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White House shares plan for initial global allotment of Covid vaccines

The White House yesterday announced how it plans to share the first 25 million of the 80 million Covid-19 vaccine doses the U.S. has pledged to the world. Three-quarters will go to the global vaccine facility COVAX and the other roughly 7 million to areas of urgent need, including in Asia. This allotment covers a fraction of demand: In India, for instance, even with nearly 220 million doses given, only about 3% of the population is fully vaccinated. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll also found that two-thirds of the U.S. public think that the U.S. government should play a major role in getting vaccines to the world. This figure increases to roughly 80% when people are told the U.S. has enough to share while not hurting its own vaccination campaign and that the pandemic is worse elsewhere. 

Martin Shkreli’s longtime friend wants to undo his 4,000% price hike

(Photo illustration: Alex Hogan/STAT; Photo: AP)

There's a plan afoot to depose "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli as the head of Phoenixus, formerly known as Turing Pharmaceuticals. Shkreli gained notoriety after hiking the price of the drug Daraprim 4,000% overnight and was later convicted of securities fraud. A pharmaceutical turnaround artist tells STAT's Adam Feuerstein and Damian Garde that he is rounding up pharma industry insiders — including a longtime business partner of Shkreli's — to not only unseat him but also undo the damage he did, including the 4,000% price hike. “I want to right the wrongs,” Jason Aryeh, a health care investor, says. “I want to throw the bad guys out. There isn’t a bigger, badder guy than Martin Shkreli.” Aryeh's plan could begin to come to fruition as early as Monday, when a meeting of Phoenixus shareholders will vote on banishing Shkreli from the company. STAT+ subscribers can read the exclusive story here.

Contact tracing efforts to curb Covid spread were less than optimal, new study suggests

A new study finds contact tracing was not applied optimally to help contain the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Scientists looked at five months of data on Covid-19 cases and close contacts from 13 health departments and 11 Indian Health Service locations. Of the nearly 75,000 Covid patients, only a third named any contacts. Of these contacts, about 70% were informed of their exposure, while fewer than half agreed to monitor symptoms. Those health departments that saw 5,000 or more Covid cases did a smaller number of interviews with patients and contact notifications. A shortage of contact tracing personnel was one of the hurdles the study authors observed. One caveat: Only four of the locations provided information on race, making the findings difficult to generalize across groups hit hard by Covid. 

Inside STAT: Landmark Alzheimer's drug approval would likely deepen inequities in care

The FDA is expected to announce by Monday whether it is approving the Alzheimer's drug aducanumab. While it's unclear whether it will be a green light, how much the drug will cost, or how eligible patients will be able to access it, one thing is certain: Approval of that medication, or similar drugs, is likely to increase massive racial inequities in Alzheimer's care. Even though Black and Hispanic people are likelier to have Alzheimer's and related dementias than white people, they get diagnosed much less frequently. And if they get a diagnosis, people from these communities are less likely to be referred to specialists for care. “Even if the treatment gets approved tomorrow, there could be years of delay to get treatment,” one neurologist tells STAT's Usha Lee McFarling, who has the story here

JAMA network editors outline new priorities for diversifying their journals

Following intense backlash from a JAMA podcast episode that questioned whether systemic racism exists in medicine, the leaders of different JAMA journals outlined in a new editorial yesterday a list of priorities to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the network. Among the 14 priorities is a plan to appoint a full-time editorial director of equity and convene a multidisciplinary DEI summit to discuss these issues in medicine. It also aims to improve the diversity of its masthead (of the nearly 350 editors and editorial board members of the journal network, around 30% are non-white and 38% are women), an issue for which JAMA has been scrutinized, notably through an analysis by cardiologist Raymond Givens.

HIV cases have dropped by nearly three-quarters in the past 40 years

Tomorrow marks 40 years since the first known cases of what would be called AIDS were identified in the U.S., and a new CDC report finds that cases of HIV have gone down 73% since the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1984 and 1985. During those peak years, there were more than 130,000 HIV cases per year, but that has since dropped to under 35,000 in 2019. At the same time, the report says that disparities exist: In 2019, gay and bisexual men accounted for 70% of new HIV infections, while 41% of cases were in Black people and almost 30% were among those who are Hispanic. There's still work to be done to address these inequities, the CDC report says, as does the author of a new First Opinion who recounts the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the lessons that public health has since learned, including moving away from discriminatory practices.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 18,991
Deaths yesterday: 601

What to read around the web today

  • ‘I’m here by myself’: Grappling with chronic pain in a pandemic. The 19th News
  • Verily’s new big hire, Amy Abernethy, on her plans to transform clinical trials — and bring in money. STAT+
  • ‘Everyone here is alone’: How fear, neglect and Covid-19 tore apart a single New Delhi neighborhood. The New York Times
  • She’s stuck with $75,000 in bills after her ‘health care sharing ministry’ refuses to pay. The Boston Globe
  • For first time, immunotherapy after surgery shows benefit for patients with early kidney cancer. STAT+

Thanks for reading! More on Monday,

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