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Science Podcasts

Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.

Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.


United States


Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.




418 - Update: COVID-19 Vaccines and Immunocompromised Patients

What do we know now about the number of doses needed for people on immunosuppressant medications to be protected from severe COVID? What about the use of “passive” protection like monoclonal antibodies? Why are negative antibody tests more helpful than positive ones? Why are large agencies like the CDC and FDA not discussing individualized medicine when it comes to vaccine protocols? What’s the next step in researching COVID-19 vaccine protocols for this unique population of patients? Johns...


417 - An Update on Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19

Early in the pandemic, clinicians began to treat people sick with COVID-19 with the plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19. The idea was that protective antibodies in the plasma would help prevent severe illness and death. Nearly two years later, the evidence is in—and it's being hotly debated. Dr. Arturo Casadevall returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the results of the COVID-19 Plasma Project and his take on divergent recommendations about using plasma...


416 - Will President Biden's Infrastructure Bill Address the Historical Legacy of Racist Transportation Policies?

For decades, infrastructure policies harmed communities of color. New highways displaced residents through eminent domain, public transit systems were left in disrepair, and urban construction projects often catered to wealthier families. Andrea McDaniels, Director of Communications for the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, talks with Professor Keshia Pollack Porter of the Bloomberg School about how President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan has the potential to rectify many of...


BONUS: Omicron Update—The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown

Dr. Josh Sharfstein checks in again with virologist Dr. Andy Pekosz about omicron and what we now know in terms of increased transmission, immune evasion, and lethality. Spoiler: If you’re unvaccinated, you shouldn’t assume that omicron will most likely lead to a mild infection. They also talk about what the omicron variant could mean for the future of the pandemic.


415 - Modeling the Omicron Wave

Dr. Shaun Truelove, an infectious disease epidemiologist, returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the latest model for the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub. How quickly will the wave pass? How much harm will it cause? What happens in February and March? And can we trust these kinds of predictions? Learn more:


414 - The Disappointing State of Global Vaccination for COVID-19

In September 2020, President Biden pledged to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population by September 2021. More than a year later, however, the US has delivered about 270 million of the 11 billion doses needed to vaccinate the planet. Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University professor and public health expert, returns to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about how things have gone so wrong, why he isn’t optimistic about vaccination equity improvements in 2022, and how vaccine...


413 - Rethinking the US COVID Strategy

Going into 2022, what should the next phase of our COVID strategy look like? Epidemiologist Dr. Emily Gurley talks with Stephanie Desmon about how our current approach to prevent as many infections as possible is complicated, costly, and carries a lot of collateral damage. Instead, Gurley says, a focus on preventing hospitalizations and deaths could rewrite the script on our approach but it would require some difficult conversations and a strategic rethinking of the public health system.


412 - Backstage at Public Health On Call: 2021 In Review with Dr. Josh Sharfstein and Stephanie Desmon

In the last episode of Season 4, Lindsay Smith Rogers talks with co-hosts Dr. Josh Sharfstein and Stephanie Desmon about 2021: how it started, what happened, and how it's going now. They reflect on where we were one year ago, talk about their favorite episodes and public health moments, give some reading suggestions, and discuss what they're most looking forward to in 2022. If you're in need of a chuckle, stick around for a surprise at the end.


411 - The Bridge Between “Science and the Sanctuary”: Building Trust In COVID-19 Vaccines With Communities of Faith

A discussion of vaccines and trust. In an interview with Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Rev. Dr. Terris King, pastor of Liberty Grace Church of God in Baltimore and former official at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services talks about his work building bridges between faith communities and health care during the pandemic and beyond. Dr. King also talks about his own journey to getting vaccinated.


410 - Omicron in South Africa: The Latest News

Nearly a month into the emergence of omicron, much more is known about how omicron behaves in the real world—thanks to the work of scientists like South Africa’s Dr. Glenda Gray, president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, the equivalent of the US’s National Institutes of Health. Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with Dr. Gray and with Hopkins epidemiologist Dr. Chris Beyrer about how omicron was discovered, what we know about it now, and what it means for South Africa and the...


