Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Kaiser Health News

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Azar Lays Out New Vaccine Timetable

According to the HHS secretary, the most vulnerable Americans could receive the vaccine by the end of this year. Seniors, health care workers and first responders could get it by the end of January. Everyone else could receive it “by the end of March to early April.” Azar’s timetable differs from the one laid out earlier this month by the CDC and NIH. Meanwhile, Politico reports that Azar could oust FDA chief Stephen Hahn over vaccine disputes.


USA Today:
COVID Vaccine Is Coming In ‘A Matter Of Weeks Or Months,’ HHS Says


At least one COVID-19 vaccine should be available as soon as the end of this year, and the general public should be able to get vaccinated by early spring, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday. “There is hope on the way in the form of safe and effective vaccines in a matter of weeks or months,” said Azar, speaking in Atlanta at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the rare public briefing, Azar laid out a specific timetable that didn’t exactly match what the government has previously said.  (Weintraub, 10/21)


Politico:
An Angry Azar Floats Plans To Oust FDA’s Hahn


Infuriated by the FDA’s defiance in a showdown over the Trump administration’s standards for authorizing a coronavirus vaccine, health secretary Alex Azar has spent recent weeks openly plotting the ouster of FDA chief Stephen Hahn. Azar has vented to allies within the Health and Human Services Department about his unhappiness with the top official in charge of the vaccine process, and discussed the prospect of seeking White House permission to remove him, a half-dozen current and former administration officials said.During some of those conversations, he’s gone as far as to float potential replacements for Hahn, said one current and two former administration officials familiar with the talks, identifying HHS testing czar Brett Giroir and a pair of career civil servants – FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy and longtime regulator Janet Woodcock – as prime candidates to step in as acting commissioner should Hahn be removed. (Cancryn and Diamond, 10/22)


ABC News:
Trump’s Operation Warp Speed Adviser Says All Americans Could Be Immunized With COVID Vaccine By June 


Most Americans may have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by early this spring, one which could potentially immunize them by June, according to Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui. “It’s not a certainty, but the plan — and I feel pretty confident — should make it such that by June, everybody could have been immunized in the U.S.,” Slaoui told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff Wednesday morning. (Salzman and Ordonez, 10/21)

In other COVID vaccine developments —


The Washington Post:
Volunteer In Oxford Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Dies, Reportedly Did Not Receive Experimental Vaccine


A Brazilian who participated in the clinical trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine has died, officials here said Wednesday. Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency, which is overseeing multiple vaccine trials in a country suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks, said the individual volunteered to receive the vaccine candidate developed by Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca. The Brazilian newspaper O Globo, citing unnamed sources, reported that the volunteer was in a control group that did not receive the experimental vaccine and died of covid-19. The news service G1 said the volunteer was a 28-year-old physician who treated coronavirus patients in Rio de Janeiro. (McCoy, Traiano and Johnson, 10/21)


The Washington Post:
Unprecedented Vaccine Trials On Track To Begin Delivering Results 


In a matter of weeks, one of the most closely watched human experiments in history will start to report early results, with data on prospective coronavirus vaccines possibly coming this month or in November from the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the biotechnology company Moderna. Amid the turmoil, chaos and misinformation that have defined the U.S. response to the pandemic, progress toward a vaccine, or vaccines, has been steady, reassuring and scientific. Political meddling has so far been largely deflected. Drug companies, working closely with the U.S. government and fueled by an infusion of more than $10 billion of taxpayer money, have developed, tested and scaled up a half-dozen potential vaccines at unprecedented speed. (Johnson, 10/21)


AP:
Next Up In Hunt For COVID-19 Vaccine: Testing Shots In Kids


The global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids is only just beginning — a lagging start that has some U.S. pediatricians worried they may not know if any shots work for young children in time for the next school year. Older adults may be most vulnerable to the coronavirus, but ending the pandemic will require vaccinating children, too. Last week, Pfizer Inc. received permission to test its vaccine in U.S. kids as young as 12, one of only a handful of attempts around the world to start exploring if any experimental shots being pushed for adults also can protect children. (Neergaard, 10/21)


The Hill:
State Officials Plead For More Info On Vaccine Distribution Plans 


Governors and state health officials scrambling to develop comprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution plans are pleading with the Trump administration for more clarity and more funding. State and local officials sent drafts of their plans to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, just 30 days after the administration released its initial COVID-19 vaccination playbook. (Weixel, 10/21)

