- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 3
- Kidney Experts Say It’s Time to Remove Race From Medical Algorithms. Doing So Is Complicated.
- Boeing Tested Air Purifiers Like Those Widely Used in Schools. It Decided Not to Use Them in Planes.
- With Roots in Civil Rights, Community Health Centers Push for Equity in the Pandemic
- Political Cartoon: 'One Year Later, It Still Is'
- Pharmaceuticals 3
- FDA OKs First New Alzheimer's Drug In Nearly 20 Years In Hotly Debated Move
- Medicare, Insurers Face Hefty Costs From Drug Price Set At $56,000 A Year
- Critics Question Strength Of Evidence Behind Aduhelm's Fast-Tracked Approval
- Vaccines 2
- J&J Covid Vaccines Left Unused And Unwanted
- WHO Expert: 80% Vaccination Level Needed To Prevent A Variant From Taking Over
- Covid-19 Crisis 2
- Wuhan Lab Theory Deemed Plausible By Government Lab
- New Moms, Other Parents Cope With Pandemic's Mental Health Challenges
- Coverage And Access 2
- Telehealth Company Valued At $1 Billion
- Google, Apple Move Deeper Into Health Data
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Kidney Experts Say It’s Time to Remove Race From Medical Algorithms. Doing So Is Complicated.
When estimating how well a patient’s kidneys are working, doctors frequently turn to an equation that depends on a question: Is the patient Black? Kidney experts are now debating how to remove the race adjustment and whether the question is a function of sound science. It’s considered just the first step in dismantling institutional racism in kidney care. (Rae Ellen Bichell and Cara Anthony, )
Boeing Tested Air Purifiers Like Those Widely Used in Schools. It Decided Not to Use Them in Planes.
The technology that schools have been snapping up in the fight against covid “has not shown significant disinfection effectiveness” to install on its planes, Boeing found. Now the company’s study is being debated in a proposed class-action suit. (Christina Jewett and Lauren Weber, )
With Roots in Civil Rights, Community Health Centers Push for Equity in the Pandemic
Community health centers were born in the 1960s to reach low-income communities. But some rural health experts say federally qualified health centers were a missing piece in achieving early equity in the vaccine rollout. (Shalina Chatlani, WWNO, )
Political Cartoon: 'One Year Later, It Still Is'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'One Year Later, It Still Is'" by Signe Wilkinson .
Here's today's health policy haiku:
TAKING THE WRONG APPROACH?
"Biden's goal"? Many
won't get a vaccine for him,
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 a KHN original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KHN or KFF.
Summaries Of The News:
FDA OKs First New Alzheimer's Drug In Nearly 20 Years In Hotly Debated Move
Biogen's Aduhelm was granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration but the company will have to conduct a new, large clinical trial to confirm the treatment's benefit, and the FDA reserves the right to rescind its decision.
FDA Grants Historic Approval To Alzheimer’s Drug From Biogen
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in nearly two decades, a landmark decision that has been eagerly awaited by millions of Americans diagnosed with the condition but that will be hotly contested by some in the scientific community who doubt the drug’s effectiveness. While other drugs treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the new medicine, called Aduhelm, is the first to attack what some believe is an underlying cause of the disease and slow cognitive decline, albeit marginally. (Feuerstein and Garde, 6/7)
FDA Approves Much-Debated Alzheimer’s Drug Panned By Experts
It’s the only therapy that U.S. regulators have said can likely treat the underlying disease, rather than manage symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. The decision, which could impact millions of Americans and their families, is certain to spark disagreements among physicians, medical researchers and patient groups. It also has far-reaching implications for the standards used to evaluate experimental therapies, including those that show only incremental benefits. (Perrone, 6/7)
The Washington Post:
FDA Approves First Drug Intended To Slow Cognitive Decline Caused By Alzheimer’s Disease
But in an explicit acknowledgment of the uncertainties about the effectiveness of the drug, the FDA did not grant the medication full approval. Instead, the agency cleared the drug — its brand name will be Aduhelm — based on its ability to reduce clumps of amyloid beta in the brain, a hallmark of the disease. It ordered the drug’s maker, the biotech giant Biogen, to conduct a post-approval study confirming the medicine actually slows cognitive deterioration. If the medication does not provide such a clinical benefit, the FDA’s approval could be withdrawn. (McGinley, 6/7)
New Alzheimer’s Drug Is 1st Of Its Kind To Be FDA Approved
The FDA will require Biogen to conduct a new, large clinical trial to determine the drug's benefit, and reserves the right to rescind the approval in the future. Meanwhile, patients will have access to the drug, which is given by intravenous infusion. (Ramanathan and Salzman, 6/7)
FAQs: What You Need To Know About The Alzheimer’s Drug Aduhelm
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s drug, a decision with far-reaching implications for patients, clinicians, and others. Here’s a rundown on some basic questions and answers about the drug, known as Aduhelm. (Cooney, 6/7)
A Twist In FDA’s Alzheimer’s Decision: No Limits On Which Patients Can Get It
As if the saga of aducanumab needed another twist, the Food and Drug Administration tossed in an extra curveball Monday as it approved the Alzheimer’s therapy by specifying who would be eligible for the treatment. Or rather, not specifying. Doctors had anticipated that if the FDA gave the green light to the therapy now called Aduhelm, it would endorse its use for patients like those who qualified for clinical trials: people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, who also had the plaques of amyloid protein that the therapy aims to clear. (Joseph, 6/7)
Aduhelm Trial Participants Reflect On Their Complicated Reactions To Approval
For the roughly 3,500 people who volunteered as clinical trial participants for the Alzheimer’s therapy Aduhelm, Monday’s divisive approval spurred a complicated brew of emotions. There was elation, yes — that the endorsement of the therapy by the Food and Drug Administration was a validation that maybe it really had been working for them, that it was letting them take the dog for a walk, or embrace new projects, or have a simple conversation with their spouse for more years than they could have otherwise. (Joseph, 6/8)
Medicare, Insurers Face Hefty Costs From Drug Price Set At $56,000 A Year
The wholesale price tag set by Biogen for Aduhelm exceeded Wall Street estimates. The drugmaker's CEO defended the cost as "fair," but told CNBC that it would not be raised for at least four years. News outlets report on the thorny issue of who will pay.
The Price Of Biogen's Alzheimer's Drug May Lead Payers To Erect Roadblocks
The Food and Drug Administration’s approval on Monday of an Alzheimer’s drug developed by Biogen is raising fresh questions about the financial implications for millions of families, insurers, and American taxpayers. But the drug maker is already scrambling to mitigate the fallout. At a wholesale price of $56,000 per year, the company exceeded some Wall Street expectations, and greatly surpassed the $8,300 threshold that a nonprofit determined was the price at which the medication could be considered cost-effective. That assessment reflected intense controversy over study data that prompted numerous experts to question the extent to which the drug actually helps patients. (Silverman, 6/7)
U.S. Approval Of Biogen Alzheimer's Drug Sends Shares Soaring, Hailed As 'Big Day" For Patients
Biogen said it has priced the drug, to be sold as Aduhelm, at $56,000 per year. ... U.S. health insurers and the U.S. government's Medicare program will bear most of the cost of the drug, whose price will vary based on dosage and discounts. (Steenhuysen and Beasley, 6/7)
Biogen CEO Says $56,000 Annually For Alzheimer’s Drug Is 'Fair,' Promises Not To Hike Price For At Least 4 Years
Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos told CNBC on Monday that the list price of $56,000 per year for the company’s FDA-approved Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab is “fair.” That being said, the Massachusetts-based biotech company has vowed to not increase the price of the medication, which is marketed under the name Aduhelm, for the next four years, Vounatsos said. (Lovelace Jr., 6/7)
How Will Insurers Cover A New Alzheimer's Drug?
