Friday, September 15 Public Health & Legislative Updates

Dear friends,

I am writing to you today with Cambridge and public health updates.


Table of Contents

  • Public Health Updates
  • Cambridge Updates
  • Legislative Updates
  • A Glimpse atthe Past Week 
  • Mental Health Services and Resources


Public Health Updates

FDA Determines Common Decongestant Found in Cold Medicine Ineffective

The Food and Drug Administration advisory panel unanimously voted against the effectiveness of oral phenylephrine (PE), a key ingredient found in many over the counter cold and allergy medications on Tuesday. This includes popular versions of Sudafed, Vicks Nyquil, and Benadryl. PE has served as the leading over the counter decongestant in the US, thought to relieve congestion. However, evidence provided by the FDA declared oral formulations of PE to be ineffective due to lack of improvements in treating nasal congestion. Any action to remove the drug’s designation as “generally recognized as safe and effective” may potentially result in significant effects to industries and consumers, if drugmakers would be required to pull oral medications containing PE from the market.

DPH Announces Third Human Case of West Nile Virus in MA

On September 8, the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced the third human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in a Massachusetts resident this year. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. The risk of human infection with WNV is moderate in the Greater Boston area (Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties), and in parts of Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden, Hampshire, Plymouth, and Worcester counties. There are no additional risk level changes indicated at this time. DPH advises residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Read more about the preventive measures to protect yourself from mosquito bites here.

New COVID Booster Receives FDA Approval

A new booster shot for COVID-19 became approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tuesday. The latest version of the COVID booster is a monovalent vaccine designed to target the XBB.1.5 strain of the Omicron variant, offering more protections against the strain lineage and circulating related subvariants. Most insurance companies are expected to provide coverage of COVID boosters. Amid rising cases and hospitalizations across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also recommended COVID-19 vaccination updates for everyone aged 6 months and older to protect against serious illness. The CDC’s Bridge Access Program, set to launch this fall, will provide free COVID vaccines until December 2024 to ensure uninsured adults can continue free access to these vaccines. Read more information about recommendations for the 2023-24 COVID vaccines here. Visit to identify pharmacies with available doses, as well as those participating in the Bridge Access Program.

CDC Recommends New Preventive RSV Shot for Infants 

On August 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved a new passive immunization to protect infants from severe respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV - the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the U.S. The CDC Advisory Committee unanimously voted to recommend the new antibody shot for wide use among infants and some high-risk children against the respiratory infection. The Sanofi and AstraZeneca injection, marketed as Beyfortus, will be added to the CDC’s childhood immunization schedule, and is also recommended for a second dose to help infants aged 8 to 19 months who meet underlying health issues through the second RSV season. Studies showed the new drug reduces the risk of RSV infection between 70% and 75% among infants and children aged 2 and younger. Beyfortus is expected to be ready in the fall before the RSV season.

Preparing for the Upcoming Flu Season

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published its recommendations on the annual flu shot ahead of the flu season. The CDC recommends routine annual influenza vaccination for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications. According to the CDC, September and October are the best times for most people to get vaccinated. The main change in the flu vaccine recommendations this year is related to people with egg allergies, which previously recommended additional safety measures for its administration for people with severe egg allergies. Now, the CDC report states that regardless of severity of previous reaction to egg, an egg allergy alone does not require additional safety measures for influenza vaccination beyond those recommended for any recipient of any vaccine. Read more about the CDC’s recommendations here.


Cambridge Updates

Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19

To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline for the public health departments of Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop at 617-933-0797. The Cambridge Public Health Department manages the hotline. Learn more at

City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests

The Cambridge Public Health Department, in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance, is providing free COVID-19 rapid antigen at-home test kits. They can be picked up Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM in the CHA lobby at 119 Windsor Street. Cambridge businesses or organizations that would like free rapid tests to provide to customers can call the COVID-19 hotline at 617-933-0797 to request them.


Legislative Updates

State House hearings on the thousands of bills filed this session are back in full swing, and four of the bills I filed were heard this week.

  • An Act expanding access to mental health services (H.4058)
  • An Act to lift kids out of deep poverty (H.144)
  • An Act ensuring access to behavioral health services for children involved with state agencies (H.146)
  • An Act protecting youth from nicotine addiction (H.2763)


A Glimpse at the Past Week

Celebrating Alice Wolf

It was amazing to see so many of Alice’s friends come together on this rainy day and celebrate her. We talked, laughed, and cried. Alice will always be remembered and her legacy will continue to live on. She was a boss, a mentor, a mother, and a wife and I will always cherish all the moments I’ve had with her.



Guest Lecture in BUSPH Public Health Advocacy Class with Dean Andrade


Mental Health Services and Resources

If you or a loved one are struggling, please know you are not alone. There are some great resources here:


Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Helpline

This initiative is designed to prevent intimate partner violence by fostering accountability and change in people who harm or may harm their intimate partner. You can find more information at or by calling 877-898-3411.


As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at




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