NCL stands behind CDC COVID-19 booster recommendations

September 29, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the coordinated efforts of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to approve the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster. As the Delta variant continues to cause more breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals, it is clear that we need to ensure the protection of our most vulnerable populations.

On September 24, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky went beyond the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) and made the call to recommend the single-dose booster to frontline workers in addition to those groups recommended by ACIP. Walensky’s recommendations are in line with those of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biologic Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), which voted to approve the EUA of the booster shot for individuals older than 65 years of age, individuals at high risk for severe disease, and those with institutional or occupational exposure to COVID-19.

“NCL has long advocated for increased access to the vaccine for frontline, essential workers and equitable distribution of the vaccine to populations hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Jeanette Contreras, NCL Director of Health Policy. “The single-dose booster shot is a necessary measure to ensure the safety of those most at risk, and to further mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.” The essential workers who received their Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines early in the pandemic are next in line for the booster shot, recommended at least six months after completion of the primary two-dose series.

“Consumers who were vaccinated with the Moderna or Janssen COVID-19 vaccine are on the edge of their seats,” said Contreras. “In some cases, consumers may want to get a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot even if they’ve had one of the other vaccines. We want consumers to know that there is still not enough data for the FDA to approve mixing the vaccines.” The Administration has signaled that while recommendations for ‘mixing and matching’ vaccines will come later in October, they are working closely with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to get their booster shots approved in the coming days.

Consumers who completed the primary series of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, branded as Comirnaty, now have ready access to the booster shot. Consumers must demonstrate they had their second dose of the vaccine at least 6 months ago and attest to being in the approved high-risk population groups. NCL stands behind the recommendations of the CDC and will continue to ensure that consumers have access to life-saving vaccines.

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League applauds decision to ban vaccine misinformation from YouTube

September 29, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today applauded YouTube and its parent company Alphabet for their decision to ban anti-vaccine misinformation from the platform. NCL has been a leading voice in promoting vaccine confidence and pushing online platforms to do more to counter misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, which has contributed to far too many preventable deaths.

The accounts being removed are known anti-vaccine organizations. Robert F. Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense Fund, one of the most high-profile anti-vaccine organizations in America, was responsible for more than half of the paid advertisements on Facebook in years past. Joseph Mercola, founder of Mercola.com Health Resources, authored an article falsely stating that COVID-19 vaccines released via emergency authorization may cause massive side effects. Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, spearheaded by physician, Sherri Tenpenny, promotes alternative health in lieu of vaccines and authored the book, “Say No to Vaccines: A Resource Guide for All Ages.”

The following statement is attributable to NCL Director of Health Policy: Jeanette Contreras:

“Vaccine hesitancy driven by rampant misinformation online is costing lives every day and prolonging a pandemic that has devastated consumers financially as well as physically. YouTube’s decision to ban anti-vaccine misinformation, while overdue, is nonetheless an important step forward in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL applauds full approval of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

August 24, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for granting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine full licensure approval. The FDA’s gold standard approval is a testament to the remarkable safety and efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Though the vaccine will now be marketed under the name Comirnaty, it will remain free to U.S. residents.

Today’s announcement is a historic victory for science, and a signal that the Moderna vaccine will also receive full licensure approval in the coming weeks. NCL has long-advocated for access to vaccines as life-saving interventions. It is our hope that this news will instill more vaccine confidence in the nation and persuade the vaccine hesitant to get vaccinated.

While the vaccine has been approved for people 16 years of age and older, it remains available under Emergency Use Authorization for children ages 12 to 15. Parents of adolescents can share a collective sigh of relief as they send their kids to school this fall. Already, 45 percent of children ages 12-15 have had at least one dose of the vaccine, but only 32 percent are fully vaccinated. Full approval may help to ease concerns that hesitant parents have about the safety of the vaccine.

The approval of the vaccine will allow more employers to implement vaccine mandates in states where the state legislature has banned these measures. Advocating for workers as well as consumers, NCL supports vaccine mandates that provide paid sick leave, financial incentives, and exemptions for verifiable religious or medical reasons.

