Emma Yasinski

I am a freelance science and medical journalist, fascinated by how the scientific process leads to incredible discoveries, but also can lead to publication bias leaning toward positive findings and minimizing negatives. With a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Lafayette College and a Master’s in Science and Medical Journalism from Boston University, I’ve written about clinical trial transparency, organ donation, and basic molecular biology for publications like The Scientist, The Atlantic, Undark.org, Kaiser Health News, and more. At MedShadow, I research and write about the sometimes unexpected ways that medicines can affect us, and what we can do if and when it does.

The FDA has now authorized several COVID-19 vaccines. Both of the first two authorized vaccines rely on an immunity-building strategy that hasn’t been used in any other vaccine. As many of us start rolling up our sleeves to get a shot, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. What is mRNA? Why does it matter? All previous vaccines have been based on weakened virus molecules or proteins from the disease (pathogen) that our immune systems can easily overcome while learning to recognize it. The new vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer — the first two to make…

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When the first COVID-19 vaccination was authorized back in December  2020, millions of eligible people lined up at vaccination sites, sometimes for hours, waiting for protection from the disease. Age was one of the main factors, with the country’s oldest residents up first. Week after week, the age for eligibility lowered until it reached 16 for Moderna’s shot and 18 for Pfizer’s. Before, children under the age of either 16 (for Moderna) or 18 (for Pfizer) could be vaccinated, the shots needed to undergo additional testing to evaluate the appropriate doses, side effects and efficacy in younger individuals. For children…

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On May 10, 2021 Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 vaccine had been granted emergency-use authorization for kids ages 12 to 15. Since then, lower doses of the shot have been authorized for children aged 6-11. Many children have received the vaccinations, but a large population of children without the shots remains, as officials report a new variant could cause a small, but noticeable new wave of cases soon. With the FDA reviewing data from Moderna’s trials and Pfizer extending its trial to include a third shot in hopes of coaxing a more robust immune response in children 6 months to…

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A few months into the pandemic, researchers learned that some patients—now dubbed “long-haulers”—were reporting that symptoms like shortness of breath, brain fog, diabetes and heart problems that persisted long after they’d tested negative for COVID-19. When COVID-19 first emerged, doctors identified it as a respiratory virus—one that primarily affects the nose, throat and lungs, causing coughing and shortness of breath. Over time, physicians found that the virus seemed to produce many other symptoms not at all associated with breathing: patients had blood clots; they had diarrhea; their blood sugar was out of control; their blood pressure rose; they were confused.…

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None of the COVID-19 vaccinations guarantee immunocompromised people much protection from the disease, but now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an antibody engineered to protect you from getting COVID-19.  Only 27% of transplant recipients, for example, who are severely immunocompromised,  mounted a sufficient antibody response after two doses of an mRNA vaccine, made by Moderna and Pfizer. The immunocompromised state is due to drugs prescribed to prevent their immune systems from rejecting a new organ.  The FDA lists the following conditions as likely to leave you moderately or severely immunocompromised: Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic…

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When the pandemic first broke out in 2020, every COVID-19 treatment was experimental. Researchers tested existing drugs, like the antiparasitic Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) or the anti-inflammatory Ozurdex, Maxidex or others (dexamethasone), that they hoped could fight the virus or dampen damaging inflammation. Other medical personnel tried antidepressants on patients.   Now, two years in, researchers and regulators have provided evidence-based guidelines for repurposing drugs and administering newly developed treatments to patients at high risk of, or who already are, experiencing severe disease. Read on to learn your options, if you test positive. Immediately After Testing Positive: As the pandemic has continued, scientists…

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According to a recent article in the New York Times, some immigrants and people living below the poverty line in this country are turning to flea markets and providers outside of the mainstream medical community to find alternative treatments for preventing or healing of COVID-19. Those markets and “wellness” centers are becoming more popular, due to lack of access to reputable medical care, language barriers or mistrust of the healthcare system. The article discussed several treatments, or interventions, from dexamethasone steroid injections to vitamin C infusions. We reached out to Mangala Narasimhan, MD, a critical-care doctor who’s been treating COVID-19…

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