- KFF Health News Original Stories 5
- ‘Kicking You When You’re Down’: Many Cancer Patients Pay Dearly for Parking
- What Does Approval of the Pfizer Vaccine for Teens and Preteens Mean for My Child?
- Homicides Surge in California Amid Covid Shutdowns of Schools, Youth Programs
- Watch: Elisabeth Rosenthal on the Covid-19 'Infodemic' and the Media
- Listen: Exploring Controversial Efforts to Waive Drugmakers’ Vaccine Patent Rights
- Political Cartoon: 'Oversharer?'
- Covid-19 Crisis 6
- CDC Cites Evolving Science As Sole Driver Of Mask Guidance U-Turn
- Some Nurses, Health Experts Warn Mask Change Threatens Covid Progress
- Confusion Reigns As Some Cling To Face Coverings, Others Feel The Breeze
- Read The Signs: Many Businesses Drop Mask Rules, Some Not Yet
- Students Should Mask Up, CDC Says
- Racism Has 'Undeniable' Impact On Health Disparities, Fauci Says
- Vaccines 2
- After Early Setback, Sanofi-GSK Vaccine Finds Better Luck In Phase 2 Trials
- Puncture The Vial Just For One Shot: CDC Addresses Vaccine-Giver Hesitancy
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
KFF Health News Original Stories
‘Kicking You When You’re Down’: Many Cancer Patients Pay Dearly for Parking
Patients often fork over payments comparable to valet rates to park while receiving care. A recent study found that some of the country’s most prestigious cancer centers charge nearly $1,700 over the course of treatment for some types of the disease. (Rebecca J. Ritzel, )
What Does Approval of the Pfizer Vaccine for Teens and Preteens Mean for My Child?
The federal government has extended the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to preteens and young adolescents, adding nearly 17 million more Americans to the pool of those eligible to be immunized against covid-19. (Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, )
Homicides Surge in California Amid Covid Shutdowns of Schools, Youth Programs
California endured a brutal spike in homicides in 2020 across large swaths of the state, registering the largest year-over-year increase in victims in three decades. Experts cite as one significant factor a rise in gang violence fueled by pandemic shutdowns of schools, sports leagues and programs for at-risk youth. (Phillip Reese, )
Watch: Elisabeth Rosenthal on the Covid-19 'Infodemic' and the Media
The journalists talked about how the nation's political divides made some people realize they could spread misinformation for political or financial gain. ( )
Listen: Exploring Controversial Efforts to Waive Drugmakers’ Vaccine Patent Rights
KHN's Julie Rovner joins The Atlantic's “Social Distance” podcast, hosted by Dr. James Hamblin and Maeve Higgins, to talk about President Joe Biden's support for an initiative to waive patent protection for covid vaccines and the politics of drug policy in the United States. ( )
Political Cartoon: 'Oversharer?'
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Oversharer?'" by Steve Kelley.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
FORCE COVID DOWN AND OUT
When new case count drops,
Keep doing more of what worked.
Not - “Time to PARTY!”
- Barbara Armstrong
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to an original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KFF Health News or KFF.
Summaries Of The News:
CDC Cites Evolving Science As Sole Driver Of Mask Guidance U-Turn
Neither public or political pressure played a role in the decision to relax mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said when answering questions about her agency's drastic change.
CDC Director Says Mask Turnaround Based Solely On Science
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday defended the decision to ease mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, stressing that increasing political pressure had nothing to do with the abrupt shift in guidelines. “I’m delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals. And it evolved,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on FOX News Sunday. “I deliver it as soon as I can when we have that information available.” (Kruesi, 5/16)
CDC Chief Said Change On Mask Guidance Not Due To Public Pressure
The CDC's recent decision to update its mask guidance had nothing to do with pressure from the American people, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Sunday morning. "If you are vaccinated, we are saying you are safe. You can take off your mask and you are not at risk of severe disease or hospitalization from Covid-19," she said on "Fox News Sunday." (Weaver, 5/16)
Coronavirus And Masks: CDC Director Says Unvaccinated People Need To Be Honest With Themselves
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday that people have to be honest with themselves when deciding whether to wear a mask after the agency lifted masking requirements for vaccinated people. The CDC last week updated its guidance for people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to say they generally do not need to wear a mask, except in certain circumstances. The updated guidance also says people still need to wear masks if they're unvaccinated, including people younger than 12. (Duster and Thomas, 5/16)
Fauci Says CDC's Updated Mask Guidance Is "Based On The Evolution Of The Science"
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said Sunday that updated mask guidance for Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 was "based on the evolution of the science" as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) learned more about the real-world effectiveness of the shots. "The underlying reason for the CDC doing this was just based on the evolution of the science," Fauci said in an interview with "Face the Nation" on last week's announcement. "But if in fact this serves as an incentive for people to get vaccinated, all the better. I hope it does actually." (Quinn, 5/16)
The Wall Street Journal:
Health Officials Seek To Clarify Covid-19 Mask Guidelines
U.S. public-health officials tried to address confusion about new masking guidelines released last week, reiterating that vaccinated individuals are at low risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 but leaving the future of mask mandates up to local jurisdictions and private businesses. “This is not permission for widespread removal of masks,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky on Sunday on ABC. “We were going to get to the point in the pandemic where the vaccinated could take off their masks.” (Rubin and Abbott, 5/16)
Some Nurses, Health Experts Warn Mask Change Threatens Covid Progress
Both the National Nurses Union and the California Nurses Association slammed the relaxed CDC guidance, saying the protective measures helped keep health care workers safer. Other public health experts worry that the sudden appearance of normalcy will set back efforts to control virus spread.
New York Post:
Largest US Nurses’ Union Rips CDC’s New Mask Guidelines
The country’s largest nurses’ union is blasting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over its latest recommended easing of mask restrictions – claiming the move "threatens the lives of patients, nurses and other front-line workers." "Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century," said registered nurse Bonnie Castillo, president of National Nurses United, which says it represents more than 170,000 members. (Sheehy, 5/16)
San Francisco Chronicle:
California Nurses Union Urges State To Reject CDC Guidance On Easing Mask Mandate
The largest union of registered nurses in California is asking state officials not to follow new guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention on lifting mask mandates for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, union officials said Sunday. The California Nurses Association, an affiliate of the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, condemned the CDC’s guidance, calling it “a big blow to the safety and welfare of the nurses, front line workers, as well as the patients,” CNA president Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said in a phone interview Sunday. “We have to understand that the pandemic is not over,” said Triunfo-Cortez. “There continues to be high rates of infection and people continue to die, even nurses.” (Flores, 5/16)
Experts Are Warning About The Unintended Consequences Of The CDC Mask Guidance
Communities across the US ushered in a quick return to normalcy over the weekend as the country responded to the latest mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said Thursday fully vaccinated Americans don't need to wear masks or social distance indoors or outdoors, with some exceptions, triggering announcements nationwide from state leaders and businesses who lifted their mask requirements for people who've gotten their Covid-19 shots. But with a big part of the country still unvaccinated, some experts say the move came too fast and has resulted in many more Americans now shedding their masks than the CDC recommended. (Maxouris, 5/17)
New Face Mask Guidelines: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Says The CDC 'Made A Critical Error'
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control advised that fully vaccinated people can be indoors and outdoors without wearing masks except when in health care settings, on public transportation, or in specified areas where masks are required. When CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter asked about the press' role in covering the return to normal, CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, said, "We can report what the news is, but then we have to explain the relevance of it." (Benveniste, 5/16)
The New York Times:
723 Epidemiologists On When And How The U.S. Can Fully Return To Normal
Covid-19 cases are decreasing in the United States, and masks are no longer required everywhere, but the pandemic is not over — and won’t be until younger children can also be vaccinated, epidemiologists said in a new survey by The New York Times. The true end of the pandemic — when it becomes safer to return to most activities without precautions — will arrive once at least 70 percent of Americans of all ages are vaccinated, they said. Adolescents just began receiving vaccines this week, and those for children younger than 12 are not yet approved. (Miller, Quealy and Sanger-Katz, 5/15)
Confusion Reigns As Some Cling To Face Coverings, Others Feel The Breeze
Americans who ventured out over the weekend faced a patchwork of inconsistent rules.
