What We’re Reading: Decrease in Childhood Vaccinations; Threat to PrEP Access; J&J Vaccine Expiration Date Extended

The pandemic led to decreased rates of routine childhood vaccinations; changes could inhibit use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); officials extend the shelf-life of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine.

Low Rates of Childhood Vaccinations Could Lead to Disease Uptick

The CDC’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report details the impact of COVID-19 on reducing rates of routine childhood immunizations. Researchers compiled data from 10 jurisdictions between March and May 2020 and compared rates with the same time periods in 2018 and 2019. They found substantial declines present during these months in 2020, and although administrations increased from June through September of 2020, this uptick was not sufficient to achieve catch-up coverage. Based on the findings, the researchers urged health care providers to assess the vaccination status of all pediatric patients to help prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Reimbursement Change May Affect PrEP Access

A change to Gilead’s Advancing Access Patient Assistance/Medication Assistance Program may lead to struggles for patients to stay on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that prevents HIV transmission, Kaiser Health News reports. The assistance program previously allowed providers to offer free PrEP to patients, as Gilead manufactured 2 such treatments. However, in April the company announced it will change how much it reimburses through the program, meaning pharmacies that contract with certain safety-net clinics will receive less reimbursement cash to pass along to clinics. For one clinic, Prism Health in Texas, the change means it may lose between $2 and $3 million annually.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Expiration Extended

US regulators extended the expiration date for the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine by 6 weeks, preventing millions of already-manufactured doses from being wasted, according to The Associated Press. Specifically, the FDA review concluded the doses will remain safe and effective for at least 4.5 months compared with the vaccine’s original 3-month shelf life when stored at normal refrigeration levels. The news comes as the United States temporarily suspended J&J vaccine shipments as states face a surplus of expiring doses, The Wall Street Journal reports. However, the pause is expected to be temporary.

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