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On Thursday, October 7, Axios health care reporter Marisa Fernandez and managing editor for politics Margaret Talev discussed what’s next for ensuring access to quality health care, featuring Rep. Raul Ruiz and Biotechnology Innovation Organization president and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath.

Rep. Raul Ruiz illustrated his community outreach efforts to vaccinate his California constituents, the biggest obstacles to receiving the vaccine in underserved communities, and how he believes issues of health care access extend far beyond the pandemic.

  • On why many of his constituents had not yet received the COVID vaccine: “I can tell you by far, it’s not vaccine hesitancy. It is a lack of resources and know-how and being able to overcome the barriers that already exist in an underserved community with a lack of physicians, a lack of doctors, a lack of resources, clinics, a lack of health education, also in a language that they would understand, a lack of transportation.”
  • On broader lessons to consider for the future of health care: “The other thing that we need to take away from this is that our health care workforce is quite fragile. We saw a lot of the front lines break, not just in terms of the lack of personnel that was available for the enormous amount of hours that were required to take care of the really sick patients, but also the fatigue and the anxiety and the stress and those that got sick and were quarantined or died really made a negative difference during this pandemic.”

Michelle McMurry-Heath explained how the biomedical innovation industry is responding to a lack of equitable health care access, how clinical trials can better reflect diverse populations, and the biggest challenges in access to drug development.

  • On how the biomedical industry is responding to the issue of health care access highlighted by COVID-19: “I think the most important thing to state is that all of the companies are really dedicated to making sure they’re not just working incredibly hard to find vaccines and cures, but that they are working just as hard to make sure that those products reach every patient who needs them. We are not out of this pandemic until everyone around the globe is safe from COVID. We have a lot of work to go before we sleep.”
  • On the lack of representation for minority communities in clinical trials: “If you look at what’s available to physicians today, there are not a lot of clinical options for diseases that are ravaging minority communities like Type 2 diabetes, like heart disease, like stroke. The true answers for disadvantaged communities are still on the research south.”

Axios VP of Communications Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with Genentech SVP of Access and External Affairs Fritz Bittenbender, who discussed the importance of research efforts focused on improving health care for underserved communities.

  • “We continue to focus there both in terms of clinical trials and trying to diversify our clinical trial base to have more access...but also on the health care policy side, ensuring that any policy that the state, local or federal governments are enacting are thinking about health equity with a significant policy lens when they’re talking about changes to our health care system.”

Go deeper

11 hours ago - Health

Appeals court declines to block Maine vaccine mandate

A health worker prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination. Photo: Camilo Freedman/APhotografia/Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday denied an emergency request to block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from going into effect in Maine, the Associated Press reports.

Driving the news: The mandate, which Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced in August, requires health care workers in Maine to get vaccinated by Oct. 29 or face losing their jobs.

Oct 14, 2021 - Health

WHO: Tuberculosis deaths rise for 1st time in over a decade due to COVID

A doctor checks the chest X-ray of a patient in Hyderabad, India. Photo: Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images

The number of deaths from tuberculosis rose last year for the first time in more than a decade, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Why it matters: The data underscores the COVID-19 pandemic's toll on tackling other, preventable diseases worldwide.

Minnesota National Guard to assist with hospital staffing shortages

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on April 19. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced Friday that he'll put the Minnesota National Guard on alert to help ease staffing shortages at hospitals and care facilities due to the rise in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated residents in the state.

Driving the news: Over 400 Minnesota patients are currently waiting for beds to open up at other care centers as hospitals across the state have reported that they're at or close to reaching capacity, AP reports.