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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

FDA authorizes Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in adolescents

The FDA just issued an emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use in adolescents aged 12-15. The FDA made its decision based on Phase 3 trial data that showed the vaccine generated an immune response in 12-to-15-year-olds enrolled in the trial as well as reduced case numbers. In all, there were 18 cases of infection in the placebo arm of the more than 2,200-person trial, while there were zero cases among the group that received the vaccine. The EUA makes this the first vaccine to approved in those under the age of 16. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still testing their vaccines in this age group, while Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have started or plan to test their vaccines in children as young as 6 months. 

CDC’s cautious Covid-19 messaging out of step with the moment, public health experts say

For more than a year, public health officials, academics, clinicians, and other experts have slowly worked to refine and clarify their understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 works. But the CDC has been curiously slow in catching up to consensus, public health experts say. As early as last summer, many researchers converged on the idea that aggressively spraying down surfaces was likely unnecessary, but the CDC only settled on that idea last month. And there are other examples, from the CDC's again late-to-the-party admission that the coronavirus is airborne to issuing guidelines three months after vaccinations started in the U.S. on what activities vaccinated people could safely do. STAT's Nicholas Florko has more here

Gene therapy shows promise for kids with 'bubble baby' syndrome 

Researchers at UCLA and the Great Osmond Hospital in London report that a gene therapy they developed was successful in treating children born with a defunct immune system that makes them extremely vulnerable to disease. The genetic condition, known as "bubble baby disease," is formally called severe combined immunodeficiency due to adenosine deaminase deficiency, or ADA-SCID. Researchers took stem cells from 50 kids with ADA-SCID, inserted a healthy copy of the ADA gene into the cells, and injected the modified cells back into the kids. At two- and three-year follow-ups, 48 of the 50 kids didn't show signs of having ADA-SCID, although they will be monitored over their lifetimes. The new, one-time therapy offers an alternative to current treatments, which include weekly ADA enzyme injections or bone marrow transplants. 

Inside STAT: Reawakened immune cells show promise in mice against cells tied to aging

In a newly published mouse study, researchers showed that natural killer T cells, which are mainstays of the body's immune system, could be turned on to go after senescent cells, which are partly responsible for many diseases of aging. In the study, researchers identified a subtype of NK cells — known as invariant natural killer T cells — and an accompanying protein known as CD1d that accumulates in fat cells in obese mice. The goal was to activate CD1d, which the scientists did using a fatty compound known as ɑ-GalCer, and which in turn turned on iNKTs to go after senescent cells associated with obesity in the mice. The result: The level of senescent cells in these mice dropped and their insulin sensitivity improved, while their metabolism also started to return to normal levels. STAT's Megan Molteni has more here

Biden restores sex discrimination protections in health care to trans people

The Biden administration is rolling back Trump-era restrictions on legal protections for transgender people trying to access care. The Trump administration had defined sex as gender assigned at birth, thereby excluding trans people from laws that forbid sex discrimination in health care. The new directive affirms that federal laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.” 

New study outlines common characteristics of retracted biomedical journal articles

An analysis of decades' worth of retracted biomedical journal articles finds that retractions increased starting in 1980, but began to decline after 2014. Here's more from the study: 

  • The study: Researchers analyzed more than 5,200 articles that had been published between 1923 and 2020 and later retracted starting in 1971. 
  • Overall trends: There was an increase in the number of retractions starting in 1980, although the steepest rise was after 2004. Since 2014, there has been a slow decline in the number of retractions. 
  • Other findings: The vast majority of the retractions were for articles on clinical medicine, and nearly two-thirds were for scientific misconduct. Nearly 70% of retracted articles had more than one reason for a retraction, however. Duplication, plagiarism, and fabricated data were the most common reasons for scientific misconduct. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 36,231
Deaths yesterday: 399

What to read around the web today

  • In Covid vaccine data, LGBTQ people fear invisibility. The New York Times
  • What the slowing vaccine rates mean for one rural Montana county. Kaiser Health News
  • India’s crumbling healthcare is pushing many to seek doctors and medicines online. Quartz India
  • New White House panel aims to separate science, politics. Associated Press
  • Maker of latest experimental vaccine will not seek authorization until July at the earliest. The Washington Post

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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