Matt Slocum / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Full FDA Approval Sought for Second Vaccine; NIH To Study Mixed Vaccine Schedules

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

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidance on coronavirus vaccines late last week as many employees and employers are starting to return to workplaces or plan for doing so. “Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the [Americans with Disabilities Act] and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations,” said the update. “Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers.” 

Additionally, the EEOC’s laws do not prevent employers from “offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party.” And employers that are administering vaccines to employees may offer incentives so long as they are not “coercive.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The National Institutes of Health said on Tuesday it has started clinical trials to study mixed vaccine schedules. “Although the vaccines currently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offer strong protection against COVID-19, we need to prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a statement. “The results of this trial are intended to inform public health policy decisions on the potential use of mixed vaccine schedules should booster doses be indicated.”

Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH, said on theHugh Hewitt Show" on Wednesday, “this whole issue about whether something happened at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, nobody knows.” He called for a “thorough investigation” into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak because the World Health Organization “effort did not meet that standard.” Additionally, the Chinese government needs to be open and provide answers to questions they have not given previously, he said. 

Moderna announced on Tuesday it is seeking full approval from the FDA for its coronavirus vaccine. The company is providing data to the agency on a rolling basis. Moderna’s vaccine is currently only available for individuals 18 years old and up. Pfizer and BioNTech applied for full approval of their vaccine for individuals 16 and older last month.

The Washington Post and Buzzfeed obtained hundreds and thousands, respectively, of pages of emails to and from Fauci in March and April of 2020 (the early days of the pandemic), through the Freedom of Information Act. The correspondence shows how he “was struggling to bring coherence to the Trump administration’s chaotic response to the virus and President Donald Trump was seeking to minimize its severity,” said The Post. “He was inundated with correspondence from colleagues, hospital administrators, foreign governments and random strangers — about 1,000 messages a day, he says at one point — writing to seek his advice, solicit his help or simply offer encouragement.” 

The Small Business Administration closed the portal for new applicants to its Paycheck Protection Program on Tuesday. The program “provided over 8.5 million small businesses and nonprofits the lifeline they needed to survive during a once-in-generation economic crisis,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman in a press release. “At the same time, millions of underserved businesses–particularly our smallest businesses and those owned by women and people of color–were left out of early rounds of relief.” She also noted that in 2021, 96% of the program loans went to small businesses that have fewer than 20 employees. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday within the next two weeks the Biden administration would be announcing the process to distribute the approximately 80 million vaccine doses the United States is making available globally. “Among other things, we will focus on equity, on the equitable distribution of vaccines; we’ll focus on science; we’ll work in coordination with COVAX; and we will distribute vaccines without political requirements of those receiving them,” he said. 

The Trump Organization once again is trying to sell the lease for its D.C. hotel located in a federally owned building after the pandemic disrupted its previous effort, The Washington Post reported. Although the company obtained the lease before former President Trump became president, it was the subject of controversy during his administration due to concerns over possible conflicts of interest and Emoluments Clause violations. 

 Upcoming:

  • Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 12 p.m.
  • President Biden will give remarks on the COVD-19 response and vaccinations at 1:15 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.

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