COVID Booster: Vaccine popularity goes up, NZ cases go down, 3D-printed ventilators go in and out

Australians are keener on the jab – including for their kids

Nearly 80% of Australian parents want to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, once a vaccine becomes available for them, according to research done by the Australian National University.

The research is based on the most recent round of results from ANU’s COVID-19 Impact Monitoring Survey, which checks in on 3,000 adults every few months.

The researchers found that vaccine hesitancy in adults is lower, with only 14.6% of unvaccinated people saying they won’t get a vaccine, compared to 17.1% in April 2021 and 21.7% in January.

“In recent weeks and months we have seen lots of public commentary, including concerns, about making sure children are vaccinated against COVID-19,” says Professor Nicholas Biddle, lead author on the study.

“These findings show the vast majority of Australians are ready to make sure their children are protected from COVID as soon as vaccines are available to them.”

Biddle points out, however, that vaccine hesitancy isn’t uniform across the adult population, meaning certain groups might be more vulnerable.

New Zealand’s outbreak is shrinking

Modelling by Te Pūnaha Matatini has shown that New Zealand’s lockdown is effectively suppressing its Delta outbreak.

The modelling finds that “it is highly likely that the R number was less than 1 between 23 August and 4 September, which means cases are decreasing”. If the R number is below 1.0, that means each person with COVID-19 transfers it to less than one other person, on average.

The modelling can’t, however, predict how much longer the lockdown is likely to be necessary to eliminate cases.

New Zealand has recently been reporting daily local cases in the teens and 20s, down from a maximum of 85 on 29 August.

Large-scale data on Australia’s first year of COVID-19

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a report on the health effects of COVID-19 in 2020 and early 2021 at an Australia-wide level.

The report doesn’t include data from the most recent Delta outbreak, which started in June.

“As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly and we face challenges such as the emergence of new variants of the virus, it is important we look holistically at the direct and indirect health effects of the pandemic on Australians,” says AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon.

“If Australia had experienced the same crude case and death rates as Canada, Sweden or the United Kingdom, by early April 2021 there would have been between 680,000 and 2 million cases instead of the 29,000 that did occur, and between 16,000 and 48,000 deaths.

“Conversely, If Australia had the same crude case and death rates as New Zealand, there would have been around 18,000 fewer cases and 780 fewer deaths.”

The report also found that the pandemic increased psychological distress in Australia, particularly for people between 18 and 45 years of age.

“By April 2021, the average level of psychological distress had returned to pre-pandemic levels, however it continued to be higher for young people,” says Moon.

Using 3D-printed origami to fight COVID-19

Man holds plastic device in lab
SFU School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering’s associate professor Woo Soo Kim holds the 3D-printed portable ventilator. Credit: SFU

A group of Canadian researchers have made a cheap, portable ventilator with a 3D-printed origami tube.

The ventilator pumps air by mechanically expanding and contracting the tube – this means it can be smaller and lighter than traditional ventilators while still packing the same pump.

“In our portable origami ventilator, more than 95% of components can be 3D printable – that’s why it is really cost-efficient,” says Woo Soo Kim, associate professor of mechatronic systems engineering at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

“Other portable ventilators can cost over C$2,000 [A$2,100], but our 3D-printed ventilator can be produced for about $200 [A$210].”

The researchers are developing their ventilator for commercial use with a local manufacturer and 3D-printing company.

A paper describing the ventilator is published in Flexible and Printed Electronics.

Vaccines keep you out of the emergency department

A study of over 60,000 hospital admissions in the US has found that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all very good at preventing severe COVID-19 – or, at least, COVID-19 that warrants emergency medical care.

The researchers, who are based at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, found that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 91% effective at preventing emergency department visits, while the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 73% effective.

This effectiveness was consistent across age groups, and for certain other COVID vulnerability factors.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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