Health Care

Overnight Health Care: US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries | Biden speaks with Prime Minister Modi as COVID-19 surges in India

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Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. Want to book that long-delayed European vacation? If you’re vaccinated, it looks like you can this summer. 

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Today: The U.S. finally said it will share excess COVID-19 vaccines with other countries, but questions remain as to the specifics. The CDC is poised to offer an updated guidance on masking, likely about being outdoors, with details outlined Tuesday. And a new poll found widespread concerns about Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

We’ll start with Biden’s plan for AstraZeneca:  

US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries

The Biden administration on Monday announced that it will move to donate millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries, after pressure from lawmakers and advocates.

The United States has millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized in the US, but is in other countries, and could play a key role amid worsening spikes in cases abroad, particularly in India. 

“Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the United States has already authorized, and that is available in large quantities, including two two-dose vaccines and one one-dose vaccine, and given AstraZeneca is not authorized for use in the United States, we do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against COVID over the next few months,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Pressure had been mounting: Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) had called on the administration to release the doses on Sunday, as had Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, in a Washington Post op-ed on Saturday.

Still, doses not available right away: Psaki said the doses cannot be released immediately, as they will first have to undergo safety reviews by the Food and Drug Administration. A Baltimore plant that had been producing the vaccine has faced a string of problems and was cited by the FDA for multiple safety failures.

Once the FDA clears the doses, “in the coming weeks,” Psaki said about 10 million doses will be available. An additional 50 million doses are in “various stages of production” and could be available across May and June, she said.

Read more here.


Biden spoke with Modi as the situation in India worsens

President Biden on Monday spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and pledged to provide assistance as the world’s second most populous country grapples with soaring coronavirus infections.

“The two leaders resolved that the United States and India will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the effort to protect our citizens and the health of our communities,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

The United States is sending India aid to help with depleted oxygen supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics in an effort to help stem the surge in cases that has strained India’s health care system.

The crisis there: India on Sunday reported roughly 350,000 new cases, setting a single-day record for any country during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times reported that India has vaccinated just under 2 percent of its population, even though the country is producing two shots domestically.

Read more here


Biden expected to announce updated mask guidance on Tuesday

President Biden is expected to announce on Tuesday updated guidance on masking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two sources confirmed to The Hill. The guidance is still being finalized, according to multiple sources, but is likely to ease recommendations about outdoor mask wearing. 

Biden is expected to outline the changes in a speech on Tuesday more broadly addressing where the country stands in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN reported the announcement will focus on whether vaccinated people need to wear masks when outdoors.

Fauci weighs in: Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top medical adviser and the government’s leading infectious diseases expert, hinted in an interview Sunday that updated guidance on masks was in the works. “I think it’s pretty common sense now that outdoor risk is really, really quite low, particularly — I mean, if you are a vaccinated person, wearing a mask outdoors, I mean, obviously, the risk is minuscule,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But while experts have been saying this for months, much like the recommendations on double masking, Fauci and CDC are waiting until there is rock-solid data to back it up.

Read more here.


House Democrats call on Biden to add Medicare-related provisions to economic plan

A group of progressive and moderate House Democrats organized a letter calling on President Biden and Vice President Harris to lower Medicare’s eligibility age and expand its benefits as part of the upcoming American Families Plan.

“Now is a historic opportunity to also make an important expansion of Medicare that will guarantee health care for millions of older adults and people with disabilities struggling with the health and economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Democrats wrote.

The lawmakers pointed to a study from Stanford University that found many people under the age of 65 wait until they have Medicare coverage to undergo diagnostic tests to determine whether they have diseases like cancer.

They also argued for expanding the benefits offered by Medicare, citing reports that the majority of people who need hearing or dental devices do not have them.

Notable names: Progressive Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) was joined by Joe Neguse (Colo.), who serves in House leadership, as well as moderates Jared Golden (Maine) and Conor Lamb (Pa.).

Context: Democrats are lobbying hard to influence the legislation ahead of President Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Campaign promise: Biden had vowed during his campaign to get rid of the “outrageous exception” that allowed pharmaceutical companies to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices.

Read more here.


Post-pause hesitation? Poll shows few unvaccinated Americans willing to get Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Few Americans who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 say they are willing to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following the temporary pause in its distribution due to rare blood clots. 

Just 22 percent of unvaccinated Americans in a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted before the pause ended said that they would be willing to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Almost three in four — 73 percent — said they were unwilling. 

Slightly fewer than half of all the adults surveyed also said they consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine very or somewhat safe.

Additionally, more than 7 in 10 respondents say they regard each of the other two vaccines that have been approved in the U.S., one by Moderna and another by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, to be very or somewhat safe.

Background: The CDC and FDA lifted their recommended pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations last Friday after analyzing data from less than 20 rare cases of blood clots out of the millions of vaccinations administered. 

What this means: Concerns about how the pause would affect vaccine hesitancy may have been justified, although polls from last week indicated the decision wouldn’t affect most people’s willingness to get their COVID-19 shot. 

Read more here


What we’re reading

Two die and more than 100 test positive in coronavirus outbreak among US diplomatic staff in India (CNN)

Amid ‘heartbreaking’ coronavirus surge in India, government orders Twitter to remove posts critical of response (Washington Post)   

Latin America’s vaccine shortage threatens fragile revival as pandemic rages (Reuters


State by state

Spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Washington state at a ‘worrisome’ rate (NBC 5

Black Cleveland Churches Serve as a Sanctuary from COVID Vaccination Disparity (WKSU

Minnesota reports third COVID-19 death of a child (Star Tribune)

Tags Anthony Fauci Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Neguse Pramila Jayapal Raja Krishnamoorthi Ro Khanna

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