409 - Viral Mutations and Global Vaccinations

There’s still lots to learn about omicron, but two things are certain: vaccinations will provide some level of protection, and until the majority of the world’s population is vaccinated, we may continue to see new variants. Vaccine experts Dr. Anna Durbin and Dr. Bill Moss talk with Stephanie Desmon about viral mutations and what we might expect to see when it comes to SARS-CoV-2, what needs to be done to address ongoing challenges with global vaccine distribution, and the importance of...


408 - Public Health Forward: A Bipartisan Report About the Future of the Public Health System

Public health is having a moment, both in terms of challenges and opportunities. Dr. Anand Parekh, the chief medical adviser to the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington DC, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about a new report, Public Health Forward, that aims to keep public health top of mind for policymakers and the American public. They talk about why this is a critical moment to think about the future of the public health system, the process behind the bipartisan project, and some major...


407 - Navigating Another COVID Holiday Season

Coming into this holiday season, things seemed a lot brighter than they did a year ago in terms of COVID safety: We have a broader toolbox including masks, ventilation, rapid tests, vaccines, and more. But a new variant of concern and rising levels of transmission remind us that we are still in a pandemic. Epidemiologist Keri Althoff and mental health expert Elizabeth Stuart return to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about navigating holiday gatherings and travel this year, and how...


406 - Better Together: Helping Young People at Risk for Addiction

Addiction prevention often comes in the form of “Just Say No” campaigns. But Dr. Terri Powell knows that to be successful, prevention strategies must be thoughtful and holistic—and focus on connections and support systems that help young people make the best decisions for themselves. Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with Dr. Powell about Better Together, a prevention program that's based in a public library. Joining them is Diana Fortee-Mason, one of the young leaders of the program.


Bonus - The Latest on Omicron

Dr. Josh Sharfstein checks in again with Hopkins virologist Dr. Andy Pekosz about omicron and what the data are saying about how easily it can spread. So far, there’s good news and bad news about this variant—and still a lot we don’t know. Still, Dr. Pekosz explains, we can start to make some guesses based on current data and what we know about other viruses like flu.


405 - International Finance for COVID Vaccines

Prior to COVID-19, the world had the capacity to produce about 5 billion vaccines a year. In the age of COVID, much greater capacity is needed. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC, is a little-known federal agency making big investments to build the global vaccine pipeline. DFC’s chief operating officer, David Marchick, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about these efforts and their impact.


404 - How Colombia Weathered One of the World’s Most Severe COVID-19 Outbreaks

Throughout the pandemic, Colombia has fared better than other South American countries in terms of hospital overload and deaths, due in no small part to its emphasis on testing, contact tracing, and isolating of positive and suspected cases. Hopkins health economist Dr. Antonio Trujillo talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about Colombia’s pandemic strategies, and his research calculating the ROI of testing, tracing, and isolating both in terms of dollars and lives saved.


403 - World AIDS day: The Impacts of the COVID Pandemic on the HIV Pandemic

In the more than 40 years since HIV was first detected there have been incredible advances in testing, prevention, and treatment. But COVID-19 disrupted global gains and will continue to cause backslides until vaccinations are much more widespread. In recognition of World AIDS Day, infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Chris Beyrer talks with Stephanie Desmon about where the HIV pandemic currently stands in the US, Africa, and around the world.


Bonus - The Omicron Variant

How did omicron come to the world’s attention? Why is this variant generating so much concern? Is it expected that vaccines will provide substantial protection? What can governments do to protect their populations? What can people do to protect themselves? Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with Hopkins virologist Dr. Andy Pekosz about all things omicron.


402 - Special Episode: Public Health In The Field—The Supreme Court and Abortion in Mississippi

A potentially landmark battle is in play over abortion rights, and it’s headed to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 1. In a special episode of the podcast, guest hosts Annalies Winny and Alissa Zhu explore the real life public health impacts of abortion policy on parents and families and how the upcoming Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could have major stakes for the future of abortion rights in the U.S. Read more about the public health case for abortion...