Alaska tribal health groups distribute vaccine far and wide

John Waghiyi remembers rushing his cousin to the clinic in the Bering Sea city of Savoonga in December, worried he was having a possible heart attack while out butchering a bowhead whale. Waghiyi arrived to see elders waiting in the lobby for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Waghiyi, 66, said he joined them and got a shot before returning to the coast to help finish the whale harvest.

Elders, he said, have set the tone in the Alaska Native community of 735 on the coast of isolated St. Lawrence Island. Vaccination rates for eligible residents 16 or older are among the region’s best, with over 80% having had at least one dose, according to the regional tribal health corporation.

“We live for our children. We want to bring that sense of normalcy back in our lives,” he said, adding that protecting the community “needs to be No. 1.”

Alaska’s highest vaccination rates

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ER doctors ‘manage chaos’ amid COVID-19 surge in Michigan

Despite the crowded EDs and long waits, Bob Riney, president of hospital operations for six-hospital Henry Ford Health System, said people should not delay coming to the hospital or clinic for needed care.

“Our emergency rooms have processes to ensure that you are kept safe and to take good care of you,” Riney said. “If you delay care, you will complicate your own medical condition. And you will complicate the resources required from the health care community.”

In the Michigan Thumb, Dr. Mark Hamed, director of emergency and hospital medicine at McKenzie Health System in Sandusky, said multiple facilities are seeing an increase of patients with COVID-19 symptoms. McKenzie has medical centers in Port Sanilac, Croswell, Peck and Sandusky.

At eight-hospital Beaumont Health, Susan Grant, the system’s chief nursing officer, said “hundreds and hundreds of (patients are) coming through our emergency rooms and being admitted to our hospitals and our

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Hospitals face specialty pharmacy challenges with insurer competition

Health systems are increasingly opening their in-house specialty pharmacies to drive better patient outcomes and bolster potential revenue, but they face stiff competition from payers who also see the same opportunity and have the power to keep their members’ costly and complex drugs within subsidiaries and affiliates.

That’s the case at the University of Illinois Health Sciences System, where Matthew Rim works in a team of three pharmacists to run their in-house operation, managing complex and very expensive drugs for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and Hepatitis C. He said they end up only being able to fill the prescriptions of about half of their patients on specialty drug treatments.

“We are actually losing patients to those vertically-integrated payers, or PBM-owned specialty pharmacies, because we are not able to get contracted with them, and there are restrictions that we have to transfer care to whatever pharmacy is owned by them,”

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Biden admin throws out Texas Medicaid waiver

The Biden administration on Friday unwound a 10-year extension of Texas’ Medicaid waiver, arguing that the Trump administration should not have approved its more than $100 billion request without going through the usual notice and comment period.

Texas asked CMS to fast-track an extension of its Medicaid waiver, which mostly covers uncompensated care costs, in November. At the time, the state said it needed an exemption from the usual public comment period to ensure financial stability for providers and the state’s Medicaid program during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

But CMS Acting Administrator Elizabeth Richter said Texas’ request didn’t meet the standard for emergency approval because it had already been approved through Sept. 2022, making an early extension unnecessary. Several leading healthcare organizations, advocacy groups and think tanks made a similar argument shortly after the Trump administration approved the extension in January.

“The erroneous initial determination to approve an

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Barbers, artists help defy vaccine myths for people of color

In a Washington, D.C., suburb, Black and Latino barbers are busting myths about the coronavirus vaccine while clipping hair.

Across the country, a university researcher in Phoenix teamed up with a company behind comic books fighting Islamic extremism to produce dance-inducing animated stories in Spanish that aim to smash conspiracy theories hindering Latinos from getting inoculated.

And in San Diego, former refugees, Latinos and Black activists initially hired by health officials as contact tracers are calling back the people they reached about COVID-19 exposure to talk about the shots.

A new wave of public health advocacy that is multilingual, culturally sensitive, entertaining and personal is rapidly replacing mundane public service announcements on TV, radio and online in the battle to stamp out vaccine disinformation circulating in communities of color and get more people vaccinated.

“With the way disinformation is spreading over social media, a stale piece with information to counter

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Michigan expands antibody treatment to cut hospitalizations

Michigan will expand its use of a COVID-19 treatment in the hopes of substantially reducing its rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, state officials announced Wednesday amid their efforts to bring down the nation’s highest infection rate.

Additional doses of monoclonal antibodies will be given to hospitals and other providers, which will be asked to expand the number of sites where patients can get infusions from the more than 70 that are operating in 37 of Michigan’s 83 counties.

The drugs, delivered intravenously and made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lily, have concentrated doses of lab-made antibodies to fight COVID-19 and are geared toward people who are at high risk for severe symptoms or having to be hospitalized.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the treatment could save lives, adding that it “very likely” helped then-President Donald Trump when he was infected last fall. People who qualify — an estimated 30% of

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