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U.S. to deploy supplies to help India's Covid-19 surge

As the Covid-19 crisis in India continues to reach new heights, the Biden administration announced yesterday that it was going to be sending supplies and other assistance to India. The move comes amid increased calls for the U.S. and other wealthy nations to share their surplus, including all the doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine going unused in the U.S. The U.S. will be sharing raw materials for India to be able to ramp up its local production of Covishield, the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, in addition to sending supplies of therapies, rapid testing kits, and PPE. India is facing a severe shortage of oxygen, with doctors around the country taking to social media to share that hospital supplies are dwindling, and the U.S. has said that it was exploring ways to help address that.

CDC, FDA lift pause on J&J Covid-19 vaccinations

Federal officials late Friday lifted a 10-day pause on Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine. The decision came hours after an expert CDC advisory panel, in a 10-4 decision, voted to recommend that vaccinations should resume. The pause was initiated earlier in April after six reports of blood clots in women who got the J&J shot. The vaccine will now come with a warning about this rare risk on its label. “We are confident that this vaccine continues to meet our standards for safety, effectiveness, and quality,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement Friday.

AI caught a hidden problem in one patient’s heart. Can it work for others?

The story of how AI helped diagnose atrial fibrillation in 73-year-old Peter Maercklein encapsulates what cardiac care could become with the help of health tech. Maercklein was unaware of his condition until an AI algorithm developed by doctors at the Mayo Clinic found that he had a nearly 82% chance of experiencing A-fib, which could increase his chance of a stroke or heart attack. Just days after this finding, a wearable EKG found Maercklein was experiencing A-fib, which changed the trajectory of his care. But just because the algorithm worked for Maercklein doesn't mean it'll work for all patients, and researchers are cautious. “As we’re able to produce ever more precise information, the pressure on us to prove that we can use that knowledge to help patients is going to be ever greater,” one expert tells STAT's Casey Ross, who has more here

Inside STAT: Covid-19 gave scientists an opening to better understand how brain disorders arise

A mutation in an autism-related gene. By studying Covid-19 patients, psychiatrists hope to gain new insights about how disorders like schizophrenia and autism arise. (NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS AND STROKE, NIH)

Covid-19 put many human research studies on hold, but for at least one researcher, the pandemic presented a unique opportunity. Kings College London neuroscientist Grainne McAlonan, who studies neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, saw how she could use the pandemic to study how viruses — in this case SARS-CoV-2 — could infect pregnant women and then affect the development of fetuses and newborns. By comparing the brains of babies exposed to Covid-19 in utero to those born without such exposure, McAlonan hopes to learn about the effect of viral infection on the development of mental disorders. “It’s a strange study to do because you wish you weren’t in a situation where it’s important to do it,” McAlonan tells STAT contributor Sara Reardon, who has more here

Simulation study underscores the need for regular Covid-19 testing among children

A new simulation study finds that unless silent, asymptomatic infections in children are identified quickly, vaccinating adults alone is unlikely to contain Covid-19 outbreaks in the U.S. Researchers found that, in the best-case scenarios, 11% of silent infections in children would need to be isolated within the first two days, and 14% would need to be identified within the first three days. Along with a 40% vaccination rate among adults, the two scenarios could help keep infection rates at below 5% for children and therefore help contain outbreaks. Without this, vaccination rates among U.S. adults would have to be at least 81% (that rate is currently around 30%). As long as vaccines are unavailable to kids, the authors suggest increased contact tracing and more rapid Covid-19 testing in schools to stop infection transmission among children. 

Medical groups urge action on lowering drug prices

A group of 124 patient advocacy groups and medical organizations sent a letter Friday to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra urging his department to make prescription drugs more affordable, a problem the letter says has gotten worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The letter — signed by the American Diabetes Association, the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, and others — comes as congressional Republicans and Democrats in recent days have indicated that they are gearing up for a fight over drug pricing policy that may come from the White House. In the letter, the groups outline five potential solutions, including instituting spending caps on prescription medication. 

Separately, the AARP sent a letter to President Biden urging his administration to work on drug pricing, citing how older Americans with fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable. "We know this will be a hard fight, but the time to act is now," the letter stated. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 32,065
Deaths yesterday
: 279
Vaccine doses distributed, per CDC: 290,692,005
Total doses administered: 228,661,408

What to read around the web today

  • Millions are skipping their second doses of Covid vaccines. The New York Times
  • The FDA will this week decide whether to ban menthol cigarettes — but most likely, the fight is just getting started. STAT+
  • Mass funeral pyres reflect India's Covid crisis. Associated Press
  • The field is exploding, but microbiome therapeutics still face a wave of challenges. STAT+
  • CEO of vaccine maker sold $10 million in stock before company ruined Johnson & Johnson doses. The Washington Post

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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