America Tastes New Freedoms But Confronts New Dilemmas As It Takes Off The Mask
Vaccinated Americans spent the most normal weekend for more than a year exploring restored freedoms to gather without masks but also dilemmas over personal and collective responsibility sparked by new government health guidance. After many months of being told to mask up and keep their distance, millions of citizens are now grappling with when, whether and where to ditch or wear face coverings as a more hopeful stage dawns in a still dangerous crisis. (Collinson, 5/17)
The Washington Post:
Confused Americans Grapple With CDC's New Mask Rules
Soon after the CDC announced its updated mask guidance, Louisville coffee shop owner Billy Seckman took to Instagram. "Notice," he posted, "masks are still required!" Even though most of his staff is fully vaccinated, Seckman said he wasn't comfortable with customers coming in barefaced. (Gaffney, Kelly and Gowen, 5/16)
CDC Mask Guidance Sparks Confusion, Questions
The CDC's surprise guidance last week freeing the fully vaccinated to go maskless sowed plenty of concerns across the country— even earning the "Saturday Night Live" treatment for all the questions it spurred. With plenty of Americans still unvaccinated — and without any good way to confirm who has been vaccinated — some experts worry this could put many at increased risk. (Reed, 5/17)
Some People Still Need To Mask Up Even If Vaccinated. Are You One Of Them?
The news flashed across the country -- mask-free at last! People who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer have to wear masks inside or outside, nor do they have to stay 6 feet away from others, according to new guidance released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Does that mean those Americans vaccinated at least two weeks ago -- meaning full immunity has kicked in -- can throw their masks in the air and hug all in celebration? Not quite. (LaMotte and Thomas, 5/16)
Mask Mandates Might Be Going Away, But Don't Ditch Yours Just Yet
Fully vaccinated people are exhaling this weekend, ditching masks and easing up on social distancing, per the latest Covid-19 guidance put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new advice marks a significant milestone in the nation’s effort to stamp out the disease, and signals the beginning of a return to normalcy. But scientists say there are good reasons not to toss out your mask stash just yet. (Molteni, 5/16)
Don't Want To Stop Wearing Your Mask? Psychotherapist Says They Give A Sense Of Security
Although fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear face masks in many situations, the comforting qualities that mask-wearing offers some people may make them think twice before ditching their face coverings entirely. "There is a way that the mask hides your feelings," psychotherapist Kathryn Smerling said in an interview on CBSN. "It does give you the anonymous quality that often we want and we crave." (Powell, 5/14)
The Washington Post:
Hugs Are Coming Back. Not Everyone Is Thrilled.
When Stevi Stephens was 5 years old, her grandmother bent down for a hug, and Stephens wondered if stepping on her foot would make her stop. As a baby, her mother told her, Stephens cried when anyone held her; later, as a married woman, she used to get up and change sides of the bed multiple times each night when her husband would scoot over in his sleep to put an arm around her. “He was like a heat-seeking missile,” she says. (Fetters, 5/15)
Read The Signs: Many Businesses Drop Mask Rules, Some Not Yet
Retail companies are announcing their plans for also relaxing requirements on face coverings as individual businesses must now navigate shifting state and federal guidance.
How Retailers Are Responding To The Latest CDC Guidance
Some retailers across the U.S. will continue requiring masks in stores, despite new coronavirus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxing mask mandates for fully vaccinated people. Starbucks announced that masks will be "optional" for fully vaccinated customers starting May 17 "unless local regulations require them by law." Employees will still be required to wear face coverings and restrooms will remain closed to the public in stores where indoor seating is not available. (Gonzalez, 5/15)
Starbucks Masks Optional For Vaccinated Customers Starting May 17
Starbucks is making face coverings and masks optional for vaccinated customers starting Monday. The coffee giant is the latest to update its mask policy after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new masking guidelines. Masks will still be required at locations where local or state regulations mandate them. "Facial coverings will be optional for vaccinated customers beginning Monday, May 17, unless local regulations require them by law," Starbucks said on its website. "As we continue to ensure the health and well-being of our partners and customers, our restrooms generally remain temporarily closed to the public in stores where the café or café seating is unavailable." (Tyko, 5/15)
Walmart Drops Mask Mandate Following New CDC Guidelines
Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., announced Friday that customers are no longer required to wear masks in its more than 5,000 stores nationwide. The retail super store changed the rules one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it was safe for fully vaccinated adults to resume most activities, indoors or out, in groups or individually, mask free and without social distancing. Walmart is requesting that customers who have yet to receive their vaccine continue to wear a mask, a Walmart news release said. (Jones, 5/14)
Los Angeles Times:
Trader Joe's Drops Mask Rules But Many Customers Keep Them On
Alhambra resident Jack Robb is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, having taken both doses of the Moderna vaccine by late March. Yet, when given the opportunity to shop without a facial covering at Trader Joe’s in South Pasadena on Friday afternoon for the first time since last spring, the 72-year-old Robb entered the small store double-masked. “I just don’t think you can take chances,” Robb said. “I’m an older citizen and I’m vulnerable even with the vaccinations, which help prevent serious illness, but not infection.” (Campa and Seidman, 5/15)
In updates on state reopenings —
The Baltimore Sun:
Maryland Has Lifted Most COVID Mask Restrictions. Here’s What You Need To Know.
