Overnight Health Care — White House proposes $65B strategy for pandemic preparedness
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The White House wants $65 billion for a sweeping new biosecurity strategy to remake the country’s pandemic plan in the wake of COVID-19. It could be one of the largest investments in public health in history— if it’s approved.
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Biden administration seeks $65B for pandemic preparedness plan
The Biden administration on Friday unveiled its $65.3 billion plan to improve the U.S.’s pandemic preparedness strategy in the midst of COVID-19 and as the country readies for any future biological threats.
The White House wants the $65.3 billion over seven to 10 years to invest in the country’s ability to respond “rapidly and effectively” to future epidemics and pandemics, as the current COVID-19 crisis has disrupted society and killed millions worldwide.
Funding effort: Eric Lander, the director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP), told reporters that “it’s vital” to start with a commitment of $15 billion to $20 billion “to jump-start the efforts.”
The White House is also proposing the current budget reconciliation bill dedicate $15 billion to the effort, he said. Officials are in discussions with Capitol Hill about obtaining the $15 billion in the reconciliation and are “very optimistic,” Lander said.
“There’s a reasonable likelihood of another serious pandemic that could be worse than COVID-19 will occur soon, possibly within the next decade,” he added. “And the next pandemic will very likely be substantially different than COVID-19. So we must be prepared to deal with any type of viral threats.”
Apollo-style program: Officials said the pandemic preparedness effort will require the “seriousness in purpose,” “commitment” and “accountability” of former President Kennedy’s Apollo program that aimed to get Americans on the moon.
To ensure effective management of the endeavor, the administration has proposed setting up a mission control to operate as a central program management unit, but there are ongoing discussions over which agency would house the unit.
CDC: CHILD COVID-19 INFECTIONS HIGHER IN LOW-VACCINATION STATES
Vaccines work. And if you’re too young to be vaccinated, wear a mask and make sure everyone else around you is vaccinated.
That was the underlying finding of a pair of CDC studies released Friday. Hospitalizations and emergency room visits by children with COVID-19 were much higher in states with low vaccination rates.
According to one study, hospitalization rates of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were 10 times higher in the unvaccinated states compared with those with higher percentages of residents who were fully vaccinated, CDC found.
But the proportion of young children with severe disease was generally similar compared with those earlier in the pandemic. In other words: more children have COVID-19, because there is more disease in the community.
Another study looked at national cases, emergency room visits and hospitalizations and found that in August 2021, the rate of hospitalization for children was nearly four times higher in states with the lowest overall vaccination coverage when compared to states with high overall vaccination coverage.
Biden attacks Texas abortion ban as ‘almost un-American’
President Biden on Friday said that the abortion law in Texas is “almost un-American” and that his Justice Department is looking into ways to protect abortion access after the Supreme Court refused to block the new law.
“It just seems, I know this sounds ridiculous, almost un-American what we’re talking about. Not to debate about, I respect people who think, who don’t support Roe v. Wade. I respect their views. I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception and all. I respect that, don’t agree, but I respect that. Not going to impose that on people,” Biden told reporters.
He said he’s a “strong supporter of Roe v. Wade” and that the most “pernicious thing” about the Texas law is that it allows most citizens to file lawsuits against abortion providers if they think the provider infringed on the policy.
“But what I was told and I must tell you, I am not certain, I was told there are possibilities within the existing law to have the Justice Department look and see whether there are things that can be done that can limit the independent action of individuals in enforcing … a state law. I don’t know enough to give you an answer yet. I’ve asked that to be checked,” Biden said.
What’s next: Biden said on Thursday he would ask the Gender Policy Council and White House counsel to “launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision” and include the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice
SENATE PANEL TO EXAMINE SUPREME COURT’S ABORTION RULING
A Senate panel has set its sights on the Supreme Court’s increasingly common practice of deciding weighty cases on an emergency basis, a procedure the justices used this week to greenlight Texas’s severe curtailment of abortion access.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, announced Friday that the committee would hold a hearing on the court’s so-called shadow docket, which often produces consequential rulings without the justices having received a comprehensive set of paper briefs or hearing oral arguments.
The court recently used the truncated process to rule on significant disputes over immigration policy and federal eviction protections and, more recently, to leave intact a new Texas law that bans most abortions in the country’s second-most populous state.
What he said: “The Supreme Court must operate with the highest regard for judicial integrity in order to earn the public’s trust,” Durbin said in a statement. “This anti-choice law is a devastating blow to Americans’ constitutional rights — and the Court allowed it to see the light of day without public deliberation or transparency.”
“At a time when public confidence in government institutions has greatly eroded, we must examine not just the constitutional impact of allowing the Texas law to take effect,” he continued, “but also the conservative Court’s abuse of the shadow docket.”
Read more here.
FDA retirements reignite debate over Biden booster plan
Former health officials and outside experts have questioned the need for booster doses, stating they were concerned that when the Biden administration announced that boosters could be available to all adults on Sept. 20, political leaders were getting ahead of the typical process.
Those concerns were amplified this week when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the retirements of two top agency vaccine regulators. Marion Gruber, director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, is scheduled to depart the FDA at the end of October. Phil Krause, the office’s deputy director, will retire in November.
The Biden administration rolled out a plan last month to make booster shots widely available to the public on Sept. 20, but the start date was announced before any of the relevant agencies had examined the evidence.
The recommendation will only happen, administration officials have emphasized, if both CDC and FDA sign off. But that commitment to the data could be tested if agency scientists don’t agree on the timing or method.
New development: Top health officials are reportedly pushing back on the Sept. 20 deadline and warned White House officials that they may not be able to approve widespread boosters for every American by that date. The recommendation may only be for Pfizer-BioNTech, and it may also only be for a limited group of people, depending on what the scientists say.
The FDA has only partial data on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters. Neither the White House nor FDA have commented publicly on if the plans will change.
Mark your calendar: The FDA has scheduled a meeting of its outside vaccine advisory panel for Sept. 17 to discuss the data from Pfizer-BioNTech. It’s likely the discussion will not be limited to the particulars of Pfizer’s application, and will examine thorny issues including the debate about boosters among health experts.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- What we actually know about waning immunity (The Atlantic)
- Telemedicine abortions offer cheaper options but may also undermine critical clinics (Kaiser Health News)
- U.S. heads into Labor Day with Covid vaccines but a substantially worse outbreak than this time last year (CNBC)
- Health officials advise White House to scale back booster plan for now (The New York Times)
STATE BY STATE
- Florida COVID-19 deaths hit new record as immunizations drop to lowest level in months (Palm Beach Post)
- COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas level off just below the pandemic’s winter peak (The Texas Tribune)
- COVID outbreaks at Colorado schools more than double in a week, state data shows (The Denver Post)
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Tuesday.
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