Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson pause seen as 'responsible' in poll | Women turning out more than men for COVID-19 vaccines

Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson pause seen as 'responsible' in poll | Women turning out more than men for COVID-19 vaccines
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Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care. On 4/20, Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerHow to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (D-N.Y.) took the opportunity to tout marijuana legislation expected to end the federal prohibition and ensure restorative justice for past convictions. But it will face an uphill path in the Senate to get 60 votes. 

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Today: Johnson & Johnson said it will resume distribution in Europe after EU regulators said its benefits outweigh the risks. A Congressional panel is investigating J&J manufacturer Emergent, and women are getting vaccinated more than men.

We'll start with J&J:

European regulator says Johnson & Johnson vaccine benefits outweigh risks

Europe's drug regulator said Tuesday that it's recommending a warning be added to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine about a possible link to blood clots, but noted they are "very rare" and the benefits still outweigh the risks.

In response, the company said it will resume its vaccine rollout in Europe. 

J&J had decided to delay its rollout in the EU's member states last week, after U.S. regulators called for a pause on the vaccine following concerns about the potential serious side effect.

"The reported combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is very rare, and the overall benefits of COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects," the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement.


Just eight cases of the blood clots out of about 7 million people who received the single-dose vaccine have been identified in the U.S., the agency noted.

Next move? The EMA's decision could foreshadow what U.S. regulators will decide on Friday, when a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee meets again. The panel of experts previously met last week, but they put off a decision on what to do about the vaccine until another meeting this Friday because of a lack of evidence. That delay drew criticism from some experts, who said there was no good reason to prolong the pause.

Seen it before: The EMA noted that similar instances of rare blood clots have been linked to a different COVID-19 vaccine, from AstraZeneca. Use of that vaccine has resumed after pauses in some countries in Europe, though some nations have added age restrictions.

The clotting cases with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have mostly been in women under 60 years of age.

Read more here.


Smart move: Poll shows most support Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause as 'responsible'

An Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday found most Americans back the pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, calling it “responsible.”

The survey, conducted April 16-19, found that 91 percent of Americans had heard of the pause on the vaccine. Of those who had heard of the vaccine, 88 percent said they believed the FDA and CDC were “being responsible” by recommending the pause.

There was high bipartisan support for this sentiment, with 91 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of Republicans saying the agencies acted responsibly.

The survey also found that the pause didn’t affect Americans’ likelihood of getting the vaccine. Only 20 percent say they won’t get the vaccine, holding pace from when Axios conducted their survey in January.

Why it matters: The poll appears to negate fears that the pause would do more harm than good by aggravating vaccine hesitancy across the country. Vaccine hesitancy is still a concern, it just doesn't appear that the J&J issue has made it any worse.

Read more here



Women turning out more than men for COVID-19 vaccines

Women across the country are turning out more than men to get their COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting women are overcoming any potential hesitancy surrounding immunization in greater numbers than men.

Data from the CDC shows that more than 65 million American women, or 54.3 percent, have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population. In the meantime, almost 55 million men, or 45.7 percent, have received at least one dose.

The trend is relatively consistent across states, as last week, Kaiser Health News reported that the 38 states, and Washington, D.C., that break down vaccinations by gender all showed that more women received the shot than men. 

Why: Experts attributed the higher turnout to various factors, including women’s traditional role as caretakers in the family, increased concerns about COVID-19 compared to men and research showing women were “more adversely affected” by the pandemic overall.

The data implies that women are surmounting any concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, even as women are more likely to report minor side effects as well as the incredibly rare major side effects, such as the cases of blood clots that halted the Johnson & Johnson vaccinations.

Read more here.



More bad news for Emergent: a congressional panel is launching an investigation into the company

House Democrats have launched an investigation into Emergent BioSolutions, the embattled contract manufacturer of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccines, to find out if the company used its relationship with a key Trump administration official to secure a $628 million federal contract.

In a letter sent to the company's CEO and its executive chairman, Democrats on the Oversight Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said they were concerned Emergent won contracts "despite a track record of increasing prices without justification and failing to meet contract requirements."

The Democrats, led by Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHuffPost reporter: DCCC will help Dems fend off progressive challengers to 'keep them happy' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Chauvin conviction puts renewed focus on police reform Liberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges MORE (D-N.Y.) and coronavirus subcommittee chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.). requested that Emergent’s two top executives testify at a May 19 hearing and provide a wide array of records.

“Specifically, we are investigating reports that Emergent received multimillion-dollar contracts to manufacture coronavirus vaccines despite a long, documented history of inadequately trained staff and quality control issues,” the lawmakers wrote.

String of problems: This month, the Food and Drug Administration began an audit of its factory in southeastern Baltimore after workers contaminated a batch of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine with an ingredient for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, another product manufactured at the plant.


Biden administration officials have said that AstraZeneca’s vaccine will no longer be manufactured at the plant, and Johnson & Johnson officials have taken complete control of its operations. 

Read more here.


Cornyn places hold on Biden Medicaid nominee

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (R-Texas) is placing a hold on President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE’s nominee to oversee the agency that regulates Medicare and Medicaid, an apparent sign of the anger from Republicans over the withdrawal of Texas’s Medicaid waiver last week.

Cornyn’s office said Tuesday that he would put up a procedural roadblock to the nomination of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

He accused the Biden administration of playing “political chicken” by rescinding federal funds for Texas in a bid to pressure the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

“Senator Cornyn placed the hold after the Biden Administration decided to play political chicken with uninsured Texans’ healthcare,” a Cornyn spokesperson said. “He’s requested additional information from the nominee and the Administration about how they plan to ensure our most vulnerable Texans don’t lose their healthcare because of their actions.” 

Background: The Biden administration moved last week to rescind a Medicaid waiver given to Texas in the final days of the Trump administration. That waiver extended federal funds that reimburse hospitals for providing care for uninsured people. Advocates of Medicaid expansion have long argued it would make much more sense to give people health insurance in the first place, through Medicaid. 

What’s the practical effect? Not much. The maneuver can slow the nomination, not stop it, as long as Democrats have 50 votes.

Read more here.


What we’re reading

‘I’m still a zero’: Vaccine-resistant Republicans warn that their skepticism is worsening (Washington Post)

Biden officials met privately with 3M, AmerisourceBergen, PhRMA, and more to debate shoring up the national stockpile (Stat

Trump’s former aides say he whiffed on vaccination legacy (Politico)


State by state

Missouri health director who worked for 2 governors resigns (Associated Press)

NJ hospitals fill with younger COVID patients as more seniors get vaccinated (NorthJersey.com)

43 Iowa counties decline more vaccine as demand slows (Associated Press)


Op-eds in The Hill

Decades of anti-vaxx rhetoric threatens COVID herd immunity