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Overnight Health Care: Biden adviser delivers more pessimistic prediction on vaccine rollout | CDC says coronavirus could kill up to 514K by Feb. 20 | Vaccine research funds have been misused for decades, watchdog says

Overnight Health Care: Biden adviser delivers more pessimistic prediction on vaccine rollout | CDC says coronavirus could kill up to 514K by Feb. 20 | Vaccine research funds have been misused for decades, watchdog says
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

It will be months before every American who wants a vaccine can get one, according to a White House adviser. The CDC says COVID-19 could kill more than 500,000 people in the next month, and HHS raided millions of research dollars to use for unrelated expenses.

We'll start at the White House: 

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Biden COVID-19 adviser: It will be 'months' before all who want vaccine get it

A White House COVID-19 adviser on Wednesday said that it will be "months" before all Americans who want a coronavirus vaccine can get one, a much more pessimistic message than the one delivered by President Biden.

"We are taking action to increase supply and increase capacity. But even so, it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one," Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 Response Team, said during a briefing.

The briefing with the White House COVID strategists, conducted via Zoom, was the first of what administration officials have promised to be regular occurrences.

Slavitt added that there is a difference between vaccines produced and vaccines administered, and the administration is working to bridge that gap.

Changes in expectations: Slavitt's comments are markedly different from remarks Biden gave Monday when he said he thinks any American who wants a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to get one by spring. “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 said during a press conference.

Biden added that he hoped the U.S. could be vaccinating 1.5 million people per day in the coming weeks.

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But ever since those comments, the White House has been working to temper expectations. 

Read more here.

White House goes full-throttle on COVID-19 relief talks

The White House is moving forward with a range of meetings with lawmakers and other stakeholders as President Biden pushes for the passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.

Press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiMississippi governor defends ending mask mandate Border crisis creates new risks for Biden Cruz puts hold on Biden's CIA nominee MORE told reporters Wednesday that Biden and Vice President Harris are “engaged directly” with members of Congress on COVID-19 relief and described conversations as productive, though she did not provide specific details on any of their meetings.

Psaki said that National Economic Council Director Brian DeeseBrian DeeseBiden makes inroads with progressives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Republicans squeeze Biden with 0 billion COVID-19 relief alternative Biden's push for stimulus checks sparks income eligibility debate MORE and Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsWhite House COVID-19 coordinator: Administration focused on expanding vaccine access Sunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Overnight Health Care: Senate to vote on .9 trillion relief bill this week | J&J vaccine rollout begins | CDC warns against lifting restrictions MORE, who is overseeing the White House's coronavirus response, are scheduled to meet with members of the New Democrat Coalition of moderate congressional Democrats.

Zients led a meeting of bipartisan governors on Tuesday and Deese has been holding meetings with lawmakers, including a bipartisan call on Sunday. The call over the weekend did not appear to yield any tangible progress on reaching a deal.

Senate reality: The $1.9 trillion relief proposal is designed to help American workers, businesses and state and local governments impacted by the virus, which has caused millions of job losses. But Biden has run into resistance from Republicans as he pushes for the passage of the proposal in a Congress that is narrowly controlled by Democrats. The president has said he’d like to get bipartisan support for the package, but the White House has not ruled out using reconciliation to pass a bill with a slim majority.

Read more here.

CDC projects US could see up to 514K coronavirus deaths by Feb. 20

The United States is projected to record as many as 514,000 deaths from the coronavirus by Feb. 20 based on the country's current trajectory, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Biden administration's first formal public health briefing on the pandemic, CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care: CDC study links masks to fewer COVID-19 deaths | Relief debate stalls in Senate | Biden faces criticism over push to vaccinate teachers CDC study links masks to fewer COVID deaths The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date MORE said the agency predicts the country is on pace for between 479,000 and 514,000 COVID-19 deaths by Feb. 20. The estimate is a more specific version of what Walensky said she expected during an interview with CBS earlier this month.

Walensky said the United States has reported slightly fewer than 420,000 coronavirus deaths since Jan. 22, 2020, based on CDC data.

Read more here.

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Vaccine research fund misused for decade, says special counsel office

Federal officials have misused a fund intended for vaccine research to pay for unrelated expenses since at least 2010, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel alleged in letters to President Biden and Congress on Wednesday.

Millions of dollars that Congress appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for vaccine research and emergency preparedness for public health threats was instead spent on administrative expenses, legal services, unrelated salaries and in one case, the removal of office furniture.