[Insurers] will likely request some documentation first that the patient needs the drug. Many plans will require doctors to submit records and other paperwork justifying the treatment before they agree to cover it. Insurers also will likely require pre-approval for brain scans needed to determine that the patient is a candidate for treatment, said Lance Grady of Avalere Health consultants. (Murphy, 6/8)
Price Of Alzheimer's Drug Aduhelm To Squeeze Medicare And Patients
More than 90% of people with Alzheimer's disease are 65 and older, which means Medicare (i.e., taxpayers) will shoulder the load for Aduhelm's $56,000 annual list price. Aduhelm could create massive strains on Medicare spending and could create financially ruinous prospects for patients and their families. (Herman, 6/8)
In related news —
Despite High Price, New Alzheimer’s Drug Isn’t Reigniting Drug Pricing Debate
It has all the makings of a bombastic drug pricing debate: a highly anticipated drug, widespread press attention, a huge potential patient population, and a price higher than even some of the highest Wall Street estimates. But when Biogen announced Monday it would charge $56,000 for an annual course of its just-approved Alzheimer’s treatment, the activists who are normally eager to criticize pharma and its pricing strategies were largely silent. So, too, were progressives on Capitol Hill, many of whom who’ve decried high drug prices as a key campaign issue. (Florko, 6/8)
Why Biogen May Have The Most Lucrative Product In Pharmaceutical History
Biogen’s quest to win approval for a new Alzheimer’s disease treatment once seemed futile. Now the company is sitting on what could be the most lucrative product in pharmaceutical history. Hours after the Food and Drug Administration’s surprising approval of Aduhelm, the company’s controversial treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, Biogen set a list price that was nearly five times what Wall Street analysts had expected: $56,000 per year for the average patient. (Garde and Feuerstein, 6/7)
Critics Question Strength Of Evidence Behind Aduhelm's Fast-Tracked Approval
Some disease experts are criticizing the standards used by the FDA in its accelerated review of Biogen's Alzheimer's disease treatment. News outlets also look at what that means for future drug approvals.
With Alzheimer's Drug, The FDA Is Shifting Its Rules. That Is A Giant Risk
In order to approve a new Alzheimer’s treatment, the Food and Drug Administration is rewriting its rulebook, an enormously risky move that could accelerate the public’s access to medicines but upend the future of drug regulation, forcing the 114-year-old agency to do the equivalent of redesigning a fighter plane in mid-flight. With its conditional clearance of Biogen’s Aduhelm, the FDA is creating a framework that could require less certain evidence of safety and efficacy for medicines beyond Alzheimer’s treatments. In doing so, it is choosing to alter many of its well-established processes and standards, seemingly on the fly. (Herper, 6/7)
FDA Signals Watered-Down Drug Standards With Aduhelm Approval
Following the FDA's approval of Biogen's Alzheimer's treatment Aduhelm, experts fear the approval — based on weak scientific data — is a sign the agency is putting speed over rigor. "A general signal being sent to the rest of the drug industry is: If you can get uncertain, maybe suggestive data and a post-hoc analysis — get that threshold to us — we may approve your drug," said Peter Bach, a drug researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (Herman, 6/8)
Dementia Expert Says Evidence 'Wasn’t Sufficient' For Approval
Dementia expert Dr. Jason Karlawish told CNBC he’s skeptical of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s disease drug, Aduhelm, saying “the evidence to approve the drug wasn’t sufficient.” “Another study is needed to establish whether this drug, in fact, is effective. Unfortunately, the FDA approved the drug for marketing, although they also do want another study,” the co-director of the Penn Memory Center at the University of Pennsylvania said on Monday following the agency’s formal OK. (DeCiccio, 6/7)
Previously From KHN: FDA Weighs Approval of a Lucrative Alzheimer’s Drug, but Benefits Are Iffy
Biogen’s Big Day Is A Wall Street Windfall For Biotechs In Alzheimer’s
As Biogen stock soared 38% Monday on the surprise Food and Drug Administration approval of its hotly debated treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, investors bid up the shares of would-be competitors large and small. Eli Lilly was the biggest beneficiary, rising nearly 12% and adding more than $20 billion in market capitalization. Like Biogen’s drug, called Aduhelm, Lilly’s most advanced Alzheimer’s treatment targets toxic brain plaques called beta amyloid. AC Immune, a Swiss biotech company with a once-failed amyloid treatment of its own, rose about 26%. Prothena, which has an amyloid-targeting drug in early-stage development, went up 27%. (Garde, 6/7)
Biogen Banks On Alzheimer's Drug To Offset Tecfidera Cliff
Multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera has propped up Biogen for the past eight years, representing more than a third of the company's sales. But that revenue wave is coming to an end after generic versions of the pill entered the U.S. market last year. Biogen is banking on federal approval of its Alzheimer's drug, aducanumab, to boost its financial future and offset the decline of Tecfidera. (Herman, 6/7)
House Panel Assails Fisher-Price For Ignoring Sleeper's Risks To Infants
A report by the Committee on Oversight and Reform suggests ongoing problems with the U.S. consumer product safety system in which companies can sell such items with voluntary safety standards and called for reforms in federal safeguards.
Fisher-Price Ignored Safety Warnings Even After Infants Started Dying: Report
Executives at Fisher-Price ignored repeated safety warnings about the company's once popular Rock 'n Play sleeper, even after infants began to roll over and die in the now-recalled product, according to a new report. An investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform alleges that the New York-based children's products giant didn't adequately vet the sleeper for safety before putting it on the market in 2009 and then batted away criticism of the Rock 'n Play for a decade before recalling it in 2019 after more than 50 infants had lost their lives. "What we found is absolutely shocking," said the committee's chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. "It is a national scandal." (Hernandez, 6/7)
The Washington Post:
Fisher-Price Criticized By House Panel For Infant Deaths In Its Rock ‘N Play Inclined Sleepers
Two company executives were sharply criticized Monday by a House panel over Fisher-Price’s decision to keep its Rock ’n Play inclined sleeper on the market for a decade while waiting until 2019 to recall a product tied to dozens of infant deaths. Members of the House Oversight Committee seemed to struggle to find new ways to describe their outrage and incredulity with the well-known maker of toys and baby products, with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) saying Fisher-Price showed “a shocking lack of corporate integrity.” (Frankel, 6/7)
In other news from Capitol Hill —
Senate OKs Bill That Would Provide Aid For Mysterious 'Havana Syndrome' Injuries
The U.S. Senate on Monday voted unanimously to pass legislation that would provide additional resources for American officials suffering from so-called "Havana Syndrome" — a mysterious set of symptoms that first affected federal employees stationed in Cuba in 2016. The bipartisan bill — Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act — would authorize financial support for U.S. officials reporting symptoms related to the syndrome, including headaches, nausea, hearing and vision changes, vertigo and memory loss. (Wise, 6/7)
More Money Provided To Soften The Economic Toll Of Covid
Expanded federal child care tax credits of up to $300 a month are available for the last half of the year. In other news, Oakland, California, experiments with a guaranteed income program, and Hawaii extends its eviction moratorium.
