The new Zika vaccine could be a big win for pregnant women (and everyone else too).

The Zika virus is kind of scary.

The disease hides in mosquitoes and can be spread by a bite. And for most people, Zika's symptoms are pretty mild — a little joint pain and maybe a fever.

But for some folks, the symptoms might be more severe. Some victims may develop the potentially fatal Guillain-Barré syndrome. And most perniciously, if a pregnant woman is infected, the virus can cause a serious birth defect known as microcephaly in her unborn child.


A Brazilian doctor holds a baby born with microcephaly. Photo from Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Althought the disease has been around since the 1940s, it's been gaining attention lately after being newly introduced in South America.

The World Health Organization declared a public health emergency in February 2016 because of Zika's quick spread.


A Honduran health worker fumigates a classroom against mosquitoes. Photo from Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

And the pope even suggested contraceptives could be used to slow its spread — a big gesture from the leader of the Catholic Church.

But we just had a major breakthrough in fighting off this disease: a vaccine.

Photo from Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images.

On June 20, 2016, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and GeneOne Life Science announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given them permission to test an experimental vaccine on human subjects.

This would be the first Zika virus vaccine.

This is just the first step in fighting Zika, but it's an exciting one.

The companies will start the process by giving the vaccine to a small group of 40 people to see if the drug is safe and tolerable for patients to take. This test will also be their first chance to see how effective it is for humans. (Previous animal studies showed promise, but that doesn't always translate to humans.)

Granted, there's still a ways to go. Depending on the test results, it could be a few years before we see widespread use of a vaccine like this.

And if this vaccine works, it could help a lot of people.

A Honduran woman waits at a health clinic. Photo from Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

As of June 2016, Zika is live and spreading in more than 60 countries, and the World Health Organization estimates that Zika could infect as many as 4 million people in North and South America by the end of 2016.

It's not being transmitted in the continental United States (although there have been about 750 travel-related infections reported), but it has been found in Puerto Rico.

On Feb. 22, 2016, President Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency spending to help combat the virus. And Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Florida, recently announced his support of the request.

"People's lives are at stake," said Buchanan, "the time for inaction is over."

The Zika virus is kind of scary. But thanks to research like this, we may be able to beat it in the next few years.

That will be an incredible win.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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