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tv   Drs. Walensky Fauci Others Testify on Response to COVID-19 Variants  CSPAN  January 11, 2022 10:02am-2:01pm EST

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. good morning. the senate health education, labor and pensions committee will please come to order. today we are holding a hearing with members of the president's
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covid-19 response team on the pandemic and efforts to identify new variant likes omicron. while we were unable to have this hearing fully open to the public or media for inperson attendance, live video is available on our committee website at if you are in need of accommodations, including closed captioning, you can reach out to the committee or the office of congressional accessibility services. i want to start this morning by recognizing the difficult moment we are in with this pandemic. the omicron variant has caused unprecedented number of infections over the past month across the country. thanks to the hard work of so many we have new tools to address the threat caused by this new variant, including vaccines, boosters and high quality masks but the sheer
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number of infections is putting an enormous strain on hospital, healthcare workers, schools, families and communities across the country. we all need to do our part to address this new challenge by getting vaccinated and boosted and wearing high quality masks. that is why we are having this hearing in a larger hearing room where we can be socially distanced, limiting the number of people who are hear in this hearing room and taking additional measures such as wearing masks. i will be wearing my mask during the entire hearing and would respectfully request others in the room today do the same. as always i appreciate the work from the staff after the sergeant in arms, the architect of the capitol and our committee clerk and his staff to make this hearing as safe as possible. nearly two years into this pandemic people are exhausted after all we have been through. and even as the delta strain is
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still circulating we are all alarmed by how quickly omicron has spread and anxious about what is next. people back in my home state of washington and across the country are frustrated and worried about the course of this pandemic and its persistent challenges like how hard it still is to get a test. i've heard from so many people who are waiting in long lines and going from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to find a test. or who are giving up on getting tested because tests are unavailable or cost too much. i've also heard from people who have found the communication about new isolation and quarantine guidance confusing and frustrating. they are trying to keep themselves and their families safe as this pandemic evolves and we continue to learn more. but i'm hearing more and more questions like what kind o tests should i get, when should i get
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tests, why can't i find a test, i do need to slate, ten days or five days or even at all. parents are starting 2022 exhausting and worried about schools staying open safely this year. i know what a struggle it is for parents, scrambling to figure out child care when they have got to go to work or how tough it is for kids to keep up with class work while transitioning back and forth from inperson to online learning. and while most schools are still safely open for inperson learning and we all want to make sure they stay that way, we know schools are struggling with this, especially as omicron creates new challenges. i'm hearing from schools in my states that they are worried they will have to shut down again if they can't get the support for testing they need or they have staff shortage because of staff who are ill. nobody wants that. and based on what we now know about the virus and tools we have to fight it, schools should be able to stay open safely if
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they have tests, masks u ventilation and people are vaccinated. hospital and healthcare providers are worried too. they have been stretched thin after two exhausting years and now omicron is causing the worst surge in cases and hospitalizations yet. because while it may be less severe in most cases, especially for those who are vaccinated and boosted, it is so much more contagious, meaning we are still seeing high rates of hospitalization overall. and we also have to protect children who are too young to get vaccinated and people with health conditions and disabilities that put them at high risk. back in my state, hospitals are asking our state leaders to declare a crisis for medical facilities. i've heard from healthcare providers in washington who have been well over staffed bed capacity for several days and are pausing non essential procedures. families are wondering whether they can get care for non covid-related conditions and
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alarmed by how long er wait times are getting. healthcare providers are concerned about how we continue to keep healthcare workers safe and also address the fatigue and burn out in mental challenges they face. these are not new challenges. i've been raising many concerns since the earliest days of the pandemic. so i'm frustrated we're still behind on issues as important to family as testing and supporting schools. that is not to say we have not made progress. it is just clear we haven't made enough. but even though we aren't where we need to be at, we are not back at the starting line when it comes to covid-19 either. we have safe and effective vaccines for everyone ages 5 and up. we have booster shots available for those 12 and up. more and more people are getting their shots each day. the administration is also working to help get the world vaccinated to end this pandemic and has already pledged over a billion vaccine doses to that
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effort. we have new, life-saving therapeutics. we have additional resources congress passed in the american rescue plan which can help increase our capacity, protect workers and give schools the support they need to stay safely open and we van administration that is focused on following the science, facing this pandemic head on and addressing the frustration people are feeling. that is crucial at this moment when the path forward requires steady leadership and clear communication about the challenges we are still facing and the work ahead to tackle them. president biden has said plainly that she shares family's frustration around testing, and he wants to make sure schools stay safely open. and he's announced steps to address these challenges by making 500 million tests available free of charge, ordering over 200 million courses of anti-virals, expanding manufacturing to be able to make hundreds of millions of tests a month,
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providing schools with guidance on how to test to stay protocols which can help keep students in the classroom. standing up more testing and vaccination sites across the country and providing medical personnel to struggling areas. i expect to hear more detail on those efforts today, along with o what other steps the administration plans to take. and i will be watching closely as they are implemented. but i also want to be clear. when we talk about these problems we have to be focused on solutions. you can't just say our schools must stay open if you don't vote to provide additional resources schools need to do so. you can't just say the latest health guidance is confusing and not call out the blatant misinformation that has come from so many members of the republican party. we're not going to get out of this crisis by treating each challenge as a political opportunity. we are going to get through it by being honest about what we're facing and clear about what we
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are going to do about it. and also we continue to work to get through the pandemic it is important we also look at what we can do to prevent future health crises. that's exactly why senator burr and i have been working in a bipartisan way the last several months on legislation to learn from and improve on our pandemic response like strengthening our supply chain for medical products, updating old and imcompatible public health data systems, modernizing the processes for developing test, fighting misinformation, addressing root causes of health inequities and more. we will be unveiling a discussion draft soon and i look forward to working with o all of our colleagues to finalize and pass this important package. in the meantime we will continue to fight the pandemic at hand. across the country it is another year of uncertainty for work, schools and every day lives but there is no reason it should be. people should be able to make plans for the future without
