New Covid vaccines are coming out. The CDC wants you to get one.

“Updated Covid-19 boosters are needed for two fundamental reasons: first, that the virus is continually evolving, and second, that our immunity wanes over time.”

Here’s what you need to know about new Covid shots

“The updated Covid-19 shots are formulated to prevent severe disease and hospitalization by the XBB1.5 strain, as well as other XBB subvariants, which make up more than 90 percent of the subvariants circulating as of Sept. 2, according to the CDC. This includes EG.5 and FL.1.5.1, which make up more than 30 percent of current cases.
CDC officials said in today’s meeting that lab data also suggest that the updated vaccine will generate neutralizing antibodies against BA.2.86, which has garnered attention due to its high number of mutations. It has only been found in 10 countries worldwide, and seven states within the U.S, but it is not clear that it will gain additional traction.”

The Steep Cost of Ron DeSantis’ Vaccine Turnabout

“on the single factor that those experts say mattered most in fighting COVID — widespread vaccinations — DeSantis’ approach proved deeply flawed. While the governor personally crusaded for Floridians 65 and older to get shots, he laid off once younger age groups became eligible.
Tapping into suspicion of public health authorities, which the Republican right was fanning, he effectively stopped preaching the virtues of COVID vaccines. Instead, he emphasized his opposition to requiring anyone to get shots, from hospital workers to cruise ship guests.

While Florida was an early leader in the share of residents older than 65 who were vaccinated, it had fallen to the middle of the pack by the end of July 2021. When it came to younger residents, Florida lagged behind the national average in every age group.

That left the state particularly vulnerable when the delta variant hit that month. Floridians died at a higher rate, adjusted for age, than residents of almost any other state during the delta wave, according to the Times analysis. With less than 7% of the nation’s population, Florida accounted for 14% of deaths between the start of July and the end of October.

Of the 23,000 Floridians who died, 9,000 were younger than 65. Despite the governor’s insistence at the time that “our entire vulnerable population has basically been vaccinated,” a vast majority of the 23,000 were either unvaccinated or had not yet completed the two-dose regimen.

A high vaccination rate was especially important in Florida, which trails only Maine in the share of residents age 65 and older. By the end of July, Florida had vaccinated about 60% of adults, just shy of the national average. Had it reached a vaccination rate of 74% — the average for five New England states at the time — it could have prevented more than 16,000 deaths and more than 61,000 hospitalizations that summer, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Florida’s spike in deaths subsided that autumn, as it did elsewhere. Overall, the state’s death rate during the pandemic, adjusted for age, ended up better than the national average. Some public health experts credit the state’s robust health system and strong performance in the pandemic’s first year or so.

But in Florida, unlike the nation as a whole — and states like New York and California that DeSantis likes to single out — most people who died from COVID died after vaccines became available to all adults, not before. As the governor’s political positions began to shift, so did his state’s death rate, for the worse.

DeSantis and his aides have said that his opposition was to mandates, not to the vaccinations themselves. They say the governor only questioned the efficacy of the shots once it became evident that they did not necessarily prevent infection — which prompted him to criticize experts and the federal government.”

“for some with a close-up view of COVID in Florida, the delta wave’s toll was evidence of the insular leadership style that DeSantis has also displayed in his struggling presidential campaign. He boasted of standing up to health experts but carefully tended to his base of political supporters. Tapping into the Republican revolt against scientific authority made him a political star. But that revolt came with costs.

“These were preventable deaths,” Rivkees, who resigned as Florida’s surgeon general in September 2021, said in a recent interview. “It breaks my heart thinking that things could have turned out differently if people embraced vaccines instead of this anti-vax stuff.””

“As of this summer, more than 345,000 Americans younger than 70 have died of the virus, and more than 3.5 million have been hospitalized with COVID. The disease has killed nearly 2,300 children and adolescents, and nearly 200,000 have been hospitalized.”

“DeSantis accused the media in early August of “lying” about COVID patients flooding hospitals. Two weeks later, Mary Mayhew, head of the Florida Hospital Association, said, “There can be no question that many Florida hospitals are stretched to their absolute limits.”

Mickey Smith was then the CEO of Oak Hill, the biggest hospital in Hernando County. As the delta variant raged through the county that month, he documented the impact on the 346-bed hospital in almost daily staff memos.

