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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Pfizer/BioNTech get approval to test their Covid-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12

Pfizer and BioNTech, which are currently the frontrunners among Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, announced yesterday they have received FDA approval to vaccinate teens down to the age of 12. The approval may help fill a gaping hole in the data being generated to see if Covid-19 vaccines are safe, as there are almost no efforts to date to test the vaccine in children and most other vaccine trials are not enrolling those under the age of 18. Robert Frenck at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital says his team vaccinated two teens — a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old — and that the decision to push the age limit down to 12 is based on the fact that adolescents typically get the same sized vaccine doses as adults. To vaccinate younger children, new dosing studies will be needed. Data on the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity in teens may be available by February, Frenck says.

In lieu of a debate, Biden and Trump to appear tonight in dueling town halls

Tonight, instead of the second presidential debate, President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will appear in competing town hall events, both set to air at 8 p.m. ET. Biden's event, which has been on the books for the past week, is being hosted by ABC News, while Trump's event — announced yesterday — will be aired by NBC. The Covid-19 pandemic and Trump's recent infection are likely to be dominating topics in both town halls, which arose from Trump's rejection of a virtual debate format approved by the Commission on Presidential Debates to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Voters may ask questions on the ACA and abortion access, especially in light of the confirmation hearings for SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett, and prescription drug pricing may also be on the list. 

Inside STAT: STAT examination shows how pharma showers state capitols with campaign cash

More than 1 in 4 U.S. state lawmakers have taken campaign contributions from the pharma industry since the beginning of 2019, according to a new, first-of-its kind STAT examination of the drug industry's influence in state capitols. In several states, taking money from pharma was more the norm than the exception: More than 79% of Illinois' state lawmakers and 85% of California's politicians had cashed a check from pharma. Overall, the investigation reveals more than $5 million in campaign contributions from pharma to state legislators over the past two years alone. All told, the data show that even during a pandemic, the drug industry's efforts to influence elections are continuing as usual. “It’s really important to ask whether the patients and consumers and regular citizens who are going to be impacted by lawmaking in that sector are also being heard,” one expert tells STAT's Lev Facher, who has the story here.

FDA approves first therapy for Ebola 

The FDA just approved the first therapy for Ebola, an antibody cocktail called Inmazeb from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. The approval marks a milestone, as there are now both a treatment and a vaccine — Merck's Ervebo — for the Ebola Zaire virus, both of which were out of reach for decades. The news comes as the Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently fighting an outbreak, its third in as many years. Inmazeb is made up of three monoclonal antibodies and was shown to be effective against Ebola in a clinical trial conducted during the 2018-2020 outbreak in the North Kivu region of the DRC: 33% of people who received Inmazeb died of Ebola compared to 51% in the control group who received a different monoclonal cocktail known as ZMapp. 

Nearly a third of millennials have at least one mental health condition

Behavioral health conditions are on the rise among millennials, according to a new report from Blue Cross Blue Shield, and nearly a third of this group has at least one such condition. Here's more: 

  • Conditions: Since 2014, there have been double-digit increases in mental health conditions including depression, psychoses, and ADHD. More millennials are receiving treatment for opioid use disorder than other generations. 
  • Racial disparities: Black and Hispanic millennials were less likely than their white peers to be diagnosed with mental health conditions, which could be attributed to underdiagnosis and lack of access to care rather than lower occurrence. There's a 64% difference in ADHD diagnosis rates between Hispanic and white individuals, for instance, and a 31% difference in depression diagnosis rates between Black and white millennials. 
  • Covid-19's impact: An overwhelming majority have reported negative mental health effects from the pandemic, with a 34% increase in alcohol consumption and 16% increase in non-medical drug use. 

Latest WHO report on TB shows slow progress against the disease

Some 1.4 million people died of tuberculosis last year, according to the latest global report from the WHO on the respiratory illness, down from about 1.5 million in 2018. Almost a third of the 10 million people who developed TB in 2019 were likely undiagnosed. The report also states that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a drop in countries reporting TB cases — which is likely to increase deaths — as resources dedicated to TB have been reallocated to the pandemic. Drug-resistant TB continues to be a problem: Nearly half a million people were newly diagnosed with this serious form of TB last year, but fewer than 40% accessed treatment. And although there's been progress toward eliminating TB — a 9% drop in incidence rate and 14% drop in deaths since 2015 — it's far off from the WHO's and UN's End TB Strategy goals of an 80% drop in incidence rate and a 90% reduction in TB deaths by 2030.  

What to read around the web today

  • Why Nature supports Joe Biden for US president. Nature
  • Women voters say health care is on the line this year — and they aren’t hearing enough about it. The 19th
  • A doctor is accused of years of unnecessary hysterectomies. The women who trusted him want answers. The Washington Post
  • The inside story of how Trump’s COVID-19 coordinator undermined the world’s top health agency. Science
  • Health issues as wildfire smoke hits millions in US. Associated Press
  • AI is about to face a major test: Can it differentiate Covid-19 from flu? STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, October 15, 2020


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