Health Care

Overnight Health Care — The race for boosters

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: digital-stage.thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Meet Sparkle. This corgi-mix, a longtime staple of her Somerville, Mass., neighborhood, has earned national fame in recent days. She needs “extra love” due to incurable cancer in her upper jaw. 

New York City on Monday joined other states and localities in opening booster eligibility for everyone over the age of 18, despite federal recommendations to the contrary. We’ll look at the race for boosters and what federal officials are saying.

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@digital-stage.thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@digital-stage.thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@digital-stage.thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.

States rush ahead of feds on boosters 

Faced with rising coronavirus infections, some states are pushing ahead of the federal government and making booster shots available to anyone who wants one, turbocharging the rollout in hopes of blunting a potential winter spike. 

Colorado, California, New Mexico and West Virginia have now decided that everyone age 18 and older, who is either two months out from a J&J shot or six months out from the final Moderna or Pfizer dose, is eligible. 

The decisions are being made by officials fearful that rising cases could overwhelm hospitals; or in some instances, because hospitals are already at crisis standards.

What the feds say: The current federal guidance for boosters is fairly broad — the people who should get a booster are those over age 65 and anyone at high risk because of work, where they live or those with an underlying medical condition. More than 70 percent of Americans are eligible.

Vaccine providers are not supposed to ask questions or turn anyone away, relying on self-attestation for eligibility. Still, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stopped short of recommending boosters for everyone, which puts these places at odds with federal guidance. 

Backstory: The Biden administration is a major proponent of booster shots, and federal health officials initially intended to authorize Pfizer’s booster shot for everyone over the age of 18. But outside advisers felt the evidence wasn’t strong enough — the benefits to younger people without underlying health conditions were not clear, especially because of the higher risk of myocarditis (heart inflammation) in young men. 

Experts divided: Pfizer has again requested authorization for boosters for everyone aged 18 and older, but the FDA and CDC have not made a decision yet. Some infectious disease experts are troubled by the trend of states ignoring federal regulators. They also want the administration to be clearer about the purpose of booster shots; getting shots to the unvaccinated will end the pandemic, not boosters. If vulnerable people, especially those over the 65 and those in nursing homes aren’t getting boosters, there should be a concentrated effort to do that, rather than broadly opening eligibility for everyone.  

Read more here.

 

NYC EXPANDS BOOSTER ELIGIBILITY

New York City will allow everyone over the age of 18 to receive a COVID-19 booster shot if they want one, the city’s top doctor said Monday, adding that providers should not turn anyone away.

The city has an 80 percent vaccination rate among adults, but local officials are concerned about the winter. 

Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said coronavirus case numbers have been increasing, though high levels of vaccination have kept hospitalizations and deaths to a minimum.

Chokshi said he wanted to ensure there are no barriers to access for the people who think they are at risk enough to warrant the additional protection from a booster dose. More than 630,000 New Yorkers have already received a booster, he said, but even more can benefit ahead of winter and the holidays.

During a press conference Monday, Chokshi said the city’s recommendations are consistent with federal guidance, and he doesn’t think the city is doing anything differently.

“What we’re trying to clarify today is that there should be no barriers to accessing a booster shot,” Chokshi said. “The bottom line is, we don’t want anyone turned away from a booster dose, and we want to prioritize those who will most benefit.” 

Read more here.

 

NIH child COVID study enrolls first participant 

A long-term National Institutes of Health (NIH) study on the impacts of COVID-19 on children and young adults enrolled its first participant, the agency announced on Monday.

The NIH’s research intends to follow 1,000 children and young adults ages 3-21 who previously tested positive for COVID-19 over three years to examine the virus’s impact on their physical and mental health.  

The agency enrolled its first participant from its Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md.

What it entails: Researchers will give children a physical examination, scan their hearts and other organs, and collect samples, including blood, nasal swabs, stool and urine. Children and young adult participants will have the option to determine any risk factors with genetic analysis. 

Participants who join the study more than 12 weeks after a positive test will go to the clinic every six months for three years. Those who participate within 12 weeks of a positive test will also see researchers at the three and six-month points.

Significance: The study comes after more children were hospitalized for COVID-19 amid the delta variant surge in recent months, compared to previously in the pandemic. 

Data earlier in the pandemic indicated that children were less likely to endure severe COVID-19, but at this point, almost 6 million contracted the disease and nearly 600 have died, according to CDC data. 

Read more here

 

BACKING THE KIDS VACCINE PUSH

First lady Jill Biden on Monday urged parents to vaccinate their children against COVID-19, saying that it’s the parents’ choice but arguing that vaccines are the best way to protect children.

“From the day you held your sweet, fragile, little baby for the first time, you have made the choice, again and again, to keep your child safe. Getting your kids the Covid-19 vaccine is your choice, too. Make the decision to protect your children with the same vaccine that has already saved millions of lives,” Biden wrote in a CNN op-ed.

While traveling to more than 30 states this year, she said parents have asked her when the vaccine for children is coming. 

“Now, it’s here — not just another way to protect your kids against Covid-19, but the best way. It’s been thoroughly reviewed and rigorously tested. It’s safe. It’s free and it’s available for every eligible child in the country,” she said.

Biden and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy visited Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston on Sunday to urge parents to vaccinate children ages 5-11.

Biden said the administration worked closely with pediatricians and pharmacists so that schools and more than 100 children’s hospitals can offer the vaccine shots, reiterating the convenience for parents taking children to get vaccinated. 

Read more here.

 

Fauci: ‘A typical’ Thanksgiving for vaccinated

Anthony Fauci said on Monday that families who are vaccinated against COVID-19 can “feel good about enjoying a typical” Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.

President Biden’s chief medical adviser warned that the U.S. is still counting tens of thousands of new cases per day and recommended masks in indoor congregate settings. 

But he said the fully vaccinated should feel comfortable gathering with other vaccinated family and friends in private settings this holiday season. 

“If you get vaccinated and your family’s vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends,” he said at a Bipartisan Policy Center event.

“When you go to indoor congregate settings, go the extra mile, be safe, wear a mask,” he added. “But when you are with your family at home, goodness, enjoy it with your parents, your children, your grandparents. There’s no reason not to do that.”

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

 

STATE BY STATE

 

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Tuesday.

Tags Anthony Fauci Jill Biden Joe Biden Vivek Murthy

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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