GOP targets Dems with “Medicscare” ads

https://www.axios.com/gop-targets-dems-with-medicscare-ads-abc27c8c-f2d2-4e3d-9d4b-40a5552d4444.html

Conservative and industry groups are trying to whip up opposition to President Biden’s massive social spending plan by warning it will imperil Medicare benefits, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: “Medicscare” is a well-worn political tactic precisely because it can be effective. For Democrats, there’s zero room for defections against the $3.5 trillion proposal if they want to pass the bill.

What’s happening: Senior citizens in Arizona, represented by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), potential Democratic holdout, have started receiving large boxes labeled “Medical Shipment. Please open immediately.”

  • Inside, they find an empty prescription drug bottle and literature warning of Democratic plans to “ration Medicare Part D.” That’s a reference to a budget reconciliation bill provision that would allow the government to negotiate Medicare reimbursement rates for prescription drugs.
  • The mailers are the work of the Common Sense Leadership Fund, a Republican-aligned advocacy group. The mailers in Arizona specifically target Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who’s up for re-election next year.
  • CSLF spokesman Colin Reed told Axios the group is mailing the packages to seniors and unaffiliated voters in Arizona and New Hampshire, where the group is targeting Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who’s also up for re-election.

Another nonprofit advocacy group, A Healthy Future, is targeting the prescription drug portions of the bill in a digital ad campaign aimed at key Democratic votes.

  • The group has spent nearly $300,000 on GoogleFacebook and Instagram ads aimed at Reps. Frank Pallone, Tom Malinowski and Andy Kim, all Democrats from New Jersey — where the drug industry has a huge economic footprint.
  • “This is a prescription for disaster,” its ads say. They urge calls to Congress to “oppose cutting Medicare to pay for the $3.5 trillion spending plan.”
  • It’s not clear who’s behind A Healthy Future — the group did not respond to inquiries from Axios — but its messaging on reconciliation and past policy fights track with drug industry priorities.

The big picture: Democrats have turned to drug pricing reforms to offset part of the legislation’s massive price tag, potentially paying for as much as $600 billion in new spending.

  • That’s drawn intense opposition from the pharmaceutical industry — and lawmakers who enjoy the industry’s backing.
  • If it’s included in the final version of the legislation, it could be a major sticking point for groups looking to peel off wobbly Democratic votes.
  • Sinema has already said she opposes the effort.

Yes, but: The Mediscare tactic is larger than just the drug pricing fight. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed conservative advocacy group, is running its own ads warning of much larger impending Medicare cuts.

  • It says the spending bill’s efforts to expand Medicare will imperil the program itself.
  • “Medicare is set to go bankrupt in about four years,” the ads claim. “Congress is acting irresponsibly and putting the program in jeopardy.”
  • AFP’s ads have touched on drug pricing as well, which it’s dubbed “a 95% drug tax to fund $3.5 trillion in wasteful spending.”

Howard Stern blasts unvaccinated Americans, casting vaccine mandate as ‘freedom to live’

Howard Stern was reflecting this week on the coronavirus deaths of four conservative talk-radio hosts who had espoused anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments when he took aim at those who have refused to get vaccinated.

“I want my freedom to live,” he said Tuesday on his SiriusXM program. “I want to get out of the house. I want to go next door and play chess. I want to go take some pictures.”

The shock jock, who advocated for the coronavirus vaccine to be mandatory, then turned his attention to the hesitancy that has played a significant role in the U.S. spread of the virus, leading to what Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”He pointed to unvaccinated people who are “clogging” up overwhelmed hospitals, calling them “imbeciles” and “nut jobs” and suggesting that doctors and nurses not treat those who have not taken a coronavirus vaccine.

“I’m really of mind to say, ‘Look, if you didn’t get vaccinated [and] you got covid, you don’t get into a hospital,’ ” he said. “You had the cure and you wouldn’t take it.”

Stern’s comments come after several other celebrities expressed to their large social media audiences their frustration with the ongoing lag in vaccinations when hospitals are being pushed to their limits by the highly transmissible delta variant.

More than 185,000 coronavirus infections were reported Wednesday across the United States, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Nearly 102,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19; more than 26,000 are in intensive care units. A slight decline in hospitalizations over the past week has inspired cautious optimism among public health leaders.

While there is not a nationwide vaccine mandate, President Biden is expected to sign an executive order Thursday requiring that all federal employees be vaccinated, without an alternative for regular coronavirus testing to opt out of the mandate, The Post reported. The order affecting the estimated 2.1 million federal workers comes as Biden plans to outline a “robust plan to stop the spread of the delta variant and boost covid-19 vaccinations,” the White House said.

Health officials, doctors and nurses nationwide have urged those still hesitant to get vaccinated — and some have gone a step further. Jason Valentine, a physician in Mobile, Ala., informed patients last month that he would not treat anyone who was unvaccinated, saying there were “no conspiracy theories, no excuses” preventing anyone from being vaccinated. Linda Marraccini, a doctor in South Miami, said this month that she would not treat unvaccinated patients in person, noting that her office would “no longer subject our patients and staff to unnecessary risk.”

