Health Care — Moderna seeks green light for kids’ omicron booster

D.C. soccer fanatics can now legally drink nearly all day during the FIFA World Cup after the D.C. Council passed a new bill this week. 

Today in health, Moderna has asked the FDA to authorize its omicron-specific booster shot for children as young as 6. The shot is currently authorized for adults only. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.

Moderna asks FDA to authorize booster for ages 6+

Moderna on Friday said it has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize its COVID-19 bivalent booster shot for adolescents and children as young as 6 years old.

  • The announcement was made on Twitter, with no additional details. 
  • The application for children ages 6 months to under 6 years is expected to be completed later this year, the company said. 

Moderna’s booster shot is currently authorized for adults, while the bivalent booster from Pfizer/BioNTech is authorized for adolescents as young as 12. They have not yet asked the FDA to authorize the shot for younger kids. 

In a document published earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it anticipates a recommendation for bivalent COVID-19 boosters for young children in early- to mid-October, pending FDA authorization. 

The CDC said it expects that if bivalent boosters are authorized for individuals ages 5 years and older as a booster, the original mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may no longer be authorized as booster doses, only as an initial vaccine series.  

Read more here.

Biden unveils $1.5B to battle opioid overdoses

President Biden on Friday announced that his administration would distribute $1.5 billion to states and territories, including tribal lands, to fund responses to opioid overdoses and support recovery.

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will disseminate the funding through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) State Opioid Response and Tribal Opioid Response grant programs as part of National Recovery Month.
  • The grants will include more than $104 million allocated to rural areas to expand treatment and prevention, $20.5 million to increase access to recovery supports across the country and $12 million to bolster law enforcement in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). 

“Our nation is facing 108,000 overdose deaths in just 12 months. That’s one life lost every five minutes around the clock,” Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta said at a White House overdose briefing on Thursday. 

The $20.5 million in recovery supports will connect those in the drug court system with community resources to aid their behavioral health and the $12 million in law enforcement funding will foster public safety partnerships and prevention of gun crime related to drug trafficking. 

“Combating the nation’s addiction and overdose crisis indeed depends on collaboration between federal entities, state, local and tribal communities,” said Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam Delphin-Rittmon at Thursday’s briefing. 

Read more here. 

PELOSI EXTENDS PROXY VOTING UNTIL NOV. 10

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday extended proxy voting in the House until Nov. 10, allowing members to vote remotely until after the midterm elections under a pandemic-initiated shift.

The announcement was notable this time, as it came days after President Biden in an interview declared that “the pandemic is over.”

Republicans and Democrats alike have used proxy voting to vote from home, but that didn’t stop several Republicans from criticizing the extension of the process given Biden’s comments. 

Proxy voting — which first took effect in March 2020 — was set to end on Sept. 26, but Pelosi has now kicked that date into November because “the public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 remains in effect.” 

She informed lawmakers of the decision in a dear colleague letter. 

Republicans have broadly pounced on Biden’s remarks, which the White House has since walked back to an extent, to argue that if the pandemic is over, there should be no reason to continue funding for efforts to stop it. 

Read more here. 

US, PFIZER TO CURB GLOBAL VAX DONATIONS DUE TO ‘REDUCED DEMAND’

The U.S. and Pfizer will be lowering their number of global vaccine donations in response to a “reduced demand,” though the company says it is still committed to supplying the roughly 1 billion doses that the U.S. has committed to providing. 

According to a statement from Pfizer, more than 400 million doses have been donated to 79 countries so far. 

“And by the end of 2022, we expect to deliver 600 million vaccine doses for this program,” said the company. 

  • “While we have sufficient supply to fulfil the commitment for 1 billion doses to this program, we are seeing reduced demand in some low- and lower-middle-income countries due to barriers in administration and vaccine hesitancy,” Pfizer said.
  • “As a result, Pfizer and the U.S. government have agreed to revise the terms of this contract to allow more time to address vaccination barriers.” 

Last year, the Biden administration committed to donating at least 1.1 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to low- and middle-income countries.

Read more here.

DOJ emphasizes federal law in VA abortion guidance 

A statement by the Justice Department released on Wednesday confirmed that states may not penalize employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for facilitating abortions that are permitted under federal law.

The Justice Department release backed up a rule published by the VA last week that would allow its employees access to abortion in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the pregnant parent. 

“The rule issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Reproductive Health Services is a lawful exercise of VA’s authority,” the Justice Department wrote. 

“States may not impose criminal or civil liability on VA employees—including doctors, nurses, and administrative staff—who provide or facilitate abortions or related services in a manner authorized by federal law, including VA’s rule.” 

Legal hierarchy: The Justice Department cited the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives federal laws priority over state laws, to bolster its claim that states are barred from penalizing “federal functions” of the VA. 

The VA allowed its first abortion procedure after the new rule to be performed this week, according to NBC News. 

Read more here. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Why the nursing shortage isn’t going away anytime soon (The 19th News) 
  • Inflation caused another big drop in net drug prices, analysis finds (Stat) 
  • What to know about the BA.4.6, BF.7 and BA.2.75 variants now growing nationwide (CBS News) 

STATE BY STATE

  • Epic Massachusetts crime lab scandal may involve even broader wrongdoing, judge says (NBC News) 
  • After string of teen overdoses, L.A. schools will get OD reversal drug naloxone (Los Angeles Times) 
  • NYS: At least 4 deaths linked to disease outbreak at Manhattan nursing home (WNBC) 

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.

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