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KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Good and Not-So-Good News on Covid



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There’s good news and bad news on covid-19 this week. On the one hand, several million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine authorized by the FDA for emergency use are already going into the arms of people around the nation. And the Biden administration has brokered a deal with rival manufacturer Merck to produce even more doses of the J&J vaccine, which can be transported and administered more easily than the covid vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.


But at the same time, the covid-19 caseload is starting to rise again, and public health experts worry that boost could be accelerated by the spread of more transmissible virus variants that might not be covered by the available vaccines. Nevertheless, Republican governors in several states, including Texas, are rolling back some public health precautions, including mask mandates, over the objections of federal health officials.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Mary Ellen McIntire of CQ Roll Call, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Jordan Rau, who wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature — about an international college student whose mental health crisis was not helped by an unexpected hospital bill. If you have an outrageous medical bill you’d like to share with us, you can do that here.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:


Julie Rovner: Reveal/KHN’s “Into the COVID ICU,” by Jenny Gold

Joanne Kenen: Politico’s “A Complicating Factor in Combating Covid Hot Spots: Heat,” by Victoria Colliver and Nolan D. McCaskill

Mary Ellen McIntire: Stat’s “The Trump Administration Quietly Spent Billions in Hospital Funds on Operation Warp Speed,” by Rachel Cohrs

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Atlantic’s “5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Repeating,” by Zeynep Tufekci

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlaySpotify, or Pocket Casts.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.



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