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There are new flu vaccines on offer in Australia in 2024. Here’s what to know about them – The Guardian

Influenza is a common respiratory infection. Although most cases are relatively mild, flu can cause more severe illness in young children and older people.

Influenza virtually disappeared from Australia during the first years of the Covid-19 pandemic when public health restrictions reduced contact between people. Since 2022, it has returned to a seasonal pattern, although the flu season has started and peaked a few months earlier than before 2020.

It’s difficult to predict the intensity of the flu season at this point in the year, but we can sometimes get clues from the northern hemisphere. There, the season started earlier than usual for the third year running (peaking in early January rather than late February or March), with a similar number of reported cases and hospitalisations to the previous year.

Influenza vaccines are recommended annually, but there are now an increasing number of different vaccine types. Here’s what to know about this year’s shots, available from this month.

What goes into a flu vaccine?

Like other vaccines, influenza vaccines work by “training” the immune system on a harmless component of the influenza virus (known as an antigen), so it can respond appropriately when the body encounters the real virus.

Influenza strains are constantly changing due to genetic mutation, with the pace of genetic change much higher than for Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid). The strains that go into the vaccine are reviewed twice each year by the World Health Organization, which selects vaccine strains to match the next season’s predicted circulating strains.

All current influenza vaccines in Australia contain four different strains (known as quadrivalent vaccines). One of the strains appeared to disappear during the Covid pandemic, and the WHO has recently recommended dropping this strain from the vaccine. It’s expected trivalent (three strain) vaccines will become available in the near future.

What’s different about new flu vaccines?

There are eight brands of flu vaccines available in Australia in 2024. These include egg-based vaccines (Vaxigrip Tetra, Fluarix Tetra, Afluria Quad, FluQuadri and Influvac Tetra), cell-based vaccines (Flucelvax Quad), adjuvanted vaccines (Fluad Quad) and high-dose vaccines (Fluzone High-Dose Quad).

Until recently, the process of manufacturing flu vaccines has remained similar. Since the development of the influenza vaccine in the 1940s, influenza viruses were grown in chicken eggs, then extracted, inactivated, purified and processed to make up the egg-based vaccines that are still used widely.

However, there have been several enhancements to influenza vaccines in recent years.

Older people’s immune systems tend not to respond as strongly to vaccines. In some flu vaccines, adjuvants (components that stimulate the immune system) are included with the influenza antigens. For example, an adjuvant is used in the Fluad Quad vaccine, recommended for over 65s. Studies suggest adjuvanted influenza vaccines are slightly better than standard egg-based vaccines without adjuvant in older people.

An alternative approach to improving the immune response is to use higher doses of the vaccine strains. An example is Fluzone High-Dose Quad – another option for older adults – which contains the equivalent of four doses of a standard influenza vaccine. Studies suggest the high dose vaccine is better than the standard dose vaccine (without an adjuvant) in preventing hospitalisation and complications in older people.

Other manufacturers have updated the manufacturing process. Cell-based vaccines, such as Flucelvax Quad, use cells instead of eggs in the manufacturing process. Other vaccines that are not yet available also use different technologies. In the past, manufacturing issues with egg-based vaccines have reduced their effectiveness. Using an alternative method of production provides some degree of insurance against this in the future.

What should I do this year?

Given indications this year’s flu season may be earlier than usual, it’s probably safest to get your vaccine early. This is particularly important for those at highest risk of severe illness, including older adults (65 years and over), those with chronic medical conditions, young children (six months to five years) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Influenza vaccines are also recommended in pregnancy to protect both the mother and the baby for the first months of life.

Influenza vaccines are widely available, including at GP clinics and pharmacies, while many workplaces have occupational programs. For high-risk groups, four of the vaccines are subsidised by the Australian government through the National Immunisation Program.

In older people, a number of vaccines are now recommended: Covid and influenza, as well as one-off courses of pneumococcal and shingles vaccines. In general, most vaccines can be given in the same visit but talk to your doctor about which ones you need.

