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Pandemic should serve as 'Chernobyl moment' for global health reform, international experts say

An international panel of experts is calling on the world's wealthy nations to treat the Covid-19 pandemic as a "Chernobyl moment" to trigger a series of events and actions to speed up the end of the crisis. The group, known as the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, is urging wealthy countries to share their supply of Covid-19 vaccine with lower-income nations — recommending 1 billion doses by September and another billion by the end of 2021. Also among the group's suggestions is a new, single seven-year term limit on WHO directors-general, who can currently serve two five-year-terms. STAT's Helen Branswell has more here

Acknowledging its racist past, AMA pledges to dismantle causes of health inequities

The American Medical Association just unveiled a strategic plan to hold itself accountable for its own racist history “rooted in white patriarchy and affluent supremacy.” The 83-page report on racial justice and health equity — which was obtained by STAT before its release — catalogs in detail the 174-year-old organization's misdeeds, including the consistent exclusion of Black, brown, and Indigenous physicians; promotion of racist practices; and harm to communities of color despite an oath to do no harm. And despite this reckoning, the reactions to the report have been mixed. “While it’s thoughtful and earnest, I think it’s lacking in targets, timelines, and teeth,” one cardiologist tells STAT's Usha Lee McFarling, who has more here.

Racial, social disparities persist in Covid-19 vaccinations among older adults

Nearly 80% of adults 65 and over had received at least one vaccine dose since vaccinations began in December 2020, according to a new CDC report, but there have been stark geographic, racial, and social disparities. In Alabama, fewer than 70% of older adults had received at least one vaccine dose, while that figure in New Hampshire was nearly 100%. Only about 60% of the study population had racial demographic information available, but within this group, those who had received at least one vaccine shot were overwhelmingly white. Counties where less than half of older adults had received one vaccine dose had higher rates of that age group having no computer or internet access and living in poverty or by themselves. 

Inside STAT: Telehealth companies fuel lobbying frenzy to protect Covid boom

(Molly Ferguson for STAT)

Flush with the cash due to a spike in telemedicine demand and investment during the pandemic, telehealth companies have now set their sights on lobbying in Washington. Their goal: to get the government to permanently loosen restrictions that were temporarily eased during the pandemic to help patients access treatment more easily. Both telehealth giants like Teladoc and unlikely players like butter manufacturer Land O' Lakes are infusing money into ensuring that telehealth benefits are here to stay. Overall, more than 450 companies report lobbying on telemedicine during the first quarter of this year compared to 270 companies that did the same over the same period last year. STAT's Casey Ross and Rachel Cohrs have the latest analysis for STAT+ subscribers here

Lawmakers to discuss Covid variants and U.S. international response to pandemic

Lawmakers will convene on Capitol Hill today to discuss the threat of coronavirus variants as well as how the U.S. is responding to the pandemic in the rest of the world. First up, an interdisciplinary group of researchers will testify in front of a House panel on research needs for addressing emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, especially as scientists seek to characterize how well the current suite of vaccines work against new strains. 

Also happening today is a hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the country's international response to the pandemic. Gayle Smith, who is the coordinator for global Covid response and health security at the Department of State, and USAID's Covid-19 task force executive director Jeremy Konyndyk are scheduled to appear. 

New Broad-MD Anderson initiative aims to develop rare cancer models

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and MD Anderson Cancer Center just launched a collaborative effort to better characterize rare cancers. The initiative aims to create a database of models for rare cancers — which are those conditions that have fewer than 40,000 new cases per year and limited availability of disease models — using patient samples collected at MD Anderson and developed using cell lines at the Broad. Scientists associated with a separate project at the Broad will identify any genetic weaknesses that may be driving disease as well as test possible drugs on the models. In all, the initiative aims to create 100 rare cancer models in the hopes of also sharing them with the broader cancer research community.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 33,651
Deaths yesterday: 684

What to read around the web today

  • Anti-maskers ready to start masking—to protect themselves from the vaccinated. Vice
  • From big tech to small tech: A health care visionary pushes for a patient-centric approach to technology. STAT
  • This is your brain under anesthesia. Wired
  • Key House Democrats’ push for a ‘bipartisan’ drug pricing bill could doom Pelosi’s signature legislation. STAT+
  • Internal emails reveal WHO knew of sex abuse claims in Congo. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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