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March 24, 2021 — White House officials said at a briefing Wednesday they are still anticipating updated vaccine data from AstraZeneca, after federal officials called Tuesday’s release of interim phase 3 data from the company “outdated information.”
“Right now, AstraZeneca is getting back with the Data and Safety Monitoring Board and will likely come out with an updated statement,” said Anthony Fauci, MD, a top COVID-19 official and chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the agency that complained to the pharmaceutical company that their current information was “incomplete.”
Andy Slavitt, senior White House adviser for COVID-19 response, added: “Our takeaway is the importance of transparency and trust…. I would urge us not to focus on the process of the last couple days, but instead to focus on what really matters, which is what happens when these applications for these candidates are submitted to the FDA.”
AstraZeneca has said it plans to submit data to the US Food and Drug Administration next month in pursuit of an emergency use authorization for its vaccine.
Officials at the briefing also announced that President Joe Biden will authorize the government to spend $81 billion to help schools get back to in-person learning — a step toward his stated goal of reopening schools within the first 100 days of his presidency.
“Today, at the Department of Education’s National Safe School Reopening Summit, President Biden will announce $81 billion in American Rescue Plan funds will be made available to all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico to support their efforts to safely return to in-person instruction as expeditiously as possible this spring and meet the needs of all students,” said Slavitt.
The recent coronavirus relief bill that Biden signed into law earmarks $122 billion for K-12 schools. The $81 billion announced Wednesday will be available right away.
Slavitt also reported that 70% of Americans ages 65 and older have now received at least one vaccine dose — up from 8% at the beginning of February.
“In the 62 days since taking office, we’ve more than tripled vaccine output from 8.6 million doses to 27 million doses per week,” he said. “We intend to keep up this progress until all Americans are vaccinated.”
Fauci also outlined data published Tuesday in The New England Journal of Medicine highlighting how well COVID-19 vaccines work in the real world, which mirrors findings from clinical trials. One study, published Tuesday, found that just four out of 8121 fully vaccinated employees at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas were infected with the virus.
Another study found that seven out of 14,990 workers at UC San Diego Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, produced positive COVID-19 tests after receiving a second dose of vaccine from either Pfizer or Moderna.
“Every day, we get closer and closer to that extraordinary degree of effectiveness, which we’re seeing at the community level,” Fauci said. “And at the end of the day, that’s what it is that’s going to end this pandemic in this country.”