Marylanders as of Saturday are no longer required to wear masks in most settings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday evening. Earlier this week, the Republican announced that the state is rolling back most other pandemic business restrictions, also effective Saturday. Restaurants and bars can now resume normal operations, including allowing patrons to stand in bar areas, dropping the 6-foot distance between tables and removing barriers between booths. (Deville, 5/14)
Colorado Ends Most COVID-19 Limits, Lifts Mask Order
Colorado will no longer require face masks in most settings — even for unvaccinated people — and expects to lift all public health guidelines at the end of the month. The state's move goes beyond the latest CDC guidelines that allow vaccinated people to go maskless because it also applies to those who are not immunized. (Frank, 5/14)
New York City's 24-Hour Subway Service Resumes One Year After COVID-19 Shutdown
New York City's subway system's last COVID-related overnight shutdown occurred Sunday morning as 24-hour service will resume on Monday morning. The subway system, the nation's largest, started closing down in the overnight hours in May 2020 for cleaning during the COVID-19 crisis in the city. (Linton, 5/16)
Students Should Mask Up, CDC Says
Reopened K-12 schools should require "universal and correct" use of masks, plus social distancing, the CDC says, despite newly relaxed mask-wearing rules for the vaccinated population. Dr. Anthony Fauci agrees and says masks should even be worn in the fall term by unvaccinated kids.
CDC Says Schools Should Still Universally Require Masks And Physical Distancing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for K-12 schools Saturday, noting that reopened schools should "require universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing." The clarification comes after the CDC's announcement Thursday that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or physically distance indoors or outdoors. (Saric, 5/16)
CDC Urges Masks for Schools
U.S. schools should maintain mask requirements at least through the end of the academic year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its latest guidance, even after saying fully vaccinated adults can safely shed face coverings in most settings. “Universal and correct use of masks should be required” at K-12 schools providing in-person instruction, the CDC said in a statement Saturday. “Physical distancing should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.” That includes creating distance between children on school buses when possible and ensuring that “teachers and staff use proper handwashing and respiratory etiquette,” according to the agency. (5/14)
Fauci: Unvaccinated Kids Must Wear Masks In School This Fall
NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Friday that children who have not been vaccinated for the coronavirus will need to wear masks in schools this fall, CNN reports. Fauci said that children in schools need to wear masks "when they're out there playing with their friends and, you know, particularly in an indoor situation." (Gonzalez, 5/15)
Schools Face New Pressures To Reopen For In-Person Learning
Schools across the country are facing new pressure to open for in-person learning this fall given the authorization of a vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 and new federal guidance that vaccinated people do not need to wear face masks indoors or outdoors. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in an interview with The Hill reiterated that he expects all schools to fully reopen in the fall and said the vaccine and mask guidance updates this week will likely adjust how schools plan for the next school year. (Coleman, 5/16)
In related news —
University Of Georgia Issues New COVID Guidelines With CDC Change
As spring semester wraps up, the University of Georgia has announced new COVID-19 guidelines. Vaccines will be strongly encouraged while masks are no longer required “effective immediately" for those fully vaccinated, according to a new return to campus letter released Friday to staff and faculty. (Allen, 5/14)
Detroit Free Press:
Why These Detroit Teens Want Their Peers To Get Vaccinated
A group of Detroit high school students who say they want to do their part to encourage more students to get the COVID-19 shot has launched a campaign to get young people vaccinated. For some, it’s a personal mission. “Last year, my grandmother … had to be hospitalized for at least a month. It was a hard struggle for her,” said Demitri Marino, a senior at Renaissance High School whose grandmother had COVID-19. “She was lucky enough to pull through and come home safely. I just felt like it was my part to make sure I can at least do something to protect my family,” Marino said. (Higgins, 5/16)
What Does Approval Of The Pfizer Vaccine For Teens And Preteens Mean For My Child?
Q: The federal government approved the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds. What does this mean for my child? Extending the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to preteens and young adolescents adds nearly 17 million more Americans to the pool of those eligible to be immunized against covid-19, helping to build a vaccinated population closer to herd immunity. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are also testing the efficacy of their vaccines in teens and children. (Heredia Rodriguez, 5/14)
The Wall Street Journal:
Pandemic Prom: No Dancing, Weird Locations
Toward the end of prom night at a community event hall in Grand Prairie, Texas, students started doing something forbidden. They started dancing. The prom queen and king had just been crowned. The senior song, Post Malone’s “Congratulations,” was playing, and excitement in the room was high. Some attendees jumped up from their chairs to take part in the banned activity, much to the dismay of the chaperones and the DJ, who urged everyone to sit down. (Chen and Vauerlein, 5/16)
How Should Parents With Children Younger Than 12 Use The CDC's New Mask Guidelines? Dr. Wen Explains
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's newly loosened masking and physical distancing guidelines for people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 doesn't include children under age 12. That's because the 49 million US kids younger than 12 don't yet qualify for any of the Covid-19 vaccines. The CDC's guidance says that unvaccinated people still need to wear masks, which means all of those in the under 12 age group. (Hetter, 5/15)
Racism Has 'Undeniable' Impact On Health Disparities, Fauci Says
Dr. Anthony Fauci noted that the covid pandemic has highlighted how racism negatively affects health outcomes for African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans. Separately, the Indian covid variant is found in Maine, a study shows most kids with covid don't get a fever, and authorities accept covid is airborne.
Fauci Says Pandemic Exposed 'Undeniable Effects Of Racism'
The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the United States said Sunday that “the undeniable effects of racism” have led to unacceptable health disparities that especially hurt African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans during the pandemic. “COVID-19 has shone a bright light on our own society’s failings,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a graduation ceremony for Emory University. (5/16)
In updates on the spread of the coronavirus —
Desperate For Treatment, Covid 'Long Haulers' Push For 9/11-Style Health Registry
State and federal lawmakers, with the support of unions, are looking to survivor registries created after 9/11 as a model for helping potentially millions of people with often-debilitating long-term symptoms of Covid-19. The efforts would center on creating data troves that so-called “long-haulers” could access to make informed decisions about their care, allow medical providers to study the coronavirus’ still-mysterious long-term effects on the body, and help them qualify for state or federal benefits. (Ollstein and Goldberg, 5/16)
Coronavirus Variant First Found In India Discovered In Maine
A coronavirus variant first detected in India has been discovered in Maine. Only one case of the B.1.617.2 variant has been found so far in York County, the Maine CDC said. While health officials here consider it a ‘variant of interest’, Public Health England recently reclassified B.1.617.2 as a ‘variant of concern’ because it has an estimated rate of transmissibility at least as high as that of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant. In late March, the National Institutes of Health said the UK variant likely accounted for at least one-third of all cases in the U.S. at the time. (5/16)
Most Kids With Coronavirus Do Not Develop Fever, Study Finds
More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, most are well aware that the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection often include fever, cough and shortness of breath. But the same may not be true for one group of people: children. A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports this week found that most children who contract the virus do not develop fever. The study, published Thursday, found that the vast majority — about 81% — of the more than 12,000 children with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infections who were a part of the study did not develop fever. Meanwhile, nearly 75% of the children "did not have any of the typical COVID-19 symptoms" such as cough or shortness of breath, the researchers added. (Farber, 5/15)
Ceremony Honors COVID-19 Patients Who Died At Southern California Hospital
Under the orange glow of a Southern California evening, the doctors, and nurses at Providence St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton, California, stand in their blue scrubs and white coats, holding tiny white boxes. In those boxes, butterflies representing all the victims of COVID-19 who have died at this hospital in the past year. "The spirit of the butterflies and the spirit of our loved ones take flight amongst us," said one of the speakers at the ceremony. (Stone and Schneider, 5/16)
Covid Is Airborne, Scientists Say. Now Authorities Think So, Too
A quiet revolution has permeated global health circles. Authorities have come to accept what many researchers have argued for over a year: The coronavirus can spread through the air. That new acceptance, by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes with concrete implications: Scientists are calling for ventilation systems to be overhauled like public water supplies were in the 1800s after fetid pipes were found to harbor cholera. (Gale, 5/16)
Watch: Elisabeth Rosenthal On The Covid-19 Infodemic And The Media
Jon Greenberg interviewed Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of KHN; Shefali Luthra, health and gender reporter at The 19th; and Derek Thompson, staff writer for The Atlantic, about covid-19 misinformation during PolitiFact’s United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking. The journalists discussed the challenging environment for news and facts that grew out of the pandemic. One major issue was that Americans simply were not used to the idea that infectious diseases could cause mass disaster, Rosenthal said. That mentality, combined with misinformation spread by then-President Donald Trump, made it easy for lies about the virus to perpetuate. (5/17)
After Early Setback, Sanofi-GSK Vaccine Finds Better Luck In Phase 2 Trials
The initial Phase 1/2 trial suggested the vaccine wasn’t adequately protective in older adults. But new results show that the companies' covid vaccine generates strong levels of antibodies for all adults.
