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Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

Will the U.S. have Covid vaccine doses for everyone by the end of May? Probably


Watch: From Kalamazoo to Fenway Park: the logistics of Covid-19 vaccine shipments. (alex hogan/STAT)

President Biden has confidently declared there would be enough Covid-19 vaccine delivered to the U.S. government by the end of May to vaccinate every American. But how confident should Americans be about vaccine availability? The short answer: somewhat. There is no doubt that the U.S. is moving from a time of vaccine scarcity to one of vaccine surplus, when it will be far easier for people who want a Covid vaccine to receive one. By early summer, barring a manufacturing catastrophe, there should be enough vaccine for every American. But the math behind Biden’s pledge is a little — not a lot — shakier. STAT’s Matthew Herper explains why and a video by STAT’s Alex Hogan shows the journey of vaccine doses.

No flu news is good news

It is looking increasingly like the U.S. may not experience a flu season this year. To date, fewer than 1,600 people in the entire country have tested positive for influenza since the 2020-2021 flu monitoring period began last October; of those, 32 were recorded in the week ending Feb. 27. Most flu seasons, somewhere between 100 and 200 children die from flu; so far this season there has been a single pediatric flu death. Experts believe mask wearing, social distancing, and enhanced hand hygiene practices adopted for Covid-19 control are contributing to the low numbers of circulating flu viruses. The phenomenon isn’t unique to the United States. In the same week ending Feb. 27, Canada reported zero positive flu tests, and a single person had the flu in Britain out of 5,787 samples tested.

Inside STAT: The fall of Watson Health

(Hyacinth Empinado/STAT; Eros Dervishi for STAT)

Watson Health was launched as IBM’s self-described “moonshot” to revolutionize medicine with artificial intelligence. The company spent years spouting breathless — and largely unproven — marketing claims that created a yawning credibility gap, sullied IBM’s reputation in the market, and undermined efforts to tap a wellspring of demand for AI in medicine. Now, after billions of dollars of investments that failed to create a viable enterprise, Watson Health is for sale. A STAT investigation based on internal documents and interviews with former employees and industry collaborators points to a corporate leadership that prioritized publicity and short-term financial goals over the plodding work of science and building the kind of business that could outlast its early hype. STAT’s Casey Ross and Mario Aguilar have more for STAT+ subscribers here.

Some children with Covid-linked inflammatory syndrome have neurological complications

Covid-19 infections are well-known for their neurological impacts in adults, from "brain fog" to muscle weakness. Now a new study also finds neurological complications in hospitalized children and adolescents whose infections led to multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Among almost 1,700 patients, about one-fifth had neurologic involvement, including seizures, weakness, confusion, and loss of smell and taste; patients with underlying neurologic disorders were more likely to be affected. Most were transient, but in 43 children complications such as stroke, severe encephalopathy, and brain swelling were life-threatening. Eleven children and adolescents died. For the children who recovered, the researchers encourage long-term follow-up care to watch for effects on cognition and development.

As virtual care booms, experts urge new privacy protections for health data

A drop in your daily step count. A missed period. A loss of hearing. If it’s collected by a smartwatch or wearable, that health data isn’t protected the same way your medical records are. And as wearables like smartwatches and headphones sweep up an increasing amount of health data, some lawmakers and researchers are calling for a reconsideration of the current approach to privacy. U.S. senators last month reintroduced a bill that would make it illegal for companies like Apple, Amazon, or Google to sell or share the data collected by wearables. “These watches are collecting data in an environment akin to an exam room,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, also a physician, told STAT’s Erin Brodwin. “There is an expectation of privacy.”

When clinical trials go global, fewer Black people are enrolled

Black patients are already underrepresented in cancer clinical trials, both relative to their share of the U.S. population and to the cancers that affect them. A new study finds that disparity has widened with the increasing globalization of research studies. When clinical trials are conducted in other countries, where costs tend to be lower, they enroll Black patients at less than half the rate of U.S. studies. From 2015 to 2018, almost two-thirds of patients in 21 clinical trials of cancer drugs that later won FDA approval were enrolled outside the U.S., and Black patients averaged only 3.2% of participants. The researchers say this trend may further weaken how well trial results apply to Black people.

Covid-19 cases in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 46,303
Deaths yesterday
: 1,485
Vaccine doses distributed, per CDC116,363,405
Total doses administered: 90,351,750

What to read around the web today

  • A pandemic expert weighs in on the long road ahead for Covid-19 vaccine distribution. STAT 
  • How one firm put an ‘extraordinary burden’ on the U.S.’s troubled stockpile. New York Times
  • Scientists underestimated the coronavirus — and are racing to keep up with evolution. Washington Post
  • How bubonic plague reshaped the streets of Mumbai. NPR
  • At least 4 founders of Time’s Up Healthcare resign as organization mum on sexual harassment suit. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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