Overnight Health Care: Medicaid enrollment reaches new high | White House gives allocation plan for 55M doses | Schumer backs dental, vision, hearing in Medicare
Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections
Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care. The U.S. is seeing a return to 2004 as the Brood X cicadas have been spotted after 17 years underground, and Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have been seen spending time together 17 years after calling off their engagement.
Today: The FDA says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given to adolescents.The Biden administration will recognize anti-discrimination protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis signed "tobacco 21" legislation into law, and D.C. will soon lift most coronavirus restrictions.
We'll start with Pfizer:
FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday gave the green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to be used in adolescents 12-15 years old, a move that will make millions more people eligible for a vaccine.
The highly anticipated decision is a key step toward ensuring middle and high schools can operate for full in-person learning next fall - and a major boon to parents concerned about the safety of summer activities.
FDA has been reviewing the amended application from Pfizer and BioNTech for more than a month. The companies cited research from their clinical trial in late March that found the vaccine was effective in the younger population, and produced strong antibody responses. The side effects were also about the same as the older population.
Following the announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine advisory committee will meet Wednesday to review the data and vote on recommendations for use of the shot in adolescents.
Pfizer's vaccine is currently authorized for teenagers aged 16 and older. The other two vaccines on the market in the U.S., from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are only authorized for adults.
Kids matter: Children need to be vaccinated in order to raise the overall level of immunity in the country. While herd immunity may not be within reach, getting more people vaccinated will lower the numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
"Today's action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic," Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.
The challenge: Officials need to convince adults to get themselves vaccinated before they'll vaccinate their kids. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed limited eagerness from parents to get their children vaccinated, and that parents' views on inoculating their children lined up with whether they planned to get vaccinated themselves.
Reversal: Biden administration ends Trump-era limits on health protections for gay, transgender people
President Biden's administration announced on Monday that it will enforce bans on sex discrimination applying to sexual orientation and gender identity in a shift from the former administration's policies.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said its Office of Civil Rights will look into complaints and complete investigations using the updated definition of sex discrimination.
The previous administration's HHS policy kept protections against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. But the then-update narrowed the definition of sex to only mean "biological sex," cutting out transgender people from the protections.
Background: The decision to reinstate the previous protections followed a Supreme Court decision last year that concluded federal laws against sex discrimination in the workplace also safeguarded gay and transgender people.
HHS Secretary: Xavier Becerra said in an HHS notice that the change, effective Monday, intends to reflect the Supreme Court's ruling in the health care sphere.
"Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "Everyone - including LGBTQ people - should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period."
Around the world: WHO chief says COVID-19 cases, deaths plateauing but at 'unacceptably high' level
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that global COVID-19 case counts are plateauing but at an "unacceptably high" level.
"Globally, we are now seeing a plateauing in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, with declines in most regions including the Americas and Europe, the two worst-affected regions," Tedros said at a news briefing. "But it's an unacceptably high plateau, with more than 5.4 million reported cases and almost 90 thousand deaths last week."
After rising throughout March and April, cases worldwide have now peaked and come down slightly, according to figures from Our World in Data, but there are still about 780,000 new cases every day, and almost 13,000 deaths.
Cases have started to level off in India, which is facing a severe crisis, but they are still at the very high level of almost 400,000 every day, according to Our World in Data.
Stark vaccine disparity: "The shocking global disparity in access to vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic," he said.
"High- and upper-middle income countries represent 53 percent of the world's population, but have received 83 percent of the world's vaccines," he added. "By contrast, low- and lower-middle income countries account for 47 percent of the world's population, but have received just 17 percent of the world's vaccines."
DeSantis signs bill raising smoking, vaping age in Florida to 21
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed legislation raising the state's age to purchase nicotine and tobacco products to 21, lining up with federal law.
DeSantis signed the law, which is slated to go into effect in October, on Friday. The signing comes after Florida state House members passed the legislation by a 103-13 vote last month.
The governor had previously vetoed an earlier version of the bill, because it included a ban on flavored vaping products.
The bill's supporters argue that the measure shows that Florida is willing to work with regulators to prevent underage use, but health groups argue that the legislation could block local regulations on the sale of tobacco and vaping products.
In December 2019, then-President Donald Trump signed a measure raising the federal sales age for tobacco and nicotine to 21. More than 550 local governments and 33 states currently limit tobacco sales to those 21 and older.
The law signed by DeSantis also preempts local rules, preventing cities, towns and counties from passing anything more strict, which could mean less stringent regulations on marketing and sales of tobacco products.
DC moves toward reopening with plans to lift most coronavirus restrictions on May 21
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced the city's plans to lift most capacity and other coronavirus restrictions on businesses May 21, following numerous pleas for clarity from local businesses and residents.
Capacity limits for bars, nightclubs, large sports arenas and entertainment venues will be increased to 50 percent on that date and then lifted June 11. Masks will still be required indoors.
Why: Bowser cited improving health metrics, noting the District's seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents is 6.6, an improvement from the upward of 40 cases seen over the winter.
As vaccinations have increased and cases have declined, local business owners have been calling on Bowser to loosen what they called unnecessarily stringent restrictions.
Current restrictions: Indoor dining has been capped at 25 percent capacity, and Bowser just recently allowed multipurpose venues to open at 50 percent, as of May 1.
Nonessential retail was increased to 50 percent capacity, and restaurants were given permission to seat 10 people per table - up from six - and host live music outside in gardens, courtyards and sidewalk cafes.
Weddings, conferences and other special events were allowed to operate indoors and outdoors, but only up to 250 people.
Footloose ban update: A recent order that banned guests at weddings from standing or dancing and drew national attention and mockery will be lifted on May 21.
What we're reading
How schools can help kids heal after the pandemic's uncertainty (Kaiser Health News)
Researchers fear people of color may be disproportionately affected by long Covid (Stat)
Hugs to be allowed in England as part of lockdown easing (Associated Press)
Parents flocked to vaccine trials, now wait for teen jab options (Bloomberg Law)
State by state
Sweet shot: Some Indiana clinics to give Girl Scouts cookies along with COVID-19 vaccine (The Indianapolis Star)
Mental health patients' information was on Maine website (Associated Press)
Mass. loosens more restrictions today with road races and amusement parks - and singing is back (Boston Globe)
Op-eds in The Hill