Sanofi-GSK Reports Success In Virus Vaccine, After Setback
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s potential COVID-19 vaccine triggered strong immune responses in all adult age groups in preliminary trials after an earlier setback, boosting optimism the shot may join the fight against the pandemic this year. After two doses of the vaccine candidate, participants showed neutralizing antibodies in line with those found in people who had recovered from the disease, according to results of the Phase 2 trial released Monday. The drugmakers said they plan to begin late-stage trials and production in the coming weeks and hope to win regulatory approval for the vaccine before the end of 2021. (5/17)
Sanofi, GSK Announce Positive Results For Covid-19 Vaccine Candidate
The companies suffered a disappointing setback last year when their initial Phase 1/2 trial suggested the vaccine wasn’t adequately protective in older adults. It was discovered that the reagents used to determine how much vaccine was in each dose had given false readings, leading to subjects in the trial receiving too little vaccine and forcing the companies to conduct a second Phase 2 trial. (Branswell, 5/17)
In other vaccine development news —
Big Vaccine Makers Reject Offers To Help Produce More Jabs
As much of the world remains starved for coronavirus vaccines, a group of companies is offering to partner with larger drugmakers as one way to rev up production. But they're getting the same answer: No thanks.Biolyse in Canada, Incepta in Bangladesh, Teva in Israel and Bavarian Nordic in Denmark have all asked to assist in the manufacture of vaccines. As yet, none has a deal. (Furlong, 5/14)
The Baltimore Sun:
COVID Vaccine Protection May Be Weaker In Some Cancer Patients. But Experts Say They Should Still Get Vaccinated.
The results were in, and Geoff Grubbs braced for the worst. But his immunologist surprised him: After getting both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, Grubbs had acquired some immunity against the coronavirus. It’s not the first time Grubbs, 70, has beaten the odds. After being diagnosed about 12 years ago with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the Washington, D.C., resident watched in pain as his immune system broke down and left him exposed to the raw forces of the world. He’s faced frequent sickness, undergone chemotherapy and may soon need to start a new round of treatment. (Miller, 5/17)
COVID-19 Vaccines 94% Effective Among Health Care Workers In Real-World Conditions: CDC Study
A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday is the latest to show real-world evidence of the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines that were developed with mRNA technology. The study, which is based on health care personnel at 33 sites across 25 states, found that a single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines was about 82% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 infections among the health care workers studied. Vaccine effectiveness increased to 94% following both doses of either jab. (Farber, 5/15)
COVID MRNA Vaccines Induce Immune Response In Pregnant, Lactating Women
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines trigger an immune response in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and maternal antibodies transfer into infant cord blood and breast milk, a small descriptive study yesterday in JAMA finds. A team led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers in Boston assessed immune response in a convenience sample of 103 pregnant, lactating, and nonpregnant women given either the Pfizer/BioNTech (54%) or the Moderna (46%) COVID-19 vaccine from December 2020 through March 2021. Seventeen percent of pregnant participants received their first vaccine dose in the first trimester, while 50% received it in their second trimester, and 33% got theirs in their final trimester. (Van Beusekom, 5/14)
The Wall Street Journal:
Covid-19 Drugmakers Take On Your Favorite TV Shows To Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy
Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel wore a white lab coat and head mirror strapped to his forehead on his talk show last month and talked about Covid-19 vaccines that use messenger RNA. “This technology could be a real game-changer,” he says. The skit was sponsored by vaccine maker Moderna Inc., MRNA 7.68% one of a number of direct-to-consumer advertisements paid for by pharmaceutical companies aimed at hesitancy and lack of awareness toward vaccines and drugs for Covid-19. (Walker, 5/16 )
Puncture The Vial Just For One Shot: CDC Addresses Vaccine-Giver Hesitancy
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines will mandate its workers get a covid shot. And statistics show 41% of Republicans say they do not plan to get a vaccine, but New York's Hamilton County — remote, and Republican — has one of the highest vaccine uptake rates in the U.S.
CDC Urges Docs To Puncture Vaccine Vial Even For Just One Person
More than 15,000 pharmacies will be ready to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds, according to President Joe Biden. And schools will host vaccine drives to inoculate as many adolescents as possible to get them ready for in-person classes in the fall. But so far, only a small minority of pediatricians have Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots in their refrigerators. Largely playing a supporting role in the vaccine rollout until now, private practice doctors have been encouraging patients to get vaccinated, answering their concerns about side effects and pointing them to nearby sites to get shots. That may soon change. (Vestal, 5/14)
In other updates on the vaccine rollout —
Inside The Tiny NY County With One Of The Nation's Highest Vaccination Rates
New York's Hamilton County is rural, remote and Republican. It also has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. In general, vaccine hesitancy is estimated to be higher in rural areas, according to an ABC News analysis of county-level data. Counties with high estimated hesitancy also tend to be younger, poorer and more likely to have been won by former President Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election. (Schumaker, 5/16)
As More Americans Get Vaccinated, 41% Of Republicans Still Refuse COVID-19 Shots
As fewer people die from the coronavirus, the pace of vaccinations is stalling, and four out of 10 Republicans say they do not plan to get a vaccine, according to the latest PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to mask up in most situations. But how state and local governments, along with individual businesses, interpret that guidance remains to be seen, and some adults who are vaccinated may be uneasy about adopting the new restrictions. (Santhanam, 5/17)
Unvaccinated Hispanic Americans Are More Likely To Say They Want A Shot ASAP
Hispanic Americans are more likely than Black or white Americans to say, if unvaccinated, they want to get a shot as soon as possible, per new KFF polling. The disproportionate level of vaccine enthusiasm among those who aren't yet vaccinated suggests that Hispanics may be facing additional access issues. (Owens, 5/14)
And Delta Air Lines will require its workers to get vaccinated —
Delta To Require All New Employees Be Vaccinated
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a CNN interview that all new hires will be required to be vaccinated for the coronavirus. The decision makes Delta the first major U.S. airline to require vaccines. The company said that more than 60% of its employees are vaccinated and it wants "to help maintain this trajectory." Delta added it will not implement a mandate requiring current workers to be inoculated. (Gonzalez, 5/15)
HHS Redirects $2 Billion To Pay For Migrant Shelter Operations: Report
Politico reports that funds allocated to rebuild the national stockpile and to expanding national covid testing are being diverted by the Department of Health and Human Services to its massive efforts to house a growing number of unaccompanied minors at the Southern border.
