Global health news round-up: S.Korea to combine COVID vaccines, New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget

What’s being going on in the health world this week?

In the UK, COVID-19 vaccine booking was made available to 34 and 35-year-olds and a new strategy to deliver genomic healthcare was announced by the UK government.

But, further afield, there have been many other stories causing a stir. Find out what else has been happening across the globe…

Beginning in the US, MIT News reports that an artificial intelligence framework built by the institution’s researchers can provide an ‘early-alert’ signal to help predict the future ‘high-impact’ technologies.

By ‘learning from patterns’ in previous successful scientific papers, DELPHI – Dynamic Early-warning by Learning to Predict High Impact – applies an algorithm to identify which new papers are likely to make a significant impact on the scientific world. Researchers have already used it to highlight 50 studies, including the use of DNA nanorobots in cancer treatment, that could make a difference by 2023.

It’s hoped the tool could help make better use of scientific funding and find those ‘diamond in the rough’ technologies that may otherwise be overlooked. (MIT News)

South Korea, meanwhile, has announced that it will conduct a COVID-19 ‘mix-and-match’ vaccine trial – combining doses of the AstraZeneca jab with Pfizer, as well as others.

According to reports, the trial is set to include around 500 military personnel who had already received a first dose of AstraZeneca, and will analyse their T cells and antibodies. It’s hoped that by combining shots – if successful – issues around supply, shortage and safety could be eased. (Reuters / The Guardian)

In similar news, Denmark has ‘given the green light’ to expert vaccine staff to mix leftovers from COVID-19 vaccine vials, in an attempt to get extra doses out of them. When it is not possible to draw the maximum number of doses from a vial, the remaining amount may be combined with remainders of another – as long as they come from the same supplier and batch. (The Local)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now released guidance for research into genetically modified mosquitoes, which could be used to fight malaria and other vector-borne diseases across the globe. The framework – developed with the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases and the GeneConvene Global Collaborative – aims to set standards and best practices to help inform future work, with a focus on ‘ethics, safety, affordability and effectiveness’. (WHO)

Following on from Australia’s focus on health and ageing funding in its latest budget announcement, New Zealand has now also set out its new budget. Key pillars of the country’s Wellbeing Budget 2021, which covers ‘spending pledges’ across the next four years, include $200m for drug-buying agency Pharmac, more funding for primary care and regional health boards, and $486m for the plan to replace the boards with a single national health authority.

It’s also reported that a package worth around $170 million will support digital transformation in the nation’s health sector, with a focus on data and digital infrastructure. The budget was announced soon after one of the nation’s health boards suffered a cyber attack. (The Guardian / IT Pro / New Zealand Herald)

Over in Japan, Fujifilm has said it can make COVID-19 detection kits for new variants in around a month. According to The Japan Times, Fujifilm Wako Pure Chemical Corporation recently developed a kit that can identify the L452R variant, which was first identified in India and California, to add to kits that already detect other strains. The tests are said to deliver results in around 100 minutes. (The Japan Times)