From Politico

The Big Hole in America’s Plan to Fight Covid-19 Variants

April 8, 2021

The global scramble to produce enough Covid-19 vaccine for 7 billion people is about to get even tougher, as drugmakers and countries ready a second round of shots to combat the growing threat of virus variants.

Finding vaccines that can ward off more contagious or virulent strains is only half the battle. The United States has virtually no capacity to manufacture revised vaccines or booster shots alongside the original versions, according to a half-dozen vaccine experts and Biden administration health officials. Setting up additional facilities could take months or even years.

The global scramble to produce enough Covid-19 vaccine for 7 billion people is about to get even tougher, as drugmakers and countries ready a second round of shots to combat the growing threat of virus variants.

Finding vaccines that can ward off more contagious or virulent strains is only half the battle. The United States has virtually no capacity to manufacture revised vaccines or booster shots alongside the original versions, according to a half-dozen vaccine experts and Biden administration health officials. Setting up additional facilities could take months or even years.

Vaccine makers like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coped with intense global demand for their original shots by manufacturing millions of doses while the vaccines were still in clinical trials. But that is not an option now, because the companies are still racing to fulfill orders for their existing Covid-19 vaccines — and some, including Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, are struggling with major production setbacks. Pumping out second-generation shots would require factories to switch over manufacturing lines now used for the first wave of vaccines, and in some cases fire up new production processes….

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Biden Extending Obamacare’s Pandemic Enrollment Season

March 24, 2021

The Biden administration is extending a special Obamacare enrollment season it opened for the pandemic, giving Americans three more months to shop for health coverage after Congress recently boosted insurance subsidies in the Covid stimulus package.

President Joe Biden during his first weeks in office opened a new special enrollment period, citing increased need for coverage during the twin economic and health crises. Biden announced the sign-up extension Tuesday evening as he marked the health care law’s 11th anniversary and touted its biggest expansion yet during a speech in Ohio.

The Biden administration is extending a special Obamacare enrollment season it opened for the pandemic, giving Americans three more months to shop for health coverage after Congress recently boosted insurance subsidies in the Covid stimulus package.

President Joe Biden during his first weeks in office opened a new special enrollment period, citing increased need for coverage during the twin economic and health crises. Biden announced the sign-up extension Tuesday evening as he marked the health care law’s 11th anniversary and touted its biggest expansion yet during a speech in Ohio.

“With the American Rescue Plan and the Affordable Care Act, millions of families will be able to sleep a little bit more soundly at night because they don’t have worry about losing everything if they get sick,” Biden said….

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New Mask Wars Threaten Biden’s Pandemic Response at Critical Moment

March 4, 2021

The White House is on a collision course with red state governors over mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions, testing the bipartisan unity that President Joe Biden has tried to tap in curbing Covid.

Top administration officials on Wednesday pleaded with residents of Texas and Mississippi to remain vigilant, fearing that plans by those states’ governors to lift public health precautions will seed a resurgence of the virus.

Biden later took on the decisions head on, describing them as “neanderthal thinking” that threatened to ruin steady progress toward beating back the pandemic.

The White House is on a collision course with red state governors over mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions, testing the bipartisan unity that President Joe Biden has tried to tap in curbing Covid.

Top administration officials on Wednesday pleaded with residents of Texas and Mississippi to remain vigilant, fearing that plans by those states’ governors to lift public health precautions will seed a resurgence of the virus.

Biden later took on the decisions head on, describing them as “neanderthal thinking” that threatened to ruin steady progress toward beating back the pandemic.

It marked a rare public escalation of tensions between the White House and GOP governors that the administration has tried to tamp down for weeks, both to keep the pandemic response on track and in acknowledgment of the fact that there’s little the administration can do legally to rein in states that go rogue….

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Four Takeaways From Xavier Becerra’s Confirmation Hearings

February 25, 2021

Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra appears to be on a smooth path to Senate confirmation. But two days of generally collegial hearings in the Senate HELP and Finance committees exposed fault lines that could shape President Joe Biden’s post-pandemic agenda and will define health policy debates leading into the midterm elections.

Here are four key takeaways:

Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra appears to be on a smooth path to Senate confirmation. But two days of generally collegial hearings in the Senate HELP and Finance committees exposed fault lines that could shape President Joe Biden’s post-pandemic agenda and will define health policy debates leading into the midterm elections.

Here are four key takeaways:

The fight is shifting from who gets covered to the cost

Republican and Democratic senators grilled Becerra on Tuesday and Wednesday on how the Biden administration will work to bring down the cost of insurance coverage, prescription drugs, and medical tests and procedures. Though he offered few specifics, the questioning signaled a major shift from past battles over how to get more people insured….

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Biden Admin Asks SCOTUS to Uphold Obamacare, Reversing Trump Support for Lawsuit

February 11, 2021

The Biden administration is withdrawing the federal government’s support for a challenge to Obamacare, telling the Supreme Court that the law should remain on the books.

The move by the Justice Department follows speculation on whether Biden would try to withdraw from the high-profile red state lawsuit — fully supported by the Trump administration — to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

The Biden administration is withdrawing the federal government’s support for a challenge to Obamacare, telling the Supreme Court that the law should remain on the books.

The move by the Justice Department follows speculation on whether Biden would try to withdraw from the high-profile red state lawsuit — fully supported by the Trump administration — to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

“Following the change in Administration, the Department of Justice has reconsidered the government’s position in these cases,” Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler wrote to the court on Wednesday. The U.S. government, he wrote, “no longer adheres to the conclusions in the previously filed brief of the federal respondents….”

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