Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna

Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care. We've all seen and heard young children, and cats, interrupt interviews throughout the pandemic. Meet Misneach, a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy who just wanted attention. Misneach belongs to Ireland's President Michael Higgins, who was slightly occupied with an interview. 

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Today: The WHO-backed Covax initiative will get a boost from Moderna, but it won't do much for short-term supply issues. Speaker Pelosi said a return to normalcy won't happen until more lawmakers get vaccinated, and the CDC said a brief Ebola epidemic in the Congo is now over. 


We'll start with Moderna:

Moderna providing up to 500M vaccine doses to Covax program for lower-income countries

Moderna committed to providing up to 500 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to a United Nations-backed initiative designed to supply vaccinations to middle- and low-income countries.

The company announced an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to sell an initial 34 million doses to COVAX at the "lowest tiered price" within the fourth quarter of this year. The deal also permits Gavi to purchase 466 million additional vaccine doses in 2022.

But while the move will help with global access, the vaccines won't be delivered until the second half of the year. That means the short- and even medium-term supply issues won't be solved by the sale. 


What’s COVAX? Gavi co-leads, along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVAX program, which aims to give lower-income nations access to shots by 2022. Covax aims to distribute up to 2 billion doses this year, with a goal of reaching 20 percent of the population in participating countries. To date, it has delivered 49 million doses.

The COVAX program hit a roadblock in recent weeks when India outlawed exports of COVID-19 vaccines as the nation deals with rapidly rising case and death numbers. India hosts the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and has been a main supplier of AstraZeneca doses. 

Follows: Moderna’s pledge comes three days after the WHO authorized the company’s vaccine for emergency use – the fifth vaccine to get such approval. 

Read more here.


FDA set to authorize Pfizer vaccine for those aged 12 to 15

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine for adolescents as young as age 12 by early next week, the New York Times reported, though a decision could be made as early as later this week.

The highly anticipated decision would be a major step towards ensuring middle and high schools can operate for full in-person learning next fall, and would be a major boon to parents concerned about the safety of summer activities.

Vaccinating children of all ages will also be crucial to stopping the pandemic

But children broadly have a much lower risk of severe COVID than adults, so an authorization could bring up a host of ethical questions, especially when much of the rest of the world is struggling with vaccine supply. 

Read more here.


COVID-19 on Capitol Hill: Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy

Lawmakers, like the rest of the country, are all eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. But President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE's speech to Congress last week looked like he was addressing a group that hadn't gotten a single shot.

With a crowd a fraction of its usual size — and those present all socially distancing and wearing masks — the speech underscored how life on Capitol Hill has been slow to return to normal and how difficult it is to persuade holdouts to get immunized.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries On The Money: Biden issues targeted eviction moratorium | GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium MORE (D-Calif.) estimated a day after the address that about 75 percent of House members have been vaccinated, a figure unchanged since March. Until more members get vaccinated, Pelosi said, the House won't return to pre-pandemic operations.

Some lawmakers in both parties initially expressed discomfort in December with getting vaccinated before the shots were more widely available to the public. But now that all U.S. adults are eligible, the only known holdouts are those skeptical of the need.

At the same time, numerous Republicans have been pushing Democratic leaders in recent weeks to end the pandemic restrictions in the Capitol, even though some of them aren't taking the steps recommended by public health experts to reach that point.  

Among the holdouts: Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieBiden asks Pentagon to examine 'how and when' to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for troops House at war over Jan. 6 inquiry, mask mandate Tempers flare as some in GOP ignore new House mask mandate MORE (R-Ky.) said he isn't planning to get his vaccine after previously testing positive for the virus last year. Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold Johnson Johnson suggests FBI knew more about Jan. 6 planning than has been revealed: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Ron Johnson praises conservative author bashed by Fauci MORE (R-Wis.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election Hillicon Valley: Senate report finds major cyber shortcomings in federal agencies | Gig firms seek Mass. ballot question to classify workers as contractors | Blizzard's president steps down after workplace protests MORE (R-Ky.) have voiced similar rationales for not getting vaccinated after positive tests in 2020.

The CDC recommends that people who previously tested positive for COVID-19 still get vaccinated as soon as they can. 

Read more here



Good news: Ebola outbreak ends in Congo

A small flare-up of the Ebola virus has been contained in an eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), international health officials said Monday.

The 12th known Ebola epidemic in the DRC led to 12 infections and six deaths in the North Kivu Province. But no new cases have been recorded in the last 42 days, designating the epidemic’s official end.

The first case in this outbreak occurred in a woman whose husband survived Ebola in 2018 after scientists learned the virus stayed in the husband’s system. 

Genetic sequencing showed the virus was linked to a previous outbreak that tore through North Kivu and a neighboring province beginning in 2018. That outbreak killed more than 2,000 people in what became the second-largest Ebola epidemic in modern history.

The CDC said in a statement it had helped the Ministry of Health establish a mobile genetic sequencing lab in Goma to help understand more about the ability of the virus to survive for long periods of time even in people who have recovered.


Read more here.


Cities, states experiment with incentives for vaccinations 

States and cities are experimenting with offering incentives and privileges for residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as concerns have mounted over the slowdown in vaccinations across the U.S. 

Officials are turning to initiatives such as giving vaccine recipients payments through savings bonds, free drinks or gift cards to motivate Americans to get their COVID-19 shot. 

West Virginia committed last week to giving those aged 16 to 35 who get the vaccine $100 in savings bonds, Connecticut plans to offer vaccine recipients one free drink with purchase of food and Detroit launched on Monday its program giving $50 prepaid debit cards to anyone who drives another person to get their vaccination, as long as they preregister.

These state and local governments are taking a page out of some businesses’ playbooks, including Krispy Kreme, which offers a free doughnut every day of 2021 to Americans who prove they got their shot. 

Why this matters: Public health and psychology experts said these programs have the potential to bring in more people willing to get the vaccine and that incentives are worth a try to close the country’s gap in vaccinations.

The push for incentives comes as the average number of vaccines administered daily in the U.S. has been declining in recent days, which experts have attributed to a waning demand for vaccines after enthusiastic recipients have already gotten their shots.

Read more here



Featuring: Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyFauci joins YouTube coronavirus special aimed at Black community Biden walks fine line with Fox News If you care about the First Amendment, this class action is for you MORE, Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciPaul knocks YouTube for removing video he posted, points users to competitor Average daily COVID-19 infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says Ron Johnson praises conservative author bashed by Fauci MORE, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Biden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former longtime Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87 MORE and more.

RSVP for event reminders. 


What we’re reading

Reaching ‘herd immunity’ is unlikely in the U.S., experts now believe (The New York Times)

Six patients with dementia went to Mexico for an unproven gene therapy, a biotech CEO claims (Stat)

CVS and Walgreens have wasted more vaccine doses than most states combined (Kaiser Health News

More than a year into the pandemic, we’re still figuring out what risks we’re willing to take (The Washington Post)


State by state

‘It’s shocking.’ How inaccurate California death records obscure pandemic’s true story (The Sacramento Bee)

As demand for COVID vaccine plummets, SC health officials scramble to figure out why (The State)

Suspected false positives stirred concern about coronavirus tests as Maryland officials pressed to use them (Washington Post)

Mental health a challenge for Georgia college students, providers (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Op-eds in The Hill 

How many deaths will it take to rekindle our humanity?

Time to cut the string on the global reproductive health yo-yo

We need to prioritize testing and stop fighting blind against pandemics