Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: State vaccine rates fall along red, blue divide | CDC study: Vaccination rates lower in rural counties


Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care. Rep. Dean Phillips’s dog stole the show on Capitol Hill today. We have not confirmed his views on health policy. 

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: Divisions are emerging between states in vaccination rates, lawmakers pressed a drug company CEO for answers on price hikes, and an expert panel recommends colon cancer screenings start earlier. 

We’ll start with vaccinations:

State vaccine rates fall along red, blue divide

The U.S. vaccine map looks a lot like a map of how states vote in presidential elections, with most blue states vaccinating at levels well above the national average and GOP states bringing up the rear.

The politics of COVID-19 have been partisan from almost the onset of the pandemic, and polls consistently show that Republicans, particularly men, are more hesitant than Democrats to get vaccinated.

The deep-blue state of Vermont has the highest share of its population with at least one vaccine dose, at 65 percent, according to data compiled by The New York Times, followed by Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

The top 21 states for vaccination rates all went for President Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Iowa — with 47 percent of its population receiving at least one shot — is the highest ranking state on the list, at No. 22, that voted for former President Trump

Why? A big part of the reason: An NPR-PBS-Marist poll this month found that 41 percent of Republicans said they are not going to get vaccinated, compared to just 4 percent of Democrats who said the same.

Another factor: Megan Ranney, a public health expert at Brown University, said another factor is that red states tend to have less well-funded public health infrastructure, which could make getting shots in people’s arms more difficult.

Read more here.


Another vaccine divide: Urban vs. rural

Vaccination rates are lower in rural counties in the United States than in urban ones, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Tuesday.

The study found that as of April 10, about 39 percent of adults in rural counties had received at least one shot, compared to 46 percent in urban counties. The disparity persisted across age and gender.

Takeaway: The results highlight the need to get vaccines to people in harder-to-reach areas, a focus of the Biden administration in its new phase of the vaccination campaign, now that the most eager people have already received their shots.

The White House announced earlier this month that it would start sending vaccine doses directly to rural health clinics, and has been working with organizations like NASCAR.

Read more here


House Democrats request FTC investigate AbbVie’s pricing of Humira

Three House Democrats called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate drugmaker AbbVie for its pricing of Humira, the best-selling drug in the U.S. and internationally. 

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and a Judiciary Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.) requested a formal inquiry into AbbVie through a letter to acting FTC Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.

The requested probe would examine whether the drugmaker violated the law by delaying competition against its drug Humira, which treats rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, from lower-costing versions of the drug.   

“But AbbVie used legally questionable tactics to block lower-price biosimilars from reaching American consumers until at least 2023,” Maloney said. “Those tactics made AbbVie a fortune but cost Americans dearly.”

On Capitol Hill:  Maloney announced the call for the investigation at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing ahead of testimony from AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez on drug pricing. 

Gonzalez faced tough questions from the Oversight and Reform Committee, with Democrats accusing the company of taking advantage of patients and the health care system to charge more for medicine and bring in billions of dollars for revenue and executive bonuses. 

But the CEO argued the structure of Medicare is at fault for the lack of access to affordable medicine, saying, “For these patients, reducing drug prices alone will not alleviate the challenge of access and affordability.”

Read more here and here


Colon cancer screening age moves up: US task force recommends starting at age 45

Americans should begin getting screened for colon cancer at age 45, rather than the previously recommended age of 50, according to updated guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The final recommendation, officially published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), calls for all adults ages 45 to 75 years old to be screened for colorectal cancer.

“Far too many people in the U.S. are not receiving this lifesaving preventive service,” Task Force vice chair Michael Barry said in a statement. “We hope that this new recommendation to screen people ages 45 to 49, coupled with our long-standing recommendation to screen people 50 to 75, will prevent more people from dying from colorectal cancer.”

Background: The key panel of experts had released a draft of the recommendation in October, and the American Cancer Society recommended the same age change in 2018.

Rates of the third deadliest form of cancer in the U.S. have been steadily increasing among younger people. And, as of 2018, more than 30 percent of eligible adults were not up to date with screening. 

Approximately 52,980 people in the country are projected to die from colon cancer this year. Last year actor Chadwick Boseman died of the disease at age 43.

Read more here.


Fauci: COVID-19 vaccines effective against Indian variant 

The coronavirus vaccines authorized in the U.S. are effective at combating the strain that is currently ravaging India, top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

Public health experts think the B.1.617 variant is likely leading to the massive spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in India. 

That strain has also been linked to increased cases throughout parts of Europe, and the World Health Organization recently reclassified it as a “variant of concern” — an indication that the variant has the “highest public health implications.”

During a White House briefing Tuesday, Fauci said initial studies indicated the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are “at least partially and probably quite protective” against serious illness, hospitalization and death, “indicating another very strong reason why we should be getting vaccinated.”

Read more here.


What we’re reading

Coronavirus vaccines may not work in some people. It’s because of their underlying conditions. (Washington Post)

Covid variant from India: How contagious is the new variant? (NBC News)

How Ashish Jha became network TV’s everyman expert on Covid (Stat)


State by state

Coronavirus cases spiking in Grand County, Utah as tourists return to Moab (Salt Lake Tribune

Gov. Greg. Abbott says no public schools or government entities will be allowed to require masks (Texas Tribune


Op-eds in The Hill

Prescription for pandemic end: Masks off, vaccines on

Are the Supreme Court and Biden ready to rumble over Roe?

Don’t give up on ending the HIV epidemic

Tags Anthony Fauci Carolyn Maloney David Cicilline Dean Phillips Donald Trump Jerrold Nadler Joe Biden
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