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fearing that everything they are looking forward to or even the every day things they used to take for granted will be up ended by this virus. we all want that and we have the tools we need to get us there. we have the tools to get everyone tested quickly, easily and for free. to keep schools safely open during the omicron surge and beyond. to keep workers especially our healthcare workers safe and healthy in the workplace. we have the tools to mitigate this virus, to protect those at high risk like seniors or kids who are too young to get vaccinated and people with other health conditions. to get people back to their friends and their lives and to get families back some certainty and stability. we can do all this now thanks to the incredibly hard work on the part of healthcare providers and scientists parents and teachers, workers and our witnesses who are hear with us today. so what i hope to hear from this administration at this hearing is what are you doing right now to make sure every american can make use of that progress they
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have worked so hard for. what can my constituents expect to see improve this week and the week after. we've come a long way since the start of this pandemic. and i look forward to hearing from each of you today about what you are going to do to build on what we know, bring this virus under control and bring certainty and stability back to families who are burnt out after two years of fighting this pandemic. thank you and with that i will turn it over to ranking member burr for his opening remarks. >> madam chair, thank you. and before my opening statement i hope the chair will indulge with me for just a second since this is a hearing on preparation. i want to help my good friend senator kaine as he gets ready for his weekly travels i want to make sure that he's got an orange for his car, that he's got a dr. pepper. and i've provided a blanket to make sure these are three things you have got in your car
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regardless of what you run into oin i-95 and i'll have my staff bring them over for you. >> i hope you provide those for everyone. as we used to say in the classroom, do you have a piece of gum are everyone? >> well in his particular case i think he's only one who makes that trip on a weekly basis. tim, sorry you had to spend 27 hours but you are not qualified to be secretary of transportation if you are looking for a second job. >> thank you. it is sad when a career in the senate's most notable highlight is my long commute. but, umm,. >> madam chair, thank you for holding this hearing for our witnesses. welcome back. today is going to be a tough hearing but american people deserve accountability and transparency. i appreciate that all of you have cleared your schedules to allow multiple rounds of questions today. next week marks one year of this administration. it also marks two years since the first covid case was confirmed. president biden said in his first, second and third
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priorities would be bringing us out of covid pandemic and that his team would shut down the virus. this administration was lucky. it start off on day one the tools to change the trajectory of covid response. operation warp speed worked the private sector to bring us ground breaking vaccines and treatments in record time. although we had a very bumpy start with testing early in the pandemic we successfully built some strong partnerships with private sector to support the development and manufacturing of more tests. state and local leaders were rising to the challenge of testing and vaccinating their citizens. there was reason for hope. instead now a full year later, here is where we are. more than 830,000 deaths caused by covid. the majority of which occurred under this administration despite having many tools and significant resources from congress, including 80 billion dollars plus for testing. a variant now spreading out of control across the country with
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someplaces like washington, d.c. seeing staggering increase in case counts over the holidays and now my state of north carolina is following suit with 319% increase as of yesterday. over the holidays when americans were instructed to to the responsible thing and get tests before they see loved ones there were no test on the shelves or online. hours long lines were the norm at testing sites across the country. the testing situation was worse when many sought tests to safely return to work or to school and the most vulnerable american bhos contracted the virus could not get the treatments designed to help because they were now in short supply. this administration has time and again squandered its opportunities and made worse in the decisions you have made on testing and treatment and most crucially in communications with the american people. the american people are right to be confused. it seems like you don't talk
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amongst yourself. some examples, last all president announced boosters would be available to all vaxed by the week of september 20th. three of you here today signed that statement. but neither the fda or cdc yet approved boosters when the president made the promise and when you went to your advisory panels with a predetermined outcome already made the independent experts pushed back and had to be over ridden to meet the president's goal on boosters. i know the data shows boosters are necessary. i'm boosted. i want everybody to get vaccinated and boostered. the facts about the values of vaccines and boosters are crystal clear but the way the administration rolled out boosters was a disaster. you created skepticism and mass confusion. example two, last summer the president dramatically announced that cdc recommendations changed so that vaccinated americans didn't need to wear masks indoors. implying that the worst of the pandemic was behind us. even as the delta variant was
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exploding in india. only after delta hilt america did cdc begin to take it seriously and administration had to change course. example three. last week dr. fauci said that the cdc was going to update its guidance on quarantine. he left the american people with the impression that cdc's guidance was going to include some testing component to reduce the quarantine to five days. but when cdc did update guidance, there wasn't a testing requirement. again, i'm not questioning the science. i'm glad you refrain from testing mandates but i'm questioning your communication strategies. it is no wonder the american -- no wond they are the american people are confused. when the president announced december 21st 500 million tests were going to be purchased, he left out the contract wasn't going to be signed for weeks and it would take even longer for those tests to be -- to materialize.
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you need multiple at home testing to be assured of results. yesterday the administration mandated insurers now cover the 170 million americans covered by private insurance. they must cover up to eight tests per person per month. that would be 16 billion tests and we have 500 million today that are aspirationally going to be contracted for. it is still unclear when these tests will be available, how do get'em, whether anymore are on their way but it is especially frustrating that the white house press secretary had previously mocked the very idea of doing what the president later announced in a sarcastic and withering tone when this was first proposed she had four questions. whether we should just send one to every american, then what
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happens, how much does it cost? what happens after that? those are all good questions that remain unanswered by the administration. my final example though there are many to choose from happened last week too. the white house press secretary. a repeat offender in poor communications was asked about boosters. the press secretary said and i quote, they can get boosted now regardless of what cdc guidance is, whether you are just approved or for booster or you have been approved for weeks. regardless of what cdc guidance is, from the white house podium. and then i was amazed when i got home on sunday and i had this letter from senators from medicare and medicaid services telling me as a medicare beneficiary that i'm ill jebl to get a free vaccine booster. five months after the president announced we're going to have boosters this is the first
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communication from cms i've gotten a as a medicare beneficiary in the two years of covid. and all of a sudden i get a request to get boostered. when a republican governor or senator including someone this committee suggests concerns about cdc guidance, twitter and msnbc can't react fast enough with scorn and anger. so it can't come as a surprise there is confusion and anger when the white house says to ignore cdc guidance. i tell my staff as i've repeatedly said to you in all previous hearings to. look 30, 60, 90 days ahead. looks six months ahead. look abroad. see what's happening in europe, asia, africa, elsewhere around the world. what do we need to anticipate? at our hard of hearing on july to the i warned that delta not be our last variant. and i pleaded with each of you to have a plan in place for the next mutation of the virus.
