What Happened, What You Missed: June 27-July 1


FDA Wants COVID-19 Boosters to Target Omicron Subvariants

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told drug manufacturers on Thursday that any new COVID-19 vaccines to be used in a fall booster campaign should be tailored to target the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants as well as the original COVID-19 strain in order to provide the broadest possible level of protection.  The agency’s proclamation follows Wednesday’s announcement that the administration has reached an agreement with Pfizer to purchase 105 million vaccines doses for a fall booster campaign.  In a press release, Pfizer announced that its updated doses are planned to be delivered as soon as late summer 2022.   While it remains possible that BA.4 and BA.5 will be overtaken by newer subvariants by fall, scientists and regulators are hopeful that the new shots will provide much better protection against symptomatic infection than the vaccines that are currently available.

Health Sector Leaders Commit to Halve Carbon Emissions

61 of the largest US hospital and health sector companies signed on to a Biden administration agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.  Known as the Health Sector Climate Pledge, the agreement calls private entities in the health care sector to mitigate the effects of climate change and increase their climate resilience.  Major commitments include two of the five largest US private hospital and health systems, Ascension and CommonSpirit Health, large drug manufacturers like Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and major associations like the America’s Essential Hospitals and the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).  According to the White House, the health care sector contributes 8.5% of the total US carbon emissions.

White House Lays Out Monkeypox Vaccination Strategy

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will send nearly 300,000 vaccines over the next few weeks as part of a new monkeypox outbreak response strategy announced Tuesday.  The administration is immediately providing 56,000 doses from the National Strategic Stockpile (NSN) to communities most at-risk of monkeypox, with a combined 1.6 million doses expected to become available over the next few months.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has counted about 300 cases of monkeypox nationwide, although the actual number is estimated to be much higher.  The virus has been disproportionately spread among men who have sex with men, although health officials stress that everyone should be informed on the risks of the virus.

Ketanji Brown Jackson Sworn In as Newest SCOTUS Justice

Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as the 116th Supreme Court justice on Thursday, making her the first Black woman to serve on the high court.  A federal judge since 2013, Jackson is now the fourth woman serving on the nine-member court – the highest number of female justices ever to serve concurrently.   President Joe Biden initially nominated Jackson in February as his choice to relace outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer, who formally announced his retirement in a letter on Wednesday.   Justice Jackson will have to decide on a number of consequential cases next term regarding affirmative action, religious freedom, and independent legislature theory.

ICYMI: Smithsonian Folklife Festival Returns to National Mall

If you’re in Washington, DC over the long weekend, there’s more to do than just watch fireworks.  The Smithsonian Folklife Festival returned to the National Mall last week after two years of virtual events.  Visitors will have until Monday, July 4 to catch this year’s festivities, which explore the culture of the United Arab Emirates.  Over the weekend, festivalgoers will have the opportunity to make their own fragrance, learn about the symbolism of henna, craft their own pottery, and cook slabs of marinated goat or lamb.

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