Overnight Health Care: Biden plan omits major health care measures pushed by Democrats | CDC: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective against hospitalization in older adults

Overnight Health Care: Biden plan omits major health care measures pushed by Democrats | CDC: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective against hospitalization in older adults
© Getty Images

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care. If you think robocalls are bad... one New York Times White House reporter has been fielding calls for a Massachusetts roller rink for more than 13 years due to similar phone numbers. We admire his patience.

If you have any tips, email us at nweixel@thehill.com, psullivan@thehill.com and jcoleman@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter at @NateWeixel, @PeterSullivan4, and @JustineColeman8.


Today: Tonight is President BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE’s big speech to Congress. Some major health care items were left out of his American Families Plan, but there could be more discussion in the speech. The CDC published more evidence about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, and a study found just a single dose of a two-dose vaccine can reduce viral transmission.

We'll start with Biden's speech:

Ahead of the big speech: Major health care items were left out of Biden’s American Families Plan, but look for a mention

President Biden’s American Families Plan unveiled Wednesday leaves out two major health priorities pushed by congressional Democrats: reducing the cost of prescription drugs and lowering the eligibility age for Medicare.

The major legislative package, which Biden will discuss in an address to Congress on Wednesday night, includes measures in areas like child care and paid leave, but largely steers clear of health care.

What it does include: A measure to make permanent the increased subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to help people afford their premiums after the American Rescue Plan earlier this year had increased those subsidies for two years.

Discussion in the speech: Asked why the plan does not include these health care measures, a senior administration official did not directly answer during a call with reporters. But the official said Biden remains committed to lowering drug prices and indicated he will discuss the idea in his speech.


“The president has been very, very clear that he remains fully committed to negotiations to reduce prescription drug prices, that you will hear him reiterate as a very top priority and something he deems urgent,” the official said.

A question: How forceful will Biden be? And will he say whether he wants health care to be a separate bill?

Read more here.


More real-world evidence of the vaccines working: A CDC study finds the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 94 percent effective against hospitalization in older adults

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 94 percent effective in preventing hospitalization for COVID-19 among people age 65 and older, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released Wednesday.

The study provides new evidence on the benefits of vaccination, and builds on results from the clinical trials by adding real-world evidence from 417 hospitalized adults in 14 states from January to March. 

"This multisite U.S. evaluation under real-world conditions suggests that vaccination provided protection against COVID-19–associated hospitalization among adults aged [65 and older]," the study states.

The virus is particularly dangerous for older people, so the results in that age group are particularly important.

The 94 percent effectiveness was for people who were fully vaccinated, meaning they were at least two weeks past their second dose. For people who were only partially vaccinated, meaning they were more than two weeks past the first dose but less than two weeks past the second dose, effectiveness was 64 percent.

Read more here


Proposed ban on menthol cigarettes expected to be announced this week

The Biden administration is expected to announce a proposed ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes this week, according to multiple reports. 


The action has long been sought by public health advocacy groups, and the administration is facing a Thursday deadline to respond to a lawsuit demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) take action on a 2013 citizen petition seeking a menthol cigarette ban. An announcement is expected tomorrow, but could also be previewed by President Biden tonight.

The White House directed questions to the FDA, which declined to comment.

The FDA's decision would not immediately ban menthol flavors, but would instead launch a rulemaking process that would likely take years. Any final decision would also likely be challenged in court by the tobacco industry 

Anti-smoking and civil rights groups have long argued Black Americans have been disproportionately harmed by menthol cigarettes, as the tobacco industry deliberately targeted Black communities for decades.

Read more here.


NIH readies grants for more research on long-term health effects of COVID-19


NIH is preparing to offer more than $1 billion in grants within three weeks for more research into the long-term health issues after a COVID-19 infection, commonly known as "long COVID-19."

NIH Director Francis Collins told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday that the agency is moving forward with an “unprecedented” large-scale study on tens of thousands of COVID-19 long-haulers to examine the “prevalence, severity and persistence” of the ongoing health problems after infection.

How many have long COVID-19: Preliminary research has found between 10 percent to 30 percent of people who had COVID-19 may develop long-term health issues. With more than 32 million confirmed cases in the U.S. in the past year, that could amount to millions dealing with long COVID-19.

Symptoms of long COVID-19 include fatigue, brain fog, disturbed sleep, shortness of breath, palpitations, depression, loss of taste and smell and muscle and joint pain, which persist four weeks after diagnosis.

Message to long-haulers: “Some of you have been suffering for more than a year, with no answers, no treatment options, not even a forecast of what your future may hold,” Collins said during the hearing. “Some of you have even faced skepticism about whether your symptoms are real. I want to assure you that we at NIH hear you and believe you.”

What’s next: The agency has already received 273 responses for its February request for research proposals, Collins said, adding he expects intensive laboratory and imaging studies to start by the summer. 

Read more here.



New research out of the UK: Single COVID-19 vaccine dose can reduce household transmission by up to half

Public Health England released a study on Wednesday that found a single dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine can limit household transmission by up to half, signaling the effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing spread. 

The research, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found that people who got COVID-19 three weeks after receiving one dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines were between 38 percent and 49 percent less likely to give the virus to those in their household, compared to those who didn’t receive any vaccine dose.

Public Health England analyzed more than 57,000 contacts from 24,000 households in which a person who had received a vaccine dose tested positive for the virus and compared it with almost 1 million contacts of cases among unvaccinated people. 

Researchers said the results would likely be similar in other high-risk transmission locations besides households, such as shared accommodations and prisons.

A vast majority of the participants were under 60 years old, although Public Health England noted other research has shown the two vaccines reduce infections and deaths among the older population.

'Terrific news': British Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the study “terrific news,” saying, “We already know vaccines save lives and this study is the most comprehensive real-world data showing they also cut transmission of this deadly virus.”

Read more here


What we’re reading

The future of coronavirus testing is in Greenville, N.C. (Washington Post

India Covid: Hospitals overwhelmed as deaths pass 200,000 (BBC

Adam Silver: More than 70% of NBA players have received coronavirus vaccine (NBC Sports

The CDC is still repeating its mistakes (The Atlantic)

State by state

California mulls letting adults add parents to health plans (Associated Press)

Just 0.03 percent of fully vaccinated in Wisconsin have gotten COVID-19, state says (Wisconsin State Journal)

With J&J back, Florida COVID vaccine supply increases next week (Orlando Sentinel