What Happened, What You Missed: July 11-15


Administration Mulls Additional Boosters as Part of BA.5 Strategy

Biden administration officials are considering whether to allow all US adults to receive a second COVID-19 booster as part of a broader strategy to lessen brunt against a BA.5 wave this summer.  Currently, only adults over age 50 are eligible for a second booster, as well as individuals 12 years of age or older who are immunocompromised.  While some administration officials say a second booster would provide additional protection against hospitalization and death, others are concerned about the limited data on the benefits of an additional booster and warn too many boosters of the same vaccine could prevent the immune system from adapting to new variants.  While discussions on a second booster continue, any final decision would be up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  On Tuesday, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters that if FDA and CDC officials sign off on a second booster, individuals who receive it will still be eligible for Omicron-specific boosters this fall.

FDA Approves Novavax’s COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use

On Wednesday, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older. .  Unlike the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, Novavax’s vaccine utilizes a more traditional protein-based model that may be more appealing to people who are skeptical of new mRNA technology or are allergic to the components of mRNA vaccines.  The Biden administration has already purchased 3.2 million doses  from Novavax in anticipation of the EUA.  Novavax shots could become available as soon as next week, after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel convenes on  July 19 to vote on whether to recommend the vaccine.

New National Suicide Hotline Goes Live This Weekend

The new 988 mental health hotline is schedule to go live on Saturday, replacing the 800-273-TALK National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network that was launched in 2005.  For the past few months, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been providing states millions in dollars of funding to ensure their crisis call centers are adequately staffed.  However, both federal and state officials are concerned that some states will be unable to handle a high volume of incoming calls once the new hotline is live.  While some states have fully staffed call centers that operate 24/7, others rely on volunteers and are forced to route their calls out-of-state when incoming call volume is high.  Additionally, many states have encountered challenges requesting permanent call center funding from their state legislatures due to the difficulty of predicting long-term demand.

House Aims to Approve FY23 Spending Bills by August

The House is hoping to pass all 12 of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations bills before August, according to House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).  Next week, the House is schedule to vote on a package to fund six accounts (Transportation-HUD; Agriculture; Energy-Water; Financial Services; Interior-Environment; and Military Construction-VA), with votes for three of more spending bills expected for the week of July 25.  However, disagreements between both parties on abortion access and closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility threaten to thwart DeLauro’s goal of finishing all spending bills before August recess.  Meanwhile, Senate appropriators are awaiting a bipartisan, bicameral topline agreement before introducing their own FY 2023 spending bills.

ICYMI: House Votes to Make It Easier to Report UFOs

The House voted Wednesday to create a secure government system for reporting unidentified flying objects (UFOs) via a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-NM) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) proposed the amendment to offer a way for military and intelligence officials to discreetly report UFOs without fear of stigma or reprisal.  Gallego said that gathering more reports on UFO sightings is important from a national security standpoint because it will ensure the military has the best possible intelligence.  Of note, the amendment would allow people bound by non-disclosure agreements to submit reports on UFOs.

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