Overnight Health Care: Biden says anyone who wants vaccine may be able to get it by spring | Moderna says vaccine effective on variants, but tests booster shot | California lifts regional stay-at-home order

Overnight Health Care: Biden says anyone who wants vaccine may be able to get it by spring | Moderna says vaccine effective on variants, but tests booster shot | California lifts regional stay-at-home order
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Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care. 

President Biden has a new timeline for vaccinating everyone who wants to be, and his administration is also going to resume coronavirus briefings with health officials. Moderna is testing a booster shot just in case, while Merck is ending its vaccine development.

We'll start with Biden:

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Biden says anyone who wants vaccine may be able to get it by spring

President Biden said he thinks any American who wants a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to get one by the spring.

“I think we’ll be able to do that this spring,” Biden said in a press conference with reporters. “It’s going to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we’ve ever tried in this country but I think we can do that.” 

Biden also said the country should soon be vaccinating 1.5 million people per day. 

His administration has set a goal of 100 million shots in arms within his first 100 days in office, which amounts to about 1 million vaccinations per day. The U.S. averaged about 1.16 million doses per day last week. 

“I'm quite confident that we will be in a position within the next three weeks or so to be vaccinating people at the range of a million a day or in excess of that,” Biden said. 

“I think we may be able to get that to… 1.5 million a day,” he said. 

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Read more here.

Biden has pledged to listen to the scientists and experts. To that end, health officials will be back in front of the public much more often.

Biden White House to resume COVID-19 briefings with health officials

The Biden White House announced it will resume regular briefings with public health experts focused on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, reviving an approach that had fizzled out during the Trump administration even as the outbreak worsened.

The White House anticipates holding three briefings each week led by public health officials and members of the administration's COVID-19 response team, press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiWhite House on Cleveland Indians' name change: 'We certainly support their change of name' US delegation departs Haiti after reports of gunshots at ex-president's funeral White House on unvaccinated Americans: Our role is not to 'place blame' MORE said Monday. The first of those briefings will take place on Monday, and will "continue regularly for the foreseeable future," she said.

The briefings are expected to take place in addition to the daily appearances by Psaki to field questions on other topics. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciGOP Rep. Cawthorn says he wants to 'prosecute' Fauci The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel McConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message MORE, a member of the coronavirus response team and the government's top expert on infectious diseases, joined Psaki at a briefing last week.

The inclusion of public health officials in the messaging effort around the pandemic marks the latest instance of how the Biden White House is putting distance between its handling of the pandemic and the Trump administration's response.

Read more here.

Moderna says vaccine effective on variants, but tests booster shot

There was some good news from Moderna on its vaccine’s effectiveness against variants of the coronavirus on Monday, though “out of an abundance of caution” they are testing a booster shot against one variant to watch. 

Moderna said Monday that its studies showed “no significant impact” in the levels of neutralizing antibodies produced against the U.K. variant, a positive sign. 

But for the South African variant, the vaccine produced a “six-fold” decrease in neutralizing antibodies. Still, the level of antibodies produced remains “above levels that are expected to be protective,” the company said. 

Given this drop in antibody levels, the company said that to be on the safe side, it will begin studying a new version of its vaccine specifically designed to fight the South African variant, that can be given as a booster shot.

The company said it would begin Phase 1 trials to “evaluate the immunological benefit of boosting with strain-specific spike proteins.”

Read more here 

Fauci’s tour of post-Trump interviews continues: He says Trump pressured him to be 'more positive' on pandemic

Anthony Fauci told The New York Times that former President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE pressured him to offer more sunny projections about the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There were a couple of times where I would make a statement that was a pessimistic viewpoint about what direction we were going, and the president would call me up and say, ‘Hey, why aren’t you more positive? You’ve got to take a positive attitude. Why are you so negativistic? Be more positive,’ ” Fauci told the newspaper in an interview published Sunday.

Asked whether Trump offered reasons for wanting more optimistic public statements, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the then-president “didn’t get into the whys or anything.”

“[H]e didn’t do that kind of specificity. He just expressed disappointment,” Fauci said.

