August 25, 2021
Newsletter | Tea Leaves

D.C. News:

  • House Democrats adopted a budget resolution that triggers the legislative process for their $3.5 trillion domestic spending bill. The 220-212 vote came after a group of moderates got House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to agree to also hold a vote on a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27. Committees have until September 15 to assemble the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which is expected to include a slew of Democratic health care priorities. Leadership hopes to pass the bill by the end of September. (Articles here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)

Life Sciences:

  • Johnson & Johnson said a second dose of its COVID-19 vaccine generated a strong immune response in a study, with antibody levels ninefold higher among those who got a second shot compared with one month after their first dose. The company said the data makes the case for a booster shot after eight months. It is expected to inform the Biden administration’s strategy as it prepares to roll out extra doses for people who received the Moderna Inc. or Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccines. (Articles here, here, and here)
  • NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said it’s unlikely that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be authorized for children 5 to 11 years old before the end of 2021, despite Pfizer’s plans to deliver clinical trial results to regulators next month. Anthony Fauci offered a rosier assessment, saying it’s “reasonable” that the shots could be greenlit “by the mid-late fall and early winter.” (Articles here and here)
  • An updated report by the CDC indicates that the COVID-19 vaccine’s efficacy dropped from 91 percent to 66 percent once the delta variant accounted for the majority of circulating virus. The study includes more than 4,000 health care workers, first responders, and other frontline workers in eight locations across six states, all of whom were tested weekly for COVID-19 infection. More than 4 in 5 were vaccinated, and the vast majority of them received the mRNA vaccines from either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. (Report here; Articles here and here)


  • Kaufman Hall’s latest National Hospital Flash Report found that hospital margins and volumes remain below pre-pandemic numbers. Hospitals in the South and Midwest saw the biggest year-over-year drops in margins driven by high rates of the delta variant and declining patient confidence. Gross operating revenue grew 8.3 percent year-to-date compared with 2019 and 16.4 percent year-to-date compared with 2020. Inpatient revenue was up 3.7 percent compared to January through July 2019 and 10.5 percent compared to the same period in 2020. (Report here; Articles here and here)
  • The American Medical Association urged the public and private sectors to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, arguing that other steps to simply incentivize vaccination have not resulted in the high vaccination rates needed to tame the highly transmissible delta variant. The call comes one day after the FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to instigate more employer vaccine mandates. (Article here)
  • The American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) are at odds about COVID-19 protections in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration standard. The AHA wants the Biden administration to withdraw a COVID-19 emergency protection standard because it believes hospitals are already doing enough to protect front-line workers. Simultaneously, the ANA wants to the temporary standard to be even stronger by including vaccine mandates. (Article here)

Public Health/Prevention:

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published new guidance recommending that overweight and obese Americans should start getting screened for diabetes at age 35 instead of 40. The new guidelines stem from rising rates of both obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and research showing health benefits of prevention methods and early treatment. The USPSTF also recommends earlier screenings for overweight or obese American Indians, Black people, Hispanics, and other groups with disproportionately high diabetes rates. (Articles here, here, here, and here)
  • According to a new CDC report, infection and hospitalization rates were five and 29 times higher, respectively, among unvaccinated people in Los Angeles County than the fully vaccinated. Among the 43,127 COVID infections in Los Angeles County, between May 1 and July 25, about 25 percent were fully vaccinated, about 3 percent were partially vaccinated, and about 71 percent were unvaccinated. About 3 percent of vaccinated people were hospitalized compared to nearly 8 percent of unvaccinated people. (Report here; Articles here and here)