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CureVac's Covid vaccine disappoints in clinical trial

German vaccine maker CureVac announced yesterday that its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine performed poorly in a 40,000-person trial. The vaccine, which was being tested in people in Europe and Latin America, was only 47% effective against Covid infection, according to preliminary data. The company statement noted the trial took place "in the unprecedented context of at least 13 variants circulating within the study population." Final results are expected in the coming weeks, but CEO Franz-Werner Haas told the New York Times the company still plans to ask the European Medicine Agency for approval. The EMA had previously struck a deal to buy 405 million doses of CureVac's vaccine, pending authorization. The news comes as a disappointment especially as the company was looked to as a potential supplier of vaccine doses to lower-income countries.

Large poll sheds light on Covid vaccine hesitancy in the U.S.

A large new poll from the African American Research Collaborative and the Commonwealth Fund finds that vaccine hesitancy is similar across most racial and ethnic groups, with roughly 40% of people expressing reluctance at getting a Covid-19 vaccine. Here's more from the 12,000-person survey: 

  • Vaccine hesitancy: Fewer than 1 in 4 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders expressed vaccine hesitancy, compared to 37% of white people and roughly 40% of Black, Native American, and Hispanic individuals. 
  • Barriers to vaccination: Two-thirds of those surveyed reported more than one barrier to getting a shot, such as being too busy or not knowing their eligibility status. Black, Latino, and Native survey respondents reported barriers at the same rate as white respondents. 
  • Reasons for hesitation: Of the 31 concerns that the survey presented to respondents, the most frequent reason was the fact that Johnson & Johnson's vaccine has been linked to blood clots. Around a quarter falsely believed the vaccines could give you Covid and make you sick, while 30% cited the personal right to opt out.  

New study highlights gaps in privacy policies of health apps

A new analysis of health apps found inconsistent privacy practices, some of which could be violations of consumers' rights. Researchers looked at information from nearly 20,000 health apps — the majority of which were for health and fitness rather than medical use. The code for nearly 90% of the apps included in the analysis had a way for the app to potentially collect users' data, including the user's location and information about their device. A minority of apps transmitted user information to the internet, and most data collection in these apps involved third parties outside the app makers. Researchers also found that more than 1 in 4 of these apps didn't have an explicit privacy policy, a trend that was higher among medical apps than those for general health and fitness.

Inside STAT: The pandemic has helped engage people with their health


The pandemic has upended many aspects of health care in the U.S. But two physicians argue in a new STAT First Opinion that one upside to the pandemic's disruptions to health care may be that patients are now more engaged and invested in their daily care than before. They tell the story of one of their patients, a man with high-blood pressure who relied on in-person visits to keep him on track with medications. But not being able to visit the clinic regularly meant he had to take ownership of his health, and checking his BP near-daily meant he could see the effects that certain foods had on his metrics and was motivated to make changes. Not everyone was able to make such changes, because of other vulnerabilities, and so the authors also push for more inclusivity on the path to a more engaged patient populace. Read more here

Black and Hispanic youth are increasingly targeted by fast food ads

A new report from the University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity finds that the fast food industry spent $5 billion on advertising their products in 2019, most of which targeted Black and Hispanic youth. The 2019 spending figure is $400 million more than what the industry was spending in 2012, the report found. Spending on Spanish advertising in 2019 increased by 33% since 2012, while Black youth saw 75% more fast food ads in 2019 than their white peers that year. The findings of the study were compiled using 2019 Nielsen data that included information on ad spending and TV ad exposure for 274 fast-food restaurants. 

Medication for alcohol use disorder treatment is still a rarity, study suggests

Despite four FDA-approved medications available for treating alcohol use disorder, a new study finds only a small minority actually access them. Looking at data from nearly 43,000 adults who responded to a national survey on drug and alcohol use in 2019, researchers found that roughly 6% had alcohol use disorder, fewer than 10% of whom reported receiving any treatment for their condition. Of the treatment group, only about 1.6% of this last group said they were prescribed medication. Those who received medication tended to live in large metropolitan areas, visit the ED more frequently, and receive mental health care, suggesting that only those with the most severe cases may be getting therapies. The findings highlight the need for more even access to medication for alcohol use disorder, the authors write. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

New cases yesterday (two-week average): 13,791
New deaths yesterday (two-week average): 345

This week’s “First Opinion Podcast” is a special two-part episode focusing on the FDA's controversial decision to approve Biogen's Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm. First Opinion editor Patrick Skerrett talks with two Alzheimer’s experts with vastly different viewpoints on the news. Listen here. 

What to read around the web today

  • The World Health Organization broke its own rules to spend millions on BCG consultants. Vox
  • Vaccine maker earned record profits but delivered disappointment in return. The New York Times
  • ‘A Lego kit for health care builders’: Jonathan Bush launches Zus with medical records in mind. STAT+
  • The spinal tap: Device makers have funneled billions to orthopedic surgeons who use
    their products. Kaiser Health News
  • Planned changes at Soros' Open Society has access-to-medicines advocacy groups on edge. STAT+

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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