Over 200 million Americans have received at least one-dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but we are far from reaching herd immunity.  Only 51.5 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated. The Delta variant now accounts for over 137,000 new cases on average each week and is spreading faster than earlier strains of COVID-19. The only way to end this pandemic and prevent the emergence of further variants is to increase vaccinations. NCL remains committed to increasing vaccine confidence and uptake. We are hopeful today marks a turning point in our fight to end this pandemic.

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL supports employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates

August 18, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—As the nation’s pioneering organization advocating on behalf of consumers and workers, the National Consumers League (NCL) supports government and employer mandates requiring vaccination. NCL has long championed vaccine education and access to these lifesaving medical interventions. In recent weeks, it has become evident that employer mandates are effective at nudging reluctant people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As the virus continues to spread and mutate around the globe, we remain concerned for the safety of essential workers, the immunocompromised, and children that are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Fifty-seven of America’s health care organizations share our concerns, releasing a joint statement calling on all health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with California being the first state to implement this mandate. President Joe Biden followed with an announcement that federal workers and contractors will need to show proof of vaccination or be subject to weekly or twice-weekly COVID-19 tests. Governors led the way in California, Virginia, and New York requiring state employees to be vaccinated or adhere to similar testing protocols. Private employers can play a key role in increasing vaccinations, providing incentives to employees who get the shot.

NCL believes that all vaccine mandates should be implemented with the consideration that workers will need to receive paid leave to get the vaccine and to potentially recover from side effects resulting from vaccination. The American Rescue Plan Act makes tax credits available to employers to cover the cost of providing paid leave to employees to receive and recover from COVID-19 vaccinations. These tax credits can also be utilized to support employees as they take time off to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. Incentives like hourly bonuses and paid time off rewards are extremely important to hourly workers.

Additionally, mandates should be developed in consultation with labor unions who represent workers. The American Teachers Federation and the AFL-CIO are two labor unions that have publicly stated they are supportive of vaccine requirements for workers. The SEIU 2015, California’s largest caregiver union, released a set of principles to aid employers with implementing mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, encouraging them to make the vaccine accessible either at work or near the workplace.

Companies can legally mandate that all employees re-entering the workplace and new hires be vaccinated for COVID-19, providing exemptions pertaining to religion or disability. Politically motivated laws prohibiting mandates for vaccines only make it harder for public health officials to quell the pandemic, ultimately hurting consumers. Seven states have passed laws prohibiting mandates for vaccines under an emergency use authorization. However, since these bans hinge on FDA licensure approval of the vaccines, they will be nullified once a vaccine is granted full approval.

More than 198 million Americans have safely received the COVID-19 vaccine. Given the remarkable evidence of safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, consumers should rest assured that vaccines are effective measures to protect public health and vital to national efforts in ending the pandemic. Through our education and outreach efforts, NCL will continue to support efforts to vaccinate the nation.

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

April Verrett, President of Service Employees International Union Local 2015

Earlier this year, I rolled up my sleeve…

SEIU President April VerrettBy Guest Blogger April Verrett, President of SEIU 2015

…for my COVID shot. I was tired of feeling like the virus was winning. I was sick and tired of feeling at the mercy of the whims of this unrelenting, mutating disease. I was angry that this pandemic was beating the hell out of us. So despite any fears and reservations I had about a new vaccine, I was ready to fight. And I wanted to lead by example and show that the vaccine was safe, effective, and the best way to fight against COVID-19.