The morgue was filled to capacity. Oxygen was in such demand that the supplier would only partly fill Oak Hill’s tank. Ambulances were lined up outside to unload new patients, some of whom had to be shunted to a hastily erected outdoor tent.

“Our patients are younger and sicker,” Smith wrote. Of 17 patients on ventilators in intensive care Aug. 13, 2021, more than half were younger than 55. Only one was vaccinated.

“People say that the decision about vaccination is a personal one and it doesn’t affect anyone else,” Smith wrote. “Tell that to the kids who lost their mom.””

How Covid made it nearly impossible to pass new vaccine rules

“The HPV vaccine has been around for almost two decades and could spare thousands of people from developing cervical and oral cancer — so mandating it for schoolchildren once seemed an easy call for Democrats in deep-blue California.
But a bill to do just that has been watered down beyond recognition in one of the most liberal states in the U.S., a victim of a homegrown anti-vaccine movement that has become more organized and more successful since the pandemic.”

“Across the country, blue-state policymakers have nearly given up trying to create new vaccine policy and are now simply trying to hold the line on a decade’s worth of public health gains. Attempts to add required vaccines for school kids this year sputtered in Wisconsin, California and Massachusetts, a stunning reversal after a successful push to tighten exemptions for mandated childhood vaccines.”

Operation Warp Speed was a huge success. So why is the US turning away from it?

“Warp Speed deserves substantial credit for saving lives in the early pandemic. Companies making crucial parts for the vaccine have credited Warp Speed’s special authorizations with getting their power turned back on in minutes after an outage and convincing vendors to cut their production times from 75 days to 7. Negotiated partnerships for every part of the supply chain — from glass vials to syringes to packaging for shipping — enabled a rapid rollout. Even the Defense Department got involved in logistics, flying equipment and vaccines from place to place.”

“Immunologist Moncef Slaoui, who headed Warp Speed under the Trump administration, spent years before the pandemic advocating for a simple, cheap measure that would have made it possible to develop vaccines even faster: maintaining idle capacity so the country can respond to emergencies.

As he told Science in a 2021 interview:

“The whole concept—after we went through the flu pandemic, the Ebola outbreak, the Zika outbreak—was to say, “Listen, the problem is always the same, which is there are no manufacturing facilities sitting there idle, waiting to be used. Even if we had one, we would have trouble because we would have to stop manufacturing other vaccines, which are essential for saving people’s life. So we thought, “Why don’t we take a dedicated facility and have them work on discovering vaccines against known potential outbreak agents, one after the other?” They would become incredibly skilled and trained at going fast, discovering vaccines. The company was prepared to make available the facility and ask just for the cost of running it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fly.””

“That investment? Didn’t happen. Before the pandemic, some of this country’s smartest experts spent years telling us that a pandemic was coming and would be catastrophic, but that we could prepare and substantially mitigate the harms. We didn’t.

During the pandemic, we developed significant expertise in vaccine development and distribution, which we easily could have leveraged into maintaining capacity for rapid vaccine development to prevent the next pandemic. We didn’t.”

Five ways lawmakers smacked down Biden’s Pentagon plans

“By signing the bill, Biden will be forced to agree to a repeal of the Pentagon’s policy requiring troops to receive the Covid vaccine or face expulsion from the military.
The repeal is a victory for Republicans who pushed to do away with the policy during negotiations on a final defense bill. Conservatives have hammered the administration for forcing out thousands of military personnel and piling onto an already rough recruiting environment.

Rescinding the August 2021 mandate is a black eye for Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who still back the policy as a matter of health and readiness for the armed forces.”

“The bill, however, doesn’t prohibit a new vaccine requirement in the coming months, meaning Austin could implement a new policy when the 2021 directive is repealed. Doing so, however, would spark a battle with the Republican-controlled House next year.”

“Both parties roundly rejected Biden’s $813 billion military spending plan as too low to meet worldwide threats and counter the impacts of inflation on the Pentagon.

Instead, Congress endorsed that hefty $45 billion increase to Biden’s budget, which already would have boosted defense by about $30 billion over last year’s level. The final bill amounts to an increase of roughly $75 billion, or nearly 10 percent, from the previous year.