36 Million Families May Start Receiving Child Tax Credit Deposits On July 15
The IRS is sending letters to more than 36 million families who may qualify for monthly payments under the federal Child Tax Credit. Under the expanded tax benefit, families may be eligible to receive up to $300 per child on a monthly basis from July 15 through December 15. ... The IRS said it will [send] a second letter that will estimate their monthly payment amount, which will begin hitting bank accounts on July 15. (Picchi, 6/7)
A Lifeline For The Unemployed Is About To End In Half Of U.S.
The United States is about to embark on a big national experiment with 4 million unemployed workers serving as guinea pigs. And it all centers on $300 a week. The payment was intended as a lifeline for millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic: an extra $300 a week on top of regular unemployment benefits. But now 25 Republican governors say the payments must end, with four states acting as early as this week. With vaccines rolling out and the economy reopening fast, they believe the payments are discouraging people from looking for work, leaving businesses begging and job openings unfilled. (Horsley, 6/7)
A Pandemic Of COVID-Related Poverty
A new paper makes the case that the increase in extreme poverty triggered by COVID-19 rivals the pandemic's direct health effects. The pandemic of extreme poverty could be lasting, and it deserves far more of the world's attention and help than it has gotten so far. (Walsh, 6/5)
In updates from California and Hawaii —
San Francisco Chronicle:
Oakland's Guaranteed Income Program To Start Accepting Applications. Who's Eligible?
Oakland will open the first round of applications Tuesday for the city’s guaranteed income program — one of the largest of its kind in the country. The program, Oakland Resilient Families, will send $500 cash payments with no strings attached for 18 months. The first round of applications will be for 300 families who live in East Oakland, who must live within a one square-mile boundary. Applications will open citywide for an additional 300 families later this summer. Low-income families, with at least one child under 18, are eligible for the program. Applicants who are Black, indigenous or people of color will be prioritized. The application is open to anyone whose income qualifies — a shift after the program’s initial announcement spurred criticism that white residents wouldn’t be eligible. (Ravani, 6/7)
Hawaii Governor Extends Eviction Moratorium For 60 Days
Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Monday extended an eviction moratorium he implemented during the coronavirus pandemic for another two months, but he doesn’t expect to keep it longer than that. The existing emergency order instituting a pause on evictions was due to expire Tuesday, but Ige extended it for 60 more days. It’s now due to expire on Aug. 6. (6/8)
J&J Covid Vaccines Left Unused And Unwanted
An estimated 10 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine are just sitting there. Other covid-related news includes a vaccine trial for children ages 5-11 and how states try other techniques to get people vaccinated, like a marijuana joint for a shot.
J&J Vaccine Drive Stalls Out In U.S After Safety Pause
Safety concerns about Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccine along with overall flagging demand for vaccinations have slowed its U.S. rollout to a crawl, leaving close to half of the 21 million doses produced for the United States sitting unused. J&J’s vaccine was supposed to be an important tool for reaching rural areas and vaccine hesitant Americans because it requires only one shot and has less stringent storage requirements than the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. (Erman, 6/7)
Kids 5 And Up Get Shots In Tests For COVID Vaccine
Seven-year-old Russell Bright squeezed his dad’s hand tightly as tests of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine started Monday in Louisiana for children ages 5 through 11. Children held stuffed animals, played under chairs and a few cried at Ochsner Medical Center, just outside New Orleans. Their temperature and blood pressure were checked, their noses swabbed and their blood drawn for tests. Finally, they got a shot of either the vaccine or a placebo. (Plaisance, 6/8)
In other news on the vaccine rollout —
Washington: Marijuana Stores Can Offer Joints For Vaccines
Licensed marijuana stores in Washington state can offer free joints to promote on-site COVID-19 vaccine clinics, officials said Monday. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board is calling the effort the “Joints for Jabs” program. The board says licensed adult-use marijuana retail shops can give away a single pre-rolled joint to anyone over 21 who gets a shot at an on-site vaccine clinic held by July 12. (6/7)
Philadelphia COVID Vaccine Incentives Include Cash Sweepstakes
Philadelphia will hold drawings with cash prizes for residents who have received the coronavirus vaccine, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Monday as the city joined a growing number of state and local governments offering incentives for vaccination. The city’s “Philly Vax Sweepstakes” will include three drawings with top prizes of $50,000. In each of the three drawings, two residents will win the grand prize, four people will win $5,000, and six people will win prizes of $1,000. (McCrystal, 6/7)
Bay Area News Group:
CDPH Warns Of Potential ‘Vax For The Win’ Scams
The California Department of Public Health is warning residents to be on guard for potential scams related to the state’s new COVID-19 vaccination incentive programs. The first “Vax for the Win” drawing was held on June 4. The program, which will ultimately award $116.5 million to previously immunized individuals and individuals who agree to be immunized, is designed to motivate residents to get vaccinated before the state’s reopening on June 15. Following the drawing, residents notified the state of scammers impersonating state officials through calls, emails, texts and direct messages on social media, the CDPH said in a news release Monday. (Green, 6/7)
Bay Area News Group:
California's COVID Vaccination Records Raise Privacy Concerns
When California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced cash incentives to spur coronavirus vaccine-hesitant residents to get their shots, he emphasized everyone who received a dose was automatically entered into state databases. “We have your information in our system,” he said, referring to the millions of vaccination records in the California Public Department of Health’s confidential, digital Immunization Information System, reassuring anyone concerned about missing their opportunity to qualify for a $1.5 million grand prize for taking a vaccine. But not everyone is so reassured. As the state’s vaccination campaign approaches 50 million delivered doses, the flood of corresponding medical information is sparking fresh privacy concerns about Californians’ health data. (Moore, 6/7)
Supporters Gather As Methodist Baytown Workers Finish Their Last Shifts Without Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine
Dozens of cheering supporters gathered outside the Houston Methodist Baytown campus Monday evening as several medical workers who refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine ended their last shifts working for the hospital system. The act of protest was aimed at what workers said was the hospital’s decision to suspend employees for two weeks without pay and then fire them for failing to immunize themselves. Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who effectively lost her job at the Baytown facility for deciding not to be inoculated, said the goal was to stage a walkout but that did not go as planned. Participating employees who refused the vaccine’s first dose were told not to gather or linger on the hospital grounds after ending their shift, she said. (Wu and Hensley, 6/7)
As Carnival Requires Vaccines For Cruisers, Abbott Signs Ban On 'Vaccine Passports'
Texas businesses cannot require their customers to prove their COVID-19 vaccine status under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Greg Abbott. The measure, Senate Bill 968, outlaws so-called “vaccine passports” and prevents businesses from asking consumers to show their vaccine cards to receive services. Abbott had issued a similar executive order in April, though that applied only to state agencies and other organizations that receive public funding. “Texas is open 100 percent, and we want to make sure that you have the freedom to go where you want without limits,” Abbott said in a video posted to Twitter Monday evening. (Harris and Gray, 6/7)
Oregon Says It Will Lift Workplace Mask, Distancing Rules When State Hits COVID Vaccination Target
Oregon’s workplace safety agency said it will lift face covering and distancing rules for businesses and other institutions when 70% of Oregon adults are at least partially vaccinated. That means most employees in public workplaces, such as stores, and private ones, like offices or factories, could take off their masks and work in close quarters — assuming employers don’t maintain their own mask or distancing rules. (Njus, 6/7)
WHO Expert: 80% Vaccination Level Needed To Prevent A Variant From Taking Over
“High levels of vaccination coverage are the way out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, emergencies chief at the World Health Organization. In India, covid patients suffering from the delta variant have experienced hearing loss, severe gastric upsets and blood clots leading to gangrene, symptoms not typically seen in covid patients.