HHS’s Office of Inspector General launched an investigation after a whistleblower alerted the Office of Special Counsel about the misuse of funding, culminating in a report released Wednesday that claims many of the allegations were true.

“I am deeply concerned about ASPR’s apparent misuse of millions of dollars in funding meant for public health emergencies like the one our country is currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said in a press release, referring to the Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

According to the report, the ASPR, which is under HHS, misused funds intended for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), violating federal law in the process.

The report doesn’t contain specific estimates for how much funding was misappropriated, but claims that evidence shows that as recently as 2019, ASPR, which oversees BARDA, “improperly” took about $25 million from the biomedical agency.

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Read more here.

Fauci confident vaccine companies ready for 'mutant' coronavirus strains

Federal health agencies are preparing for the possibility that the current COVID-19 vaccines might not be effective against future strains of the coronavirus, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci predicts high schoolers will receive coronavirus vaccinations this fall Texas patrons threaten to call ICE on Mexican restaurant for keeping mask mandate Gottlieb: 'Probable' that high schoolers will get coronavirus vaccines this year MORE said Wednesday, but he has confidence that drug companies will be able to quickly change the formula.

Speaking at an event hosted by The Hill, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the federally authorized vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are effective against multiple strains that have been identified so far. Fauci noted that monoclonal antibody treatments may not necessarily be as effective, but he is not worried about vaccines.

"We are preparing, in anticipation that the virus will continue to evolve and may get to the point where it crosses the threshold that our vaccine is no longer effective as we want it to be," Fauci said. 

Agency collaboration: Earlier Wednesday, Fauci said during a White House briefing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will work with the National Institutes of Health to study the efficacy of the vaccines against new strains. If the vaccines start to become less effective, that's when they will start to take actions like "making a version of the same vaccine that in fact will be directed specifically against the relevant mutants."

Read more here. 

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Sanofi to help produce millions of rival Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccines in Europe

The pharmaceutical company Sanofi will help produce millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech in an effort to help meet the huge demand for the shots.

The French drugmaker in a statement Wednesday said it will provide BioNTech access to its "established infrastructure and expertise" in an unusual arrangement to produce more than 125 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Europe. 

Initial supplies will originate from Sanofi’s production facilities in Frankfurt beginning this summer, the company said.

Will it start a trend: Sanofi is collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline on its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and said developing that drug will continue to be a priority. 

But the companies last month said their vaccine did not trigger enough of an immune response in people over the age of 50, delaying its launch until likely much later this year.

The move by Sanofi raises questions about whether other companies that have not succeeded in making effective coronavirus vaccines will follow suit in throwing their manufacturing power and expertise into helping the ones that have. 

Read more here. 

The Hill event 

Friday 1/29 beginning at 12:30 PM ET | Reset 2021: A New American Start

The inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris marks a new era in Washington. As with any presidential transition, priorities and goals will be recalibrated. The administration has outlined a broad policy framework with proposals focused on improving infrastructure and expanding universal access to broadband, revitalizing immigration, supporting environmental sustainability, providing meaningful support to those harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, of course, reviving the economy. Looking ahead to the first 100 days, what steps will be used to drive economic recovery and environmental sustainability and to address immigration? Reps. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioBiden turns focus to next priority with infrastructure talks Biden to meet with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe MORE, Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help Plaskett makes history for Virgin Islands after role in impeachment Stacey Plaskett jabs Cruz over Cancun getaway MORE, David SchweikertDavid SchweikertBiden meets with bipartisan senators to discuss potential infrastructure bill Lawmakers offer competing priorities for infrastructure plans The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Which path will Democrats take on COVID-19 bill? MORE and Ted Detuch, USCC's Tom Donohue, Kevin Hassett, UnidosUS's Janet Murguía and more. RSVP today for one session or both. (https://reset2021.splashthat.com/)

What we’re reading 

Remdesivir, given to half of hospitalized Covid patients in U.S., is big win for Gilead — boosted by taxpayers (Kaiser Health News)

Most nursing home workers don’t want the vaccine. Here’s what facilities are doing about it. (Washington Post

You’re Invited to the Wedding, if You Show Proof of Vaccination (New York Times 

State by state

Few states are accurately tracking coronavirus vaccinations by race. Some aren't at all. (Washington Post) 

‘A nightmare’: Frustrations continue for Mass. residents 75 and older trying to get a COVID-19 vaccination appointment (Boston Globe)

Op-eds in The Hill

To battle the opioid crisis, arm more healthcare providers

The knowns and unknowns of COVID-19 vaccines