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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Officials note ‘likely association’ between Covid-19 vaccines and rare heart condition in young people

In the strongest statement yet on the issue, officials yesterday said there was a "likely association" between mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and the rare heart-related side effects that have emerged in some young adults. Experts speaking at the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting presented data that echoed previous findings: Younger groups, especially men under 30, have higher rates of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) after getting the Modern or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, and most often after the second shot. Although most people who developed the condition have recovered and the CDC is still collecting data, the agency plans to add warnings about the conditions to Covid vaccine fact sheets provided to providers and people getting the shots. 

NIH launches study to investigate Covid vaccines on pregnant and lactating people

The NIH just launched an observational study to understand how people who are pregnant and postpartum respond to Covid-19 vaccines. That question has continued to be largely unanswered even as some evidence has suggested that antibodies can be passed to infants through breastfeeding. For the study, NIAID researchers plan to enroll up to 750 pregnant people and 250 individuals who are two or fewer months postpartum and who have or will receive one of the three FDA-authorized vaccines. Infants will also be enrolled, and both sets of participants will be followed through one year post-delivery. Researchers will measure how antibodies develop and how long they stick around, as well as vaccine safety and how antibodies are transferred across the placenta and through breast milk.

Key Democrats slam FDA for failing to crack down on Juul and other e-cigarette makers

Congressional Democrats slammed the FDA yesterday during a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee hearing for not doing more to curb the rising rates of youth vaping. “Who is the cop on the beat to whom we entrust our children? It’s the Food and Drug Administration. And this agency has been timid and reluctant for way too long,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second most powerful Senate Democrat and also a witness in the hearing. In response, acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock, also a witness, didn't make any commitments and said instead the agency is prioritizing reviewing applications from companies with the biggest vaping market share, most likely meaning Juul. The committee also released half a dozen internal documents from its ongoing investigation into Juul, saying they show that the company knew its products were addictive for kids. 

Inside STAT: Crucial question on Alzheimer's drug: When should patients stop taking it?

A patient with Alzheimer's disease receives an infusion of aducanumab.(CHARLES KRUPA/AP)

There are many unanswered questions about Aduhelm, the controversial, newly approved Alzheimer's drug from Biogen. Chief among them: When physicians will know when to take patients off of the drug? As STAT's Megan Molteni writes in a new story, if a patient on Adulhem tracks along the average course for disease progression, it could mean that the drug is not working or it could mean that the patient may have fared worse if it weren't for the drug — both options that pose a challenge to physicians making prescribing decisions. “With a drug like aducanumab where the upfront demonstrated efficacy is up in the air, it really makes it hard for a clinician to figure out when to stop the drug based on a patient’s clinical symptoms,” one expert tells Megan, who has more here.

Hispanic and Indigenous people along the U.S.-Mexico border have lower life expectancies

A new study finds disparities in the life expectancy of those living on the U.S. side of the country's border with Mexico. The study looked at life expectancy data from 2016-2018 along the border and compared it to data from the rest of the country. On average, Hispanic individuals and those who are American Indian and Alaska Native along the border tended to live for two fewer years compared to those from these groups who lived elsewhere in the U.S. At the same time, white, Black, and Asian people living along the border tended to live for longer than those from the same groups elsewhere. Although the study didn't look at the mechanisms behind the disparities, the authors suggest that immigration enforcement and displacement of disadvantaged groups in border areas could be having downstream effects on health and life expectancy. 

Study describes how reconfiguring orchestra instruments could reduce Covid transmission

Rearranging orchestra instruments to minimize airflow could help reduce Covid transmission among musicians, according to a new modeling study. Researchers measured the airflow rate and aerosol concentration of orchestral instruments and simulated how these characteristics would fit with two Utah concert halls' ventilation. After other adjustments such as open windows, transmission of aerosol particles in one of the venues (home to the Utah Symphony) was reduced when non-emitting instruments such as the piano were in the center of the stage and high-emitting instruments such as the trumpet were near vents on either side. The other venue had little airflow around the musicians, so the scientists arranged instruments to simulate an airflow passageway over the back stage doors to ensure aerosols were emitted away from musicians. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

New cases yesterday (two-week average): 11,932
New deaths yesterday (two-week average): 291

In this week's First Opinion podcast, First Opinion editor Patrick Skerrett speaks with Priscilla Chan, co-founder and CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative about the urgent need for more single-cell research in pediatrics. Listen to their conversation here

What to read around the web today

  • The doctors are not all right. Vox
  • How a sharp-eyed scientist become biology's image detective. The New Yorker
  • FDA’s Woodcock is just ‘not that concerned’ about the Aduhelm criticism. STAT+
  • Turning to books to grasp the most ungraspable disease. The New York Times
  • 5 companies harnessing AI for drug discovery to watch. STAT+
  • The only way we’ll know when we need Covid-19 boosters. The Atlantic

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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