WHO: High Vaccination Rates Can Help Reduce Risk Of Variants
A top World Health Organization official estimated Monday that COVID-19 vaccination coverage of at least 80% is needed to significantly lower the risk that “imported” coronavirus cases like those linked to new variants could spawn a cluster or a wider outbreak. Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, told a news conference that ultimately, “high levels of vaccination coverage are the way out of this pandemic.” (Keaten, 6/7)
Gangrene, Hearing Loss Show Delta Variant May Be More Severe
The coronavirus variant driving India’s devastating Covid-19 second wave is the most infectious to emerge so far. Doctors now want to know if it’s also more severe. Hearing impairment, severe gastric upsets and blood clots leading to gangrene, symptoms not typically seen in Covid patients, have been linked by doctors in India to the so-called delta variant. In England and Scotland, early evidence suggests the strain -- which is also now dominant there -- carries a higher risk of hospitalization. (Shrivastava, 6/7)
The Washington Post:
What We Know About The Highly Infectious Coronavirus Delta Variant
The coronavirus variant labeled “delta” was first recorded in India, where a slow vaccination drive and complacency about pandemic rules helped spark a record-breaking surge in cases this spring. Since then the variant has spread, and as new cases rise in Britain, it has become dominant, despite one of the most successful vaccination programs anywhere. Its newfound prevalence could upend plans for a return to normalcy. (Taylor, 6/7)
The New York Times:
How The ‘Alpha’ Coronavirus Variant Became So Powerful
In December, British researchers discovered that a new variant was sweeping through their country. When it arrived in other countries, the variant, now known as Alpha, tended to become more common in its new homes as well. By April, it had become the dominant variant in the United States, and it has remained so ever since. Alpha’s swift success has left scientists wondering how the variant conquered the world. A new study points to one secret to its success: Alpha disables the first line of immune defense in our bodies, giving the variant more time to multiply. (Zimmer, 6/7)
Coronavirus Tests Will Never Be Variant-Proof
Any diagnostic test worth its salt has precision on its side. It can pinpoint the presence of this condition, but not that one; it can, when used for an infectious disease, distinguish between microbes that look very much the same. For most of the pandemic, that exactness has been a major asset for the hundreds of tests that detect SARS-CoV-2. But the discerning nature of most tests has also opened up a weak point for the coronavirus to exploit. With the virus mutating into new and concerning variants, a few of the tests designed to recognize its original iteration are now getting duped. What was once a singular target has split itself off into many, many bull’s-eyes, each a little different from the next, and we’re having trouble taking aim. (Wu, 6/7)
Wuhan Lab Theory Deemed Plausible By Government Lab
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory report says the hypothesis that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab is plausible. Also, more evidence that covid is abating, and Boeing has doubts about an air purifier technology.
The Wall Street Journal:
U.S. Report Found It Plausible Covid-19 Leaked From Wuhan Lab
A report on the origins of Covid-19 by a U.S. government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis claiming the virus leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, according to people familiar with the classified document. The study was prepared in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and was drawn on by the State Department when it conducted an inquiry into the pandemic’s origins during the final months of the Trump administration. (Gordon and Strobel, 6/8)
In other updates on the spread of the coronavirus —
Los Angeles Times:
California COVID Transmission Rate Among Lowest In The U.S.
California continues to record one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the nation, underscoring its sustained progress toward extinguishing the pandemic a week ahead of the state’s planned reopening. As of Monday, California’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people was 11, tied with Nebraska for the third-lowest among all states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California is behind only Vermont, with a 6.9 seven-day case rate, and South Dakota, with 9.2 (Money and Lin II, 6/7)
COVID Wards Emptying In Florida. Doctors Say It’s Proof Vaccines Work
At the height of Florida’s summer COVID-19 surge, there were more than 2,000 people hospitalized with the novel illness in the epicenter of Miami-Dade County. Now, with 1.2 million people in the county fully vaccinated, that number has dropped to below 300 for the first time since mid-October. The plummet comes as hospital COVID units are emptying out across the state, where fewer than 1,800 people are being treated for the disease statewide, compared to the late July height of about 9,500. (Conarck, 6/7)
Underlying Illness, Respiratory Infection Raise Risk For Severe COVID In Kids
Of two new studies on severe COVID-19 in children, the first finds that more than one in four had an underlying medical condition, and the second shows that kids diagnosed as having acute lower respiratory tract infection (ALRI) were over twice as likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation. (Van Beusekom, 6/7)
Boeing Tested Air Purifiers Like Those Widely Used In Schools. It Decided Not To Use Them In Planes.
Aerospace giant Boeing tested two kinds of ionization technologies — like those widely adopted in schools hoping to combat covid — to determine how well each killed germs on surfaces and decided that neither was effective enough to install on its commercial planes. Boeing noted in its conclusion that “air ionization has not shown significant disinfection effectiveness.” Companies that make the air purifiers say they emit charged ions, or “activated oxygen,” that are said to inactivate bacteria and viruses in the air. Boeing did not test the technology’s effectiveness in the air, only on surfaces. It also used a “surrogate” for the virus that causes covid-19. (Jewett and Weber, 6/8)
New Moms, Other Parents Cope With Pandemic's Mental Health Challenges
A Canadian study has found a 30% increase in the number of postpartum mothers who sought mental health treatment nine months into the pandemic. Meanwhile, parents of newborns are confused about how to handle visitors right now, and some people are using color-coded bracelets to inform others of their physical boundaries.
Postpartum Mental Health Visits Up During Pandemic, Study Finds
New mothers sought mental health treatment more often during the coronavirus pandemic, a study found, with higher rates observed within three months after childbirth. Findings published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) on Monday stemmed from data on more than 137,000 postpartum mothers in Ontario, Canada. Patients under study were about 31 years old on average. Researchers affiliated with the Toronto-based Women's College Research Institute compared clinical visit rates from 2016-2020, pre-pandemic baseline rates, to data from March-November 2020 to determine any increase. (Rivas, 6/7)
The Washington Post:
Masks? Vaccines? How Parents Of Newborns Should Handle Visitors In This Phase Of The Pandemic.
