What Happened, What You Missed: May 16-20


FDA Authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 Booster Shots for Kids Ages 5-11

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a third “booster” dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 at least five months after their most recent shot.  The FDA decided to authorize a third dose because data increasingly shows that a booster can improve protection for children in this age group and that the benefits of a booster outweigh the risks.  While COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, a top FDA official noted in a press release that the Omicron variant has caused more kids to be infected and subsequently hospitalized, justifying the need for additional protection.  Two days later, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel voted to recommend a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.

House Committee Advances Legislation on FDA User Fees, ARPH-A

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced legislation to reauthorize the FDA medical product user fee programs Wednesday alongside five other health care bills.  The current statutory authority for the FDA to collect user fees expires on September 30, 2022, and it remains unknown as to when the full House will vote on the user fee bill.  Of note, a Senate panel on Wednesday unveiled its own legislation to reauthorize FDA user fee collection.  Among the other bills the House committee advanced on Wednesday was legislation to authorize the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).  Notably, this legislation goes against the Biden administration’s wishes of making ARPA-H a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), instead making it an independent agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Administration Offers Third Round of Free COVID-19 Tests

The White House announced on Tuesday that households can now order a third round of free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests at  Unlike the first two rounds that limited households to four test per order, the third round will provide eight tests per household.  To date, the administration has delivered 350 million tests to more than 70 million households across the nation.  The administration’s announcement comes as the nation sees a rise in case numbers driven by the BA.2.12.1 subvariant.

Administration Poised to Renew Public Health Emergency in July

The current COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) is set to expire on July 16, 2022.  In recent weeks, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra reiterated the administration’s commitment on multiple occasions to provide 60 days’ notice before letting the PHE expire.  However, the 60-day mark came and went earlier this week, meaning the administration is all but certain to renew the PHE come mid-July.  Numerous waivers are tied to the end of the PHE, including telehealth flexibilities under Medicare as well as a prohibition against states disenrolling people from Medicaid.

ICYMI: Lawmakers Hold First Hearing on UFOs in 50 Years

On Tuesday, top Pentagon officials testified before a House Intelligence Subcommittee on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) – the military’s parlance for unidentified flying objects (UFOs) – marking the first public hearing on the subject in over a half-century.  During the hearing, top Defense Department officials promised to bring transparency to an ongoing investigation of reports of UAPs by military pilots and other personnel at the urging of lawmakers who were disappointed by the secrecy and confusion that have consistently plagued the investigation into UAPs thus far.  The Pentagon officials also testified under oath that the government had not collected materials from any extraterrestrial landings on Earth.

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