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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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Axios
Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate — Neil Young demands Spotify take down music over vaccine misinformation — Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
33 mins ago - World

U.S. has shipped 400 million COVID vaccine doses globally

Workers at Mexico City's International Airport receiving 1.5 million AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines from the U.S. in March 2021. Photo: Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Biden administration said that by the end of Wednesday it will have sent 400 million COVID vaccine doses worldwide.

Why it matters: It's a major milestone, though it's a fraction of the 1.2 billion doses the U.S. has promised to donate to help prevent more deaths and reduce the risk of new COVID variants.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
7 hours ago - Health

The gig economy is trying to solve health care's burnout crisis

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amid a nationwide nursing shortage and burnout crisis, tech companies say they could be part of the solution by allowing nurses to essentially join the gig economy.

Why it matters: Demand is accelerating for tools that help hospitals more efficiently fill shifts, while also offering an exhausted workforce more flexibility.

7 hours ago - Health

It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Antiviral COVID treatments are hailed as a pandemic game-changer, but they're currently in very short supply — and that's only one of several barriers to access for high-risk patients.

The big picture: Even when supply ramps up, it will still be tricky to connect some of the most vulnerable patients to the pills without changes to the process.

19 hours ago - Health

New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate

People wear masks at an indoor mall in The Oculus in lower Manhattan. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A New York appellate judge granted a stay on the state's indoor mask mandate Tuesday evening, leaving the rule in place as the issue is litigated.

Driving the news: The decision comes a day after a state Supreme Court judge struck down the rule. An appellate court will hear an appeal Friday.

20 hours ago - Health

Health cost regulator reprimands dominant Mass. hospital system

Massachusetts General Hospital, the system's flagship hospital. Photo: Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Mass General Brigham must submit a plan to lower rising costs that stem from the hospital system's expensive care, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission said today.

Why it matters: This commission is viewed as a potential template for other states to regulate rising hospital and physician spending. This is the first time the agency has taken action on a hospital system to temper costs.

Pregnant Latinas face higher COVID threat

A woman gets a COVID-19 vaccine during an event for pregnant women in Honduras in August 2021. Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

Pregnant Hispanic women in the U.S. are 2.4 times more likely to get COVID-19 than other women, according to a study from Sutter Health. The nonprofit health care network is urging medical professionals to encourage more vaccinations for Latinas.

Why it matters: Pregnant people with COVID-19 face higher risks of maternal death and of premature births and stillbirths, research shows.

Biden needs to do more for Latinos, civil rights groups say

President Joe Biden. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some of the nation’s most prominent civil rights organizations are urging President Biden to do more for Latinos.

Why it matters: Even though Latinos supported Biden over Donald Trump in 2020, Republicans made significant inroads, putting Democrats on notice. Latinos will be about 1 in 8 eligible voters in 2024 and are an increasingly growing voting demographic that Democrats will have to fight harder for.

23 hours ago - Health

Neil Young demands Spotify take down music over vaccine misinformation

Neil Young in 2019. Photo: Jo Hale/Redferns

Musician Neil Young demanded that Spotify pull his music from its service, accusing the company of spreading vaccine misinformation in a since-deleted letter that was briefly posted to his website Monday night, Rolling Stone first reported.

Why it matters: The letter added to mounting pressure on Spotify to better regulate vaccine COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on its streaming platform.

Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday that it is withdrawing the Biden administration's temporary COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

The big picture: OSHA said it made the decision to withdraw the mandate following the Supreme Court's decision blocking the rule.

24 hours ago - Health

Student's death renews calls for schools to stock opioid overdose drug

Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Connecticut student's death has renewed calls for schools to stock and administer naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Why it matters: U.S. drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period for the first time in November, and synthetic or natural opioids were the cause of a majority of the overdoses.

Jan 25, 2022 - 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.

Jan 25, 2022 - 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.

Jan 25, 2022 - 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 Jan 25, 2022 - 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.

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