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so why was the vice president surprised that omicron came to our shores? i say it is very clearly so the administration does not yet again say they are surprised. viruses change. viruses mutate. there will be more variants. they will come to america, period, end of sentence. i don't understand why after tens of billions of federal dollars being appropriated, this administration has failed to insure that the americans have the tested they need. i don't understand why suddenly it is okay to take into account the economic and job impact of your guidance and recommendations. you shortened quarantine guidance because too many people would be out of work. was that because of science or because you now know lockdowns, shut downs and school closures come with a significant downside impact. you asked the american people to trust you. quite frankly, you have lost their trust. rather than attempting to gain their trust back, the
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administration chooses to litigate mandate requirements for employers with over 100 employees. i've asked what's the plan. never gotten a response. seldom do i get a letter responded to by this administration. i think my record shows i'm approaching all of this as i have for the last 20 years another. imtrying to help. i love this country. i love its people and i know we can do better than we've done. is i know we have to do better. maybe i'm wrong about this. maybe you will tell me where i got it wrong. instead i'm hoping that you will understand that my criticism comes from a place of concern. because the communication efforts are a mess. and have only made things worse. i admit it. i'm at the end of my rope.
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i think you will see today most of my colleagues are as well. i've tried to give my best advice and share what we hear and what we see. because no one is paying attention to the message from this administration right now. maybe today you fond my requests to learn what the plan is. hopefully you will take this challenge to rebuild the trust, not just is with me. not just with my colleagues but with the american people we all serve. what are you changing and -- to restore the confidence with the american people that there is a strategy for testing, for treatments, for fixing your communication strategy. because if you don't, things are going to get worse before they get better. madam chairman i yield back. >> thank you senator burr. we will now introduce today's witnesses. dr. rochelle walensky is the director of the centers for disease control and prevention and administrator of the agency for toxic substances and disease registry. dr. anthony fauci is the
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director of the national institute of allergy and infishds and chief medical advisor on president biden covid response team. dr. janet woodcock of the food and drug administration. dr. connell.dr. janet woodcock and drug administration. dr. connell. we all look forward to your testimony and we'll begin with dr. walensky on your opening statement. >> good morning. chair murray, ranking member burr, members of the committee. i appreciate the opportunity to join tow to provide an update on the covid-19 pandemic and impact of the omicron variant. it's been just over two years since we were first alittered to the emergence of sars-cov-2 in china. since that time cdc has worked with partner agencies and you in congress to take remarkable action to protect the health and safety of americans.
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omicron is now the dominant variant in the united states driving case counts to unprecedented heights here in the united states and around the world. despite the increases in cases there are promising emerging data from south africa and the united kingdom that hospitalization rates for people infected with omicron are lower, compared with prior variants. these data seem consistent with what we're seeing so far in the united states. however, despite a potential decrease in severity, the substantial number of absolute cases is resulting in hospitalization increases across all age groups, including children age 0-4. the emergence of the omicron variant again emphasizes importance of vaccinations and boosters, which decrease the risk of infection, severe disease and death caused by covid-19. just last week we made important progress towards increasing booster coverage through four key actions. first we expanded eligibility of
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booster doses to those 12-15 years old. second cdc strengthens its booster recommendation for adolescents, now recommending age 12-17 years old should receiver a booster shot five months after the initial vaccine series. third we recommend moderately or severely immunocompromised receive an additional dose of vaccine 28 days a it have original shots. and shortened the recommended time between primary rrna series and booster dose. as we continue to monitor this rapidly evolving virus we are working quickly to adapt with it. over the holidays cdc updated our quarantine and isolation
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guidance. first for healthcare workers and then for the general public. i know this update has resulted in numerous questions. so i would like to take a moment to walk through it now. four people who tested positive for covid-19 cdc recommends isolation for five days. if you are asymptomatic or if your symptoms are resolving. for example, you are without a fever 24 hours, you no longer need to isolate. however you should continue to wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around other, including at home and in public for an additional five days. we recommend you avoid activities where you are unable to wear a mask and that you avoid travel for the full 10 days. in addition, cdc changed the recommended duration of quarantine. quarantine is what you do after you are exposed. people who are not up to date on recommended covid-19 vaccines,
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should quarantine for five days. if they come in contact with someone with koend. covid-19. people who democrat develop symptoms by day five should get tested. if you test posit, you should begin legislation. people who test negative may end quarantine and should continue to wear a well fitting mask around others for additional five days. these recommendations with consistent with over 100 studies the past two years indicating people are most infectious in the first few days of infection and significantly less infectious 6-10 days after infection. a core part of cdc's mission is to translate science into recommendations for best practices and real world circumstances. over the holidays we saw the growing surge of omicron and took swift science-based action to address the very real possibility of staffing shortages in hospitals and in
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other essential areas of workforce. including schools, pharmacies, public safety, public labs, grocery stores and other sites. where shortages could have and have proven to have dire public health consequences. this is the right guidance for what we currently know about transmission and the real world circumstances we currently face. as we will learn more, we will continue to update accordingly. omicron is likely not to be the last curve ball this virus throws at us. but we have the tools to prevent further spread of this virus. this means for everyone 5 and older please get vaccinated. for those 12 and older, get your booster shot. and please continue to adhere to the multi layer prevention measures including masking and yes, washing your hands. thank you and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. dr. fauci. >> madam chair, ranking member
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burr, members of the committee. thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss with you the role of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases and the conduct and support of research addressing our nation's response to covid-19. in our most recent hearing before this committee on november the 4th i discussed the importance of booster shots to enhance immunity against the delta variant that wanes over time. indeed booster shots have dramatically reconstituted the waning immunity and has increased protection over and above the original level afforded by the primary vaccine regimen. today we are faced with a different challenge. a new variant called omicron that is rapidly spread throughout the world, including a massive unprecedented surge in the united states. this variant possesses a large number of mutations that are associated with increased efficiency of transmission,
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immunoevasion from certain monoclanl antibodies, convalescent plaza and antibodies induced by our current vaccines. thus far data from our own laboratories at niaid as well as lands throughout the world have indicated that vaccine induced antibodies lose a considerable amount of potency in neutralizing the omicron variant. although it is obvious concern the news that third shot significantly reconstitutes and enhances the ability of antibodies from boosted individuals to nurlz the omicron variant strongly suggesting that boosters will play a major role in protecting our population at least from severe disease in the context of the on going massive surge of the omicron variant that we are currently experiences, underscoring why it is so important for the unvaccinated to get vaccinated and for those who are already
