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Overnight Health Care: Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers | Moderna reports positive early results for booster shots against COVID-19 variants | Federal judge vacates CDC's eviction moratorium

Overnight Health Care: Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers | Moderna reports positive early results for booster shots against COVID-19 variants | Federal judge vacates CDC's eviction moratorium
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care. More than a year into pandemic restrictions, we thought we'd seen it all. But in D.C., while indoor weddings are allowed, it's illegal to dance. Footloose comparisons are fair game.

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Today: The White House will back a World Trade Organization proposal to waive patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines. A court vacated the CDC's eviction moratorium, Moderna has positive results from a booster shot, and the U.S. birth rate hit a record low.

We'll start at the White House:

Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers

The Biden administration will support a proposal to temporarily waive international patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, a move that's a major blow to pharmaceutical companies.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine TaiKatherine TaiUS, Taiwan to discuss trade, investments, Blinken says On The Money: May jobs report to land at pivotal moment in Biden agenda | Biden, top GOP negotiator agree to continue infrastructure talks Friday USTR announces suspended tariffs on six nations after probes into digital taxes MORE said in a statement Wednesday that the "extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures."

The U.S. will begin participating in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations over the exact language of the waiver, which supporters say would make the details of vaccine production widely available and allow lower-income countries to make doses themselves.

"The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines," Tai said.

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What's waived: The argument centers on temporarily lifting patent and other intellectual property protections to help expand the production and deployment of vaccines during supply shortages. The aim is to suspend the rules until the end of the pandemic.

The debate has exploded in the U.S., as dire scenes in countries like India contrast with rosy domestic predictions and millions of Americans getting vaccinated daily. 

Not a done deal: Any WTO action needs the support of every member. While many lower income countries backed the waiver proposal, it was opposed by others, including the European Union, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Australia. 

Drug industry reacts: The pharmaceutical industry has fought hard against the proposal. Stephen Ubl, president CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), called the move an "unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety. This decision will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines."

Read more here.

 

Just a few hours earlier, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: FDA says millions of J&J doses from troubled plant must be thrown out | WHO warns Africa falling far behind in vaccinations | Top CDC official says US not ready for next pandemic Top CDC official warns US not ready for next pandemic WHO official: Delta variant 'poised to take hold' in Europe MORE expressed some support for the waiver 

Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that a waiver for COVID-19 patent protections should not be off the table, while also pointing to other possible options to increase access to vaccines in lower-income countries. 

"I think it's certainly an option that we should not take off the table," Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, told The Hill's Steve Clemons.

Basically, Fauci said he supported any move that would increase global vaccine access. 

"By whatever mechanism it takes," Fauci said. "Whether that involves taking a look and examining whether you want to waive patent protection, whether it means making investments in a lot of money to have tech transfer go to the developing world so they can make their own vaccines."

Read more here.

 

Moderna reports positive early results for booster shots against COVID-19 variants

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Moderna on Wednesday reported positive early results from booster shots of its vaccine targeted at variants of the coronavirus.

The company said both a booster shot of its original vaccine, and a booster shot of a modified vaccine specifically targeted at a variant, increased the neutralizing antibody response of participants in a phase 2 trial.

The company said the results are a positive development as it develops booster shots in case they are needed against variants of the virus.

 

Read more here

 

Federal judge vacates CDC's eviction moratorium

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A federal judge on Wednesday vacated a nationwide freeze on evictions that was put in place by federal health officials to help cash-strapped renters remain in their homes during the pandemic.

The ruling was a win for a coalition of property owners and realtors, who brought one of several challenges against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium, which was first enacted under former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and later extended through June.

In a 20-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, who was appointed by Trump, ruled that the agency exceeded its authority with the temporary ban.  

"The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not," Friedrich wrote. 

A number of other judges have ruled on the eviction ban’s lawfulness, with landlords holding a slight advantage in their win-loss record against the federal government.

Next step: The Department of Justice said it would appeal the order.

The DOJ’s appeal elevates the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the department will also ask the court to block Friedrich’s ruling from taking effect while the appeal plays out.

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Read more here.

 

CVS announces walk-in coronavirus vaccinations at pharmacies across US

CVS Health announced on Wednesday that its pharmacy locations across the U.S. will begin accepting walk-in COVID-19 appointments.

Additionally, CVS pharmacies will now allow same-day scheduling, including appointments that are made as soon as one hour in advance.

The company said it is offering inoculations in more than 8,300 stores across 49 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

CVS pharmacies offer the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

CVS is the latest pharmacy to allow walk-in COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart and Sam’s Club have all announced that they will accept walk-in vaccine appointments.

New phase: As the campaign shifts to less eager people, the Biden administration is stressing walk-up opportunities as a key way to get more people vaccinated. 

Read more here

 

US birthrate drops to record low amid pandemic fallout

The number of new babies born in the United States has dropped to its lowest point in more than four decades as the coronavirus pandemic and an economic meltdown contributed to a years-long baby bust that has demographers worried about future growth rates.

Just 3.6 million babies were born across the 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands in 2020, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

That figure represents a 4-percent drop from final figures in 2019. It is the sixth straight year that births have declined, and the lowest number of children born since 1979, when the U.S. population was just 224 million people.

The new figures add to growing evidence of dismal population growth in the United States, at a time when that growth was already suffering.

The combination of a lower-than-ever birthrate and a global pandemic that has already killed more than half a million Americans, as well as an immigration system that admitted fewer people than usual, is likely to make 2020 one of the slowest growth years since the Census Bureau started keeping yearly track more than 100 years ago.

Read more here.

 

What we’re reading

Hit by higher prices for gear, doctors and dentists want insurers to pay (Kaiser Health News)

Canada authorizes coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 (Washington Post)

India is the home of the world’s biggest producer of Covid vaccines. But it’s facing a major internal shortage (CNBC)

This new Covid vaccine could bring hope to the unvaccinated world (New York Times)  

 

State by state

Virginia begins shifting coronavirus vaccine supplies to primary care doctors (Virginian-Pilot)

Businesses can make their own mask rules in South Florida. What to expect at the store (Miami Herald 

Governor Baker keeps including ball pits on his reopening lists. But will anyone jump in again? (Boston Globe)

 

Op-eds in The Hill 

COVID-19 clique immunity should be the goal

India in COVID crisis: We need to send more help — but ban travel, too

To safeguard public health, let science guide marijuana legalization