Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care.
In its final days, the Trump administration is shaking up how coronavirus vaccines are distributed to states. The CDC will require negative COVID-19 tests from international travelers coming to the U.S., a WHO official warned global herd immunity will not happen this year, and the incoming director of the CDC vowed to tell the truth.
We’ll start with vaccine news:
Trump administration makes sweeping changes to speed up pace of COVID-19 vaccinations
The Trump administration will no longer hold back the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine as part of a host of changes intended to speed up the pace of inoculations and make more vaccines available to the public.
The sweeping changes are a major departure from current administration policy, and some align with a plan unveiled by President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol Police confirm investigation into some officers’ behavior during riot GOP lawmakers told Trump takes some responsibility for Capitol riot Director of Army Staff disputes Capitol Police chief account of National Guard deployment MORE to release nearly every available vaccine dose.
The big change: The Trump administration has been holding back half of the available doses to ensure there is enough supply for everyone who is getting a first dose to later get a second dose as well. That’s changing, as the administration will now release every available dose.
“We have gained confidence in the integrity of our distribution system, which has now successfully delivered to over 14,000 locations without a hitch,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Tuesday.
Azar said that because of a consistent pace of production, “we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve, with second doses being supplied by doses coming off of manufacturing lines.”
Wider availability: States are also being told to open up eligibility to anyone over the age of 65, as well as people under the age of 65 who have high risk conditions.
“That is the most effective way to save lives now. In some states, heavy-handed micromanagement of this process has stood in the way of vaccines reaching a broader swath of the vulnerable population more quickly,” Azar said.
HHS shakes up vaccine allocation for states
On top of the new guidelines for administering vaccines, administration officials on Tuesday said they are shaking up how states are allocated vaccine doses.
Rather than distribute vaccines based on population, the administration instead will allocate doses based on how quickly they can administer the shots, as well as on the size of the population over age 65, Azar said.
States will have two weeks to prepare for the change, Azar said, which should give them time to improve their reporting to a federal database.
“This new system gives states a strong incentive to ensure that all vaccinations are being promptly reported, which they’re currently not,” Azar told reporters during a press briefing.
The policy change would reward states that inoculate people quickly, and comes as top administration officials have been complaining about the slow pace of vaccinations.
But current Trump officials will no longer be in charge in two weeks, and it’s not clear if the incoming Biden administration supports such a change. Azar said Operation Warp Speed had not yet spoken with the transition team about the change, and a Biden spokesman did not return a request for comment.
CDC to order negative COVID-19 tests from international passengers boarding US-bound flights
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now requiring that all international passengers boarding U.S.-bound flights to get a negative COVID-19 test before flying.
The U.S. put that requirement on those traveling to the U.S. from the United Kingdom a couple of weeks ago due to the new coronavirus strain that was coming out of the area.
Now, the order is being expanded to flights from all countries, as the CDC cites new strains.
“Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants,” the CDC said in a statement. “With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.”
The policy takes effect Jan. 26, and will require a negative test result within three days of a flight departing to the U.S.
Growing number of lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after Capitol siege
It’s becoming increasingly evident that last week’s riot at the Capitol was likely a superspreader event.
A growing number of lawmakers are testing positive for COVID-19 after being forced to crowd together in a secure space during Wednesday’s mob attack on the Capitol.
At least three House members have tested positive in the past 24 hours: Democratic Reps. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanDemocrat says she’s tested positive after Capitol lockdown with Republicans who ‘cruelly refused’ to wear masks The Hill’s Morning Report – House to impeach Trump on Wednesday Overnight Health Care: New Jersey Democrat thinks she contracted coronavirus during Capitol siege | Biden publicly receives second dose of coronavirus vaccine | Senate Democrats demand Trump address vaccine distribution MORE (N.J.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocrats vow to deliver K checks with control of Senate House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump Hillary Clinton trolls McConnell: ‘Senate Minority Leader’ MORE (Wash.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott Schneider7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics Election scrambles prospects for next COVID-19 relief bill Democrats call for IRS to review tax-exempt status of NRA MORE (Ill.). All were in the secure space where security officials ushered hundreds of lawmakers to shelter in place as rioters in support of President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse GOP leader tells members to quit spreading lies on riot, antifa DC attorney general says Trump Organization improperly paid K bill incurred during inauguration 70K QAnon Twitter accounts suspended in the wake of Capitol riot MORE rampaged the Capitol.
Lawmakers are revealing their diagnoses voluntarily; it’s not yet clear who else in the room had COVID-19 or has since tested positive after being exposed.
Democrats are furious that several House Republicans in the room were not wearing masks, in violation of rules in place since July requiring masks on the House floor and in surrounding office buildings.
Incoming CDC director vows to tell the truth, restore trust
The incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vowed in a New York Times op-ed published Monday to tell the public the truth, “even when the news is bleak.”
Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyWHO lists Pfizer vaccine as the first for emergency use CDC: Only about 1 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccine Incoming Biden CDC director says she’ll reinstate public briefings MORE, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the embattled agency, acknowledged the CDC will have to work “very hard to restore public trust.”
“It has been undermined over the last year. In that time, numerous reports stated that White House officials interfered with official guidance issued by the CDC,” she wrote.
“As I start my new duties, I will tell the president, Congress and the public what we know when we know it, and I will do so even when the news is bleak, or when the information may not be what those in the administration want to hear.”
Walensky, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, will replace Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldA vaccine, a Burrito and more: 7 lighter, memorable moments from 2020 Who should get the vaccine next? Not just seniors CDC: Only about 1 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccine MORE, President Trump’s pick for the job in 2018, who has come under heavy criticism for not defending his agency from attacks by Trump.
WHO official warns global herd immunity from COVID-19 won’t happen until 2022
An official with the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that herd immunity from COVID-19 vaccines will not happen this year and physical distancing and mask wearing will need to continue into 2022.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the quick development of vaccines is a testament to scientists around the world, but cautioned that scaling the production on a global basis takes time.
“The vaccines are going to come. They are going to go to all countries, but meanwhile we mustn’t forget that there are measures that work,” like masks and physical distancing, Swaminathan said during a press briefing Monday.
“It’s really important to remind people, both government as well as individuals, on the responsibilities and measures we need to practice for the rest of this year at least, because even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we’re not going to achieve any levels of population immunity, herd immunity, in 2021,” she said.
What we’re reading
Why you should still wear a mask and avoid crowds after getting the COVID-19 vaccine (NPR)
Scott AtlasScott AtlasJoe Biden needs a new communications strategy The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Mastercard – Congress slogs toward COVID-19 relief, omnibus deal Trump official pushed for herd immunity, calling for low-risk Americans to be infected, emails show MORE, controversial former Trump adviser, deletes Twitter account (STAT)
The future of the coronavirus? An annoying childhood infection (The New York Times)
Hospitals to report Covid-19 vaccination data (Wall Street Journal)
State by state
Putting seniors first was the right decision.’ DeSantis defends vaccine rollout (Sun-Sentinel)
Georgia Senate GOP leader has COVID-19; half of House skip test (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
As coronavirus hospitalizations stabilize in LA County and state, officials brace for new surge (Mercury News)