This week in Washington: Congress moves towards budget reconciliation.


House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: No Time to Lose: Solutions to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations in the States

Tuesday, February 2: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. The subcommittee heard from medical officials from West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana and Colorado about the vaccine administration, methods to maintain transparency and an overall lack of supply.

The state health officials told the subcommittee they need better predictability around how many COVID-19 vaccine doses they will receive each week, and some said until they know for sure of the supply available, they will continue holding back doses to make sure everyone who got their first dose is able to get their second shot.

Find more details here.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health: Road to Recovery – Ramping Up COVID-19 Vaccines, Testing, and Medical Supply Chain

Wednesday, February 3: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the federal government’s handling of COVID-19 vaccine development, testing and the medical supply chain. The subcommittee and witnesses went through the responses, including congressional efforts, and recommendations on how better to fund and regulate the response moving forward.

Find more details here.


Energy and Commerce Committee Investigates COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation Online

On Feb. 2, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and subcommittee leaders Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent letters to Facebook, Twitter and Google concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. The letters were in response to reports that COVID-19 vaccine misinformation is escalating on their platforms, and are part of an ongoing investigation by the committee. The letters ask for details of all actions the companies have taken to limit false or misleading vaccine misinformation, as well as a layout of all policies and responses to the problem. Find the letters and more information here.


Senate Approves Amendment on Provider Relief Fund

On Feb. 4, the Senate agreed to add to the budget resolution an amendment (#546) sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) that adds to the Provider Relief Fund $35 billion, with 20 percent set aside for rural hospitals. As congressional committee draft legislation for the COVID-19 package, a Provider Relief Fund may be included.

Cassidy, Baldwin, Shaheen Introduce Bill to Close Orphan Drug Loophole

On Feb. 4, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced S.250, bipartisan legislation to close the orphan drug loophole that drug manufacturers allegedly use to lead competition off the market. The bill allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove market exclusivity if the drug manufacturer cannot continue to prove that the drug would be economically unviable when facing competition. Find more information here. Find the full legislation here.

Markey Introduces Bill that Gives NIAID $1B to Research Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

On Feb. 4, Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) reintroduced legislation that calls for a total investment of $1 billion for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The funds would include $250 million for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2024. Find the full legislation here.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consuting’s Washington Healthcare Update.