New, more infectious coronavirus mutations are spreading across Florida, and some who will seek new vaccines to protect against the latest virus versions will soon have to start paying.
The federal government has said that by the end of the year it will run out of money to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, meaning they will no longer be free to all recipients starting in January.
The latest shots from Moderna and Pfizer, approved by the federal government in late August, are better designed to combat the ramifications of the omicron variant of the virus. The original omicron and its subvariants have accounted for virtually all COVID infections this year so far.
These vaccines target the BA.5 omicron subvariant. Although BA.5 has declined over the summer, it looks like the latest crop of viral mutations, potentially giving recipients the latest vaccines stronger immunity compared to those who received the original vaccines, which were designed for the original coronavirus first discovered in Wuhan, China.
The United States has purchased 171 million doses of the latest vaccines. More than 19.4 million people have received these reminders. Once supplies run out, many vaccine applicants will have to pay to get vaccinated.
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Several omicron subvariants outranking BA.5 as the dominant strain
The offshoots of BA.5 – BF.7, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 – have been gaining ground in Florida since August, when they were first detected in a COVID test collected by the global GISAID initiative , a group dedicated to rapid sharing of COVID data.
And in Singapore, another omicron subvariant, XBB, has caused the Asian city-state’s COVID case count to double since Oct. 1. This mutation has been found in 45 tests across the United States, but none yet in Florida.
The number of cases is still falling while the viruses increase a little in sewage
Meanwhile, the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations in Florida continue to decline, as viral levels rise slightly in sewage in parts of the state, according to new data released Friday.
The number of COVID cases in the state has increased by an average of 10,028 cases each week since the last bi-weekly report from the state health department on Oct. 7. This is the lowest since April 8. More than 7.1 million people across the state have been infected with the disease.
Hospitals statewide tended to have 1,152 COVID-positive patients on Friday, the fewest since May 9. The number of COVID deaths in Florida has increased by an average of 258 people each week since October 7, the lowest since June 17.
More than 16 million Florida residents have received at least one injection of COVID vaccines, including more than 6 million with boosters. Those numbers have barely changed since the summer.
Still, vaccine immunity waned. Previous studies have shown that the protection begins to wear off after several months. Yet even as these infectious mutations spread, Congress has failed to provide money to cover the costs of COVID vaccines, as requested by the Biden administration.
The Senate killed $10 billion in COVID money
In April, US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida joined his 49 Republican colleagues in the Senate to block a bill that would have allocated $10 billion to the federal government to continue buying COVID vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, covering expenses. personal. costs for firing applicants.
Senate Republicans blocked the effort that would have kept vaccines free after Democrats failed to include a provision that would have prevented President Biden from ending a Trump-era pre-vaccination restriction that allows vaccines. US border authorities to deport immigrants quickly to prevent the spread of respiratory disease.
Rubio’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 8 election, Val Demings, voted for the measure in the House. Florida’s other Republican senator, Rick Scott, is not running for re-election this year.
If federal vaccine funding ends in January, alongside the federal government’s declaration of a COVID public health emergency, millions of Americans could find themselves having to pay for previously free vaccines.
“Uninsured people won’t really have a mechanism to get vaccinated,” said Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health care policy.
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Americans in Medicare, Medicaid would still get free injections
The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 8% of Americans do not have health insurance.
The vaccine would still be free for Americans enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, according to the foundation, as would some uninsured children under the CDC’s Vaccine for Children program.
But some people with private insurance should pay. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most private insurance plans must cover vaccines approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, Kates points out, private insurance premiums could rise due to a hiatus in federal funding and the end of the emergency declaration.
The federal government negotiated with Pfizer last summer to buy its vaccines for more than $30 a dose. But once that money runs out and the government withdraws as the sole customer for vaccines in America, Pfizer plans to sell the vaccines for between $110 and $130 per injection.
“Paying for something that will have potential benefits in the future is a tough sell,” Kates said of the political resistance to expanding federal spending on COVID vaccines.
Governor Ron DeSantis has spoken ill of COVID vaccines for nearly a year while his state surgeon general has advised large swaths of Florida’s population not to receive the scientifically proven vaccines.
“The Florida Surgeon General doesn’t recommend it for young people under 18, and basically his reason for that is that there really hasn’t been a proven benefit for it,” DeSantis said Thursday during a press conference.
Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo has recommended against vaccinating children and men under 40. Medical experts have pointed out that the analysis he cited for his advice does not support his conclusion that the injections cause fatal heart problems in men between the ages of 18 and 39.
Chris Persaud is the Palm Beach Post’s data reporter. Email him at email@example.com.
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