Why it matters: The U.S. faces a range of health care flashpoints — unaffordable drugs, opioids, vaping — as we debate whether to adopt universal care. For now, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, but Republicans want to issue it a final death blow.

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3 hours ago - Health

Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific COVID vaccine

A health worker in Palestine preparing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 24. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday that they have started clinical trials for a reformulated vaccine to protect against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Why it matters: The rise of the Omicron variant has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines.

Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbers

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Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Two new Biden administration initiatives — mailing at-home COVID-19 tests to those who ask and making free N95 masks available — are hugely popular, each backed by 84% of Americans in the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Yes, but: Those who may need these most — the unvaccinated — are less likely to take advantage of the offerings, the survey found. And neither has boosted President Biden's numbers so far, meaning it's too little too late, or too soon to see a change.

5 hours ago - Health

Another wave of death

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Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Omicron infections are trending down nationally, but the number of deaths is as high now as it was during the summer's Delta wave.

Why it matters: Preventing death is the ultimate goal, and thousands of Americans continue to die from this coronavirus every day even though vaccines have been available to the public for roughly a year.

11 hours ago - Health

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Fla., in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 12 hours ago - Health

N.Y. Supreme Court strikes down state's mask mandate for public areas

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference in Albany, N.Y., on Jan. 24. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) issued a statement Monday telling schools to continue following Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's mask mandate after a state Supreme Court judge struck down the rule.

Why it matters: The agency pointed to a case in Albany County where a state Supreme Court judge denied a challenge from two school districts, ruling that Hochul and the state's health commissioner have the authority to enact a mask mandate in schools.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
18 hours ago - Health

Mark Cuban launches digital pharmacy promising steep discounts on generic drugs

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Consumer-facing digital pharmacies face fresh competition in the form of Mark Cuban's drug company, which recently launched an online pharmacy promising steep discounts on 100 generic medications.

Why it matters: The new offering is likely to put increased pressure on existing digital pharmacies — such as Ro and Amazon Pharmacy — and contributes to growing discontent with pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), which are increasingly seen as cost-raising intermediaries.

20 hours ago - Health

Trivalence unites health tech and fintech

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Looking to modernize how health care constituents pay and supply one another, industry veteran Dunston Almeida has launched a new company with a “nine-figure” commitment from New Enterprise Associates.

What’s happening: The new company, triValence, is building next-gen infrastructure to automate B2B supply-chain management and payment processes, Almeida tells Sarah.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
20 hours ago - Health

Health care workers hit new breaking point

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The ranks of health care workers are dwindling and stretching what it means to be reaching their "breaking points," particularly at small nonprofit hospitals.

The big picture: Even as Omicron cases have begun to wane in some places, many hospitals are still fielding a crush of patients amid record employee callouts.

Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial

Sarah Palin. Photo: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, delaying the start of her defamation trial against the New York Times.

Why it matters: The trial will be closely watched, as it's a rare instance of a major media company defending its editorial practices before an American jury.

22 hours ago - World

U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated

Arriving passengers speak to staff at the entrance to the COVID-19 testing center in London's Heathrow Airport . Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images

The British government said Monday that it will lift the COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated people arriving in England.

State of play: Those who are not fully vaccinated "will only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day 2 after arriving in England," British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Jan 24, 2022 - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to change it officially.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.

Jan 24, 2022 - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.

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