Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds

Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care, where we're following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here:

It's all about the lulz: Memes about the COVID-19 pandemic may have helped some cope with the stress, according to new research.

Pfizer's pared-down dose for children is more than 90 percent effective, according to company data released Friday. 

For The Hill, we're Peter Sullivan (, Nathaniel Weixel ( and Justine Coleman ( Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let's get started.

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine nearly 91 percent effective in younger kids 


Smaller doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 appear safe and are nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic disease, the company said in a study released Friday.

Pfizer's study was released ahead of a pivotal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel meeting Tuesday, where regulators will discuss whether to recommend authorizing the vaccine for younger kids.

If the panel votes favorably, and the agency accepts the recommendations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will make the ultimate decision on who should get the shots; the FDA determines safety and efficacy, while CDC regulates the actual practice of medicine. 

If the vaccine is authorized, children could begin getting immunized in early November, with both doses completed in time for Christmas for the earliest ones in line.

The results: According to the company, two 10-microgram doses administered three weeks apart offer similar protection against both the original strain and the delta variant of the virus. Even though the dose was smaller, Pfizer's study found young children showed antibody levels just as strong as people who got a regular-strength dose. There were 16 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group, and three in the vaccine group.

The plan: The Biden administration has already purchased enough doses for the 28 million children who would be eligible if the vaccine is authorized. Distribution will rely on more than 25,000 pediatrician's offices, community health centers, schools and pharmacies.

Read more here.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday said the agency will "not articulate a preference" for which booster shot coronavirus vaccine recipients should get.

The CDC head, who signed off on giving people the ability to mix-and-match boosters Thursday night, said anyone eligible for a booster can decide which brand of vaccine to get, since all three Food and Drug Administration authorized vaccines are "extraordinarily safe" and "effective."

At least for now, the CDC is staying out of endorsing one particular vaccine over another, though additional guidance is expected next week.

If someone who is eligible for a booster has a preference for a different booster brand than the initial vaccine, they can do that.

Walensky also said it's "perfectly fine" for recipients of all three vaccines to have a "preference" to get the same vaccine they initially received.

Walensky predicted that most people will stick with their original vaccination series.

Read more here.

Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a 'reach' 

As Democrats continue to work to pare down their sweeping social infrastructure proposal in order to gain the support of everyone in the caucus, President Biden on Thursday night offered a plain assessment of where things stand.

Expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision benefits would be a "reach," he said.

"That's a reach and the reason why it's a reach - I think it's a good idea and it's not that costly in relative terms especially if you allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices," Biden said during a CNN town hall. "But here's the thing - Mr. Manchin is opposed to that as is, I think, Sen. Sinema."

Biden's comments encapsulate the difficulty Democrats have in deciding which policies to include; many are intertwined with others. Without the savings from allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, the rest of the bill becomes much more expensive.

Biden explained Manchin's opposition by saying he "doesn't want to further burden Medicare ... because it will run out of its ability to maintain itself in X number of years." 

The main proponent of expanding Medicare is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has called the provisions non-negotiable. 

Competing priorities: But Democrats are also discussing proposals that would expand coverage under Medicaid and extend Affordable Care Act subsidies. 

It's also not just Sinema and Manchin: House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has knocked the proposal, saying Medicare coverage also extends to "millionaires and billionaires," instead pushing for the Medicaid expansion to take priority.

Read more here.

Supreme Court agrees to review Texas's 6-week abortion ban  

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review Texas's six-week abortion ban, scheduling oral arguments for Nov. 1.

The court's move comes in response to legal challenges by the Department of Justice and Texas abortion providers, who have argued the restriction clearly violates the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings.

The question the court has agreed to consider concerns the ability of courts to review the Texas law in light of its unique legislative design, which critics have likened to a "bounty" system.

Reminder: The law, S.B. 8, gives enforcement authority to private citizens by allowing them to file lawsuits that fetch at least $10,000 if they successfully show the defendant performed or aided and abetted an abortion in violation of the six-week ban.

The controversial law, which bans most abortions and makes no exceptions for rape or incest, has faced legal pushback both prior to and following its Sept. 1 effective date, when the conservative majority Supreme Court declined to block it.

These latest developments come as the court prepares to hear arguments in December over Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban, which poses a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Read more here.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday said that mask requirements need to be continued until we can get coronavirus "cases down."  

Walensky made the comment during an appearance on NBC's "Today" when directly asked when mask requirements would end.

She said it was "really encouraging" that the surge in infections from the delta variant is "now coming down." She added that the U.S. is still averaging 75,000 new infections and 1,200 deaths every day.

"We're heading into winter where respiratory viruses generally do thrive," Walensky said. 

"So right now, I would say our hard work is to continue to get those cases down, to continue to get people vaccinated not only our children, when and if they're ready, but as well the 63 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated at all. And to continue those prevention measures until we can really get those cases down," she continued.

Off-ramps: Some states have specific, data-based targets of immunization and disease spread for when to lift masking requirements. Others are much more open-ended

Read more here.


  • The U.S. starts giving Covid boosters to millions, as people in poor nations await their first doses. (The New York Times)
  • No one will stop you from getting whatever booster you want (The Atlantic)
  • Experts predict an easier COVID winter this year (Axios)



  • Montana tribes want to stop jailing people for suicide attempts but lack a safer alternative (Kaiser Health News)
  • Michigan health departments with school mask orders haven't lost funds, despite budget threat (MLive)
  • Prison workers top list of those not complying with mandate (The Associated Press)


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