CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Coronavirus Roundup: The FDA Authorizes Vaccines for Little Kids; Senator Blasts Administration Over Handling of COVID Funds 

There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s a list of this week’s news updates and stories you may have missed.

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday morning it authorized Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccines for young children, after its advisory committee voted on Wednesday to recommend them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have to recommend the vaccines before they can be administered. In anticipation of the authorization, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Senate hearing on Thursday that her agency would be working through the holiday weekend on this “because we understand the urgency of this for American parents.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Florida is the only state in the United States to not have preordered the vaccines for young kids, as the Health and Human Services Department allowed states to do. “Pediatricians will not have immediate ready access to vaccines,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during the briefing on Thursday. “Some pharmacies and community health centers in the state get access through federal distribution channels, but those options are limited.” She added that the administration has encouraged Florida several times to order the vaccines and will continue to do so.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also said on Thursday that there are “not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” The Hill reported. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been the center of the pandemic response from the start, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and had mild symptoms. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president, is 81. He testified virtually before a Senate hearing on Thursday. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday after previously testing positive less than a month ago while visiting Germany for official business. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, COVID-19 response coordinator under President Trump, will testify before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis next Thursday. “The Select Subcommittee will hear Dr. Birx’s firsthand knowledge about what went wrong during the previous administration in order to determine what corrective steps are necessary to better prepare our nation for any future public health crisis and to ensure that our public health institutions are never again compromised by decision makers more concerned with politics than Americans’ health,” said a press release from the office of Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the panel. 

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who was previously part of negotiations for more COVID-19 spending and asked for a full accounting of current funds, lambasted the Biden administration during a Senate hearing on Thursday for calling on Congress to appropriate additional COVID-19 funds but then last week reallocating money to buy more vaccines and treatments. The senator asked if the administration knew several months ago it could do this, then why did it wait? 

In response, Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said the administration had to make “significant tradeoffs, tradeoffs that no one of us wanted to make,” which they didn’t think was “acceptable” at first, but then had to in the absence of congressional action. 

The Justice Department is proposing a rule that affirms the Bureau of Prisons director can allow prisoners who were put on home confinement due to the pandemic, as allowed by the CARES Act, to stay on home confinement after the public health emergency period ends. This aligns with an opinion the Office of Legal Counsel issued in December 2021, reversing what the Justice Department under the Trump administration said. The proposed rule will be published officially in the Federal Register on June 21. 

Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the coronavirus? Email us at newstips@govexec.com.

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