Analysis | Nikki Haley (and her opponents) struggle with a vaccination message

Good afternoon. I’m Darius Tahir, a correspondent for KFF Health News covering health, technology and the state of health information. Send closet organization tips to

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Today’s Edition: Virginia Democrats want to amend the state constitution to protect access to abortion. Donald Trump released a note from his doctor on President Biden’s birthday saying he is in “excellent” health. But first…

Can a politician support vaccination without rejecting vaccination skeptics? Nikki Haley is trying.

Former Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley he presents himself as a voice of reason in the Republican Party. “We’re finding consensus,” he said about abortion during the first GOP primary debate. “We treat this as a matter of respect.”

It is spoken like this – and strong vote in a hypothetical matchup against President Biden – who helped sit Haley down potentially overcome Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the GOP’s “plan B” presidential candidate.

But an examination of his record on vaccination shows how he has also tuned his positions to the views of the Republican base.

Many of the GOP presidential candidates have struggled to refine their message on vaccination, my colleague Daniel Chang and I pointed out, As their voters grow more and more skeptical of shots that most doctors will tell you are vital for public health. Former President Donald Trumpfor example, he tried to simultaneously claim credit for his “Operation Warp Speed” program for speeding up the development of coronavirus vaccines and also bash DeSantis to promote vaccination to Floridians.

Forty percent of Republicans believe parents should be able to opt out of required childhood vaccines – about double the rate in 2019, according to a September survey by KFF. Support for vaccination among Democrats has been stable, in comparison, with 84 percent saying they should be required for public school students.

It’s an especially tricky subject for Haley as she tries to keep her candidacy sensitive to the GOP. His basic message: Covid vaccines are good, but they should not be required.

During the height of the pandemic, Haley praised the Trump administration’s efforts to accelerate vaccine development — and also promoted Microsoft co-founder Bill Gatesand donations for vaccine manufacturing facilities.

But he has since declared his opposition to vaccination mandates, saying in a Interview November 2021 with the Christian Broadcasting Network: “Mandates are not what makes America.” And it encouraged some anti-vaccine themes.

“Did I get it, did my family get it? Yes,” he said in the CBN interview. “But if you ask a woman who wants to get pregnant, and she’s worried about it, or you ask a parent that their child could be compromised, and they’re worried about it, it’s a personal decision of the family.”

The idea that the coronavirus vaccine can interfere with fertility is a common fear fueled by anti-vaccine activists. U Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on his website that there is “no evidence that any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems.”

Early in her political career as a state legislator, Haley co-sponsored a bill mandating HPV vaccinations. – a common sexually transmitted virus, some variants of which can cause cervical and other cancers, and genital warts.

The benefits of HPV vaccination are hard to dispute. A 2020 study trace almost 1.7 million Swedish girls and women over 11 years found almost 90 percent reduced risk of cervical cancer for those who started vaccination before the age of 17, compared to the vaccinated. HPV vaccination can also help protect boys against certain cancers.

But Haley and the rest of the South Carolina legislature faced a lobbying blitz from evangelicals, who feared the vaccine would encourage children to have sex. Support for the cratered bill; Haley kept her name as a co-sponsor, but later voted against the legislation. As governor, Haley vetoed a bill that would have promoted HPV vaccines.

Haley’s primary positioning on vaccines is less extreme than that of some of her rivals; biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamyfor example, he said he regrets getting the covid shot.

But his long history on vaccination issues seems like a premonition today. Megan Weissa faculty member at the Arnold School of Public Health of the University of South Carolinasaid of the state’s fight over the HPV vaccine: “In retrospect, that was the beginning of a bit of the vaccine misinformation movement.”

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues and is one of the core operational programs at KFF – an independent source of health policy research, polling and journalism.

Newly empowered Virginia Democrats are planning a push for abortion rights

Pre-filing for the Virginia General Assembly session in 2024 opened yesterday, and Democrats are trying to flex their new majority proposed an amendment which would have a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” in the state constitution.

