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Overnight Health Care: White House to ship coronavirus vaccines directly to community health centers | WHO: 'Unlikely' that COVID-19 came from a lab | Uber and Walgreens to offer free rides to COVID vaccine sites

Overnight Health Care: White House to ship coronavirus vaccines directly to community health centers | WHO: 'Unlikely' that COVID-19 came from a lab | Uber and Walgreens to offer free rides to COVID vaccine sites
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Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care. We're here live, and definitely not a cat.

Follow us at @jessiehellmann@NateWeixel, and @PeterSullivan4

It was COVID-19 vaccine equity day for the Biden administration, as the White House will soon send shots directly to community health centers. Uber and Walgreens are also teaming up to get people in underserved communities to vaccine appointments, and the World Health Organization's investigation into the origins of the coronavirus did not find much. 

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We'll start with equitable vaccine distribution:

White House to ship COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers

Community health centers will be receiving coronavirus vaccines directly from the federal government next week, White House officials announced Tuesday.

The goal of the new program is to focus on equitable vaccine distribution, in order to reach traditionally underserved areas, which is where community health centers are located.

"Equity is core to our strategy to put this pandemic behind us, and equity means that we are reaching everyone, particularly those in underserved and rural communities, and those who have been hit hardest by this pandemic," Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsCDC: 30 percent of US adults fully vaccinated, nearly 50 percent have received at least one dose The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause The Memo: Specter of vaccine hesitancy rises after J&J blow MORE, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a press briefing.

How it'll work: The program will begin incrementally and will ramp up over time as vaccine supply increases, officials said. The administration will initially send doses to at least one health center in every jurisdiction across the country, with 1 million doses divided across 250 clinics as the program phases in over the next few weeks. That means 500,000 first doses and 500,000 second doses.

Focus on equity: Marcella Nunez-SmithMarcella Nunez-SmithBiden administration unveils network of community leaders to urge COVID-19 vaccinations Overnight Health Care: White House to ship coronavirus vaccines directly to community health centers | WHO: 'Unlikely' that COVID-19 came from a lab | Uber and Walgreens to offer free rides to COVID vaccine sites White House to ship COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers MORE, chair of the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, said the program hasn't made any selections yet, but is focusing on clinics that primarily treat people who are experiencing homelessness, agricultural and migrant workers, residents of public housing and those with limited English proficiency.

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Read more here. 

More equity efforts: Uber and Walgreens to offer free rides to COVID-19 vaccine sites

Uber and Walgreens are partnering to offer free rides to COVID-19 vaccination sites in an effort to expand vaccine availability in communities of color.

The companies said in a joint statement that Uber will offer free transportation to Walgreens and offsite vaccination clinics. Once an individual has made an appointment, they will then be able to schedule a free ride. The companies also plan on partnering with the National Urban League to help convince people of the benefits of a vaccine.

The goal is both to address the lack of transportation and to address vaccine hesitancy among communities of color. States continue to struggle with appointment availability, as confusing, glitchy websites crash. At the same time, the supply of doses has not kept up with demand, as states expand eligibility and more people try to schedule a shot.

The program will begin in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and El Paso, Texas.

Read more here.

About the lab accident theory of coronavirus: WHO team says it’s ‘extremely unlikely'

Coronavirus is unlikely to have escaped from a government lab in Wuhan, China, experts with the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday following an investigation into the virus's origins. 

“Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research,” Peter Ben Embarek, an expert with the WHO food safety and animal diseases division, said in an early morning press conference. 

A team from the WHO arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 14, more than a year after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the city, to investigate the lab in a bid to learn about how the virus's origin and how it spreads.

There was speculation early in the pandemic, much of which was fueled by former President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE, that the virus was either deliberately manufactured or leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population," Embarek said, adding that it does not warrant future study. 

WHO on the upswing: Trump frequently attacked the WHO as being too soft on China and announced the U.S.’s intent to withdraw. The Biden administration announced it is scrapping that move and staying in the WHO. 

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“This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health,” said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus late last month. “The role of the United States, its role, global role is very, very crucial.”

But for critics of the agency, the lack of any concrete findings is yet another example of how the WHO is too deferential to China.  

Read more here

Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill

A group of House Democrats pressed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tuesday to lift “medically unnecessary” restriction on the abortion pill that have been in place for several years.

Under the FDA rule, mifepristone, which is used to end early pregnancies and treat early pregnancy loss, can only be dispensed in person, a requirement that has received renewed criticism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Imposing this requirement in the midst of a deadly pandemic — one that has disproportionately impacted communities of color across the United States — needlessly places patients and providers in harm’s way, and further entrenches longstanding health inequities,” Chair Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring NY Democratic chair blasts primary challenge against Maloney Carolyn Maloney will face Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger MORE (N.Y.) and other Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee wrote in a letter to acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

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Why now? Doctors and abortion rights groups have said for years that the in-person distribution requirement for mifepristone is medically unnecessary and should be removed. But the pandemic renewed the fight when the FDA paused similar requirements for other drugs but not mifepristone.

A legal battle ensued, and while it is still ongoing, the lawsuit would be moot if the FDA — now under the Biden administration — suspended the requirement, notes the American Civil Liberties Union, which is leading the litigation. 

Read more here.

New York AG sues anti-abortion activists for harassing Planned Parenthood staff, patients

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against two anti-abortion activists, accusing them of illegally blocking access to a Planned Parenthood clinic and harassing patients and staffers.

James is seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes from coming within a buffer zone around the immediate area of the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s Manhattan Health Center.

“For almost 50 years, Roe v. Wade has made clear the right of women to control their own bodies,” James said in a statement. “Despite the clear protections under the law, these individuals used violent and illegal tactics to harass, threaten, and block women from entering Planned Parenthood."

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Beatty and Chavannes could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the complaint, the two have been showing up at the clinic almost every week since early 2019.

Read more here.

Virtual Event Announcement: Thursday 2/11 at 1:00 PM ET--COVID-19 & The Opioid Epidemic

In the shadow of the COVID-19 crisis, the opioid epidemic still rages across the nation. According to the AMA, more than “40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.” Could increased access to medication for opioid use disorder be a turning point in this epidemic? How can we address disparities in treatment and get all Americans the help they need? Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseFor a win on climate, let's put our best player in the game Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure MORE (D-RI), Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP Rep. Steve Stivers plans to retire Kellyanne Conway joins Ohio Senate candidate's campaign OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds MORE (R-Ohio), and a panel of experts join The Hill's Steve Clemons to discuss how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the opioid epidemic and the path to saving lives. RSVP today

What we’re reading

Vaccine hesitancy vs. vaccine refusal: nursing home staffers say there’s a difference (Kaiser Health News

Hospitals’ Covid-19 heroics have them poised for power in the new Washington (Stat News)

Could a single vaccine work against all coronaviruses? (The New York Times)

A Q&A with WHO’s emergencies chief on Covid-19, why he’s hopeful, and when normalcy might return (Stat News

State by state 

Philly residents have to go online to sign up for the coronavirus vaccine. But what about people who can’t? (Philadelphia Inquirer

Baker built a reputation as a managerial expert. The sluggish vaccine rollout is testing it. (Boston Globe)

Dying of COVID in a ‘separate and unequal’ LA hospital (The New York Times

California set to top New York as state with most COVID-19 deaths (Reuters)