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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

There will be no newsletter on Monday, July 5 in observance of the July 4 holiday in the U.S. We'll be back on Tuesday, July 6. 

Johnson & Johnson says its Covid vaccine protects against Delta variant 

In another sign of just how powerful Covid-19 vaccines are, Johnson & Johnson said Thursday night its shot protects against the worrisome Delta variant, and that the durability of the immune response generated by the vaccine has persisted for the eight months researchers have been evaluating it so far. Though data are limited, they should assuage concerns that people who received the J&J shot might need a booster to guard against the Delta variant. Other studies have shown that the mRNA vaccines approved for use in the U.S. also stand up well to Delta, though notably both doses are required for the shots to maintain their rough levels of protection. The biggest worry about Delta — which is an issue for the many countries with thus far limited access to vaccines and for unvaccinated people in the U.S. — is that it is the most transmissible form of the coronavirus seen thus far, and is likely to tear through those who haven't yet gotten their Covid vaccine shot.

COVAX urges Western countries to recognize equally WHO-approved Covid vaccines

As countries slowly allow international travelers once again, the WHO and other organizations in the international facility called COVAX are urging Western nations to recognize equally COVAX-approved vaccines, even those developed elsewhere in the world. Most Western authorities have not licensed the Covid vaccines developed by China, for instance, even though these vaccines have been WHO-approved for emergency use. Other reports have also suggested that Western countries are not accepting those who have gotten Covaxin, the vaccine developed in India, although it is not yet WHO-approved. "Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the re-opening of travel into and with that region would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines," the agencies said in a statement

Florida Keys residents report worse mental health following Hurricane Irma

It's hard to deny the health effects of climate change, which is making storms more intense and frequent. A new CDC report finds that 2017's Hurricane Irma — a category 4 storm — may have worsened the mental health of those living in the Florida Keys, where the storm made landfall. Using survey responses from nearly 240 households as a sample, researchers extrapolated that in the 20 months since the storm, roughly 1 in 6 Florida Keys households reported a need for a mental health provider, nearly 40% of which did not receive such a service. Roughly 7% of the population was at suicide risk following the hurricane, while 17% reported worsening anxiety and depression in the aftermath of the storm. Another 1 in 10 said their depression worsened after Hurricane Irma. 

Inside STAT: Scientists devise a battery-free pacemaker that can be absorbed by the body


(ADOBE)

Scientists behind new research describe a battery-free pacemaker, one that can be broken down by the patient's body when its work is done. The device was tested in rats, mice, and in human heart tissue in a dish, and worked well in all these settings. By disintegrating into the body, these devices offer a distinct advantage over currently available temporary pacemakers, which are often hooked up to wires outside the body and therefore risk infection and other complications. And although this new version may not necessarily improve the life span of a patient, the improvements could mean a better quality of life. STAT's Kevin Lin has more here

Researchers raise concerns about using genetic risk scores to pick ‘healthier’ embryos

Writing in a new report, scientists have questioned the strength and promise of risk assessment tools being offered by companies to help parents select embryos for IVF. The authors say that polygenic risk scores, which are the probability that an individual will develop a trait or condition based on the combination of genetic variants, may not be as powerful at predicting health outcomes — such as the likelihood of life-threatening diseases — for embryos. Among their concerns is that risk scores are based on genetic research done on a limited population of individuals and can't be used widely. The authors are also worried about the unintended effects of selecting for certain traits over others and the message that could send to society about what's desirable and what isn't. “The science is at a premature stage, and we’ve got a lot more thinking and talking and gathering of evidence to do,” one expert tells STAT's Claudia López Lloreda.

Medical groups urge caution for Fourth of July celebrations

As many towns at high risk of wildfires warn against lighting fireworks altogether over the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, medical groups are also urging caution with celebrations. “[I]t is best to leave fireworks to the professionals,” Mark Rosenberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said in a statement that also included safety tips such as keeping a fire extinguisher and large supply of water handy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended viewing any public fireworks displays at a distance from crowds, especially since many children can't yet get vaccinated against Covid-19. The AAP also cited figures from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which found that nearly 16,000 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for fireworks injuries in 2020, roughly a third of whom were aged 19 and under.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

New cases yesterday (two-week average): 11,363
New deaths yesterday (two-week average): 276

Correction: An item yesterday on differences in hospital and pharmacy prices for common drugs misstated the magnitude of the price difference for generic Zoloft. The average cash price for one tablet in a Las Vegas hospital was 115 times the cost in a hospital in West Virginia. 

What to read around the web today

  • Inside the ‘land grab’ for virtual-first care: how an unprecedented flurry of deals is shaping the new digital health landscape. STAT+
  • Rebuilding in COVID’s awful wake: One small step at a time. Associated Press
  • The 3 simple rules that underscore the danger of Delta. The Atlantic
  • How fringe stem cell treatments won allies on the far right. Wired
  • U.S. cancer drug prices were higher at launch than in three European countries — and just kept climbing. STAT+

Thanks for reading, and a safe Fourth of July weekend to those celebrating. I'll be back on Tuesday,

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