Biden Admin Reroutes Billions In Emergency Stockpile, Covid Funds To Border Crunch
The Department of Health and Human Services has diverted more than $2 billion meant for other health initiatives toward covering the cost of caring for unaccompanied immigrant children, as the Biden administration grapples with a record influx of migrants on the southern border. The redirected funds include $850 million that Congress originally allocated to rebuild the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile, the emergency medical reserve strained by the Covid-19 response. Another $850 million is being taken from a pot intended to help expand coronavirus testing, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. (Cancryn, 5/15)
'There Was No Going Back': Migrants Send Kids Into US Alone
Growing numbers of migrant families are making the heart-wrenching decision to separate from their children and send them into America alone. Many families with kids older than 6 have been quickly expelled from the country under federal pandemic-related powers that don’t allow migrants to seek asylum. But they know that President Joe Biden’s administration is allowing unaccompanied children to stay in the U.S. while their cases are decided. (Gomez Licon, 5/15)
In updates about the Trump administration —
FDA Releases Treasure Trove Of Trump Administration Emails From Early Days Of COVID-19 Crisis
What was going through the minds of the FDA officials during the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic? Thanks to hundreds of emails released by the FDA on Thursday—forced through the Freedom of Information Act—enquiring minds can find out. It's still just a glimpse, however, as quite a bit of the text copy, subject lines and emails are blacked out for confidentially reasons. (Bulik, 5/14)
Abandoned Trump Order On Bioeconomy Highlights Path Forward For Biden
The Trump administration came remarkably close to shoring up the scattershot way the United States regulates the “bioeconomy” — a wide-ranging category of products like lab grown meat, biofuels, DNA storage drives, and CAR-T cancer drugs — but fell short. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is within striking distance of the same. (Florko, 5/17)
In news about vaccine patent waivers —
Why The Push For Vaccine Patent Waivers Worries Drugmakers
To help increase access to vaccines in poor countries, the Biden administration recently said the U.S. would participate in World Trade Organization negotiations over waiving intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies. The U.S. previously was among wealthy nations opposed to easing patent protections. "Once you start saying that a particular type of intellectual property is no longer going to be respected, people start worrying about: What's the limiting principle here? What's stopping you from applying this to other settings?" says Craig Garthwaite, a health economist at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. (Goldberg, 5/16)
Listen: Exploring Controversial Efforts To Waive Drugmakers’ Vaccine Patent Rights
President Joe Biden has thrown his support to an international effort to waive drugmakers’ patent rights on the covid vaccines, but the pharmaceutical industry vows to fight back. Julie Rovner, KHN’s chief Washington correspondent, joins The Atlantic’s “Social Distance” podcast, hosted by Dr. James Hamblin and Maeve Higgins, to talk about the current patent controversy and how the drug industry has protected itself over the years with vibrant campaigns about the needs for high profits to support drug development. (5/14)
Amazon Will Expand Its WorkingWell Program To All US Workers In 2021
The program provides employees with physical, mental and nutritional support. Also in the news: telehealth, children's mental health, Leapfrog and parking fees for cancer patients.
Relentless Amazon Has New Plan To Cut Worker Injuries By 50%
Amazon announced Monday that WorkingWell, a program that provides employees with physical, mental and nutritional support, among other wellness services, will be rolled out across the entire U.S. operations network by year-end, with the aim of cutting recordable incident rates — an OSHA measurement of worker injury and illness — by 50% by 2025. (Rosenbaum, 5/17)
In news about the health care industry —
Telehealth Firms Continue To Report Revenue Growth, Net Losses In Q1
Telehealth companies continued to see revenue gains in 2021's first quarter as they prepare their business for a world not dominated by the COVID-19 crisis. Amwell posted $57.6 million in revenue for the quarter, up 7.2% from the year-ago period, while Teladoc Health, a market leader in the telehealth space, continued to see sizeable growth with $453.7 million in quarterly revenue, up 150.9% year-over-year. SOC Telemed, which focuses on the acute-care sector, posted $14.8 million, up 0.1%. (Kim Cohen, 5/14)
Mental Health Visits Among Vulnerable Populations Dropped Significantly During Pandemic
People insured with Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program aren't using mental health care services at the same rate as the rest of the population, new data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show. Virtual mental health visits skyrocketed last year, but vulnerable populations went with out treatment during a time period when stress, substance abuse, anxiety and depression were at all-time highs. (Fernandez, 5/14)
An Employer-Driven Hospital Rating System Gains Ground
The latest Leapfrog hospital safety grades for 47 Philadelphia-area hospitals awarded top marks — an A — to 15 area hospitals, including four to Jefferson Health and three each to Main Line Health and the University of Pennsylvania Health System. The Leapfrog Group, founded in 2000 by major national employers, also awarded a C to Lankenau Medical Center. And it gave three D’s — to Brandywine, Phoenixville, and Pottstown, all owned by financially troubled Tower Health. (Brubaker, 5/16)
‘Kicking You When You’re Down’: Many Cancer Patients Pay Dearly For Parking
For cancer patients, the road from diagnosis to survivorship feels like a never-ending parade of medical appointments: surgeries, bloodwork, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, scans. The routine is time-consuming and costly. So, when hospitals charge patients double-digit parking fees, patients often leave the garage demoralized. Iram Leon vividly remembers the first time he went for a follow-up MRI appointment at Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, after he had been treated at another hospital for a brain tumor. (Ritzel, 5/17)
FDA OKs Zynrelef, New Opioid Alternative For Post-Operative Pain
The drug is a combination of local anesthetic bupivacaine and anti-inflammatory meloxicam. In other news, biomarker blood tests are speeding up drug trials, the Salt Lake Tribune covers the difficulties of pharmaceutical IP, and Stat reports the "Era of the Genome" has arrived.