The additional money went toward buying more weapons as well as efforts to blunt the effects of inflation on Pentagon programs, troops and construction.

This marks the second straight year that Congress has significantly rewritten Biden’s budget. Defense legislation approved last year authorized an increase of $25 billion to the administration’s first proposal. It’s a pattern Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who is set to chair House Armed Services next year, chalked up to Congress and the White House rarely seeing eye to eye on federal spending.”

“Congress foiled one of the few major changes Biden proposed to the nuclear arsenal, keeping alive a sea-launched cruise missile first proposed by the Trump administration.

Proponents of canceling the developmental program criticized it as costly, destabilizing and redundant, because Biden kept low-yield nukes fielded by the Trump administration deployed aboard ballistic missile submarines. A 2021 report by the Congressional Budget Office estimated the missile will cost $10 billion through 2030.

But lawmakers ultimately authorized $45 million to continue the program after top military brass, including Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley, publicly expressed support for the weapon, in a split with Austin and other top civilians who argued the missile isn’t needed.”

“Lawmakers also voted to require the Pentagon to keep most of its inventory of B83 nuclear gravity bombs, which Biden proposed retiring. The agreement prohibits retiring or deactivating more than 25 percent of the stockpile until the Pentagon provides Congress with a study on how it will field capabilities to strike hard and buried targets.”

“Lawmakers authorized $32.6 billion to buy new ships, boosting the budget by $4.7 billion and ordering up three new hulls the Navy didn’t ask for.

The additions include a third unrequested Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which the White House said it “strongly opposes” when the House approved it. Navy leaders have questioned whether a strained shipbuilding base can handle a rate of three destroyers per year. The bill also set a legal floor of 31 amphibious warships for the Navy, which the administration also opposes, arguing it would “unduly constrain” military planning.

Congress also threw a wrench into Navy plans to retire two dozen ships. The move was aimed at saving money but it also drew criticism on Capitol Hill because the plans would have scrapped some troubled littoral combat ships relatively early in their service lives.

The compromise bill ultimately bars the Navy from retiring a dozen warships it had planned to decommission, including five littoral combat ships and a Ticonderoga-class cruiser.

The legislation also crimps efforts by the Pentagon to retire dozens of aircraft. It jams up the administration’s plans to retire Navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare jets, requiring the service to maintain a fleet of at least 158 aircraft through fiscal 2027. The bill similarly blocks efforts by the Air Force to retire some F-22 fighters through fiscal 2027.

Lawmakers also limited the Air Force’s ability to reduce its fleet of E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System planes below a certain level. Those restrictions would be eased if the service submits an acquisition strategy or awards a contract for its successor, the E-7 Wedgetail.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, boosted procurement for a swath of aircraft across the military services. Most notably, Armed Services leaders approved $666 million for eight Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets the Navy didn’t seek in its budget, keeping the production line active.”

We Don’t Need a White House Monkeypox ‘Coordinator.’ We Just Need the Vaccines.

“We’re up to about 3,600 known cases of monkeypox in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s more than double the number of cases from just two weeks ago.

As the federal government struggles to distribute vaccines where they’re needed, The Washington Post reports that the White House is thinking of declaring a public health emergency and naming a “White House coordinator” to oversee the response.

The public response should be: Please don’t. Please just get the vaccines to local public health agencies and let them deal with it. Because right now, that’s about half the problem that’s causing monkeypox to spread.

Red tape from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC left more than a million monkeypox vaccine doses stuck in storage in Denmark, and then another roll of red tape made it incredibly difficult for doctors to prescribe an alternative monkeypox treatment because it’s still in clinical trials.

As a result, local health agencies have had to carefully portion out vaccines to the highest-risk citizens—and they’re still running out. In Los Angeles, the county Public Health Department will only administer to people who are infected, people who have had high-risk contact (typically sex) with somebody who is infected, and then gay or bisexual men or trans people who fit in one of the [certain] categories”

“Fortunately, monkeypox’s spread has still remained pretty limited even as it has grown. The percentage of growth seems huge because we’re dealing with a fairly low baseline. And though monkeypox is not technically a sexually transmitted disease—it is spread through contact with the rashes and lesions created by the virus as well as through saliva—this particular version of monkeypox has been pretty resistant so far to being spread through methods other than sexual contact.”