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More U.S. colleges and universities are announcing a return to in-person classes this fall, and some say they will mandate that students be vaccinated against the coronavirus before arriving on campus.
Cornell University in New York, Northeastern University in Massachusetts, Fort Lewis College in Colorado, St. Edward’s University in Texas, and Brown and Roger Williams Universities in Rhode Island are some of the schools that have announced they will mandate vaccinations for the new semester.
Rutgers University in New Jersey, with 71,000 students, said inoculating the student community will “accelerate the return to a pre-pandemic normal on the university’s campuses, including increased in-person course offerings, more on-campus events, and activities,” according to its website.
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Nova Southeastern University in Florida, with nearly 26,000 students, announced on April 1 that it will resume classes in person, encouraged by vaccine availability in the state, it said on its website.
By August 1, students, staff, and faculty are to be fully vaccinated two weeks after two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are administered.
“I’m definitely excited to go back to in-person classes. I miss being with in-person classes, meeting professors face-to-face, just meeting people in the class,” said Yemisrach Hailemariam, a sophomore from Ethiopia, who is studying neuroscience at Brown University.
“It’s really not the same over Zoom,” she said about online learning.
Students at both universities are expected to prove they’ve received a vaccination authorized in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been put on pause, according to the FDA, after reports of side effects involving blood clots.
“We would love for all our students to be vaccinated before they go home to either place in the U.S. or places in other countries because if they go there unvaccinated, they could actually carry the virus to their families and communities,” said Gerri Taylor, co-chair of American College Health Association’s COVID-19 Task Force outside Washington. COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus.
International students’ concerns
But where the more than 1 million international students who study in the U.S. get their immunizations is a concern, Taylor said.
“Because if they get immunized in their countries, the vaccine needs to be ideally approved” by the FDA, she said.
Neither the FDA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta have announced which vaccines provided abroad will be accepted in the United States, Taylor said.
“Some of these students have actually been vaccinated in their home countries, perhaps with a Chinese vaccine, or with Sputnik V, or with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Sputnik V was developed in Russia. The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed jointly by the British-Swedish drugmaker and scientists at the University of Oxford.
Several nations have issued new guidelines over the use of the AstraZeneca shot after the European Union’s medical regulator announced a link between the vaccine and rare, possibly fatal, blood clots.
“Will they be accepted as vaccinated when they come back to the United States? And if not, can they be revaccinated with one of our currently available vaccines? And as far as I know, there are no data available on any of that,” Schaffner said.
International students say they are uncertain about where to get inoculated in the U.S.
Vaccination availability for young people has been a low priority in the U.S. until recently because that cohort has suffered the least proportionally from COVID-19 so far. Most people of any age have had to search the internet, looking to secure an appointment on various lists that offer vaccines — health care providers, convenience stores that have pharmacies, mass vaccination centers, big-box stores, and sports arenas — waiting for their turn.
“It’s really hard because we don’t have a home state,” Yemisrach explained. “Especially as a freshman, if you’re an international student and you don’t know how to navigate local health systems.”
Although some universities have announced they will resume in-person classes later this year, it is not clear whether vaccination requirements will be universal.
Pomona College in California, Pennsylvania State University, Boise State University in Idaho, Harvard University in Massachusetts, and the George Washington University (GWU) in Washington are some of the many that strongly suggest vaccination but have not made it mandatory.
State laws guide schools
By law, universities can enforce inoculations if the area in which they are located also mandates that every resident be vaccinated.
Vaccination “is the best way to get over corona as fast as we can because it’s really bad in the U.S. and it’s not going to leave anytime soon. So, I feel like vaccinations are probably our best bet,” said Ewenet Seleshi, a freshman studying criminal justice at GWU.
“I don’t think that people should be forced to be vaccinated unless they’re going to places like university,” said Ewenet, who is from the U.S. state of Georgia.
“States have the legal and constitutional authority to require that the people who live in that state be vaccinated or to introduce a vaccine mandate,” according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
According to the CDC, some people reserve the right to choose not to take the vaccine because of a religious belief or because they say they may be at risk for an adverse reaction or have a medical condition.
If many people were to be exempted from the vaccine, then herd immunity — or making enough people immune so the coronavirus cannot spread — might not be enough. According to the World Health Organization, herd immunity occurs when a significant number of people within a population acquires resistance to the disease or virus either through infection or vaccination.
Fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a well-fitting mask, stay 2 meters apart from others, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, according to the CDC. Dickinson State University in North Dakota will allow students not to wear masks if they have proof of vaccination, it announced.
“We are in North Dakota, a state where there is no statewide mask mandate at this point. … We are trading off additional protection of masks for what we believe will motivate our students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated,” Stephen D. Easton, president of Dickinson State, told NBC News in March.
“The best we can do for most of the school year was social distancing plus masks. We now have another tool that is more powerful, which is vaccination,” Easton explained.
“I’ll still be following COVID measures, but I probably will just be able to just go out a lot more. I’ll still be wearing my mask when I go places. I just probably won’t be wearing a double mask. I know a lot of people here are talking about getting the vaccine and going to parties, so I don’t think a lot of people will be following a lot of the COVID safety measures,” GWU freshman Ewenet said. (VOA/KB)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)