That shot was more than just a way to protect myself. Like so many have noted, wearing masks and getting vaccinated are comparable to the solidarity and community spirit our grandparents and great grandparents displayed during WWII, where the nation united and everyone did their part. That’s why our Union members referenced the iconic WWII “Rosie the Riveter” image when they launched their “We Can Do It!” vaccination campaign earlier this year. Our Union helped tens of thousands of our long-term care providers, their families, and their vulnerable clients access vaccinations across the state.In the style of the famous Rosie the Riveter poster, a person is pictured wearing mask, flexing arm, and showing vaccination bandage, saying We Can Do It

I was so relieved months earlier when the vaccine became available to essential workers in California. The more than 400,000 long-term care providers I represent every day—primarily women of color—were among the first in line. Often, their communities were the hardest hit by the pandemic. Black and brown neighborhoods throughout the state consistently suffered the highest illness and death rates.

COVID took deadly aim at our members and their elderly, sick and disabled clients. They lost many of the fragile people they cared for while they themselves struggled on the terrifying font lines of the war against COVID, often without the PPE to protect themselves. These caregivers suffer lingering trauma from seeing the ravages up close in nursing homes and private homes up and down the state. Like my sister Christine, a nurse assistant at a nursing home in Bakersfield, where they lost 19 of their patients and more than a hundred of her colleagues fell ill with COVID. It breaks my heart that this is not a unique example. I heard story after story like Christine’s.

There’s one thing that slowed this devastation and protected our members and the vulnerable people they care for: vaccination. Our members see firsthand that it’s the best weapon available to rein in this pandemic, protect against infection and hopefully slow the development of dangerous variants. It’s simple: where vaccination rates are higher, rates of infection, hospitalization and death are lower. Counties across the nation again experiencing at-capacity hospitals are, sadly, the counties that have resisted the vaccine.

I’ve never seen as much misinformation thrown at our members and our communities as I’ve seen around COVID vaccines. So, we recently started a follow-up ‘We Can Do It!’ effort to dispel the dangerous—life-threatening, really—myths about vaccination.

This summer, as employers and local and state governments began to look at ways to urge more vaccination, SEIU 2015 member leaders formed a working group to ensure that Union members would have a voice in any policy, including vaccine mandates. This group developed a set of principles to guide employers and partners in our state’s continued vaccine rollout, such as making sure the vaccine is readily available and accessible, that sick days are provided for the frequent resulting flu-like symptoms and that it’s carefully scheduled to avoid staffing shortages. Days after outlining this guidance, our Governor mandated all healthcare workers to get vaccinated. Our members overwhelmingly support vaccination, but they also want to ensure that it’s accomplished thoughtfully and respectfully for our members who remained concerned.

We can do it. Together, we will defeat COVID-19.

April Verrett is President of SEIU 2015, the largest union in California, representing more than 400,000 long-term care providers (home care, skilled nursing facility, and assisted living center workers) throughout the state. Its members are as diverse as the state’s population, but united in their commitment to caring for California’s most vulnerable: seniors and the disabled. In October, Verrett will receive an award from NCL named for our first Executive Secretary Florence Kelley. To learn more about the evening of awards, click here. 

Addressing vaccine hesitancy with community-driven messaging

Nissa Shaffi

By Nissa Shaffi, NCL Associate Director of Health Policy, featuring an interview with Jens Dakin, Managing Director of AM LLC

After months of vaccine review and approval informing an arduous national vaccination campaign, nearly half of the country has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, despite these efforts, we’ve narrowly missed the national goal of 70 percent of Americans receiving at least one dose by July 4. Even though there is overwhelming evidence in support of the COVID-19 vaccines and their safety, vaccine hesitancy still looms.

On July 8, the NCL health team met with Jens Dakin, Managing Director of Strategic Engagement at AM LLC. AM LLC is a health and research informatics firm that provides public health related, mission critical services in information, communications, and technology to federal, state, and local government clients. Since March 2020, AM has partnered with government agencies to control, isolate, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through various community engagement and vaccine quality assurance measures. Below is a snapshot of our conversation.

Nissa: For over 120 years, the National Consumers League has advocated for consumer protections in health care. A big part of our work involves fostering vaccine confidence. We do this through direct consumer engagement, testifying before federal vaccine committees, like the CDC and FDA, and our Script Your Future campaign, where we engage with pharmacy students to increase vaccine uptake. We would love it if you could tell us a little about AM Trace work in vaccine confidence.