Heron's Troubled Opioid Alternative For Post-Surgery Pain Takes Flight With FDA Nod
After a few troubled years in the nest, Heron Therapeutics' opioid alternative for post-operative pain is ready to take flight. The FDA on Thursday approved Heron's dual-acting anesthetic Zynrelef, an extended-release combination of the local anesthetic bupivacaine and the anti-inflammatory drug meloxicam. (Kansteiner, 5/13)
Blood Tests Are Speeding Up Drug Trials For Intractable Conditions
Diagnostics that can identify biomarkers of disease in the blood are helping speed drug trials for intractable conditions like Alzheimer's. Blood biomarker diagnostics can help pharmaceutical companies identify the right patients to enroll in drug trials for difficult-to-diagnose neurological conditions without resorting to more expensive and invasive methods like brain scans or spinal taps. (Walsh, 5/15)
Salt Lake Tribune:
How BYU Scientists Struck Pharmaceutical Gold — And The Fight Over Who Keeps The Money
One day in 2012, Weilin Xie got a call out of the blue telling him he had $1 million coming his way. No, Xie had not won a lottery. His former professor, Brigham Young University biochemist Daniel Simmons, had called to tell him the money was for Xie’s participation 20 years earlier in research that led to the development of blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex. Xie did not know what to say, he would later testify in court filings, except to express gratitude for the financial recognition of his hard work in Simmons’ lab at BYU. Xie would later learn to his dismay that Simmons hadn’t shared the full picture with him. (Maffly, 5/16)
The ‘Era Of The Genome’ Has Arrived. What Role Will Illumina Play?
For Francis deSouza, the CEO of DNA sequencer manufacturer Illumina, the hardest moments of the Covid-19 pandemic are still fresh. He has, he says, been talking to his aunt, who is in her 90s and lives in a village in Goa, India, who is afraid to leave her home. “She’s confused, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so it’s heartbreaking to watch her go through this and be unable to help from so far away,” deSouza said last week at the STAT Health Tech Summit. “And that story has played out so many times over the last year.” (Herper, 5/17)
Study Shows Regular Aspirin Doses Are Safe, Can Prevent Heart Problems
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine examined thousands of heart disease patients and found that regular low-dose aspirin-taking was safe and can prevent further heart problems and strokes. Regular dose levels seem safe too, but many study participants quit taking the high doses.
Heart Study: Low- And Regular-Dose Aspirin Safe, Effective
An unusual study that had thousands of heart disease patients enroll themselves and track their health online as they took low- or regular-strength aspirin concludes that both doses seem equally safe and effective for preventing additional heart problems and strokes. But there’s a big caveat: People had such a strong preference for the lower dose that it’s unclear if the results can establish that the treatments are truly equivalent, some independent experts said. Half who were told to take the higher dose took the lower one instead or quit using aspirin altogether. (Marchione, 5/15)
The Washington Post:
As Menopause Approaches, Some Women Suffer ‘Brain Fog’ And Memory Loss. What’s Causing These Problems?
Pat Lea, 72, a longtime friend who lives in England, began forgetting words midsentence when she was 48, impairing her ability to speak in public and provoking countless embarrassing moments. Lea, then a housing benefits manager in a London borough, tried making light of it, then began writing her notes in advance, but things only became worse. “It seemed innocuous at first, but became more intense,” she says. (Cimons, 5/16)
Growing Power Outages Pose Grave Threat To People Who Need Medical Equipment To Live
At the same time that climate change has fueled a rise in severe events, the power grid is aging. By the 2000s, there were 10 times more major power outages reported each year compared with the 1980s and early 1990s, according to an analysis of data from 1984 to 2012 by the nonprofit news organization Climate Central. They were mostly driven by severe weather, though changes in data collection likely contributed as well. "We have climate change coming, which is going to throw at us more of these curve balls, more of these unexpected events that can impact the infrastructure," says Joan Casey, an environmental epidemiologist at Columbia University who has studied the health impact of power outages. (Huff, 5/15)
The Washington Post:
There’s A Score To Quantify Childhood Trauma. Some Health Experts Want You To Know Yours
Even with a pandemic raging, Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician who is serving as the first state surgeon general of California, set a goal that had nothing to do with the coronavirus: training 20,000 medical professionals in her state in a kind of health assessment known as the ACEs score. ACEs stands for adverse childhood experiences. A person’s score is typically a tally of how many of 10 such traumas — specific kinds of abuse, neglect or household challenges — they suffered before the age of 18. (Morgan, 5/15)
The Wall Street Journal:
How To Wean Your Kids—And Yourself—Off Screens
After more than a year of being glued to their devices, a lot of kids will have trouble easing up on the tech that brought them comfort and connection during the pandemic. In a recent survey of 325 parents conducted by market-research firm Ipsos, 22% reported that their children spend an average of 10 or more hours a week on entertainment-related screen time—far more time than many of the surveyed parents said they would like. It’s also hard for many adults to put down their devices, which is why I’m offering tips from experts on how families can do a digital reset together. (Jargon, 5/15)
The Baltimore Sun:
‘Our Hearts Beat In Unison’: Maryland Family Learns To Cope With Dementia
Flies swarmed around the trunk of Leah DuRant’s car, and she wondered what could have possibly stirred them up. Turns out, it was an ominous sign for what lied ahead. Three or four days earlier, DuRant had gone to Costco and, by her son John’s estimate, purchased $200 worth of meat products. But the shopping bags never made it inside her Braddock Heights home. (Swatek, 5/17)
Evacuations As Train With Hazardous Waste Derails, Catches Fire In Iowa
In other news, fresh produce is linked to an E.coli outbreak in Washington state; Georgia has a spate of fentanyl overdoses; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will receive a bill cracking down on covid scam websites; and California lawmakers consider a bill to decriminalize psychedelic drugs.
