Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, February 2021 # 12

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Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines from Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs practice.

ICYMI:   House committees drafted and passed their portions of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that Democrats are preparing to pass through budget reconciliation. Get our latest analysis of what was passed in the committee markups and what will happen next.  House committees move swiftly to pass COVID-19 relief legislation.

In Washington: 

  • On Feb. 23, officials from five major vaccine companies will be testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation.  Chairperson Diana Degette (D-CO) will be holding a hearing on "Pathway to Protection: expanding Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines" with witnesses from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, and Pfizer.
  • The Health and Human Services Department has signed a $54.2 contract for special syringes made by Retractable Technologies that are designed to extract six doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine doses from the initially labeled five-dose vials. 
  • Democrats are aiming to move quickly on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Several House committees advanced portions of the bill last week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told colleagues on Tuesday that he plans for the bill to be considered on the House floor next week. But Senate consideration is sure to slow the process after that point in time as the Senate parliamentarian scrutinizes provisions such as a minimum wage hike for their compliance with the rules of the reconciliation process.
  • President Biden announced the White House will be expanding and improving COVID-19 testing as part of the President's National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.  The series of new actions will improve the availability of tests and better prepare for threats from variants of the virus.
  • President Biden said Tuesday that he wants the majority of K-8 schools nationwide physically reopened five days a week and that “I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days,” referring to the first 100 days of his administration. Biden made his remarks during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee. The president added that he believes widespread use of masks and smaller classes would make in-person schooling safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed similar measures in a recent school reopening guidance.
  • Vaccinating teachers has taken center stage in the debate over in-person schooling. President Biden on Tuesday endorsed teachers receiving vaccination priority. But CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has said that schools can safely reopen without teachers being vaccinated first. But teachers unions and the public favor a vaccination-first policy, with Chicago adopting the measure last week after union negotiations. A recent Morning Consult poll found that 55 percent of registered voters favor full-vaccination first, while 34 percent favor reopening regardless.
  • The Pentagon said Wednesday said that one-third of service members have declined to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Air Force Major General Jeff Taliaferro, Vice Director for Operations at the Department of Defense, testified to that number during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. Taliaferro added that non-immunized service members are deployable. Air Force Major General Steven Nordhaus confirmed in the same hearing that vaccinations are voluntary for military members. 

In the News:

  • Pfizer Inc has not yet delivered to the European Union about 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that were due in December, E.U. officials said. The shortage leaves about one-third short of the supply it had expected from the U.S. drugmaker. The EU has also suffered from delays in vaccine delivers from Britain-based AstraZeneca Plc and U.S. biotech Moderna Inc.
  • Japan on Wednesday began its COVID-19 vaccination drive just months ahead of the rescheduled 2020 summer Olympic Games. About 40,000 medical professionals are expected to receive initial doses, followed by 3.7 million more medical personnel and then people aged 65 and older.  The government wants to secure enough vaccine doses for its population of 126 million by mid-2021. Thus far, Japan has signed contracts to purchase 314 million vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna, which is enough for 157 million people. 
  • The European Union announced plans to buy a further 300 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine. Hours earlier, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had signed a deal to deliver an additional 200 million doses of their vaccine to the bloc.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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