Jens DakinJens: Thank you, and nice to meet you both. AM was founded about 10 years ago to provide services to the federal government in research, communications, and healthcare IT. When COVID-19 spread to the US there was a lot of effort by the federal and state governments to keep people safe with COVID-19 threat mitigation, and then to get people to take the vaccine. AM now provides capabilities in five critical services to state and local governments, including staffing and training of public health personnel, technology support infrastructure, public awareness outreach campaigns, stakeholder collaboration. We work with key public servants to help increase capacity pertaining to COVID operations.

Spencer: When you first enter a community, how do you get your foot in the door and begin to understand the specific needs of the community so you can begin to build your campaign strategy?

JD: Ultimately, we don’t like to enter a community cold. We undertake lots of research before hitting the ground to understand the demographics and the local context. It is important for us that our local partners know the area, the people and have the access we need. Whether it’s an African American community, or a White, rural Republican-leaning county, we can make some educated guesses, but we certainly cannot make assumptions about the individuals without the local data and insight. This initial research frames how we empathize and engage with the community, allowing us to develop more credible messages that will resonate better. We don’t tend to advocate mass media campaigns, especially now when there is a need to persuade the vaccine holdouts, because the mass campaigns haven’t worked with them.

NS: On mass vaccination campaigns, I recently came into contact with an old friend that has become increasingly anti-vaccine and cited vaccine lotteries and giveaways as suspect. Do you think that these mass efforts are causing more harm than good?

JD: I believe that they have achieved what they set out to do. They have worked to an extent, to get the people who want to be vaccinated, vaccinated. Unfortunately, there is now considerable distrust in government authority in our society – much of it caused by the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Your friend views her belief as completely rational based on the information she has. For the vaccine holdouts, the message needs to come from a trusted voice and delivered in a non-intrusive way. What we are seeing working in some cases is developing a series of different “micro-interventions”, in the form face-to-face conversations, a series of emails or chats on a group message board. We can even learn lessons from deradicalization programs that have helped to sway people away from the path towards terrorism, where we listen, understand, and engage with empathy.

NS: I really like the idea of “micro-interventions”. Is there a designated period of time you allow yourself in a particular community to test these messages and strategies to see if they land before moving on from that group?

JD: We have to test and adjust all the time. This is an evolving situation. You really just need to remember that when you convince someone to get vaccinated, you’re potentially saving their life. If you keep building that relationship with the community, that can end up going a long way. This is why it’s so important that our local messengers, or canvassers, are all from the communities we are engaging within.

NS: Could you provide some examples of success stories as a result of these interventions?

JD: In NYC, AM’s teams have spoken with over 180,000 residents and as a direct result of our personalized messaging campaigns and direct engagement within [mainly minority] communities, encouraged over 50,000 people to book vaccination appointments. In Anchorage AK, AM’s teams identified, contacted, and built relationships with individuals living in both urban and rural communities with the goal of addressing vaccine hesitancy and booking vaccination appointments. During a single 6-week span of all the unvaccinated people they spoke with, they arranged for nearly 20 percent of them to get vaccinated.

NS: Who do you use in community outreach to build these relationships?

JD: We don’t tend to use professional canvassers. We prefer to recruit and train local canvassers specifically from their community. We speak with the community and individuals to find out who the local influencers are – who they trust. We meet with them and ask them to work with us because need them to become our message multipliers within that community.

NS: The COVID-19 vaccine development and approval process has been as novel as the disease itself. We’ve had the privilege of witnessing science unfold in real time, and along with that, comes a lot of trial and error, as we’ve seen with the momentary pause in the J&J vaccine and the new cases of myocarditis in pediatric populations. How do you mitigate the derailment of messaging, which have been extensively tested, by rise in these developments?

