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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Hi, this is health tech reporter Katie Palmer, filling in for Shraddha.

Novavax Covid-19 vaccine is highly effective in a late-stage trial

Long-awaited results from the Phase 3 trial of Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine show it is 90% effective against lab-confirmed, symptomatic infection. That puts its performance in line with the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Novavax said it plans to apply for authorization with multiple drug regulators, including the FDA, in the third quarter, and is looking to produce 100 million doses a month by the end of that quarter. The vaccine, stored at fridge temperatures and given in two doses three weeks apart, could play an important role in meeting international vaccine demand; Novavax has committed to deliver 350 million doses to the COVAX global vaccine procurement facility once authorized. Read more from STAT’s Helen Branswell.

Faced with confusing data on new Alzheimer’s drug, doctors scramble to advise patients

Neurologists who treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease are already getting flooded with questions about Aduhelm, the drug which last week received accelerated approval from the FDA to treat the degenerative brain disease. But for the most part, they’re unable to provide answers, reports STAT’s Elizabeth Cooney. The drug isn’t yet available, for one thing, and doctors will need more information in the coming months to appropriately prescribe it, after the FDA issued a broad approval for all stages of Alzheimer’s. The drug was tested in patients who were confirmed to have buildups of brain amyloid, which requires an expensive PET scan; one question will be whether insurance covers those scans without any mention of them on the drug label. “At this point in time, I’m in a situation where I’m just winging it,” said one family medicine physician.

ED visits for suspected suicide attempts increased among adolescent girls during the pandemic

As the pandemic continues to take a toll on mental health, epidemiologists have tracked an increased incidence of suicide attempts. In a new CDC report, that pattern seems to be continuing among adolescents, especially girls from ages 12-17. Based on a survey of suspected suicide attempts collected from emergency room data, visits began increasing in May 2020; by March 2021, average weekly visits were 50% higher in that group than during the same period in 2019, emphasizing the ongoing importance of suicide risk prevention efforts. Future surveillance that includes more demographic detail could point to particular risk factors that can be targeted by public health, the report says.

Inside STAT: The unlikely force shaping Amazon’s health ambitions

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Vin Gupta at the University of Washington campus in Seattle. (JOVELLE TAMAYO FOR STAT)

Vin Gupta joined Amazon as its chief medical officer just weeks before the pandemic hit — and ever since, STAT’s Erin Brodwin reports, his job hasn’t stopped evolving. The company has multiple toeholds in health, through testing, virtual-first care, pharmacy, and wearables. But in a counterpoint to typical tech narratives, Gupta sees an opportunity for Amazon to build upon existing practices in medicine. “I think any company, whether it’s Amazon or anyone else, needs to embrace the health care system as it exists,” Gupta says. “I think there’s such an opportunity to be complementary versus completely disruptive” — a perspective he maintains by continuing weekend intensive care shifts at the University of Washington. STAT+ subscribers can read more about Gupta and Amazon’s pandemic expansion into at-home diagnostics in Erin’s profile.

Children in rural areas face increasing barriers to pediatric care, study finds

Hospital beds for pediatric patients are getting harder to come by in many parts of the country, according to a new study. Between 2008 and 2018, the percentage of hospitals with inpatient pediatric units declined, with the total number of units falling by 19%. That decline is especially prominent in rural parts of the U.S. Patient transfers over long distances can complicate care, as children contend with the risks of longer waits and parents confront increasing costs. “These smaller units, that are a small cog in the bigger wheel of the hospital, are really hard financially to keep up over time,” Sunitha Kaiser, a pediatric hospitalist at UCSF, tells STAT’s Claudia López Lloreda. “The important next steps are figuring out why these units close and how best to keep them open.”

Scientists sent freeze-dried mouse sperm to space to study radiation’s impact

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(Alex Hogan/STAT)

Scientists are studying the effects of space radiation on fertility and reproduction by blasting freeze-dried mouse sperm into low Earth orbit. In new research, they detailed the impact of a lengthy space sojourn on the samples’ ability to produce offspring, reports STAT’s Theresa Gaffney. After spending between three and six years on the International Space Station, the thawed samples produced healthy mouse pups at slightly different rates, but not so much to conclude that space radiation caused any damage. Gene expression in the space pups didn’t differ from those fertilized with fresh sperm, either. Radiation exposure at the ISS is lower than what might occur on an interplanetary trip, but the work still gives insight into the planning necessary for future theoretical colonies.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 4,575
Deaths yesterday: 105
Vaccine doses distributed, per CDC374,398,105

Total doses administered: 309,322,5453c3c03eb-ead2-4257-b1a7-8430ed411081.png

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

What to read around the web today

  • Miners try to get Covid-19 vaccines into areas where shots are scarce. Wall Street Journal
  • ‘Simply unacceptable’: Alzheimer’s Association blasts Biogen over the price of its new medicine. STAT+
  • In mental health crises, a 911 call now brings a mixed team of helpers — and maybe no cops. Kaiser Health News
  • FDA details failures at a Baltimore plant that led to unusable vaccine doses. New York Times
  • As virus cases wane, governors weigh ending emergency orders. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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