The summer surge also has led celebrities to use their platform to either call on unvaccinated people to get vaccinated or to denounce them for not doing so. Actor and activist Sean Penn said the vaccine should be mandatory and has called on Hollywood to implement vaccination guidelines on film sets. Actors Benicio Del Toro and Zoe Saldana were part of a vaccine video campaign this year to help debunk misinformation about coronavirus vaccination. When actress Melissa Joan Hart revealed her breakthrough coronavirus case last month, she said she was angry that the nation “got lazy” about getting vaccinated and that masking was not required at her children’s school.

Late-night talk host Jimmy Kimmel suggested Tuesday that hospitals shouldn’t treat unvaccinated patients who prefer to take ivermectin — a medicine long used to kill parasites in animals and humans that has soared in popularity despite being an unproven covid-19 treatment and the subject of warnings by health officials against its use for the coronavirus. After noting that Anthony S. Fauci, the chief medical adviser to Biden, warned that some hospitals might be forced to make “tough choices” on who gets an ICU bed, the late-night host quipped that the situation was not difficult.

That choice doesn’t seem so tough to me,” Kimmel said. “Vaccinated person having a heart attack? Yes, come right in; we’ll take care of you. Unvaccinated guy who gobbled horse goo? Rest in peace, wheezy.”

Stern has featured front-line workers on his show and has advocated for people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. In December, the host interviewed Cody Turner, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic, about how the front-line doctor struggled with his mental health while treating infected patients when a vaccine was not widely available.

“We are drowning and we are in hell, and people don’t understand, not only what’s happening to people, you know, but patients across this country,” Turner said.

Stern was a fierce critic of President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic, saying last year that his former friend was “treasonous” for telling supporters to attend large rallies, despite the risk of infection, in the run-up to the presidential election.

On his eponymous program this week, Stern referred to four conservative talk-radio hosts who bashed the vaccine and eventually died of the virus: Marc Bernier, 65; Phil Valentine, 61; Jimmy DeYoung, 81; and Dick Farrel, 65. In the weeks and months leading up to their deaths last month, all four men had publicly shared their opposition to mainstream public health efforts when coronavirus infections were spiking.

“Four of them were like ranting on the air — they will not get vaccinated,” Stern said Tuesday. “They were on fire … they were all dying and then their dying words were, ‘I wish I had been more into the vaccine. I wish I had taken it.’ ”

After he played a clip of Bernier saying he would not get vaccinated, Stern suggested that the coronavirus vaccine be considered as normal as a measles or mumps vaccine.

“When are we going to stop putting up with the idiots in this country and just say it’s mandatory to get vaccinated?” he asked.

The largest risk-group we must reach to reduce COVID vaccination disparities

Last night I downloaded the latest Census Bureau July-August week 34 PULSE data. Over two cups of coffee, I ran the obvious multivariable logistic regressions to examine who is now fully vaccinated against COVID.  See the above of this post for the full set of resulting Logit coefficients.

I’m sure Reviewer 2 would order due refinements to my quick analysis, were it immediately submitted for peer-review publication. My capacious study limitations section would note the inherent challenges of population surveys to gauge contentious questions like this. These data surely include response biases and likely overstate the true prevalence of COVID vaccination.

The overall patterns and disparities remain clear enough. Of course, we see huge disparities across regions, by education and by income. A bit more surprising: One group appears especially vulnerable and requires specific outreach…Yup. We must formulate culturally competent public health messaging for heterosexual non-Hispanic white Americans. This group conspicuously lags in vaccination status.

Among self-identified male respondents, heterosexual men were almost four times as likely to report not to be fully vaccinated (19%) as were gay men (5%)–an absolute different quite similar to the gradient observed between men with incomes less than $25,000 and those with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000.

I know that there daunting obstacles to reaching this disparity-population of heterosexual American men. We can’t let these barriers deter us. I’m joking–sort of. OK not really.

Political and social polarization are serious obstacles to our COVID efforts. Tribalization of public health may ironically increase vaccination rates among sexual and gender minorities, the educated, residents of blue states, and the socially liberal. We must find ways to push past these divides.

Hot vax summer is turning out to be a damp squib

https://mailchi.mp/ef14a7cfd8ed/the-weekly-gist-august-6-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

Pandemic of the Unvaccinated - YouTube

With US COVID case counts hitting levels not seen since February, hospitalizations climbing rapidly in many states—topping the number seen nationally during last summer’s surge—and mortality figures beginning to edge worrisomely upward, it’s increasingly clear that talk of a “hot vax summer” was premature at best.

While this week the nation crested President Biden’s July 4th goal of 70 percent of Americans getting at least one dose of the vaccine, attention has now turned in earnest to the need to dramatically accelerate vaccinations the face of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Of particular concern: a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting that vaccinated people who become infected with the variant may be able to spread the disease at a greater rate than previously thought.

Although it’s clear that we’re largely experiencing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” at this point, it wasn’t reassuring to learn that the CDC has been citing pre-Delta data (from January to July) on hospitalizations to bolster its reassurances to vaccinated Americans about the low numbers of “breakthrough” cases in hospitals, nor to hear (as we have, anecdotally) from hospital leaders that vaccinated patients now account for 15 percent of COVID admissions.

