Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. D.C.’s dreary weather makes us wish we were in Cancun right now.
Today in health news, President BidenJoe BidenHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue Pelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system MORE announced billions of dollars in funding for a global vaccine initiative amid concerns that poorer countries are missing out on COVID-19 shots. COVID has led to a drop in life expectancy and meanwhile, the governor of South Carolina signed a bill banning most abortions, which was promptly met with a legal challenge.
Let’s start with vaccines:
Biden to commit $4 billion in immediate funding to global vaccine initiative
President Biden will announce Friday that the United States is sending $4 billion to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, to support Covax, the global initiative to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines to lower income countries.
The $4 billion amount includes $2 billion in funding that will go out immediately.
Biden will make the announcement during an appearance at a virtual meeting of Group of Seven (G7) leaders on Friday, according to senior administration officials.
In addition to the $2 billion in immediate assistance, Biden will commit to gradually releasing another $2 billion in funding to Gavi as part of an effort by the U.S. to secure more donor commitments to the vaccine program.
The $4 billion in funding for Gavi was previously appropriated by Congress in bipartisan coronavirus relief and government funding legislation passed in December. The goal of Covax is to vaccinate 20 percent of the populations of the world’s lowest-income countries by the end of this year.
Why it matters for the US: Beyond the obvious benefit of vaccinating people in other countries, worldwide vaccinations also matter for the US in help cut down on transmission of the virus, helping to prevent new variants from forming. The more the virus spreads, the more likely new variants are to form.
A GOP target: HHS nominee Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy Bottom line Overnight Health Care — FDA panel backs boosters for some, but not all MORE. New ad campaigns are afoot.
Conservative groups have launched advertising and grassroots campaigns in a bid to sink the nomination of Xavier Becerra for secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), portraying him as too liberal and inexperienced for the job.
Heritage Action for America is backing a $600,000 ad campaign targeting Becerra, while Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion conservative group, is seeking to drum up grassroots support to pressure lawmakers to oppose Becerra's confirmation.
The two groups are aiming to galvanize Senate Republican opposition to the former California attorney general, which would increase pressure on Democrats from red or purple states. Biden's Cabinet nominees have thus far been confirmed with bipartisan approval.
Big hearing next week: Becerra is set to appear before the Senate Health Committee next Tuesday.
"Why would we be putting someone in charge of Health and Human Services (HHS) at such a critical time as the pandemic who doesn’t have the health care experience," said Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, noting that previous agency leaders who were not doctors still had experience in the health care industry.
Fauci: Vaccine for coronavirus variant 'likely will take several months'
Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump on what would prevent 2024 bid: 'I guess a bad call from a doctor' Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs Fauci: 'Worst time' for a government shutdown is in middle of pandemic MORE, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, on Thursday said that a vaccine for a variant strain of the coronavirus believed to have originated in South Africa will likely take “several months.”
“That likely will take several months,” Fauci said, asked about the timeline for development of the vaccine by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“We're already, for example, working with the Moderna company. Pfizer's doing it on their own, I'm sure. It's a good company, a big company,” he added. “But what we're doing is, we're working with them to get a sample of the vaccine that you can actually have it code for the protein that's the appropriate protein for the South African isolate.”
But the current vaccines still have some protection, especially against severe disease, the most important thing. “So, although the vaccine might not protect against mild to moderate disease with the South African isolate, when you look at the data, it strongly suggests that it will do quite well against serious disease, namely, keeping people out of the hospital and preventing them from dying,” Fauci said.
South Carolina governor signs bill banning most abortions
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Thursday signed a bill into law that would ban most abortions in the state, the latest state to enact stringent abortion restrictions.
The new law, dubbed the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” prohibits abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected and mandates that doctors conduct an ultrasound before performing an abortion to see if a heartbeat can be detected. The law contains exceptions for a fetus that is conceived by rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in jeopardy.
Fetal heartbeats can be detected six to eight weeks into a pregnancy, sometimes before a woman is even aware she is pregnant.
Already a lawsuit: Democrats and abortion rights advocates have panned the legislation. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic already said Thursday they will file a lawsuit to try to block the law from taking effect.
“Abortion is a critical component of comprehensive reproductive health care, and everyone deserves to have access to the health care they need, without politicians controlling when, how, or why,” said Katherine Farris, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
Life expectancy falls one year amid pandemic in biggest drop since WWII
Life expectancy fell by one year in the first six months of 2020, the biggest drop since World War II, as the U.S. dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released Thursday.
Initial data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that life expectancy fell from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.8 years during the first half of 2020. Men saw a drop of 1.2 years to 75.1 years, while women saw a decrease of 0.9 years to 80.5 years amid the pandemic.
More bad news: Black Americans and Hispanic Americans experienced an even greater drop in life expectancy, as their communities have recorded a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The drop in life expectancy, which measures how long on average a baby born today can expect to live, shows the early impact of the coronavirus crisis in 2020. Last year was already confirmed to be the deadliest year in U.S. history, surpassing 3 million deaths in the country for the first time, according to The New York Times.
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
How to sign up for a COVID vaccine in your state (NPR)
Clinical trials are moving out of labs and into people’s homes (The New York Times)
A mass casualty event every day (The Washington Post)
State by state
Can Red States Resist Expanding Medicaid? (National Review)
‘An Absolute Disaster': Massachusetts Communities Furious as Baker Cuts Off Vaccine Supply (NBC 10)
D.C. revises rules, will open vaccines to young people with health problems March 1 (Washington Post)
The Hill op-eds