Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care. For the first time in almost a year, Massachusetts reported no new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, prompting the Boston Herald to print a big zero on its front page.
Today: The CDC gives the green light for the Pfizer vaccine for people 12-15, the House drug pricing bill hits some speed bumps and a panel of experts blasts the global COVID-19 response.
Let’s start with the CDC:
CDC signs off on Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15
The CDC director adopted recommendations from an advisory panel on Wednesday to clear the way for vaccinations to begin in people aged 12-15.
Significance: The highly anticipated decision is a key step toward ensuring middle and high schools can operate for full in-person learning in the fall — and a major boon to parents concerned about the safety of summer activities.
While health officials and experts have argued that schools are safe and should have opened for in-person teaching months ago, the vaccines for younger kids adds another layer of protection and peace of mind.
Giving vaccines to adolescents is a big step to help raise the overall level of immunity in the country, and the authorization will make millions more people eligible for a vaccine. Getting more people vaccinated will lower the numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
There are almost 17 million adolescents in the 12- to 15-year-old age group in the United States, accounting for about 5.3 percent of the U.S. population and almost 27 percent of the population younger than 16, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Biden urges parents to ‘get their kids vaccinated’
Biden touted the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12 to 15 as a “giant step” in fighting COVID-19 and urged that age group to get vaccinated right away.
More than 15,000 pharmacies will be available to vaccinate that age group as of Thursday, Biden said, and the administration is also working to get shots to pediatrician and family doctor offices.
The administration also said it would host events with “celebrities and influencers” to encourage teens to get vaccinated in the coming weeks.
“We’re ready,” the president said. “This new population’s going to find the vaccine rollout fast and efficient.”
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, well it’s growing brighter and brighter and we need all of you to bring it home,” he added.
Where we’re at: The country also will have delivered 250 million shots since Biden took office on Thursday, the president said.
Trouble for House drug pricing bill: Moderates signal concerns with Pelosi measure
A group of 10 moderate House Democrats is signaling concerns with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Job openings jump to record high of 8.1 million | Wyden opposes gas tax hike | Airlines feel fuel crunch Pelosi: House Democrats want to make child tax credit expansion permanent Pelosi announces change to House floor mask rules MORE’s (D-Calif.) signature legislation to lower prescription drug prices, raising further doubts about the legislation’s path forward.
Their letter to Pelosi calls for a drug pricing measure to be bipartisan and to “preserve our invaluable innovation ecosystem,” pointing to concerns that a bill could hurt drug companies’ ability to develop new drugs.
“We must garner bipartisan, bicameral support, with buy-in from a majority of Americans and stakeholders in the public and private sectors,” states the letter, sent earlier this month and obtained by The Hill. “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all, truly, must be in this together.”
The letter, which was first reported by Stat, was led by Reps. Scott PetersScott H. PetersBiden clean electricity standard faces high hurdles House Democrats introduce carbon pricing measure Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (D-Calif.) and Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.).
Uncertain path: Pelosi has made the drug pricing measure a priority, but its path was already unclear. President BidenJoe BidenKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on ‘crusade to undermine our democracy’ US officials testify on domestic terrorism in wake of Capitol attack MORE left the measure out of his American Families Plan, despite pressure from many congressional Democrats, though in his address to lawmakers last month he did call for Congress to pass drug pricing legislation this year.
Democrats could add drug pricing back into the families plan as it makes its way through Congress, and progressives like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWyden: Funding infrastructure with gas tax hike a ‘big mistake’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalNurses union lobbies Congress on health care bills during National Nurses Week White House raises refugee cap to 62,500 The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with ‘thank you, Georgia’ MORE (D-Wash.) are pushing for it.
But H.R. 3 also could be too strong to get through the Senate, where Democrats hold only 50 seats.
Panel blasts COVID-19 response: ‘Global political leadership was absent’
A prominent panel of political and public health leaders has blasted the international and national response to the coronavirus pandemic, labeling slow and tepid reactions around the world as a preventable disaster that cost millions of lives.
The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response issued a report on Wednesday that called on wealthier countries to do more to help the world end the pandemic and to bolster the global health systems meant to act as a front-line defense to prevent future outbreaks.
It is clear, the report found, that the world was not prepared, even after decades of warnings that a serious pathogen was poised to sweep the globe.
“COVID-19 remains a global disaster. Worse, it was a preventable disaster,” the report says.
Criticism on response: The report criticized the formal procedures for alerting other nations, an implicit rebuke of China’s early moves to downplay the severity of the virus and to censure those who sounded the alarm, costing the world valuable time to prepare.
Even after the World Health Organization itself issued a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of warning it can offer, “too many countries took a ‘wait and see’ approach rather than enacting an aggressive containment strategy that could have forestalled the global pandemic.”
What’s next: Going forward, the panel urged the creation of a Global Health Threats Council led by heads of state. Those heads of state, they said, should adopt a special declaration at the U.N. General Assembly in September to radically prioritize pandemic preparedness.
Turning the corner: US reaching turning point in pandemic
The U.S. appears to be reaching a turning point in the pandemic, as the country sees sharply declining cases amid an increase in vaccinations providing Americans with a sense of hope.
The country reached its lowest seven-day average for deaths on Monday since July 2020, according to CDC figures, and the average of new cases per day fell below 40,000 for the first time since September.
CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyUS reaching turning point in pandemic amid vaccination concerns Watch live: Fauci, Walensky testify on COVID-19 response efforts Top CDC official who warned of pandemic disruption will resign MORE during a Tuesday Senate hearing praised the “consistent downward” trends in the average daily COVID-19 cases and deaths since January, at 76 percent and 75 percent, respectively.
“With these cases trending down in the United States and more people getting vaccinated, we are cautiously optimistic. However, globally the pandemic is more severe than ever,” she said.
But there’s still concern: Still, officials are cautioning that turning the corner doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. As health experts and administration officials express hopefulness about vaccinations leading to an end to the pandemic, the U.S. is left to balance a growing impatience to return to normalcy with fewer people now getting vaccinated.
What we’re reading
They haven’t gotten a Covid vaccine yet. But they aren’t ‘hesitant’ either. (The New York Times)
‘You cannot do anything’: Indian American doctors struggle with COVID-19 crisis back home (Los Angeles Times)
Schools ditch student mask requirements in growing numbers (The Associated Press)
State by state
COVID-19 in Indiana: State dashboard will begin tracking MIS-C and other updates (Indianapolis Star)
Opioid-related overdose deaths soar among Black residents (The Associated Press)
State asks K-12 schools to plan for return to full-time, in-person instruction next fall (The Bellingham Herald)
Op-eds in The Hill