Health Care — Biden budget preps for next pandemic
Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here.
People are talking about the Oscars, thanks to Will Smith — though not about his movie.
The White House is looking ahead to the next pandemic — President Biden is proposing more than $80 billion to prepare for future pandemics as part of his 2023 budget proposal.
Let’s get started.
Biden proposes $81.7B for future pandemics
President Biden’s budget proposal released Monday calls for $81.7 billion over five years to prepare for future pandemics, in what would be a major investment in boosting the country’s readiness for future threats.
“While combatting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the United States must catalyze advances in science, technology, and core capabilities to prepare the Nation for the next biological threat and strengthen U.S. and global health security,” the budget states.
However, the president’s budget is only a proposal, and any new funding for pandemic preparedness would require congressional approval.
Breakdown: The budget calls for $40 billion for the development and manufacturing of vaccines, treatments and tests aimed at future threats.
Another $28 billion would go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for surveillance, lab capacity and the public health workforce.
The National Institutes of Health would get $12.1 billion for research on vaccines and other measures, while the Food and Drug Administration would get $1.6 billion for its labs and information technology.
House poised to pass bill legalizing marijuana
The House is poised to pass legislation this week that would legalize marijuana, just the latest example of the swiftly changing attitudes on drug laws that marks a near reversal from the Reagan-era war on drugs that also reverberated through the 1990s.
The bill legalizing marijuana has near-uniform support among Democrats and a top ally in Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who has been aiming to introduce a similar measure this spring.
And it’s just one of several pieces of legislation that underlines the shift in Congress’s attitude — a change that has come about in part because of the way past drug laws have disproportionately hit minority communities.
The legislation set for a House vote, titled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, would eliminate criminal penalties associated with marijuana.
It would further establish a process to expunge the convictions of nonviolent marijuana offenders and fund programs to help communities negatively affected by the war on drugs by imposing a federal tax on marijuana sales.
In a notice to lawmakers announcing the vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) hailed it as “critical legislation that will restore justice to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by harsh penalties for possessing even small amounts of marijuana.”
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WALMART ENDING CIGARETTE SALES IN SOME LOCATIONS: REPORT
Walmart is planning to end the sale of cigarettes at some of its stores, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
Sources familiar with the matter told the Journal that cigarettes were set to be removed from several locations, including some stores in California, Arkansas, Florida and New Mexico. In place of where the cigarettes would normally be kept, Walmart is apparently setting up more self-checkout registers with grab-and-go items.
According to the Journal’s sources, the decision to transition away from selling tobacco products was made before the COVID-19 pandemic. Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon has reportedly urged other executives for years to find a way to stop selling tobacco.
“We are always looking at ways to meet our customers’ needs while still operating an efficient business,” a Walmart spokesperson told the Journal, though she declined to say how many stores would stop selling cigarettes.
CHINA BEGINS EXTENSIVE SHANGHAI LOCKDOWN
Shanghai on Monday launched the most extensive COVID-19 lockdown that China has seen in two years as the city seeks to contain a surge in new coronavirus cases.
Authorities in the Chinese financial hub announced the decision on Sunday, saying a 465-square-mile area on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River would be locked down for four days for mass testing. The area set to be locked down is home to about 5.7 million people, according to the South China Morning Post.
Five other districts — Jinshan, Fengxian, Chongming, Puxi and part of Minhang — are also set to go under lockdown at staggered periods. As the Post noted, this decision came after repeated assurances from city authorities that another lockdown would not be issued.
During the lockdown, all public transportation and private vehicles will be barred from traveling between the Pudong New Area and other regions of the city.
Can US convince a skeptical public to get a 4th shot
The expected green light for a second coronavirus booster shot poses a challenge to the Biden administration, which will need to work overtime to convince a public that has largely decided to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have filed for emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration for a fourth dose of their respective vaccines, citing evidence that protection from the third shot has decreased enough to warrant a fourth dose.
Yet the nation’s vaccination and booster rates have dropped to record lows, just as experts and officials are bracing for the possibility of another wave of infections from the BA.2 subvariant of omicron.
Federal health officials are reportedly poised to authorize a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine for adults aged 50 and older as soon as this week. A fourth shot is already authorized for the immunocompromised.
But the issues that plagued the administration during the first booster campaign loom large, and officials are likely eager to avoid the same pitfalls.
Vaccinated Americans have largely shown they are not interested in getting a booster.
According to current CDC data, less than 45 percent of all adults have received a booster shot, but the number rises to about 67 percent of adults aged 65 and older.
WHAT WE’RE READING
FDA skeptical of benefits from experimental ALS drug (AP)
How a basement hideaway at UC Berkeley nurtured a generation of blind innovators (Stat)
Inside the plan to create an abortion refuge for a post-Roe era (Washington Post)
STATE BY STATE
Scientists object to inclusion in Globe’s Philip Morris ads (Commonwealth Magazine)
Rural Texas hospitals still searching for a remedy (Texas Tribune)
COVID Hospitalizations Rise in LA County (City News Service)
Biden again keeps ban on recreational marijuana sales in D.C. in his budget (DCist)
OPEDS IN THE HILL
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Tuesday.