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vaccinated to obtain the booster shot. therapies in general are an important part of our -- against covid. in this regard the niche nih has been heavily involved in the development and/or clinical testing of several effective monoclonal antibodies against sars-cov-2. however, we have ascertained that certain of the authorized monoclonal antibodies are negatively impacted by the omicron variant. direct anti-viral therapies are also are an extremely important tool in the fight against covid-19. importantly, it appears that the mutations expressed by the omicron variant do not interfere with the oral anti-viral drawings box loefd and moir the early rolled in developing and recently received emergency use authorization from the fda. nor do they appear to interfere
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with the fda fully approved drug remdesivir shown by studies to be highly effective in prevent b severe disease. looking ahead in the context of the inevitable continual emergence of new variants, the importance of developing a pan coronavirus vaccine, namely one that would be effective against all sars-cov-2 variants and ultimately against all coronaviruses becomes even more apparent. my colleagues and i recently published a paper in the new england journey of medicine emphasizing urgent need for such an effort. in this regard we have made significant progress in that direction. we have identified antibodies that neutralize multiple different coronaviruses and in addition, niaid has issued new wards to fund pan-coronavirus
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vaccines at four academic institutions. these awards will --. virology, immunology, and platforms as well as technologies to discover, design and develop pan-coronavirus vaccine candidates. finally, i would like to close by looking forward to how we might best enhance our preparedness for what inevitably will be the emergence of future pandemics. the niaid will play an important role in the multi billion dollar all of government plan for pandemic preparedness. our mission is the rapid development and implementation of successful countermeasures against several prototype pathogen families of viruses that threaten the health and safety not only of our nation but of the entire world. thank you for your attention and
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i would be happy to answer your questions following the presentations. >> thank you. dr. woodcock? >> good morning, chair murray, ranking member burr and members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to testify. fda's thousands of employees remain steadfast in fighting this pandemic. our work continued during the holiday season and led to critical advancements in combatting the virus. the agencies been closely monitoring the potential impact of the omicron variant on the currently available vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. i'll provide a brief update and actions the agency has taken in these three areas since i last testified before this committee. first, regarding vaccines, the currently authorized and approved vaccines remain highly effective at preventing serious outcomes associated with the covid-19 infection, including
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hospitalization and death. additionally, data evaluated by the fda suggests that additional booster shot following completion of primary vaccination provides further protection against these outcomes. following these data, fda updated the pfizer biontech and moderna vaccine nuas to shorten the time to five months rather than six. fda also also updated the pfizer, biontech eua so it is now available for a primary series in 5 and older. the agency also authorized a pfizer vaccine for third primary series dose for certain
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immunocompromised children 5-11. these vaccines have met fda's rigorous standards and the bottom line is getting vaccinated or receiving a booster with one of the current ily available vaccines is the best thing the public can do right now protect themselves and those they care about. it is not too late to get vaccinated or get boosted. second, diagnostic tests which are another key line of defense in this pandemic, increasing access to accurate rapid at-home tests continues to be a priority for fda. since i last testified, the agencies authorized four additional over the counter at-home tests bringing the total number to 15 and the agency continues to prioritize the review of these type of test. we also partnered with the niche to establish i tab which
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streamlines validation and authorization of integer tests with potential for large scale manufacturing. we expect short review times for such eua requests due to our partnership with itap. the first two tests that participated in this program were authorized in two days or less from the time fda received the final data. so this is a very good model for government assistance of diagnostic manufactures. in this new program itap will prioritize new over-the-counter test submissions that could be manufactured at significant scale to sclerd the availability of high quality, accurate and reliable tests for the public as quickly as possible.accelerate availability of high quality, accurate and reliable tests for the public as quickly as possible. as new variants continue to merge it is crucial to expand the country's arsenals of covid-19 therapeutics, especially for those unable to get vaccinate order who can't
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respond to vaccination. since i last testified three therapeutics have been authorized for use in the treatment of covid-19 for emergency use. the first of these euas, evushield was authorized for the prevention of covid-19. the other two therapies, paxlovid and mmolnupiravir as you hear from dr. fauci are the first authorized treatments for covid-19 in the form of a pill that will be taken orally. which is a major step in the fight against this global
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pandemic. and i want to assure the public the fda is committed to continue to use every tool in our tool box to fight this pandemic. with the best available diagnostic, life-saving therapeutics and vaccines. thank you and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. assistant secretary o'connell. >> chair murray, ranking member burr and gishd members of the committee. it is an honor to testify before you today on efforts within asper to respond to the pandemic since the emergence of the omicron variant. when omicron first e verjd we immediately evaluated its impact
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on current vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics and adjusted our response accordingly. data suggests that our current vax doses with a boost confer protection against omicron. as a result we have continued distributing the three authorized and approved vaccines. over 600 million doses of vaccine have been developed and delivered since the start of the pandemic. we have ample supply of both primary and booster doses, contributing to more than 200 million americans now being fully vaccinated. however we have had to make adjustments to our therapeutic supply in light of omicron. two of our workhorse monoclonal therapy, one from lily, the other from rae gen ron are not as effective against omicron. as a result we have increased our supply of gsk's monoclonal which is effective. we continue to purchase all that we can from gsk, though this supply is still limited. we are on track to have 250,000
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courses available this month. a fourth monoclonal by astrazeneca is targeted for immunocompromised individuals at high risk and is taken prior to exposure to prevent infection. it has retained effectiveness against omicron and we will have made nearly half a million courses available through the end of this month. all four monoclonals are currently available for states and jurisdictions to order free of charge on a weekly basis to treat either omicron or delta infections. we also now have anti-virals by pfizer and merck that are effective against omicron and delivered to states free of charge every other week. 3.1 million course of merck that are now available. last wee doubled our commitment to 20 million of pfizer's product. we have 265,000 courses
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available through the month and anticipate delivering the first 10 million courses to states by mid summer. we remain in frequent communication with states and territorial health officials on the distribution of therapeutic products and continue to focus on insuring these life saving therapies are available to americans across the country. the dramatic rise in cases due to omicron has put a significant strain on our testing capacity. despite significant effort and investment there is more work to do. and we are working every day and night with manufacturers to increase the availability of tests. as soon as we saw the dramatic increase in cases in south africa and europe we reached out to test manufacturers to understand their surge capacity and supply chain constraints. we are engaging daily with the lab test providers to mitigate any supply chain restraints with subtier suppliers. we are also working with commercial and public health labs to prioritize their needs.