Bringing home a newborn is already one of the scariest and most vulnerable times for parents. Bringing one home during a pandemic creates a host of other questions, worries and risks. Opinions abound — from pediatricians, well-meaning relatives and strangers on the Internet — and many new parents remain unsure how to protect their families while enjoying a bit of post-quarantine freedom. (Frost, 6/7)
The Wall Street Journal:
Helping Kids Manage Anxiety And Ease Back Into Activities This Summer
As a most unusual—and exhausting—school year winds down, families are looking at a summer of changing pandemic rules and new possibilities. For many kids, there’s excitement about camp and beach vacations. But there are a lot of questions and anxiety during this transition, too, psychologists say. “We’re seeing a lot of difficulties as we try to get kids to go back to normal,” says Eli R. Lebowitz, associate professor in the Child Study Center at Yale School of Medicine. (Petersen, 6/7)
COVID-19 Pandemic Linked With Worse Mental Health In Teens
In a population study of 13- to 18-year-old Icelandic teens, mental health worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study late last week in The Lancet Psychiatry. The researchers analyzed 59,701 survey responses across two pre-pandemic baselines (2016, 2018) as well as during the pandemic (October 2020) and found that depressive symptoms increased and mental wellbeing worsened. The outcomes were significantly worse in girls than in boys. (6/7)
In related news —
The Washington Post:
Incarcerated Moms And Newborns Will No Longer Be Separated In Minnesota
It’s hard for Raelene Baker to say which session is harder: the separation, when a new mother unwillingly gives her newborn away, or the follow-up, when she meets with that mother several days later — often the mom is still lactating, a painful physical reminder of the infant she cannot hold. As a doula who works in Minnesota jails and prisons, Baker regularly deals with these inevitable parts of the job. “It’s just really painful,” Baker said. “I look at the baby who is nursing and know that the next time that baby eats, it won’t be from his or her mother. It will be from a bottle held by someone they’ve never met, after they’ve had these two days of snuggling and cuddling.” (Ewing, 6/7)
The Wall Street Journal:
New Pandemic-Era Accessory: A Bracelet That Signals Your Boundaries
The Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce in Virginia has restarted its in-person business networking events. Handshakes, back slaps and close talkers are optional these days. Instead, attendees at the group’s events are encouraged to select a new pandemic-era accessory: brightly colored wristbands or stickers that signal whether they want others to come physically close or stay the heck away. A plastic display sign provides the code, modeled on traffic lights: Red means “no contact” with “no exceptions.” Yellow means “elbow only,” as in stick to the elbow bump, pal. As for green, the sign says: “Hugs welcome.” (Levitz, 6/7)
Telehealth Company Valued At $1 Billion
A virtual health care startup is valued at $1 billion; LetsGetChecked allows customers order home-health tests and medications and receive telehealth follow-ups. And One Medical buys Iora Health and its Medicare Advantage business.
Health Firm Backed By Golfer McIlroy Hits $1 Billion Value
Virtual health-care startup LetsGetChecked has raised $150 million in new financing to expand its business after seeing a boom in demand for its services during the pandemic. The funding round, which was led by Casdin Capital, valued the startup at more than $1 billion, Chief Executive Officer Peter Foley said in an interview. Other investors included CommonFund Capital, Illumina Ventures, Optum Ventures, and professional golfer Rory McIlroy through his investment firm Symphony Ventures, the company said in a statement. (Levingston, 6/7)
One Medical Eyes The Full Lifespan With Acquisition Of Iora Health
One Medical announced its plan on Monday to acquire Iora Health, expanding its primary care services for the Medicare population. The all-stock transaction, valued at $2.1 billion, would bring together two longtime players in the virtual care space and add to One Medical’s already-growing physical footprint by taking on Iora’s 47 in-person medical offices, now serving about 38,000 Medicare patients. (Palmer, 6/7)
One Medical To Buy Medicare Advantage Provider Iora Health
One Medical, a primary care provider for commercially insured patients, hopes to break into the booming Medicare Advantage market with the purchase of Iora Health. San Francisco-based One Medical has been on an aggressive growth trajectory since well before its early 2020 initial public offering, and its potential $2.1 billion all-stock purchase of Iora announced Monday represents yet another expansion, this one not only into new markets, but into the fast-growing, potentially lucrative senior population. On an investor call Monday, leaders with both companies worked to emphasize their similarities. (Bannow, 6/7)
Scoop: VC Firms File Confidentially For Biotech SPAC
Three investment firms with deep health care investing experience are forming a new SPAC that will seek to buy a diagnostics company and take it public, Axios has learned. New SPAC formation has slowed, due to a glut of offerings and new SEC scrutiny, but plenty of veteran investors are continuing to jump into the arena. (Primack, 6/7)
VCU Health, Bayada Partner To Offer Hospice And Home Health
VCU Health system in Virginia is branching into home health and palliative care with the formation of a new company called VCU Health at Home by Bayada, a collaboration with a national home health provider. Patients of VCU Health System will gain access to end-of-life care and services related to a recent hospital stay, thus keeping patients inside the system. The new company will begin accepting patients in early 2022, and is the first foray into the Richmond metro region by not-for-profit Bayada Home Health Care. (Gillespie, 6/7)
The Washington Post:
Long-Awaited New Hospital In Prince George’s To Open This Week
A long-awaited regional hospital will open this week in Prince George’s County — a development that officials consider a vital step toward improving the health-care landscape in Maryland’s second-largest jurisdiction. The University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, located near the Largo Town Center Metro station, originally was scheduled to open in 2017. But construction was delayed for years because of clashes about funding and the hospital’s size. The 620,000-square-foot, glass-paneled facility will replace the 75-year-old Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, which will transfer its patients this weekend. (Chason, 6/7)
32BJ Severs Ties With NewYork-Presbyterian Amid Broader Fight For Pricing Transparency
A powerful labor union has made good on its 2018 promise to defect from NewYork-Presbyterian over rising health care costs and is recruiting legislators to help it fight one of the main roots of pricing opacity. 32BJ SEIU, the property service workers union that provides benefits to nearly 200,000 people in the Northeast region, decided this month to drop NewYork-Presbyterian from its network starting Jan. 1, 2022, because the fund paid, on average, 358 percent more than Medicare for the same services across the hospital system's facilities, said Sara Rothstein, director of the 32BJ Health Fund. (Eisenberg, 6/4)
Google, Apple Move Deeper Into Health Data
Apple makes it easier to share medical data collected by its phone and watch; a unit of Google's parent company, Alphabet, hires a a physician data expert from Duke. In other industry news, doctors question why race factors in calculations for delivering kidney treatments, emergency room visits dropped during the pandemic and more Native Americans are applying to medical schools.
