The Johnson & Johnson logo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine may pose a "small possible risk" of a rare but potentially dangerous neurological reaction, U.S. health officials said Monday.

The Johnson & Johnson logo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine may pose a "small possible risk" of a rare but potentially dangerous neurological reaction, U.S. health officials said Monday. Richard Drew / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: FDA Issues Warning on J & J Shot; Republicans Call for Hearing on VA Records Backlog 

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 started warning on Monday that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could lead to increased risk of a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome during the 42-day period after vaccination. The warning is on a fact-sheet for patients and medical providers. Reportedly there have been 100 cases of the condition out of the 12.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses administered. This comes after the federal public health agencies recommended a pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this spring while they reviewed cases of rare blood clots believed to be associated with the vaccine. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he thinks there should be more vaccine mandates on the local level, such as from schools and businesses. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked during the briefing on Monday if the president agrees with that. The reporter pointed out that President Biden said, “My message to you is this: Listen to Dr. Fauci,” on March 11. 

“What Dr. Fauci was conveying is that there will be decisions made by local leaders, just like there will be decisions made by business leaders, by institutional leaders on how they can keep their communities safe, and we support their right to make those decisions,” Psaki replied. She also reiterated that there will be no mandates on the federal level. 

Pfizer briefed federal officials on Monday about their argument for the need for a coronavirus booster shot, which the federal public health agencies have said isn’t needed just yet. “The high-level online meeting, which lasted an hour and involved Pfizer’s chief scientific officer briefing virtually every top doctor in the federal government, came on the same day Israel started administering third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to heart transplant patients and others with compromised immune systems,” The New York Times reported. “Officials said after the meeting that more data — and possibly several more months — would be needed before regulators could determine whether booster shots were necessary.” 

When asked if the federal government would cover a third vaccine shot if and when a booster is required, Psaki said during the briefing their long-term plan has been to increase manufacturing “because we want to have maximum optionality.” The additional doses can be either for booster shots or administered to children under 12 if the vaccines get FDA approval for the younger age group, she said. 

The White House coronavirus task force has moved its weekly calls with governors to biweekly, Politico reported on Monday. “The biweekly decision was mutual between the White House and the National Governors Association,” said the report. “But it comes as states face hardened resistance to shots among their unvaccinated population and the rise of the infectious Delta variant. Jeff Zients, Biden’s coronavirus czar, told governors last week that the White House would continue working with governors’ teams on a daily basis and holding weekly calls with state public health officials.” 

House Republicans are calling for the House Oversight and Reform Committee to hold a hearing on the backlog of veterans’ records requests due to the pandemic. “While it appears that [National Archives and Records Administration] will increase the number of employees onsite by July 19, 2021, it is troubling that the workforce is still not back to work at full capacity even though the backlog stands at nearly 500,000,” a group of Republicans led by Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the committee, and Fred Keller, R-Pa, wrote to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., committee chairwoman, on Monday. “We urge you to hold a hearing to conduct oversight on why there was not a plan to address records requests effectively during the pandemic, how the agency plans to resolve the backlog, and why the workforce has taken so long to return to pre-pandemic levels.” 

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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