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we continue to use the defense production act's authorities when needed. to further increase test availability we are procuring 500 million rapid tests to distribute to american households. as a requirement in this procurement, none of these tests can interfere with what is available in the current commercial market. so as not to diminish what consumers are able to access now. we are currently shipping 2.8 million tests to long-term care facilities per week, as we have throughout the pandemic. we continue to work to send 50 million rapid tests to federally qualified health centers and food banks with 7 million having shipped so far. and we will keep working around the clock with manufacturers and our government partners to increase and sustain the number of tests available now and in the future. and finally, in addition to vaccines, therapeutics and testing,s a per continues to provide on the ground support to states and communities in need.
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since july nearly 880 team members deployed to 19 separate states and the commonwealth of the northern marianna islands to support a range of functions. >> i again ask my colleagues to keep track of your clock and stay within the five minutes. as the omicron variant of covid-19 continues to spread ad an alarming rate, people are looking for clear, straightforward guidance on how to protect themselves and those
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around them. it is really critical that we reduce the infection rates so we can relieve pressure on our healthcare workers, protect people with disabilities and older americans, young kids and anyone else who's been disproportionately infected by covid-19. however i have hear from so many people who find the latest cdc isolation and quarantine guidance confusing and hard to interpret. so doctor walensky, can you please clearly explain cdc's latest guidance on what people need to do to protect themselves and others if they are exposed to or contract covid-19. and let me start with vaccinated people. what is your guidance to them? >> thank you. chair murray for the opportunity to clarify. maybe can i could rewind the clock to just before the holidays where we were hearing from hospitals their staff were going out and they were in a real crunch in terms of they had plenty of beds but they didn't have staff to staff them.
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icu beds were starting to close. so immediately we worked towards our updated healthcare worker guidance but when we did so we recognized we were going to have challenges and that this omicron surge that we were about to face was threatening many other places of our healthcare -- >> i appreciate the background but i just want to know straightforward if someone is exposed to has covid-19 and they are vaccinated, what do they do? >> if they are exposed to covid-19 and they are completely boosted, they should -- they do not need to stay home. but they should get a test at day five. if they have covid, our guidance is not -- does not distinguish between your vaccination status. and our science has demonstrated you are maximally infectious two days before and two to three days after. so five days after symptoms if you are feeling better, if your cough and sore throat are better, then on day six you can go out but you have to wear a mask. you have to wear a mask reliably
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and you should not go to places you can't wear a mask. >> for vaccinated. what about unvaccinated. >> same for unvaccinated for isolation. isolation being those who have had disease, who have disease. >> okay. well let me just say nearly two years ago when this committee first started having congressional hearings on covid-19, the very first thing i asked was where are the tests? and we've made progress since then and we are now producing 300 million at home rapid tests each month along with ramping up lab-based testing but i'm disappointed by the challenges we're facing. tests are hard to find. they are costly. people are unable to find at-home tests in pharmacy, online. they are waiting in long lines. and often after that waiting days for results. so it is, you know, in effective. at the end of the day. so miso'connell, what are you doing to address the
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frustrations and challenges we are hearing about covid testing? >> chair murray, thank you so much for this very important questions. testing remains a critical priority the unprecedented cases of omicron sweep into south africa and europe, we immediately reached out to our manufacturers to understand any supply constraints they had and to evaluate their surge capacity. we have also met daily with them to make sure that they have what they need from their suppliers and have used the defense production act authorities twelve times throughout this pandemic in support of testing needs. most recently in the last few weeks for two tests, we were able to unlock supplies and manufacturing capacity. we continue to invest in rapid over-the-counter tests which are in high demand, and in the fall
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we invested $3 billion to increase manufacturing line staffing and to commit to those manufacturing lines for 13 months. as a result we went from 46 million tests, over-the-counter tests, chairwoman, that you mentioned are available now. but that's not enough. we continue to bring tests to the american people. as a result, the president has announced and we are in the process of procuring, the 500 million tests which every american household will be able to order and have shipped directly to their house. we have completed four contracts so far, have secured 50 million tests and are in the process of securing the additional tests over the next several days. the u.s. postal service has agreed to do the distribution, and the u.s. digital services is going to help with the website. we anticipate the first tests going out at the end of this month with the remaining tests
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going out over the next 60 days. >> okay, and i'm out of time, but i do want to just say this. i am hearing from so many schools that are having trouble staying open, they want to stay open. part of it is they have staff that are sick, that's understandable, but a big part of it is they don't have access to the safety measures like masks and testing supplies. what do i tell them about where they go to get that? >> chair murray, thank you. schools having enough testing supplies to stay open is it a critical priority for us. we've invested $10 billion of the american rescue plan given to states to support and stand up testing programs. we've also invested $650 million in a program called operation expanded testing, which set up regional hubs of labs that schools could contract with to run their testing programs. but that doesn't work if there aren't tests available. so asper is working directly
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with states to match additional manufacturing capacity with states that need it. not only that, we are in the process within asper of looking at our contracts to see if we have any additional capacity and will commit to sending that capacity to the school programs. >> senator burr. >> thank you, madam chairman. let me just cut to the chase. dr. fauci, you said cdc was going to update its guidance and include antigen testing or suggested that it would. dr. walensky and cdc added the guidance that didn't include it. was that part of a plan to start with and they inverted, or was it something you chose to inject? >> thank you for that question, senator burr. in discussions about the real gray zone which dr. walensky described about after the five days where you have a
