Nov 19, 2021
Nearly one third of healthcare workers in U.S. hospitals are still not vaccinated against Covid-19, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as tensions escalate over a looming—and contested—nationwide mandate that officials worry will leave the sector with a shortage of critical workers.
As of September 15, 70% of healthcare workers were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the CDC study of more than 3 million personnel across more than 2,000 U.S. hospitals published in the American Journal of Infection Control.
Rates varied based on the type of hospital, the researchers found, with the highest vaccination rates found in children’s hospitals where 77% of workers have both doses.
Critical access hospitals had the lowest vaccination rate, with 64% of workers fully vaccinated, the researchers found.
Vaccination rates also differed by location, with healthcare staff in metropolitan counties (71%) having higher vaccination rates than those in rural counties (65%).
Vaccine uptake also varied dramatically over time, the researchers found, jumping from 36% to 60% in the four months between January and April—a 24 point jump—but taking five months to reach 70% by September.
Half of that jump (5%) in vaccination happened in the month between August and September, something the authors said could be due to the spread of the delta coronavirus variant or mandates in some jurisdictions.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Federal vaccine mandates come into force early next year. The rules—which will affect more than 17 million healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid—require workers to have received their final vaccine dose by January 4.
Wait what? FDA wants 55 years to process FOIA request over vaccine data
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked a federal judge on Nov. 15 to give it until the year 2076 to fully release the documents in its possession tied to the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The FDA’s request was made in a filing as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by a medical transparency group. The government told the court it has 329,000 pages of documents responsive to the FOIA request and proposed releasing 500 pages per month to allow for redactions of exempt material. At that rate, the FDA would fully release the records in question in just under 55 years.
The plaintiff, Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency (PHMPT), is a group of doctors and scientists, including Harvey Risch, a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.
The group filed the lawsuit (pdf) after the FDA denied their request to expedite the release of the records. The plaintiff and the defendant, unable to reach an agreement on a disclosure schedule, are seeking a hearing to argue their cases before the judge, who may eventually make a decision in that regard.
“The FDA’s promise of transparency is, to put it mildly, a pile of illusions,” Aaron Siri, whose firm is representing PHMPT in the lawsuit, wrote in a blog post on Nov. 17.
“It took the FDA precisely 108 days from when Pfizer started producing the records for licensure to when the FDA licensed the Pfizer vaccine,” Siri continued. “Taking the FDA at its word, it conducted an intense, robust, thorough, and complete review and analysis of those documents in order to assure that the Pfizer vaccine was safe and effective for licensure. While it can conduct that intense review of Pfizer’s documents in 108 days, it now asks for over 20,000 days to make these documents available to the public.”
Fauci: COVID-19 hospitalizations rising among vaccinated
COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising among people who are fully vaccinated, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Fauci discussed what was driving virus surges in hot spots around the U.S.
"What we’re starting to see now is an uptick in hospitalizations among people who’ve been vaccinated but not boosted," Fauci said Tuesday. "It’s a significant proportion, but not the majority by any means."
In a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Wednesday, Fauci stressed the importance of vaccines and highlighted their efficacy.
"We have 62 million Americans eligible for vaccines who are still not vaccinated. The data that I show you do not lie. Vaccines protect you, your family, and your community," he said, speaking alongside U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "And importantly, it is not too late, as Dr. Walensky has said. Get vaccinated now."
At the same panel, Walensky gave similar remarks, explaining that the agency is "seeing an increase in emergency department visits among adults age 65 and older, which are now again higher than they are for younger age groups."
OSHA is suspending enforcement of the government's new employer vaccine rule
The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it is suspending its enforcement of the Biden administration's new rules ordering larger employers to either require that their workers get vaccinated against "emergency temporary standard" or undergo weekly testing.
OSHA, which posted the announcement on its website, added that it "remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies."
The agency's decision to stop implementing and enforcing the new rule comes after a federal appeals court on Friday reaffirmed an earlier temporary halt to the Biden administration's vaccine rule and ordered OSHA to stop enforcing or implementing the regulation.
Andrew M. Lieb is the Managing Attorney of Lieb at Law,
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About Dr. Dean Fanelli
Dean Fanelli, Ph.D. is a patent, regulatory, and transactional attorney in the Washington, DC office of Cooley LLP (www.cooley.com) focusing on issues related to the development, protection, and commercialization of biotech and pharmaceutical products. In addition to Dr. Fanelli's expertise relating to legal issues involved in pharma and biotech development, Dr. Fanelli also understands the business needs of his clients as he has co-founded three biotechnology companies: PhosImmune, Inc. an immuno-oncology company, C-Reveal Therapeutics, LLC, an immuno-oncology drug development company focused on exposing tumors to immune responses and therapies, and most recently AexeRNA Therapeutics, LLC, an mRNA company developing advanced Lipid Nanoparticle delivery systems that reduce the side effects present in currently authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. He is a regular on TV & Radio commenting on Covid-19 & Vaccines & also hosts his own podcast “Politics & Life Sciences Radio.”