Overnight Health Care: Biden says US will have enough doses to vaccinate every American by July | Fauci thinks widespread vaccine distribution might be available as soon as April | Long-awaited CDC guidelines on reopening schools coming tomorrow
Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. President Biden toured the National Institutes of Health, and realized that science can be pretty cool sometimes.
Follow us at @NateWeixel, @jessiehellmann and @PeterSullivan4.
It was vaccine day for the Biden administration, with an announcement on more doses. Meanwhile, Anthony Fauci thinks the general public could have access fairly soon, and stay tuned tomorrow for a big CDC announcement on school reopening.
We’ll start with vaccines:
Biden says US will have enough doses to vaccinate every American by July
The U.S. has secured an additional 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, President Biden announced Thursday, finalizing a commitment that was promised last month.
Speaking at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Biden said the purchases will increase supply by 50 percent, to 600 million doses.
Biden, who did not remove his mask to speak, said the companies are stepping up delivery timelines, so 100 million doses that were promised by the end of June will now be delivered by the end of May.
He said the administration has secured enough doses from both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to inoculate every American by the end of July. Previously, Biden had said there would be enough doses for every American by the end of the summer.
An estimated 260 million people in the United States are currently considered eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine, though children could be eligible by the fall, given current clinical trials.
Good news/bad news: The extra doses will not be immediately available, meaning that the existing supply shortages plaguing the rollout are likely to continue, at least in the short term.
Instead, the extra 200 million doses will provide a backstop for when the initial supplies are exhausted. Some experts think that supply issues will be solved by spring, but will be replaced with a demand crunch, given the rates of vaccine hesitancy.
Global concern: The U.S. has now pre-purchased enough vaccine doses to inoculate the population twice over. Which is not great for the rest of the world, or America in the long term.
Fauci thinks widespread vaccine distribution might be available as soon as April
Anthony Fauci said he thinks that by April it will be “open season” for vaccinations in the country, and anyone who wants a shot will be able to get one.
Speaking on NBC’s “Today,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases doctor and science adviser to President Biden, predicted the rate of vaccinations will pick up in the spring as more doses become available and more locations start administering shots.
He said the pace will increase because of the administration’s programs to allow pharmacies and community health centers to administer shots.
“I would imagine by the time we get to April, that would be what I call … open season. Namely, virtually everybody and anybody in any category can start to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.
Not everything will be over in April, though. Fauci added that logistically it will still take “several more months” to get the vaccine into people’s arms, but that hopefully the overwhelming majority of people in this country will be vaccinated by the end of the summer.
Coming tomorrow: Long-awaited CDC guidelines on reopening schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to unveil guidelines on Friday for reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic as White House officials have offered shifting answers on their goals for returning children to in-person learning.
“There is no debate over whether to open schools here. There’s a debate over how. And if it were as simple as open all the schools, they would be open now,” Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to the White House on the pandemic response, said on MSNBC early Thursday.
“Tomorrow, the CDC is going to roll out their operating plan to give school districts, local communities, the guidance they need to do that,” Slavitt added.
Why it matters: The White House has been in the spotlight on the schools issue after offering sometimes mixed messages, and has been accused of siding with overly cautious teacher’s unions and ignoring science that says schools can be open safely.
The administration is facing scrutiny for saying earlier this week that Biden’s goal of having schools open within his first 100 days office meant more than 50 percent of schools were holding at least one day of in-person learning each week by the end of that time frame. That claim was mostly walked back on Thursday, when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Bien’s commitment is to ensure schools are open five days a week.
Check this space tomorrow, where we’ll have a full breakdown of the guidelines!
Now that Biden is in office, will calls for more rapid at-home tests be realized?
President Biden is raising hopes that he will sharply scale up rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to help control the pandemic, but advocates say far more needs to be done beyond the administration’s early moves.
A vocal group of health experts has been pushing for months to ramp up production of cheap and simple tests that people can use multiple times a week and get results in a matter of minutes, helping the country safely return to work and school until vaccines are widely available.
