+

Bivalent Boosters for Young Children Are Elusive. The Search Is On for Ways to Improve Access.

Bivalent Boosters for Young Children Are Elusive. The Search Is On for Ways to Improve Access.

Theo, an 18-month-old in rural Nebraska, walks with his father in their backyard. For many toddlers, the barriers to accessing COVID-19 vaccines are many, such as few locations giving vaccines to very young children.

It’s Theo’s* first time in the snow. Wide-eyed, he totters outside holding his father’s hand. Sarah Holmes feels great joy in watching her 18-month-old son experience the world, “His genuine wonder and excitement gives me so much hope.”

In the summer of 2021, two months after Theo was born, Holmes, a behavioral health provider in Nebraska lost her grandparents to COVID-19. Both were vaccinated and thought they could unmask without any risk. “My grandfather was a veteran, and really trusted the government and faith leaders saying that COVID-19 wasn’t a threat anymore,” she says.” The state of emergency in Louisiana had ended and that was the message from the people they respected. “That is what killed them.”

The current official public health messaging is that regardless of what variant is circulating, the best way to be protected is to get vaccinated. These warnings no longer mention masking, or any of the other Swiss-cheese layers of mitigation that were prevalent in the early days of this ongoing pandemic.

The problem with the prevailing, vaccine centered strategy is that if you are a parent with children under five, barriers to access are real. In many cases, meaningful tools and changes that would address these obstacles are lacking, such as offering vaccines at more locations, mandating masks at these sites, and providing paid leave time to get the shots.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Kori Feener
Kori Feener is an award winning documentary filmmaker and a journalist based in Vermont. She writes about the environment, health and filmmaking. Her work has been featured in DigBoston, and Isthmus. She tweets at @korifeener.
A newly discovered brain cell may lead to new treatments for cognitive disorders

Swiss researchers have found a type of brain cell that appears to be a hybrid of the two other main types — and it could lead to new treatments for brain disorders.

Adobe stock

Swiss researchers have discovered a third type of brain cell that appears to be a hybrid of the two other primary types — and it could lead to new treatments for many brain disorders.

The challenge: Most of the cells in the brain are either neurons or glial cells. While neurons use electrical and chemical signals to send messages to one another across small gaps called synapses, glial cells exist to support and protect neurons.

Astrocytes are a type of glial cell found near synapses. This close proximity to the place where brain signals are sent and received has led researchers to suspect that astrocytes might play an active role in the transmission of information inside the brain — a.k.a. “neurotransmission” — but no one has been able to prove the theory.


Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Kristin Houser
Kristin Houser is a staff writer at Freethink, where she covers science and tech. Her written work has appeared in Business Insider, NBC News, and the World Economic Forum’s Agenda, among other publications, and Stephen Colbert once talked about a piece on The Late Show, to her delight. Formerly, Kristin was a staff writer for Futurism and wrote several animated and live action web series.
Scientists implant brain cells to counter Parkinson's disease

In a recent research trial, patients with Parkinson's disease reported that their symptoms had improved after stem cells were implanted into their brains. Martin Taylor, far right, was diagnosed at age 32.

Martin Taylor

Martin Taylor was only 32 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a disease that causes tremors, stiff muscles and slow physical movement - symptoms that steadily get worse as time goes on.

“It's horrible having Parkinson's,” says Taylor, a data analyst, now 41. “It limits my ability to be the dad and husband that I want to be in many cruel and debilitating ways.”

Today, more than 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson's. Most are diagnosed when they're considerably older than Taylor, after age 60. Although recent research has called into question certain aspects of the disease’s origins, Parkinson’s eventually kills the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a signaling chemical that carries messages around the body to control movement. Many patients have lost 60 to 80 percent of these cells by the time they are diagnosed.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Sarah Philip
Sarah Philip is a London-based freelance journalist who writes about science, film and TV. You can follow her on Twitter @sarahph1lip.