Morning Consult Health: Omicron-Specific COVID Boosters Help Prevent Symptomatic Infections, per CDC Study


Essential health care industry news & intel to start your day.
November 23, 2022
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Morning Consult Health will be off for the rest of the week for the Thanksgiving holiday. The newsletter will resume on Monday.


Today’s Top News

  • The Omicron-tailored COVID-19 boosters made by Moderna Inc. and the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE partnership provide modest short-term protection against mild infections, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, though experts are still questioning if the shots better protect patients from hospitalizations and severe illness compared with earlier versions of the vaccines. (Bloomberg) Meanwhile, the Biden administration is ramping up a campaign to increase vaccination rates of updated boosters ahead of a potential winter surge, including increasing funding and publicity efforts. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Food and Drug Administration approved uniQure’s hemophilia B treatment Hemgenix. CSL Ltd., which licensed and will market the drug, set the price at $3.5 million, making it the United States’ most expensive drug on a single-use basis. (BioPharma Dive)
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said that enrollment in insurance plans offered through Affordable Care Act marketplaces is on pace for a record high. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 19, nearly 3.4 million people signed up for individual coverage plans, a 17% year-over-year increase, HHS data showed. (Axios)
  • A coalition of patient and consumer advocacy groups are asking the Federal Trade Commission to look into group purchasing organizations for “exacerbating” health care supply chain shortages. (Fierce Healthcare)

Chart Review


What Else You Need to Know


In his final White House COVID briefing, Fauci voices hope for less deadly COVID wave this winter

Alexander Tin, CBS News

In his final briefing as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested Tuesday that immunity from vaccination and prior infection could provide enough protection to Americans to result in a less deadly wave of COVID-19 this winter, despite a growing array of new variants. 


White House’s Jha: Social media platform owners should consider role in COVID misinformation


Owners of social media platforms should consider their personal responsibility regarding health disinformation, and the public should choose reputable sources to trust, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said on Tuesday.


Gavi rejects Novavax’s claim on COVID vaccine deal breach


Global vaccine alliance Gavi on Tuesday rejected Novavax’s claim that the group had breached an advance purchase agreement to procure 350 million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.


Trickle of Covid Relief Funds Helps Fill Gaps in Rural Kids’ Mental Health Services

Christina Saint Louis, Kaiser Health News

Only a sliver of the funding given to state, local, and tribal governments through the American Rescue Plan Act has been steered to mental health nationwide, but mental health advocates and clinicians hope the money it provides will help address gaps in care for children.


Inside the Mind of an Anti-Paxxer

Rachel Gutman-Wei, The Atlantic

Paxlovid can be a lifesaving treatment for COVID. Why do so many patients turn it down?


China widens COVID curbs, Apple factory unrest adds to economy worries

Bernard Orr, Reuters

Chinese cities imposed more curbs on Wednesday to rein in rising coronavirus cases, adding to investor worries about the economy as fresh unrest at the world’s largest iPhone plant highlighted the social and industrial toll of China’s strict COVID-19 measures.


Experts are concerned Thanksgiving gatherings could accelerate a ‘tripledemic’

Rob Stein, NPR News

No one thinks this year will be anything like the last two dark pandemic winters, at least when it comes to COVID-19. But the country is now dealing with a different kind of threat — an unpredictable confluence of old and new respiratory pathogens.


U.K. analysis shows one dose of monkeypox vaccine yields strong protection

Andrew Joseph, Stat News

An analysis released Tuesday by U.K. health officials indicates that even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine provides strong protection against the virus.


WHO to rename monkeypox as ‘MPOX’

Adam Cancryn, Politico

The World Health Organization is planning to rename monkeypox, designating it as “MPOX” in an effort to destigmatize the virus that gained a foothold in the U.S. earlier this year, three people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.


Jury clears Sterigenics in second trial

Katherine Davis, Crain’s Chicago Business

A Cook County jury ruled in favor of Sterigenics, concluding that the Oak Brook-based medical-sterilization company should not take any responsibility for cancer in a woman who lived near the company’s plant in suburban Willowbrook.


One-third of U.S. labs have stopped using race-based equations to diagnose kidney disease

Brittany Trang, Stat News

For decades, health care providers have diagnosed kidney disease with blood tests that use an equation for estimating glomerular filtration rate, or eGFR — a number that acts a proxy for how much blood the kidneys clean every minute. Until recently, the eGFR equation has included a coefficient for race to “correct” for different levels of creatinine (a waste product released from muscles) in African Americans.


The growing menopause-at-work market

Tina Reed, Axios

Menopause — a condition that’s little discussed and poorly understood — is gaining more attention from employers rethinking the health benefits they offer women.


