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Overnight Health Care — Presented by EMAA — Administration to up at-home COVID-19 testing

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: rustwire.com/newsletter-signup.

It’s been busy around Washington, so you may have missed Fat Bear Week. Meet your chonky champion, Otis, whose fans named him the winner for the fourth time.     

The Biden administration is aiming to boost the number of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests with a $1 billion investment, which officials said will quadruple the available supply by the end of the year. 

For Rust Wire, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@rustwire.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@rustwire.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@rustwire.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.

White House moves to quadruple rapid testing supply by December

President BidenJoe BidenBiden announces nominations for Arts and Humanities endowments Biden and Xi agree to abide by Taiwan agreement On The Money — Presented by NRHC — Democrats cross the debt ceiling Rubicon MORE announced a $2 billion investment in rapid testing, which can deliver results in as little as 15 minutes, in September, which a White House official said was already on track to double capacity. The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of a new rapid test from ACON Laboratories on Monday, as well as an additional $1 billion investment being announced Wednesday, will further increase capacity, the official said.

Big picture, some experts say it’s about time: The moves are a burst of activity in an area where many experts have been calling for greater action for more than a year. Some experts have criticized the FDA, saying it has been too cautious and conservative in authorizing new rapid tests.

Joseph Allen, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tweeted Wednesday that rapid testing “will go down as THE epic failure of this pandemic.”

“My question: the utility of rapid tests was so obvious for over a year, why is this just getting attention now?” he added.

The numbers: With the new announcements, the White House official said production of rapid tests will rise from about 30 million per month to 200 million per month starting in December and that the price is expected to fall as well.

Read more here. 

 

A MESSAGE FROM EMAA

 

After 20+ years of use, evidence shows medication abortion care is safe and effective. It’s time for the FDA to follow the science and lift outdated restrictions on medication abortion.

WHO endorses first vaccine for malaria

The World Health Organization (WHO) took a monumental step in the fight against malaria by endorsing its first vaccine to combat the most deadly form in the hopes of reducing children fatalities.

The international health organization recommended that children living in areas with “moderate to high transmission” of P. falciparum malaria receive four doses on a schedule once they are 5 months old to prevent the disease. 

Significance: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the announcement a “historic moment,” saying the vaccine manufactured by British company GlaxoSmithKline could save tens of thousands of children’s lives. 

“The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” he said in a statement. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

Ongoing study results: WHO backed the malaria vaccine after seeing data from an ongoing pilot program involving more than 800,000 children across Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019. 

The results so far determined that more than two-thirds of children who are not sleeping under a bed net “are benefiting from” the vaccine. The pilot program also found a “significant” 30 percent reduction in deadly severe malaria.

Read more here. 

MODERNA FOUNDERS CRACK FORBES LIST FOR WEALTHIEST PEOPLE IN US

Three people at the head of Moderna cracked the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the U.S. following the company’s development of a coronavirus vaccine that has been used around the world. 

Co-founder and current chairman Noubar Afeyan, co-founder and board member Robert Langer, and investor Timothy Springer all made the Forbes 400 list for 2021. 

Springer reached the 176th spot with a fortune of $5.9 billion. Langer hit the 222nd spot with $4.9 billion, and Ageyan landed in the 212th spot with $5 billion.

Moderna’s profits and shares have skyrocketed over the past year, as the company is one of only three with coronavirus vaccines approved in the U.S., and one of only a handful of vaccines used around the world. 

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have seen profits grow, while AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have said they are not going to profit from their vaccines. 

Read more here. 

 

Manchin’s ‘red line’ on abortion splits Democrats

Add one more element of intraparty drama to Democrats’ potential “social infrastructure” reconciliation bill: the Hyde amendment.

Democrats are clashing over whether to include in their sweeping spending plan a decades-old amendment that blocks Medicaid and other federal health programs from being used to cover abortions.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), already a key stumbling block to Democratic unity on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, has drawn a line in the sand around the issue, but others in the party are split over whether to include the Hyde amendment in a portion of the spending bill that would create a new federal program to provide health care coverage to low-income individuals in GOP-led states that haven’t adopted Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act.

In recent days, Manchin has signaled he would not support the package without the amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortions in most cases and has been included in annual government funding bills since it was introduced by then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) in the 1970s.

Manchin, who has long supported the amendment, has called the provision “a red line” and said his party’s spending plan would be “dead on arrival” if it isn’t included.

Does it even belong? But there’s confusion among Democrats, including those who support the Hyde Amendment, as to whether the provision would need to be added to the reconciliation plan. And while a number of Democrats oppose the amendment, none have said publicly whether they would withhold support for the bill if it includes the provision as the party tries to maintain a unified front amid spending negotiations. 

Past practice: The amendment is traditionally included in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spending bill passed by Congress every year. However, this year marked the first time in decades that the House Appropriations labor and health and human services subcommittee advanced the bill without the provision. 

Read more here.

 

A MESSAGE FROM EMAA

 

After 20+ years of use, evidence shows medication abortion care is safe and effective. It’s time for the FDA to follow the science and lift outdated restrictions on medication abortion.

HOSPITAL SYSTEM REQUIRING VACCINATIONS FOR TRANSPLANT RECIPIENTS IN ‘ALMOST ALL SITUATIONS’

A Colorado hospital system says COVID-19 vaccinations will now be required in “almost all situations” for transplant recipients and living donors. 

“In almost all situations, transplant recipients and living donors at UCHealth are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in addition to meeting other health requirements and receiving additional vaccinations,” UCHealth said in a statement to Rust Wire.

The hospital system, based in Aurora, Colo., said that some transplant centers “already have this requirement in place, and others are making this change in policy now.” 

Solid organ transplant patients don’t respond as well to the vaccine as healthy patients, so they were the first types of patients authorized for booster shots. Studies have placed the mortality rate for transplant patients who contract the virus at between 18 and 32 percent. 

UCHealth’s rules for transplants were publicly blasted on Tuesday by Colorado state Rep. Tim Geitner (R), who called the policy discriminatory and “disgusting.”

But putting conditions on organ transplant patients is not new. Patients in transplant centers nationwide could be required to get other vaccinations, stop smoking or drinking, or ensure they will take the necessary anti-rejection drugs. 

Read more here.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

‘We’re not out of danger’: A threat lingers even as new U.S. cases and deaths decline. (The New York Times)FDA’s internal turmoil could impact boosters, shots for kids (Roll Call)Biden closes in on pick to lead Food and Drug Administration (Politico)

STATE BY STATE

Covid cases in kids are soaring. In Tennessee, most remain unmasked and unvaccinated. (Washington Post)State health department blasted over nursing home oversight (Cal Matters)Philadelphia extends vaccine mandate deadline for health care and higher education workers (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

 

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

The Supreme Court isn’t political — and reversing Roe v. Wade wouldn’t make it so

 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out Rust Wire’s healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. See you Thursday.

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