Archives

How One State’s Public Health Defunding Led to Vaccination Chaos

ST. LOUIS — Missourians have driven hours to find vaccines in rural counties — at least those with cars and the time. Tens of thousands of doses are waiting to be distributed, slowly being rolled out in a federal long-term care program. Waitlists are hundreds of thousands of people long. Black residents are getting left behind.


This story also ran on U.S. News & World Report. It can be republished for free.

Missouri’s rocky vaccine rollout places it among the bottom states nationwide, with 23.7% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose as of Thursday, compared with the national average of 26.3%. If Missouri were on par with the national rate, that would be roughly equivalent to more than 162,000 additional people vaccinated, or almost the entire population of the city of Springfield.

Part of the problem, health experts said, is that the state bypassed its 115 local … Read the rest

Read More

Military Exposed to Toxic Fumes From Burn Pits Set to Get Bipartisan Boost

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Friday planned to roll out what could be the most ambitious attempt ever tried to treat American war fighters poisoned in deployments overseas.


This story also ran on The Daily Beast. It can be republished for free.

The bipartisan bill, modeled on both Agent Orange legislation and the 9/11 health act, aims to help unknown thousands of veterans who got sick after being exposed to toxic substances from massive open fire pits where the military burned its garbage, as well as other sources.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates some 3.5 million service members were exposed to the toxic trash plumes in Iraq, Afghanistan and other battlegrounds, and maintains a burn pits registry through which nearly 236,000 veterans have reported exposures. President Joe Biden believes that toxic smoke is responsible for the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015.

Yet the VA and … Read the rest

Read More

Stop Blaming Tuskegee, Critics Say. It’s Not an ‘Excuse’ for Current Medical Racism.

For months, journalists, politicians and health officials — including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Anthony Fauci — have invoked the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study to explain why Black Americans are more hesitant than white Americans to get the coronavirus vaccine.


This story is from a partnership that includes NPR, KQED and KHN. It can be republished for free.

“It’s ‘Oh, Tuskegee, Tuskegee, Tuskegee,’ and it’s mentioned every single time,” said Karen Lincoln, a professor of social work at the University of Southern California and founder of Advocates for African American Elders. “We make these assumptions that it’s Tuskegee. We don’t ask people.”

When she asks Black seniors in Los Angeles about the vaccine, Tuskegee rarely comes up. People in the community talk about contemporary racism and barriers to health care, she said, while it seems to be mainly academics and officials who are preoccupied with the history of … Read the rest

Read More

Birx Joins Air-Cleaning Industry Amid Land Grab for Billions in Federal Covid Relief

The former top White House coronavirus adviser under President Donald Trump, Dr. Deborah Birx, has joined an air-cleaning company that built its business, in part, on technology that is now banned in California due to health hazards.

The company is one of many in a footrace to capture some of the $193 billion in federal funding to schools.

Birx is now chief medical and science adviser of ActivePure Technology, a company that counts 50 million customers since its 1924 start as the Electrolux vacuum company and does nearly $500 million annually in sales. Its marketing includes photos of outer space, a nod to a 1990s breakthrough with technology to remove a gas from NASA spaceships. The company’s own studies show that, in its effort to create the “healthiest indoor environments in North America,” it leveraged something less impressive: the disinfecting power of ozone — a molecule considered hazardous and linked … Read the rest

Read More

‘An Arm and a Leg’: In Vaccinating Philadelphia, A Mix of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen.

In Philadelphia, the good, the bad and the ugly have all been on vivid display in the covid vaccine rollout.

The Bad comes with a giant serving of gall: For a while, the city put its mass-vaccination program in the hands of Andrei Doroshin, a 22-year-old with no experience in health care but what, from all reports, seemed a healthy interest in making money. It did not go well. In this episode, we get a deep dive from public-radio reporter Nina Feldman, who uncovered the debacle.

The Ugly is systemic racism: When selecting who would run the mass-vaccination program, the city seems to have largely ignored the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, an effective group of licensed, experienced, Black health care professionals led by Dr. Ala Stanford.

“I think we have to look, not just in Philadelphia, but at the deep rooted … Read the rest

Read More

The Hype Has Faded, but Don’t Count Out Convalescent Plasma in Covid Battle

Six months after it was controversially hailed by Trump administration officials as a “breakthrough” therapy to fight the worst effects of covid-19, convalescent plasma appears to be on the ropes.