Apple Announces New Feature To Share Health Data With Doctors
Apple is making it easier than ever for users to make the most of the mountains of health data already in the palm of their hands. At its annual technology showcase known as the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple revealed a new feature for users who have opted to share their medical records on their devices. Users can now choose the types of information they would like to share — such as an elevated cholesterol level or their physical activity history — and identify specific people to send it to, such as family members or clinicians. (Brodwin, 6/7)
Onduo’s New Exec On Google’s Data Skills And Moving The Needle On Health
After leading the charge at Duke University to free health care data from its silos, physician-scientist Erich Huang is jumping to Onduo where, as its chief science and innovation officer, he’ll help generate that kind of health information. In his new role at the virtual care platform created by Verily, Alphabet’s life science division, Huang will focus on generating evidence through case studies and clinical trials, with the aim of learning what kinds of digital health interventions work for patients and why. (Brodwin, 6/7)
In other health care industry news —
Kidney Experts Say It’s Time To Remove Race From Medical Algorithms. Doing So Is Complicated.
Alphonso Harried recently came across a newspaper clipping about his grandfather receiving his 1,000th dialysis treatment. His grandfather later died — at a dialysis center — as did his uncle, both from kidney disease. “And that comes in my mind, on my weak days: ‘Are you going to pass away just like they did?’” said Harried, 46, who also has the disease. He doesn’t like to dwell on that. He has gigs to play as a musician, a ministry to run with his wife and kids to protect as a school security guard. (Bichell and Anthony, 6/8)
Emergency Room Visits Of All Kinds Dropped Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic
Emergency room visits decreased drastically at the beginning of the pandemic, even among patients suffering from the most severe health conditions, according to a new study released yesterday in Health Affairs. The study suggests that patients avoided a wide range of care — including for some life-threatening conditions — and not just care that is easily delayed. (Owens, 6/8)
WUSF Public Media:
USF Studying How Health Ads Affect Hesitancy To Seek Care During Pandemic
Researchers with the University of South Florida are studying how effective health care advertisements are at convincing people to receive in-person services. They're inviting people who have been hesitant to seek routine or emergency care because of the COVID-19 pandemic to participate. The online survey involves a partnership between USF's College of Public Health and Zimmerman School of Advertising & Communications. It involves showing participants a series of ads and asking them to share how they feel after seeing them. (Colombini, 6/7)
WUSF Public Media:
More Native Americans Enrolling In Med School. A St. Pete Grad Plans To Join Them
James Fackrell, 17, knew he wanted to be a doctor from an early age. In part, because he required so much medical care himself. Also, because he saw that his Native American relatives needed better access to care. Now, the recent graduate of St. Petersburg’s Northeast High School is on his way to Brown University in Rhode Island, after gaining entry to the Ivy League school’s guaranteed medical school acceptance program. He’s part of a growing number of students from minority and indigenous backgrounds that are going to medical school. (Sheridan, 6/7)
Lake Oswego Biotech Executive Mark Ahn Sentenced In Insider Trading Case
Former Oregon biotech executive Mark Ahn faces six months in prison and an additional six months of home detention after pleading guilty to two counts of securities fraud. In 2017, Ahn had been working as a biotech consultant for a company in New York, advising it in its efforts to buy a Massachusetts firm called Dimension Therapeutics. Prosecutors say Ahn learned that Dimension would be acquired by a different company and bought Dimension stock based on insider information. (Rogoway, 6/7)
With Roots In Civil Rights, Community Health Centers Push For Equity In The Pandemic
In the 1960s, health care across the Mississippi Delta was sparse and much of it was segregated. Some hospitals were dedicated to Black patients, but they often struggled to stay afloat. At the height of the civil rights movement, young Black doctors launched a movement of their own to address the care disparity. “Mississippi was third-world and was so bad and so separated,” said Dr. Robert Smith. “The community health center movement was the conduit for physicians all over this country who believed that all people have a right to health care.” (Chatlani, 6/8)
UC Berkeley Launches NFT Auction Of Nobel Prize-Winning Cancer Research
UC Berkeley says it is the first academic institution in the world to use a non-fungible token (NFT) to auction off the science and correspondence behind a Nobel discovery. Bidding began at 12:03 p.m. today on “The Fourth Pillar,” which includes the scientific findings behind James P. Allison's invention of cancer immunotherapy. The first bid was for 12.00 ETH (Ether), or just over $31,000. The piece includes 10 pages of disclosure documents and related correspondence from 1995 detailing the invention of the cancer treatment developed by Allison, an immunologist who was then based at Berkeley. (Veltman, 6/7)
Airlines Lose Or Mishandle 29 Wheelchairs A Day
But that's 1.5 percent of wheelchairs and scooters they ship. (The Washington Post article doesn't say what percentage of luggage they lose and mishandle.) Also, the possible dangers of the TikTok practice of "dry scooping" and a strange sound connected to vision problems.
The Washington Post:
Airlines Have Lost Or Damaged More Than 15,000 Wheelchairs Since Late 2018
The country’s largest airlines have lost or damaged at least 15,425 wheelchairs or scooters since they were required to start reporting those numbers to the government at the end of 2018. Those figures represent nearly 1.5 percent of all such mobility devices loaded as cargo — and would be higher if the pandemic had not kept travelers on the ground for so much of 2020. In 2019, the first full year of reporting, 10,548 wheelchairs or scooters were lost, damaged, delayed or stolen. That amounts to roughly 29 a day. (Sampson, 6/7)
New Model Improves CPR Coaching For People Who Speak Limited English
New research finds that a Los Angeles program to coach 911 callers through providing CPR improved care in cases where the caller had only limited English proficiency. The study, published this month in JAMA Network Open, looked at the difference in outcomes for telecommunicator-assisted CPR before and after the Los Angeles Fire Department rolled out a new emergency dispatch system that streamlined the questions asked of a 911 caller. The results suggest a community-specific system like the one Los Angeles developed could better address the needs of culturally underserved populations, and also point to a need for more research on the challenges people with limited English proficiency face in accessing emergency care. (Lin, 6/8)
What Is 'Dry Scooping'? Latest TikTok Trend Could Be Dangerous For Your Heart
TikTok is chock-full of so-called "life hacks" and fitness trends, but one alleged tip involving "dry scooping" reportedly caused major health issues for at least two users, including one who claims she had a heart attack. So what is this latest gimmick, and can it really cause a heart attack? If done with extremely high levels of caffeine, yes, says one cardiologist. "This fad is similar to the ephedrine craze for weight loss that is now banned," Dr. Satjit Bhusri, cardiologist and founder of Upper East Side Cardiology, told Fox News. "The intent behind dry scooping is to allow the performance-enhancing supplements pre-workout to enter the bloodstream faster than the typical pre-workout drink." (Hein, 6/7)
North Carolina Health News:
Disability Groups Struggle To Respond To Down Syndrome/Abortion Bill
Liz Newton was over 30 when she and her husband decided they’d try to have another baby. They already had Clara Ruth and they wanted her to have a sibling. There was this feeling between them that their family was not yet complete. Her first pregnancy had been pretty rough. She was sick, depressed and lost weight. When Liz became pregnant again, she and her husband Zeb faced more challenges. (Hoban, 6/8)
A Mysterious Condition Threatens Vision, Especially In Young Black And Hispanic Women
Ameerah Bond was just 20 and in college when the odd symptoms started. There were headaches that no medication could touch. An odd swooshing sound in both ears beat in time to her pulse. “It would get louder and louder to the point where I couldn’t sleep,” she said. Even more frightening were the little dark spots in her vision, which was otherwise so good that she didn’t need glasses. She had no idea that the 50 pounds she had gained after a serious car accident in mid-2017 put her at risk for a rare, dangerous condition that can damage the vision of young women. (Burling, 6/7)
Missouri Governor Signs Bill Creating Drug Database To Fight Opioid Abuse
Missouri is the last state to establish the monitoring tool. It will collect data on controlled substances, such as opioid painkillers and some anti-anxiety drugs. In other state news, Alaska notes a surge in heroin overdoses, New Jersey closes a troubled women's prison and New York City plans for a post-covid concert in Central Park.
