Biden Administration Facing New Challenges in Pandemic Fight

Despite the deployment of several COVID-19 vaccines throughout the United States, the Biden administration has found itself battling new challenges with the pandemic.

Although millions of citizens are getting vaccinated daily, several states have seen an increase in cases more than a year since coronavirus took hold in the U.S., The Hill reported Friday.

Contagious variants of the virus also are causing problems. Experts warn new variants could continue to emerge until the nation reaches a higher immunity threshold.

And that’s been met with some snags, too. This week, the Food and Drug Administration recommended a controversial pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That came after only 6 reported cases of rare brain blood clots in women who received the vaccine, which has been given to about 7 million people.

That pause could last several weeks. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel on Wednesday made no determination on when or whether to issue new recommendations on the shot’s use.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a one-shot dose as opposed to the multiple doses required by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which also are more difficult to store.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the FDA process the “gold standard,” and said the administration would let the process play out while remaining focused on getting adults vaccinated.

“We remain confident that we have the supply needed to meet the demand,” she said. “Because we are overprepared and oversupplied, we remain confident in that.”

Officials announced this week that nearly 200 million Americans had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as an average of 3 million vaccines are being administered daily.

President Joe Biden has received higher praise for his response to the pandemic, which has mostly followed the playbook left over from the Trump administration, than for his overall job.

A Monmouth poll this week found that 62% of adults said Biden has done a good job handling the pandemic, though just 54% approved of his overall job as president.

Those figures, however, could be affected by the new obstacles.

“I don’t think it reflects on Biden specifically, but it may slow the overall effort to get the country back up and running and it may add fuel to the skepticism that many Americans still have about the vaccine,” said a Democrat strategist of the Johnson & Johnson pause.

Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who served on Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board during the transition, said the decision to pause Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was necessary for transparency.

“If there is any sense that something is being hidden, I think that will create irreparable harm from a credibility standpoint to our ability to continue to pursue these vaccine programs,” Osterholm said.

The White House insisted the pause will not disrupt its plan to have enough vaccine doses for all American adults by the end of May. However, it might lead to more vaccine hesitancy and slow the overall progress that’s been made.

Monmouth found that 21% of U.S. adults said they are unlikely to get a vaccine, a figure that’s down just 3 percentage points March.

“[The panel’s] decision to wait would be fine if there was no pandemic going on,” tweeted Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health. “But there is. And waiting 7-10 days won’t do much. Not sure what data they will get in that time. But we’ll have done real harm to a terrific vaccine particularly well-suited for vulnerable populations.”

Biden has called on governors to reinstate mask mandates in states where they have been lifted. He also asked them to reconsider the easing of some restrictions. Despite those asks, many states where mandates have been relaxed are doing comparably, and in some cases better, than states with severe restrictions. Michigan, which has imposed and maintained strict rules, is seeing a surge in the virus.

Many health experts expressed confidence the country likely will have moved past the current spike in cases by summer, thanks to warmer weather and a more widely vaccinated public.

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