What We’re Reading: CDC Recommends Pfizer Vaccine for Younger Children; Drug Price Reform Agreement; Vaccination Status and Death Benefits

The CDC director endorsed a pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years; proposed drug pricing reform will allow Medicare Part D to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies; some employers may not send death benefits to families of employees who die of COVID-19 without being vaccinated.

CDC Director Recommends Pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that children aged 5 to 11 years receive a Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC said in a media statement Tuesday. This decision expanded vaccine access to approximately 28 million US children and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible. Nationwide distribution of pediatric vaccines—which consist of two 10-mcg doses of the Pfizer vaccine—already started this week, with plans to scale up to full capacity starting the week of November 8. Pediatric Pfizer vaccines will be available at thousands of pediatric health care provider offices, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, and other locations. 

Democrats Announce Drug Pricing Agreement

Democrats announced an agreement on drug pricing reform Tuesday, Politico reported. This new proposal allows Medicare Part D to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for the first time, which the drug industry has fought against for nearly 2 decades. This proposal was made after a prior version was passed twice by the House. Although some view this version as “weaker,” progressives in both the House and the Senate are prepared to accept that it is the best agreement they may get in a narrowly divided Congress. The reform would also likely limit drug companies’ price increases to the 2021 inflation rate, which would only apply to individuals on private insurance plans and Medicare starting in 2022. Older adults on Medicare will have a limit of $2000 on what they pay out of pocket for medication.

Some Unvaccinated Employees May Not Receive Death Benefits

More employers are beginning to implement a rule that if an employee dies of COVID-19 and was not vaccinated, their families may not get death benefits they otherwise would have received, Kaiser Health News reported. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) no longer pays a $500,000 death benefit to families of subway, bus, and commuter rail workers who were unvaccinated and died of the virus. The MTA put the rule in place after struggling to improve vaccination rates among about 67,000 workers. In Massachusetts, the New Bedford City Council proposed legislation to extend accidental death benefits to city employees who died of COVID-19, but the mayor did not sign it partially because it did not prohibit payment if the employee was unvaccinated. Due to the wide availability of FDA-approved vaccines, more employers are expected to implement similar rules.