Missouri To Become Final State To Adopt Medication Database
Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill Monday to make Missouri the final state to adopt a prescription drug monitoring database aimed at flagging possible opioid misuse. Missouri for years has been the only state without such a program because of pushback from primarily Republican lawmakers concerned about patient privacy. The measure finally made it to the governor’s desk in May. (Ballentine, 6/7)
Anchorage Daily News:
Alaska Is In The Midst Of A Statewide Surge In Heroin-Related Overdoses
Alaska is in the midst of a significant surge in heroin overdoses that began in March and has remained high through the beginning of June. State health officials say the surge is unusual and a cause for concern. On Monday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services issued a public health alert about the increase in overdoses, measured by emergency department visitation data. It shows that the average number of overdoses per week since March is almost three times as high as the weekly average for 2019 and 2020. (Berman, 6/7)
The New York Times:
Women’s Prison Plagued By Sexual Violence Will Close, Governor Says
Just over a year ago, the Justice Department offered a scathing indictment of New Jersey’s only prison for women, describing a culture of sexual violence by guards so entrenched that it violated prisoners’ constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment. ... On Monday, in a stunning declaration that the problems were beyond repair, Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced that the prison, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, would be permanently closed. (Tully, 6/7)
North Carolina Health News:
What’s The State Of Abortion In North Carolina?
With the presence of six more conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, many court observers anticipate that laws aimed at restricting access to abortion passed at the state level will eventually wend their ways through the court system to be heard before the high court as a challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which made the procedure more widely available. In North Carolina, in the biennial legislative session that started in January, lawmakers have filed eight bills that would impact abortion access in North Carolina this legislative session. (Critchfield, 6/8)
The Wall Street Journal:
Central Park Concert To Celebrate New York’s Covid-19 Recovery
New York will celebrate its rebound from the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic with an all-star concert at Central Park’s Great Lawn this summer, city officials said Monday. The concert will be set for Aug. 21, according to Clive Davis, the record producer who has been tapped by Mayor Bill de Blasio to organize the event. ... The concert will be largely free to the public, but will be capped at 60,000 attendees, Mr. Davis said. (Passy and Honan, 6/7)
Pastor Seeks Revival Of Suit Challenging Virus Restrictions
About 100 supporters of a Louisiana minister gathered outside a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Monday to show support as his lawyers asked to revive a lawsuit he filed last year challenging the state's coronavirus restrictions. Tony Spell repeatedly flouted the public health restrictions at his Life Tabernacle Church in the Baton Rouge suburb of Central, and faces six state criminal counts as a result. (McGill, 6/7)
Michigan Confirms First Human Hantavirus Case
Michigan health officials on Monday reported the state’s first confirmed human case of the deadly hantavirus. The rat-borne illness, which U.S. health officials say cannot be transmitted from person-to-person, is typically passed to patients when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus through rodent droppings. The confirmed case under investigation by county and state health officials involved a woman in Washtenaw County, "recently hospitalized with a serious pulmonary illness from Sin Nombre hantavirus," according to a release from the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services. "The individual was likely exposed when cleaning an unoccupied dwelling that contained signs of an active rodent infestation." (Rivas, 6/7)
Canada May Begin Reopening Border With US On June 22
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tells mayors of border cities that he is looking at the date for a possible lifting of the closure that began in March 2020 as the pandemic spread. In other news, drugmaker Moderna is asking European regulators for permission to vaccinate teens and the director of the World Health Organization is calling on vaccine producers to provide more doses to international relief efforts.
Canada Eyeing June 22 To Begin Loosening Restrictions At U.S. Border
The mayors of Canadian border cities say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has signaled it could start easing Covid-19 restrictions at the Canada-U.S. frontier on June 22 if the country’s vaccination campaign stays on its current trajectory. Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, told POLITICO that Public Safety Minister Bill Blair delivered the message during a recent virtual meeting of border mayors from the province. (Blatchford, 6/7)
Moderna Applies For EU Coronavirus Vaccine Authorization Covering Teens
U.S. biotech Moderna filed Monday data for an EU conditional marketing authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12 to 18. It’s the second COVID-19 vaccine maker to apply for a license in children in the EU after BioNTech/Pfizer, whose mRNA vaccine was approved for adolescents on May 28. (Collis, 6/7)
The Washington Post:
WHO Pushes Vaccine Makers To Reserve Half Their Production For Covax
World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called on coronavirus vaccine manufacturers to give half their doses to Covax, the initiative to distribute vaccines equitably, as part of a push to inoculate 30 percent of the world’s population by Dec. 31. “Sharing vaccines now is essential for ending the acute phase of the pandemic,” he told reporters Monday. “But it’s also clear that in an emergency, low-income countries cannot rely solely on imports of vaccines from wealthier nations.” (Ang, 6/8)
India To Provide Free Vaccines To All In Major Policy Shift
India’s federal government will provide free coronavirus shots to any adult starting later this month and take back control of the country’s vaccination drive, marred by delays and shortages, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Monday. The changes reverse a policy launched in April which tasked states and the private sector with vaccinating those between the ages of 18 and 44. The federal government will now procure 75% of all vaccines directly from the manufacturers and provide them to the states for free, while the remaining 25% will be purchased by the private sector. (Saaliq, 6/7)
In other global developments —
All Roads -- Blocked Off Roads -- Lead To Tokyo Olympics
Roads were being closed off Tuesday around Tokyo Olympic venues, including the new $1.4 billion National Stadium where the opening ceremony is set for July 23. This is a clear sign that Tokyo Olympic planners and the International Olympic Committee are moving forward despite public opposition, warnings about the risks of the games becoming a spreader event, and Tokyo and other parts of Japan being under a state of emergency until June 20. (Wade and Komiya, 6/8)
WHO Formally Recommends Johnson & Johnson's Ebola Vaccine
The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization for the World Health Organization (WHO) formally supports the use of Johnson & Johnson's two-dose Ebola vaccine regimen, Zabdeno (Ad26.ZEBOV) and Mvabea (MVA-BN-Filo), both during outbreaks for individuals at risk for Ebola exposure and before outbreaks for first responders, according to a press release today from Johnson & Johnson. (6/7)
Clowns Used To Teach Landmine Safety To Children
A Bozeman (Montana)-based performer and nonprofit leader with a penchant for red noses has partnered with a land mine safety group to create videos, GIFs and games to educate children on the dangers of landmines. Naomi Shafer, a Bozeman resident and executive director of Clowns Without Borders, is part of an international team of performers and educators creating landmine safety videos in four countries. Clowns Without Borders, a nonprofit that performs in refugee camps, conflict zones and natural disaster sites around the world, is working with the Mines Advisory Group to create online content to reach audiences after in-person events were halted due to the pandemic. (6/6)
Viewpoints: What Is The Future Of Telehealth?; Is Aducanumab The Alzheimer's Answer?
