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In today's Morning Brief, we dig into a study that suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine may reduce virus transmission.

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Early evidence suggests vaccines may reduce transmission of the coronavirus

Scientists are one step closer to finding out whether some coronavirus vaccines could reduce transmission of the virus.

So far, we only know the vaccines protect their recipients from getting sick. 

But some very early research out of Israel suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — which is being used here in Canada — could also slow the spread of coronavirus by reducing viral loads.

The data shows viral loads were reduced four-fold for infections that occur 12 to 28 days after a first dose of the vaccine.

The study released on Monday has not been published in any medical journals yet. It hasn't been peer-reviewed, and even the authors admit the research has some notable limitations because it was not a randomized controlled trial.

WATCH | The impact of variants on the race to vaccinate: 

The race between COVID-19 vaccines and variants continues despite concern about efficacy

1 year ago
Duration 2:02


Even so, it's a glimmer of hope in this pandemic.

Virologist Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor in the department of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, said curbing transmission is a key tool for winding down the pandemic.

"While we still have to have people using masks, and while we still have to have people distanced, the vaccines may actually also be able to reduce transmission," he said.

"That will hopefully help us get out of this a little bit sooner." Read more of the promising details in this study.


These are Pablo Escobar's abandoned hippos

(Fernando Vergara/The Associated Press)

Notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar illegally imported four hippos into Colombia decades ago. One male, and three females. After he died in a shootout with authorities in 1993, the hippos were abandoned at his estate because it was too expensive and difficult to relocate them. Today, there are as many as 80 feral hippos roaming Colombia's tropical countryside. Locals love them, but scientists say they're an invasive species and need to be culled before they wipe out indigenous flora and fauna.

In brief

Yesterday's Morning Brief said the Supreme Court would decide on Sen. Mike Duffy's case on Tuesday. It's actually Thursday. Sorry about that.

CBC News has learned the Canadian government and security agencies are reviewing an audio recording in which a man — identified by sources as Iran's foreign affairs minister — suggests the destruction of Flight PS752 could have been intentional. Last year, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 people aboard, including 138 people with ties to Canada. In the months that followed, an individual was recorded saying there are a "thousand possibilities" to explain the downing of the jet, including a deliberate attack involving two or three "infiltrators." He is also heard saying the truth will never be revealed by the highest levels of Iran's government or military. Read what officials are saying about that recording here.

High-profile Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre is changing jobs. For years Poilievre has been verbally sparring with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and her predecessor, Bill Morneau, in his role as finance critic. Now, Conservative sources, who spoke on condition that they not be named because they were not authorized to talk about the matter publicly, have told CBC News that Poilievre will become the party's critic for jobs and industry. Conservative sources insist this is not a demotion. They say the critic roles are being shuffled as leader Erin O'Toole tries to focus on jobs and on rebuilding the economy in response to the pandemic. Read who will take over the role of finance critic here.

General Motors' promise to go nearly completely electric by 2035 could shake up the energy industry. Warren Mabee, director of Queen's University's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy, said this decision could have more significance for the oilpatch than the recent cancellation of Keystone XL. He said demand for oil and gas will go down as more people embrace electric vehicles "and as the costs sort of come in line with what [consumers are] expecting to pay, I think we're going to see fewer and fewer people opting for gasoline-powered vehicles." But Mabee sees opportunities, too, whether they are in batteries or hydrogen. Read about what it will take to make GM's electric dream a reality here

Iceland is now the first country in Europe to issue and recognize COVID-19 vaccination certificates. That means international travellers who can prove they've been vaccinated will be allowed to skip Iceland's mandatory five-day quarantine. Whether Iceland's certificates will be recognized abroad is still up to other countries to decide. Regardless, it's pushing ahead with a speedy vaccination campaign, and plans to inoculate the majority of adults by mid-2021. Residents of Nunavut, Yukon and the N.W.T. are expecting to do the same. So could a vaccine passport be coming to Canada's North? Experts say, not likely. Read why here

Surgeons who have seen their operations cancelled to free up space for COVID-19 patients are keeping their skills fresh, with some help from a Canadian invention. It's called PrecisionOS, and it's the brainchild of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Danny Goel and two Vancouver video game developers, Colin O'Connor and Rob Oliveira. The elaborate virtual reality trainer allows medical students and surgeons to practice knee replacements, resetting broken legs, or drilling into bone to install supportive screws. It's all a simulated process, so the doctors stay physically distanced, and the artificial patient doesn't get hurt. Read more and see the training game in action here.

WATCH | How virtual reality is improving surgical skills during the pandemic:

How virtual reality is improving surgical skills during the pandemic

1 year ago
Duration 3:12


Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: Nanny Gallant and Dany Pilote got married on Sunday. You probably don't know them. Neither did many of the people who helped plan their wedding in just five days. Like many couples, Gallant and Pilote postponed their wedding because of the pandemic. But Gallant has cancer, and doctors told her last week she didn't have much time left. The couple's friends stepped up and organized a ceremony that was, with the help of strangers on social media, quite the occasion. The bride's dogs wore tuxedos, there was a horse-drawn sleigh, and a small group of physically distanced guests surrounded them with love. Read how the magical moment came together here.

Front Burner: At one Amazon warehouse, a historic push to unionize

Jeff Bezos made Amazon into one of the world's biggest retailers, but critics argue he did it at the expense of his workers. Now, one Alabama warehouse is voting on whether to unionize, a move that could spark major change, even here in Canada. Recode's Jason Del Rey on how Amazon got here.

Today in history: February 10

1883: Ontario's first free public library opens in Guelph.

1906: Prince Rupert is chosen from thousands of entries as the name of the Grand Trunk Railway's Pacific terminal. Eleanor Macdonald of Winnipeg wins $250 for suggesting the name.

1996: An IBM computer called "Deep Blue" beats world chess champion Gary Kasparov.

2003: Inderjit Singh Reyat pleads guilty to manslaughter in the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 people, and is sentenced to five years in prison.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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