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A summary of important health news from the past week.

Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ law to be argued in federal appeals court

By: Kate Brumback and The Associated Press

A federal appeals court plans to hear arguments Friday on whether it should overturn a lower court ruling that permanently blocked a restrictive abortion law passed in Georgia in 2019. The hearing comes amid a heightened focus on abortion with the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month allowing a similarly restrictive Texas law to take effect. The justices also plan to hear arguments in December on Mississippi’s attempt to overturn the high court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed the right to an abortion. The Georgia law would have banned most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present. As early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women realize they’re expecting, cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will eventually become the heart. Abortion is currently available in Georgia up to 20 weeks into pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued on behalf of Georgia abortion providers and an advocacy group to block the law.

Why won’t some healthcare workers get vaccinated?

By: David C. Grabowski, PhD

With over half of the U.S. population now fully vaccinated, there still exists a rather surprising divide in attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccine within a community that was and continues to be at high risk: the healthcare community. Recent conversation about COVID vaccine hesitancy among Americans has turned its focus toward healthcare professionals as some front-line workers, including physicians and nurses, remain among the unvaccinated pool. Emerging surveys of healthcare personnel across the country have found misinformation to be one of the leading culprits of reluctance among professionals; many, despite their healthcare and science backgrounds, express concern about the novelty and safety of the vaccines. Still others, particularly long-term care facility staff, have cited mistrust in the system (e.g., being overworked, underpaid, unprotected by employers or their facility) as another source of discouragement. In light of recent findings, leaders in healthcare and public health are now discussing ways to encourage greater vaccine uptake among healthcare professionals, as well as strategies to combat misinformation and distrust.

Pfizer Recalls Anti-Smoking Drug Chantix Over Cancer Concerns

By: Tony Hicks

Chantix, a smoking cessation drug, has been recalled by Pfizer due to concerns over a potentially cancer-causing ingredient. Chantix was first approved for prescription use by the FDA in 2006, with the purpose to help adults quit smoking. The ingredient of concern in Chantix is nitrosamine, which is a chemical found in tobacco, tobacco smoke, fish, fried food, meat, and beer. In some laboratory studies with animals, nitrosamines have been found to cause cancer. However, FDA officials note that there no immediate risk to people taking Chantix and encourages patients to continue use until they can talk with their doctor about potential alternatives. The FDA emphasizes the fact that the benefits of quitting smoking still outweigh the potential risk of cancer that could develop from long-term use of Chantix.

In a matter of days, Pfizer CEO says they’ll be ready to ask for approval of a Covid-19 vaccine for kids

By: Madeline Holcombe

Pfizer’s CEO says that the Covid-19 vaccine will become available to children under the age of 12 very soon, possibly within the next few weeks. There have been trials with children ages 5-11 and the CDC is currently reviewing data from these trials. Pfizer is ready to ask for authorization as soon as the review of this data is complete, which may be in the next few days. With school back in session, Covid-19 cases in children have risen drastically, with 26% of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. currently being in children. If Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for children, this will be a relief for many parents and a step closer to ending this pandemic in the U.S.

Methamphetamine Deaths Soar, Hitting Black And Native Americans Especially Hard

By: Brian Mann

Methamphetamine usage has risen by almost 180% from 2015 to 2019, according to a recent study published in the JAMA network. Such usage has been linked to the rising cases in overdose death across the United States, especially in the Native American and Black communities. What’s more, methamphetamine overdoses are reaching the same overdose numbers as dangerous synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. While there are drugs to combat fentanyl overdose, there are currently no drugs on the market to treat methamphetamine. The study also urged for a push for new treatment programs for methamphetamine use disorder in addition to the finding of a new drug to combat methamphetamine.