JD: Well, we know that with these holdouts, and these “wait and see” groups, science and facts won’t sway them. The issue is not necessarily about vaccine information, there is a lot of information out there. So, if you’re using science to try to convince people who are ideologically entrenched in one belief or another, they might not understand what you’re trying to say which will turn them off, or they may come up with counter arguments or “counter-facts” that support their own beliefs. They may also exist in information silos, or information echo chambers, that feed them information which confirm their biases. So no, using science will often not work with hold out groups. Which is why we need to find more innovative methods that focus on more accessible and personal benefits of vaccination.

NS: AM trace has a great vaccine confidence toolkit for community leaders which mentions the importance of decision autonomy for patients in vaccine confidence. With public sentiment headed towards vaccine mandates, to possibly issuing vaccine passports– do you see any challenges with that? How can advocates help reduce weariness around these initiatives in a way that is aligned with an individual’s constitutional rights?

JD: As communicators, we should not have any say in developing policy. Whether vaccine mandates are right or wrong, is not an issue I will discuss here. What I will say is that for those employers and institutions who are mandating it, when developing their campaign is that words matter, and the messaging and messengers matter. Employers need to understand that their ‘single’ workforce is made up of many separate communities each with their own concerns and beliefs. You need to understand the behavioral and emotional context that people exist in order to have the best chances of success. The toolkit you mentioned provides communication planners with an overview of what to consider when developing behavior change campaigns. It works very well in the COVID-19 context.

NCL Health Policy Intern Spencer Cramer contributed to this blog.

Jeanette Contreras portrait

Como detectar el COVID-19 en casa

By NCL Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras

Tras la efectiva campaña de vacunación, las pruebas de detección serán claves para seguir evitando contagios del coronavirus y resumir a la normalidad. Reconociendo que estamos en buen camino para controlar la pandemia del coronavirus, los estados están eliminando las restricciones de la cuarentena. Pero el 11 de mayo, el director de la Organización Mundial de la Salud (WHO, por sus siglas en inglés) nos alerta que seguimos en una situación peligrosa porque los estudios de la variante que se ha propagado en la India indican que esta se transmite más fácilmente y provoca una enfermedad más grave.

Expertos de salud siguen cuantificando y analizando los casos positivos para vigilar las variantes. Una recomendación importante es seguir administrando las pruebas de detección de COVID-19 aunque las personas sean asintomáticas. En abril, la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de los Estados Unidos (FDA, por sus siglas en inglés) autorizó varias pruebas de uso personal que detectan el COVID-19 y que se pueden comprar en las tiendas y farmacias como CVS, Walgreens y Walmart sin receta médica .

Para los fines de mayo esperamos ver estas pruebas caseras disponibles en todo el país. Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC, por sus siglas en inglés) ofrecen consejos sobre cómo usar un kit de recolección y realizarse la prueba en casa. Todas funcionan igual: toma el espécimen de tu nariz o de saliva, envíala al laboratorio por correo, y recibirás los resultados por el internet en un par de días.

Como todavía falta vacunar a los niños menores de 12 años, a las personas que por su religión no han sido vacunados, y personas con enfermedades graves que no se les permite vacunarse, los expertos de salud pública temen no poder eliminar el coronavirus por completo. Una de cada tres personas en el EE. UU. no confía en la vacuna. Y si la mayoría de la población no se vacuna, el COVID-19 será endémica en nuestro país. Solo el país de Israel ha logrado llegar a la inmunidad de grupo- incluso jóvenes de 16 años de edad se han vacunado.

Con acceso a estas pruebas personales, organizaciones y empleadores pueden comprar cantidades de kits de recolección para uso en sus comunidades. Las escuelas y lugares de trabajo ya están estableciendo programas de pruebas para detectar el COVID-19 rápidamente. Para proteger los más vulnerables en nuestras comunidades, todos los casos positivos se deben reportar al departamento de salud del condado en donde vives y al estado para iniciar un rastreo de contactos. Es importante saber dónde se inició el contagiado y con quien ha tenido contacto cercano las personas infectadas.

