Sponsored by    


Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

STAT national biotech reporter Damian Garde is going to be chatting with one of this year's Nobel Prize in medicine laureates, Charles Rice, this afternoon. STAT+ subscribers can sign up for the event here.

The looming questions scientists need to answer about the new variant of the coronavirus

As scientists try to track where else the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 — called B.1.1.7 — circulating in parts of the U.K. may have arrived, there are other unknowns about this new strain and what it could mean for ongoing response efforts. In a new story, STAT's Andrew Joseph outlines some of these questions, including whether existing Covid-19 immunity is in jeopardy (evidence thus far suggests no) and whether B.1.1.7 makes people sicker (we don't yet know). Read more about these and other questions here.

Here's what else is happening with Covid-19: 

  • There are some lessons to be learned from Stanford's vaccine allocation algorithm debacle last week, where medical residents treating Covid-19 patients were not prioritized along with other frontline health workers. The takeaways range from blaming the humans behind the algorithm — and not the program itself — and being more aware of structural bias in algorithms. 
  • Following some White House officials and members of Congress last week, President-elect Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden got the first shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine yesterday. Top government officials, including NIAID's Anthony Fauci, NIH Director Francis Collins, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and several frontline health workers are set to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine this morning.  
  • Speaking of vaccines, the NIH is looking to study rare, severe allergic reactions that some people who have gotten the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine have reported. The study will recruit those with a history of allergic reactions who will then be given the Covid-19 vaccine under close supervision. 

Average life expectancy in U.S. increased in 2019 for the fifth straight year

U.S. life expectancy rose last year for the fifth year in a row — to an average of 78.8 years — according to new CDC data. Here's more: 

  • The figures: The 2019 increase in mortality was only 0.1 year higher than the year prior, when the life expectancy was 78.7 years. Although men and women saw increases, women's life expectancy was five years higher, at more than 81 years. 
  • Causes of death: The 10 leading causes of death last year were the same as in 2018, including heart disease and cancer. The rate of death decreased for seven of the 10 causes, including for Alzheimer's disease and influenza. 
  • Infant mortality: Although infant mortality rates decreased last year — to 558.3 deaths per 100,00 live births — the difference was not statistically significant. 

With Covid-19 vaccinations underway, an explainer on side effects

As people across the U.S. continue to get vaccinated — more than half a million doses have been administered at last count — some are also seeing side effects in response to the shot. In a new video, STAT's Alex Hogan explains the science behind these effects. Some of the most common symptoms such as fever, pain at the injection site, and muscle aches are normal, and occur in response to the body's immune system being alerted to the presence of antigen — in this case, the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2. Watch the explainer here

Inside STAT: Health tech's newest unicorn is running toward Medicaid patients


Medicaid patients have historically been a population that businesses have run from. The health problems of these patients can be complicated and expensive to treat, and lower government reimbursements for physicians means they often end up losing money. A new company, Cityblock Health, is turning that thinking on its head. Just this month, its model for delivering stepped-up primary care to low-income individuals brought in $160 million from venture capital firms. “It’s a really important signpost that big businesses can be built caring for populations that have historically been left behind,” the company's CEO tells STAT's Casey Ross. He has the full story for STAT+ subscribers here

Fewer than 1 in 10 discuss gun safety with their doctors

Fewer than 1 in 10 adults have discussed firearm safety with their clinicians, according to a new 4,030-person survey. The national survey asked people if their physicians had ever talked to them about gun safety, and only 7.5% said yes. That figure was slightly higher — 12% — for those in homes with children. Of the few who did speak to their providers, nearly half said that they discussed locking firearms away safely, nearly a third reported discussing keeping ammunition separate from guns, while nearly 16% said they talked about removing guns from the household altogether.  

How art could help with healing after a loved one's death

As scientists work to better understand the influence of art and music on medicine, a small new study finds that commemorative paintings after a loved one's death could help in the healing process. Ten patients' families accepted invitations to receive a painting commemorating their loved one. The process of creating the painting involved reminiscing and storytelling between the family and a trained artist who was also an internal medicine resident, and the final paintings ranged from an image of a white dove to symbolize spirituality to that of a vegetable garden to signify digging up the past. Interviews revealed themes of feeling less alone, of feeling like the paintings honored their loved one's life, and that they felt more of a connection with the clinicians in charge of their loved one's care. 

Covid-19 in the U.S. 

Cases yesterday: 190,519
Deaths yesterday: 1,696

What to read around the web today

  • NIH exploring study on rare allergic reactions to coronavirus vaccine. The Washington Post
  • Rio Grande hospital workers turned down the vaccine. A senator and a sheriff’s deputy lined up instead. ProPublica
  • The most impressive biotech VCs of 2020. STAT+
  • Inside the first chaotic days of the effort to vaccinate America. Kaiser Health News
  • Vaccine injury claims could face bureaucratic ‘black hole’. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! See you tomorrow for one final 2020 newsletter,


Have a news tip or comment?

Email Me

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   Instagram

1 Exchange Pl, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02109
©2020, All Rights Reserved.
I no longer wish to receive STAT emails
Update Email Preferences | Contact Us