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According to Reuters, North Korean hackers posed as recruiters on the LinkedIn and WhatsApp networking site to approach AstraZeneca staff, including those working on coronavirus research, with bogus job postings.

The alleged hackers then sent documents, some using Russian email addresses, that were purported to be job descriptions that were, in fact, laced with malicious code designed to give hackers access to the victim’s computers, Reuters reported. .

Employees look at electronic whiteboards to monitor possible ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul, South Korea.
Employees look at electronic whiteboards to monitor possible ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul, South Korea. (AP)

According to Reuters sources, the hackers are not believed to have been successful.

“The University of Oxford is working closely with the National Center for Cyber ​​Security to ensure that our COVID-19 research has the best possible cyber security and protection,” a university spokesperson told CNN.

The NCSC has not directly commented on the matter, but told CNN on Friday that it is “committed to protecting our most critical assets, the healthcare sector, and the research and development of crucial vaccines against threats.”

North Korea turns 70

CNN has reached out to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva for an official comment, but has yet to receive a response.

In a telephone conversation with CNN, a member of the mission staff called the Reuters report “fake news”, claiming that the information had been “fabricated.”

The report comes after a South Korean The lawmaker said the country had also thwarted North Korea’s attempts to hack into its own pharmaceutical companies working on coronavirus vaccines.

Speaking on Friday, lawmaker Ha Tae-Keung did not say when the hack occurred or which pharmaceutical companies were targeted, but confirmed that North Korea had tried to hack into South Korean pharmaceutical companies that are developing local vaccines for the coronavirus.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. (AP)

Rival vaccines are 95% effective

While AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, Pfizer and Moderna products should be stored at temperatures close to minus -70 degrees Celsius.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is also cheaper.

AstraZeneca, which has vowed to make no profit from the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that estimate its cost at around US $ 2.50 (A $ 3.50) per dose.

Pfizer’s vaccine costs about AU $ 20 (AU $ 27), while Moderna’s costs between AU $ 15 (AU $ 20) and AU $ 25 (AU $ 34), depending on agreements the companies have reached to supply their vaccines to the US government.

This photo provided by Pfizer shows part of a
This photo provided by Pfizer shows part of a “freezer farm,” a football field-sized facility for storing finished COVID-19 vaccines, under construction in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pfizer’s experimental vaccine requires ultra-cold storage, at around -70 ° C. (AP)

All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.

The Oxford and AstraZeneca researchers emphasized that they were not competing with other projects, saying that multiple vaccines would be needed to reach enough of the world’s population to end the pandemic.

“We need to be able to make a lot of vaccines for the world quickly, and it’s better if we can do it with different technologies, so if one technology runs into an obstacle, then we have alternatives, we have diversity. ” Professor Sarah Gilbert, leader of the Oxford team, told The Associated Press.

“Diversity is going to be good here, but also in terms of manufacturing, we don’t want to run out of raw materials.”

AstraZeneca said it will immediately request early approval of the vaccine when possible, and will seek an emergency use list of the World Health Organization, so you can make the vaccine available in low-income countries.

The AstraZeneca trial looked at two different dosing regimens.

A half dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month later was 90% effective. Another approach, giving patients two full doses one month apart, was 62% effective.

That means that overall, when both dosage forms are considered, the vaccine showed a 70 percent efficacy rate.

A vial of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, in Oxford, England. (AP)

Professor Gilbert said the researchers are not sure why giving a half dose followed by a larger dose was more effective, and they plan to investigate further. But the answer is likely related to providing exactly the correct amount of vaccine to get the best answer, he said.

“I think it’s the amount of Goldilocks you want, not too little and not too much. Too much could also give a poor quality answer … ” said Professor Gilbert.

“I’m glad I went through more than one dose because it turns out to be really important.”

The vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that is combined with genetic material for the characteristic spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19.

After vaccination, the spike protein prepares the immune system to attack the virus if it later infects the body.

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said the finding that a smaller starting dose is more effective than a larger one is good news because it can lower costs and mean more people can get vaccinated with a determined supply of vaccine.

“The report that a starting half dose is better than a full dose seems counterintuitive to those of us who think of vaccines as normal drugs – with drugs, we expect higher doses to have greater effects and more side effects,” he said Openshaw. .

“But the immune system doesn’t work like that.”

The results come from trials in the United Kingdom Y Brazil which involved 23,000 people. Of them, 11,636 people received the vaccine, while the rest received a placebo.

Overall, there were 131 cases of COVID-19.

The results come from trials in the UK and Brazil involving 23,000 people. (AP)

Details on how many people in the different groups got sick were not released, but the researchers said they will be released within the next 24 hours.

Late-stage trials of the vaccine are also underway in the US, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, and Latin America, with additional trials planned for other European and Asian countries.

The researchers said they hope to add the full-dose half-dose regimen to the US trial in “a matter of weeks.”

While trials were quickly restarted in most countries after researchers determined that the condition was not related to the vaccine, the FDA delayed the study in the US for more than a month before it was allowed to resume. .

AstraZeneca has been increasing manufacturing capacity, so it can supply hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine starting in January, CEO Pascal Soriot said earlier this month.

Soriot said Monday that the Oxford vaccines A simpler supply chain and AstraZeneca’s commitment to providing it on a non-profit basis during the pandemic mean that it will be affordable and available to people around the world.

“The efficacy and safety of this vaccine confirm that it will be very effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” Soriot said.

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, in Oxford, England.  (University of Oxford / John Cairns via AP
A volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford / John Cairns via AP (AP)

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he felt “a great sense of relief” at the AstraZeneca news.

Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, and the government says several million doses can be produced before the end of the year if regulators approve.

Just a few months ago, “the idea that by November we would have three vaccines, all of which are highly effective … I would have given up,” Hancock said.

Since the beginning of their collaboration with AstraZeneca, Oxford scientists have demanded that the vaccine be equitably available to everyone in the world so that rich countries cannot corner the market as has happened during previous pandemics.

Leaders of the world’s most powerful nations agreed on Sunday to work together to ensure “affordable and equitable access” to COVID-19 drugs, tests and vaccines.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison meets with team member Gaby Atencio at the AstraZeneca Analytical Laboratory in Sydney. (Getty)

“If we don’t have the vaccine available in many, many countries, and we only protect a small number of them, then we cannot get back to normal because the virus will keep coming back and causing problems again.” Professor Gilbert said.

“No one is safe until we are all safe.”

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