Coronavirus Roundup: VA Offers Booster Shots; Biden Receives His Booster
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced on Tuesday it awarded about $36.3 million to three academic institutions––University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Duke University––to do research to develop vaccines that can protect against several types of coronaviruses and viral variants.
“The new awards build on the $1.2 billion investment [the institute] has made in coronavirus vaccine research since the COVID-19 pandemic began, including multiple projects in pan-coronavirus vaccine research in the NIAID intramural and extramural programs,” said a press release. “A key goal of the initiative is to develop multivalent vaccine platforms and strategies suitable for use in vulnerable populations and to understand vaccine-induced responses and efficacy related to a person’s age or sex.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
In accordance with the new guidance on booster shots, the Veterans Affairs Department is offering boosters for those who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. “VA’s doors are open for walk-ins today during hours when vaccine clinics are operational, with full opening on Monday where Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccines are available,” said a press release on Friday. “Vaccines will be offered to veterans receiving care at VA and employees, prioritizing those persons who are 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities, and people 50-64 years with underlying conditions. As supply and capacity permits, VA will offer booster doses to all other veterans, spouses, caregivers and [Civilian Health and Medical Program] recipients under the authority of the SAVE LIVES Act, which was signed into law in March 2021.”
President Biden received his booster shot live on camera on Monday. “Boosters are important, but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” he said.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on ABC on Monday the agency is “enthusiastically awaiting” data from Pfizer and BioNTech on its vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. The Pfizer CEO said on Sunday they expect to submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration soon. “As soon as they get submitted to the FDA, I know the FDA is urgently planning to review this data,” Walensky said. “It will go from the FDA to the CDC and we will review it with similar urgency... I'm hoping in the order of weeks.”
The top career official at the CDC in charge of the pandemic response is stepping down from that role, but will retain his previous role as director of the CDC’s Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, Politico reported on Monday. “The switch comes amid a growing sense of burnout and fatigue within the CDC after almost two years of fighting COVID-19,” said the report. “He is not leaving the agency, just passing the torch on the response after serving as the incident manager for more than a year,” CDC spokesperson Ben Haynes told Politico. “Shifts in response personnel and leadership are normal.”
Dr. Peter Marks, a top vaccine official at the FDA, was elevated to acting director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review as two other top officials, who questioned the need for booster shots, prepare to retire this fall, The New York Times reported.
Ned Price, spokesman for the State Department, said in a tweet on Monday he tested positive for coronavirus. “I'm feeling under the weather, but am grateful for the protection from severe illness offered by safe and effective vaccines,” he said. This came after he returned from the UN General Assembly in New York. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tested negative, PBS NewsHour reported.
Business and lobbying groups are getting frustrated that the Biden administration so far has not engaged with them as the Labor Department crafts the emergency Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that will require businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, The Hill reported on Tuesday.
During a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki deferred to OSHA when asked for an update on the timing of the rule, which was announced on September 9. “We knew it would take a little bit of time, given there are some very understandable and good questions by the business community. And they want to ensure there's clarity when they put out the rules,” Psaki said. “But businesses can employ it...It's been very successful in the vast, vast majority of businesses that have implemented mandates.”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., asked the Office of Management and Budget to provide information on the transparency and accountability of COVID-19 funds, which he has been seeking for some time. In a letter last week, he asked acting OMB Director Shalanda Young for the total funds that have yet to be spent, whether this figure will be made public and whether OMB will update its guidance on improper payments to include coronavirus relief, among other things.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department inspector general released the result of a follow-up survey on how Federal Bureau of Prisons employees feel their institutions handled the pandemic. This was taken in February and the previous one was taken in April 2020. The results “indicate that, overall, federal prison staff perceive that the BOP has taken and is taking steps to protect both staff and inmates from COVID-19, but that the pandemic has had negative effects on BOP staff and opportunities for improvement remain,” said a summary. “The majority of respondents rated the BOP’s response to the pandemic as ‘Somewhat Effective’ or ‘Effective.’” Also, “a majority of respondents reported feeling increased stress or anxiety at work and being asked to perform tasks outside their normal duties” and “nearly one in three respondents who answered that question reported that they have considered leaving the BOP.”
- The White House coronavirus response team and public health officials will give a briefing at 12:30 p.m.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 1:30 p.m.
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