The Hill’s Health Care — White House faces battle getting kids under 5 vaxxed

RIP to Philip Baker Hall. The actor who played the iconic library cop Lt. Joe Bookman on “Seinfeld” died on Sunday at the age of 90.

As the US inches closer to having COVID-19 vaccines available for children under 5, administration officials will have to face the challenge of convincing those parents to get their children immunized.

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Getting kids under 5 vaccinated an uphill battle

The Biden administration faces an uphill battle to convince parents to give COVID-19 shots to children under 5 years old.

More than a year and a half after the first vaccines were authorized for adults, an expert advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration will finally meet on Wednesday to examine data from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech about their shots’ effectiveness in the youngest children.

If all goes well and the vaccines get authorized, the administration is planning a massive public education campaign to help make sure parents can have their questions answered and learn about the importance of getting their children vaccinated.

The plan: Officials have outlined a plan that includes partnering with the online What to Expect community, as well as a range of national organizations, including a “speaker’s bureau” of pediatricians and family physicians who will be able to answer questions about the shots at community events.

The challenge: There are about 18 million kids under the age of 5 who would become eligible. But infectious disease experts think it’s an open question just how strong demand will be.

  • Some parents have expressed concerns about side effects, or that the vaccine is worse than the disease. Others are just ready to get back to normal; experts said pandemic fatigue is one of the biggest obstacles.
  • Also a concern: The idea that young kids are not at risk from COVID-19, so they don’t need to be vaccinated. Experts say correcting that misperception is where pediatricians and family physicians should play a role.

Read more here.

PFIZER-BIONTECH VACCINE EFFECTIVE FOR KIDS UNDER 5: FDA

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) briefing document released Sunday said that Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children under 5.

The document comes before a meeting scheduled for Wednesday during which the FDA’s independent experts will consider emergency use authorization of the vaccine for young children, which could quickly pave the way for widespread availability.

Promising data: The FDA documents indicated that the vaccines were 75.6 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 for children ages six to 23 months old and 82.4 percent effective for children between ages 2 and 4.

Overall, they were 80.4 percent effective in a combined analysis of both age groups, the FDA said.

“Available data support the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine 3-dose primary series (3 µg each dose) in preventing COVID-19 in the age group of 6 months through 4 years,” the document said.

Read more here.

Gun deal provides national mental health funding

A bipartisan group of senators had a breakthrough over the weekend in reaching a deal on preventing gun violence, and it also includes some important mental health elements.

The deal includes funding for a nationwide expansion of community mental health clinics.

  • The measure from Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) would provide funding nationwide for community mental health clinics that provide 24/7 mental health crisis response, substance abuse treatment, and other services.
  • The clinics would be reimbursed through Medicaid, which the senators argue provides a more stable source of funding than one-time grants, which can run out.

The package would expand the mental health clinic program nationwide, up from 10 states currently fully participating.

Other mental health programs? There are also other mental health measures included in the bipartisan package released Sunday, though the details have not been provided.

The framework released by the bipartisan group of 20 senators calls for “major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs” and funding for “school-based mental health and supportive services.”

Read more here.

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HHS chief tests positive twice in less than a month

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, the agency announced, the second time he has been infected in less than a month.

“This morning in Sacramento, US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for COVID-19 after taking an antigen test. He is fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and is experiencing mild symptoms. He will continue to perform his duties as HHS Secretary, working in isolation,” HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim said in a statement.

The big picture: You can get multiple infections. Reinfection is quickly becoming the primary driver of new cases in the United States, showing that immunity from previous infections is no longer able to provide the same level of protection against emerging variants and subvariants.

Last week, Becerra was in Los Angeles to participate in the Summit of the Americas with President Biden and Vice President Harris. HHS said Becerra is not considered a close contact of either.

Read more here.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 AGAIN

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared on Monday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 a second time and will be isolating.

“I’ve tested positive for COVID-19. I’ll be following public health guidelines and isolating. I feel okay, but that’s because I got my shots. So, if you haven’t, get vaccinated – and if you can, get boosted. Let’s protect our healthcare system, each other, and ourselves,” Trudeau tweeted.

Trudeau previously tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of January, along with two of his children.

Recent trip: Trudeau’s infection comes just days after he attended the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, along with President Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Los Angeles Mayor Gavin Newsom (D), who himself had tested positive for the coronavirus late last month.

During the summit, Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, met with the Bidens and shook both of their hands while unmasked. Canada’s first lady previously contracted COVID-19 in 2020.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Race is often used as medical shorthand for how bodies work. Some doctors want to change that. (Kaiser Health News)
  • Why doctors say the ‘save the mother’s life’ exception of abortion bans is medically risky (ABC News)
  • How Covid did away with the sick day (New York Times)
  • Monkeypox DNA found in semen in handful of cases -researchers say (Reuters)

STATE BY STATE

  • Oakland, Calif. declares racism a public health crisis (NPR)
  • As Biden fights opioid overdoses, harm-reduction groups face local opposition (The Texas Tribune)
  • Two more Massachusetts men test positive for monkeypox virus (The Boston Globe)

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

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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