Healthcare – FDA panel to review annual COVID vaccine injections

The FDA Vaccine Committee is set to consider a recommendation for an annual COVID-19 vaccination plan, similar to that used for flu shots. We will dive into the details.

Plus: President Biden issues memorandum to further protect access to medical abortion.

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Special group to review annual COVID vaccines

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) vaccine advisory group is expected to consider an annual schedule for the coronavirus vaccine, similar to how flu shots are given, when it meets this week.

  • The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biologicals Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet Thursday to discuss how to simplify and streamline the COVID-19 vaccination process, including the composition of coronavirus vaccines and the recommended schedule for these injections.
  • The rapid evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, resulting in variants with an improved ability to evade immune protection, means “periodically updating the composition of COVID-19 vaccines as needed” – like this was made with the updated bivalent booster – requires review, according to panel documents released Monday.

Potential projects: The panel said it plans to assess the composition of the COVID-19 vaccine every June and make a recommendation for the following year – although it acknowledged the difficulties of mounting a coordinated vaccine recommendation to the global scale.

  • “FDA plans to conduct strain evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 at least annually and to engage VRBPAC around early June each year regarding strain selection for the fall season,” read the documents.
  • While acknowledging that COVID-19 and influenza are not the same, the panel said the deployment of bivalent COVID-19 boosters, created to target both the ancestral strain of the virus as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron, was “analogous” to annual flu vaccinations.

Learn more here.

Biden issues memo to protect access to abortion pills

President Biden released a presidential memorandum on Sunday to further protect access to medical abortion by ensuring doctors can prescribe and dispense it across the United States.

Vice President Harris announced the memorandum Sunday in remarks in Florida marking 50 years since the Roe v. Supreme Court Wade.

  • The memorandum directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, along with the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security, to consider new guidance to support patients, providers, and pharmacies who wish to access, prescribe, or provide mifepristone legally.
  • The memorandum will also ensure that patients know their right to access reproductive health care, including medical abortion in a pharmacy.

Mifepristone, which is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug used in medical abortion, has become an increasingly common method of terminating pregnancies, particularly following the cancellation by the Roe Supreme Court v. Wade. It accounts for more than half of all abortions in the country.

Earlier this month, the FDA said it would allow US retail pharmacies to offer abortion pills directly to patients with a prescription in states where abortion is legal.

Medical abortion has been available in the United States since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone, but many states with strict abortion bans also limit the availability of mifepristone, either through restrictions on who can prescribe and distribute the pill, or by bans pure and simple.

Learn more here.


Wisconsin LGBTQ advocates and lawmakers are recalibrating after state GOP lawmakers last week voted for the second time block conversion therapy ban to take effect.

  • “I am very concerned that young people in Wisconsin who live in communities where it is allowed again, are being subjected to this truly cruel and unscientific form of therapy,” said Rep. Greta Neubauer (D), one of six openly LGBTQ members of Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature, The Hill told The Hill.
  • “Conversion” or “restorative therapy” is a general term that refers to a multitude of interventions designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been denounced by major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychological Association, in part because such practices are underpinned by the belief that LGBTQ identities are pathologies that must be cured.

According to Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that tracks state legislation impacting the LGBTQ community. Five states, including Wisconsin through 2021 Executive Decree issued by Governor Tony Evers (D), have partial bans.

Three states — Alabama, Georgia and Florida — are unable to enforce conversion therapy bans due to an 11th Circuit injunction preventing them from doing so.

Learn more here.


A majority of adults in a new survey said they believe it’s the federal government’s job to provide health care coverage for all Americans, but most also prefer a private health care system over a government-run option.

The 57% of respondents supporting the idea that health care coverage is the responsibility of the federal government is the highest score in terms of The Gallup Poll since 2018. An overwhelming majority of Democrats share that view in the new survey, with 59% of independents agreeing. Only 28% of Republicans support the idea.

  • While the poll showed a majority of people said the federal government should provide health coverage, it also found that a majority of respondents favored a private health care system over a managed system. by the government. This is driven by a government-run system that garners just 13% support from Republicans and 46% support from independents.
  • More than 7 in 10 Democrats — 72% — support the idea of ​​a government-run healthcare system.

The survey results show the complex position that most people in the United States hold about the nation’s healthcare system. Balancing government responsibilities for health care coverage while maintaining a system of private coverage has been a juggling act faced by lawmakers and successive presidential administrations for decades.

Learn more here.

Health experts are still learning about the omicron subvariant

Over 80% of coronavirus cases in the North East are now due to XBB.1.5.

According to health authorities, XBB.1.5 appears to be the most transmissible subvariant of omicron that has been detected to date, although it is still unclear whether it causes more severe disease.

Doctors across the Northeast who spoke with The Hill said they hadn’t noticed a marked difference in disease severity among their recent COVID-19 patients.

Bernard Camins, medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, said the proportion of patients with illness severe enough to require an intensive care unit stay is the same as with the variants. previous ones.

Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist for Hartford Healthcare in Connecticut, said XBB.1.5 does not appear to be more lethal and noted that each time more COVID-19 cases are seen, morbidity and mortality will increase at their round.

“The presentation is largely the same. Maybe they don’t show up as sick, but we still see a lot of sick patients and we definitely still see patients dying,” Wu said.

  • Shira Doron, head of infection control at Tufts Medicine in Boston, said the new dominant strain was “not really that big of a problem” in her area. According to Doron, her hospital has seen a “modest” increase in new admissions, although she noted that most patients who test positive for coronavirus are not admitted due to COVID-19 infection but due to another disease.
  • “I feel like we’re really well placed. I want to make sure we don’t lose access to testing, we don’t lose access to treatment,” Doron said, adding that there is still work to be done to ensure access to effective drugs for treat COVID-19.

Learn more here.


  • Three years later, the pandemic – and our response – has been rocked. Here’s what even the experts didn’t see coming (Statistical)
  • The Department of Justice is investigating a troubled infant formula factory (The New York Times)
  • An “unprecedented bird flu pandemic” is wreaking havoc on the US poultry industry (Fortune)


  • Kindergarten vaccination rates are falling in all but 3 counties in Australia (Seattle weather)
  • Transgender people in rural America struggle to find doctors willing or able to provide care (Kaiser Health News)
  • Tennessee says it is cutting federal HIV funding. Will other states follow? (BNC News)


A Roe requiem and a road to a brighter future

That’s all for today, thanks for reading. Discover The Hill’s Healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. Until tomorrow.

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