Health Care — Novavax booster dose authorized by FDA


Restaurant crew, assemble! Dressed as Power Rangers, workers at a California noodle shop were true heroes when they saved a woman who was chased and attacked by a man last week. 

In health news, another COVID-19 booster was authorized for use on Wednesday by the FDA, as adults 18 and over are now eligible for Novavax’s booster.  

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 Novavax for first booster dose

Novavax on Wednesday received Food and Drug Administration authorization for a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine. 

Not omicron: Yet unlike the bivalent mRNA vaccines currently on the market, Novavax’s booster only targets the original strain of the virus, rather than the original strain and the omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants. 

The company is studying an omicron-specific vaccine, but executives have said they think the current vaccine provides durable protection across different variants of the virus. 

  • The booster was authorized for adults ages 18 and older who can’t take an mRNA vaccine or don’t have access to one, as well as for adults who don’t want one and would otherwise not receive a booster, the company said. 
  • It is meant to be given at least six months after completion of primary vaccination with any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine — so it can be used as a booster even if someone received Pfizer’s, Moderna’s or even Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine first. 

Last week, the company said its clinical trial showed a single booster dose given eight to 11 months after a Novavax primary series resulted in increased antibodies against omicron BA.1, BA.2 and the dominant BA.5 subvariant. 

The CDC later Wednesday also signed off on the shot, allowing vaccinations to begin. 

Options: The authorization gives people ages 18 years and older another option for a booster at a time when uptake remains low. According to the CDC, only about 35 percent of the population over the age of 5 has received a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.    

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McCarthy rebuffs Social Security, Medicare concerns

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sought to tamp down worries that a GOP majority would use raising the federal debt ceiling as leverage to secure reforms on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare after a comment of his spurred Democratic attacks. 

  • “I never mentioned Social Security or Medicare. Actually, in the ‘Commitment to America,’ we say to strengthen Social Security and Medicare,” McCarthy said on CNBC Wednesday morning. 
  • “The question was, would you just raise the debt ceiling without having a discussion — not about entitlements — but about our spending behavior right now? And my question would be, we have to change our behavior. We can’t continue down this path.” 

McCarthy, who is hoping to be Speaker if Republicans take control of the House, told Punchbowl News in an interview published Tuesday that Republicans would try to get concessions on spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit, a must-pass measure in order to avoid economic turmoil. 

Asked if he would try to reform entitlement spending as part of a debt ceiling debate, McCarthy said he would not “predetermine” anything. 

Reported GOP rumblings: The question came as a follow-up to reporting by Bloomberg that some House Republicans suggested reforms to entitlement programs, such as means-testing benefits for Social Security and Medicare, could be on the table in a debt limit debate. 

Read more here

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE EBOLA OUTBREAK IN UGANDA 

Government officials in Uganda have put two districts under lockdown for three weeks, following an official declaration of an Ebola outbreak in the country on Sept. 20.  

Since last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health agencies have been keeping an eye on the situation in Uganda. Ebola reappeared in the country in August following a separate outbreak of the disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this spring. 

About the virus: Ebolavirus is a genus of viruses, including four species that cause disease in humans. It causes Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Symptoms include fever and fatigue, but can worsen into vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding. 

From what is currently known, the first cases in this Ebola outbreak in Uganda were detected in September. The first probable cases may have happened as early as the first week of August, according to slides from a media briefing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held on Oct. 12.  

  • The CDC says they are working to expand testing capabilities to more laboratories and increase regional coordination among treatment centers. The WHO is sending resources to areas affected. 
  • “Our primary focus now is to support the Government of Uganda to rapidly control and contain this outbreak, to stop it spreading to neighboring districts, and neighboring countries,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media briefing last week. 

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COVID CONTRIBUTED TO 1 IN 4 MATERNAL DEATHS IN 2020, 2021: GAO 

Maternal mortality rose during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the virus contributing to a quarter of all maternal deaths in 2020 and 2021. 

  • According to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), COVID-19 caused most of the increase in maternal deaths in the last two years, contributing to 25 percent of deaths. 
  • The average number of monthly maternal deaths ranged from the mid-50s to the mid-60s in the two years before the pandemic began. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that from January 2020 to December 2021, this monthly average rose to 85, peaking towards the end of the summer in 2021. 

Disparities: The rise in maternal deaths affected Black and Hispanic mothers more during this period than White women. The maternal death rate for Black women rose from 44 per 100,000 live births in 2019 to about 69 in 2021. In comparison, the maternal death rate for white women increased from about 18 to 26 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2019 to 2021. 

Preterm births and low birthweights also grew in prevalence in 2020 and 2021 after having remained unchanged from 2016 to 2020. Though the data was limited — with only 14 states and Washington, D.C., reporting — the CDC noted that preterm births and low birth weights were significantly higher for women who contracted the coronavirus while pregnant. 

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Abrams: Reproductive health is financial security

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Wednesday that reproductive rights aren’t just a matter of personal choice, but a matter of financial security.  

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Abrams pushed back against contributor Mike Barnicle’s argument that abortion, while an issue, “nowhere reaches the level of interest” of gas and other cost-of-living concerns as inflation continues to rise.  

  • “Let’s be clear: Having children is why you’re worried about your price for gas, it’s why you’re concerned about how much food costs,” Abrams responded. “For women, this is not a reductive issue. … You can’t divorce being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy from the economic realities of having a child.”
     
  • “Let’s not pretend that women, half the population, especially those of childbearing age — they understand that having a child is absolutely an economic issue,” she added. “It is only politicians who see it as simply another cultural conversation. It is a real biological and economic imperative conversation that women need to have.” 

What the data says: Research has shown that access to abortion could be important in maintaining financial security.  

The Economic Policy Institute reported that economic consequences of being denied an abortion included a higher chance of living in poverty, a lower likelihood of full-time employment and an increase in unpaid debt and financial distress. 

Middle-class families alone can expect to spend more than $230,000 on food, shelter and other necessities to raise a child through the age of 17, according to data from the Consumer Expenditures Survey

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Divide between Republicans and Democrats over flu shots deepens in covid’s wake: Poll (Grid
  • As monkeypox subsides, experts grapple with the possibility of long-term consequences (Stat
  • WHO forced to ration vaccine as cholera cases surge worldwide (The Guardian

STATE BY STATE

  • Landmark trial over Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youths begins (USA Today
  • John Fetterman is in good health, his doctor says in a new medical report (The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • SC Supreme Court hears challenge to 6-week ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion law (The State

THE HILL OP-EDS

Democrats delivered on Medicare — voters should know it 

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.

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