The New York Times:
Train In Iowa With Hazardous Materials Derails, Prompting Evacuation
About 80 people in a city in northwest Iowa were evacuated on Sunday afternoon after part of a Union Pacific train hauling hazardous materials derailed and then caught fire, officials said. The derailment of about 47 cars took place around 2 p.m. in Sibley, said Robynn Tysver, a spokeswoman for Union Pacific. By 3 p.m., local officials had texted an evacuation order to people nearby, citing “HAZMAT train derailment and fire.” (Paybarah, 5/16)
E.Coli Outbreak In Washington State May Be Linked To Fresh Produce, Officials Say
An outbreak of E.coli that has affected residents across multiple counties in Washington state is possibly linked to fresh produce, said health officials. As of Wednesday, there have been at least six E.coli cases across four Washington state counties, with three of those cases occurring in King County, according to a news release from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). The cases range in age from 0-79, with two of the six confirmed cases occurring in the 10-19 age group. At least three people have been hospitalized as a result, and at least one person has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which health officials described as a "serious complication" of an E. coli infection that can lead to damage of the kidneys and other organs. (Farber, 5/15)
Officials: Fentanyl Overdoses Spreading Across Georgia
Fentanyl overdoses, including by people taking pills falsely sold to them as Xanax or Percocet, are spreading across Georgia. Officials say they have found clusters in the Savannah and Columbus areas after an initial set of cases was found mostly around Augusta. (5/16)
Coastal Review Online:
House OK's Limits On PFAS Firefighting Foams
Legislation to tighten requirements on the use of firefighting foam with per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, including a statewide ban on its use in training, passed the North Carolina House last week in a 112-0 vote. House Bill 355 represents the first legislated restrictions on the use of PFAS in the state. It follows similar attempts in prior sessions to limit the use of aqueous film-forming foams, or AFFF, containing PFAS. (Ross, 5/15)
OKC Denies Permit For Outdoor Concert After Nearby Hospital Objects
Oklahoma City denied a noise permit for an upcoming outdoor concert after a behavioral hospital neighboring the venue raised concerns that the music would disrupt its patients. It’s now unclear what that means for the concert, which is set for May 28 at Redlands Music Park in northern Oklahoma City with headliner Subtronics, a dubstep artist, as part of the Monster Energy Outbreak Tour. The courtyards of Oakwood Springs, a 72-bed behavioral hospital, overlook the venue. Jayne Van Bramer, CEO of Oakwood Springs, said she was thrilled after learning that the noise permit was denied Thursday. (Branham, 5/16)
Health News Florida:
Bill Targeting COVID-19 Website Scams Sent To DeSantis
A bill that would crack down on people who make false claims about COVID-19 vaccines and personal protective equipment was formally sent Thursday to Gov. Ron DeSantis.The bill (HB 9), a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, stems from people using authentic-looking websites that falsely offer access to vaccines or personal protective equipment. (5/14)
Legislature To Study Mental Hygiene Process In Interim
Sheriff’s departments have long been overwhelmed by their mental hygiene order responsibilities, but a bill to help ease their burden by removing the medical clearance requirement died in the session as lawmakers with real-world experience expressed concern. Lawmakers are now using the interim to study the problem. Sheriff’s departments are the sole entity responsible for executing mental hygiene orders. Deputies execute the order, transporting patients to psychiatric facilities sometimes across the state. But before they are taken to the psychiatric facility, patients must be medically cleared — something that has to happen at a hospital. This can result in hours of waiting with patients. (Stuck, 5/16)
Decriminalizing Psychedelic Drugs In California: As Senate Considers Bill, Debate Continues
A bill to decriminalize psychedelic drugs is currently being considered by the California state legislature. Senate Bill 519, introduced by State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco), would allow doctors to prescribe psychedelics for treating mental health disorders such as depression and PTSD. It would also allow psychedelics for personal use, and expunge criminal records for people with prior convictions for possession. Earlier this week, the journal Nature Medicine published results of a study using the psychedelic drug MDMA, known as ecstasy, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder among research participants who received the drug. Along with counseling, 67% felt their condition had improved to the extent that they no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD. (Dembosky and Sarah, 5/16)
Homicides Surge In California Amid Covid Shutdowns Of Schools, Youth Programs
Amid a pandemic that left law enforcement agencies stretched thin and forced shutdowns that left young men with little to do, California registered a devastating surge in homicides in 2020 that hit especially hard in Black and Latino communities. The number of homicide victims in California jumped 27% from 2019 to 2020, to about 2,300, marking the largest year-over-year increase in three decades, according to preliminary death certificate data from the California Department of Public Health. (Reese, 5/17)
Cyclone Impacts Covid-Stricken India, Forcing Evacuations, Vaccine Pauses
Cyclone Tauktae has already killed six in Southern India and now threatens the western coast. The New York Times, meanwhile, reports on a thriving Indian black market for oxygen, medicines and other supplies.
India Braces For Powerful Cyclone Amid Deadly Virus Surge
A powerful cyclone roaring in the Arabian Sea was moving toward India’s western coast on Monday as authorities tried to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people and suspended COVID-19 vaccinations in one state. Cyclone Tauktae, which has already killed six people in parts of southern India, was expected to make landfall on Monday evening in Gujarat state with winds of up to 175 kilometers (109 miles) per hour, the India Meteorological Department said. (5/17)
India Boosting Vaccination To Prevent Another Wave Of Infections
India has scaled up vaccination for its 1.3 billion population, apart from boosting heath care infrastructure as it prepares for a third wave of coronavirus infections, Baijayant Panda, vice president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said. “The biggest bet of course we are making is that our vaccination roll out has been scaled up enormously,” the BJP leader, known as Jay Panda, said in an interview to Bloomberg TV Asia on Monday. “By end of the year, we hope to have a majority of Indians vaccinated.” (Pradhan, 5/17)
The New York Times:
India's Black Market Preys On Desperate Covid-19 Victims
Within the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, few treasures are more coveted than an empty oxygen canister. India’s hospitals desperately need the metal cylinders to store and transport the lifesaving gas as patients across the country gasp for breath. So a local charity reacted with outrage when one supplier more than doubled the price, to nearly $200 each. The charity called the police, who discovered what could be one of the most brazen, dangerous scams in a country awash with coronavirus-related fraud and black-market profiteering. (Kumar and Gettleman, 5/16)
In other global updates —
China Is Vaccinating Almost 14 Million People A Day Amid Flareup
China is vaccinating almost 14 million people a day, the fastest pace in the world, as the country races to protect its Covid-19 advantage in the face of major Western nations reopening their economies. The ramp up in shots is being helped by a flareup of cases in the eastern province of Anhui and northeastern region of Liaoning. Videos on social media showed citizens rushing to get their vaccines, with long queues at inoculation sites despite heavy rain. Hefei, Anhui’s capital city, administered 360,000 doses on Friday, the most in a single day for the hub of 10 million people, Xinhua News agency reported. (5/17)
UK Readies For Major Reopening But New Variant Sparks Worry
Travelers in England were packing their bags, bartenders were polishing their glasses and performers were warming up as Britain prepared Sunday for a major step out of lockdown — but with clouds of worry on the horizon. Excitement at the reopening of travel and hospitality vied with anxiety that a more contagious virus variant first found in India is spreading fast and could delay further plans to reopen. (Lawless, 5/16)
Britain Yet To Decide On Pfizer Offer To Vaccinate Olympians
The British government is still deciding whether to accept an offer from Pfizer to fast-track Olympic and Paralympic athletes for coronavirus vaccines. Jabs are only being given to Britons aged 38 or older — though this will be extended to those over 35 from next week — with younger people only getting inoculated if they have an underlying health condition. (5/16)
The New York Times:
Why Vaccinating The World Against Covid-19 Will Be Hard
In delivering vaccines, pharmaceutical companies aided by monumental government investments have given humanity a miraculous shot at liberation from the worst pandemic in a century. But wealthy countries have captured an overwhelming share of the benefit. Only 0.3 percent of the vaccine doses administered globally have been given in the 29 poorest countries, home to about 9 percent of the world’s population. (Goodman, Mandavilli, Robbins and Stevis-Gridneff, 5/15)
Perspectives: What Will Be The Lasting Effects Of Covid?; Are Mandatory Vaccines On The Horizon?
