Overnight Health Care: Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine 96 percent effective in teens | Nearly 940,000 sign up for ObamaCare coverage in special enrollment

Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. The COVID-19 vaccines are brought to us today by the letter “U.” A new PSA from Sesame Street features Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and other characters to help convince people to get vaccinated. One montage, set to the tune of Billie Holliday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” is, of course, sung by the letter “U.”

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Today: A new poll shows vaccine enthusiasm is waning. Moderna’s vaccine worked well in teens, ObamaCare signups are increasing, and the Secretary of Education said he expects all schools to be fully open in the fall.

We’ll start with some vaccine news:

Moderna touts 96 percent effectiveness rate among 12 to 17 year olds in trial

Moderna released the results of its COVID-19 vaccine trials for those aged 12 to 17, reporting it 96 percent effective against the virus. 

The vaccine manufacturer said its trial, involving 3,235 participants, recorded 12 COVID-19 cases that emerged beginning 14 days after the first dose. The company said it had not identified any serious safety concerns to date. 

Follows: The news comes as the FDA is expected to grant emergency use authorization in the coming days for the competitor Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be given to 12- to 15-year-olds. That vaccine was found to be 100 percent effective in the age group. 

Moderna’s positive trial results bring the company closer to offering the vaccine to adolescents. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds, as well as adults. 


Record quarter: Along with the trial results, Moderna reported its first-ever profitable quarter, which was driven in large part by its COVID-19 vaccine. The company recorded a net income of $1.2 billion in the first three months of 2021. 

Comparatively, Moderna documented a $124 million net loss during last year’s first quarter.

The vaccine manufacturer forecasted that it will deliver about 200 million to 250 million doses of its vaccine in the second quarter through purchase agreements amounting to $19.2 billion in sales. 

Read more here.

Nearly 940,000 sign up for ObamaCare coverage in special enrollment

The Biden administration’s special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act has seen almost 940,000 Americans sign up for ObamaCare coverage this year. 

On Thursday, officials released the updated number of people who have enrolled between Feb. 15 and April 30 under the extra signup period instituted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The total of new enrollees represents a jump from the more than 500,000 people who signed up for coverage by the end of March.

Since April 1, premiums have decreased by more than 40 percent, from $100 to $57, on average for almost 2 million enrollees, the administration also noted.

Background: The Biden administration implemented the special enrollment period to allow people who needed health insurance due to the disruption of the pandemic to have extra time to sign up.

The Trump administration previously had not launched an extra signup period because, officials said, those who lost employment health coverage were already eligible to sign up.

What’s next:  The period is slated to last until Aug. 15, meaning the number of enrollees could balloon even more. The statistics also only count the enrollees from the 36 states that use the federal, leaving out those who signed up through the 14 other state systems. 

Read more here

Poll shows COVID-19 vaccine enthusiasm has reached a plateau

The American public’s enthusiasm for taking a coronavirus vaccine has reached a plateau, according to a new nationwide poll, a sign of the tough road ahead for the Biden administration’s vaccination efforts.


According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor, the share of adults who have not yet gotten vaccinated but say they intend to do so as soon as they can has fallen to 9 percent.

At the same time, about 15 percent of respondents fell into the “wait and see” group, which remained about the same in April compared to March. But among Republicans, more than half now say they’ve gotten at least one dose or will do so as soon as they can. 

That’s a significant increase from the 46 percent of Republicans who expressed enthusiasm about the vaccines in March. 

Concerning for kids: The survey also showed limited eagerness for parents to get their children vaccinated, a troubling trend that’s coming just as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to grant authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be used in adolescents aged 12 to 15.

Among parents who have at least one child between the ages of 12 and 15, 30 percent said they’ll get their child vaccinated right away, 26 percent wanted to wait to see how it’s working, 18 percent said they will vaccinate only if their child’s school requires it and 23 percent said they will definitely not get their child vaccinated.

Key takeaway: The survey data clearly shows that the U.S. is in a new stage of its fight against COVID-19, and that the goal of herd immunity may not be attainable. The low-hanging fruit, the most enthusiastic people who want a vaccine, is mostly gone, and new strategies to reach the rest of the population are needed.

Read more here


Education secretary expects all schools to fully reopen in-person in fall

Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaOvernight Health Care: Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine 96 percent effective in teens | Nearly 940,000 sign up for ObamaCare coverage in special enrollment Education secretary expects all schools to fully reopen in-person in fall Jill Biden a key figure in push to pitch White House plans MORE said Thursday that he expects “all schools” to fully reopen in the fall, setting the tone for the Biden administration’s push for a return to normal for the upcoming school year. 

“With regard to … September, yes, I expect all schools to be open full-time in person for all students,” Cardona said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We really need to make sure students have the opportunity to learn in the classroom, and quite frankly, I’d rather have it this spring.”

“Students don’t learn as well remotely,” he added. “There is no substitute for in-person learning.” 

The Education secretary’s comments came as the administration celebrated reaching its coronavirus pandemic goal of reopening a majority of K-8 schools to in-person instruction five days a week by Biden’s 100th day in office last week.

A survey released by the Education Department on Thursday determined that 54 percent of public schools below the high school level were providing full-time in-person learning, but “until we’re at 100 percent we must keep our foot on the gas pedal,” Cardona said.

Context: The CDC can put out guidance on making schools safe, and encourage districts to open their schools. But the decisions of individual cities and towns are not necessarily something the administration has control over. Schools have been a priority for the administration, and the president pledged to reopen “the majority of our schools” in his first 100 days in office. He later amended that to mean just K-8 schools.


Read more here.

Not every country on board with vaccine patent waivers: Concerns in Germany

After the Biden administration said Wednesday the that the U.S. backs waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents, Germany pushed back on Thursday. 

“The limiting factor for the production of vaccines are manufacturing capacities and high quality standards, not the patents,” a spokesperson for the German government told Bloomberg News. “The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and this has to remain so in the future.”

Bloomberg notes that pharmaceutical stocks rebounded after news of Merkel’s stance broke, after having previously fallen in response to Biden’s proposal. Merkel’s stance indicates her agreement with arguments made by drug makers such as BioNTech, which is based in Germany, against Biden’s proposal.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration said it would support a proposal to waive international patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine TaiKatherine TaiOvernight Health Care: Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine 96 percent effective in teens | Nearly 940,000 sign up for ObamaCare coverage in special enrollment EU open to discussion on coronavirus vaccine waiver Merkel breaks with Biden on US plan to waive patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines MORE said the “extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures.”

The takeaway: It could be a long slog for an actual agreement at the World Trade Organization on any waivers. 

Read more here

What we’re reading

The U.S. opened pandora’s box on IP waivers for Covid-19 vaccines. What happens now? (STAT)

Baltimore vaccine plant’s troubles ripple across 3 continents (The New York Times)

‘Doomsday scenario’: Lagging vaccine rates stir fears of dangerous variants (Politico) 

State by state

Medicaid expansion group loses SD Supreme Court bid (Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

Ohio COVID-19 maps: Statewide case rate falls again, but still not enough to end mask mandate (Akron Beacon Journal)

More than 630,000 Texans are overdue for their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (KUT 90.5)

Op-eds in The Hill 

Restricting the unvaccinated sets a dangerous precedent