Aunque el CDC afirma que las personas con la vacuna completa que no presentan síntomas del COVID-19 no necesitan hacerse la prueba de detección después de haber estado expuestas a una persona contagiada con el COVID-19, es muy posible que personas que quieran viajar tengan que mostrar una prueba de detección negativa para entrar a otro estado o país. Mientras que no haya un pasaporte de vacunas, muchos países requirieran que los visitantes demuestren una prueba de COVID-19 negativa para ingresar a su territorio. El CDC tiene un planificador de viajes que las personas pueden utilizar para buscar información sobre el COVID-19 en las comunidades estatales, locales, territoriales y tribales que atraviesen en ruta a sus destinos.

La facilidad de obtener pruebas caseras nos ayudar a detener la propagación del COVID-19 e identificar los orígenes de contagio. Poder hacer un seguimiento de contactos en las comunidades afectadas no solo puede prevenir enfermedad, pero también controlar la evolución de nuevas variantes del COVID-19. La conveniencia de poder hacerse la prueba del coronavirus desde la comodidad de la casa y sin receta de un doctor significa tener un mejor control del bienestar de cada persona en nuestras comunidades.

The decline in COVID-19 testing nationwide could derail pandemic response wins

Nissa Shaffi

By Nissa Shaffi, NCL Associate Director of Health Policy

COVID-19 testing has been a critical component of the nation’s pandemic response, as health officials monitored the virus’s progression and set policies that supported back-to-school and return-to-work initiatives. Increased testing capacity has enabled our most essential industry sectors to resume activities that continue to carry us through the pandemic. However, as vaccines become more accessible and we surpass initial goals for population-wide immunizations, testing has declined by 35 percent daily since mid-January.

Testing provides a reliable snapshot into the virus’s trajectory that allows for proper allocation of vital resources (e.g., supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical equipment) and essential personnel. Data from testing rates are also critical for vaccine manufacturers, as they evaluate how the virus is mutating and further efficacy of the vaccine. The uptick in vaccinations, while incredibly promising, may have induced an inflated sense of security and diminished caution towards the virus. However, in the midst of rising variants, the decline in testing may very well be the Trojan horse that derails national efforts to combat the virus.

Testing has also declined in part due to a shift in focus to getting vaccinated. While vaccines are equally important, we need adequate COVID-19 testing for public health surveillance purposes. There needs to be sufficient capacity and public health messaging in place to encourage individuals who have potentially been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, or coronavirus, to get tested immediately.

Dr. Nasia Safdar, Medical Director for Infection Prevention at UW Health, states “we are seeing a decline in testing,” she said. “If we see the numbers continue to decline sharply, at some point then it may not be worthwhile to do widespread testing, but we’re certainly not there yet.” Without these measures, our healthcare system will be rendered unequipped to deal with dormant and emerging threats, like potential outbreaks and continuous mutations of the virus.

There are a couple of strategies that could help us get a hold on precipitous testing rates. It is estimated that a national program for universal mass testing for unvaccinated people would cost a few billion dollars a week—an amount that still presents a cost-benefit when considering potential shutdowns. The American Rescue Plan has appropriated $50 billion for expanded testing, which could help the situation significantly.

Another aspect of the problem is a lack of testing sites. With so many resources currently devoted to expanding vaccination sites at pharmacies and hospitals, people need places to get tested. Greater corporate involvement in the response could be a potential avenue for increasing capacity.

Finally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to advance development and approval for over-the-counter (OTC) and point-of-care (POC) tests. Obtaining a greater number of FDA-approved OTC and POC COVID-19 tests could help address issues with logistics and access, and would give schools, workplaces, and communities more options for reliable and accurate screening.

The pandemic is far from over and experts predict that COVID-19 will likely be endemic, meaning it will be detected regularly, even if within small pockets of the population. We need all possible public health interventions at our disposal to ensure that we can effectively limit the spread of the virus and preserve ongoing plans to reopen the economy so that we can start the process to sustainably reintegrate back into society.

