Health Care

Overnight Health Care — Fauci: Lack of facts ‘likely’ cost lives in coronavirus fight | CDC changes COVID-19 vaccine guidance to allow rare mixing of Pfizer, Moderna shots | Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden’s agenda

Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care.

Anthony Fauci said lives could have been saved if the Trump administration was more honest. The CDC has quietly changed its guidance on vaccines and President Biden’s COVID-19 agenda is being stalled in the Senate. 

We’ll start with Fauci:


Fauci: Lack of facts ‘likely’ cost lives in coronavirus fight 

Anthony Fauci is feeling unleashed after President Biden’s inauguration, and kept up his string of appearances and interesting comments on Friday.  

In an appearance on CNN, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert was directly asked whether a “lack of candor or facts” contributed to the number of lives lost during the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.

“You know it very likely did,” Fauci said. “You know I don’t want that … to be a sound bite, but I think if you just look at that, you can see that when you’re starting to go down paths that are not based on any science at all, that is not helpful at all, and particularly when you’re in a situation of almost being in a crisis with the number of cases and hospitalizations and deaths that we have.

“When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful,” he continued.

Speaking during a White House press briefing on Thursday, Fauci said it was “liberating” to be working in the Biden administration. 

Read more here


CDC changes COVID-19 vaccine guidance to allow mixing Pfizer, Moderna shots in ‘exceptional situations’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday updated its guidance on the coronavirus vaccines in circulation, green-lighting doctors to mix shots from Pfizer and Moderna in “exceptional situations.”

The vaccines, which both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, require two doses and were authorized to be administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively. The CDC now says patients can receive either shot as long as they are given at least 28 days after the first dose. 

The updated guidance also says it’s OK to wait up to six weeks to get a second dose of either shot.

Don’t get carried away, though: The guidance underscores that the two shots are not interchangeable and that the CDC has not fully studied whether mixing and matching the two vaccines would impede on the effectiveness of either shot.

“The intent is not to suggest people do anything different, but provide clinicians with flexibility for exceptional circumstances,” Jason McDonald, a spokesman for CDC, told CNBC.

Read more here


Pfizer to supply WHO-led vaccine program with 40 million doses

The World Health Organization-led COVAX global vaccine initiative said it will purchase up to 40 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The deal, announced Friday, will allow the initiative to begin delivering vaccines to developing countries by the end of February. In addition, pending emergency authorization, the program expects 150 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to become available for distribution in the first quarter of this year.

COVAX has agreements with several manufacturers for just over 2 billion doses, which will be enough to protect health care and other frontline workers, as well as some high-risk individuals.

During a press briefing, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the vaccine will be provided at-cost, and the company will not make a profit. 

Bourla said the company will also help deliver the doses, which require ultra-cold storage and special handling.

Global health agencies launched the COVAX project to ensure that poor and developing countries could get access to a coronavirus vaccine at the same rate as wealthy and developed nations.

WHO officials have said COVAX needs additional funding to fulfill its goal of vaccinating at least 20 percent of the population in every country by the end of 2021. 


In non-COVID news…

Biden reaffirms commitment to enshrining Roe v. Wade in federal law 

President Biden marked the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling establishing the right to an abortion by reaffirming his support for enshrining abortion rights in federal law.

Biden ran on “codifying” Roe v. Wade, pushed by abortion rights advocates, as a response to the growing number of abortion restrictions passed by state legislatures in recent years and a federal judiciary that has been flooded with Trump nominees, including the Supreme Court.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe,” the White House said in a statement Friday. “In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack.”

While the Trump administration was fairly limited in what it could do to restrict access to abortion, restrictions at the state legislature have proliferated in recent years.

Read more here


Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden’s agenda 

President Biden is facing big headaches on getting his priorities off the ground on Capitol Hill. 

Biden pledged to unify the country after the tumultuous years of the Trump presidency, and Democrats are vowing to use their first unified government in more than a decade to enact a “bold” agenda.

But they are facing significant hurdles to getting anything done fast. There’s a looming second impeachment trial for former President Trump and, in the meantime, a chaotic Senate that is stuck in limbo amid a standoff on a power-sharing agreement with Republicans. 

“Things are on hold. I’ve got a lot of things I want to do,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of the impact of not having a power-sharing deal on Biden’s agenda. 

Biden’s problems are twofold: His Cabinet nominees appear poised to move at a sluggish pace and two of his legislative priorities — coronavirus relief and immigration reform — are already being panned by top Republicans. 

Read more here


The Hill events 

Wednesday, Jan. 27 beginning at 1:15 p.m. ET | Challenge of Our Time: The COVID-19 Vaccine

While grim milestones are still being hit, there is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. That we find ourselves here in less than a year is perhaps nothing short of a medical miracle. But the hard work is just beginning. How do you manufacture and distribute a vaccine to nearly 7.8 billion people?

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, The Hill hosts a two-part discussion on both the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Francis Collins, Pfizer’s Mikeal Dolsten, AMA’s Susan Bailey, Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Brad Wenstrup and many more join The Hill’s Steve Clemons to discuss the challenge of our time. We will highlight the state of play – not only in the US, but globally – in producing workable vaccine candidates, evaluating strategies to manufacture vaccines, therapeutics and the downstream infrastructure of those at global scale, and then look at distribution complexities that must be overcome.

RSVP today for one session or both.


What we’re reading

Trump’s pardons included health care executives behind massive frauds (Kaiser Health News)

Biden’s plan for federally run mass vaccination sites takes shape (The Washington Post)

Black doctors’ group takes aim at COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (STAT)


State by state

Did the Trump administration make it harder for Florida to expand Medicaid on its way out the door? (Tampa Bay Times)  

Florida issues new COVID-19 vaccine residency rules to cut down on ‘vaccine tourism’ (CNN

How the ‘California miracle’ dissolved into a winter coronavirus nightmare (LA Times)

Tags abortion rights Anthony Fauci Anthony Fauci Brad Wenstrup COVID-19 vaccine Dick Durbin Donald Trump Eddie Bernice Johnson Pfizer Roe v. Wade White House coronavirus task force

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