HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Biden Reroutes HHS Funds for Covid Shots

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The Biden administration will scale back several health programs in an effort to scavenge enough money to buy next-generation Covid-19 vaccines, according to a White House official.

Congress has for months refused the White House’s requests for billions of dollars in new funding to order vaccines tailored to boost protection against the highly transmissible omicron variant, as well as treatments and diagnostic tools. That’s left US pandemic-response leaders to scale back other Health and Human Services programs to buy new supplies to meet continuing pandemic needs.

The administration is allocating $5 billion to support the purchase of new Covid-19 vaccine doses for a fall immunization campaign, according to the White House official, who asked not to be named discussing details aren’t yet public. It will use another $4.9 billion to procure roughly 10 million remaining courses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, the official said — something agreed to as a part of an earlier deal.

Another $300 million has been reallocated for the purchase of monoclonal antibody treatments, according to the official. Even after rerouting the funds, the US will still not have the resources needed to secure enough vaccines for all Americans who may want them this coming fall, the official said. Riley Griffin and Josh Wingrove has more on the plan.

Happening on the Hill

Democrats Urge Biden to Take Executive Action on Abortion: Senate Democrats urged Biden to develop a plan on abortion access, according to NBC News, citing a letter signed by more than 20 senators. Lawmakers listed steps the administration can take unilaterally such as increasing access to medication abortion and providing resources for people crossing state lines to access care, Maria Luiza Rabello reports.

Republican Senators Urge US to Shun WTO Vaccine-Patent Waiver: Four Republican senators urged the Biden administration not to support the waiver of a World Trade Organization agreement on intellectual-property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, Bryce Baschuk reports. Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Mike Lee (Utah) say they’re deeply concerned that waiving the protections “will discourage continued research, development, and distribution of medical innovations which may prove necessary to save American lives in the future.”

Congress Calls for More DEA Scrutiny of Online Drug Prescribers: Congressional investigators are asking the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration what it’s doing to oversee mental health startups such as Cerebral Inc, calling the company’s business and prescribing practices “manipulative” and “aggressive,” according to a copy of a letter obtained by Bloomberg.

In the letter, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked the DEA about the startups, which have rapidly expanded by offering online consultation with doctors and prescriptions for drugs such as Adderall and Xanax. Polly Mosendz covers more from the letter.

House Passes FDA Package Reauthorizing Drug, Device User Fees: The House on Wednesday passed a sweeping package to reauthorize the fees that help fund the FDA as the Senate works to pass its own version of the bipartisan legislation. Celine Castronuovo has more on the bill.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Health-Care OSHA Inspections for Covid Surpass 2021 Levels: Even without a Covid-19 health-care standard to enforce, OSHA has inspected more hospitals and nursing homes in the first six months of 2022 than it did for all of 2021, agency enforcement numbers show. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration had inspected 577 general and psychiatric hospitals through June 3, compared with 332 for the entirety of 2021, a Bloomberg Law analysis found. Read more from Bruce Rolfsen.

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What Else to Know

Abortion Foes Spent Past Decade Passing Hundreds of State Laws: The leaked draft of a majority Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade caught most of the nation by surprise, but anti-abortion legislation at the state level has been growing steadily over the past decade. Since 2009, nearly 400 abortion-related laws were passed and 85% of them were aimed at restricting, regulating or opposing access to the practice, according to a Bloomberg News analysis using data from LegiScan, a legislative tracking service. Andre Tartar and Kelsey Butler have more.

Judge Eyes Delaying Abortion Pill Case Until Roe v. Wade Ruling: A federal judge in Mississippi is weighing whether a pending US Supreme Court decision on the fate of Roe v. Wade should affect the timeline of a separate case over the state’s abortion pill restrictions.

Judge Henry T. Wingate of the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi said in a hearing Wednesday that he plans to decide “in the very near future” on how to proceed with a lawsuit from generic mifepristone manufacturer GenBioPro against Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs. Celine Castronuovo has more on the case.

Companies Urged to Review Abortion Coverage With Roe in Balance: Many employers are examining their abortion coverage policies as the US Supreme Court readies a decision that may overturn Roe v. Wade. Regardless of their position on whether to cover abortion, companies are being advised by their legal counsel to review their policies and, at the least, make sure they are clear about what they cover. Read more from Sara Hansard.

US Plans to Train 500,000 Latin American Health Workers: The US and partners plan to train 500,000 health workers in Latin America and the Caribbean within the next five years, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced during a CEO meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas on Wednesday, Justin Sink reports.

DOD Updates Policy on HIV-Positive Service Members: The Defense Department said HIV-positive individuals who are asymptomatic and have a clinically confirmed undetectable viral load will have no restrictions applied to their deployability or to their ability to commission solely on the basis of their HIV-positive status, according to a statement, Megan Howard reports.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Small at

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