Health Highlights: Feb. 11, 2021

Robert F. Kennedy's Anti-Vaxxer Instagram Account Taken Down

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Instagram account has been taken down over false information about the new coronavirus and vaccinations, Facebook says.

"We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines," Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement, The New York Times reported.

Kennedy, a prominent anti-vaccine activist who is the son of the former senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, had 800,000 Instagram followers.

Along with Kennedy's Instagram account, Facebook said it removed eight other Instagram accounts and Facebook pages on Wednesday under tighter restrictions on vaccine misinformation, The Times reported.

However, Kennedy's Facebook page, which makes many of the same unfounded claims and has more than 300,000 followers, was not removed, and there are no plans "at this time" to take it down, Facebook said.

A 2019 study found that Kennedy's nonprofit, now called Children's Health Defense, and another group had funded more than half of Facebook ads spreading vaccine misinformation, The Times reported.

Millions of Bogus N95 Face Masks Sold to Americans

Sales of foreign-made counterfeit N95 face masks in at least five states are being investigated by U.S. officials.

The fake 3M masks were sold to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. Such bogus products could put health care workers at risk of coronavirus infection, the Associated Press reported.

There have been already more than 1,250 raids by law enforcement that resulted in the seizure of 10 million counterfeit 3M masks alone, the AP reported.

The counterfeit masks give users "a false sense of security," said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department's principal investigative arm, the AP reported.

Officials in Washington state examined their mask supply, and discovered that 300,000 masks they had purchased for about $1.4 million were counterfeit. Officials are investigating.

Beth Zborowski, of the Washington State Hospital Association, said the fraud has the potential to affect 1.9 million masks but they are mostly in stockpile at the moment

Health care workers "have plenty of anxieties on a day-to-day basis. They don't need to also worry about whether their masks are fake," Zborowski said.

But Francis noted that, "We've seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity."

Federal investigators say there has been an increase in phony websites purporting to sell vaccines as well as fake medicine produced overseas and scams involving personal protective equipment. The schemes deliver phony products, unlike fraud earlier in the pandemic that focused more on fleecing customers, the AP reported.

Supreme Court Should Uphold Affordable Care Act: Biden Administration

The entire Affordable Care Act should be upheld, the U.S. Justice Department says in a letter filed with the Supreme Court Wednesday.

That stance under the Biden administration reverses a Trump administration position in an important case before the court, the Associated Press reported.

The Trump White House had asked the court to scrap the entire law after Congress eliminated a major provision that penalized people for not having health insurance.

The case was argued just after November's election. Even if the court rules against the provision, the rest of the Affordable Care Act should be left alone, the new Justice Department letter says, the AP reported.

The health law provides about 23 million people with health insurance and prevents discrimination against millions who have preexisting health conditions.

Biden has said the law should be strengthened and reopened sign-ups for people who may have lost job-linked health insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AP reported.

Shortage Forces Temporary Closure of Five LA COVID-19 Vaccination Sites

Five COVID-19 vaccination sites in Los Angeles will temporarily close due to a shortage of doses, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.

That includes Dodger Stadium, which is one of the United States' largest vaccination centers, The New York Times reported.

The five sites will be closed on Friday and Saturday, and are scheduled to reopen by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, according to Garcetti.

"We're vaccinating people faster than new vials are arriving here in Los Angeles," he said at a news conference, the Times reported. "I'm concerned as your mayor that our vaccine supply is uneven, it's unpredictable and too often inequitable."

The city had received only 16,000 new doses of the vaccine this week, about the same amount it uses in a single day, Garcetti said.

Other parts of the country have experienced similar issues, as demand far outpaces supply and vaccine providers struggle to predict how many doses will arrive.

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