On Friday, the FDA officially approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate for emergency use authorization, and Dr. Robert Redfield, Director, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approved the vaccine for use on Sunday signaling the beginning of the distribution of a second COVID-19 vaccine.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Tuesday that the CDC will award “$140 million for COVID-19 vaccine preparedness and nearly $87 million for tracking and testing to 64 jurisdictions, including all 50 states and U.S territories.” The funding is expected to help the designated jurisdictions implement and support their COVID-19 vaccine programs, in collaboration with the CDC. And on Thursday, HHS announced three areas through which the federal government will continue to support coronavirus testing efforts throughout the United States, into the first quarter of 2021.
On Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the drug reimbursement rates for the first quarter of the Most Favored Nation CMMI Demonstration Model. The rates are set to go into effect on January 1, 2021. All the technical documents can be found on the CMS Most Favored Nation Model website. Earlier this month, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA), and BIOCOM California filed a challenge against HHS to challenge its implementation of this policy. The preliminary injunction can be found, here.
In Massachusetts, the Baker Administration amended Phase 2 of their vaccine distribution plan to include vaccine development workers. Additionally, House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed an ethics disclosure with the House Clerk’s Office on Friday indicating that he intends to negotiate future employment opportunities with Northeastern University. However, he stated that he has not yet had any contact with Northeastern.
On Sunday, congressional leaders finalized a deal on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. The package includes: $600 direct payments to Americans; $300 in enhanced unemployment benefits for the next 10 weeks; $25 billion in direct rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium until January 31; $82 billion for education funding; $45 billion for public transit systems; $13 billion for increased food stamps and child nutrition benefits; and $12 billion for minority-owned or very small businesses. Also included in the package $30 billion for the procurement and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as $22 billion for testing and tracing. In addition to the COVID-19 relief deal, the United States House and Senate also passed a continuing resolution to extend funding for the federal government an extra day, which was signed by President Trump late Sunday night. In the interim, the COVID-19 relief package will be added to a $1.4 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September.
With two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met on Sunday to vote on which groups of individuals should be immunized in Phase 1b and 1c, which are expected to begin in January and February, respectively. According to the vote, the group recommends “adults ages 75 and older, along with frontline workers key to societal functioning such as teachers, police officers, fire fighters, prison officers and grocery store workers, should be prioritized in Phase 1b;” and “adults 65 and older, along with people with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, and other essential non-frontline workers” should be included in Phase 1c.
Note: There will be no legislative update for the week of December 28th.