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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Just a note that there won't be a newsletter on Monday due to the federal holiday here in the U.S. Here's what's happening before the long weekend. 

7 looming questions about the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine

The pace at which scientists around the world are working to develop a Covid-19 vaccine is unprecedented, marking a turning point in producing vaccines to respond to new disease threats. Some people in the U.S. could very well receive a dose of a vaccine by the end of this year — a remarkable feat considering SARS-CoV-2 was unknown to us a year ago. That would be just the start of the daunting challenge of rolling out hundreds of millions of doses of never-before-used vaccines to people across the U.S. and around the world. “There will be many, many problems with distribution,” one former CDC director tells STAT's Helen Branswell and Ed Silverman. The problems could range from figuring out which essential workers ought to be first in line to get a vaccine to ensuring vaccines can travel around the world quickly, especially as air travel has slowed due to the pandemic. Read more here.

Scathing new report outlines U.S. and global failures in the Covid-19 response

Despite decades of warnings, the U.S. and the world were caught off guard by the Covid-19 pandemic, a scathing new report from the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations concludes. The report was compiled by a 22-person task force co-chaired by President Barack Obama's HHS secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and President George H. Bush's White House Homeland Security Council chair Frances Fragos Townsend. Among the reasons why things went wrong: inadequate funding for preparedness programs, an uncoordinated patchwork of response measures from different countries, and the U.S. wasting "precious weeks" instead of implementing public health interventions to stave off new infections early on. The task force also issued recommendations for going forward, including having the U.S. stay on as a member of the WHO and work with other nations to strengthen the capacity to respond to future pandemics. 

$7.5 million awarded to projects investigating neurodegeneration, cell biology

The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group just announced the latest round of funding — totaling $7.5 million — for eight new Allen Distinguished Investigators researching neurodegenerative disease, nuclear biology, and protein turnover. Now in its 10th year, the program supports early-career researchers, and this year, the program is funding five new projects. One, for instance, is using brain organoids and human stem cells to trace the earliest beginnings — possibly even before birth — of conditions like Alzheimer's disease. Another project, from a pair of Yale researchers, will investigate how the cell's nucleus maintains its shape — as misshapen nuclei are often founded in diseases such as cancer. Each of the five projects will receive $1.5 million in funding over a period of three years. 

Inside STAT: ‘The med student daughter is asking so many questions’


For fourth-year medical student Orly Nadell Farber, her dad's experience living with cancer and recovering from an emergency surgery reintroduced her to the health care system she thought she already knew. Used to seeing orders for a patient’s antibiotics placed every six hours through a computer, she witnessed her dad's exhaustion after his antibiotic drip finished in the middle of the night and the machine’s alarm went off next to his ear. Over and over, Farber found that she had to rely on her medical training to help translate what her father's doctors were telling him, and to use that knowledge to advocate for him. Even in her own experience as a medical student, those patients with family members working in health care tended to get better treatment. "It shouldn’t take a medical degree to ensure great care," Farber writes in a new STAT First Opinion, in which she also hopes for a system "in which anyone, with any level of medical literacy, can make informed decisions."  

Average insurance premiums for families now top $21,000 per year

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll of more than 1,700 employees finds that family premiums for health insurance increased 4% from last year, for an average of more than $21,300 this year. Workers in 2020 are contributing almost $5,600 toward the cost of family coverage. The 4% increase in premiums is slightly higher than the increase in earnings (a 3.4% increase since 2019), and almost twice as high as the 2.1% inflation rate. However, since 2010, employee premiums have risen almost twice as fast as workers' earnings, and nearly three times as much as inflation. The vast majority of the employers who were separately surveyed said they were happy with the provider choices offered through the insurance plans, but only two-thirds say the same specifically about mental health or substance use treatment providers.

Pregnancy, abortion rates among young women have decreased since 1973

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute outlines how pregnancy and abortion rates among U.S. women aged 24 and younger have been declining for several decades. Here's more from the report, which looked at data from 1973 (which is also the year of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision) to 2016.

  • Pregnancy trends: Women ages 20-24 experienced a peak birth rate of 202 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 1990, but that dipped to 115 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2016. Teens ages 15-19 also saw similarly drastic reductions in births. 
  • Abortion trends: Abortions among 15-to-17-year-olds was at a high of nearly 32 abortions per 1,000 women of this group in 1983, but that has dropped to 4 abortions per 1,000 in 2016. The abortion rates among women ages 18-24 also peaked in 1983, but fell by four-fifths by 2016.
  • Trends among older women: Abortion rates in women over 30 have remained relatively stable since the 1970s, but pregnancy rates have steadily increased. For instance, the pregnancy rate for women ages 35-39 reached an all-time high of 73 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2016.  

What to read around the web today

  • Women are systematically excluded from global coronavirus coverage, experts say. The Washington Post
  • China joins COVAX coronavirus vaccine alliance. Associated Press
  • Stigma against DOs had been dissipating until Trump’s doctor took the spotlight. Kaiser Health News
  • ‘Rural surge’ propels India toward more Covid-19 infections than U.S. The New York Times
  • Thousands of sick federal prisoners sought compassionate release. 98 percent were denied. The Marshall Project

Thanks for reading! More on Tuesday,


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Friday, October 9, 2020


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