Wednesday's health stories

Jun 9, 2021 - Health

Seattle becomes first major city to get 70% fully vaccinated

A 12-year-old boy receives a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Harborview Medical Center on May 13, in Seattle. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday announced that the city had become the first major metropolitan in the country to fully vaccinate 70% of its population.

The big picture: Durkan said 78% of Seattle's population, 12 years and older, have received their first dose, adding it is one of the country's highest vaccination rates.

U.S. to buy 500 million Pfizer doses to share with the world

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Biden administration will buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to share with countries around the world, with the option to buy an additional 200 million, two sources familiar with the deal tell Axios.

Why it matters: That's a big step toward making the U.S. a major global vaccine supplier and comes as Biden departs for his first foreign trip as president.

Jun 9, 2021 - Health

Fauci sounds alarm over COVID-19 variant surging in U.K.

Anthony Fauci urged Americans Wednesday to get vaccinated to halt the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant first discovered in India, which currently accounts for 6% of infections in the U.S.

Why it matters: The United Kingdom has seen an explosion in new cases as a result of the variant, which is now the dominant strain and may be associated with increased disease severity.

Jun 9, 2021 - Technology

Scientific journal articles vulnerable to bots

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Scientific journals are easy targets of automated software that post links to social media, often with misinformation, according to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: Automated disinformation campaigns that harness legitimate scientific research could further erode the public's understanding and trust in science, particularly around COVID-19.

CDC: Severe COVID cases, deaths plummeted in spring following vaccine

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

COVID-19 cases, deaths, related hospitalizations and ER visits have all declined considerably this year, especially among older, vaccinated adults, according to a new CDC report.

Why it matters: The data bears it out: Greater vaccine coverage in the U.S. is correlated with a precipitous drop in the number of people getting seriously ill.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Jun 9, 2021 - Health

New Alzheimer's drug could blow up health spending

Expand chart
Reproduced from KFF and Bernstein; Chart: Axios Visuals

Biogen's new Alzheimer's treatment could be experts' nightmare drug spending scenario: An extremely expensive product that millions of desperate patients could be eligible for — and it may not even work.

Why it matters: Alzheimer's is a devastatingly common disease with no cure. But the FDA's decision this week paved the way for a free-for-all in which taxpayers foot most of the enormous bill for a drug that hasn't been proven effective.

America's nursing homes fight to find enough caregivers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across the country are having trouble hiring enough caregivers, and many have turned to perks like referral bonuses and transportation to lure more talent.

The big picture: The industry historically grappled with high employee turnover for its lower-skilled jobs. But now nursing facilities are facing reputational hits from the pandemic and a red hot market for minimum wage workers.

Hospital suspends 178 staff for not complying with COVID vaccine mandate

The Houston Methodist Hospital at the Texas Medical Center campus in Houston. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Houston Methodist Hospital on Tuesday suspended 178 employees without pay for 14 days for failing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Driving the news: The Texas hospital's CEO, Marc Boom, said in a message to staff shared with Axios that 24,947 workers had been vaccinated against the virus by Monday's deadline. 27 of those who didn't get fully vaccinated "have received one dose ... so I am hopeful they will get their second doses soon," Boom said.

Jun 9, 2021 - Health

Washington state announces free marijuana joint for COVID vaccine incentive

Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

Washington state marijuana retailers can now offer adult consumers a free joint if they get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the store.

The big picture: The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced Monday it was providing a "temporary allowance" to state-licensed cannabis retailers through July 12 for the incentive.

Go deeper: States deploy carrots to drive up coronavirus vaccination rates

Team Biden tiptoes around vaccine-for-migration cooperation

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks today during her closing news confernece in Mexico City. Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AE/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris headed back to the U.S. after two days of high-level meetings in Guatemala and Mexico about corruption, human trafficking and migration, but one subject was only briefly touched upon: coronavirus vaccines.

Why it matters: Migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border remain near 20-year highs. Harris is charged with trying to resolve the root causes for people leaving Central America, issues oftentimes exacerbated by COVID-19 in recent months.