Read more here.

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Vaccine development is not easy, and it's a testament to how lucky we are that two candidates had major initial success: Merck discontinuing development of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates 

Merck has halted its development of two potential vaccines for the coronavirus, citing data that showed a lack of immune response.

The two vaccine candidates, which derive from technology used to develop Merck’s Ebola and measles vaccines respectively, generated fewer antibodies than existing vaccines, according to interim trial data.

“We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on these vaccine candidates and to the volunteers in the trials,” said Dean Y. Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories. “We are resolute in our commitment to contribute to the global effort to relieve the burden of this pandemic on patients, health care systems and communities.”

Merck said it remains committed to research on COVID-19 and will focus on two treatments it is developing. 

Although the news comes as vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna have begun distribution, the rollout of those vaccines has lagged behind initial goals and new, more aggressive, strains of the virus have emerged whose resilience against those vaccines remains unclear.

Read more here

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California lifts regional stay-at-home order 

California on Monday lifted its regional coronavirus stay-at-home order because of slightly improving ICU conditions, health officials announced.

As a result, the state will return to the county-based restrictions established last summer. The change will allow non-retail services and businesses, such as outdoor dining and hair salons, to reopen immediately, subject to any additional restrictions required by local jurisdictions.

However, most counties will be returning to the strictest tier, which means indoor operations will remain suspended or severely limited.

The data: Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomJudge clears way for Larry Elder to appear on California recall ballot Caitlyn Jenner pledges to support Trump if he makes another bid for the White House Harris says she will campaign for Newsom in California recall election MORE (D) in December imposed the restrictions in regions where the ICU capacity dropped below 15 percent. Officials said the decision to lift the order was based on the four-week projections showing ICU capacity was above 15 percent. 

According to state data, Southern California currently has 0 percent ICU capacity.  But the San Francisco Bay Area ICU capacity is now at 23 percent, and the San Joaquin Valley is up to 1.3 percent capacity — an increase from 0 percent. Statewide, ICU capacity is 4.5 percent. 

Read more here.

The Hill events 

Wednesday 1/27 beginning at 1:15 PM ET | Challenge of our Time: The COVID-19 Vaccine

While grim milestones are still being hit, there is light at the end of the COVID tunnel. That we find ourselves here in less than a year is perhaps nothing short of a medical miracle. But the hard work is just beginning. How do you manufacture and distribute a vaccine to nearly 7.8 billion people? On Wednesday, Jan. 27, The Hill hosts a two-part discussion on both the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines.  Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciGOP Rep. Cawthorn says he wants to 'prosecute' Fauci The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel McConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message MORE, Dr. Francis Collins, Pfizer's Mikeal Dolsten, AMA's Susan Bailey, Reps. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonHouse passes bills to boost science competitiveness with China The Chinese-Russian Lunar Axis adopts a plan from the late Paul Spudis Congress and DOT should ensure a data-driven transportation infrastructure MORE and Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupHouse approves select panel to probe Jan. 6 attack Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation GOP rep: If Biden doesn't evacuate Afghan interpreters, 'blood will be on his hands' MORE and many more join The Hill's Steve Clemons to discuss the challenge of our time. We will highlight the state of play -- not only in the US, but globally -- in producing workable vaccine candidates, evaluating strategies to manufacture vaccines, therapeutics, and the downstream infrastructure of those at global scale, and then look at distribution complexities that must be overcome. RSVP today for one session or both.

What we’re reading

Angered by new coronavirus restrictions, protesters in Netherlands clash with police (NPR)

Undercounting of Covid-19 deaths is greatest in pro-Trump areas, analysis shows (Stat)

If poor countries go unvaccinated, a study says, rich ones will pay (New York Times

State by state 

Surge of student suicides pushes Las Vegas schools to reopen (The New York Times

Unemployment caused by COVID driving up Florida’s Medicaid rolls — and costing billions (tallahassee.com

‘Need a lot of both.’ Will California’s vaccine ramp-up squeeze out COVID-19 testing? (LA Times)

Florida has used only half of the vaccines it was sent, White House says (Tampa Bay Times)