Overnight Health Care — Biden unveils January vaccine deadline
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The Biden administration released details of its vaccine mandate for health facilities as well as its vaccine-or-test requirement for private companies; the deadline for both sectors is Jan. 4.
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Businesses, health workers, federal contractors face Jan. 4 vaccine deadline
The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled the vaccine-or-test requirement for businesses with over 100 employees and set a deadline of Jan. 4 for employees to be fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The administration said it was on strong legal grounds with the rule, which could impact two-thirds of all U.S. workers.
To streamline all the separate requirements, businesses, health workers and federal contractors will now all have the same Jan. 4 deadline. Previously, federal contractors needed to be vaccinated by Dec. 8.
Health workers: A true vaccine mandate for health workers will apply to approximately 76,000 health care facilities and more than 17 million health care workers — the majority of health care workers in the country.
The rule applies to all employees, regardless of whether they are clinical or not. According to administration officials, it also covers students, trainees, and volunteers who work at a facility that receives federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid. There are escalating penalties for facilities that don’t cooperate, from civil monetary penalties to denying payment and up to terminating them from the Medicare or Medicaid programs as a last resort.
There is no testing option; a senior administration official said health workers are being held to a higher bar than other sectors.
Administration confident in legal standing
The administration said it was on strong legal grounds with the rule for private companies, which an official noted is not technically a vaccine mandate, as businesses can also choose to make regular testing and mask-wearing an option.
The mandate, which applies to businesses with at least 100 employees and is expected to cover 84 million people, was developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Test or vaccinate: Under the rule, employers will need to develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy unless they require unvaccinated employees to test once a week and wear a face covering at work.
It also requires employers to provide paid time off to workers to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects from the vaccine.
OSHA will have programmed or planned inspections, where agents go into workplaces to check that the workplace is in compliance with the rule. For what OSHA refers to as willful violations, a company can be fined $136,532.
The standard penalty is $13,653 for a single violation, and the number would increase if there are multiple violations in a workplace.
BIDEN DEFENDS VAX MANDATE
President Biden stood by his administration’s coronavirus vaccination mandate for businesses, arguing on Thursday it will not lead to worker shortages amid pushback from Republicans over the impact it could have on the economy.
“As we’ve seen with businesses – large and small – across all sectors of our economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to get vaccinated,” Biden said in a statement.
“There have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements,” he added. “Despite what some predicted and falsely assert, vaccination requirements have broad public support.”
The president also argued that vaccine requirements are nothing new, noting they exist for other diseases, and that safety requirements are also not new. He said that he “would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary” but that the requirements are because “too many people” are unvaccinated.
“The virus will not go away by itself, or because we wish it away: we have to act. Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic,” Biden said.
Conflict: Republicans have criticized the mandate since Biden first announced it in September with some GOP governors, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, vowing to fight it in court.
The top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), issued a statement on Thursday, saying “job creators should not be forced to become the vaccine-and-testing police for [Biden].”
US PASSES GRIM MILESTONE OF 750K COVID-19 DEATHS
The United States has surpassed the sobering milestone of 750,000 COVID-19 deaths despite the widespread availability of vaccines.
By Thursday evening, the country reached beyond 751,000 COVID-19 fatalities, along with more than 46 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. reached 700,000 COVID-19 deaths — another staggering figure highlighting the severity of the pandemic on Americans — just a month ago.
The country passed the stark number as cases, hospitalizations and deaths have trended downward in recent weeks.
The vaccines also became available to children aged 5 to 11 this week, widening the eligible population by 28 million in a move that was considered another milestone toward achieving widespread vaccination and moving toward the end of the pandemic.
But with winter and the holiday season approaching, public health experts have cautioned people not to let their guard down just yet, as the virus still kills more than 1,000 Americans per day.
Moderna scales back vaccine sales projections
Moderna scaled back its projection for COVID-19 vaccine sales this year by as much as $5 billion as it predicts some dose deliveries will be postponed until next year.
The manufacturer estimated on Thursday that its vaccine sales will reach between $15 billion and $18 billion – a drop from its previous $20 billion forecast. Moderna attributed its lowered revenue outlook to less expected shipments this year, as well as the prioritization of getting doses to lower-income countries through the COVAX program co-led by Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Moderna predicted it will deliver between 700 million and 800 million doses this year, a decrease from its previously projected range of between 800 million and 1 billion doses, pointing to longer delivery times for international shipments and a “temporary” effect from expanding its bottling capacity.
Still, Moderna expects to achieve between $17 billion and $22 billion in its 2022 sales due to its purchasing agreements and the booster market.
Contrast: Moderna’s cut in expected sales represents a contrast from Pfizer’s projections, as the latter vaccine manufacturer raised its prediction for 2021 sales to $36 billion this year in an announcement earlier this week. Pfizer declared it expects to bring in another $29 billion in sales next year.
Unlike Moderna’s vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been cleared by the U.S. to be given to children and adolescents, including this week to 5- to 12-year-olds.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Here’s why rapid COVID tests are so expensive and hard to find (ProPublica)
Patients went into the hospital for care. After testing positive there for Covid, some never came out. (Kaiser Health News)
Effort to reframe climate change as a health crisis gains steam (The New York Times)
As constituents clamor for ivermectin, Republican politicians embrace their cause (NPR)
STATE BY STATE
The Mississippi health department says not to read into the zero COVID deaths day (Mississippi Clarion Ledger)
Wait for doses in state slows kids’ vaccinations (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
Florida businesses, cities and schools risk big fines for defying the governor with pandemic mandates (The Washington Post)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Friday.
Updated on Nov. 5 at 9:04 a.m.
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