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Insurance NewsThursday, April 22, 2021 | Kaiser Health News | #insurance | #seniors | #elderly

Thursday, April 22, 2021 | Kaiser Health News | #insurance | #seniors | #elderly

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With 200M Shots Goal Met, Biden Urges Businesses To Help Get Rest Vaccinated

While marking the achievement of vaccinating 200 million within his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden warned the job is not done. As supply begins to outpace demand, the administration is offering tax incentives to encourage businesses to make getting the shot more convenient for employees.

NPR:
Biden Says Goal Of 200 Million COVID-19 Vaccinations In 100 Days Has Been Met

President Biden announced Wednesday that Americans have received 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations since he took office, double his initial goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, and what he called “an incredible achievement for the nation.” Biden, who will officially cross the 100-day mark next week, also announced the availability of tax credits to employers who give their workers paid leave to get a shot. (Naylor, 4/21)

Politico:
Biden: 200 Million Americans Have Been Vaccinated

The administration also unveiled a new tax credit designed to encourage businesses with fewer than 500 employees to give paid time off to workers for getting vaccinated — a policy included in Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which was signed into law last month. Businesses and nonprofits may receive a tax credit for up to $511 per day of paid sick leave that employees take to get the shot or recover from its side effects from April 1 through Sept. 30. (Forgey and Roubein, 4/21)

CNN:
Biden Calls For Businesses To Give Paid Time Off For Employees To Get Vaccinated As He Touts 200 Million Shots

“As we move into the vaccination campaign focused on working age adults, one concern I’ve heard from so many Americans is that they can’t afford to take the time off to get vaccinated or lose a day’s work because they are feeling slightly under the weather after their shot,” Biden said in remarks Wednesday afternoon. He added, “I’m calling on every employer, large and small, in every state to give employees the time off they need — with pay — to get vaccinated, and any time they need — with pay — to recover if they’re feeling under the weather after the shot. No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated.” (Diamond, Sullivan, Collins, Mattingly and Vazquez, 4/21)

In related news —

The Washington Post:
U.S. Vaccinations Dropped 11 Percent Over The Past Week — The Biggest Decline Since February 

Daily coronavirus vaccinations have slowed significantly for the first time since February, a sign that demand is slipping even though every American adult is now eligible for the shots. About 3 million Americans are getting vaccinated daily, an 11 percent decrease in the seven-day average of daily shots administered over the past week. The unprecedented drop is rivaled only by a brief falloff that occurred in February, when winter storms forced the closure of vaccination sites and delayed shipments nationwide. (Keating, Nirappil and Stanley-Becker, 4/21)

Stateline:
Vaccination Outreach Shifts As Demand Drops In Some States

Four months into the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history, roughly half of all adult Americans have received at least one shot against COVID-19 and the nation is vaccinating more than 3 million people daily. But those nationwide averages belie looming standstills in pockets of the country where people aren’t showing up for appointments and vaccines are piling up in refrigerators. “We’ve harvested the low-hanging fruit, now we’ve got to do the hard work,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “For every incremental increase in the number of people vaccinated, it’s going to get harder and harder.” (Vestal, 4/21)

CNN:
US Has The Opportunity To Overcome The Pandemic But A Major Challenge Lies Ahead, Expert Says

On the road toward a return to normalcy, the rapidly climbing number of Covid-19 vaccinations is good news. But a major challenge may lie ahead, a leading health expert says. Tens of millions of Americans haven’t started their vaccinations yet, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN on Wednesday, and “a lot of those folks are still not sure that they want to take part in this amazing opportunity to put this virus behind us.” “We have to really figure out how to get the messages out there so that those who are still undecided get the information they need to see why this is really something they would want to do.” (Maxouris, 4/22)

Bloomberg:
Biden Says He’ll Send Vaccines Overseas Once Supply Sufficient

President Joe Biden said the U.S. wants to share coronavirus vaccines with other countries but won’t begin sending doses abroad until it has sufficient supply at home.“ We’re looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using. We’ve got to make sure they are safe to be sent,” Biden said at the White House Wednesday. “And we hope to be able to be of some help and value to countries around the world.” (Wingrove and Sink, 4/21)