Attention has rapidly turned to the need for booster shots, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported to be readying a plan for early September, focused on the over-65 population and those whose immune systems are compromised. Already, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital has begun supplemental mRNA boosters for those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to reassure those still harboring concerns about getting an “experimental” vaccine, the FDA is fast-tracking its full approval process for Pfizer’s vaccine, which can’t come soon enough. 

The ticking clock: students of all ages, vaccinated or otherwise, return to school in less than a month. Will we be ready?

About 99.999% of fully vaccinated Americans have not had a deadly Covid-19 breakthrough case, CDC data shows

https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/31/health/fully-vaccinated-people-breakthrough-hospitalization-death/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0zCYf_qFiMcaHs0D0HbdHNrWkHzt4j6mmxWgfDD_-r5GkmJA9tm-MgaAU

About 99.999% of fully vaccinated Americans have not had a deadly Covid-19  breakthrough case, CDC data shows

More than 99.99% of people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The data highlights what leading health experts across the country have highlighted for months: Covid-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness and death from Covid-19 and are the country’s best shot at slowing the pandemic down and avoiding further suffering.The CDC reported 6,587 Covid-19 breakthrough cases as of July 26, including 6,239 hospitalizations and 1,263 deaths. At that time, more than 163 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Divide those severe breakthrough cases by the total fully vaccinated population for the result: less than 0.004% of fully vaccinated people had a breakthrough case that led to hospitalization and less than 0.001% of fully vaccinated people died from a breakthrough Covid-19 case.

Most of the breakthrough cases — about 74% — occurred among adults 65 or older.

Since May, the CDC has focused on investigating only hospitalized or fatal Covid-19 cases among people who have been fully vaccinated. The agency says the data relies on “passive and voluntary reporting” and is a “snapshot” to “help identify patterns and look for signals among vaccine breakthrough cases.”

“To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in the case demographics or vaccine characteristics among people with reported vaccine breakthrough infections,” according to the CDC.

The agency shared a study this week that showed the Delta variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected. Experts continue to say that vaccination makes it less likely you’ll catch Covid-19 in the first place. But for those who do, the findings suggest they could have a similar tendency to spread it as unvaccinated people. That study also convinced CDC leaders to update the agency’s mask guidance on Tuesday, recommending that fully vaccinated people also wear masks indoors when in areas with “substantial” and “high” Covid-19 transmission to prevent further spread of the Delta variant. Guidance for unvaccinated people remains to continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. Beyond severe cases, an analysis of official state data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that breakthrough cases of any kind are also extremely rare.vAbout half of states report data on Covid-19 breakthrough cases, and in each of those states, less than 1% of fully vaccinated people had a breakthrough infection, ranging from 0.01% in Connecticut to 0.9% in Oklahoma.

The KFF analysis also found that more than 90% of cases — and more than 95% of hospitalizations and deaths — have been among unvaccinated people. In most states, more than 98% of cases were among the unvaccinated.

Pace of vaccinations is going up

Health care workers assist a patient in the ICU inside Little Company of Mary Medical Center on July 30, 2021 in Torrance, California

But experts say those vaccinated, while they may be able to transmit the virus, remain very well protected against getting seriously ill. Amid the latest surge of Covid-19 cases nationwide fueled by the Delta variant, local leaders across the US are reporting that the majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people. The Delta variant is now so contagious, one former health official recently warned that people who are not protected — either through vaccination or previous infection — will likely get it. Amid concerns over the rising cases and the dangerous strain, the country has seen a steady rise in the pace of vaccinations in the past three weeks — and an even sharper increase in states that had been lagging the most, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.

The seven-day average of new doses administered in the US is now 652,084, up 26% from three weeks ago. The difference is even more striking in several southern states: Alabama’s seven-day average of new doses administered is more than double what it was three weeks ago. The state has the lowest rate of its total population fully vaccinated in the US, at roughly 34%. Arkansas, with just 36% of its population fully vaccinated, has also seen its average daily rate of doses administered double in the last three weeks. Louisiana, which had by far the most new Covid-19 cases per capita last week and has only fully vaccinated 37% of its population, saw daily vaccination rates rise 111% compared to three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Missouri, which has been among the hardest-hit states in the latest Covid-19 surge, now has a daily average of new vaccinations 87% higher than three weeks ago.

Roughly 57.5% of the US population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and about 49.5% is fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

Cartoon – Vaccine for Stupidity

Commentary: Half of Republican men say they don't want the vaccine. They're  mooching off the rest of us | The Daily World

Cartoon – Covid Brain Fog Logic

Covid-19 Ward' | Kaiser Health News

Cartoon – Typhoid Marty

Mike Luckovich's Editorial Cartoons at www.cartoonistgroup.com - Cartoon  View and Uses

Cartoon – Fire Fauci!

Mike Luckovich's Editorial Cartoons at www.cartoonistgroup.com - Cartoon  View and Uses