The first box containing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine heads down the conveyor to an awaiting transport truck at the McKesson facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., on Monday.

The first box containing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine heads down the conveyor to an awaiting transport truck at the McKesson facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., on Monday. Timothy D. Easley, Pool / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: FDA Greenlights Third Vaccine; Shipment and Distribution Begins

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

The White House said on Friday that since January 20, the Biden administration has supported the creation or expansion of 441 community vaccine centers across 37 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. Specifically, 171 are being supported by 2,225 federal personnel collectively, 312 are being supported by the National Guard, 177 received federal funding and 62 received federal equipment. 

“Additionally, the Biden-Harris administration has announced 18 federally-established community vaccination centers, with the ability to administer a total of 61,000 shots per day at full capacity,” said a fact-sheet from the White House. “For these sites, the federal government is directly working with state and local partners from start to finish, to help select the location for [them, and the] staff, and operate these sites.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to Johnson and Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine on Saturday. “The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said. “The FDA, through our open and transparent scientific review process, has now authorized three COVID-19 vaccines with the urgency called for during this pandemic, using the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.” The vaccine is only one shot and doesn’t need to be kept as cold as the other ones. 

On Sunday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee voted to recommend the Johnson and Johnson vaccine for people 18 and older, which CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on. “This third safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine comes at a potentially pivotal time. CDC’s latest data suggest that recent declines in COVID-19 cases may be stalling and potentially leveling off at still very high numbers,” she said in a statement. “That is why it is so critical that we remain vigilant and consistently take all of the mitigation steps we know work to stop the spread of COVID-19 while we work our way toward mass vaccination.” 

Johnson and Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday morning that 4 million vaccines were being shipped “literally as we speak,” and “within the next 24 to 48 hours, Americans should start receiving shots in arms.” McKesson Corporation, tapped by the federal government to help with vaccine distribution, said on Monday it began distribution of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine. 

Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday that the Trump administration is to blame for the slow vaccine rollout. When the Biden administration came into office, “there really was no plan to ramp up the supply of those vaccines,” he said. “So there wasn't enough vaccine. There were not enough vaccinators, people [who] actually take vaccine and turn it into vaccinations by putting needles into arms. And then third there just were not enough places for people to get vaccinated. There was no comprehensive plan or strategy.” 

CDC officials are wary about upcoming recommendations from the Government Accountability Office about centralizing COVID tracking data, Politico reported on Friday. They “fear they could lose control of their data collection and quality control work if they are pushed to partner with other groups inside and outside the department tracing COVID-19 health indicators,” said the report. “They are fearful of any new recommendations that would alter their normal operations, particularly after what happened when the Trump administration introduced the [Health and Human Services Department] Protect data platform.”

The FDA issued emergency use authorization for another at-home coronavirus test on Monday. The agency had previously “authorized dozens of test-by-mail kits, and three at-home tests,” which are not nearly as accurate as those taken in a clinic, but experts say coronavirus tests that can be done at home play an important role as the country continues to reopen,” The New York Times reported on Saturday. 

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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