Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: CDC director warns of ‘avoidable surge’ of COVID-19 amid relaxing precautions | AstraZeneca says COVID-19 vaccine found 79 percent effective in US trial | Trump says Fauci ‘a promoter more than anything’

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Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. If you need more incentive to get vaccinated, Krispy Kreme has you covered. 

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Today: The CDC director is warning that another COVID surge is avoidable, AstraZeneca published initial U.S. results for its vaccine, and more states are opening vaccine eligibility.

We’ll start with a warning:

Don’t get careless: CDC director warns of ‘avoidable surge’ of COVID-19 amid relaxing precautions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday warned of an “avoidable surge” in COVID-19 cases if people do not take sufficient precautions.

“We must find the fortitude to hang in there for just a little bit longer,” Walensky said during a White House press briefing. “We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road, where we as a country must decide which path we are going to take.”

Europe is seeing a new wave of cases as it struggles with a slower pace of vaccinations and with more infectious variants of the virus. Walensky pointed to the rise of the variants and said a similar situation could play out here.

“We must act now and I am worried that if we don’t take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination,” she said.

Down in Miami, they’re not heeding all the warnings: Walensky’s comments come as crowds of people on spring break flock to South Florida, forcing the city of Miami Beach to extend a curfew.

Read more here

More positive vaccine news: AstraZeneca says COVID-19 vaccine found 79 percent effective in US trial

AstraZeneca announced on Monday that its vaccine was 79 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in phase three U.S. testing with no safety concerns found.

The company said in a statement that the vaccine, developed in partnership with Oxford University, was also found to be 100 percent effective in preventing serious cases of the disease and hospitalizations.

AstraZeneca said it will submit the findings to the Food and Drug Administration in a bid for emergency use authorization in the U.S.

The two-shot regimen is already being used in many countries, but federal regulators have been waiting for the results from U.S. clinical trials. Authorization by the FDA could send a strong signal to the world about the quality of the shot, as worldwide confidence has taken a beating recently. 

Optimism: The announcement was met with cautious optimism by experts, because an earlier analysis of four separate studies of the vaccine found it to only be about 60 percent effective. But the results were announced in a press release, and full data have not been published. The shot is not likely to be authorized in the U.S. until May, based on past experience with the other three vaccines already on the market. 

Global considerations: The shot can be stored easily at normal refrigerator temperatures. It’s relatively cheap, as the company has vowed not to sell it for profit. More importantly, it could give the U.S. a surplus of supply, and is likely to heighten the pressure over sending excess supply to countries in need. The U.S. government ordered 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s shot, at a cost of more than $1 billion. 

Read more here.

Global COVID-19 deaths up for first time in six weeks, WHO says

A top expert at the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said that COVID-19 deaths are seeing a “slight increase” for the first time in six weeks, a trend that she called a “worrying sign.”

“I do want to mention that it had been about six weeks where we were seeing decreases in deaths,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on COVID-19 at the United Nations health agency, told reporters. “And in the last week, we’ve started to see a slight increase in deaths across the world, and this is to be expected if we are to see increasing cases. But this is also a worrying sign.”

Kerkhove also reported that four WHO regions are seeing an increase in transmission, making the fifth straight week of increasing transmission globally.

In the last week, she said, cases have increased by 8 percent, and 12 percent in Europe.

Kerkhove said that the increase in Europe is being driven by “several countries across the European region,” in addition to the coronavirus variant that was first discovered in the United Kingdom that is now circulating in several countries in the eastern part of Europe.

Read more here.

Trump still not pleased with Fauci….Trump says Fauci ‘a promoter more than anything’

Former President Trump in an interview released Monday labeled the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, “a promoter more than anything” after the two sometimes clashed on the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I thought rather than firing him, you know, I listened to him, but I didn’t do what he said because, frankly, his record is not a good record,” Trump told the podcast “The Truth with Lisa Boothe.”

“I like him personally,” Trump continued. “He’s actually a nice guy. He’s a great promoter. He’s really a promoter more than anything else.”

When asked if he regretted “elevating” Fauci, Trump said, “Well, I didn’t really elevate him. He’s been there for 40 years. He’s been there forever.”

But Trump said Fauci has been “wrong so much” on COVID-19 recommendations, citing his early advice against masks that aligned with other experts at the time over a concern that there would not be enough protective equipment for health care workers.

Read more here

New York, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines

New York, Tennessee, West Virginia and Arizona on Monday announced expansions of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility requirements, lowering the minimum age for people to receive vaccines.

New Yorkers aged 50 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine starting on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced in a statement.

“We continue to kick vaccinations into overdrive throughout the state by expanding eligibility, establishing new vaccination sites and allowing providers to reach new populations,” Cuomo said.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced that adults age 55 and older, in addition to people who work in critical infrastructure industries, are now officially eligible to receive a vaccine.

Lee also said that all state residents age 16 and older will be able to receive a vaccine beginning April 5. 

All individuals age 16 and older in West Virginia are also now eligible to receive the vaccine, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced. And all individuals age 16 and older in Arizona will be eligible to receive vaccines at state-operated inoculation sites in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties beginning on Wednesday.

Context: States are racing to meet President Biden’s directive of opening up vaccinations to all adults by May 1.

Read more here.

What we’re reading

The real reason Republicans couldn’t kill Obamacare (The Atlantic)

How complexity could mar rollout of the new Obamacare subsidies (New York Times)  

Hugs, at last: nursing homes easing rules on visitors (AP)

Searching for the missing students of the pandemic (Washington Post)

State by state 

Gov. Mike DeWine authorizes health departments to give extra coronavirus vaccine doses to all Ohioans 16 and up if they can’t fill appointments (Cleveland.com

Blue Shield spent years cultivating a relationship with Newsom. It got the state vaccine contract (Kaiser Health News).

Vaccination eligibility expands as state eases business restrictions (Boston Globe)

Philly started allowing walk-ins at FEMA vaccine site to improve equity. It might be working. (Inquirer)

The Hill op-eds

Having vaccinated people on airplanes makes sense

How a lottery can bring equity to the COVID vaccination process

Tags Andrew Cuomo Anthony Fauci Donald Trump Joe Biden Mike DeWine Rochelle Walensky
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