Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Moderna to test its Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents

Moderna, which may soon have its Covid-19 vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S., announced yesterday that it plans to begin testing its vaccine in children ages 12-17. Children cannot be vaccinated against the coronavirus without data from studies testing this group. Moderna's study, which is not yet recruiting, plans to enroll 3,000 children: Half of them will receive two shots of its vaccine at one month apart, while the other half will receive placebo. Pfizer/BioNTech, the other frontrunner for a Covid-19 vaccine authorization in the U.S., announced back in October that it had begun dosing children in the same age group.  

Latest Lancet report paints a grim picture of the effects of climate change on health

There has been a 54% increase in heat-related deaths among older people in the past two decades, according to the 2020 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change. Here's more from the fifth annual report, which looked at more than 40 indicators of health and climate change: 

  • Heat exposure: Vulnerable populations — including older adults — were exposed to an additional 475 million heatwave events last year, and in 2018, there were nearly 300,000 deaths due to unsafe heat exposure. 
  • Food security: Yield potential for the world's leading crops has decreased by up to 6% since 1981 due to rising temperatures and the frequency of extreme weather events. 
  • Infectious disease: Changing weather patterns have also helped lead to a 15% increase in dengue cases caused by the Aedes albopictus mosquito in 2018, and have also helped fuel regional increases in malaria and populations of the bacterium that causes cholera. 

Despite popularity of e-cigarettes, cigarette smoking among teens is at an all-time low 

A new study finds that the recent popularity of e-cigarettes has not countered progress against cigarette smoking in teens. Some recent evidence has suggested that teens who vape are more likely to also smoke cigarettes. Researchers looked at nearly 30 years of data on cigarette smoking and found that the use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in the month prior to being surveyed decreased more rapidly beginning in 2012 than the increase in the use of e-cigarettes in that same time period. And compared to data going back to 1991, the study also found that cigarette smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco in this group has hit a historical low. For instance, daily smoking among boys decreased from around 11% in 2012 to 3% in 2019, while those figures among girls were 7.3% and 1.6%, respectively. 

Inside STAT: How the rich and privileged can skip the line for Covid-19 vaccines


Athletes, politicians, and other well-connected and wealthy individuals have received preferential treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as easier access to testing. And experts say that with a Covid-19 vaccine on the horizon, things should be no different. “Anything that’s seen as lifesaving, life-preserving, and that's in short supply creates black markets,” bioethicist Arthur Caplan tells STAT's Olivia Goldhill and Nicholas St. Fleur. As far as when this will emerge, some think that this may happen a few months into the distribution process, when local pharmacies and doctors get their allotments. How states run their programs will also be key to deciding just how many people try to cut in line to get a vaccine before they're otherwise allowed to. Read more here.

Lab Chat: Elevated stress hormone levels could reawaken dormant cancer cells

In a new study, researchers describes how a cascade of events set off by high levels of a stress hormone called norepinephrine could cause dormant tumor cells to reawaken to once again cause cancer. In some cancer models, scientists found that an elevated level of norepinephrine led to the activation of immune cells known as neutrophils. Activating neutrophils in turn led to these cells releasing a special type of lipid — which then awakened sleeping cancer cells. I spoke with Michela Perego, a molecular biologist at the Wistar Institute and the lead author of the study, to learn more. 

How can dormant cancer cells be a problem? 
Dormant cells are not a problem until they wake up. We know that some [cancer therapies] only last for some time before the cancer comes back. And we know very little about how cancer comes back, why it comes back, and how we can control cancer for longer before it comes back.

What was surprising about what you found? 
That these hormones were so powerful in influencing the immune system was such a surprise. The whole idea that these stress hormones could show a physical effect, and take a physical toll, on cells was unexpected.

Read the rest of our conversation here

More than 25% of children last year visited an urgent care or retail health clinic

As retail clinics and urgent care facilities have increasingly become more popular in recent years, a new CDC report finds that roughly 1 in 4 children in 2019 had made a visit to one of these facilities in the prior year. White children were likelier than Black or Hispanic children to visit such a facility for care in 2019, as were children with some form of health insurance. Children whose parents had earned a high school diploma or more, and those who earned at or above 200% of the federal poverty level — $52,400 for a family of four in 2020 — were also likelier to visit an urgent care or retail clinic. 

What to read around the web today

  • An infant dies, a millionaire doctor calls 911, and a tale emerges of drugs, love and suspected crime. Los Angeles Times
  • Covid unknowns leave survivors fearing life insurance rejection. Bloomberg Wealth
  • Opinion: How autism researchers can better reach Black families. Spectrum
  • American individualism and our collective crisis. Knowable Magazine
  • China testing blunders stemmed from secret deals with firms. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, December 3, 2020


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