PROGRAM NOTE: We will be off tomorrow and Friday for Thanksgiving, but will return to our regular schedule on Monday, November 28th.
THE END OF THE ERA — Anthony Fauci stood behind the podium for what was billed as his last appearance in the White House briefing room on Tuesday, ending three intense years as a public servant in the national spotlight, Christa and POLITICO’s Adam Kankrin report.
Even as the White House’s chief medical adviser pleaded with Americans to overcome their concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the Covid-19 booster, he could not escape the partisan divide that has come to define his tenure in leading the US response to the pandemic.
His farewell was interrupted several times when a reporter shouted at his colleagues to demand what Fauci had personally done to investigate the origin of the virus.
Fauci did not respond to the message he has been hammering home for months: Get a Covid booster shot before the colder months, during which health officials expect a spike in new infections.
“As a doctor, it hurts me because I don’t want anyone to get infected,” Fauci said. “I don’t want to see anyone hospitalized and I don’t want to see anyone die from Covid. I don’t care if you’re a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat.”
Fauci, who turns 82 next month and has led the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 38 years, gave no indication of what would happen next, but promised to work with House Republicans, who have promised to investigate his role in the response to Covid.
WELCOME TO THE WEDNESDAY PULSE – When you go on your long holiday, we’ll leave you with Carrot, a 70kg goldfish caught in France who has become a favorite of the British media. Happy holiday! News and advice to [email protected] and [email protected].
TODAY IN US PULSE CHECK PODCAST, Carmen Paun talks to Alice Miranda Allstein about her exclusive report on a new strategy by abortion opponents – using environmental laws to block medical abortion. This approach comes as mifepristone and misoprostol, taken at home during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, have become the most common abortion method in the US.
POST-TURKISH VACCINE CAMPAIGN – In a briefing on Tuesday, the Biden administration launched a “six-week sprint” to raise the nation’s low improvement rate of 11.3 percent, with a particular focus on seniors and communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
The slow pace of vaccinations against both Covid-19 and the flu in recent weeks has frustrated Biden’s health officials, who lamented that hundreds of people are still dying every day, largely because of the skepticism surrounding the updated shots.
Plan: The administration is sending $350 million in new funding to community health centers to set up pop-up and mobile vaccination sites and $125 million to get the vaccine to seniors and people with disabilities.
CMS is reminding nursing homes that they must educate and offer vaccines to residents, and HHS is launching an advocacy campaign urging older adults to talk to providers about Covid treatment, among other measures.
In recent weeks, Biden officials have sought funding from the health department for post-Thanksgiving vaccinations. Earlier this month, the administration asked Congress for more money to stay ahead of potential winter hikes, but Republicans said it was unlikely to make it into the year-end spending package.
EXCLUSIVE: ANTI-ABORTION ADVOCATES LOOK AT WASTEWATER – Abortion opponents and their allies in elected office are using a new strategy after suffering a wave of election defeats: using environmental laws to block the spread of abortion pills, says Alice Miranda Allstein.
Last week, the group Students for American Life filed a petition asking the FDA to hold any doctor who administers mifepristone and misoprostol at home during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy accountable for destroying fetal tissue.
The group argues that the tissue should be bagged and treated as medical waste – not flushed down the toilet or down the drain. They claim that small amounts of the drug pose an environmental hazard, threatening livestock, wildlife and humans.
Abortion rights advocates say the wastewater controversy is unwarranted, but fear it could have a chilling effect even in states where abortion remains legal, with doctors hesitant to prescribe the drug and patients afraid to access it.
Long game: This strategy to counter the drugs that have become the most common abortion method in the US is the culmination of a brainstorming session on how to limit their availability.
If the FDA ignores or rejects the request, as expected, Students for American Life plans to challenge the agency with the conservative legal power Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys helped draft and defend Mississippi’s anti-abortion law that ultimately was overthrown, brought to court. Roe v. Wade.
Students for Life said the appeal was just one part of a national strategy. The group is working on bills to implement medical waste requirements with Rep. Bob Hood (R-Va.) and other members of the incoming GOP House majority, as well as state legislators in Arizona, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wyoming.
FIRST ON THE PULSE: AMERICANS ARE DIVIDED IN THE USE OF PERSONAL DATA TO KEEP SEWING – Americans are roughly evenly split on whether the benefits of providing personal health information outweigh the risks, according to a new report from the Brunswick Group, a consulting firm.
In a survey of 1,200 people, 48 percent of participants believed that the risk of exposing personal information could outweigh the medical benefits of personalized care. Another 52 percent said the trade-off was worth the better care.
Even where health care is willing to provide personalized care, not all Americans are willing to share information, including genetic information, that may be required.
About a third of respondents said that they consider such care an “invasion of privacy.”
Also in play: trust in health care. Health technology companies, insurers and drug manufacturers were considered less trustworthy than doctors and hospitals.
The report highlights the number of viewpoints—outside of Congress and the administration—that must be overcome to advance the widespread use of data in health technology.
NEW NAME FOR MONKEY – The World Health Organization is planning to name the monkeypox as MPOX, to avoid the virus that hit the US earlier this year, Adam reports.
The decision, which could be announced on Wednesday, follows an initial agreement by the WHO in the summer to review proposals for a new name for the monkey.
That was in response to mounting pressure from senior Biden officials, who privately urged WHO leaders to change the name and suggested the US would act unilaterally if the international body did not move quickly enough.
WHO has traditionally acted as the global coordinator for public health issues, declaring international health emergencies and recommending disease names.
THE FIGHT FOR THE NEW EBOLA VACCINE – The arrival of an experimental vaccine in Uganda this week hopes to end a two-month outbreak of one of the world’s worst diseases: Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Carmen Paun, POLITICO reports.
But human trials may not be fast enough. Vaccines can only be tested for effectiveness during outbreaks, and outbreaks can fade too quickly to conduct human trials. If the window closes, it may not open again soon; The work option, the Sudan tension, has been dormant for ten years.
If public health officials miss the window, it may be because they were caught off guard when the first cases were reported in September. Developers of the three vaccine candidates were not ready to distribute sufficient quantities, and WHO and Ugandan officials took weeks to work out regulatory and logistical issues.
The New York Times reports on honest platforms spreading false health information that will persist after the pandemic is over.
KHN reports on a wide range of states planning to spend billions in opioid settlement money.
STAT thinks about why we don’t have at-home flu tests. Hint: It’s not because we don’t have the technology to do it.