What We’re Reading: UK Variant Potentially Deadlier; Partisan Gap in Vaccine Hesitancy; Efforts to Curb Rising Drug Prices

February 15, 2021
AJMC Staff

British scientists report research linking a UK coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) variant with higher risk of hospitalization and death; polls highlight the partisan gap among Americans willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19; state legislators nationwide are targeting legislation to curb rising drug prices.

UK Virus Variant Potentially More Lethal

Reported by The New York Times, an increasing amount of research conducted by scientists in the United Kingdom indicates that the variant first detected in Britain of the virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is linked with a higher risk of hospitalization and death than other known variants of the virus. The novel variant, B.1.1.7, is known to be more contagious, but scientists last month cautioned that there was a possibility that the variant could be more lethal. So far, the variant has spread to at least 82 countries and is noted to be transmitted 35% to 45% more easily than other variants in the United States.

Vaccine Hesitancy Rates Split Across Partisan Lines

Although more Americans are becoming increasingly open to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, polls highlight differences in rates of vaccine hesitancy based on political affiliation, with a poll conducted by Gallup finding that 91% of Democrats would agree to be vaccinated if given the opportunity, compared with 51% of Republicans. Reported by CNN, the partisan gap was cited to have significantly widened after the presidential election in the Gallup polls and polling conducted by Axios/Ipsos. The Axios/Ipsos polls similarly exhibited greater rates of Democrats (74%) who stated they had been vaccinated or were very likely to get vaccinated when possible, compared with Republicans (51%) and independents (61%).

State Lawmakers Targeting New Legislation to Address Rising Drug Prices

Reported by Kaiser Health News, state legislators nationwide are noted to be pushing bills to penalize drugmakers implementing unwarranted price increases for prescription drugs and to cap payment at much lower levels similar to Canada. Sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans in a half-dozen states, the bills are a response to increasing consumer demand for action on drug prices. Notably, a survey by POLITICO and Harvard University finds that 87% of Americans favor federal action to lower drug prices, making it the public’s second-highest policy priority behind a major relief bill to address the COVID-19 pandemic.