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Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

What scientists know about variants and Covid-19 vaccines

There is now real evidence that at least one coronavirus variant seems to elude some of the power of Covid-19 vaccines. Even if the vaccines are less powerful against the variant, they still appear to protect people from hospitalization or death. But the loss in efficacy against the B.1.351 variant in clinical trials suggests the immunity the shots confer may not last as long against that form of the coronavirus. Or the vaccines may not be as powerful of a drag on transmission. That’s a warning flag to step up vaccination and work on Covid-19 vaccines 2.0. STAT’s Andrew Joseph lays out the not so good and potentially bad news about the virus and variants.

Civil rights group, clinicians call on states to report race and ethnicity data for Covid-19 vaccinations

During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, if you wanted to know by race or ethnicity who was infected, hospitalized, or dying, the data were only piecemeal, coming from some cities and states, even though CDC requires such information to be collected and shared. Later, statistics showed Covid-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color. Now the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is again calling for data, this time to reveal who’s receiving Covid-19 vaccine. So far, 29 states and the District of Columbia have failed to report a racial or ethnic breakdown. “Now that we have a vaccine available, we have to make sure that we prioritize distribution to these communities that have suffered the most,” said critical care and infectious disease physician Taison Bell, who was one of 145 medical professionals who signed on to the civil rights group's letter to states.

Long hours and low staffing contribute to nurse burnout, survey concludes

This is not a pandemic burnout study, but its implications for health care professionals facing the challenge of a lifetime are clear. In a 2018 survey of almost 4 million nurses, the 1 out of 10 who quit told researchers why. For nearly a third of them, the reason was burnout from working in a stressful environment with inadequate staffing, not the actual tasks they performed. The longer the hours, the more likely burnout was to be blamed. Pay and lack of good management were also factors. And nearly half of nurses who considered leaving but didn’t quit named burnout. California and Massachusetts had lower rates of burnout, which the study authors say could be attributed to laws regulating nurse staffing ratios.

Inside STAT: Why a Covid-19 home-testing kit may be too little, too late

Employees work on the production line of an Ellume factory making Covid-19 home test kits in Brisbane, Australia. (PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

For months, U.S. public health experts have called on the federal government to approve and fund cheap and fast at-home Covid-19 tests to help bring the spread of infection under control. But when the Biden administration this week announced a $231.8 million deal to ramp up production of the first fully at-home test, the experts’ response was unenthusiastic. One dismissed it as “a spit in the ocean.” It’s not that home testing with a 15-minute turnaround time isn’t a good idea, they said, it’s just that the rollout of this initial kit is too little and too late, and the test too expensive and complicated, to help extinguish the raging pandemic fire. STAT contributor Kathleen McLaughlin explains why.

Fecal matter transplants could help certain cancer drugs work in more people, study shows 

Checkpoint inhibitors like Keytruda and Opdivo can be powerful cancer-killing drugs when they work — less than 70% of the time. Scientists hope to combine therapies that might help these drugs work for more people. New clinical trial results point to an unusual pairing: immunotherapy drugs plus fecal microbiota transplants, or FMTs. Doctors transplanted poop from seven people who responded to checkpoint inhibitors into 16 people with melanoma who didn’t. Of the 15 who received the transplants and completed the trial, six responded to Keytruda: Cancer no longer seemed to be progressing or tumors shrank markedly or disappeared. One study author hopes a product can build on this evidence. “I hope, in the future, it’s not FMT,” Giorgio Trinchieri told STAT’s Kate Sheridan.

Almost half of high-schoolers experience violence outside the home

Nearly half of high school students experienced at least one form of violence outside the home over the course of a year, a new pre-pandemic analysis concludes. Female students and students who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or not sure of their sexual identity were more likely to experience multiple types of violence. Survey participants were asked about four types of violence: physical fighting or being threatened with a weapon, physical dating violence, sexual violence, and bullying. High-schoolers who experienced violence were more likely than their peers to miss school, get low academic grades, take substance use and sexual health chances, and be at risk for mental illness and suicide. Some of the students began bringing weapons to school. “Prioritizing violence prevention is strategic to promoting adolescent and adult health,” the authors write. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 142,145
Deaths yesterday
: 3,158

What to read around the web today

  • Johnson & Johnson submits application for Covid-19 vaccine to FDA. STAT
  • Vaccines could blunt U.K. epidemic in weeks. New York Times 
  • In vaccine race, middle income nations are at a disadvantage. Just ask Peru. NPR
  • The pandemic broke the flu. The Atlantic
  • Complicated legacies: The human genome at 20. Science 

Thanks for reading! More Monday,

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Friday, February 5, 2021

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