Biden Administration Ends COVID-19 Emergency Declaration
President Biden has signed a bill to end the government’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, one month before it was set to expire. The administration announced on January 30 that they would end the emergency declaration on May 11. The three-months of lead time was intended to allow states and institutions to transition out of emergency measures. The bill to end the declaration one month early was spearheaded by Republican lawmakers, but passed both the Senate and House of Representatives. The White House had said it strongly opposed the bill – arguing that states needed the proper time to roll back emergency-related policies – but that Biden would sign it if it was passed by Congress. The bill ends a variety of waivers benefitting recipients of Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP. For example, people enrolled in Medicaid could not be removed from the program through the duration of the official health emergency. The emergency declaration also empowered the government to offer free Covid-19 tests, treatments throughout the pandemic.
US Launches Project NextGen to Support New Vaccines and Treatments
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will invest $5 billion in the next generation of vaccines and treatments. The initiative, called “Project NextGen”, will fund partnerships with the private sector to develop innovative solutions to against infectious disease threats. Although the updated COVID-19 vaccines continue to prevent hospitalization and death, their power to stop more mild infections dissipates over time. Project NextGen aims to advance vaccines that provide lasting protection against illness and transmission. Administration officials say a major goal will be the creation of monoclonal antibodies that remain effective regardless of new COVID-19 variants. The project will also focus on vaccines that work against multiple kinds of coronaviruses beyond COVID-19. The funds will support all stages of research, development and delivery.