Health Care — FDA expands booster shots to kids 5-11
Congress held a hearing on UFOs for the first time in decades on Tuesday, and we learned there are around 400 reports of strange aerial encounters so far.
Today in health care, booster shots are now authorized for children 5-11, and House Democrats made a new move to address baby formula shortages.
Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan, Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.
Children 5 and up get booster access
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children between the ages of 5 and 11, extending booster doses to the youngest age group yet.
Experts have stressed the importance of booster shots for older age groups as a key way to increase protection in the face of waning immunity over time from the initial shots, as well as the increased evasiveness of the omicron variant currently circulating.
Now, children 5-11 will be eligible for boosters for the first time.
Data released by Pfizer last month found a 36-fold increase in the level of neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant, compared to two doses.
“These data reinforce the potential function of a third dose of the vaccine in maintaining high levels of protection against the virus in this age group,” Pfizer said then, adding: “The vaccine was well tolerated with no new safety signals observed.”
Uptake a challenge: Still, uptake for even the initial two shots for children 5-11 has been lagging, indicating that many parents will not get booster shots for their children either.
Only 28 percent of children 5-11 have received the first two shots, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Dems file legislation to address formula shortage
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) on Tuesday filed supplemental funding legislation to address the nationwide baby formula shortage.
If passed, the legislation would greenlit $28 million in emergency funds to help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) address the shortage and prevents future shortages, the congresswoman’s office said.
“The stories of mothers and fathers struggling to find formula and the images of empty store shelves are heartbreaking,” DeLauro said in a statement. “Parents and caretakers across the country cannot wait—they need our support now. This bill takes important steps to restore supply in a safe and secure manner.”
The legislation comes as the House Oversight and Reform Committee has launched an investigation into the shortage. The shortage has dominated public attention in recent days, putting pressure on lawmakers to act.
As part of the effort, lawmakers sent letters to four top baby formula manufacturers, including Abbott Nutrition, asking companies for more information about their plans to address the shortage. Lawmakers say they are also seeking documents from Abbott pertaining to conditions at its Sturgis, Mich., plant that led to recalls found to have contributed to the shortages, along with supply chain issues.
Nestlé to fly infant formula products to US: report
Multinational food conglomerate Nestlé will be flying in its infant food products into the U.S. to help with the current shortage, according to a report from Reuters on Tuesday.
The newswire reported that Nestlé will be moving its Gerber baby food formula to the U.S. from the Netherlands as well as its Alfamino baby formula from Switzerland.
“We prioritized these products because they serve a critical medical purpose as they are for babies with cow’s milk protein allergies,” Nestlé said in an email provided to Reuters.
“Both products were already being imported but we moved shipments up and rushed via air to help fill immediate needs,” the company added.
Parents across the U.S. have had to contend with empty shelves at stores when trying to find infant formula recent months. This shortage was brought on by a voluntary recall by Abbott Nutrition of its infant formula products after concerns were raised regarding a possible bacterial infection.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new import guidelines and flexibilities to import baby food products into the U.S. to help alleviate the shortage.
The FDA will temporarily “not object” to the importation of some infant formula products into the U.S. as well as the distribution of products manufactured in the U.S. but meant for overseas markets. Companies from around the world that are interested in these temporary guidelines have been asked to “quickly” submit information to the FDA for evaluation.
As the U.S. seeks to bring in infant formula from out of the country, Abbott will also be restarting domestic production at its plant in Sturgis, Mich. after it was announced the company had reached a consent decree with the FDA. However, Abbott said it could take two months for its facility to reach full capacity.
NEW YORKERS ADVISED TO WEAR MASKS INDOORS AGAIN
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is now advising residents to wear masks when indoors, citing the rise in community infections and the high COVID-19 alert level the city transitioned to on Tuesday.
The advisory issued by the city advises that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks when indoors and in public settings. These include offices and stores as well as common areas such as elevators and hallways.
High-risk groups including people over 65 and individuals who are still unvaccinated or cannot get the shot — such as children under 5 — are advised to take additional precautions.
The department advised that people in these high-risk groups wear masks at all times when in public indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings and also advised that nonessential gatherings be avoided.
Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said on Twitter Tuesday, “New York City has transitioned to a high COVID alert level, meaning now is the time to double down on protecting ourselves and each other by making choices that can keep our friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers from getting sick.”
CDC ADDS CARIBBEAN, AFRICAN DESTINATIONS TO WARNING LIST
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added four countries Monday to its list of high-risk travel destinations for COVID-19.
The countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Lesotho, South Africa and Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center released figures Tuesday announcing 65,833 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, 65,794 of which had been spread domestically.
Two omicron subvariants have propelled infections in South Africa, moving case numbers there from 300 per day early last month to 8,000 per day last week. However, symptoms are mild and severe cases and deaths have not increased, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.
Lesotho, a country located inside the larger country of South Africa, has experienced a similar wave.
The CDC maintains a list of countries sorted into four levels of COVID-19 severity: Low, Moderate, High and Special Circumstances/Do Not Travel. It also includes a designation for “COVID-19 Unknown,” which it currently applies to 52 countries.
The COVID-19 High category, which the four new countries were added to this week, is the largest of the groups, containing 110 countries altogether.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- What happens when the government stops buying Covid-19 vaccines? (Stat)
- Eliminating fossil fuel air pollution would save about 50,000 lives, study finds (NPR)
- U.S. says use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral up 315% (Reuters)
STATE BY STATE
- Federal judge rejects Tennessee’s transgender bathroom law (Tennessee Lookout)
- Michigan Court of Claims judge grants injunction against 1931 abortion law (Detroit Free Press)
- Looming end of federal pandemic emergency threatens to shake Texas’ Medicaid safety net, advocates say (Texas Tribune)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
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