Opinion writers weigh in on covid, vaccines and masking issues.
The New York Times:
The Long Tail Of Covid-19
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an abrupt change to its guidance on Thursday, stating that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most settings, it was welcomed, if not whiplash-inducing, news. Vaccination is going relatively well in this country, although the number of people who receive a dose each day is down from its peak. And new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus are decreasing. (Charles M. Blow, 5/16)
Compulsory Covid-19 Vaccinations May Be Unpalatable But Necessary
When much of the world is still desperate for Covid-19 vaccinations, a handful of wealthy places are beginning to have the opposite problem. Hong Kong is one. Despite a free and easily accessible program open to all adults since April, only just over 10% of the population of 7.5 million has had both injections, with low rates even among the oldest. Hesitancy is so high that only half of residents say they intend to get vaccinated. (Clara Ferreira Marques, 5/16)
The Boston Globe:
Why Vaccine Equity Still Matters
The masks are coming off — tentatively. We’re seeing what people look like for the first time in over a year. Indeed, we’ve got COVID-19 on the run, especially in Massachusetts, which was recently named the third-safest state in the country. The Commonwealth hit a significant milestone on Tuesday, which marked the first day in nearly a year with zero new confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported. Meanwhile, the state ranks second in the nation — at 59.5 percent — for its high share of residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3 million residents are fully vaccinated. (Marcela Garcia, 5/15)
For The Sake Of Children, Keep Wearing Your Mask
We are compounding an important public health policy mistake. As the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states and elected leaders declare an end to pandemic restrictions, paving the way back to "normal," there's a presumption that vaccinated adults can safely be around one another with neither masks nor social distancing. But, based on all we know, this behavior could put children at risk. (Lawrence C. Kleinman, 5/16)
On Kids And Masks, I'm Following My Gut
It's happening. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has liberated Americans who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 from our masks. Indoors and out, in most situations, we can finally roam face out again. After a year of stuffy-face condensation, fogged-up glasses, smeared lipstick, "mascne" and "I can't tell who that is" polite nodding, won't it be spectacular to feel the sun on our cheeks and the wind on our teeth? (S.E. Cupp, 5/14)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
The CDC’s New Mask Rules Promise Freedom. But To Me They Mean Fear.
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a surprise announcement: Anyone who is fully vaccinated can now stop masking and social distancing, including often indoors. Though many public health experts had said they thought we would need masks when indoors with strangers for at least another year, the nation’s health protection agency has declared that anyone who received the last dose of their COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks ago can start living life the way they did before this god-awful thing began. Soon after, Pennsylvania followed suit. (Alison McCook, 5/16
The Washington Post:
The CDC’s Mask Guidance Is A Mess. Biden Needs To Clean It Up.
Last Thursday’s abruptly announced guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has devolved into a giant mess. Governors and mayors were caught by surprise, leading to a flurry of rapid changes and a patchwork of disparate regulations across the country. Businesses found themselves scrambling without the tools they need to relax restrictions for the vaccinated while protecting the unvaccinated. While many people happily shed their masks and celebrated the apparent end of the pandemic, others are concerned that with only 37 percent of the country fully vaccinated, this relaxation is premature and could lead to a resurgence of infections. (Leana S. Wen, 5/16)
Viewpoints: How To Improve Technology In Health Care; Ways To Rebuild Doctor-Patient Trust
Editorial writers tackle these public health issues.
Health Care Needs A Strong Doctor/Technology Relationship
For the past few decades, technology has been gradually revolutionizing health care for patients. It may be having less-positive effects for physicians, some of whom eye it as a threat to doctoring. As the world simultaneously looks to technology to help us navigate the pandemic and the medical community to get us out of it, the need for both to work together and amplify grows clearer with each day. (Hilary Gentile and Sarah Cockle-Hearne, 5/17)
How To Win Back Americans Turning Away From Doctors For Medical Guidance
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government and health officials have raised alarms about people getting false information. Despite all the warnings, the problem continues. "Fearmongering vaccine stories go viral online," NPR warned in March. "Americans are super-spreaders of COVID-19 misinformation," Canada's McGill University reported in April, citing a new study. (Karen Strauss, 5/14)
The Baltimore Sun:
Is It Too Hard To Become A Doctor Today?
Across the nation this spring, thousands of aspiring physicians are receiving acceptance letters to medical schools. I remember the arrival of mine nearly two decades ago, especially as there was only one, (a relief after being wait-listed elsewhere). Unfortunately, this spring will also witness a greater number of applicants to American medical schools — many of them extraordinarily talented — rejected from every institution to which they apply. As more college students are inspired to pursue medical careers, by Anthony Fauci and the ordinary heroism of my colleagues during the pandemic, fewer and fewer of them will succeed. That is not just a tragedy for these would-be physicians, but for our society as a whole. (Jacob M. Appel, 5/14)
Los Angeles Times:
How Doctor Culture Sinks U.S. Healthcare
Over the last pandemic year, we’ve seen doctors work heroically to save lives. Their dedication, expertise and work ethic represent the best of medical culture. But as we return to normality, we need to acknowledge that the same culture that turns doctors into heroes is also contributing to a healthcare crisis of rising costs and decaying standards. Physicians, policy experts and academics all insist that American healthcare suffers from systemic issues. By “systemic,” they mean bureaucratic. Clinicians, they say, are bogged down by administrative burdens, pesky prior-authorization requirements and cumbersome computers that (literally) sit between doctors and patients. (Robert Pearl, 5/16)
The War On Trans Kids Is Totally Unconstitutional
Laws that prohibit physicians from providing treatments such as puberty blockers and cross-hormone therapy to minors are bad public policy. Their advocates claim that these are efforts to protect kids, who they argue may later change their mind, from medical treatments they characterize as irreversible. But these arguments don’t hold up to scrutiny: The laws—such as the one Arkansas just passed and those that more than a dozen other states, including Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas, are actively considering—will certainly harm transgender children, denying them medical care that they need and causing them psychological pain. That should be reason enough to oppose these laws. (Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr., 5/16)
Autism And The Social Mind
Since the modern era of research on autism began in the 1980s, questions about social cognition and social brain development have been of central interest to researchers. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first annual meeting of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR), and it is evident in this year’s meeting that the growth of social cognitive neuroscience over the past two decades has significantly enriched autism science. For those unfamiliar with the term, social cognitive neuroscience is the study of the brain systems that are involved in the causes and effects of social behaviors and social interaction. Some of these involve brain systems involved in thinking about other people’s thoughts or intentions, empathizing, social motivation and the impact of social attention on an individual’s thinking and emotions. (Peter Mundy, 5/15)
Nix The Bald Cancer Patient Motif For Cancer Marketing
Every time I see a pharmaceutical or health care ad or other marketing material that features a bald cancer patient, I get mad. As a marketer in the cancer technology and clinical research space, I’ve grown tired of the imagery used to promote cancer therapies not keeping pace with the remarkable innovations in this area. (Dorit Baxter, 5/17)