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Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

Biden predicts vaccines for all adults by end of May

Enough coronavirus vaccine to inoculate all adult Americans will be delivered by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, President Biden said yesterday, when the White House also said Merck will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved one-dose shot. For the fortunate few already fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and wondering what they can do safely, answers may come soon. At a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Monday, the group’s chair, José Romero, asked if the CDC’s current position on quarantine (which now gives an out to vaccinated people) would be modified for J&J’s one-dose vaccine. CDC staffer Jessica MacNeil said the current guidance for vaccinated people would be removed soon and then combined with additional advice for vaccinated individuals.

Pilots flying Covid-19 vaccines around the world call for their turn to be vaccinated

Thousands of UPS and FedEx pilots have flown around the globe for months to deliver doses of Covid-19 vaccines. But many pilots have yet to receive the vaccines they’re transporting. The aviation industry’s attempt to get freight pilots vaccinated early has struggled to gain traction as states take varying approaches to who can get immunized. The average UPS pilot is 52 years old, too young to be eligible in parts of the country, but FedEx and UPS pilots are testing positive for the virus at a higher rate than the general U.S. population. By the end of February, 963 of the more than 8,100 pilots at these two companies had tested positive.

Substance use, suicide, and cardiometabolic conditions increase mortality in working-age adults

Since 2010, death rates among people of working age have been steadily climbing, in cities and in rural parts of the country and across racial and ethnic groups. Driving the increase are substance use, suicide, and conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, a sweeping new report says — and they're also likely factors in the recent drop in U.S. life expectancy. The report’s authors draw a line between those three causes of mortality and three major “causes of causes”: economic decline, economic inequality, and vulnerability. “This is a story about people dying in the prime ages of their lives,” Kathleen Mullan Harris, a sociology professor and chair of the committee that completed the report, tells STAT's Rebecca Sohn.

Inside STAT: CRISPR rivals put patents aside to help in fight against Covid-19

Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang (Illustration: STAT; Photos: AP, Getty )

CRISPR pioneers Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang have long battled over genome-editing patents and prizes. Last October, Doudna and her collaborator Emanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, even as the patent dispute continues. But when the two scientists turned their attention to the coronavirus, journalist and Tulane history professor Walter Isaacson writes in a new STAT First Opinion, they are allowing their discoveries to be used openly and without patent licensing for anyone combating Covid-19. “It is fitting that CRISPR pioneers would lead virus-fighting teams because this gene-editing tool is based on a virus-fighting trick used by bacteria, which have been battling viruses for more than a billion years,” Isaacson notes. Read more.

Peering into the (whole) brain to see placebo effects

fMRI activity during pain is reduced in the areas shown in blue. (M. Zunhammer et al.)

Neuroscientists studying the placebo effect — when a person feels relief from an inert pill or treatment — have mapped individual parts of the brain whose activity changes in response to placebo. New research analyzing 20 studies that looked at the entire brains of 603 participants concludes the placebo effect lessened pain-related activity across multiple, varying areas of the brain, depending on the study. When people felt less pain, there was less activity not just where the brain receives early pain signals from the body, but also in circuits tied to motivation and decision-making. “The placebo can affect what you do with the pain and how it motivates you,” study author Tor Wager said in a statement.

Beauty at the micro-scale

Microneedles to diagnose and treat disease. (Núria Puigmal Domínguez, Gonzalo Muñoz Taboada, Pere Dosta, Natalie/Artzi Institute/MIT)

Much of the world’s focus has been trained on health care at a global scale over the past 12 months, but an annual contest offers an opportunity to celebrate the work of researchers toiling away on tinier work. The photos are stunning visualizations of biomedical research seeking treatments and cures for cancer. The colorful pictures of microneedles, brain cells, and “mini livers” are the winners in the MIT Koch Institute’s annual image awards. Large-scale versions hang in a public gallery in the Koch Institute’s Cambridge, Mass., lobby but you can see them here.

Covid-19 cases in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 55,071
Deaths yesterday
: 1,924

What to read around the web today

  • Texas and other states ease Covid-19 rules despite warnings. Associated Press
  • Children’s hospitals grapple with young Covid ‘long haulers.’ KHN
  • Security guards face the hazardous job of enforcing Covid rules. Bloomberg
  • What life is like for New York’s ‘patient zero.’ Wall Street Journal
  • A friendly dog named Bob brings a bit of comfort and connection to patients. Boston Globe

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.

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

 

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