President Joe Biden announced new actions to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic during a visit to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Dec. 2.
“Thank all of you — the world-class doctors, scientists, researchers — for the incredible work you’ve done during the pandemic and developing the vaccines, saving lives, giving us hope … also continuing to give me advice on developments as they occur,” Biden stated to an audience of NIH staff before outlining the administration’s updates.
The action plan includes increased access to several response measures to be better prepared for potential surges of infection during the winter. The actions are outlined in a White House fact sheet and include approaches such as:
- Increasing access to booster shots for all adults who have completed their primary vaccination series and to initial vaccine doses for children at least 5 years of age.
- Requiring Medicaid to reimburse health care providers for advising families on vaccinations for children.
- Increasing access to free at-home testing through private insurance and community partnerships.
- Instituting new regulations for international travel, including inbound COVID-19 testing requirements, and an extension of mask requirements on public transportation through March 18, 2022.
- Increasing availability of federal rapid response teams, including through a $20 million investment from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2) to the Medical Reserve Corps.
- Committing to ensuring any future COVID-19 treatment pills that meet the Food and Drug Administration’s standards will be “equitably accessible to all Americans, regardless of their income or their zip code.”
Biden also addressed the impending departure of NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, from his current role back to leading his own research lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute.
“Dr. Collins is an incredible resource for our nation,” Biden said. “I’m grateful for everything he’s done for this pandemic and advancing all kinds of medical breakthroughs, including mapping the human genome,” he added.
Collins made his announcement on Oct. 5 and is expected to step down by the end of the calendar year [refer to Washington Highlights, Oct. 8].