And the FDA advisory committee meets today —


ABC News:
What To Expect From The Official COVID-19 Vaccine Committee 


As the race for an effective COVID-19 vaccine continues, the public will get inside look at one a crucial part of the Food and Drug Administration’s decision-making process: the first meeting of its normally obscure advisory committee. Never before has much attention been paid this small group of vaccine experts whose job is to advise the FDA on whether a new vaccine should be green lighted. (Salzman, 10/21)


AP:
Regulators, Experts Take Up Thorny Vaccine Study Issues


The U.S. regulators who will decide the fate of COVID-19 vaccines are taking an unusual step: Asking outside scientists if their standards are high enough. The Food and Drug Administration may have to decide by year’s end whether to allow use of the first vaccines against the virus. Thursday, a federal advisory committee pulls back the curtain on that decision process, debating whether the guidelines FDA has set for vaccine developers are rigorous enough. “We will not cut corners, and we will only use science and data to make that determination,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn pledged at a meeting of the Milken Institute Wednesday. (Neergaard and Perrone, 10/22)


Stat:
Watching This FDA Hearing Can Help Ease Your Covid-19 Anxieties 


The Covid-19 pandemic has turned obscure regulatory bodies into front-page news. Among these is the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, the group that reviews the safety and effectiveness of vaccine candidates and then makes recommendations to the FDA about whether to authorize and license vaccines. (Nachlis, 10/21)


Anatomy Of A COVID Conspiracy Theory

How a coronavirus conspiracy theory collapsed.


CNN:
How A Covid-19 Origin Theory Backed By Bannon Unraveled 


It was a blockbuster story. A respected Chinese virologist appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News in mid-September to share the results of her just-completed report. The conclusion: The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was likely engineered in a Chinese lab. On Carlson’s show, she claimed it was intentionally released into the world. (Kuznia, Bronstein, Griffin and Devine, 10/21)


AP:
US Surgeon General To Plead Not Guilty In Hawaii Virus Case


A lawyer for U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Wednesday that his client, who is charged with illegally entering a Hawaii public park that was closed because of the coronavirus, will plead not guilty. The criminal complaint against Adams, who was on Oahu in August helping with surge testing amid a spike in coronavirus cases, says he and two other men were looking at the view and taking pictures at Kualoa Regional Park on the island’s northeastern coast. The rural park offers a view of the famed Mokolii island, also known as Chinaman’s Hat for its cone shape. (Jones, 10/21)

News on separated families —


The Washington Post:
Hundreds Of Parents Separated From Children At Border In 2017 Still Have Not Been Found 


The ACLU has demanded the names of all separated parents and children and wants to work to confirm all reunifications. The organization, which filed the lawsuit that led to the judge’s order to reunite the families, estimates that as many as 5,400 children have been separated from their families since Trump took office. More than half were split up from May to June in 2018, when DHS and the Justice Department rolled out the administration’s official “zero tolerance” policy to deter a surge of asylum-seeking families at the southern border. The ACLU and others say the effort to locate the still-separated families has been hindered by incomplete government reports as well as conditions on the ground in the children’s native lands, including gang violence, remote villages, and now, the coronavirus pandemic. (Armus and Sacchetti, 10/21)


The New York Times:
Parents Of 545 Children Separated At The Border Cannot Be Found


Radio spots are airing throughout Mexico and Central America. Court-appointed researchers are motorbiking through rural hillside communities in Guatemala and showing up at courthouses in Honduras to conduct public record searches. The efforts are part of a wide-ranging campaign to track down parents separated from their children at the U.S. border beginning in 2017 under the Trump administration’s most controversial immigration policy. It is now clear that the parents of 545 of the migrant children still have not been found, according to court documents filed this week in a case challenging the practice. About 60 of the children were under the age of 5 when they were separated, the documents show. (Dickerson, 10/21)


The Washington Post:
Trump Administration Considers Labeling Top Humanitarian Groups ‘Anti-Semitic’


The Trump administration is considering labeling some of the most prominent humanitarian organizations in the world, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, as “anti-Semitic,” according to two people familiar with the discussions. A declaration by the State Department could come as early as this week, the individuals said, adding that it might encourage other governments not to support the groups’ work. … Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of anti-Semitism. “Any insinuation that Oxfam supports anti-Semitism is false, baseless, and offensive,” Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America said. (Hudson, 10/21)



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