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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

FDA advisory panel to weigh emergency use of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine

An FDA advisory panel is meeting today to discuss whether to recommend that the agency grant emergency authorization to Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine. In preliminary documents released earlier this week, FDA scientists said they found Moderna's vaccine to be "highly effective" in preventing symptomatic infection for at least two weeks after people got the second vaccine dose. Much like last week's meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, today's meeting will include commentary from FDA scientists and Moderna executives, followed by a committee vote. Follow along with STAT's reporters, who will be posting live updates throughout the day here

Members of Sackler family to testify at a hearing on Purdue Pharma and the opioid crisis

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is holding a virtual hearing this morning to discuss the role of the prominent Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma in fueling the U.S. opioid epidemic, which has killed half a million people since 1999. Two members of the family — David and Kathe Sackler  — are set to testify alongside Craig Landau, Purdue's CEO. Today's hearing is likely to feature questions for the witnesses on Purdue's marketing practices of its powerful painkiller OxyContin. It also comes after the company pleaded guilty in October to criminal charges as part of an $8.3 billion settlement with the Department of Justice. 

Bias in pulse oximeters could be putting Black patients at risk

Racial bias in pulse oximeters — devices used to externally measure oxygen in blood — could be putting Black patients at risk, according to new research. Scientists compared readings from oximeters to arterial blood gas readings, which measure oxygen directly in blood. They found that nearly 12% of the time, oximeters showed Black patients had safe oxygen levels when arterial readings showed them being below the safe threshold. Such a discrepancy occurred fewer than 4% of the time in white patients. The data were from more than 10,000 patients — the majority of whom were white — who were receiving supplemental oxygen. The results could have implications for Covid-19 patients whose oxygen levels must be monitored, the authors warn. 

Inside STAT: Pfizer decision on vaccine temperature sensors forced scramble

An official at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Colorado checks the temperature monitor on a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. (MICHAEL CIAGLO/GETTY IMAGES)

In an exclusive new story, STAT's Olivia Goldhill outlines how a last-minute problem this fall nearly threatened the distribution of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. At issue was the ultra-cold storage needed for the vaccine. Pfizer had planned to disconnect temperature-monitoring devices the containers upon delivery. But for hospitals planning on containers to to store vials of vaccine for up to 30 days, there would have been no way of knowing if the doses were safe or had thawed prematurely. The government's Operation Warp Speed then struck a $25 million deal with a company in Iceland to create a temperature-monitoring platform that would work with the Pfizer boxes. Read more here

Health care spending in the U.S. increased nearly 5% in 2019

A new analysis of CMS data finds that health care spending in the U.S. increased nearly 5% last year, marking the fourth straight year of such growth. The 2019 increase means that the country spent $3.8 trillion on health care, or more than $11,500 per person on average. Personal spending — on hospital care, prescription drugs, and doctor's appointments — accounted for 84% of the 2019 figures. Among payers, private insurance spending increased around 4%, Medicare spending by nearly 7%, and Medicaid spending by 3%. Among spending categories, hospital expenditure saw the biggest growth, followed by retail prescription drugs. 

Global health expert Paul Farmer wins 2020 Berggruen Prize

Physician and global health expert Paul Farmer is this year's winner of the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, a $1 million award. Farmer is being recognized "for his impactful work at the intersection of public health and human rights." Among Farmer's many accomplishments is the founding of Partners in Health, a nonprofit that has provided health care to resource-poor communities since 1987. "He has reshaped our understanding not just of what it means to be sick or healthy but also of what it means to treat health as a human right and the ethical and political obligations that follow,” Berggruen Prize Jury chair Kwame Anthony Appiah said in a statement.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 247,403 (a new single-day record)
Deaths yesterday:
 3,656 (also a new record)

What to read around the web today

  • Labeling confusion led to wasted doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in first days of rollout. STAT
  • Opinion: People thought Covid-19 was relatively harmless for younger adults. They were wrong. The New York Times
  • 'It's really on them to learn': How the rapid rollout of AI tools has fueled frustration among clinicians. STAT+
  • ‘We want them infected’: Trump appointee demanded ‘herd immunity’ strategy, emails reveal. Politico
  • Of course women of color were among the first to get vaccinated. The 19th
  • Air pollution a cause in girl's death, coroner rules in landmark case. The Guardian

And here's something else that caught my (and other STAT reporters') attention, on what some wedding photographers in Texas have had to deal with during the pandemic. 

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, December 17, 2020


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