Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.
What Could Go Right? The Eradication of Malaria
Could we be on the cusp of eradicating malaria worldwide? A new, highly efficacious vaccine might be what we've been waiting for.
This is our weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday at 6am. You can read past issues here.
Vaccines are having a moment, and not just the COVID ones. After nearly a century of trying to develop an efficacious malaria vaccine, one is finally on the horizon. Results from a year-long trial involving 450 children in Burkina Faso show a new vaccine from the Jenner Institute at Oxford University at 77% efficacy. Larger trials are now underway.
The death toll from malaria has been cut in half in recent years due to health interventions like bed nets, but malaria still kills almost 400,000 people, mostly little children, every year. If this vaccine stands up to larger trials, those numbers could be cut way, way down, to the point that the director of the Jenner Institute thinks it raises the realistic possibility of a big kahuna goal being within reach: the total eradication of malaria.
An unexpected effect of the pandemic is that the COVID vaccines’ emergency approval has meant that other critical, potentially transformative vaccines like this malaria one may be eligible for emergency approval as well, meaning that it could be produced and distributed much faster than usual.
Emergency approval or not, scientific progress can sneak up on us with incredible speed. Consider that Vox published an article in early March, accurately based on the evidence we had at the time, that concluded “a highly effective vaccine for malaria is still probably a ways away.” Two months later, and here we are. Meanwhile, there is already a malaria vaccine, less efficacious at around 30%, but still helpful, that is now being distributed en masse for the first time.
Over in Biden land, is it just us, or is it hard to keep track of everything he’s doing? We appreciated this bullet point list from Axios on the package he presented to Congress last night, which includes a few tax-the-rich goodies. As a companion piece, we recommend reading TPN Member Diane Francis’ “The Republic of Walmart,” a crystal-clear explainer on how individual taxpayers are left holding the bag when US corporations don’t pay their fair share. And, we applaud the president for agreeing to release up to 60 million AstraZeneca doses that the US is not using. As we can see with the tragedy unfolding in India currently, it’s paramount that we vaccinate the world, fast. There is no point hoarding unneeded doses.
By the way, if those headlines about fully vaccinated people catching COVID are freaking you out, here’s a reminder about how to understand those numbers:
Is the world more violent or more peaceful than it once was? Wars, genocide, murder, you name it—the answer is unequivocal, says TPN Charles Kenny. The world has seen a significant, measurable decline in violence.
Below in the links section, West Virginia is paying their youths to get vaccinated (we’re waiting for the Krispy Kreme collab to be announced), plastic might become actually recyclable, and more.
And, before we go, we did want to follow up on last week’s topic of police reform. A national roundup here, and here’s a local success story from Newark, New Jersey, whose police officers didn’t fire a single shot in 2020.
From us: On May 12, join us for a wide-ranging discussion on ideas—which ones are significant now, which may be significant in the future, and how we can participate in ideas’ power ourselves—with Joan Blades, cofounder of Living Room Conversations and MoveOn.org, and public intellectual Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now and several other books.
(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)
TPN Member originals
- Prisoners of hope: a conversation with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on America’s racial reckoning | Peniel E. Joseph
- The driving force behind economic inclusion | Courtney E. Martin
- Extinction Rebellion cofounder Clare Farrell on moving from hope to action | Yancey Strickler
- Why governments fail | Yascha Mounk and Tyler Cowen
Other good stuff in the news
- How COVID spurred Africa to plot a vaccines revolution | Nature
- West Virginia will pay young people $100 to get vaccinated (where’s the collab with Krispy Kreme?) | NPR
- Insanely cheap energy: how solar power continues to shock the world | The Guardian
- Israel records no new daily COVID deaths for the first time in 10 months | Times of Israel
- Scientists have developed a truly recyclable plastic | Fast Company
- A new Latin American treaty protects environmental activists for the first time | Grist
- Manhattan to stop prosecuting prostitution, part of nationwide shift (thanks to reader Gabrielle!) | NY Times
New Book: Your World, Better
TPN Member Charles Kenny has a new book, Your World, Better: Global Progress and What You Can Do About It, written for the smart and engaged middle school student. It looks at how America and the world has changed since the reader’s parents and grandparents were young: what has happened to health and wealth, homes, school and work, rights and democracy, war and the environment, happiness and depression. It talks about the things that have gotten better, the sometimes-intensifying challenges that remain, and what readers can do about them.
Your World Better is optimistic, but it doesn’t shy away from the considerable problems we face. It is meant to encourage kids to help make the world better themselves, to tip them from a sense of powerlessness toward action, not into complacency.
You can download Your World, Better free as a PDF, or a print or e-version for a modest fee. (Author royalties from sales will be donated to UNICEF.)
Until next Thursday, keep on keeping on!