Bloomberg:
U.S. Weighs Global Vaccine-Expansion Move Opposed By Drugmakers

The Biden administration is weighing an appeal from progressive Democrats to accelerate global access to Covid-19 vaccines by supporting a waiver of intellectual-property protections, a move opposed by big drugmakers. Lawmakers led by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren last week called on President Joe Biden to back a proposal before the World Trade Organization that seeks a broad waiver from obligations on the protection of intellectual property rights, including patents, copyrights and trade secrets. The aim is to ease rules regarding the production and export of vaccines and other critical medical goods needed to combat the Covid-19 virus. (Martin and Decker, 4/22)

And first lady Jill Biden is on a vaccine outreach tour —

AP:
Jill Biden Visits US Southwest Amid Vaccine Push

First lady Jill Biden has kicked off a three day visit to the U.S. Southwest on Wednesday with a tour of a vaccination clinic in New Mexico, where early efforts to get people registered for shots helped to propel the state’s standing as a national leader in vaccine distribution. The tour includes stops in Albuquerque and later the Navajo Nation as the United States is set to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of administering 200 million coronavirus doses in his first 100 days in office. The president also outlined his administration’s latest plans to motivate more Americans to get shots as demand diminishes. (Bryan and Lee, 4/21)

AP:
Jill Biden To Visit Navajo Nation, Once Floored By COVID-19

Jill Biden is traveling to the country’s largest Native American reservation, the Navajo Nation, which was hit hard by the coronavirus but is outpacing the U.S. in vaccination rates while maintaining strict pandemic restrictions. The trip Thursday and Friday will be Biden’s third to the reservation that spans 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) in the Four Corners region, and her inaugural visit as first lady. (Fonseca, 4/22)

AP:
Navajo Nation Reports Its First COVID-19 Death In 11 Days

The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported its first COVID-19 related death after 10 consecutive days of no such fatalities. The tribe reported one death and eight new confirmed coronavirus cases on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The latest numbers bring the Navajo Nation’s pandemic case total to 30,388 with the known death toll now at 1,263. (4/22)

Dirty Conditions, Quality-Control Problems Found By FDA Inspectors At Plant Making J&J Shots

None of the potentially contaminated Johnson & Johnson shots produced at the Baltimore Emergency BioSolutions were ever distributed, but 15 million doses had to be discarded. The latest report says more may be compromised.

CBS News:
FDA Inspectors Find “Brown Residue” And Other Violations In Plant Making Johnson & Johnson Vaccine 

The Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of material that was going to be put in the shots, U.S. regulators said Wednesday. The Food and Drug Administration released a statement and a 13-page report detailing findings from its recent inspection of the now-idle Emergent BioSciences factory. Agency inspectors said a batch of bulk drug substance for J&J’s single-shot vaccine was contaminated with material used to make COVID-19 vaccines for another Emergent client, AstraZeneca. That batch, reportedly enough to make about 15 million J&J vaccine doses, had to be thrown out. (4/21)

NPR:
FDA Inspection Finds Numerous Problems At Facility Intended To Make J&J Vaccine

Peeling paint. Cracked buckets. Employees dragging unsealed bags of medical waste. Procedures ignored. Inadequately trained staff. All of these were problems noted by U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors at the Emergent BioSolutions factory in Baltimore – a facility that is intended to produce materials for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. That plan is on hold, following a problem last month with a batch of a vaccine ingredient there, and now a range of documented issues at the facility. (Wamsley, 4/21)

The New York Times:
Federal Inspectors Fear More Vaccines Were Exposed To Contamination

“There is no assurance that other batches have not been subject to cross-contamination,” the F.D.A.’s 12-page report states. The report amounted to a harsh rebuke of Emergent, which had long played down setbacks at the factory, and added to problems for Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine had been seen as a game changer because it requires only one shot, can be produced in mass volume and is easily stored. (LaFraniere, Stolberg and Hamby, 4/21)

