Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — Presented by EMAA — Collins to step down as NIH director

AFP/Pool

Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

To mark the grim milestone of reaching 700,000 COVID-19 fatalities nationwide, the National Cathedral plans to toll its bell 700 times for about 70 minutes to commemorate those who died.

Francis Collins, who served under Presidents Biden, Trump and Obama, is stepping down as director of the National Institutes of Health.

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.

Collins gets bipartisan praise as he steps down from NIH 

It’s the end of an era at the National Institutes of Health.

Francis Collins, the NIH director, announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down from his position after serving at the agency for almost 30 years.

“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” Collins said in a statement.

“I love this agency and its people so deeply that the decision to step down was a difficult one, done in close counsel with my wife, Diane Baker, and my family,” he said, adding that he is “proud of all we’ve accomplished.” 

Collins said, however, that he believes that “no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future.”

Collins, 71, has served as the head of NIH for more than 12 years and is the agency’s first director to serve under three presidents. 

President Biden will nominate a new director, who will have to be confirmed by a vote in the Senate.

“Millions of people will never know Dr. Collins saved their lives,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday, calling him “one of the most important scientists of our time.”

Big picture: Collins achieved the rare feat of getting high praise from both parties. “Dr. Collins is the only presidentially appointed NIH Director to serve more than one administration — a testament to the confidence and respect he garnered on both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). 

Read more here

A MESSAGE FROM EMAA

 

After 20+ years of use, evidence shows medication abortion care is safe and effective. It’s time for the FDA to follow the science and lift outdated restrictions on medication abortion.

 

J&J asks for emergency use authorization of coronavirus vaccine booster

Johnson & Johnson vials

Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant emergency authorization for a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine for individuals aged 18 years and older.

In a statement, the company said it based its filing on the results of a late-stage clinical trial that found a booster dose of its single-shot vaccine given 56 days after the first dose provided 94 percent protection against symptomatic COVID-19, and 100 percent protection against severe and critical disease at least 14 days after the second dose.

The move comes as the Biden administration ramps up its campaign to administer booster doses.

The U.S. began rolling out booster doses late last month. More than 5.7 million people have received a booster dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA has already authorized booster shots for Pfizer’s vaccine for individuals aged 65 and older and those at high risk of severe disease.

Moderna has also begun submitting data to the agency about a booster dose of its vaccine.

Coming up, FDA meeting: The FDA’s vaccine advisory panel will meet later this month to discuss booster doses of Moderna and J&J’s vaccine. Both vaccines are currently authorized for adults aged 18 and older.

Read more here.

ANOTHER FDA REQUEST: ASTRAZENECA’S COVID-19 PREVENTATIVE TREATMENT

AstraZeneca also submitted a request for emergency use authorization on Tuesday — for an antibody drug designed to help prevent symptomatic COVID-19.

The antibody therapy, called AZD7442, provides “statistically significant reduction” in the risk of developing COVID-19 and could provide another protective measure for vulnerable populations, including the immunocompromised, against the deadly disease, the company said in a statement.

In its application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), AstraZeneca cited data from a trial showing the drug was 77 percent effective at thwarting symptomatic COVID-19. More than three-quarters of the tested population were immunocompromised or had other comorbidities associated with serious illness.

Significance: If the FDA grants emergency use authorization for the drug, it will be the first long-acting antibody cocktail to receive such approval for COVID-19 prevention, the company said.

Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca’s head of biopharmaceuticals research, said the antibody combination will help people who do not have a fully immune response to COVID-19 vaccines and need more to adequately prevent infections.

“With this first global regulatory filing, we are one step closer to providing an additional option to help protect against COVID-19 alongside vaccines,” Pangalos said in the release.

Read more here.

COVID-19 vaccines may have saved the lives of 39,000 seniors in US: HHS study 

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines may have saved the lives of tens of thousands of seniors nationwide earlier this year, according to estimates from a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report released Tuesday.

The study suggests that COVID-19 vaccinations may have prevented about 265,000 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 fatalities among Medicare recipients in the first five months of 2021. 

Researchers specifically found the vaccines may have stopped 5,600 deaths among nursing home Medicare beneficiaries — a population hit hard by the pandemic prior to vaccines.

The vaccination rate among seniors climbed from 1 percent to 80 percent over that five-month period. Weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare recipients decreased by 11 to 12 percent for every 10 percent increase in county vaccination rates. 

All racial and ethnic groups, as well as the 48 states included in the study, estimated a decrease in cases, hospitalizations and deaths associated with jumps in the vaccination rate. Texas and Hawaii were excluded from the analysis because of “data reporting limitations.”

What this means: The HHS report signals the effectiveness of the vaccines in potentially averting senior deaths after the majority of fatalities before shots occurred among people ages 65 and older who were eligible for Medicare.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the report backs up the Biden administration’s push to vaccinate the country and prioritize older populations, showing these doses “save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection.”

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM EMAA

 

After 20+ years of use, evidence shows medication abortion care is safe and effective. It’s time for the FDA to follow the science and lift outdated restrictions on medication abortion.

STUDY: ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION AMONG ADULTS HEIGHTENED DURING WINTER COVID-19 SURGE

Another study released Tuesday found that the frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms among American adults amplified during the winter COVID-19 surge, showing the pandemic’s effects on the country’s mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research, spanning from August 2020 to June 2021, found anxiety and depression frequency peaked between December 2020 and January 2021, as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed to new heights during the holiday season.

By the numbers: On average, the frequency of anxiety symptoms climbed by 13 percent from August to December 2020 before dropping by 26.8 percent by June 2021. Similarly, the frequency of depression symptoms rose by 14.8 percent before falling by 24.8 percent in the same time periods. 

The rise and fall in frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms “mirrored” the trends in the weekly count of new COVID-19 cases nationally, indicating the surges may have played a role.

Despite the drop, researchers found the frequency of anxiety and depression still remained “substantially” higher than compared to before the pandemic.

Caveat: The study does not include data from before August 2020 and from after June 2021, so it’s unclear how the anxiety and depression levels compared to when the pandemic first started and when the delta variant became the dominant strain in the U.S.

Read more here.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Vaccines are here. School’s open. Some parents still agonize (The Associated Press)

  • Covid-19 cases are declining but remain high among children. Here’s what the US needs to do to end the surge (CNN)

  • A better name for booster shots (The Atlantic)

STATE BY STATE

  • At a rural ICU, Covid-19’s summer surge put telehealth to the test (Stat News)

  • COVID spike pushes Alaska’s health care system to brink (The Associated Press)

  • SC workers turn ‘belligerent’ toward DHEC when health agency won’t give vaccine exemptions (Post and Courier)

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. See you Wednesday.

Tags Joe Biden Roy Blunt Xavier Becerra
See all Hill.TV See all Video