Rob Stein

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

An award-winning science journalist with more than 30 years of experience, Stein mostly covers health and medicine. He tends to focus on stories that illustrate the intersection of science, health, politics, social trends, ethics, and federal science policy. He tracks genetics, stem cells, cancer research, women's health issues, and other science, medical, and health policy news.

Before NPR, Stein worked at The Washington Post for 16 years, first as the newspaper's science editor and then as a national health reporter. Earlier in his career, Stein spent about four years as an editor at NPR's science desk. Before that, he was a science reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington.

Stein's work has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the Association of Health Care Journalists. He was twice part of NPR teams that won Peabody Awards.

Stein frequently represents NPR, speaking at universities, international meetings and other venues, including the University of Cambridge in Britain, the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea, and the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.

Stein is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He completed a journalism fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health, a program in science and religion at the University of Cambridge, and a summer science writer's workshop at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

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Americans may be able to breathe a tentative sigh of relief soon, according to researchers studying the trajectory of the pandemic.

The delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths will likely decline steadily now through the spring without a significant winter surge, according to a new analysis shared with NPR by a consortium of researchers advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson now says a booster shot to its COVID vaccine will improve immunity. Joining us now with details - NPR health correspondent Rob Stein. Good morning, Rob.

A head-to-head comparison of all three COVID-19 vaccines found Moderna is holding up better than Pfizer and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides the weakest protection.

But the researchers stressed that all three vaccines are still providing strong protection against people getting so sick that they end up in the hospital.

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Like millions of others, Kathleen Hipps thought she was safe from COVID-19 after she got two shots of the Moderna vaccine last spring. So she figured she just had a summer cold when she got the sniffles in July. But then she opened some Vick's VapoRub.

"Anyone who's ever smelled Vick's VapoRub knows how pungent of a smell it is. And I couldn't smell it. And that's how I knew I had COVID," says Hipps, 40, a Los Angeles lawyer who has two young sons.

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Johnson & Johnson says it has evidence that people who got the company's COVID-19 vaccine could benefit from a booster. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now with the details. Hi, Rob.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

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An internal slide presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dated Thursday gives new details on how dangerous the delta variant really is.

One chart shows that it could be as contagious as chickenpox, which is one of the more transmissible viruses out there. It spreads more easily than the common cold, the 1918 flu and smallpox.


There's more potentially worrisome news for vaccinated people: In very rare cases, people experiencing breakthrough infections may be at risk for long-COVID symptoms.

That's according to a small new study of fully vaccinated health care workers in Israel, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

For the first time, scientists have shown that a new kind of genetic engineering can crash populations of malaria-spreading mosquitoes.

In the landmark study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers placed the genetically modified mosquitoes in a special laboratory that simulated the conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where they spread the deadly disease.

Updated July 29, 2021 at 12:05 PM ET

This story has been updated throughout to reflect new research.

New data on the delta variant is coming in, and it's not looking good. The currently authorized vaccines are still very protective, especially against hospitalization and death. But when it comes to getting an asymptomatic or mild case of COVID-19, they may not be quite as protective as they were against earlier strains.

Updated July 9, 2021 at 2:05 PM ET

As the weather warmed up this year, coronavirus case numbers plummeted, and life in the U.S. started to feel almost normal. But in recent weeks, that progress has stalled.

The vaccination campaign has slowed, and the delta variant is spreading rapidly. And new infections, which had started to plateau about a month ago, are going up slightly nationally.

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The federal government announced today that it is deploying special COVID-19 surge response teams to try to snuff out new hotspots that are emerging around the country. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us with details. Hi, Rob.

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Patrick Doherty had always been very active. He trekked the Himalayas and hiked trails in Spain.

But about a year and a half ago, he noticed pins and needles in his fingers and toes. His feet got cold. And then he started getting out of breath any time he walked his dog up the hills of County Donegal in Ireland where he lives.

"I noticed on some of the larger hill climbs I was getting a bit breathless," says Doherty, 65. "So I realized something was wrong."

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Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling the Delta variant the greatest threat to the nation's prospects for winning the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now with more details.

Updated June 22, 2021 at 4:25 PM ET

The dangerous Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading so quickly in the United States that it's likely the mutant strain will become predominant in the nation within weeks, according to federal health officials and a new analysis.

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The U.S. is banning the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries for at least a year because of a sharp increase in the number of puppies imported into the country with fraudulent rabies vaccination certificates.

"We're doing this to make sure that we protect the health and safety of dogs that are imported into the United States, as well as protect the public's health," Dr. Emily Pieracci of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells NPR.

As the pandemic calms in the U.S., a growing number of states have started scaling back how often they update their dashboards tracking what's happening with the virus.

The moves are sparking alarm among many public health experts.

Updated June 2, 2021 at 6:00 AM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped tracking every case that occurs when a COVID-19 vaccine fails to protect someone. Instead, the agency is focusing on people who get very sick or die.

The decision is controversial. Critics argue the strategy could miss important information that could leave the U.S. vulnerable, including early signs of new variants that are better at outsmarting the vaccines.

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For decades, scientists have been prohibited from keeping human embryos alive in their labs for more than 14 days. The prohibition was aimed at avoiding a thicket of ethical issues that would be raised by doing experiments on living human embryos as they continue to develop.

Routine screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 45 instead of 50, an influential panel is recommending.

Starting routine screening five years earlier could prevent more deaths from colorectal cancer, which is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded.

Carlene Knight would love to do things that most people take for granted, such as read books, drive a car, ride a bike, gaze at animals in a zoo and watch movies. She also longs to see expressions on people's faces.

"To be able to see my granddaughter especially — my granddaughter's face," said Knight, 54, who lives outside Portland, Ore. "It would be huge."

Nearly 100 million Americans are fully vaccinated and new coronavirus cases are at their lowest level since last October. Could the vaccination campaign finally be winning the race against the coronavirus in the United States?

The Biden administration will send $1.7 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state governments and other research efforts, starting early next month to find and track coronavirus variants lurking in the United States. Already, the more contagious U.K. variant, B.1.1.7, is now the dominant strain in this country, fueling surges in Michigan and the Northeast.

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