Ted S. Warren / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: VA Now Offering Walk-Up Vaccines; FDA Greenlights Pfizer Vaccine for Adolescents

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

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Monday evening that it expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years old. “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock in a statement. “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee on immunization practices is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to vote on the formal recommendations for it. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The CDC has been too slow and cautious in its messaging and guidance about the pandemic, according to public health experts, Stat News reported on Tuesday. This includes how the virus spreads, activities vaccinated people can do and restrictions for summer camps.

The Veterans Affairs Department is now offering walk-in vaccine appointments for veterans, their spouses and caregivers at all facilities and clinics. The VA had vaccinated more than 2.7 million individuals, as of Monday. 

The Pentagon is continuing its early pandemic plan to speed up payments to defense contractors, despite the fact that many of the companies are doing well financially, Bloomberg reported on Monday. 

A week after launching the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, established by the American Rescue Plan, the Small Business Administration started delivering relief to more than 16,000 approved applicants on Monday. “We know that this help is urgently needed by so many who have suffered disproportionately from this pandemic and have often been unable to access relief,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, in a statement. “Restaurants are the core of our neighborhoods and propel economic activity on Main Streets across the nation. The SBA is here to help them build resilience to survive this pandemic as we get our economy back on track.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that as of Monday,  it had received almost 174,000 applications for its COVID-19 funeral assistance program, approved more than 2,200 of them and distributed more than $15.5 million in aid. It released the numbers by state as well. 

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the Health and Human Services Department, “quietly” announced last week it is not accepting pitches for coronavirus therapeutics anymore, Stat News reported on Tuesday. “BARDA is one of the few government agencies that dole out funding to support these types of drug development programs,” said the report. Also, “the action is surprising given the amount of funding the tiny agency should have at its disposal. The American Rescue Plan included $6 billion for the ‘research, development, manufacturing, production and purchasing of vaccines, therapeutics and other ancillary products.’ ” 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Monday that a man in Orange County, California, was arrested for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $5 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Small Business Administration. “The case is the result of an investigation by [ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations] El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force – including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Division – and the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General,” said a press release. 

An unreleased and unfinalized report from the State Department says there was a “void of U.S. international leadership” under the Trump administration early on in the pandemic, Politico reported on Tuesday. “The draft notes deep frustrations that career State Department officials harbored regarding the past administration’s pandemic response,” said the report. “The document also takes a sober look at how the pandemic hindered U.S. foreign policy goals, and it details mistakes made in the early days of the crisis.” 

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 2 p.m. 

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.