Doctors who want to defy abortion laws say it’s too risky

Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News

In states with abortion bans, doctors may hesitate to provide abortion care in a medical emergency. Some ethicists argue doctors should practice civil disobedience and put patients’ lives first.


The next abortion fight could be over wastewater regulation

Alice Miranda Ollstein, Politico

Abortion opponents and their allies in elected office are seizing on an unusual strategy after suffering a wave of election defeats — using environmental laws to try to block the distribution of abortion pills.


Men are using condoms less, even as syphilis and other STDs surge

Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post

Public health authorities are confronting a rise in sexually transmitted infections in a world where condom use has steadily declined — and, with it, one of the most effective ways of curbing the spread of disease.


Urgent care told him he had the flu. It was really meningitis –​​​​​​​ and a jury awarded him $27M.

Michaela Ramm, Des Moines Register

A Des Moines man has been awarded $27 million in damages after a local urgent care clinic failed to diagnose him with a serious meningitis infection that ultimately resulted in permanent brain damage.


‘Mass incarceration is one of the greatest health challenges of our time’: MacArthur ‘genius’ Emily Wang on building solutions

Ambar Castillo, Stat News

The U.S. has two separate health care systems: one for people who aren’t incarcerated, and one for people behind bars. Since 2006, physician and researcher Emily Wang has been working to integrate the two.


Elizabeth Holmes Judge Proposes Texas Prison Camp, Family Visits

Joel Rosenblatt, Bloomberg

Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes will wake up at 6 am, will have her choice of three subdued colors of clothing, and will be well above the average age of her fellow inmates if she ends up serving her 11 1/4-year prison sentence at a minimum-security women’s facility outside Houston as recommended by her judge.


Senate bill seeks to improve Medicare handbook amid spike in marketing complaints

Robert King, Fierce Healthcare

New legislation seeks to improve the Medicare & You handbook in the latest attempt by Congress to scrutinize how Medicare Advantage plans are marketed to seniors.


Lawmakers object to latest surprise billing rule, call for changes

Samantha Liss, Healthcare Dive

House lawmakers expressed their discontent with a final rule on surprise billing and urged federal regulators to make changes.


Over half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals risk closing

Michael Goldberg, The Associated Press

Dr. Daniel Edney, the state health officer, spoke to state senators at a hearing Monday about the financial pressure on Mississippi hospitals. Edney said 54% of the state’s rural hospitals — 38 — could close. 


Nursing homes still a PE challenge

Sarah Pringle, Axios

Despite private equity owning only an estimated 5% of the nursing home industry, its high-profile problems in the sector have made it a bogeyman to politicians and the public.


5 things HHS says hospitals can do to reduce emissions

Kara Hartnett, Modern Healthcare

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has tips for how healthcare organizations can cut emissions and achieve net-zero operations by 2050.


MetroHealth System board ousts CEO after investigation reveals $1.9M in unapproved performance bonuses

Dave Muoio, Fierce Healthcare

The president and CEO of a major Ohio health system was pushed into an early retirement and is now threatening legal action after board members learned he had authorized nearly $2 million in bonus compensation without their approval.

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

Philips respirator recall reaches 260 reported deaths, FDA says

Elise Reuter, MedTech Dive

Since April 2021, the agency has received 260 reports of deaths amid more than 90,000 medical device reports “reportedly associated” with the breakdown of soundproofing foam in the recalled devices.


Masimo’s pulse oximeter is accurate for both Black and white patients, study finds

Andrea Park, Fierce Biotech

Eliminating racial bias in pulse oximetry has been top of mind lately for many devicemakers and healthcare providers, as well as the FDA, which convened an advisory committee meeting earlier this month to discuss the issue and brainstorm solutions.


Teleflex plans layoffs amid restructuring plan costing up to $40M

Andrea Park, Fierce Biotech

According to a Monday filing (PDF) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the device maker kicked off its restructuring efforts on Nov. 15, with an eye toward canceling out the “increasing cost and inflationary pressures in the healthcare industry.”

Health Technology

Google Cloud pitches ease and speed to lure health systems wary of tech changes

Mario Aguilar, Stat News

Google has honed its message for hospital systems wary of moving their data to its cloud services: We are going to make this very easy for you.


Apple earbuds show promise as hearing aids in clinical trial

Nick Paul Taylor, MedTech Dive

Apple AirPods Pro earbuds have the potential to be a hearing aid for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, according to a paper published in iScience.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Deans: Dump that USNWR ‘best medical school’ survey

Holly J. Humphrey and Dana Levinson, Stat News

Yale and Harvard Law Schools recently announced they would no longer participate in U.S. News & World Report’s flawed ranking system, followed closely by additional schools. The nation’s medical schools need to follow their lead.