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Coronavirus Roundup: The FDA Limits Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Authorization 

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

The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery office released its quarterly report last week, which says its Office of Investigations is working on 27 open cases. That is quadruple its casework since last year. 

After recapping the office’s achievements, Special IG Brian Miller wrote about what its most pressing needs are. “A single, five-year term is not enough time to complete the 27 cases that SIGPR is already working, let alone finish additional cases we may unearth in the coming months…therefore [we] respectfully ask Congress to extend SIGPR’s tenure another five years, to March 2030,” Miller wrote. Miller also asked for the watchdog office to be placed in the annual appropriations cycle. He had told Government Executive about both of these wishes in an interview. 

“We are grateful to the president, who has recommended that Congress provide SIGPR $25 million until September 30, 2025,” Miller wrote, referring to President Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget request. “That budget will allow SIGPR to hire more investigators and auditors. It will also assure my staff that serving the country at SIGPR is a dependable way to provide for themselves and their families.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday limited its authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to “individuals 18 years of age and older for whom other authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines are not accessible or clinically appropriate, and to individuals 18 years of age and older who elect to receive the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine because they would otherwise not receive a COVID-19 vaccine.” The FDA made this decision because of a rare and dangerous clotting condition. Last spring, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a pause of the vaccine over the clotting condition. The pause was lifted after 10 days and a warning label was added about the potential risks. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, making him the latest high-profile government official to do so. He is only experiencing mild symptoms and hadn’t seen the president for a few days, said Ned Price, State Department spokesman, in a statement

The federal government “faces an unsustainable fiscal future,” and while the “underlying conditions” were around well before the pandemic, the “government’s extensive fiscal response to the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth in federal debt,” the Government Accountability Office said in a report released on Thursday.

A recent watchdog report looks at how the Internal Revenue Service implemented premium tax credit provisions from the American Rescue Plan. “The IRS took immediate steps to remove excess [advanced premium tax credit] repayment from Tax Year 2020 returns, in accordance with [the law],” and “as of August 12, 2021, the IRS provided relief for nearly 1 million taxpayers by removing $942 million in [tax credit] repayments from their returns, which resulted in $845 million in tax reductions to these taxpayers’ accounts as part of the ARPA recovery efforts,” said a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. However, the inspector general “identified 30,231 taxpayers who may now qualify for Additional Child Tax Credits totaling $16.4 million.” Also, “the IRS did not develop processes and procedures to verify the accuracy of premium tax credit claims based on unemployment compensation,” the report stated. 

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