What We’re Reading: NIH Director to Step Down; Biden Lifts Abortion Referral Ban; 6-Month Efficacy of Pfizer Vaccine

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, will step down as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the end of the year; the Biden administration ends a ban on federal funds for clinics that provide abortion referrals; the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective in preventing hospitalization and death 6 months after the second dose.

NIH Director Francis Collins to Step Down

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, announced he will step down as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the end of this year, after having served 3 US presidents for more than 12 years. Collins, the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director, first took office on August 17, 2009, under the Obama administration; he previously served as the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 to 2008. During his tenure, several initiatives were proposed and implemented to address growing health issues, including in Alzheimer disease, cancer, and opioid use disorder.

Biden Admin Ends Abortion Referral Ban for Federally Funded Clinics

As reported by The New York Times, the Biden administration yesterday reversed a policy established under the Trump administration that barred clinics that provide abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds. Starting November 8, the new regulation will restore the Title X federal family planning program to how it was constructed under the Obama administration, and clinics can again refer women seeking abortions to a provider without risking the loss of this funding. Groups representing the affected clinics said the new policy will lead to the return of approximately 1300 local facilities that had left the funding program in protest of the policies made under Trump.

Pfizer Vaccine 90% Effective Against Hospitalization, Death After 6 Months

According to research published yesterday in The Lancet by investigators from Pfizer and the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health system, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was shown to remain 90% effective in protecting against hospitalization and death from the virus and its variants up to 6 months after the second dose. As reported by The Washington Post, the study of more than 3.4 million people also showed that the vaccine’s efficacy against preventing infection waned over time, from 88% to 47% in the 6 months after the second dose.