What We're Reading: J&J Pauses Vaccine Trial; Bias in Analytics Software; Fear of COVID-19 Surge

October 13, 2020

J&J is pausing recruitment for its clinical trial of a coronavirus disease 2019 vaccine; racial bias found in algorithms used nationwide in health-cost analytics software; Americans stockpile food and other essentials amid resurging pandemic fears.

J&J Pauses COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Due to Unexplained Illness

Announced yesterday, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said it is temporarily pausing recruitment and dosing for its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine candidate clinical trial after an unexplained illness in a study participant. Reported by POLITICO, the case, part of J&J’s phase 3 ENSEMBLE trial, is being reviewed by the independent drug safety monitoring board, with no further information on the patient being released. The company cautioned that adverse events, even serious ones, typically occur in any clinical study.

Bias in Health-Cost Analytics Software

Reported today, a STAT investigation found that a common method of using analytics software is infusing racial bias into decision-making on who should receive stepped-up care. The study, which analyzed medical services targeted to patients who need them most, additionally found multiple algorithms across several hospitals in the United States, signaling a systemic issue as opposed to a singular event. Researchers note that the bias can produce significant differences in assessing patients’ need for special care to manage conditions like hypertension and diabetes.

Americans Stockpiling Amid Fears of COVID-19 Surge

Reported by USA Today, amid reports of surges in COVID-19 cases nationwide, slightly more than half of Americans said in a recent poll they have or plan to stockpile food and other essentials. Principal reasons for this include the millions who continue to work or attend school remotely, as well as fears of a resurgent pandemic. As of October 2, COVID-19 cases in the United States were at their highest in almost 2 months, and in the past week, the average grocery bill has risen 11%.