What to look for in COVID-19 vaccine trials

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Coronavirus CG Illustration

Photo: Yuri Samoilov via Flickr

As various COVID-19 vaccine candidates make their way through clinical trials — see this nice update on where things stand from Helen Branswell at STAT — journalists need to be scrutinizing the findings as closely as possible when reporting on them. But what do you look for?

The questions I include from this piece from Elemental, primarily aimed at laypersons, are a good starting point. Then, getting more detailed, look to this brief thread of tweets from Vinay Prasad, M.D., a hematologist-oncologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Continue reading

Welcome AHCJ’s newest members

Andrew Smiley

About Andrew Smiley

Andrew Smiley is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He is an assistant professor of professional practice at the Missouri School of Journalism. Smiley comes to AHCJ from a sports broadcasting background, including nearly a decade at the Golf Channel/NBC Sports and a decade at ESPN, where he won an Emmy.

welcome-matPlease welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ.

All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves. Continue reading

Updated tips to prepare for a complicated flu season this year

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

flu-thermometer

Photo: volkspider via Flickr

Until 2020, many Americans (except health reporters) tended to consider influenza as just a nuisance winter illness that might keep one in bed for a few days. However, this year, with COVID-19 still roiling the country, the flu needs to be considered more seriously.

Adding to concerns are polls showing that people may be reluctant to get a flu shot, which may influence others to hold off. CNN reports that one in three parents said they had no plan to go to their doctor’s office and vaccinate their kids, even though more than 100 children die of the flu each year. Most of the children that die from the flu didn’t get a flu shot. Continue reading

How reporting on people’s intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine can harm public health

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

syringe

Photo: F&Prtw via Flickr

A recent Pew Research poll found that the proportion of Americans who said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is released has dropped sharply since May. This isn’t necessarily very surprising, given the federal administration’s shenanigans with the CDC, documented in excellent reporting at Politico by Dan Diamond and the NYT by Apoorva Mandavilli. Then there’s the experience at the FDA, where emergency use authorizations were used for hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma before adequate evidence to support either one was available. Continue reading

Study says older adults vastly underrepresented in COVID-19 trials

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Elderly couple wearing masks

Photo: Babette Plana via Flickr

Approximately 80% of COVID-19 related deaths in the United States have been among people 65 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a research letter published online in JAMA Internal Medicine on Sept. 28 reported that more than half of COVID-19 clinical trials were “at high risk for excluding older adults,” and none included seniors as part of vaccine trials early in the pandemic.

Despite a National Institute of Health policy mandating the inclusion of older adults in appropriate clinical trials, older adults were left out more often than not as scientists struggled to get a handle on the coronavirus. Researchers found that 53% of trials they reviewed did not include those older than 65 for a variety of reasons, including compliance concerns, co-morbid conditions or technology requirements. About one in four of the trials reviewed by the researchers included an age “cutoff” that would exclude adults age 65 to 80, as UPI reported. Continue reading

New PubMed search site will continue to evolve

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

PubMedIf you’re a frequent user of PubMed, you have likely already noticed the new website layout and have probably noticed some differences in search options or functionality. The new PubMed was first tested in labs at the National Library of Medicine site in March of 2019 and launched officially in fall 2019, but it wasn’t formally rolled out as the default until May 2020. (The old site is still available for a little longer — at least through the end of October — here.) Continue reading