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The White House is gearing up to launch a COVID-19 booster campaign this fall to prevent another major surge, but convincing vaccine holdouts to get another dose will be far from easy.
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Effort to curb fall COVID surge faces uphill battle
The White House is rushing ahead to roll out a new COVID-19 booster shot campaign in early September, but is facing an uphill battle to ensure it is successful.
The vaccines being used in the campaign are the first ones that have been manufactured to specifically target the subvariants of omicron that are currently causing the most infections, and administration officials have indicated they’re preparing to start offering the shots shortly after Labor Day.
The challenge: Administration officials say these new vaccines will be key to controlling a potential fall surge, but they will need to convince an increasingly checked-out public to get the shots.
Only about two-thirds of the U.S. population have been vaccinated with a primary COVID-19 vaccine series, while less than half of that group has received even a first booster.
The vaccination rate among children is even lower. According to the CDC, less than 4 percent of eligible kids under the age of 2 have received at least one dose, and only 6 percent of kids between the ages of 2 and 4 have received a single dose.
Rupali Limaye, a vaccine expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said she doesn’t expect the retooled boosters will do much to convince the under-vaccinated population to get another shot.
The same people who rushed to get the initial vaccine series and then the first round of boosters will be the ones to receive the omicron-specific shots, she said, and mixed messages from health officials are partly to blame.
“I think for the most part, the majority of the public has sort of moved on, if you will. And the messaging has been that this is going to now be with us,” Limaye said.
Officials inject $11M into monkeypox vax production
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Monday announced it is providing about $11 million of funding to support domestic production of the Jynneos smallpox vaccine being used to limit the spread of the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
HHS said in a statement that the funds would be used to support manufacturing at the Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing (GRAM) facility in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Where the funds go: According to the department, these funds will allow the GRAM to purchase additional equipment necessary to manufacture the smallpox vaccine as well as help accelerate production.
“This new agreement solidifies a domestic manufacturing capability that will bring us more vaccine sooner to end this outbreak,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said.
The announcement comes a little over a week after an agreement between GRAM and Bavarian Nordic, the Danish company that makes Jynneos, was made public. HHS said this agreement would allow for 2.5 million of the
5.5 million ordered Jynneos vials to be filled within the U.S.
Last week, health authorities both in the U.S. and on the global stage said there were early indications that monkeypox cases were beginning to trend down.
FEDS TO HALT FREE AT-HOME COVID-19 TESTS
The federal government is set to suspend its offer of free at-home COVID-19 tests by Friday, Sept. 2, without congressional authorization for an extension.
The U.S. Postal Service’s page for ordering the tests states that orders will pause by next Friday “or sooner if supplies run out.”
“Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2 because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests,” a message on the federal government’s COVID-19 website reads.
The Biden administration originally announced that it would offer 1 billion free at-home COVID-19 tests in January. The federal government used COVID-19 funding from the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus and COVID-19 recovery package that he signed into law last year.
No funding from Congress: A senior administration official told USA Today that the government needs to hold on to tests for a possible rise in the fall.
The official said that the administration will use its existing “limited” resources to obtain as many tests as it can, but distribution could resume on a large scale if Congress provides the funding for it.
MARIJUANA USE HITS RECORD HIGH IN NEW GALLUP POLL
Marijuana use reached a record high in new polling, as for the first time more Americans said they smoke marijuana than reported smoking cigarettes in the last week.
Sixteen percent of Americans in a new Gallup poll reported smoking marijuana, up from 12 percent last year and more than double the all-time low of 7 percent.
In contrast: Fewer Americans, at 11 percent, reported smoking cigarettes in the past week, down from 16 percent last year and a far fall from a peak at 45 percent in the 1950s.
It’s the highest percentage of reported marijuana use and the lowest percentage of past-week cigarette use since Gallup started asking those questions in 2013 and 1944, respectively.
Nearly half of U.S. adults now report having tried marijuana, up from 4 percent when Gallup first surveyed about its use in 1969.
Despite increasingly common use of the drug, Americans remain evenly split on whether marijuana is having a negative or positive effect on society.
Paid sick leave associated with lower mortality rates in US
The United States is one of the only developed countries without a national paid sick leave policy, while preemption laws — or those that restrict lower governments’ legislative powers — have been on the rise.
Although these laws were developed in part to create harmony among levels of government or establish minimum thresholds, new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine outlines their unforeseen consequences.
Between 2010 and 2017, findings show state laws preempting local officials from enacting mandatory paid sick leave likely contributed to the 6 percent mortality increase seen among working adults in that time frame, authors wrote.
In areas where employers are required to provide paid sick leave, researchers found lower mortality rates among working age Americans.
Specifically, mandatory paid sick leave was associated with lower rates of suicide and homicide among men and lower homicide and alcohol-related mortality among women. Each individual hour of guaranteed paid sick leave was linked with significant reductions in these causes of death, researchers wrote.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Accidental poisoning of children by button batteries is on the rise, study finds (CNN)
An ambitious stroke prevention study tests the Apple Watch’s promise in health (Stat)
Facing voter backlash, California Republicans recalibrate their antiabortion stance (Los Angeles Times)
STATE BY STATE
‘We’re still standing’: With abortion illegal, a Memphis clinic starts a new chapter (NBC News)
‘I would wish this on absolutely no one’: How three women dealt with pregnancy in the year since Texas’ six-week abortion ban (The 19th)
‘It took everything’: the disease that can be contracted by breathing California’s air (The Guardian)
THE HILL OP-EDS
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