What Happened, What You Missed: June 13-17


CDC Advisory Committee Poised to Vote on Vaccines for Toddlers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is likely to vote to recommend Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for children six-months to four-years old today or tomorrow.  A recommendation from ACIP and sign-off from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky means toddlers could get start getting their shots as soon as Tuesday, June 21, marking the culmination in a long and often delayed process to approve vaccines for the youngest Americans.  The ACIP vote will follow Wednesday’s unanimous vote by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee to recommend authorizing both companies’ vaccines for young children.

During the FDA meeting, some advisors voiced concern that the different dosage regimens for the two vaccines could confuse parents.  While Moderna’s vaccine requires two doses over a five-week period, Pfizer’s requires three doses over 11 weeks.  However, Pfizer’s vaccine is 80% effective in preventing symptomatic disease from the Omicron variant, while Moderna’s is 50% effective in kids six months to two years and 37% in kids ages 2 to 5.

New EO to Offer Health Care Protections, Access for LGBTQI+

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will now be able to deny funding to programs that offer conversation therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) Americans, according to an executive order signed on Wednesday.  The order also directs HHS to issue a “Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults,” expand youth access to suicide prevention resources, and bolster non-discrimination practices for LGBTQI+ children in foster care.  The EO is likely a response to newly enacted laws in Texas and Florida that limit access to gender-affirming care for minors.  Upon signing the EO, President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on gender and sexual identity.  Some Republican-controlled states are expected to initiate legal challenges against the EO.

SCOTUS: 340B Payment Cuts to Hospitals Are Unlawful

HHS does not have the authority to change 340B reimbursement rates without gathering data on what hospitals pay for outpatient drugs, according to a unanimous Supreme Court ruling issued on Wednesday.  A district court initially ruled that HHS lacked the authority to cut Medicare payment for 340B drug by nearly 30% in 2018.  However, an appeals court disagreed, arguing HHS could reduce payment without first obtaining the necessary data.  In its opinion, the high court ruled that HHS’ power to change reimbursement to hospitals is distinct from its ability to set different rates, and that the department can’t offer different rates for hospitals without first conducting a survey.  The court’s decision only applies to cuts in 2018 and 2019, although lawsuits are currently pending for cuts in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Pelosi: Reconciliation Package Alive, but May Not Include Enhanced Premium Subsidies

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters on Thursday that talks continue on a budget reconciliation legislation that address climate change and social issues.  However, Pelosi noted that the legislation may not include an extension to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium subsidies, which are set to expire at the end of the year.  If Congress fails to renew subsidies anytime soon, 13 million Americans currently receiving the subsidies would start receiving notices about pending premiums increases in October – just weeks from the midterm election.  While House Democrats have been urging party leaders in the Senate to reach a filibuster-proof deal to avert sharp premium rate hikes, a deal remains elusive.  Recently, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VW) has been so far non-committal on whether enhanced subsidies should be included in a reconciliation bill, instead focusing on lowering prescription drugs.

ICYMI: Aggressive Wild Turkey No Longer a Threat on DC Trails

Visitors enjoying the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in Washington, DC can rest easy knowing that they no longer face the threat of an aggressive wild turkey that attacked several people over a three-month period this spring.  After multiple attempts at finding the bird, local park rangers say they haven’t heard of any attacks or sightings in a few weeks.  Wildlife experts say the turkey may have wandered to a more remote location or “settled down” now that the springtime breeding season is over.

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