Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

The Office of Personnel Management reminds us that this is Public Service Recognition Week. “Celebrated annually during the first week of May since 1985, Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) (external link) is time set aside to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees.”

From the COVID-19 front:

The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old by early next week, according to federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans, opening up the nation’s vaccination campaign to millions more Americans.

The news is highly anticipated: Eager parents have been counting down the weeks since Pfizer announced results from its trial in adolescents, showing the vaccine is at least as effective in that age group as it is in adults. Vaccinating children is also key to raising the level of immunity in the population and bringing down the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

The authorization could come as early as late this week, according to the federal officials, who did not give their names because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. If it is granted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory panel will likely meet the following day to review the clinical trial data and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use in adolescents.

  •  The Wall Street Journal informs us

Everyone who was desperate for a vaccine has gotten a shot, said Alexandra Simon, the California director of vaccines for Curative, a Covid-19 testing and health-services company administering vaccines across the country. The company is now seeing people with access issues, including questions about insurance or identification, and fears about being unable to take care of children because of side effects. Many people, she said, simply can’t take time off. Others only want an appointment on Thursday or Friday, or prefer a site with the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, said Curative’s chief information officer, Isaac Turner.

But the fact that supply now exceeds immediate demand means getting vaccinated is a much easier process. That message may be getting across because over 3.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Sunday per the CDC.

  • The Wall Street Journal also hopefully reports that “The next generation of Covid-19 vaccines in development could come as a pill or a nasal spray and be easier to store and transport than the current handful of shots that form the backbone of the world-wide vaccination effort.”

Good advice from the American Medical Association (“AMA”)

  • The AMA offers six lifestyle changes that can prevent heart disease.
  • The AMA also recommends eight keys to ending the drug overdose crisis.

In healthcare business news, the Wall Street Journal reports that

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said it dropped a rule that limited competition among its member insurers, moving to implement a key aspect of an antitrust settlement the companies reached last year with customers. * * *

Previously, the rule was that two-thirds of a Blue licensee’s national net revenue from health plans and related services must stem from Blue-branded business.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association includes 35 insurers, each of which typically hold exclusive rights to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield brands within a certain territory, a setup that would remain intact under the antitrust settlement.

However, lifting the revenue cap could allow the Blue insurers to compete more against one another by expanding their non-Blue businesses, experts said. Dropping the limit “certainly should increase competition,” said Tim Greaney, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, though he said it isn’t clear how quickly it would have an effect.

Following up on a couple of items from Friday’s post:

  • The FEHBlog mentioned that a company called had won a million dollar healthcare artificial intelligence prize from the federal government. The FEHBlog couldn’t figure out what the prize winning invention did. STAT News tells us that “bested 300 rivals with a system capable of forecasting adverse health events by crunching an array of data on patients.” Nifty.
  • The FEHBlog also pulled the key tidbit from the 457 page long HHS second notice of 2022 benefit and payment parameters. Katie Keith in the Health Affairs blog provides much more detail for all those interested.