The proposal comes after the Democrats campaigned hard for abortion rights in the run-up to the November 7 elections, they are imposing themselves as a bulwark against the Republican government. Glenn Youngkinefforts of enact a 15-week ban with the exception of rape, incest and the life of a pregnant woman.

  • Virginia currently allows abortion up to about 26 weeks of pregnancymaking it a destination for abortion procedures in the South, where they have been largely restricted since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade.

The next steps: Lawmakers will take up the measure when the next legislative session begins in January. Both chambers of the General Assembly must pass the resolution twice, with a House of Delegates election between each vote, before Virginians have a chance to weigh in.

White House prescriptions

Trump’s doctor says he is in “excellent” health.

Former President Donald Trump posted a note from his doctor on social media yesterday saying that his health is “excellent” and that he will “continue to enjoy a healthy active lifestyle for years to come.”

Yes, but: The letter from Trump’s personal doctor Bruce Aronwald it does not include details to support its claims, including basic information such as the former president’s weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

In the memo, Aronwald said he had most recently examined Trump in September, although he did not specify which tests he performed or their results. Instead, Aronwald wrote that “the 77-year-old’s physical exams were well within the normal range and his cognitive exams were exceptional.”

The bigger picture: Trump released the memo on President Biden’s 81st birthday, as the physical and mental health of both men emerged as a key issue for voters in the 2024 presidential race.

While Biden has faced unrelenting scrutiny over his age, Republican candidates seeking to beat Trump in the race have more and more. he grasped at his verbal stumbles to raise questions about his mental acuity on the campaign trail.

Fentanyl ring exposed after overdose death of D.C. mother, federal officials say

A drug overdose that killed a young mother in Washington two years ago led authorities to a cross-country fentanyl ring and the seizure of more than a quarter of a million pills, The Post Peter Hermann write

Federal prosecutors announced charges yesterday against 13 people from the DC and California area, adding to an indictment already filed against 13 other defendants. The charges include being members of a drug conspiracy.

  • The drug largely originated in Mexico and was smuggled into California. From there, they were transported to the District by plane or sent by mail, according to him Matthew M. Graves, the US attorney for DC, who said the pills were “dangerously marked” to resemble legally manufactured oxycodone.

Key context: Mayor of DC Muriel E. Bowser (D) declared a public emergency over the opioid crisis last week, directing city agencies to track overdoses more efficiently and to help outreach teams reach those in need . The opioid overdose deaths recorded by D.C. so far this year are on pace to surpass last year’s record. 461.

Hannah Recht of KFF Health News sends us this dispatch:

A recent study from Epic questa division of the electronic medical records company, found that uninsured emergency room visits rose substantially this summer after states began dropping people from Medicaid rolls.

The researchers, who looked at emergency room records from more than 1,200 hospitals, found that the self-pay rate among patients increased from 6.1 percent in March to 8.5 percent in August – the highest rate observed since the first weeks of the pandemic. The new data supports anecdotal reports that many people dropped from Medicaid ended up without insurance.

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) is in question Pfizer and its supplier Tris Pharma for allegedly providing children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications they knew might be ineffective to the state’s Medicaid insurance program, Brendan Pierson reports for Reutersciting a process unsealed yesterday.
  • In the future, ads for prescription drugs that go on radio and TV will be required to disclose the main side effects and contraindications of the treatment in a “clear, visible and neutral way” under a rule finished from the Food and Drug Administration yesterday
  • The federal office of civil rights of the federal health department has reached an agreement with the St. Joseph Medical Center to resolve claims that the New York-based facility violated federal health privacy rules by sharing the protected information of some covid-19 patients with a reporter.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved Alabama’s request to use federal dollars to provide community-based mobile crisis intervention services.

Behind 94 Acts of Shocking Violence, Years of Blatant Mistakes (By Amy Julia Harris and Jan Ransom | The New York Times)

Respiratory viruses, thrown out of whack by Covid, seem to be returning to seasonal order (By Helen Branswell | Stat)

Four more free Covid tests are available to order from the government (By Katie Mogg | NBC News)

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