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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

STAT's Helen Branswell will be speaking this afternoon with Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. STAT+ subscribers can sign up for the event here.

A guide to who can safely get the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

A Covid-19 vaccine rollout is underway across the U.S., but there are still questions about who ought to — and can — get the vaccine. Here's what we know

  • Pregnant and lactating people: Although none of the trials used to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine included this group, the CDC said that pregnant and lactating women should be given the option to take the vaccine if they choose to.
  • People with allergic reactions: Those with allergies to certain foods, insects, latex and other common allergens can be vaccinated, the CDC said. Those with a history of anaphylaxis to injectables or other vaccines can be vaccinated with caution and a risk assessment from their provider. Those who are allergic to any of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine ingredients, however, should refrain from getting the shots. 
  • Those younger than 16: The CDC isn't recommending the vaccine for this age group yet since the vaccine has only been approved for those aged 16 years and older. And while studies for those ages 12-15 are ongoing, studies in those younger than 11 haven't begun.

Q&A: STAT infectious disease reporter Helen Branswell on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout

As the first doses of a much-anticipated Covid-19 vaccine are administered across the U.S., the reactions are varied — from relief to nervousness about the weeks ahead before millions of people are possibly immunized. I spoke with Helen Branswell, STAT's infectious disease reporter who has been on the Covid-19 beat since the beginning, to get her thoughts. 

Did you think we'd be rolling out vaccines less than a year after a pandemic was declared? 
To be honest, I did not. A lot of work has been done over the past 15 years or so to figure out ways to fast-track development of pandemic vaccines. But going from a genetic sequence of a newly identified virus to starting to put shots in arms within 11 months — that is amazing. This hasn't happened before, period. 

How have you been feeling about the vaccine rollout? 
I did get a bit verklempt listening to the [CDC advisory panel] vote on Saturday. It was historic, and a very nice thing to happen in a year in which there have been too few nice things happening.

What are you most nervous about with the vaccine?
I'm concerned about vaccine acceptance if concerns arise about unconfirmed adverse events. These vaccines have been tested in tens of thousands of people, but when you use a vaccine in hundreds of millions of people, rare side effects may emerge. Things that look like they might be side effects but which really aren't will also crop up. They'll all need to be investigated. But while scientists try to tease out an answer, the public will draw its own conclusions. Careful messaging about this kind of thing is going to be critical.

Physician representation — especially women — is low in Covid-19 news cycle

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought physicians and their expertise into the news cycle, yet a new study of primetime programming from Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC finds that only about 1 in 5 of the experts brought on to talk about the coronavirus was a doctor. The analysis included a total of 220 experts who were brought on to talk about the pandemic between mid-May and mid-June 2020. Of the physicians, only a quarter were women, who got 15% of the talk time given to doctors. Women were also less likely to be interviewed more than once: Only two of the 12 female physicians featured were on shows three or more times. In contrast, nearly 30% of the male physicians were featured three or more times. 

Inside STAT: Picturing the 'patience, love, and devotion' of Alzheimer's care

Shamsazaran's mother is caressing his father, Majid. She is trying to talk to him, but he is not aware most of the time. (JALAL SHAMSAZARAN/NVP IMAGES)

Alzheimer's disease hits home for photographer Jalal Shamsazaran, whose father, aunt, and grandfather have all been diagnosed with it. And as he saw his father, Majid, battle the illness, Shamsararan began documenting — through a series of portraits — how it was affecting Majid and others around him. His hope: That the photos would resonate with others going through similar trials, and that the love and devotion of the caregivers in Majid's life would be palpable. The photos have resonated with Shamsazaran himself, who says, “Perhaps the character and behavior of my father is a part of my character and behavior in future.” See the photo story from Shamsazaran, with an introduction from STAT's Alissa Ambrose.

Infectious disease experts win prize for communicating 'sound science'

Two infectious disease experts — Anthony Fauci and Salim Abdool Karim — are this year's winners of the John Maddox Prize, which recognizes individuals who promote "sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest." Fauci, who has become a household name during the Covid-19 pandemic, is being awarded the prize for working to help the public understand the complex science behind infectious diseases and also being among the few government scientists to answer questions from the public while others have shunned the spotlight. Karim is director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa and has similarly earned a reputation for being a trustworthy and clear science communicator. 

Black children with sepsis in the U.S. more likely to die than white, Hispanic children 

Black children hospitalized in the U.S. for severe sepsis have a 20% higher risk of dying than white or Hispanic children, according to new research. Looking at information from more than 9,800 children in a 2016 database, scientists found that while the overall mortality from sepsis was around 15%, this figure was more than 18% for Black kids, while it was less than 14% for white and Hispanic children. There were geographic differences as well: Black children with sepsis in the western U.S. had almost a 60% higher risk of dying than their white peers, while those in the South had a 30% higher mortality risk. Black and Hispanic children also had, on average, hospital stays that were two days longer than white kids. The authors suggest that existing inequities — such as with access to health services — could explain some of these differences. 

Covid-19 in the U.S. 

Cases yesterday: 193,454
Deaths yesterday:
 1,311 (U.S. deaths now number more than 300,000, a new global record)

What to read around the web today

  • In life, she defied Alzheimer’s. In death, her brain may show how. The New York Times
  • How science beat the virus, and what it lost in the process. The Atlantic
  • The best science images of 2020. Nature
  • Pandemic backlash jeopardizes public health powers, leaders. Associated Press
  • Why this New York nurse got the country’s first coronavirus shot: ‘We were scared.’The New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Tuesday, December 15, 2020


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