In another example of how we’re living in the future: NASA’s mission to deflect an asteroid — where it smashed a probe into a space rock on purpose — has been declared a success.
Today in health, the bivalent omicron-specific COVID-19 boosters have been authorized for use in children as young as 5, expanding the fall and winter vaccine campaign.
Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.
FDA authorizes boosters for kids as young as 5
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday announced it has broadened its emergency authorization of the bivalent COVID-19 boosters to include children between the ages of 5 and 11.
The FDA’s decision grants Moderna’s request for authorization to administer its bivalent booster to children as young as 6 and grants Pfizer’s request to administer its own booster to children as young as 5.
- “Since children have gone back to school in person and people are resuming pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
- “Vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent the severe consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” Marks added.
Prior to this, Pfizer’s updated omicron-specific vaccine was the only bivalent shot authorized for use in children, those as young as 12, while Moderna’s booster was only permitted for use in people 18 and over.
This decision from the FDA falls in line with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in September, stating in documents that it was anticipating a recommendation of boosters for young children in early to mid-October.
After FDA’s action, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky approved the vaccines for the younger population, clearing the way for their distribution.
Read more here.
Abortion a strong motivator for Dems
Good news for Democrats leading up to the midterms: half of American voters said the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade has made them more motivated to vote in this year’s elections, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll.
About two-thirds of Democrats and half of independents cited the Supreme Court’s decision as a motivator for voting, as did a third of Republicans.
Democrats are betting that abortion will be enough of a motivator for them to keep control of the House and Senate. Candidates are focusing much of their messaging on abortion rights, and pouring money into abortion-focused advertising.
Key stat: Three quarters ofrespondents said they plan on voting for candidates who want to protect access to abortion, compared to 17 percent who said they plan on voting for candidates who want to limit abortion access.
In states with abortion bans in place, 74 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning voters are more eager to vote, versus only 35 percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning voters.
But also: Voters said they wanted to hear candidates talk about the economy.
- It was a top issue for Republicans and independents
- Democratic voters were more divided; 28 percent said they wanted to hear about abortion and abortion rights, while 23 percent said they want to hear about candidates talk about the economy.
Read more here.
WARREN ACCUSES ABBOTT NUTRITION OF YEARSLONG COVERUP
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter Wednesday to Abbott Nutrition accusing the company of employing “abusive legal tactics” to cover up health risks with its powdered infant formula product — safety concerns she said the business has been aware of for decades.
In the letter, an early version of which was provided exclusively to The Hill, Warren alleged the company used nondisclosure agreements with families who were affected by contaminated infant formula
“The use of aggressive legal tactics and settlements that required families ‘to keep quiet’ undoubtedly played a role in limiting the public’s knowledge of the health risks to babies from Cronobacter and shielded your company from scrutiny even as consumer complaints and citations by federal regulators grew,” Warren wrote.
The senator said Abbott Nutrition has been aware of cronobacter, a bacteria that can cause deadly infections in babies, in its powdered infant formula product since 2003.
In 2011, Abbott Nutrition went to great lengths to silence families after an outbreak led to several lawsuits against the company, she alleged in the letter.
Read more here.
MATERNITY CARE ‘DESERTS’ RISING ACROSS US: RESEARCH
The number of maternity care “deserts” across the United States is rising as expectant mothers struggle to have access to health care, according to new research.
A report released Wednesday from the March of Dimes, a nonprofit that works to support the health of mothers and babies, states that up to 6.9 million women nationwide have little or no access to maternal health care, impacting almost 500,000 births in the country.
A growing issue:
- Researchers found 5 percent of counties shifted to having less access than they had for the organization’s 2020 report on the subject, while 3 percent of counties shifted to a higher level of access.
- The number of maternity care deserts also increased by 2 percent since 2020, totaling more than 1,100 counties. Almost 16,000 additional women are without access to care compared to two years ago.
The report states that about 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in maternity care deserts, while 4.7 million live in counties with limited access.
Researchers also found that more than 60 percent of maternal care deserts are in rural counties, where only 7 percent of obstetric providers practice.
Read more here.
Bill defines gender-affirming care as child abuse
State Republican lawmakers in Michigan have introduced a bill that would amend the state’s penal code to classify gender-affirming health care for transgender youth as first-degree child abuse.
According to the bill filed Tuesday, a person would be found guilty of first-degree child abuse — punishable by life imprisonment — if they “knowingly or intentionally” cause serious physical or mental harm to a child, including by assisting a child obtain a “gender transition procedure.”
The bill was introduced by state Reps. Ryan Berman, Steve Carra, Luke Meerman, Beau LaFave and Steve Marino, who are all Republicans.
The measure defines a “person” in this case as the child’s parent or guardian or a licensed medical professional.
LaFave in a Wednesday phone call with The Hill said he believes providing gender-affirming prescription medications and surgical procedures to youth who are not legally able to consent to having sex is “logically incoherent.”
- “People are abusing these children,” he said. “The idea that we would be making potentially life-altering changes to 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-old kids when it is illegal for them to have sex is insane. I mean, they’re not responsible enough to smoke a cigarette until they’re 21.”
- LaFave said he’s optimistic most Republicans in the state legislature will back the measure. He added that he believes most Michigan Democrats are in ideological agreement with him and the bill’s co-sponsors but would risk damaging their political careers if they supported the measure publicly.
Republicans hold a narrow three-seat majority in the Michigan state House.
Read more here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- ‘We are in trouble’: Study raises alarm about impacts of long covid (Washington Post)
- Routine births are turning into moneymaking ‘emergency’ events at hospitals that work with private equity-backed staffing companies (Fortune)
- How Democratic men are centering abortion access on the campaign trail (The 19th News)
STATE BY STATE
- More polio detected in New York City wastewater, data shows (ABC News)
- As overdoses soar, Rhode Island embraces a daring addiction strategy (The New York Times)
- ‘Separate and unequal’: Critics say Newsom’s pricey Medicaid reforms leave most patients behind (Kaiser Health News)
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.