There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
As the death toll from the coronavirus has almost reached 300,000, distribution of Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine began on Monday after the Food and Drug Administration approved it for emergency use authorization on Friday. This coincides with the electors in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., meeting to cast their votes, which is one of the last steps of solidifying President-elect Biden’s victory. “We’re in the teeth of the COVID-19 crisis right now, and this nation needs presidential leadership,” Biden tweeted on Sunday. “Leadership that is willing to model the steps we all should be taking in our own lives.” Here are some of the other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee voted on Saturday to allow individuals 16 years and older to get Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine and then CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield signed off on it, which was the final step before distribution could begin.
Army Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for “Operation Warp Speed,” outlined during a press briefing on Saturday how the distribution process will work. “We expect 145 sites across all the states to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday and the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer orders for the vaccine,” he said. “This plan will be successful” because of the “incredible experts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the capability and capacity of commercial industry — including Pfizer, McKesson, FedEx, UPS, Walgreens, CVS and … most importantly, the governors' public health officers and health-care communities.” Read Government Executive’s coverage about how tens of thousands of federal employees can expect to receive vaccines this week.
However, states expect to face challenges in providing the vaccines because it will cost billions that many don’t have, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. “The federal government is providing the vaccine, along with syringes, needles, face masks and shields. But state leaders say they must hire medical workers, provide community outreach and education, set up vaccination clinics and ensure storage capacity for vaccines,” according to the report. “Some states are also concerned about having enough supplies, such as gloves and gowns, to protect health-care workers as well as people getting vaccinated.” Additionally, some states said they might have to make spending cuts in education unless they receive more funding from the federal government.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said, “We do not feel that this could have been out a week earlier,” when asked on ABC’s “This Week” if he was pressed by the White House to green light the vaccine. “We went through our process,” he said. “We promised, Martha, the American people that we would do a thorough review of the application and that’s what we did.” On the report that White House Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows asked him to approve the vaccine or resign, Hahn said, “I’m not going to discuss individual conversations. We were encouraged to move quickly and we were already moving quickly and I feel very confident about the decision we made.”
President Trump tweeted on Sunday night that he asked for those working in the White House to “receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary.” He also said, “I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.” This came after The New York Times reported that White House staff were going to get the vaccines, despite the fact that the first round is predominantly for front line, health care workers.
The Trump administration is rolling out its public education campaign about getting the vaccine after “delayed by false starts and investigations,” The New York Times reported on Sunday. “The campaign is part of a broader public relations effort that was initially supposed to feature celebrities whom the administration considered friendly to the president, but came under scrutiny from Democrats who called it propaganda intended to re-elect Mr. Trump,” said the report. “The effort — developed by Fors Marsh Group, a market research group, under contract with the government — is focused on what officials are calling the movable middle: people who are hesitant to take the vaccine, but who can be persuaded to do so. But that will not be an easy task.”
Biden is working on his own messaging plan to quell people’s concerns about getting the vaccine by “counteracting Trump’s mixed messaging on the vaccine, which includes downplaying the public health threat of the coronavirus while hailing the unprecedented speed at which a shot was developed,” Politico reported on Saturday.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at personnel issues during the transition and beginning of the Biden administration.
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