HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Biden Urges Opening Vaccine to All Adults

President Joe Biden said yesterday that he wants all American adults to be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by April 19, citing a target date all but two states are already set to meet.

“By no later than April 19 in every part of this country, every adult over the age of 18—18 or over—will be eligible to be vaccinated. No more confusing rules. No more confusing restrictions,” Biden said at the White House.

In anticipation of eligibility opening broadly, he said, the government will provide aid for community groups to transport elderly Americans to vaccination sites. “Seniors. It’s time for you to get vaccinated now,” he said.

Biden also said 150 million doses of vaccine were administered within his first 75 days in office, keeping pace with his accelerated goal of getting 200 million shots into arms by his 100th day in office.

In “another 25 days,” Biden said during a visit to a vaccination site in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday, “we’ll probably have somewhere in excess of 200 million shots that have been administered.”

He thanked people at the site for receiving shots. “You’re doing the right thing. You really are,” he told them, adding: “Everyone’s going to be able to do this before the month is out.”

Every state but Oregon and Hawaii is already scheduled to have opened up vaccines to all non-minors by April 19. Those two states are currently set to meet that target May 1, Biden’s previous goal for every U.S. adult to become eligible.

Almost half of U.S. states had opened vaccination to everyone 16 and older by the end of last week. That will rise to 36 by the end of this week. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs, Josh Wingrove and Angelica LaVito.

White House Rules Out Vaccine Passports: The U.S. government won’t issue so-called vaccine passports, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, after Texas sought to limit their development because of privacy concerns. “The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Psaki told reporters at the White House yesterday. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

The administration wants to protect Americans’ privacy and doesn’t want vaccine passports “used against people unfairly,” Psaki said. Some businesses and colleges are pushing for people to show proof of vaccination—before, say, boarding cruise ships, entering stadiums, or returning to campus—as a way to safely resume pre-pandemic operations. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs.

Fauci: Sports, Not Schools, Drive Teens Covid-19 Infections: Teenagers are at higher risk of getting coronavirus from engaging in sports than from sitting in the classroom, Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, told MSNBC yesterday,
Kasia Klimasinska reports. Fauci told parents they may want to reconsider having their children in sports.

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Happening on the Hill

Covid-19, Rare Diseases Frame Drug Pricing Debate: Tackling high drug prices will get a renewed focus in Congress this year as lawmakers turn their attention to boosting access to treatments for Covid-19, rare diseases, and other life-threatening conditions. Roughly two dozen bills are floating around Congress that would alter how drugs get marketing exclusivity, require companies to report planned price hikes, and allow the government to directly negotiate prices. One bill that would modify eligibility for five years of exclusivity sailed through the Senate but awaits action in the House. The others have yet to see action.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last month that Democrats were weighing whether to add a provision to upcoming infrastructure legislation that would let the government negotiate drug prices. Such a provision is still in the works. Read more from Jacquie Lee.

Democrats Ask for Obamacare Enrollment Period for Laid-off Workers: Democratic leaders in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra asked for an Affordable Care Act marketplace special enrollment period “that will allow unemployed workers to maintain access to affordable coverage after the expiration of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s (ARPA) COBRA subsidies—which will make it easier for workers to stay covered after losing a job,” according to a statement from the House Education and Labor Committee. The letter was signed by House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (Va.), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Patty Murray (Wash.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (Mass.), Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (Ore.), and House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (N.J.).

Kelly Spotlights Rising Maternal Mortality Rate: Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) called maternal mortality a “tragic and worsening crisis in our country” and called for policy action after new CDC data showed the maternal mortality rate for 2019 was 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, an increase from 2018’s rate of 17.4. The mortality rate was higher for non-Hispanic Black mothers, at 44 deaths per 100,000 live births.

What Else to Know

Labor Chief Walsh Puts Hold on OSHA Virus Rule for More Analysis: Release of OSHA’s Covid-19 emergency temporary standard is on hold at the request of Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Secretary Walsh reviewed the materials, and determined that they should be updated to reflect the latest scientific analysis of the state of the disease,” a Labor Department spokesperson told Bloomberg Law yesterday. The review is of the standard’s analysis of the disease, not the standard’s regulatory text. Read more from Bruce Rolfsen and Courtney Rozen.

Tennessee Asks SCOTUS to Reinstate Abortion Delay Law: A Tennessee law requiring women to wait 48 hours after receiving state-mandated information before having an abortion should be allowed to take effect while litigation over its constitutionality is ongoing, Tennessee told the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state filed an emergency application to halt a permanent injunction against the law’s enforcement issued by a federal trial court in October 2020. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reviewing that decision, but a motions panel ruled in February that the injunction will remain in effect while that happens. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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