Are there side effects?

All influenza vaccines can cause a sore arm and sometimes more generalised symptoms such as fever and tiredness. These are expected and reflect the immune system reacting appropriately to the vaccine, and are mostly mild and short-term. These side effects are slightly more common in adjuvanted and high dose vaccines.

As with all medications and vaccines, allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis can occur after the flu vaccine. All vaccine providers are trained to recognise and respond to anaphylaxis. People with egg allergies should discuss this with their doctor but in general, studies suggest they can safely receive any (including egg-based) influenza vaccines.

Serious side effects from the influenza vaccine, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological complication, are very rare (one case per million people vaccinated). They are thought to be less common after influenza vaccination than after infection with influenza.

Allen Cheng is professor of infectious diseases at Monash University. This article was originally published in the Conversation

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Public Health Specialist: Prevention, Care & Treatment (Harare) at U.S. Embassy In Zimbabwe – Pindula Jobs – pindula.co.zw

JOB KNOWLEDGE:

Comprehensive knowledge of current HIV/AIDS Prevention Care &Treatment (PC&T) issues including prevention strategies, behavior change, HIV testing, and treatment is required. In-depth knowledge of the range of PC&T programs, policies, regulations and precedents applicable to development and administration of national public health program is required. Detailed knowledge of the host government health care system and structures including familiarity with MOHCC policies, program priorities and regulations is required. In-depth knowledge of HIV/AIDS public health programs, strategies, methods, processes and techniques used to plan, develop, implement and evaluate results of prevention, care and treatment programs is required. Good working knowledge of overall administrative requirements, budgeting and fiscal management in support of contracts/cooperative agreements/grants/purchase requisitions is required.

Education Requirements:

Doctoral level degree (Doctor of Public Health (D.Ph.), Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or host country equivalent degree in medicine, nursing, public health, epidemiology, behavioral science field is required.

Evaluations:

LANGUAGE: English: Level 4 – Fluent; speaking/reading/writing, may include the ability to translate

SKILLS AND ABILITIES:

Strong oral and written communications skills are required to develop and maintain effective, sustainable working relationships with national and international working partners and generate dissemination. Ability to analyze, understand and discuss program design, management and implementation approaches is required. This includes the development of evaluation designs, use of reliable and valid instruments and methods for data collection, and conducting data analysis. Ability to work across a wide range of complex situations and settings and to develop cooperative, collaborative and effective program strategies with diverse partners and stakeholder organizations. The specialist is expected to be innovative and have strong problem-solving skills to overcome challenges such as stakeholders’ resistance to accept new guidelines or program shifts, program implementation problems, resolving differences in approach between host government policies/priorities and PEPFAR priorities, and redirecting partner practices to conform to standards for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care. Intermediate user level of word processing, spreadsheets, and databases is required. Strong skills in data analysis, including interpretation of program monitoring and evaluation data and translating research findings into practice, are required. The ability to lead results-driven project teams and workgroups is required.

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY (EEO): The U.S. Mission provides equal opportunity and fair and equitable treatment in employment to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation, marital status, or sexual orientation.

All applicants under consideration will be required to pass medical and security certifications.

Other

How to Apply

Click here to apply

Deadline: 25 April 2024

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Driver (Kariba) at Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) – Pindula Jobs – pindula.co.zw

Job Description

Family AIDS Caring Trust Zimbabwe (FACT) is a Christian based organisation that was instituted in 1987. Since establishment, FACT Zimbabwe has been a leading national HIV and development organisation implementing various projects directly and through partnerships. The organization’s programming focuses on 4 strategic pillars Safeguarding and Sustainable Livelihoods (SSL), Health and Well-being (HW), Strategic Information and Research (SIR) and Organisational Efficiency and Effectiveness (OEE). FACT seeks the services of a Driver detailed below.

