What a week it’s been. 

While markets and public health experts have been optimistic about the results of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, it’s hard to ignore the uncontrolled spread of the virus around most states in the US.

It’s making planning for the holidays even harder. Hope y’all are having an OK time navigating smaller festivities and potentially difficult conversations with loved ones with different appetites for COVID-19 risk. 

We’ll get into all of it, but before that — be sure to subscribe to our newsletter here!

Also — I’d like to welcome Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce to the Business Insider team! Catherine is our new UK-based healthcare reporter.

Catherine is a practicing medical doctor who’s been working in the National Health Service, and we’re so excited to have her covering the business of healthcare, focusing on European-based companies especially. Be sure to say hi and send tips her way at [email protected]

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A health care worker injects a patient with a syringe of the phase 3 Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine trial in Turkey in October 2020.

Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The news the world’s been waiting for

For the first time, we got the news this week that a coronavirus vaccine works. 

Pfizer on Monday shared the news that its vaccine helps prevent symptomatic COVID-19, finding the shot was more than 90% effective. It’s a big step toward getting a vaccine authorized, and ideally used as a tool to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. 

(And no, Pfizer didn’t hold the vaccine results until after Election Day. Pfizer’s CEO told CNN that he first learned of the trial results on Sunday.)

Andrew Dunn spent the day breaking down what you need to know about the vaccine — how it works and what its limitations are — and getting experts on the phone to chat about what the road ahead might look like. 

Notably, William Haseltine, a top infectious disease expert, shared with Andrew why he thinks it’s too soon to celebrate Pfizer’s news.

We also got the news that the Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency use authorization to Eli Lilly’s antibody drug.

The name of the drug: bamlanivimab. Say that five times fast. 

There’s going to be some challenges to distributing the vaccine. A big one: the vaccine has to be stored in super-cold temperatures.

Pfizer’s top scientist told us they’re already thinking of a fix: developing a powder version of the vaccine that only requires refrigeration.

Meanwhile, Shelby Livingston dug into how much a coronavirus vaccine might cost. Legislation and purchases by the US government should mean that a vaccine is free for most insured Americans, and any costs to administer the vaccine should be covered as well.

As for what it’ll be like to get the vaccine doses, I’ve been bracing myself for months for what sound like somewhat unpleasant side effects.

In a personal essay, one trial participant (who, of course, hasn’t been told whether she got the vaccine or placebo) described a low-grade fever and fatigue after getting each of the two doses.   

Finally, Andrew took a step back to get a sense of how Pfizer and its biotech partner BioNTech created the vaccine.

Read the full story>>

How the pharma giant Pfizer teamed up with a little-known biotech to develop an effective coronavirus vaccine in record time

Verily campus

Verily’s South San Francisco campus

Tada Images

The salaries paid by top digital health companies

Ever wonder what key employees at digital health companies are paid? 

Well, Megan Hernbroth may have some insight for you. This week, she took a look at the salaries digital health companies pay their workers.

Working with our data team’s Maddy Simpson, Megan’s analysis pulled from key team positions like scientists and engineers, drawing from a database of salaries companies pay foreign workers to work here in the US. 

Read the full story>>

Digital health salaries revealed: How much 23andMe, GoodRx, Verily and 9 other health-tech upstarts pay their workers, from data scientists to software engineers

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A British paramedic holds a blood sample as she poses for a photograph during an antibody testing program in June 2020.

Simon Dawson – Pool/Getty Images

If you had Martin Shkreli on your 2020 bingo card…

…Then this is the story for you. 

When he isn’t reporting on the ins and outs of vaccine updates, Andrew has been taking a closer look at Humanigen, a tiny biotech startup you might know by its former name, KaloBios. 

In the time since its brush with Martin Shkreli in 2015, Humanigen has rebounded from bankruptcy and got the backing of the National Institutes of Health for its potential coronavirus drug. 

Andrew has the scoop on how Humanigen got to this point. 

Read the full story here>>

How a tiny biotech rebounded from bankruptcy and Martin Shkreli at the helm to convince the NIH to bet on its unproven coronavirus drug

diabetes doctor

FatCamera/Getty Images

The future of health insurers is up in the air

If your newsfeeds are as full of news that coronavirus case counts are surging and vaccine results as mine are, you might’ve missed another big healthcare story that unfolded this week.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Affordable Care Act. While the highest court in the US hasn’t made any decisions yet on the fate of the law, Kimberly Leonard has the story on why healthcare investors are feeling optimistic.

Healthcare stocks rose as Supreme Court sounds skeptical on killing Obamacare. Here are 4 analysts’ takeaways on the high-stakes lawsuit influencing the $3.6 trillion industry.

(Are you looking for more politics and policy coverage?  My colleagues are launching a “10 Things in Politics You Need to Know Today” newsletter, filled with all the politics news, analysis, and scoops you might need in your inbox every morning. You can sign up for the 10 Things in Politics newsletter here.)

Elsewhere in health insurer news, Shelby had the scoop this week on a big health insurer venturing into a new kind of health plan that makes it cheaper to see doctors online. 

Reading through Shelby’s reporting, it was a reminder of just how much perceptions on telemedicine have shifted in the past year. It’s another reminder of just how much the pandemic is reshaping healthcare here in the US.

On the other hand, health insurers’ third quarter earnings did serve as a reminder that people have been going back to the doctor. 

A key marker of medical spending increased this quarter compared to the second quarter, according to Shelby’s analysis. 

Read the full story here>>

One crucial number in health insurers’ financial reports reveals that people are going to the doctor again despite the pandemic

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

What Amazon’s up to in healthcare 

I’ll leave you with a roundup of all the key healthcare projects Amazon’s embarked on. You might be super familiar with online pharmacy PillPack by this point, but there are some other projects up the tech giant’s sleeve worth paying attention to. 

Blake Dodge has the full list, complete with some speculation that Amazon has big ambitions to get more involved with how people across the country go to the doctor. 

Read the full story here>>

The 7 ways Amazon is building a healthcare empire, and why one analyst thinks doctors visits are next

I’m officially moving into my Denver house this week! For those who’ve made any moves amid the pandemic: Any pro tips on doing the typical stock-up store runs as case counts go up? I have a feeling a lot of curbside pickups are in my future. 

Be sure to send your tips (home improvement or otherwise!), holiday-planning quandaries, and general healthcare questions to me at [email protected]. And you can reach the entire healthcare team at [email protected].

– Lydia 

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