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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

WHO head ‘very disappointed’ with delays in expert team being let into China to study Covid-19 origins

In a rare critique of the Chinese government, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment that his agency’s officials hadn’t yet been allowed into China to examine the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though members of a team representing the WHO departed their respective home countries over the past day, “we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” Tedros told reporters yesterday, adding that he was “very disappointed” since at least two team members had to cancel their trips at the last minute. Still, Tedros also said that he had been “assured” that Chinese officials were working to speed up the approval process. 

Messonnier: Slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout should speed up ‘pretty massively’ in coming weeks

The pace of Covid-19 vaccinations is likely to pick up soon, top CDC official Nancy Messonnier predicted in an exclusive conversation with STAT’s Helen Branswell yesterday. “I really expect the pace of administration to go up pretty massively in the next couple weeks,” said Messonnier, who heads up the agency’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Messonnier’s comments come amid criticism of the slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across the U.S., as well as reports of random availability of a vaccine to nonessential workers. But Messonnier encouraged providers to go through their supply of vaccines even if it means those who are not currently prioritized to get a vaccine end up getting a shot. “Don’t leave vaccine in the fridge. Don’t leave vaccine in the vial,” she said. 

This year’s Shkreli Awards highlight failures in U.S. Covid-19 response

The Lown Institute just announced its fourth annual Shkreli Award winners, named for “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli and awarded by the health care think tank to the “ten most egregious examples of profiteering and dysfunction in health care.” The Covid-19 pandemic is the common theme among many of this year’s winners: The federal PPE task force took the top spot on this year’s list for giving supplies to private companies to in turn distribute, causing bidding wars and delays. Other notable names: Moderna, for having the highest per-dose price for its Covid-19 vaccine (charging governments $15-$37 per dose) despite relying on $1 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds to develop the vaccine, and people who used the pandemic to peddle fake and potentially harmful Covid-19 cures. 

Inside STAT: For people with OCD and fear of germs, Covid-19 upended therapy


The pandemic has made everyone feel more anxious about germs, but for the millions of people in the U.S. with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Covid-19 has unleashed a perfect storm of sorts. Knowing that they have to be vigilant about an invisible virus on surfaces and in every area of their life is validating to people with the condition. Yet, the extra vigilance now required to stave off SARS-CoV-2 has also meant that many patients have relapsed from the progress they made overcoming some of their OCD behaviors. “The world is messaging that we need to be more strictly careful, and it’s reinforcing that the messaging I get from my OCD is accurate,” one patient tells STAT contributor Gabrielle Glaser, who has more here

Out-of-network providers more often prevail over insurers in surprise billing lawsuits

Out-of-network health providers are more successful in litigation over surprise medical bills than insurance companies representing patients, a new study finds. Experts looked at 2019 surprise billing litigation data in New Jersey, and found that providers won nearly 60% of the cases, while insurance plans won the rest. The average arbitration award was around $7,000, which was also about nine times higher than the median in-network price for the services being contested. The arbitration awards to commercial insurers — who pay more than public insurers — were also several times higher than Medicare prices. The most common specialties participating in such cases were orthopedics, general surgery, plastic surgery, and trauma and emergency medicine. 

Brigham and Women’s Hospital president is stepping down

Elizabeth “Betsy” Nabel, who has served as the president of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the past 11 years, is stepping down from her role, the Boston Globe reports. Once she leaves on March 1, Nabel told the Globe she will be working alongside her husband, Gary Nabel, a former Sanofi executive who left to form his own biotech company focused on developing immunotherapies for infectious diseases and cancer. Nabel is no stranger to the biotech world, and her position on Moderna’s board of directors previously raised concerns that it posed a conflict of interest as the hospital studied the company’s Covid-19 vaccine. She resigned from that position in July, and continues to serve on the board of Medtronic.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 229,055
Deaths yesterday: 3,775 (a new record)

What to read around the web today

  • Fauci: US could soon give 1 million vaccinations a day. Associated Press
  • The first pig-to-human organ transplants could happen this year. FutureHuman
  • A new tool in treating mental illness: building design. The New York Times
  • Scientists criticize ‘rushed’ approval of Indian COVID-19 vaccine without efficacy data. Science
  • Short on equipment, ambulances and oxygen, L.A. County hospitals face darkest month. Los Angeles Times
  • Black women find healing (but sometimes racism, too) in the outdoors. Kaiser Health News

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, January 6, 2021


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