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considerable diminution in the likelihood of being transmitting, we had been in discussions about what the role of antigen testing would be. and as a matter of fact, when dr. walensky came out with the final guidelines, they include that if you have a test available, you may take a test. so at the end of the day, we were quite in concordance with our views. >> well, i think the chair and i share this. we found it very confusing, and i think the american people found it confusing, and i don't say it lightly when i say not too many people in america are listening to what comes out of washington, whether it's congress or out of the administration as it relates to covid. so the president makes an announcement, ms. mcconnell, of 500 million at-home tests. is this the first time that you thought about purchasing that home test, or have you tried to before and it was rejected? >> thank you, ranking member
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burr. this is the first time the administration has committed to purchasing tests to send to the american households. >> so is that asper or is that dod? because of all the notifications of contracts signed, i've seen them from dod. i haven't seen them from hhs. >> thank you for that question, ranking member burr. we have a relationship with dod for assisted acquisitions, so asper will request that dod put out a solicitation or manage a contract on our behalf. they're able to do it extraordinarily quickly. and we've had an mou in place with dod for this work that will run through june 20, '23. we've used this relationship to purchase vaccines and therapeutics and we're now using it for testing. >> the best i can find, you mentioned 50 million doses haven't been contracted. i can identify 27 million out of
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two companies, media and atlantic trading. neither one of them are manufacturers of tests, and i believe the third one, revival, is not a manufacturer of tests. media actually, their name to fame was tied to vodka, and tying cell phones to vodka. they got in the ppe business with nominal contracts. why should we have any confidence in these contracts if, in fact, we're dealing with companies that don't manufacture anything, and can you assure me that the tests that are coming in are not coming from china? >> thank you, ranking member burr. absolutely. these tests -- what we initially did to be able to access tests for the initial shipments that will go towards the end of january, we worked with
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warehouses to see where additional tests were stored and assessed that additional capacity and are bringing that capacity to bear for these initial tests that are going out, which is why you're seeing contracts with warehouses and not with test manufacturers. >> so is what you're telling me they've got 50 million tests in warehouses in the united states and all we did was access the inventory? >> that is my understanding. >> well, will you confirm your understanding? this is a very, very important piece when you've got companies that don't manufacture tests and all of a sudden we're giving them a $190 million contract for about 14 million home tests and their expertise is importation of vodka. i encourage you to look through the list of people that we're signing up with. are you aware that some of the larger test manufacturers in 2021 shut down lines because of
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the lack of purchases for at-home tests? >> one of the things we did in the fall with the $3 billion investment that we made was to turn lines on and to commit to those lines for 13 months so they wouldn't be turned off again. >> dr. woodcock, last question, chair. of the 15 tests that you've currently approved for over the counter, how many detect omicron? >> we're still working on that, but we believe all of them detect omicron. we simply feel they are less sensitive than they were to some of the previous variants. >> of the 50 million tests that the asper has contracted for, how many of those tests detect omicron? >> i don't know which tests they are. we can get back to you on that. >> so you haven't consulted with what we're purchasing on the 500 million. they haven't consulted with the
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fda to determine if the tests they're buying actually detect omicron? >> i think they have, i just don't have that list. >> i yield back. >> can you provide us a general breakdown of what percentage of hospitalized individuals are vaccinated versus unvaccinated and what percentage of covid deaths are among vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals? >> thank you for that question, senator kane. one of the ways to answer that question would be to look at people who are in the hospital and take a look at vaccinated versus unvaccinated. if you look at vaccinated versus unvaccinated, there is about a 10% greater chance that you would be infected if you were
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unvaccinated and about 20 times likelihood that you would be dead if you're unvaccinated. when you look at every parameter, 10 times, 17 times, 20 times, infection, hospitalization, death. >> thank you, dr. fauci. ms. o'connell, i want to ask you a question about additional vaccine development. the current vaccines against covid as was indicated by dr. fauci's answer has been effective against severity of deaths and hospitalizations, however, they've had limited success of infections after breakthrough cases, and they're not as durable as vaccines in other areas, so we need booster shots to continue to protect against the virus. is the administration considering supporting the development of additional vaccines that might be able to address the gaps in the current vaccine's capabilities? >> thank you very much for that
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question. yes, absolutely. i think we all see the need for next generation vaccines. we're also looking for next generation therapeutics as well. we're looking at the budget to address these issues and identify candidates that might already be in the pipeline to help support the research into candidates that are just starting in the pipeline so we can accelerate the availability of next generation vaccines and therapeutics. >> thank you for that answer. dr. walensky, i would like to ask you a question about access to testing, and in particular, what is the cdc doing to make sure that testing capacity is robust in rural america and also among community health centers in disadvantaged parts of the country? >> thank you, senator kane. so we have this program in community access to testing in
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collaboration with asper as well. this is a program that has collaborated with fema to increase surge testing just over the holidays. we've increased federal testing sites for pcrs, 12,000 testing sites doing testing over the holiday. we also work with pharmacies. this is collaboration with pharmacies, and in that, we are able to map where the pharmacies are and their availability index through walgreen's, cvs, rite-aid and whatnot. really a broad stretch in order to be able to get access to testing, especially among those most vulnerable. and of course, as ms. o'connell mentioned, $10 billion to testing sites in our schools and working closely with our schools in peer-to-peer support and technical support to allow those tests to be used well in those
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school settings. thank you. >> thank you. dr. fauci, one more question of you. i ask a version of this question every time we have this panel before us. what is the nih doing right now or what is the current status of nih's research to better understand long covid to look at symptoms and potential treatments? >> there are several levels of activity going on. some new since we spoke last. i had mentioned to you, senator, that, in fact, there was a 1.15 billion program for studying long covid that is now developing cohorts to look at various incidences, prevalences, pathogens. there was an additional $470 million funding supported through the american rescue plan engaging about 100 researchers from 30 institutions to get individuals together.
