Health Care — White House makes new push to fund health battles

·7 min read

Now that the pumpkin-spiced latté has returned, you can take your love of fall even further with these pumpkin-shaped Dutch ovens that Twitter has fallen in love with.

Today in health, we’ll look at the White House requesting billions in new funding to respond to both the coronavirus and monkeypox, with “difficult decisions” looming if more resources aren’t available.

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.

A note from the authors: It is Peter’s last day on this newsletter. He says thanks for reading and Nate and Joseph will carry on well!

Biden asks for billions in COVID, monkeypox funding

There’s a new twist in the ongoing fight for COVID-19 funding.

The White House is set to request $22.4 billion in funding for the COVID-19 response effort and $3.9 billion for the monkeypox response effort in the form of emergency funding from Congress, senior administration officials announced on Friday.

The updated request for COVID-19 funding is to meet immediate short-term domestic needs, including testing, research and development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics, according to the White House. It also would support the global response to COVID-19 and help to prepare for future variants.

“Without additional funding, we will have to make more difficult decisions,” a senior administration official said on Friday.

Consequences already:

  • The federal government on Friday suspended the program for free COVID-19 tests to be sent to Americans. Officials argued that a lack of funding has prevented them from adequately replenishing national stockpiles of at-home tests.

  • Officials said on Friday that while there are some tests available in the stockpile, there is not enough funding to get through a surge in the fall.

  • Vaccines will be free into 2023, but the timeline for commercialization of vaccines going forward has had to be accelerated without funding.

The request to fight monkeypox is to help ensure ready access to vaccinations, testing, treatment and operational support. It also includes $600 million to help combat the spread globally.

Read more here.

VA to offer abortion access in limited circumstances

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) on Friday said that it will provide access to abortions to pregnant veterans in limited circumstances.

In a statement, the department said it submitted an interim final rule in the federal register to allow it to provide access to abortion counseling, as well as the procedure itself for people who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or if carrying a pregnancy to term endangers the life of the mother.

  • VA Secretary Denis McDonough called the move a “patient safety decision.” 

  • “Pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most. That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver,” he added.

A departure from current rules: In its interim final rule, the VA notes that current regulations don’t allow the agency’s Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) program to cover the procedure unless the life of the pregnant person is endangered.

Coverage for abortions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest is also excluded from CHAMPV, as is abortion counseling.

The move would cover veterans and benefits under CHAMPVA program, the VA said. The department added that its employees may provide the service regardless of state restrictions as long as they are working within the scope of federal employment.

Read more here.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT POLIO AS IT RESURFACES

This year, polio cases have been detected in New York state, London and Jerusalem.

Spread mostly through contact with an infected person’s feces, vaccination is protective against illness, paralysis and death from the polio virus.

In July, the case in Rockland County in New York was in an otherwise healthy young adult who was unvaccinated but had a confirmed case of poliomyelitis resulting in paralysis in the leg. The county also found the virus in wastewater samples from June.

Symptoms: Most people who are infected will not have visible symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One out of four people may have flu-like symptoms, like sore throat, fever and fatigue. An even smaller number of people may have neurological symptoms because the virus can travel into the spinal cord, including meningitis (infection of covering of spinal cord and/or brain) or paralysis.

Importance of vaccines: “The best way to keep adults and children polio-free is through safe and effective immunization – New Yorkers’ greatest protection against the worst outcomes of polio, including permanent paralysis and even death,” says New York State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett. In New York City, there are some pockets where vaccination coverage is under 70 percent in children ages 6 months to 5 years old.

Read more here.

DRIED MUSHROOMS RECALLED IN 15 STATES OVER SALMONELLA

An Asian food importer based in Maryland is recalling some of its dried mushrooms due to a potential salmonella contamination.

Thai Phat Wholesalers is stopping the sale of four types of its “Three Coins Dried Mushrooms” in 15 states: Virginia, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The specialty retailer issued a recall for the mushrooms on Friday after a routine test from the Maryland Department of Health detected bacteria in some packages.

  • So far, no one has gotten sick from eating any of the “Three Coins Dried Mushrooms” but Thai Phat is urging people to not purchase the product or return them for a full refund.

  • Most people who become infected with salmonella will suffer from stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and recover within a week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more here.

WHO: Monkeypox drop proves outbreak can be stopped

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that the recent decline in monkeypox cases that has been observed in North America and Europe is evidence that the current outbreak can be stopped or eliminated outright.

Tedros made note of how monkeypox has quickly gone from being a little-known virus that was often only discussed within the context of countries where it is endemic.

Historic numbers: With over 50,000 cases and 16 deaths due to monkeypox confirmed this year, Tedros said the number of cases has already exceeded the number of reported infections in the years since monkeypox was first identified in 1958.

“It’s encouraging to see that in some countries in Europe and North America we now see a sustained decline in cases, demonstrating the effectiveness of public health interventions and community engagement to track infections and prevent transmission,” said Tedros.

  • According to information from the European Union, reported monkeypox cases have seen a continued decline since peaking in mid-July. The current number of reported cases in EU countries now reflect the levels that were observed in the early parts of the outbreak.

  • Throughout the monkeypox outbreak, the U.S. has tended to follow the epidemiological trends observed in Europe. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated a slight decline in reported cases in recent weeks. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week that she was “cautiously optimistic,” though the rate of increase is uneven across the country.

“These signs confirm what we have said consistently since the beginning: that with the right measures, this is an outbreak that can be stopped,” Tedros said. “And in regions that do not have animal-to-human transmission, this is a virus that can be eliminated.”

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Study raises concerns about the effectiveness of the monkeypox vaccine (Stat)

  • There’s no bad time to get a new COVID booster if you’re eligible, CDC director says (NPR)

  • Biden administration is preparing for the end of free COVID-19 vaccines as funds run dry (CBS News)

STATE BY STATE

  • 2 residents of California assisted living facilities die after separate accidental poisoning incidents (NBC News)

  • Pa.’s Health Department is distributing free potassium iodide tablets to residents (WFMZ-TV)

  • New Mexico to build $10 million abortion clinic near Texas border (Midland Reporter-Telegram)

OP-ED IN THE HILL

As overdose crisis rages, we must prioritize saving lives with harm reduction

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage.

Programming note: This newsletter will pick up again on Tuesday after the holiday weekend. See you next week!

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