2017, the world cumulatively produced 8.3 billion metric tons (BMT) of plastics for use. By 2015, 6.3 BMT of plastics had become waste.”
And a lot of that waste ends up in the ocean—8 million metric tons a year, “the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste into the ocean every minute,” according to the report.
Ocean currents tend to collect the floating plastic pollution into “gyres,” including one in the Pacific estimated to be more than 610,000 square miles and to hold 79,000 tons of plastic, according to BBC. This Pacific gyre has developed its own ecosystem, inhabited by shore creatures living far from land, which may cause “ecological shifts in the marine environment,” explains an article in Nature.
The NAS report lists several recommendations for addressing the problem—starting with reducing production of plastic that is not biodegradable and increasing production of innovative materials that ARE biodegradable.
Genomatica, which develops commercial biobased processes to make more sustainable versions of widely used chemicals and materials in everyday products, including a “bio-nylon.”
BIO Beltway Report
President Biden’s Monday: Receiving a briefing from Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, and Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall on the Federal response to the tornadoes and extreme weather that hit several states Friday night.