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one of the things that is really interesting that we're seeing right now is that when you look at individuals who have these symptoms that go on, as you know, and have experienced yourself for a considerable period of time, a recent study that is in the preprint stage, so it hasn't been peer reviewed, has some very interesting information that needs to be validated and verified. it was an autopsy study in people who had varying levels of covid, from relatively mildly symptomatic to moderately symptomatic to individuals that actually died. when they looked at the spread of what was not necessarily replication-competent virus but was pcr-able virus, which means you could have nuclear tides that were there, there seemed to be a persistence in multiple organ systems, indicating that even when you cleared the virus,
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one of the possibilities, and i have to emphasize possibility, because it needs to be validated, is that you don't completely clear the fragments of the virus and you have continual stimulation, not that you're infectious or that you're going to infect anybody else, but that it is still generating perhaps an abhorrent response to your immune system. i express again it's preliminary, it's in the pre testing stage. >> the idea that someone like yourself would represent science, and that any criticism of you would be a criticism of science itself is quite dangerous. central planning, whether it be of the economy or of science, is risky because of the fallibility of the planner. it wouldn't be so catastrophic
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if the planner were one position in peoria, then it would only affect that person's patients, the people that chose that physician. but when the planner is a government official like yourself who rules by mandate, the errors are compounded and become much more harmful. a planner that believes he is "the science" leads to an arrogance that justifies in his mind to use government resources to smear and destroy the reputation of other scientists who disagree with him. in an e-mail exchange with dr. collins, you conspire, and i quote here directly from the e-mail, to create a quick and devastating published take-down of three prominent epidemiologists from harvard, oxford and stanford. apparently there are a lot of fringe epidemiologists at harvard, oxford and stanford. you quote in the e-mail they are from dr. collins and you agree that they are fringe. immediately there is a takedown ethic. a public takedown doesn't
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exactly conjure up the image of a dispassionate science. instead of engaging them on the merits, you and dr. collins thought to smear them on fringe and take them down. not in journals but in the press. this is the epitome of cheap politics and it's reprehensible, dr. fauci. do you really think it's appropriate to use your $420,000 salary to attack science that doesn't agree with you? >> the e-mail you're referring to was an e-mail of dr. collins to me. if you look at the e-mail -- >> that you responded to and hurried up and said, i can do it, i can do it, we got something -- >> no, no, i think in usual fashion, senator, you are distorting everything about me. >> did you ever object to dr. collins' characteristic of them as fringe? did you write back to dr. collins and say, no, they're not fringe, they're esteemed scientists. you responded to them you would
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do it and you sent it back to them and said, hey, look, i nailed them in "wired." >> there you go again. you just do the same thing every hearing. >> that was your response. this wasn't the only time. so your desire to take down people -- >> you are incorrect as usual, senator. you are incorrect in almost everything you say. >> you deny, you deny, but the e-mails tell the truth of this. this wasn't the only time. your desire to take down those who disagree with you didn't stop with harvard, oxford and stanford, you took down other members of the scientific community that wrote opinion pieces for "nature," an opinion piece. 17 signed a paper that called it conspiracy theory, the idea that the virus could have originated in the lab. do you think words like "conspiracy theory" should be in a scientific paper? >> senator, i never used that word when i was referring to it. you're distorting virtually
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everything -- >> did you communicate with the five scientists who wrote the opinion piece in "nature" where they were describing, oh, there's no way this could come from a lab? >> that was not me. what i did -- >> did you talk to any of those from the lab? >> you keep distorting everything. >> did you talk to any of the scientists privately who wrote the opinion? >> yes. >> what were they telling you privately? >> you're going back to that original discussion when i brought together a group of people to look at every possibility with an open mind. not only are you distorting it, you are completely turning it around as you usually do. >> did the scientists come to you privately and say, no way did this come from the lab? or was there an initial impression, dr. gary and others who were involved, was there an initial impression, actually, that it looked very suspicious that it came from a lab? >> senator, we are here as a committee to look at a virus now
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that has killed almost 900,000 people. and the purpose of the committee was to try and get things out how we can help to get the american public. and you keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance to reality. >> do you think anybody has had more influence or a response to this than you have? do you think it's a great success what's happened so far? do you think the lockdown helped our kids? more people have died now under president biden than did under president trump. you are the one responsible. you are the architect. you are the lead architect for the response from the government and now 800,000 people have died. do you think it's a winning success what you've advocated for government? >> senator, first of all, if you look at everything i've said, you accuse me in a monolithic way telling people what they need to do. everything i've said has been in support of the cdc guidelines.
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wear a mask, get boosted, get vaccinated -- >> and you advocated it be done by mandate. you have dictated your infallible opinion by law. >> madam chair, this happens every time. you have attacked me without a shred of evidence for anything you say. i would like to make things clear to the committee. he is doing this for political reasons. what you need to do -- he said in front of this committee -- >> you think your takedown of the harvard epidemiologist was not political? >> you know what i'm going to say. >> senator paul, i'm going to allow dr. fauci to respond. we have a number of senators who would like to ask questions, and i would like him to be able to respond. >> the last time we had a
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committee, or the time before it, he was accusing me of being responsible for the death of 4 to 5 million people, which is really irresponsible. and i say, why is he doing that? there are two reasons why that's really bad. the first is it distracts from what we're all trying to do here today, is get our arms around the epidemic and the pandemic that we're dealing with, not something imaginary. number two, what happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there and i have threats upon my life, harassments of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me. now, i guess you could say, well, that's the way it goes, i can take the hit. well, it makes a difference.
