Good Day BIO: USDA nominees and advancing immunization

July 29, 2021
There’s a lot happening on the Hill today, including BIO’s Dr. Cartier Esham testifying on advancing treatments and cures for neurodegenerative diseases, and Senate Ag considering key USDA nominees. Ahead of National Immunization Awareness Month, we also recap a…
BIO

There’s a lot happening on the Hill today, including BIO’s Dr. Cartier Esham testifying on advancing treatments and cures for neurodegenerative diseases, and Senate Ag considering key USDA nominees. Ahead of National Immunization Awareness Month, we also recap a conversation yesterday about how we can advance vaccinations. (893 words, 4 minutes, 27 seconds)

 

Senate Ag Committee to consider key nominees

 
 

The full committee will meet at 10 AM today to consider two key U.S. Department of Agriculture nominees who would work on farm production and conservation, and rural development—key priorities for BIO.

Nominee for Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation: Robert F. Bonnie. Currently deputy chief of staff and senior climate advisor at USDA, Bonnie is an expert on conservation and environmental issues.

Previously, he served as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment under President Obama, where he oversaw the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service. He’s also worked at the Environmental Defense Fund—and grew up on a farm in Kentucky. 

Nominee for Under Secretary for Rural Development: Former U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico. The first woman and first person of color to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District (2019-2021), she’s the daughter of migrant farm workers and worked as a field organizer in the state, focusing on rural broadband disparities.

“Her expertise will further USDA’s mission to advance equity and opportunity in and for rural America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Read: What USDA’s doing about racial justice and equity

 
 
 
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How can we get more people vaccinated?

 
 

Through local outreach to underserved communities and increasing vaccine education and patient literacy, said experts yesterday during BIO’s Patient Advocacy event.

“Nationwide, the four-week COVID case count has more than doubled as of Monday from the previous four weeks,” reports NBC News. While cases are rising everywhere, the “steepest increases” have been in states with rates of full vaccinations below the U.S. average of 49.2%.

With the school year just around the corner, advancing vaccination for COVID-19 and other illnesses is critical, agreed experts who spoke to patient advocates ahead of National Immunization Awareness Month.

For starters, more time must be taken to explain complex medical concepts to patients in order to build trust in the vaccines, said Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, Founder and CEO of Grapevine Health.

Watch: Dr. Lisa talks to people on the street about COVID vaccines and clinical trials 

“There are historical reasons for mistrust” of the health care system by Black and Latinx communities in particular, she said—and even today, patients continue to be mistreated due to their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. 

Leading by example is key. Dr. Fitzpatrick participated in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine because members of underserved communities told her they would take the vaccine if they saw other people in their community take it. 

COVID-19 lockdowns also caused a decline in routine immunizations, found a recent CDC studyleaving us potentially vulnerable to diseases like mumps, measles, and pertussis as things open up and kids go back to school.

Nurses have an important role to play here—particularly school nurses ahead of the school year, said Piper Largent, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of School Nurses. With nursing ranked among the most trusted professions, nurses can help increase immunization among all communities they serve, added Dr. Jessica Peck, President of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

The bottom line: collaboration is critical. For immunization to increase and succeed, we need a team effort, including doctors, nurses, and community organizers. 

BIO has been working with physicians to increase vaccine acceptance and promote scientific solutions to specific communities, including rural communities where vaccination rates are among the lowest, and communities of color where mistrust has historically been high.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. BIO remains focused on addressing vaccine hesitancy, and providing resources about COVID vaccination and the importance of the return to routine care. For more information, visit www.COVIDVaccineFacts.org or the organizations represented by the experts mentioned above.  

 

More Health Care News:

AP: FDA allows automatic ‘generic’ swap for brand-name insulin
“It’s the FDA’s first approval of an ‘interchangeable’ biosimilar, a near-copy of an injected biologic medicine that’s manufactured inside living cells.” 

Reuters: U.S. to ship 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Nigeria, 5.66 million to South Africa
“The U.S. government on Wednesday will ship nearly 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to two of the most populous African countries.”

 
 
 
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President Biden’s Thursday: Signing S. 957, the Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription Opioids Act, and S. 1910, the Major Medical Facility Authorization Act of 2021, to authorize the building of several VA facilities. At 4 PM ET, he’ll deliver remarks on COVID-19, where he’s expected to announce that “all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, masking requirements, and restrictions on most travel,” per The New York Times

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: At 10 AM ET, Dr. Cartier Esham, BIO’s EVP for Emerging Companies and SVP of Science and Regulatory Affairs, will testify before a House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on advancing treatments and cures for neurodegenerative diseases; we’ll have a recap tomorrow. Senate Judiciary will markup four bills related to prescription drugs. Other hearings of note include House Agriculture on agriculture’s role in protecting domestic food supply chains, and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on financing climate solutions and job creation.

 
 
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