What We’re Reading: HHS Mental Health Council; Fall in Cervical Cancer Rates; More Emergent Vaccine Doses Held Up

HHS announces new mental health initiative; cervical cancer rates decline; 100 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses held up.

HHS to Launch Mental Health Council

HHS announced it is launching a council to address mental health and substance use issues that have increased throughout the pandemic, Medpage Today reports. The department will also give $3 billion in block grants to help fund state and local government behavioral health efforts. The Behavioral Health Coordinating Council will facilitate action-oriented approaches to addressing the country’s behavioral health needs, according to Rachel Levine, MD, the Assistant Secretary for Health. The council will include senior leadership across HHS divisions. Between September 2019 and September 2020, more than 90,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in the United States, an increase of around 20,000 compared with the same period a year prior.

Cervical Cancer Rates Fall, but Other HPV-Related Cancers Increase

Over the last 2 decades in the United States rates, of cervical cancers have fallen due largely to screening and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the Associated Press reports. However, new study results also indicate the gains are offset by a rise in other tumors caused by HPV. By 2025, anal cancer and a rare type of rectal cancer caused by the virus may become more common than cervical cancers among older women. For men, oral sex has helped fueled more cases of mouth and throat cancers. HPV is the most common sexually spread infection in the United States; most infections cause no symptoms and go away without treatment. Some infections do develop into cancers, accounting for about 35,900 cases each year.

100 Million J&J Vaccines Could Be Contaminated

Emergent BioSolutions has revealed that 100 million Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine doses are being help up over contamination concerns, The New York Times reports. The plant previously announced that a batch of 15 million J&J vaccines had been ruined in April. The chief executive of the company revealed the scope of the potential contamination in testimony before a House subcommittee. The plant, located in Baltimore, Maryland, housed unsanitary conditions including mold and peeling paint. Following the April revelations, operations were halted, but the company plans to resume production in a matter of days. All J&J doses administered in the United States were produced overseas.