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New White House incentives plan aims to address Covid-19 vaccine access

The White House has unveiled a new "month of action" vaccination plan, with a list incentives, to reach a goal of 70% of people receiving at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose by July 4. The current figure stands at 63%. As part of the plan, chain child care centers such as Bright Horizons will offer free care to those parents who drop their kids off in order to get a vaccine. Black-owned barbershops and salons will also host educational campaigns and vaccination drives in an effort to raise immunization rates in vulnerable communities. And the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft will continue to offer free rides to and from vaccination sites for the next month.

Indiana county votes to close syringe exchange that helped contain massive HIV outbreak

Commissioners in Scott County, Ind., voted 2-1 last night in front of a packed meeting room to shut down the syringe exchange program widely credited for helping contain a devastating 2015 HIV outbreak. The decision could set off a broader wave of closures across the U.S., including in West Virginia, which is experiencing a worst-in-the-nation HIV outbreak. The Indiana county drew national attention six years ago for recording 235 HIV cases in a single year, largely driven by injection drug use. Those in support of the exchange, which is set to close by Jan. 1, 2022, worry that HIV and hepatitis C rates may now worsen. Neighbors and local lawmakers claimed the syringe exchange drove up drug use and hazardous litter.

NFL pledges to stop using racist practice for deciding brain injury claims from Black players

The NFL yesterday vowed to stop use "race-norming" when it comes to paying Black athletes out of the $1 billion agency fund for those who developed brain damage. Per that practice, the NFL assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive functioning compared to white and other non-white players, which in turn made it harder for Black athletes to prove that they had incurred damage during the course of their professional careers and therefore qualified for a payout. The NFL's announcement comes after significant backlash, including 50,000 petitions dropped off at a federal courthouse in Philadelphia by a group of NFL families after a judge threw out a lawsuit brought by two Black players. 

Inside STAT: Researchers remove race from a calculator for childbirth

Doctors deliver a baby girl by C-section on board the USNS Comfort, a U.S. naval hospital ship, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (BRENDAN HOFFMAN/GETTY IMAGES)

Among the many medical tools getting a crucial reexamination for their overreliance on race — a social construct — to predict biological outcomes is the vaginal birth after C-section, or VBAC, calculator. The tool, in use since 2007, is designed to determine the likelihood of having a successful VBAC. The calculator asks two yes-or-no questions — whether one is African American or Hispanic — and an affirmative response to either can lower a person's score. But a newly validated version of the VBAC calculator does away with these questions, making this kind of care more equitable while potentially increasing the chances for Black and Hispanic women to deliver vaginally safely. STAT's Katie Palmer has more here

Majority of U.S. adults support Medicare negotiations for lower brand name drug prices

A new poll from the nonprofit West Health and Gallup finds a majority of people in the U.S. support the federal government negotiating lower prices for brand-name drugs under Medicare. More than 80% of the roughly 3,700 people surveyed thought the government needs to play a major role in helping keeping Medicare prescription costs down, including nearly all Democrats and 61% of Republicans included in the survey. On the flip side, only about 1 in 5 of all those surveyed agreed with the oft-touted sentiment that government intervention for lower drug prices would hamper medical and pharmaceutical innovation. Majorities also support the need for some reform in drug pricing, including limits on out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions and health care in general.

Those allergic to seafood shouldn't eat cicadas, the FDA warns

The 17-year, or Brood X cicadas, have burst onto the scene in many parts of the eastern U.S., including some food menus, but the FDA is warning that those with a seafood allergy shouldn't be so adventuresome as to try one of the winged creatures. "Don't eat cicadas if you're allergic to seafood as these insects share a family relation to shrimp and lobsters," the agency tweeted yesterday. Some people have reported that cicadas do, in fact, taste like their shellfish relatives. Shellfish have historically been among the eight major food allergens that account for 90% of food allergies and severe reactions in the U.S., according to the FDA. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 16,913
Deaths yesterday: 610

What to read around the web today

  • The parents hoped an existing drug might keep their kids from having seizures. Then they saw the price. STAT+
  • The disease detective. The New York Times
  • Sackler family empire poised to win immunity from opioid lawsuits. NPR
  • Science chief wants next pandemic vaccine ready in 100 days. Associated Press
  • Industry payments to doctors are associated with increased prescribing of long-acting insulin. STAT+
  • How apps and VR therapy can help OCD patients. Wired

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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