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Axios Vitals

Happy Friday, Vitals readers. Today's newsletter is 826 words, or a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for an arsenal of new weapons again COVID. And, experts say, that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.

The big picture: As much havoc as it caused, the world got somewhat lucky with the Omicron variant: It causes less severe disease than other variants — likely because it doesn't replicate as well in the lungs — and existing immune protection works well against hospitalization and death.

  • But its transmissibility, ability to evade some immune protection and the ineffectiveness of some existing treatments against it have laid bare how much trouble the world would be in if an equally transmissible but deadlier variant came along.

What they're saying: "As the virus moves forward, our vaccine has been stagnant. And so the virus is going to continue changing, and we can't have a stagnant vaccine," said Rick Bright, former Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority director and a member of President Biden's coronavirus transition team.

  • "We need Operation Warp Speed — that kind of efficiency and focused coordinated effort on therapeutics, surveillance and other areas to address COVID," said Zeke Emanuel, another member of the transition team.

Go deeper.

2. Americans skipping their (other) vaccines

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

While the focus on vaccines has centered around COVID, American teens and adults have missed out on tens of millions of other CDC-recommended shots, a new analysis released exclusively to Axios shows.

Why it matters: It's yet another example of deferred preventative care during the pandemic — including kidney care and cancer screenings — which could ultimately turn into a major problem across the U.S.

The claims analysis, commissioned by GlaxoSmithKline and conducted by Avalere Health, found more than 37.1 million vaccines were skipped between January 2020 and July 2021, using 2019 figures as their baseline.

What they're saying: More people are going back to their doctors and getting vaccinations. "But what we're not seeing is catch-up," Leonard Friedland, GSK's vice president of scientific affairs and public health, told Axios.

  • For example, a patient who recently turned 65 might be automatically prompted in a doctor's visit to get the pneumococcal vaccine. "But if you looked further back in their record, you might see they missed their shingles vaccine," Friedland said.

The big picture: This figure doesn't include missed vaccines for infants and children, so the problem is most certainly much bigger than this estimate.

3. Tufts to close its pediatric hospital

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Wellforce Health System, which includes Tufts Medical Center, plans to close its 41-bed pediatric hospital in Boston, the Boston Globe reports.

Why it matters: Officials say they are making the shift to respond to demand for adult ICU bed as Tufts, and other health systems throughout the country, have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

  • The health system and the 415-bed Boston Children's Hospital have signed a letter of intent to collaborate and provide continuity of care, it was announced.

Between the lines: The hospital had a historic start in 1894 on a ship that sailed around Boston Harbor and became known as the Floating Hospital for Children. It continued to be called the floating hospital long after it had a fire and ultimately moved to dry land in 1931, CBS Boston writes.

  • The hospital's name was changed to Tufts Children's Hospital in 2020, per CBS Boston.
4. A different way to message price regulation

The U.S. does not have real price competition in health care, Axios' Bob Herman writes.

  • A better solution is price regulation, which other countries already do, Bob Berenson, a health care policy expert at the Urban Institute, said during a Health Affairs forum yesterday.

Why it matters: Many policymakers view price regulation as government intrusion, but they may be more amenable to the idea if they view price regulation as a way to promote market competition.

  • It "is a stronger argument," Berenson said.

Go deeper: A new CBO report explains why commercial prices are persistently high and debunks providers' "cost-shifting" theory.

5. Quote du jour: Goldie Hawn on kids' mental health

Goldie Hawn. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

"We are in an emergency situation right now ... It's become right in our face now because of the pandemic. Now we at least get to see it, now we get to talk about it. But is it too late? We need prevention and we needed it before the pandemic. And this is where we're not doing it. Our classrooms should be filled with how you teach a child to be a human and healthy and happy."
— Actress and mental health advocate Goldie Hawn told Axios in an interview Thursday, announcing the launch of MindUP for Life Digital, which provides online mental health tools for schools.
6. Dog of the week

Bowser. Photo: Molly Wildey

Meet Bowser, an English bulldog, who delivered some cuteness overload after the birth of his human brother Bowie a few weeks ago.

  • Bowser lives in Bend, Oregon, with his humans Cutter Baldock and Molly Wildey.

🐶 IYCMI: It's not too late to join the Betty White Challenge by donating to the ASPCA or your local animal shelter in her honor. Because, as you know, we like pets around here...