Moves so far:
- Using the Defense Production Act to ramp up the supply of 61 million rapid tests by the end of the summer.
- Awarding $230 million to the testmaker Ellume for more tests, though many will come in the later part of the year.
But it needs to be faster: Michael Mina, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who has been leading the push for rapid tests, said even simpler, cheaper tests are needed to scale up faster and in much higher numbers, to as many as 20 million per day.
He praised the administration for last week’s announcements, while adding: “Both fall quite short of anything that I’ve been discussing. But I believe it means that they are willing to try.”
White House: ‘No decisions’ made on domestic travel restrictions
The White House has not made any final decisions on imposing domestic travel restrictions, press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
The comment from the White House came after a report said the administration was considering implementing one around Florida due to coronavirus cases.
“Well, I’ve seen those reports. We are always considering what steps are necessary to keep the American people safe, but we are not currently in the process of — no decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would delay or would change, I should say, domestic travel considerations,” Psaki said at a press briefing.
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that the administration was weighing domestic travel restrictions that would target states that have been severely impacted by coronavirus variants, including Florida and California.
The Biden administration has imposed international travel restrictions to try and stem the spread of the virus, but domestic travel restrictions would mark a new step taken by the government that would, most likely, face backlash.
Another reason to wear a mask and be careful in DC: UK, South African virus strains detected in nation’s capital
Two separate variants of the coronavirus, first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, have been detected in three Washington, D.C. residents, the city health department said Thursday.
Director of D.C. Health LaQuandra Nesbitt noted that not every positive test has been sequenced, only a sample, so there are likely more cases of the variants present.
“This is not surprising to D.C. Health,” Nesbitt said, noting that cases have been detected in Maryland and Virginia in recent weeks.
Nesbitt said additional details are not yet known, including whether the people infected have been informed that they have the variant.
Still, nobody’s behavior should change. Keep wearing a mask, keep physical distance, and continue avoiding large gatherings, especially indoors.
The two variants are more contagious, but experts have expressed confidence that available vaccines will be effective at least against B-117, the variant first found in the U.K.
The strain first found in South Africa could be more problematic, as drugmakers may need to develop booster shots or revamp current vaccination formulas.
CDC: Fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine after COVID exposure
The CDC on Wednesday quietly slipped in an update to its quarantine guidance. The agency has made it a bit of a habit to tuck important news into website updates with little fanfare.
In this case, the agency said that most individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for at least two weeks do not need to quarantine after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 if they have not had COVID-19 symptoms.
“Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19,” the CDC said in the updated guidance Wednesday.
“Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine” if they received both shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and that at least two weeks have gone by since the second dose was administered.
Protection evidence: The CDC said that people should also quarantine if more than three months have passed since they received the second shot and they are exposed to the virus, given it is unclear how long protections last. People should also quarantine if they experience coronavirus symptoms.
New book coming soon from our colleague: “Lucky,” by No. 1 New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Allen and The Hill’s Amie Parnes, explores Joe Biden’s road to the presidency, including the pandemic lockdown that kept him off the campaign trail. Pre-order here for the March release: prh.com/lucky
What we’re reading
The vaccine had to be used. He used it. He was fired. (The New York Times)
Vaccination rates follow the money in states with big wealth gaps (STAT)
How much does a c-section cost? At one hospital, anywhere from $6,241 to $60,584 (The Wall Street Journal)
Health workers and hospitals grapple with millions of counterfeit N95 masks (Kaiser Health News)
Trump was sicker than acknowledged with COVID-19 (New York Times)
State by state
How did Ohio miss 4,000 deaths? State health officials explain error boosting deaths by one third (cincinnati.com)
Why Alabama has the worst COVID vaccination rates (The Wall Street Journal)
Baker says there are ‘disturbing’ reports of people trying to take advantage of companion vaccine program for people 75 or older (Boston Globe)
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