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Coronavirus Roundup: Updated Boosters Will Be Available Soon

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

On Thursday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in coordination with other relevant agencies across the government, released its first annual report on progress to implement the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan and what it seeks to do in the year ahead. 

“As a key component of future response, the U.S. government acknowledges that simply transforming our capabilities in pandemic preparedness will not be enough to achieve our goals of reducing the burden of pathogens on the world, especially in vulnerable communities,” said the report. “Scientific and technological advances must be paired with public engagement, trust building, and recognition and resolution of previous harms and challenges in public health. All of these foundational areas are addressed here and must be advanced if the Nation and the world are to be prepared for future threats.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said in an update on Wednesday amid ongoing litigation on the contractor vaccine mandate that “the federal government will take no action to implement or enforce Executive Order 14042,” which instituted the mandate. Also, “for existing contracts or contract-like instruments (hereinafter “contracts”) that contain a clause implementing requirements of Executive Order 14042, the government will take no action to enforce the clause implementing requirements of Executive Order 14042, absent further written notice from the agency.” Most recently, a federal appeals court last week narrowed the scope of the nationwide injunction on the mandate. That update was one of several from the task force regarding COVID protocols. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed on Thursday a recommendation for Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s updated booster shots after the Food and Drug Administration authorized them earlier this week. The shots are for individuals ages 18 years and up and 12 years and up, respectively. “In the coming weeks, CDC also expects to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for other pediatric groups, per the discussion and evaluation of the data by [advisory committee] on Sept. 1, 2022,” said a statement from the CDC. “When data are available and FDA authorizes these other types of COVID-19 boosters, CDC will quickly move to help make them available in the United States.” 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during the briefing on Monday, the administration is preparing a “robust” booster campaign “with the limited funding we have left.” 

At a Centers for Strategic and International Studies event on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky spoke about the CDC’s recent internal review and work it's doing now to become more agile. “There are many things that have made it so that we can’t be nimble,” such as on data, human resources and contractual authorities, she said. “I will do all the work that I can from within the agency and ask for a little bit of grace and time…. But also, to say that there are a lot of different ways, as I look at the bigger structure, outside of CDC at an interagency level, that things could be – we could be more nimble.”

As for the CDC’s budget, the line items are “critically important,” she said. “But they lock us in in a way that does not allow us to be nimble.” 

Sept. 2 is the last day to order free COVID tests through as the Biden administration is suspending the program due to a lack of funding from Congress. “This is an action we've been forced to take that will help preserve our limited remaining supply, ensuring we have a limited supply of tests available in the fall,” Jean-Pierre said on Monday. “Americans will continue to have other options for free testing, including free at-home tests through private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and 1,500 community-based free testing sites.” 

The Defense Department announced on Monday it is now offering the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine to service members. It is not authorized by federal regulators as a booster at this time. 

The Veterans Affairs Department shared on Wednesday its guidebook, published in August, on its approach to treating veterans with long COVID. The VA said this will be updated periodically and was developed in collaboration with HHS’s National Research Action Plan on Long COVID.

Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., are calling on the president to stand up Operation Warp Speed 2.0 to develop updated vaccines. The previous effort, established by the Trump administration and then renamed and reworked by the Biden administration, “cut regulatory red tape, reduced risk and uncertainty, mobilized military operational capacity, and set a clear target for the private sector to hit,” the senators wrote in a recent letter. “Operation Warp Speed was the most successful public health program since smallpox. It saved millions of lives, and it should be resurrected as soon as possible.”

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