Overnight Health Care — Boosters expanded to 16- and 17-year-olds
Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.
Remember the comedian behind the “fork hands” explanation of COVID vaccines? He’s out with a new video about booster shots.
Federal regulators on Thursday said those boosters are now available for 16- and 17-year-olds.
For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Nathaniel Weixel (email@example.com) and Justine Coleman (firstname.lastname@example.org). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.
Let’s get started.
Boosters available for older teens
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday signed off on booster shots of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds who are six months past their second shot, clearing the way for vaccinations to start.
The move comes amid a surge in infections nationwide due to the delta variant as well as uncertainty about the newly discovered omicron variant.
“Although we don’t have all the answers on the Omicron variant, initial data suggests that COVID-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen the protection against Omicron and other variants. We know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and I strongly encourage adolescents ages 16 and 17 to get their booster if they are at least 6 months post their initial Pfizer vaccination series,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
The CDC’s announcement came just a few hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Pfizer an expansion of its emergency use authorization, to bolster protection against the delta and emerging omicron variant.
“With both the delta and omicron variants continuing to spread, vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said.
No advisory panel: The FDA said the decision to authorize boosters for 16- and 17-year-olds was based on extrapolating the safety and efficacy data it already had for people aged 18 to 55, as well as some real-world data on vaccinations of teenagers.
But the agency did not convene its outside expert advisory panel, which has previously raised questions about the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis — rare but serious cases of inflammation of the heart muscle and surrounding tissue, respectively — associated with the vaccine. The FDA said it felt the benefits outweighed the small amount of risk.
Half of parents say their teens are vaccinated
About half of parents said their 12- to 17-year-old has gotten at least one COVID-19 dose as the vaccination uptake among the age group has slowed in recent months, a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll found.
The November survey determined that 49 percent of parents said their 12- to 17-year-olds received at least one shot, and just 1 percent of these parents plan to get their children vaccinated right away, according to an update to KFF’s Vaccine Monitor published on Thursday.
Those percentages align with results from September and October, indicating the vaccination rate has flattened within the teenage age group in the fall after eligibility expanded to adolescents in the spring.
Thirteen percent of parents of teenagers said they want to “wait and see” before getting them vaccinated, and 3 in 10 parents said their adolescents would “definitely not” get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Among parents with 5- to 11-year-olds, 16 percent said their child had gotten at least their first shot during the first month the vaccines were available to the age group, while 13 percent said they plan to get their child vaccinated right away.
Still, almost a third of these parents said they expect to “wait and see,” and another 29 percent said their child will “definitely not” get vaccinated.
Most parents said there’s not enough information about the vaccines’ effectiveness, side effects and safety in children, despite scientific organizations nationwide and worldwide having designated the shots safe and effective for children.
HOSPITAL AND DOCTOR GROUPS SUE OVER BILLING RULES
The American Medical Association (AMA) and American Hospital Association on Thursday sued the Biden administration over regulations to prevent patients from getting stuck with “surprise” medical bills, escalating a fight over the rules.
Big picture: The lawsuit illustrates the intense lobbying battle that has been playing out among industry players over a major reform to the health care system that is intended to protect patients from getting massive unexpected medical bills.
The regulations issued by the Biden administration stem from a bipartisan law signed in December 2020 to stop patients from getting surprise bills when they go to the emergency room or get other health services and one of the doctors treating them happens to be outside of their insurance network.
All sides say they support protecting patients from getting surprise medical bills. But an intense fight has raged for months between doctors and hospitals on one side and insurers and patient groups on the other over how much insurers will pay doctors once the patient is taken out of the middle.
The lawsuit on Thursday argues that the Biden administration’s regulations departed from the delicate balance struck in the text of the law. Doctors and hospitals worry that the regulations will result in cuts to their payments, which they argue will end up hurting care for patients.
“If regulators don’t follow the letter of the law, patient access to care could be jeopardized as ongoing health plan manipulation creates an unsustainable situation for physicians,” said AMA President Gerald Harmon.
SENATOR PROMOTES MOUTHWASH AS A COVID TREATMENT
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) recommended mouthwash as a treatment for the coronavirus during a town hall meeting Wednesday, according to a recording posted online by Heartland Signal.
“Standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus,” Johnson said. “If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?”
Johnson has been a skeptic of the COVID-19 vaccines and has often faced criticism for spreading lies and conspiracy theories about the virus. He’s been a vocal proponent of unproven or even discredited treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine— practically every treatment except the one that’s been proven to be effective.
Johnson later shared on Twitter a study on a public website that concluded mouthwash provides “modest benefits” in lowering viral loads in saliva. That study recruited 176 adults who had tested positive for the virus but were asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms.
But mouthwash isn’t actually meant to be used as a treatment for COVID-19, and health experts have said that while it may partially kill off parts of the coronavirus in a person’s mouth, the virus is airborne and most infections occur through the nose. Listerine was forced to put out a disclaimer that the product “is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label.”
Flashbacks to when former President Trump suggested people could inject bleach and disinfectants, forcing Clorox and the manufacturers of Lysol to respond before people listened to him.
CDC: Most omicron infections are mild so far
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an interview that reported cases of the new omicron variant in the U.S. have been relatively mild.
“The disease is mild,” Rochelle Walensky told The Associated Press, adding that symptoms from the variant include cough, congestion and fatigue.
CDC officials have said that no deaths have been reported from omicron and only one person has been hospitalized thus far, the AP noted.
Vaccination status of infected: Among the over 40 cases of omicron in the U.S., more than 75 percent of the people infected were vaccinated. Most of those infected were young adults, and roughly a third of them had traveled internationally.
In her interview, Walensky also said that about a third of those infected with the new variant had received booster shots.
“What we generally know is the more mutations a variant has, the higher level you need your immunity to be. … We want to make sure we bolster everybody’s immunity. And that’s really what motivated the decision to expand our guidance,” Walensky said of the decision to approve boosters for all adults.
Delta still here: The CDC estimates that Omicron accounted for less than 1 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., while the delta variant accounted for 99.9 percent of cases.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Covid-19 vaccine rollout for young children is slow in many states (The Wall Street Journal)
- Rapid coronavirus tests are still hard to find in many places, despite Biden vows (Washington Post)
- How nursing homes’ worst offenses are hidden from the public (New York Times)
- COVID test failure revealed in secret CDC investigation (Buzzfeed News)
- The pandemic of the vaccinated is here (The Atlantic)
STATE BY STATE
- IU Health asks for Indiana National Guard help in hospitals among ‘all-time’ patient highs (Indianapolis Star)
- There’s a political war in Rhode Island over mask mandates and COVID (The Boston Globe)
- Parents, even vaccinated ones, are reluctant to get kids COVID shot. The state is worried. (Delaware Online)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
- Why the Build Back Better Act isn’t better for patients with cancer
- What SEC football just taught us about COVID-19
- Price controls on drugs would save lives, but also take them
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.