May 14, 2020 - Health

Ousted official: Government lacks plan to equitably distribute a vaccine

The United States does not have a plan to distribute a vaccine for the coronavirus "in a fair and equitable manner" when one becomes available, Rick Bright, a former health official ousted from his position last month, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

Why it matters: Bright, who led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, cautioned that because one company cannot produce enough vaccine for the country, supply will be limited.

What he's saying: "We need to have a plan in place now to make sure that we can not only fill that vaccine, make it, distribute it, but administer it in a fair and equitable plan," he said.

  • Bright criticized the federal government's chaotic rollout of the coronavirus therapy drug remdesivir, which has been shown to help patients recover from the coronavirus more quickly than patients who receive no treatment.
  • "We have limited doses, and we haven't scaled-up production. And we don't have a plan on how to fairly and equitably distribute [remdesivir]."

The big picture: Bright said a vaccine may become available by "this fall, winter, or maybe even next spring." But he cautioned that the 12 to 18 month timeline that has been touted by some in the Trump administration is an "aggressive schedule."

Go deeper: The race to make vaccines faster

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U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

About 40.7 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic began, including 2.1 million more claims filed from last week.

Why it matters: Even as states reopen their economies, Americans are still seeking relief. Revised data out Thursday also showed U.S. economy shrunk by an annualized 5% in the first quarter — worse than the initially estimate of 4.8%.

Mark Zuckerberg: Social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday that social media platforms should not police political speech, and that "people should be able to see what politicians say.”

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was responding to Twitter's decision this week to fact-check a pair of President Trump's tweets that claimed that mail-in ballots are "substantially fraudulent." Twitter's label, which directs users to "get the facts" about mail-in voting, does not censor Trump's tweets.

House Democrats pull FISA reauthorization bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats pulled legislation Thursday that would have renewed expired domestic surveillance laws and strengthened transparency and privacy protections amid broad opposition from President Trump, House GOP leadership and progressive Democrats.

Why it matters: The failure to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) comes as Trump continues to attack the intelligence community, which he claims abused the law to surveil his 2016 campaign and Trump administration officials.