Johnson & Johnson announced on Thursday that it has applied for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on February 26th to review the vaccine, which reported 66% efficacy in a global trial. If authorized, the United States has agreed to purchase 100 million doses of the vaccine, with the option to purchase 200 million more, which J&J is expected to supply in the first half of the year.
On Friday, Governor Baker announced that his administration was launching a call center to help Massachusetts residents 75 and older make appointments to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. The call center will be open Monday-Friday from 8:30am-5pm and can be accessed by dialing 211. Governor Baker also announced the launch of a public awareness campaign, “Trust the Facts, Get the Vax,” which intends to increase trust in COVID-19 vaccines, especially among communities of color and those disproportionately affected by the virus. The campaign will run both English and Spanish TV advertisements for the next five months, in addition to PSAs and videos on TV, streaming platforms, paid social media, and radio and print ads.
Additionally, House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka announced last Wednesday that they will create three new standing committees in the 2021-2022 session. The new committees, the Joint Standing Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management, Joint Standing Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion, and Joint Standing Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity will focus on COVID-19 oversight and emergency management, racial equity, and cybersecurity.
In Federal news, the United States House of Representatives passed a budget resolution on Wednesday that will allow the Democratic majority to push the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill forward without Republican support. The Senate passed an amended version of the House budget resolution on Friday, further advancing the prospect for a relief package. The resolution now goes back to the House for further action. Once both chambers approve the resolution, Democrats will develop the language for a relief package. Congress is expected to propose a bill reflecting President Biden’s framework, calling for “$1,400 direct payments for most Americans, a $400 per week jobless benefit through September, a $20 billion vaccination program and $350 billion in support for state and local governments, among a range of other policies.”
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) will hold a virtual meeting of its Market Oversight and Transparency (MOAT) Committee, during which HPC staff will present findings examining trends in persistently high out-of-pocket spending and preview findings from an upcoming interim COVID-19 impact study, focusing on telehealth and pediatric behavioral health. Also this week, the impeachment trial for former President Trump begins on Tuesday.
Effective Monday at 5 a.m., business capacity limits in Massachusetts are able to increase from 25% to 40%. This comes as the rolling average for positive COVID-19 tests in Massachusetts dropped below 3% for the first time since November.