June 20, 2024

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Truly Business

Business Insider’s biggest healthcare stories the week of January 29

6 min read


Man, what an end to the week. The coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa was found in the US, and we got vaccine results from Novavax, and from Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

We’ll get into all that and more, but first — new to our newsletter? You sign up here for daily dispatches from the healthcare team.

Also — we’re hiring another reporter for the team! Are you a journalist looking to dig deep on digital health, break news, and make sense of what’s ahead for the industry? Be sure to apply here!


A pharmacist fills a syringe to prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for front-line health care workers at a vaccination site at Torrance Memorial Medical Center on December 19, 2020 in Torrance, California.

Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

We’re learning more about how vaccines work against variants

It’s been a mixed bag of vaccine news this week, kicking off with the news that Merck is dropping out of the race.

With the pharma giant tapping out, all eyes have been on the next wave of results, with more than 200 vaccines still in the works.

Andrew Dunn mapped out what the year ahead looks like for those candidates.

Read the full breakdown here>>

And as new, more infectious variants have emerged around the world, a big question has been around how they’ll interact with vaccines. 

On Monday, Moderna said that it is designing a new version of its COVID-19 shot to fight the variant first found in South Africa. 

Then on Thursday, Novavax shared results from its UK and South Africa trials, finding that its coronavirus vaccine was highly effective in the UK, but didn’t work nearly as well in South Africa, where a new variant is circulating widely.

The news was followed shortly after on Friday morning with the long-awaited results from Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine. The company said its vaccine is 66% effective against COVID-19 based on a global trial run in places including the US, Latin American and South Africa. 

The results — while not as high as Pfizer and Moderna’s — come with some big questions. For one, having only one dose could be a game-changer. J&J shared that its vaccine was 85% effective at preventing severe disease, across all variants, which would be a big help in curbing the pandemic. 

Read the full story here>>

J&J’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine is 66% effective against COVID-19, raising worries that some variants may lower protection

California COVID vaccine rollout Six Flags Magic Mountain

At a mass vaccination site set up in a California Six Flags, a nurse administers the COVID vaccine. The state has delivered 45% of its allotted vaccines, compared to North Dakota’s 84% and South Dakota’s 75%.

Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Vaccine rollout is going well — depending on what state you’re in

Meanwhile, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s shots are still rolling out across the US. In some places, usage has been better than others. 

On Capitol Hill, members of Congress have received shots, but essential Hill workers have not, Kimberly Leonard reports. 

Patricia Kelly Yeo spoke to experts in the Dakotas about how they’re approaching administering vaccines. For the more rural areas, having a centralized systems has been a big help.  

For states and cities with bigger populations, she found there are two big takeaways from North Dakota and South Dakota’s experiences. Collaboration is key, and so is keeping the rollout system centralized. 

Read the full story here>>

How the Dakotas are successfully rolling out COVID vaccines — and 2 major lessons for larger states

Rosalind Brewer

In March, Rosalind Brewer will become the third Black woman in modern history to lead a Fortune 500 company.

Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

Walgreens has tapped a new CEO 

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Walgreens had found its next top exec.

Starbucks COO Roz Brewer is leaving the coffee giant to become Walgreens CEO. She’ll be the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company.

It’s a move most Wall Street analysts are cheering on, saying Walgreens “nailed” the choice for a successor to Stefano Pessina who will stay on as executive chairman. 

Shelby Livingston has a full look at what analysts think is ahead for the company with the pick. 

Read the full story here>>

‘Nailed it’: 4 Wall Street analysts lay out why Roz Brewer is the best pick to turn around Walgreens

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard


A conversation with Humana CEO Bruce Broussard

Last Friday, Shelby had a chat with Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. 

Broussard told her about competing with some of the health-insurance startups taking on the red-hot Medicare Advantage market, like Oscar and Devoted. 

Humana for its part has its own answer: a new venture called Author. It launched in 2021 in South Carolina, and already has 15,000 members, Broussard told Shelby. 

Read the full scoop here>>

Speaking of the insurance upstarts, Shelby and the graphics team here at Insider took a closer look at Medicare Advantage enrollment heading into 2021. 

While health-insurance startups are gaining a bigger foothold in the lucrative Medicare Advantage market, they’re still no match for established insurers.

(It’s pretty striking to see the enrollment numbers for giants like UnitedHealthcare stacked next to some of the tiny younger players.)

As part of Shelby’s conversation with Broussard, they discussed what led Humana to invest heavily in primary care. The conversation turned into one about the future of health insurers, medicine, and Humana itself. 

Read the full story here>>

The CEO of major health insurer Humana laid out why he’s betting big on primary care

fitbit sense


The latest on Big Tech’s healthcare ambitions

Tech giants are keeping busy, as Blake Dodge has been reporting over the past few weeks. 

That’s especially the case for companies as part of the Alphabet umbrella. She and Alphabet reporter Hugh Langley teamed up over the past week on some dispatches from Google’s parent company. 

One of the pockets of the healthcare industry tech companies seem to be focused on is monitoring health at home. Blake mapped out how those strategies are playing out so far at Apple, Amazon, Verily, and Google (hint: it’s a lot of smart watches). 

Read the full story here>>

Big tech wants to monitor your health at home. From Verily to Amazon, here’s where they’re placing their bets.

insider events future of healthcare 2x1

Oak HC/FT; Venrock; CRV; Menlo Ventures; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Talking the future of digital health and biotech

Over in the land of startups and funding, things are always a-buzz. Here’s what you need to know.

With that all in mind, I wanted to let you know about an event Megan is moderating on February 10 at 3 p.m. ET. She’ll be talking to top healthcare VCs about the year ahead for startups trying to make a dent in the $3.8 trillion healthcare industry.

Tune in>>

SIGN UP HERE: Hear from healthcare’s biggest VCs on the future of digital health, biotech, and startups

I hope you all have great weekends! I’ll be spending mine outside, probably double-masking to stay extra safe. 

Tips? Feedback? Find me at [email protected]. You can reach the entire healthcare team at [email protected]

– Lydia

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