Politico:
FDA Inspection Report Casts Doubt On J&J Vaccine Contractor’s Ability To Restart Production 

Emergent said that it is working with FDA and J&J to resolve the issues quickly. “While we are never satisfied to see shortcomings in our manufacturing facilities or process, they are correctable and we will take swift action to remedy them,” the company said in a statement. It added that “the issuance of findings by the FDA is normal following a facility inspection and provides direction on the necessary steps to improve operations.” But it is rare for the agency to move so quickly —releasing a report on an inspection concluded just a day earlier — and to accompany its findings with a statement by top FDA officials. (Owermohle and Banco, 4/21)

Covid Shots Are Safe For Pregnant Women, More Research Shows

In other news, people who experienced “breakthrough” covid infections after being fully vaccinated appeared to suffer only mild illness.

CNN:
Pfizer And Moderna Covid-19 Vaccines Do Not Appear To Pose Serious Risk During Pregnancy, Research Shows 

The mRNA Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna do not appear to pose any serious risk during pregnancy, according to new data published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Pregnant women with Covid-19 are at increased risk for severe illness and may be at increased risk for adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, along with existing research showing mRNA vaccines are effective in pregnant and lactating women, suggests that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks. (Mascarenhas and Firger, 4/21)

AP:
New Data Reassuring For COVID-19 Vaccination In Pregnancy

One of the largest reports on COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy bolsters evidence that the shots are safe, although the authors say more comprehensive research is needed. The preliminary results are based on reports from more than 35,000 U.S. women who received either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech shots while pregnant. Their rates of miscarriage, premature births and other complications were comparable to those observed in published reports on pregnant women before the pandemic. (Tanner, 4/21)

In other vaccine news —

CNN:
Only 2 “Breakthrough” Infections Among Hundreds Of Fully Vaccinated People, New Study Finds 

For fully vaccinated people, the risk of still getting Covid-19 — described as “breakthrough infections” — remains extremely low, a new study out of New York suggests. Among 417 employees at Rockefeller University who were fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna shots, two of them or about .5%, had breakthrough infections later, according to the study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Howard, 4/21)

NBC News:
Breakthrough Infections With Coronavirus Variants Reported, But Cases Appear Mild

Two reports of so-called coronavirus breakthrough infections — in which fully vaccinated people get the illness anyway — suggest that the vaccines still offer strong protection against severe disease even in the face of variants. The cases, which were detailed Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, were those of two women out of more than 400 fully vaccinated study participants who were tested for Covid-19 weekly. Both women developed mild cases and recovered quickly. (Sayal, 4/21)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
The COVID-19 Vaccine Won’t Give You Herpes. Here’s What The Science Says

“It’s called a logical fallacy,” said William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and also a liaison to the CDC’s immunization advisory committee, which makes vaccine recommendations that shape insurance coverage. “The Israeli doctors fell into this trap because the COVID-19 vaccination and the shingles outbreaks were related in time.” Even the Israelis, who published in the journal Rheumatology, acknowledge that “the study design is not structured to determine a causal relationship.” (McCullough, 4/21)

The Atlantic:
Vaccines Are Making COVID-19 A Young Person’s Disease

Like many parents, Jason Newland, a pediatrician at Washington University in St. Louis and a dad to three teens ages 19, 17, and 15, now lives in a mixed-vaccination household. His 19-year-old got vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s shot two weeks ago and the 17-year-old with Pfizer’s, which is available to teens as young as 16. The 15-year-old is still waiting for her shot, though—a bit impatiently now. “She’s like, ‘Dude, look at me here,’” Newland told me. “‘Why don’t you just tell them I’m 16?’” But because certain pharmaceutical companies set certain age cutoffs for their clinical trial, she alone in her family can’t get a COVID-19 shot. She’s the only one who remains vulnerable. She’s the only one who has to quarantine from all her friends if she gets exposed. (Zhang, 4/21)

Iowa Prisoners Given Too Much Vaccine; House Calls Begin In Dallas

Officials at the maximum-security prison at Fort Madison didn’t say how much extra of the Pfizer vaccine the prisoners received. In other news: Dallas kicks off its first in-home vaccination program; the governors of Iowa and Pennsylvania implore residents to get vaccinated; and more.

