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Waiver of patent rights on Covid vaccines may be mostly symbolic, for now

In a surprise move, the Biden administration announced yesterday that it would support a proposal to waive patents on Covid-19 vaccines, but it's unclear whether the waiver, if it's approved by the World Trade Organization, will ultimately be substantive. The earliest that additional capacity for making vaccines would become a reality would be 2022, and even then, a shortage of raw materials and facilities to actually make the vaccines would be a bottleneck to producing the millions of doses the world needs.

The U.S. had previously been opposed to a WTO proposal to suspend intellectual property rights in order to help address the critical need for a global supply of vaccines, even amid increasing calls in recent weeks to waive patents as the pandemic worsens in India and Brazil. In making the announcement, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that the pandemic presented "extraordinary circumstances," which called for "extraordinary measures."  

Black maternal health crisis highlighted in House hearing today

Members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee are meeting today to discuss the pressing issue of maternal mortality among Black women. Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications and efforts in recent years, including from Vice President Kamala Harris, have begun to address this crisis. Today's hearing, which will discuss opportunities for the federal government to intervene, will feature four Black members of Congress as witnesses, including Reps. Lauren Underwood and Alma Adams, who are co-chairs of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. Other patient advocates and representatives from organizations working for equity in pregnancy outcomes are also expected to serve as witnesses. 

Mixed enthusiasm from parents about getting their adolescents vaccinated, poll finds

The latest Kaiser Family Foundation report monitoring vaccination attitudes in the U.S. finds that more than half of those polled say they've received at least vaccine dose, with an additional almost 10% who haven't done so saying they hope to as soon as possible. At the same time, only a minority of parents who were surveyed were enthusiastic about also getting their children vaccinated. Recent reports have suggested that the FDA may authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use in 12-15-year-olds by next week. Of the parents with kids in this age group, 30% said they'll get their kids vaccinated right away, while 23% said they would definitely not vaccinate their kids. Similar proportions said they'd wait to see the effects of the vaccine before getting a shot for their child, and if schools would require it. 

Inside STAT: How a cancer center promoted an exclusive experimental drug to attract patients


A new STAT investigation explores how New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center used its almost exclusive access to naxitamab, a new drug for neuroblastoma in kids, as a tool to recruit patients for clinical trials. Developed by MSK, naxitamab was promoted as seemingly advantageous to another antibody treatment available to patients with neuroblastoma, even though there was no data showing how naxitamab compared to the standard. The case of naxitamab (which, at more than $700,000 for a six-month regimen, is among the most expensive medications) shows how scientific research and patients' best interests can be undermined due to a complex web of institutional interests and financial relationships. STAT+ subscribers can read more from STAT's Olivia Goldhill here

Indiana county notorious for HIV outbreak may close syringe exchange

The syringe exchange program that famously helped an Indiana county contain an HIV outbreak in 2015 may soon be forced to close. Scott County drew national attention six years ago for recording more than 200 cases of HIV in a single year, largely driven by injection drug use. Neighbors of the syringe exchange have complained that the facility drives up drug use and about the litter around the center. But critics of the backlash against the exchange worry that rates of HIV and hepatitis C will once again rise if the facility shutters — and that similar closures could occur across the U.S. STAT's Lev Facher has more here

New report finds violence against health workers has been a mainstay in the last five years

There have been roughly two incidents of violence daily against health care workers around the world in the past five years, according to a new report from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition, a network of nongovernmental organizations that works to protect health workers and infrastructure around the world. This is despite a U.N. resolution five years ago that committed countries to taking action against such incidents, the report states. Between 2016 and 2020, there were more than 4,000 incidents of violence — these involved nearly 1,000 incidents where health centers or clinics were destroyed, nearly 700 workers' deaths and 400 kidnappings. Although many of these incidents occurred in war-torn countries, the report noted that in 2020, violence against health workers also increased in countries not at war, including India and Mexico. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 44,510
Deaths yesterday: 776

In this week’s episode of STAT’s “First Opinion Podcast,” First Opinion editor Pat Skerrett talks with critical care physician Adam Gaffney and philosopher Diane O’Leary about how to categorize the condition that’s come to be known as long Covid. Listen here

What to read around the web today

  • It’s already time to stop the next pandemic. Can a prize help? Wired
  • US tribe shares vaccine with relatives, neighbors in Canada. Associated Press
  • Why BMI is a flawed health standard, especially for people of color. The Washington Post
  • USDA now only partially inspects some lab animal facilities, internal documents reveal. Science
  • Broken ventilators add momentum to ‘right to repair’ movement. Bloomberg Businessweek

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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