The White House Continues Strong-Arm Approach to COVID-19 Vaccination

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Here’s your daily news brief about what’s happening in our country amidst the COVID-19 pandemic today. 

Biden Pushes COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates with Chicago Visit and Pressure on OSHA  

As U.S. vaccination rates have been hovering in the 50% of the population range for two months, President Biden hit the old dusty trail to push his vaccine mandate even more. Biden’s executive order signed last month requires all workers in the executive branch should be vaccinated against COVID-19.  

An order requiring businesses with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccines isn’t moving along quite as hastily. The two orders together would require 100 million workers, two-thirds of the U.S. workforce, to be vaccinated with one of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines.  

A White House analysis showed that vaccination requirements have “already helped cut the rate of unvaccinated Americans by one-third.”  

Speaking to public and private sector business leaders in Chicago, Biden said, “With vaccinations we’re going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools. And empty restaurants. And much less commerce.” 

The president met with Scott Kirby of United Airlines, the first major airline in the U.S. to mandate employee vaccination, and a visit to a construction company considering its mandate.  

OSHA has been asked to write rules to enforce his mandate in companies exceeding the 100-headcount. But the process of rule-making is rigorous and time-consuming for the administration to ensure the standards are clear and pass legal muster. For companies hesitant to pass their own mandate, like Walmart and JPMorgan Chase, the final ruling from OSHA may still not spur action as enforcing the rule would likely be difficult.

The U.S. unemployment rate is 5.2%, a drastic drop from the 8.4% reported in August 2020. Yet currently, job openings have outnumbered the amount of unemployed people in the U.S.  

Moderna Faces its Own Governmental Pressures 

As companies grapple with the push for vaccine mandates, COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna is getting plenty of its pressures from the White House. 

Biden pledged to make the U.S. the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world, but is nowhere near fulfilling that promise. Feeling the heat of his vow, the Biden administration is urging Moderna to increase its production domestically to help him deliver.  

The White House has already donated tens of millions of Moderna doses abroad. The company had agreed to supply 500 million doses to low- and middle-income countries through the COVAX Facility, an international vaccine aid program.  

While the company cited concerns over balancing its domestic and international supply responsibilities as the cause, some believe the hesitation is instead financially driven. Selling doses to the Biden administration for impoverished countries would likely mean selling at cost with no profitability for Moderna.  

However, the company just announced yesterday plans to invest up to $500 million to build a factory in Africa. The site would make up to 500 million doses of Moderna’s mRNA vaccines, including the COVID-19 shot. A plant on the continent would secure more vaccines for the countries of Africa who are often last in line to get supplies.  

As of Thursday, only 4.5% of Africans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  

Sanofi Study Saves Elderly Time – COVID-19 Booster and Flu Vaccine with One Stop 

New data from a study done by Sanofi shows that the elderly can save a trip by getting their COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine in just one visit.  

The study tested Sanofi’s own Fluzone, a high-dose quadrivalent vaccine preventing influenza A and B strains, and Moderna’s COVID-19 booster shot at the same doctor’s visit. The two provided the same immune response with appropriate safety and tolerability compared to the shots at separate visits.  

Moderna’s booster shot is still under review by the FDA. Its competitor Pfizer got the green light for its booster with BioNTech in late September.  

The results of this study are in line with a study led by the University of Bristol when combining three different flu vaccines with either Pfizer or AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot.  

White House Pumps Up At-Home COVID-19 Test Market with Cash Infusion 

The demand is high for reliable, at-home COVID-19 testing as Americans tire of quarantining time and time again for symptoms that turn out to be allergies or the common cold. The U.S. government is responding by pouring another $1 billion toward increasing the production of reliable tests citizens can administer on themselves.  

According to the briefing, the FDA authorized a new rapid, at-home test from ACON Laboratories. Funds will funnel into manufacturers of these tests. Two manufacturers have committed to speed up production with the support.  

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said, “This means companies will be able to expand production of tests even further, based on the U.S. government’s commitment to procure an additional 180 million rapid tests over the course of next year, with tens of millions more tests coming to market over the course of the next 30 days.” 

Zients says that we’re on track to double the supply of tests available by early November.  

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