This story also ran on NBC News. It can be republished for free.

The treatment that infuses blood plasma from recovered covid patients into people newly infected in hopes of boosting their immune response has not lived up to early hype. Some high-profile clinical trials have shown disappointing results. Demand from hospitals for the antibody-rich plasma has plunged. After a year of large-scale national efforts to recruit recovered covid patients as donors and the collection of more than 500,000 units of covid convalescent plasma, known as CCP, some longtime advocates of the therapy say they’re now pessimistic about its future.

“I fear the CCP train has left the station,” said Dr. Michael Busch, director of the Vitalant Research Institute, one … Read the rest

Read More

Covid-Inspired Montana Health Insurance Proposal Wouldn’t Kick In for 2 Years

[UPDATED at 1 p.m. ET]

For employees of small businesses in Montana suddenly laid off during the covid-19 pandemic, maintaining health insurance coverage could be a struggle.


This story also ran on Fortune. It can be republished for free.

Employers with 20 or more workers offer a bridge insurance program made possible by a federal law known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. The law allows people who have left a job voluntarily or involuntarily to keep their former employer’s health insurance plan for 18 months by paying the premium that the employer used to cover.

But smaller Montana businesses employing fewer than 20 people are not required to offer such a program, potentially leaving people without continuing coverage if they are laid off. Now, a bill before the Montana Legislature would create a “mini-COBRA” law that would require any small business with a group health insurance … Read the rest

Read More

Blue Shield Spent Years Cultivating a Relationship with Newsom. It Got the State Vaccine Contract.

SACRAMENTO — Gavin Newsom was just making a name for himself as mayor of San Francisco in 2005 when Blue Shield of California wrote him its first major check.

USE OUR CONTENT

It can be republished for free.

The young, business-friendly Democrat had exploded onto the national scene the year before by issuing same-sex marriage licenses in San Francisco, and he was pushing his next big idea, called Project Homeless Connect. The initiative would host bazaar-style events in neighborhoods across the city, linking homeless people to services like food assistance and health care.

Newsom needed financial support from businesses, and Blue Shield answered with a $25,000 contribution.

Over the next 16 years, as Newsom’s political career flourished, the health insurance behemoth became one of his most generous and trusted supporters. It contributed nearly $23 million to Newsom’s campaigns and special causes, according to a California Healthline analysis of political and … Read the rest

Read More

Doctors Found Jet Fuel in Veteran’s Lungs. He Can’t Get Full Benefits.

The lungs Bill Thompson was born with told a gruesome, harrowing and unmistakable tale to Dr. Anthony Szema when he analyzed them and found the black spots, scarring, partially combusted jet fuel and metal inside.


This story also ran on The Daily Beast. It can be republished for free.

The retired Army staff sergeant had suffered catastrophic lung damage from breathing incinerated waste burned in massive open-air pits and probably other irritants during his tour of duty in Iraq.

“There’s black spots that are burns, particles all over; there’s metal. It was all scarred,” said Szema, a pulmonologist and professor who studies toxic exposures and examined Thompson’s preserved lung tissue. “There was no gas exchange anywhere in that lung.”

Thompson is still alive, surviving on his second transplanted set of lungs. Yet the story burned into the veteran’s internal organs is not one that has been entirely convincing to the … Read the rest

Read More

Need Amid Plenty: Richest US Counties Are Overwhelmed by Surge in Child Hunger

Alexandra Sierra carried boxes of food to her kitchen counter, where her 7-year-old daughter, Rachell, stirred a pitcher of lemonade.

This story also ran on USA Today and GateHouse Media. It can be republished for free.

“Oh, my God, it smells so good!” Sierra, 39, said of the bounty she’d just picked up at a food pantry, pulling out a ready-made salad and a container of soup.

Sierra unpacked the donated food and planned lunch for Rachell and her siblings, ages 9 and 2, as a reporter watched through FaceTime. She said she doesn’t know what they’d do without the help.

The family lives in Bergen County, New Jersey, a dense grouping of 70 municipalities opposite Manhattan with about 950,000 people whose median household income ranks in the top 1% nationally. But Sierra and her husband, Aramon Morales, never earned a lot of money and are now out of work … Read the rest

Read More