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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

This is STAT reporter Eric Boodman, filling in while Shraddha takes a well-deserved day off!

Operation Warp Speed promised to do the impossible. How far has it come?

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(Alex Hogan/STAT, photo: Adobe)

The fastest vaccine development to date took four years. Now, Operation Warp Speed is working to squish that into just one for Covid-19. About five months into the public-private effort to accelerate Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, STAT staffers took a close look at what they call “one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors in modern U.S. history.” Here’s a glimpse of their findings:

  • The administration has ignited a vaccine nationalism wildfire — but that’s counterbalanced by the unparalleled American investment in the project.
  • Diagnostics are one of OWS’ five focus areas, but the inability to manufacture and distribute them has been one of the U.S.’s biggest pandemic-time failures.
  • One potential bottleneck in vaccine distribution is a possible shortage of vials and syringes — and some of the administration’s no-bid contracts have raised questions.

Read their full analysis here.

Vape makers reach crucial FDA application deadline

Today is a high-stress day for vape makers: If they don’t submit formal marketing applications to the FDA by tomorrow, or if their paperwork doesn’t pass muster, they’ll likely be put out of business. The documentation isn’t something you can just slap together: It’s supposed to include data on the manufacturing process, the chemical ingredient list, and the potential for misuse by minors. Juul’s, for instance, runs over 125,000 pages (take that, Tolstoy!). After repeated deadline extensions and lawsuits, the agency seems unlikely to give in to a petition from companies asking for yet more time. But the FDA has indicated that it will give those who’ve submitted “deficient” applications by Sept. 9 an extra 90 days to make corrections.

Experts stress the importance of getting a flu shot during the pandemic

As the American Academy of Pediatrics puts out its 2020-21 recommendations on preventing influenza, experts warn that flu vaccines are more important than ever given the continued transmission of Covid-19 and the possibility of hospitals becoming overwhelmed. “Children play a pivotal role in the transmission of influenza to others in their household. They can also get seriously ill from influenza without a vaccination,” said physician Flor Munoz, lead author of the recommendations, in a statement. In the past flu season, 188 minors died of influenza complications, according to the CDC, and about 80% of kids who die tend to be unvaccinated. The recommendations emphasize that everyone over 6 months of age, including pregnant women, should be immunized, ideally by the end of October.

Inside STAT: A Covid-19 vaccine supply chain takes shape

Even if it’s safe and effective, a Covid-19 vaccine won’t do much good unless you can get it into people. Easier said than done for products some of which need to be kept anywhere between -20 and -80 Celsius. “There aren’t millions of square feet of -80 Celsius storage space in the world. You can’t use a massive cold box at an airport like you would use for bananas. It doesn’t exist,” Mark Sawicki, chief executive officer at Cryoport, which specializes in cold-chain logistics services, tells STAT’s Ed Silverman. Ed delved into the unprecedented task facing these companies as they ramp up production and plan for potential heists. Read more here.

Q&A: How the host of ‘Emily’s Wonder Lab’ wants to teach kids about science3c3c03eb-ead2-4257-b1a7-8430ed411081.png

Emily Calandrelli, the host of "Emily's Wonder Lab" on Netflix. (Netflix)

Among Covid-19’s biggest lessons has been how important good science communication is — and how disastrous it can be when done poorly. STAT’s Pratibha Gopalakrishna chatted with MIT-trained engineer Emily Calandrelli about the challenges and her new children’s show on Netflix, "Emily’s Wonder Lab.”

How do you approach talking about science to kids?
I don’t shy away from the science because I think kids are very clever and know way more than a lot of people give them credit for. So the first thing I try to do is approach the kids as if they are peers. I don’t talk down to them.

How should science communicators focus their efforts?
We don't need the next Bill Nye, we need a thousand Bill Nyes. We need people who have lots of different types of personalities that will reach different types of audiences.

What barriers need to be broken down for people in science?
Of course, sexual harassment and the pay gap. There's this assumption that if you're going to have a full-time STEM career, that you're not going to have a very fruitful personal life.

Read their full conversation here.

New review delves into inflammatory syndrome tied to Covid-19 in kids

Early research showed that kids with Covid-19 tended not to get severely ill. But in May, doctors reported seeing children with a disease described as “Kawasaki-like”: high fevers, rashes, swollen extremities, and issues in a number of organs, including the heart. A new review reveals more about this new coronavirus-associated condition, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. The authors looked at data from 662 patients in 39 observational studies. Among the more worrisome findings was that the syndrome could appear in kids whose Covid-19 had been asymptomatic. They found that 35% of the patients were Black, while 28% were white. Although 71% of cases were serious enough to require the ICU, 1.7% of the total patients died.

What to read around the web today

  • A doctor went to his own employer for a Covid-19 antibody test. It cost $10,984. ProPublica
  • Managing pain without in-person care. The Washington Post
  • New York will test the dead more often for coronavirus and flu. The New York Times
  • After a sneeze, 6 feet may not be enough to keep you safe from coronavirus. The Tampa Bay Times
  • Pharma drew a line in the sand over Covid-19 vaccine readiness — because someone had to. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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