Reports to: Procurement and Logistics Assistant.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Maintains vehicle log books and photocopies the current log sheet and fuel ledger and submits to the Senior Driver.
  • Checks to see if vehicles are due for service and takes vehicles for servicing and repairs.
  • Keeps vehicles clean all the time.
  • Initiates fuel procurement requests.
  • Supports teams on outreach activities.
  • Drives project staff to their project implementation areas.
  • Collects all commodities (fuel, stationery, furniture etc) procured for the office.
  • Reports incidents and breakdowns on the vehicles.
  • Checks to ensure all vehicles have fuel, oil, water, and other fluids.
  • Checks to ensure that all vehicles are licensed and insured by liaising with the Senior Driver.

Qualifications and Experience

  • Should have 5 O levels.
  • Driver’s licence should be at least 5 years.
  • At least 2 years accident-free driving as a professional driver.
  • Class 4 drivers’ licence, defensive driving certificate,

Other

How to Apply

Click here and complete the form.

Send a detailed CV to: hr@fact.org.zw, highlighting the post.

Please ensure that both steps are carried out to complete the application process.

  • Background checks will be done for successful candidate to ensure child safeguarding and protection in all our work. FACT commits itself to protecting children whom its staff, volunteers as well as outsiders may get into contact with. The organization is mandated to serve the best interest of all children through protection from abuse, harm and exclusion, child participation and development in all its programs.
  • FACT is an equal opportunity employer which does not discriminate in terms of race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, gender, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS status or, subject to the Disabled Persons Act [Chapter 17:01].

FACT does not charge a fee at any stage of the recruitment process.

NB: Only short listed candidates will be notified.

Deadline: 19 April 2024

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Heaviest black hole pair ever discovered – Sky at Night Magazine

A pair of supermassive black holes that have been trapped dancing around each other for billions of years have now been found to be the heaviest binary ever measured.

Though theory predicts that such pairs of supermassive black holes should merge together, the act of merging has never actually been seen.

The huge mass of this pair could help astronomers understand why such mergers are seemingly so rare.

The pair are located in B2 0402 379, an enormous ‘fossil cluster’ galaxy created when an entire cluster’s worth of galaxies and stars merged into a single giant elliptical.

The Final Parsec Problem concerns the merging of supermassive black holes in colliding galaxies. Credit: Draco-Zlat / Getty Images
Artist’s impression of merging black holes in colliding galaxies. Credit: Draco-Zlat / Getty Images

Most galaxies host a central supermassive black hole.

When galaxies merge, these begin orbiting around one another.

As they circle, they transfer some of their energy to the surrounding stars and gas – much of which is ejected in the process.

The more energy these black holes lose to the material around them, the closer they move towards each other. 

In the case of this binary pair, the black holes moved in until they were a mere 24 lightyears apart – the smallest such separation ever directly measured.

However, they have remained stuck at this distance for the last three billion years.

To understand why this might be the case, astronomers have used the Gemini North telescope’s Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) to study the system.

The Gemini North telescope. Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/T. Slovinský
The Gemini North telescope. Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/T. Slovinský

“The excellent sensitivity of GMOS allowed us to map the stars’ increasing velocities as one looks closer to the galaxy’s centre,” says Roger Romani from Stanford University, who took part in the study.

“With that, we were able to infer the total mass of the black holes residing there.”

The binary is estimated to weigh in at 28 billion times that of the Sun, making it the heaviest ever measured.

As well as giving vital context to the formation of this specific binary system and its past within the galaxy, the measurement also gives support to the idea that the stalling of binary supermassive black holes is linked to their huge masses.

The amount of gas and stars that would have to be ejected in order to move such massive black holes this close to each other would be enormous. 

“Normally it seems that galaxies with lighter black hole pairs have enough stars and mass to drive the two together quickly,” says Romani.

“Since this pair is so heavy, it required lots of stars and gas to get the job done. But the binary has scoured the central galaxy of such matter, leaving it stalled.”

www.noirlab.edu

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