Health Care — White House eyeing expansion of second booster

One New Hampshire distillery is contributing its own efforts to fighting invasive species… by turning crabs into whiskey.

Today in health care, White House officials have begun discussing plans to expand eligibility for a second COVID-19 vaccine booster to include more age groups, although the number of Americans who have received a first booster shot still remains low.

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.

Officials discussing expanding booster eligibility

Biden administration health officials on Tuesday said they are discussing authorizing a second COVID-19 booster shot for all adults, but downplayed any imminent recommendations.

  • “Those conversations have been going on for a while,” White House coronavirus coordinator Ashish Jha said Tuesday in a press briefing. Jha added, however, that the ultimate decision rests with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • “I know that the FDA is considering this, looking at it, and I know CDC scientists are thinking about this and looking at the data as well. The decision is purely up to them,” Jha said.

The White House has been working hard to promote second booster shots to Americans over the age of 50, which have been authorized since late March. People ages 12 and older who are immunocompromised are also eligible.

Lay in boosters: But while about 67 percent of all Americans have been fully vaccinated against the virus, only 34 percent of eligible Americans have received a booster dose, according to federal data. In addition, health officials are working on a fall booster campaign that will target specific variants of omicron, as evidence shows immunity from the first booster series is waning.

Read more here.

Dems seek to protect those who travel for abortions

A group of Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled legislation to protect a person’s ability to travel across states to acquire reproductive care like abortions and contraception.

The bill titled “Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022” was introduced by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.).

Citing the 14th Amendment as well as prior Supreme Court rulings on interstate travel, the bill seeks to explicitly outlaw any attempts to “restrict or in way sanction, hold liable, discriminate against, or otherwise disadvantage any individual from traveling to another State to receive or provide reproductive health care that is legal in that State.”

The bill would also invalidate state laws that went against the protections included within it and would give the US attorney general the ability to take civil actions against states that try to enact or enforce such laws.

Individuals and entities also impacted by potential laws restricting or penalizing travel for abortion would also be able to take civil action against states.

Read more here.

FAUCI: SUBVARIANT IS SERIOUS, BUT DON’T ‘LET IT DISRUPT OUR LIVES’

Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that a new omicron subvariant on the rise is something to take seriously but should not be a cause for panic.

The subvariant, known as BA.5, now makes up the majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States. It is even more highly transmissible than earlier variants of the virus, and has an increased ability to evade the protection of vaccines and prior infections.

  • “We should not let it disrupt our lives, but we cannot deny that it is a reality we need to deal with,” Fauci said at a White House press briefing.
  • “It’s something that A, we don’t panic on, B, we don’t let it disrupt our lives, but we take it seriously enough and utilize the tools that we have to mitigate,” he later added.

The White House on Tuesday released a fact sheet with its plan for fighting the subvariant, which was largely a continuation of measures the administration had previously emphasized.

Read more here.

AMAZON, RESEARCH CENTER PARTNER ON CANCER VACCINE

Amazon will collaborate with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle on a Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trial for a cancer vaccine.

According to a filing with the National Institutes of Health, Fred Hutch is testing a “personalized” vaccine for patients with late-stage melanoma skin cancer and certain breast cancers that have spread throughout the body or are not responding to other treatment.

Fred Hutch is listed as the trial’s sponsor and Amazon as the sole collaborator. The duo set a recruitment target of 20 participants above 18 years of age with skin and breast cancers for its Phase 1 trial.

  • The trial will dole out a 25-week regimen of the vaccines, absent any complications, and offer follow-ups over the next 12 months.
  • Amazon is providing “scientific and machine learning expertise” to the latest Fred Hutch endeavor, a company spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. The vaccine is in early stages, and “it’s unclear whether it will be successful.”

The first participant enrolled on June 9, and the study is expected to be completed by Nov. 1, 2023.

Read more here.

Abortion ruling creating health care ‘chaos,’ panel warned

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion is creating “chaos” in the health care sector as some states see a spike in women seeking abortions and physicians are unsure of their legal rights, lawmakers were told in a hearing on Tuesday.

The ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization has quickly created a patchwork of abortion laws across the country, with legal battles now playing out at the state level to determine what laws will be enforced, and whether they adhere to state constitutions.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on the legal reality around abortion and reproductive care in a post-Roe America.

The Impact: Colleen McNicholaschief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told lawmakers that physicians are fearful of prescribing certain medications that may contribute to miscarriage or be used for abortions because of the potential legal repercussions.

“We are already seeing mass chaos among OBGYNs, emergency room physicians, and quite frankly pharmacists. We’re talking about people being denied or delayed care for pregnancy and non-pregnancy related conditions,” McNicholas said.

Read more here.

EVENT INVITE

Securing America’s Retirement, Wednesday, July 13 at 8 am ET

A recent Gallup poll shows that 63% of Americans are “worried about having enough for retirement.” How might diversifying portfolios affect retirement security? And what policies will truly ensure a secure retirement for Americans? Contributing editor Steven Clemons sits down with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), BPC chief economist Jason FichtnerOhio School Employees Retirement System’s Farouki Majeed and more. RSVP today

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Genetically engineered pig hearts transplanted into dead people (The Verge)
  • Why this key chance to getting permanent birth control is often missed (NPR)
  • More men seeking vasectomies after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade (CBS News)

STATE BY STATE

  • Brain-eating amoeba that infected a swimmer in Iowa is increasingly found in northern states (NBC News)
  • UVM Health Network requests double-digit rate increase, citing inflation and pandemic pressures (VTDigger)
  • COVID hospitalizations double in Houston, TMC data shows, as new variant spreads (Houston Chronicle)

OP EDS IN THE HILL

To restore trust in science, make it accessible; here’s how

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.

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