Coronavirus Roundup: Federal Government Unlikely to Mandate Vaccine Passports; Army Begins Vaccine Trial in Humans
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Monday that all D.C. residents 16 and older would become eligible for vaccines starting April 19. Individuals in Phase 1C Tier 3––which includes essential employees in federal agencies––will still become eligible on April 12, she added. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
The Biden administration is helping AstraZeneca find a new location to produce its vaccines after its contractor site mixed up ingredients for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines for 15 million doses, Politico reported on Monday. The administration put Johnson & Johnson in charge of the Baltimore plant over the weekend. “It's important to mention, anytime discussing the issue at this plant, that all of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that's available in the U.S. has been authorized by the [Food and Drug Administration],” Andy Slavitt, White House senior coronavirus adviser, said during a briefing on Monday. “None of it came out of this plant in question.”
AstraZeneca still intends to submit an application to the FDA for emergency use authorization and Slavitt said he doesn’t believe the incident will impact their production schedule. Last May, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the company for 300 million doses.
Stat News reported on Tuesday about current and upcoming vacancies at the FDA. Janet Woodcock is serving as acting commissioner and President Biden has yet to name a nominee. The “FDA’s second in command, Amy Abernethy, will step down from her role later this month — leaving the agency’s second most powerful position empty,” said the report. “Also without a permanent leader, by the way: chief of staff and general counsel. It's unclear if Woodcock, the acting commissioner, has the power to name Abernethy’s replacement.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on a Politico podcast on Monday that while “individual entities,” may require vaccine passports, he doubts the federal government will mandate them. “They may be involved in making sure things are done fairly and equitably, but I doubt if the federal government is gonna be the leading element of that,” he added. The idea of vaccine passports has sparked a debate over privacy and civil liberties versus public health safety.
The Army is going to start testing the vaccine it's developing on adults on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported. Previously, they found the vaccine was effective in monkeys infected with the coronavirus and that it could be protective against the variants of the virus. “If successful in testing, the vaccine also could be used as a booster shot in people who have previously received one of the now-authorized vaccines, to shore up immunity against variants,” according to Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said the report. “The vaccine could be used in the broader population, not just among members of the military.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave remarks on his department’s coronavirus response on Monday. “We at the State Department have been focused on vaccinating our workforce in the United States and in embassies and consulates around the world. That’s been the right call,” he said. “The United States has had the highest number of COVID cases of any country in the world by a significant margin. So stopping the spread here has been urgently needed for our people and for the world.”
Blinken announced that Gayle Smith, former U.S. Agency for International Development administrator and two-time member of the National Security Council, will be the State Department’s coordinator for global COVID response and health security. She was most recently the president and CEO of the ONE Campaign, an international nonprofit seeking to end extreme poverty and preventable disease. “I look forward to working with the men and women of the department and across the federal government ... because I know what you can do,” she said.
The wife of a nonprofit executive recently pleaded guilty to conspiring with her husband to embezzle $69,000 from AmeriCorps and fraudulently receive more than $11,000 in AmeriCorps grants. Her husband, Hanalei Aipoalani, previously pleaded guilty to “embezzling more than $500,000 from AmeriCorps and to agreeing to accept a bribe for the administration of grants under the CARES Act,” said the Justice Department.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 12 p.m.
- President Biden will give remarks on the vaccine processes at 3:45 p.m.
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