Health Care — Seniors in red states unfazed by vaccination politics


Does America still Run On Dunkin’? Maybe not anymore.

Today in health, American seniors in red states are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, placing their health above politics-fueled resistance to vaccination. 

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. Subscribe here.

Red-state seniors getting jab despite GOP resistance

When the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out, Clyde Muchmore was ready to drive across Oklahoma to get it.  

“At the very, very first, all we knew was that a whole lot of people were dying,” recalled Muchmore, 80, of Oklahoma City. He scheduled a vaccine, he said, “on absolutely the first day I could.” 

Nearly half of Oklahoma’s overall population has declined the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet more than 90 percent of seniors in the state have completed at least one round of inoculations, and almost two-thirds have received at least one booster. Both figures fall close to national averages.   

The same pattern plays out in other Republican-majority states. Public health data suggests red-state resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine is largely the province of the young.  

  • In the five reddest states, as measured in the 2020 election, overall COVID-19 vaccination rates lag well below the national average of 68 percent. But seniors in those states are vaccinated at rates ranging from 86 percent in Wyoming and West Virginia to 91 percent in Oklahoma.
  • In the United States as a whole, 92 percent of seniors have completed at least one round of vaccines.
  • Seniors in the reddest states are inoculated and boosted at nearly the same rate as older Americans overall. The trend holds in Wyoming and West Virginia, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Idaho, all states where large majorities of voters cast ballots for former President Trump in 2020.   

Prevention over politics: Public health experts say older Americans in conservative states have embraced the COVID-19 vaccine as a matter of survival, prioritizing it above partisan politics, libertarian impulses and fears of government overreach.   

Read more here.

Fauci: This is no time to let our guard down

Chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Monday warned that the U.S. should not ease up on its COVID-19 response as variants continue to circulate and as the country heads into the winter flu season.  

Appearing on “CNN Newsroom,” Fauci warned of a possible “twin-demic” with simultaneous COVID-19 and flu surges.   

  • “We have a ways to go, particularly as we enter the winter, which will be complicated by the influenza season. So there’s no time, ma’am, to let down our guard right now, for certain,” Fauci told host Pamela Brown.
  • “As we get into the colder months, where any respiratory disease, COVID or anything else, always has the risk of an uptick as you enter into the late fall/winter months. … Influenza is a problem,” he said, noting that Australia, which has its winter flu season during the U.S. summer months, “had a particularly bad flu season this year.” 

Fauci’s comments come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it would switch its COVID-19 case reporting from daily to weekly in an effort to alleviate reporting burdens on state and local governments. 

The nation’s top infectious disease expert said the CDC’s move doesn’t signal a shift away from the importance of getting Americans vaccinated and pushing out the new bivalent vaccine, which targets the omicron variant.   

“We’re not going to eradicate this virus … We likely won’t even eliminate it,” Fauci said. He cited the eradicated smallpox virus, which doesn’t change like COVID-19, as well as eliminated viruses like measles and polio, which afford decades-long immunity if infected or vaccinated.

Read more here. 

STUDY SUGGESTS COLONOSCOPIES’ BENEFITS MAY BE OVERESTIMATED

A study from Europe has found that the benefits of regular colonoscopies in helping reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and death may have been overestimated due to gaps in evidence. 

  • The Nordic-European Initiative on Colorectal Cancer (NordICC) conducted a trial involving nearly 85,000 people between ages 55 and 64. The study sample included people from countries including Poland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands and was conducted from 2009 to 2014.
  • The trial participants were randomly assigned to receive invitations to receive colonoscopies or standard care without the screening. 

Results: An 18 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer over a 10-year period was observed among those who were invited to receive colonoscopies. However, the reduction for the risk of death due to colorectal cancer in this same group was found to be “not significant” by researchers. 

Researchers from the NordICC trial wrote that the results were “both surprising and disappointing.” 

The study noted that these results differ from previous estimates that have associated colonoscopies with a 40 percent to 69 percent drop in the risk of colorectal cancer and a 29 percent to 88 percent drop in the risk of death. 

Read more here. 

CDC, FDA INVESTIGATING MULTISTATE E. COLI OUTBREAK

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are conducting an investigation into a multistate outbreak of E. coli infections that may be linked to a brand of frozen falafel sold by grocery chain ALDI, the agencies said Friday. 

  • Twenty people have been reported to be infected with the E. coli strain O121 in six states, according to the CDC.
  • Five people have been hospitalized, including one who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure. No deaths have been reported. 

“Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli is an organism that can cause foodborne illness in a person who eats a food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting,” wrote the FDA in a statement. 

The majority of those with reported E. coli infections — 11 of the 20 — reside in Michigan, while four more live in Wisconsin, two in Florida and one each in Kansas, Iowa and Ohio. The falafel was sold in 38 states and the District of Columbia before being recalled. 

Fifteen of the 18 people interviewed by the CDC and FDA reported that they shop at ALDI, and six of that group said they ate Earth Grown frozen falafel in the week before their symptoms arose. 

ALDI recalled Earth Grown brand vegan traditional falafel and garlic & herb falafel from stores on Friday due to the possible presence of E. coli in the food. 

Read more here. 

Monoclonal antibodies eyed for fighting chronic pain

A group of researchers based out of University of California Davis recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop monoclonal antibodies for use against chronic pain.  

Opioid painkillers like oxycodone (OxyContin) can be addictive for some people, and others like fentanyl have played a large part in the opioid misuse and overdose crisis.

“It’s a challenge to be able to develop safe and effective drugs to treat pain,” said Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy at University of California Davis School of Medicine. 

Monoclonal antibodies are already being used as treatments for some types of cancer. A few types of monoclonal antibodies were also given emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fight COVID-19.   

In a similar vein as chronic pain, the FDA has already approved a monoclonal antibody treatment for migraine headaches. The novel therapy targets a specific signaling molecule called CGRP. The antibodies block CGRP, which researchers think plays a role in the nerves linked to the blood vessels in the brain, according to Nature. 

Although it only works for a subset of patients, this is a step forward for migraine treatment because of how effective it is for the people it does work for. In addition, patients on the migraine treatment have had minimal side effects, and that could also be true for other monoclonal antibody treatments.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • ‘The cash monster was insatiable’: how insurers exploited Medicare for billions (New York Times) 
  • Spread of Catholic hospitals limits reproductive care across the U.S. (Washington Post) 
  • Artificial intelligence could soon diagnose illness based on the sound of your voice (NPR) 
  • CEO of biotech lobbying group BIO on leave amid clash over direction (Wall Street Journal) 

STATE BY STATE

  • On Pennsylvania’s campaign trail, the doctor will see you now (Politico) 
  • Mass. health department to lead regional effort to improve outbreak response (Boston Globe) 
  • Lawsuit claims Idaho health department discriminates against trans people seeking health care (Idaho Capital Sun) 

THE HILL OP-ED

For Gen Z, 30 years is far too late for an end to hunger 

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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