Des Moines Register:
Iowa Prison Staff Gives Overdoses Of COVID-19 Vaccine To 77 Inmates

Staff from the Iowa Department of Corrections incorrectly gave 77 inmates overdoses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the department confirmed to the Des Moines Register. The incident happened Tuesday at the state maximum-security prison at Fort Madison, according to Cord Overton, a spokesperson for the department. Overton did not say how much extra vaccine each inmate was given. (May Sahouri and Leys, 4/21)

Dallas Morning News:
Dallas Kicks Off First In-Home COVID Vaccination Program For Homebound Seniors

The program is the next step in the goal to vaccinate vulnerable residents and comes three months after Dallas County’s vaccine hub opened at Fair Park in South Dallas. Initial efforts to inoculate Black and Latino people in the county had fallen short, complicated by transportation issues and internet access because of an online registration system. Now, as doses have become more widely available and an increasing number of people are getting inoculated, the city and county have streamlined the vaccination process. (Cooper, 4/21)

Anchorage Daily News:
Alaska Will Have Enough COVID-19 Vaccine For Every Eligible Resident By The End Of May, Health Officials Say

Alaska will soon have enough COVID-19 vaccine available in the state for every eligible resident, the state’s top doctor said Wednesday. “By the end of May, we will have enough vaccine for every Alaskan to get vaccinated who’s 16 and above,” Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer said during a public information call. That estimate is based on how much vaccine the state has already received, as well as projected allocation numbers for May, she said. Data available from the state shows that Alaska will have received just over 508,000 first doses of vaccine by the end of April. (Berman, 4/21)

The Washington Post:
New Yorkers Can Get Vaccinated Under The Natural History Museum’s Iconic — Now Bandaged — Blue Whale

Starting Friday, New York’s American Museum of Natural History will open a mass vaccination site, allowing New Yorkers to register to get a jab under the institution’s iconic 94-foot-long model of a blue whale. (Firozi, 4/20)

Des Moines Register:
Gov. Kim Reynolds Implores Unvaccinated Iowans To Take COVID Vaccine

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that “vaccine hesitancy is beginning to become a real factor” in Iowa and across the country. The governor noted during her weekly press conference that 43 of Iowa’s 99 counties have declined some or all of next week’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation due to decreasing demand for the shots. The Republican governor implored Iowans to take the vaccine, as she did. (Coltrain and Richardson, 4/21)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
More Coronavirus Vaccinations Are Key To Fully Reopening Pennsylvania And New Jersey, Governors Say

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday that he would like to see more Pennsylvanians get vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying inoculations are key to fully reopening the state and avoiding the spread of virus variants. “If you haven’t made an appointment, make one,” said the governor, who received his first dose Monday. “Come in. There are openings.” (McCarthy, McDaniel and Steele, 4/21)

Los Angeles Times:
Not All Asian Americans Are Being Vaccinated At High Rates. A Chinatown Clinic Shows Why

Before the pandemic, Sissy Trinh ran after-school programs as founder and executive director of the Chinatown-based youth organization Southeast Asian Community Alliance. But since last year, the organization of five people pivoted to COVID-19 relief, delivering food and other resources to vulnerable residents in Chinatown and Lincoln Heights. She soon realized that existing government programs weren’t accessible to the families her group served: those with language and technology barriers. (Tseng, 4/21)

KHN:
California And Texas Took Different Routes To Vaccination. Who’s Ahead?

California and Texas, the country’s two most populous states, have taken radically different approaches to the pandemic and the vaccination campaign to end it. California has trumpeted its reliance on science and policies it says are aimed at improving social equity. Texas state officials have emphasized individual rights and protecting the economy, often ignoring public health warnings but encouraging vaccination — while calling it a personal choice. (Almendrala and West, 4/22)

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