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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

This is reporter Eric Boodman, filling in for Shraddha while she takes some well-deserved time off. 

And starting today, as coronavirus cases surge in the U.S., we will conclude each edition with an update of totals in the U.S. from our STAT Covid-19 Tracker.

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is 70% effective on average, early data show

AstraZeneca announced this morning that its coronavirus vaccine candidate reduced the risk of Covid-19 infection by an average of 70.4%, according to an interim analysis of large Phase 3 trials conducted in the U.K and Brazil. The results were less than the 95% efficacy reported by both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines, but still well above the 50% cutoff that American regulators had set. Two different dosing regimens were used, and in people who received two “full” doses, researchers saw a 62% efficacy rate, while in those who received a half dose followed by a full dose one month later, that figure was 90%. The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70%. AstraZeneca plans to request emergency use authorizations in the U.K., Europe, Brazil, and low-income countries through the WHO.

FDA grants emergency authorization to Regeneron Covid-19 antibody cocktail

The FDA gave an emergency use authorization Saturday to Regeneron’s Covid-19 antibody cocktail, making a therapy that was part of President Trump’s Covid-19 treatment available to the masses — or to some of us, at least. The decision comes about two weeks after the agency granted an EUA to Eli Lilly’s single-antibody version. Both drugs are for Covid-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms who are at high risk of getting worse, in the hope that the infusion will keep them out of the hospital. That poses a challenge: The infectious people previously instructed to isolate at home are now eligible for these IV treatments, and hospitals need to figure out where to offer them. Plus, even with two authorized versions, there may not be enough for everyone who meets the criteria.

Democrats want Biden to keep one of Trump’s last-minute drug pricing reforms

Often, a new president arrives and tries to wipe away the last one’s “midnight regulations” like chalk from a blackboard. But President-elect Biden’s advisers say he’d be wise to keep one of President Trump’s last-minute drug pricing reforms — touted during a Friday White House briefing — which would tie what the U.S. pays for 50 expensive medications to other countries’ prices. It’s one of the few ideas on which the president and the president-elect are relatively aligned. But pharma industry groups are hinting they may sue to try to block the change, and because of the unusual maneuver that Trump used to put it in place —a “demonstration” to test out a tweak of Medicare — some experts say it may not survive its day in court.

Inside STAT: Data show hospitalized Covid-19 patients are surviving at higher rates

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(Alex Hogan/STAT)

Comparing Covid-19 death rates from different points in the pandemic can be tough. The limited availability of testing last spring meant that many cases were missed, which made mortality numbers seem starker. But when the nonprofit FAIR Health looked at comparable groups of hospitalized patients at STAT’s request, the analysis found a drop in mortality rate from 11.5% in March to below 5% as of June. That suggests a better understanding of the disease and how to treat it, as well as hospitals’ improved ability to provide care when they aren’t inundated with patients. But clinicians warn that the current surge may erode such progress. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has more here.

New AAP guidelines for pediatricians to support families with adopted or foster children

The American Academy of Pediatrics has put out new guidance to help pediatricians support families with adopted or foster children. It can be challenging, the AAP says, given that these kids are at greater risk than the general population for some neurodevelopmental disorders, and may arrive at appointments with little or no documented medical history accessible. The recommendations include being aware of the higher prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, advocating with their local social services department for standardized paths for transferring medical information, and encouraging parents to have developmentally appropriate conversations using words such as “adoption,” “foster care,” and “biological family,” to help lay the groundwork that will allow the child to understand these ideas and form an “integrated identity.”

GSK begins late-stage trial of respiratory syncytial virus vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline announced this morning that it’s started a Phase 3 trial of an experimental vaccine in pregnant people, to see if it can prevent respiratory syncytial virus in their infants. For the healthy, RSV often presents as little more than a cold, but infections can become bad in babies and the elderly. Every year in the U.S. these infections land some 57,500 kids under 5 in the hospital and cause some 14,000 deaths in adults over 65, according to the CDC. RSV has proved an elusive target for vaccine makers. Novavax has seen its candidate fail trials in both the elderly and in pregnant people but is still working on it, and other companies, including Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, also have their own studies in the works.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

New cases yesterday: 142,732
Deaths yesterday: 921


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What to read around the web today

  • New research underscores the link between multiple sclerosis and the gut microbiome. STAT+
  • Undocumented and pregnant: why women are afraid to get prenatal care. New York Times
  • Panic grips Shanghai airport after employees are sealed in for coronavirus testing. The Washington Post
  • We Need a National Institute of Climate Change and Health. Scientific American
  • Where Coronavirus Is Surging—And Electronic Surveillance, Too. The Marshall Project

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Monday, November 23, 2020

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