Federal government cancel contract with problematic vaccine manufacturer: Live COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

The federal government canceled its contract Wednesday with a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer that spoiled 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and had unsanitary plant conditions earlier this year, The New York Times reported.

Early in the pandemic, the government decided that the company Emergent BioSolutions would be the only American manufacturer of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, according to the Times. 

Troubles for Emergent began surfacing in spring 2021. The company spoiled about 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at its Baltimore plant back in April. 

And the FDA issued a withering 13-page report the same month about the plant, which said it was too small, poorly designed, and dirty. Unsealed bags of medical waste were observed, along with peeling paint and damaged floors and walls that could inhibit proper cleaning, the inspectors said. 

Employees were not properly trained and failed to properly handle ingredients, the report says. Emergent agreed to pause its vaccine manufacturing after the inspection and report.

According to the Times, the termination of the contract between the federal government and the manufacturer was disclosed on Thursday by Emergent executives during a call with investors.

The government had already stopped making payments under the contract, which was created in May 2020 and worth over $600 million, the Times reported.

Emergent will give up roughly $180 million of that amount, according to company disclosures.

Also in the news:

►An antiviral drug being developed by Pfizer could nearly end deaths from COVID-19. When given within five days of the onset of symptoms, Paxlovid prevented almost 90% of deaths from COVID-19 compared to a placebo, a Pfizer study found.

►Kentucky Attorney Daniel Cameron filed a lawsuit Thursday with two other states to block the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandate for federal contractors, arguing it is unconstitutional

►Overall suicide rates fell during COVID-19 but increased among youth and people of color, according to new research from the CDC and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded 46 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 751,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 248 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 193 million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Pfizer’s COVID vaccine is now available for kids. Will schools require it?

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Biden administration expects lawsuits about federal vaccine mandate 

A wave of Republican officials are expected to sue the Biden administration Friday over a new federal rule that will require large companies to vaccinate their workforce against COVID-19 or implement rigorous testing regimes.

While those lawsuits will likely make for good politics in red states where federal mandates of any stripe are often viewed with skepticism, experts say that whether they’ll make for good legal challenges is a far more difficult question to answer.

Businesses with 100 or more employees will be required to stand up their vaccine-or-testing requirements by Jan. 4 or face stiff penalties under an emergency Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule made public Thursday. President Joe Biden said in September that his administration was working on the rule, so its unveiling this week was not a surprise but did offer new details about its implementation. 

Republican officials in Iowa, Florida and Indiana, among others, reiterated vows to sue over the workplace rule. Federal law allows those suits to be filed directly in federal appeals courts.

“It’s an overreach of the federal government,” said Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican. Read more here. 

— John Fritze, USA TODAY

OSHA vaccine mandate allows testing as an alternative

The Biden administration have new rules that requires many employers test their workers for COVID-19 weekly if they decline his vaccination mandate. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules announced Thursday – which cover an estimated 84 million people – don’t require employers to pay for the tests. 

The upshot is that Americans who decline to be vaccinated could be forced to pay the tab for their weekly screenings. 

The presidential mandate comes as the U.S. economy is going through a “Great Resignation,” a record 4.3 million workers quitting their jobs in August for myriad COVID-19-related reasons. Here’s what you need to know about how the testing alternative to vaccination could play out.

— Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY

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