What We’re Reading: New Medicare Director Announced; 67% of US Adults Partially Vaccinated; Menthol Cigarettes Harder to Quit

Meena Seshamani, MD, PhD, is named deputy administrator and director of Center for Medicare; United States falls short of President Joe Biden’s Independence Day vaccination goal, with large variation between state vaccination rates; study finds those who smoke menthol cigarettes have more trouble quitting than those who smoke unflavored cigarettes.

Seshamani Named Medicare Director

CMS has announced Meena Seshamani, MD, PhD, as deputy administrator and director of Center for Medicare. Most recently, Seshamani served as vice president of clinical care transformation at MedStar Health, where she created and implemented population health and value-based care initiatives. Her experience also includes assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, director of the Office of Health Reform at HHS, and lead of the Biden-Harris Transition HHS Agency Review Team. CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, MPP, noted, “I am delighted to say Dr. Seshamani will bring her unique perspective on how health policy impacts the real lives of patients to her leadership role as Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare.”

United States Does Not Reach President Biden’s Vaccination Goal

President Joe Biden’s goal to have 70% of US adults partially vaccinated by July 4 was not met, according to Kaiser Health News. Just 67% of adults received their first shot of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or their single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine by July 4. There is clear variation between states, with more than 82% of Massachusetts adults receiving at least 1 dose by the holiday weekend vs 52% of adults in Tennessee. Because of these numbers, Massachusetts is planning to close its high-volume vaccine clinics and shift its focus to groups with low vaccination rates. However, Tennessee and other Southern states are seeing a slower vaccination rate, and health officials are concerned as the Delta variant spreads in the United States.

Menthol Cigarette Smokers Have Harder Time Quitting, Study Finds

A study published in Tobacco Control discovered that smoking menthol vs unflavored cigarettes most days is linked to reduced success in quitting. Researchers found that use of menthol cigarettes decreased the chance of a smoker being able to abstain from smoking for more than 1 month by 28% and more than 1 year by 53% compared with those who did not smoke menthol cigarettes. Stat News reports that “the FDA has moved to ban almost all flavored cigarettes and cigars, but menthol has remained the lone holdout.” The FDA also proposed to ban menthol cigarettes in April, and these new findings may support that step.