Dr. Safdar further emphasized, “the vaccines are great as they are, they’re not 100 percent. There will be a certain number of people that will…contract the illness despite having been vaccinated. It might be a milder condition which is very welcome news, but nonetheless, to make a diagnosis and figure out what treatment is required, you have to get a test.” Testing continues to be a simple, yet powerfully effective measure to prevent the massive spread of COVID-19 and we must persist in our efforts towards early detection.

Consumer group urges FDA and CDC to remain vigilant in enforcing hand sanitizer standards

April 27, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—This week, the National Consumers League (NCL) wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urging them to remain vigilant on the enforcement of proper manufacturing and distribution of hand sanitizers as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the initial surge in demand for hand sanitizers, the federal government relaxed certain regulations in order to get over-the-counter products into consumers’ hands. The combination of a need for an immediate ramp-up of hand sanitizer distribution and reduced oversight led to a concerning trend of what NCL believes is a case of mislabeling — and unfortunately misleading — information regarding hand hygiene products.

While local and small businesses stepping up to produce products for their communities is admirable, hastily manufactured hand sanitizer operations have resulted in lower efficacy rates, with even some reports of products being made with dangerous ingredients. As a result, the FDA has currently identified 230 hand sanitizer products marketed in 2020 as unsafe or ineffective.

NCL commends the FDA and the CDC for their ongoing efforts to keep the American people safe. But the fight against this virus is far from over, and under-regulated hand sanitizer production and distribution will only prolong this public health crisis.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“For more than a century, the National Consumers League has fought for access to quality products, honest labeling, and safe, effective medicines for American consumers and workers. And leaving this growing issue alone would be a disservice to the many people NCL has worked so hard to protect.”

NCL urges the FDA and the CDC to enforce the law and hold accountable those businesses engaged in the production and distribution of poorly manufactured and dangerous hand sanitizer products.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL testimony at CDC emergency meeting on J&J vaccine safety

April 23, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Today the National Consumers League (NCL) testified before the emergency meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to discuss updates on the recommendations to pause the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The full testimony appears below:

José R. Romero, MD, FAAP, Chair
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Mailstop A27
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

RE: Docket No. CDC-2021-0044; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

For over 120 years, the National Consumers League (NCL) has championed vaccine education and access for consumers to these lifesaving medical interventions. We extend our gratitude to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the opportunity to serve as a voice for consumers.

NCL commends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their concerted efforts to promptly address the recent adverse events observed by the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The decision for a momentary pause in the distribution of the vaccine enacted out of “an abundance of caution” illustrates how swiftly the agencies acted on vaccine surveillance data.

Consumers should be comforted to know that the vaccine safety monitoring system in place to protect them is working effectively, and further encourages transparency, following the reports of severe cases of a rare form of blood clots observed in young women. The pause allowed the agencies to gather and review additional evidence to ensure the safety of the American people.

Over 560,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19. The risk Americans face for dying from COVID-19 is one in 600 persons. While the risk of dying from COVID clearly outweighs the risk of forming blood clots from the vaccine, we commend the efforts of public health officials to evaluate the specific effects of the vaccine on women, to help ensure further safety and efficacy.

Due to its ease of transport and one-shot delivery, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is the most accessible and convenient vaccine presently available. The vaccine has been administered to over 7 million Americans, with overwhelming success. Further delay of administering this vaccine only delays our ability to end the pandemic that much sooner.

The reports of adverse events experienced by patients who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are concerning and we appreciate the transparency afforded to the public during this time to identify and resolve the situation. NCL has long advocated for vaccine safety and for consumers to feel confident that they are safe, especially in the midst of a mass vaccination campaign.

In closing, we encourage the CDC to maintain effective public messaging to instill vaccine confidence. Consumers should rest assured that vaccines are effective measures to protect public health and vital to national efforts in ending the pandemic.

Thank you for your consideration of our views on this important public health issue.

Sincerely,

Jeanette Contreras, MPP
Director of Health Policy
National Consumers League

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.