Editorial pages tackle these various public health topics.
What’s Ahead For Telehealth?
Virtual healthcare visits surged during the peak of the pandemic, boosted by regulatory waivers. Telemedicine is here to stay, but in what role? (Mitchell Fong and Dr. Robert Berenson, 6/8)
FDA's Aducanumab Approval Sets Stage For Bigger Breakthroughs
The Food and Drug Administration yanked the fight against Alzheimer’s out of the mire with its approval of the first disease-modifying therapy. Although it’s a modest first step, it paves the way for more momentous breakthroughs. The drug — aducanumab by Biogen and Eisai — is a monoclonal antibody that clears a toxic protein called beta-amyloid from the brain. The drug can’t reverse Alzheimer’s-related damage once amyloid has seized a beachhead and symptoms of the disease emerge. Its promise lies in battling amyloid before it does irreversible harm. (Dana Goldman and Darius Lakdawalla, 6/7)
Approving Biogen's Alzheimer's Drug Aducanumab (Aduhelm) Is Big Mistake
"Follow the science" has been a consistent refrain during the pandemic, and it's usually a core mandate of the Food and Drug Administration in evaluating medicines. But when it came to one of the agency's most consequential decisions — the approval Monday of Biogen Inc.'s controversial Alzheimer's drug aducanumab — science took a back seat. Alzheimer's is a devastating illness with no treatments that do anything but ease symptoms. Biogen's drug is the first said to slow decline. If there was good evidence that it did so, it'd be a breakthrough, but the data is inconclusive at best. And while the FDA is and should be flexible when patients have no options, this decision does more than bend standards — it shatters them. (Max Nisen, 6/7)
Los Angeles Times:
How Science Is Fighting Big Food's Addiction Tactics
Robert Goldstein, a hedge fund manager in New York, was getting huge cravings for sweets when he came across a tropical plant called Gymnema sylvestre that works a little like methadone for heroin addicts. Compounds extracted from the woody vine keep the brain from getting overly excited for sugar by disabling the sweet receptors on the tongue. For an hour or so, brownies and doughnuts and Oreo cookies all taste like putty, which helped Goldstein control his cravings so well that he put the plant’s extract into little white pills, which he named Sweet Defeat. Said one review: “It’s like willpower in a bottle!” (Michael Moss, 6/6)
A Tool Doctors Use Every Day Can Perpetuate Medical Racism
COVID-19 exacerbated various preexisting racial health disparities, which ushered in a racial reckoning in the medical field. As a result, many medical institutions attempted to implement meaningful changes to dismantle systemic racism within their teaching and clinical environments. Yet, a tool used daily by almost every physician, the history of present illness (HPI), may still perpetuate medical racism. (Ashley Andreou, 6/7)
Los Angeles Daily News:
Placing Checks-And-Balances On Public Health Officials
The nation’s public health officials are terribly worried about a virulent new threat. Eight states are already in its grip, and more are teetering toward the abyss. No, it’s not a new COVID variant. The threat that is keeping public health officials awake at night is the rapid spread of new state laws putting limits on the authority of public health officials. A recent report by the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Network for Public Health Law concludes that legislation limiting flexibility or stripping authority from public health officials poses a “threat to life and health” and “violates the constitutional separation of powers.” (Susan Shelley, 6/6)
Scientific Publishing Needs To Embrace The Rapid Correction
Some observers have hailed the response to Covid-19 as a triumph for science. A hesitant triumph, perhaps. Full of missteps and recriminations, frustrations and death. Maybe more a hard-won victory. Scientific outcomes certainly support some optimism. The world has gained a better understanding of the relevant Covid-19 disease processes, assembled a solid clinical research base for managing the disease, and produced multiple vaccines that are driving down infections and deaths. Yet the infrastructure for producing empirical knowledge about the SARS-CoV-2 virus frequently failed, leading to potentially devastating public health consequences. (Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz and James Heathers, 6/8)
Perspectives: India Battling Covid Misinformation; Black Women Key In Reducing Vaccine Hesitancy
Opinion writers weigh in on these covid and vaccine issues.
The Washington Post:
India Is Facing An Epidemic Of Misinformation Alongside Covid-19
As the covid-19 pandemic rages across the globe, India has seen some of the most catastrophic losses in the world. Images of helplessness, pain and despair have become emblematic of the crisis: overflowing crematoriums and funeral pyres, a torrent of pleas for oxygen and beds, and a health-care system in shambles. At a time when the country reels from the compounded effects of this devastating pandemic, social media abounds with falsehoods: unscientific claims that cow urine can prevent covid-19, baseless allegations that Muslims spread the virus and unsubstantiated narratives that Western media is making up death tolls, among others. Social media groups have morphed into havens of misinformation. (Sumitra Badrinathan, 6/7)
With The Help Of Black Women, We Can Boost Vaccine Acceptance And Uptake
Black Americans have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Yet we're also much less likely to take the vaccines. In the District of Columbia, for example, Blacks account for 55% of all COVID-19 cases and 70% of all deaths, yet have received only 40% of vaccinations. That pattern sadly reoccurs in state after state. (Linda Goler Blount and Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, 6/7)
The New York Times:
You Can’t Rely On The C.D.C. To Make Your Pandemic Decisions
How should we think about the risk from Covid now? When it comes to public health emergencies like the pandemic, if people fail to be safe enough, or the danger and uncertainty are just too great to rely on individual decisions, then the government must act, as it did with stay-at-home orders and mask mandates last year. But as the country emerges from the pandemic, it’s going to fall increasingly on each of us to figure out what to do ourselves. (Aaron E. Carroll, 6/7)
The CT Mirror:
COVID Isn't Over. Public Health Communication Must Reflect That
In the public health world, there is a common saying: “When public health works, nothing happens.” The downward trend of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut and across the United States, the reduction in the number of hospitalizations and deaths, are early signs of our gradual return to “normalcy.” This trend back to the status quo is a result of a working public health system. The opposite also holds true: when public health fails, people get sick, and people can die. (Dr. Sosena Kebede, 6/7)
Kansas City Star:
Josh Hawley Knows Anthony Fauci Isn’t Who Fumbled COVID-19
Josh Hawley is calling for the head of the man he claims is responsible for the United States’ tragically inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, Missouri’s junior senator joined the chorus of GOP voices insisting that Dr. Anthony Fauci must step down as director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The time has come for Fauci to resign and for a full congressional investigation into the origins of #COVID19 — and into any and all efforts to prevent a full accounting,” he tweeted. (6/7)