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because as some of you may know, just about three or four weeks ago on december 21st, a person was arrested who was on their way from sacramento to washington, d.c. at a speed stop in iowa. and they asked -- the police asked him where he was going, and he was going to washington, d.c. to kill dr. fauci. and they found in his car an ar-15 and multiple magazines of ammunition, because he thinks that maybe i'm killing people. so i asked myself, why would a senator want to do this? so go to rand paul website, and you see "fire dr. fauci" with a little box that says, contribute here. you can do $5, $10, $20, $100. so you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain. so the only thing --
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>> you politically attacked your colleagues in a politically reprehensible way. you won't defend it. you won't argue it. you simply turn around the attack. >> we need to continue this hearing. we have other questions from other senators. dr. fauci, i really appreciate your response, but we do have a number of questions from senators, and we do have a second round, and i'm being asked to make sure everybody has their time, so thank you. >> thank you very much for allowing me, madam chair. >> we will move to senator murphy. >> thank you, madam chair. dr. fauci, thank you. thank you, first of all, for what you do. you shouldn't have to put your life at risk. you shouldn't have to put your family's life at risk to simply stand up and do your job, to try to protect my constituents from a pandemic disease. and thank you for calling out this agenda for what it is. it's an attempt to score political points, to build a political power base around the denial of science and around personal attacks on you and your
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family. on social media, i follow many of president trump's advisors and family members, and they make a sport out of attacking you personally in some of the most vicious, hateful, ugly ways that are possible. they do it because it gets clicks. they don't do it because they're legitimately engaged in an honest debate about the science surrounding covid. those people attack you because it gains them political followers. and so i appreciate the fact that you're willing to stand up for yourself and for your colleagues who have been dragged into the political muck, not because those that follow president trump are interested in an honest science-based debate about how to attack covid, but because they see political opportunity. so thank you, dr. fauci, for
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your work, for the panel's work and for sticking up for yourself, which is not always easy. dr. walensky, i want to take my time to just do a little bit of an update on best practices for schools. i know we talked about this a lot here, but part of what i think is frustrating for a lot of parents is that the guidance they're getting from their schools changes. and i get it, educators are sort of adjusting as the variant changes, as technology changes. but what has changed since the last time? has anything changed since the last time you were here about what you were recommending for schools to stay open? i appreciate what you said in the last hearing, is that schools should be the first places to open and the last places to close. as the parent of two public school kids, i couldn't agree more. the trauma on these kids during
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this pandemic has been significant and the data tells us that especially for poor kids of color, distance learning just doesn't work. we need to make sure the federal dollars are used to keep schools open. but anything new you can share with us about what you're recommending for schools to stay open for the rest of the year? >> thank you, senator murphy. you took the words right out of my mouth. schools should be the first places to open and the last places to close. we had a delta surge in the fall, and 99% of our schools were safely open. one of the things that is majorly different between september of 2021 and today is we have pediatric vaccinations. we have vaccines available for every child over the age of five. those that are in the hospital now are largely those who are unvaccinated. first and foremost, the most important change is we should be getting our parents and teenagers vaccinated. if they're eligible, we have boosters for our teenagers as
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well. we saw through the delta surge that we were able to keep our children safely in school before we had vaccines. so now today what do we have for our children? we have vaccines, of course, that we can use. we have school testing that came up with new science that demonstrates test to stay. this is where a child might be exposed in the classroom, but if they're exposed, they don't have to stay home and quarantine. they can test every other day or week and stay in the classroom safely. what that has demonstrated is 100 person days in school rather than at home. we have a new study evaluating masking. three and a half times incidence of outbreaks if you're unmasked in schools versus if you're masking in schools. just this week we updated our k-12 guidance so it's consistent with our quarantine guidance for the general public, so people can come back to school after isolation in five days. >> thank you, dr. walensky, for that, and your commitment to
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keeping our schools open. final question for you, ms. o'connell. talking about in-home tests, a lot of focus on in-home tests, but these are antigen tests. there is a lot of research going on about making tests available at home and there are companies all over the country, including one in connecticut, that believe with some additional investment to bring those tests to scale, we could get pcr tests into families' hands at home for a cost that is up or below what companies are currently charging for antigen tests. is that a possibility? >> senator murphy, thank you. we share your interest, of course, in seeing as many tests available for the american people as quickly as possible. at barta, i've worked very closely with companies for these pcr at-home tests. we contacted one of them and have reached 500 million a month capacity in contract with them and continue to look at the
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others in ways we can support them. i would also like to say nih colleagues in a program called rad-x, the rapid sale of diagnostics, are working with these programs as well. we remain very committed to what these companies are doing and look forward to partnering with them as they move these products forward. >> thank you. senator collins. >> thank you. ms. o'connell, over the past two years, congress has appropriated $82.6 billion specifically for testing. in addition, we give the department flexibility to use other sources of funding. and yet, as you've heard repeatedly today, our frustrated constituents cannot find rapid tests when they need them. this testing crisis appears to
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have been entirely preventable as is evidenced by the availability, the widespread availability of rapid tests in europe, for example. the fact is that it appears the administration simply failed to anticipate our testing needs. as the former assistant secretary of health recently pointed out, a lack of federal orders for tests between january and september of 2021 caused the manufacturers to reduce their lines and lay workers up, including at abbott facilities in the state of maine where 400 workers were laid off. as a member of the appropriations committee, i share the concerns that have been expressed by senators burr and blunt. i don't believe that we're in
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the position that we are in now due to a lack of funding, but rather, a lack of planning. my question to you is, has any of this funding, this close to $83 billion that was supposed to be used for testing, been diverted for other purposes? >> senator collins, thank you for this question. testing remains a priority for this administration. in all the work we've done on testing, it's been to promote the priorities of expanding the number of testing sites available, expanding the type of tests that are available for use in the united states, expanding the supply of tests in the united states and lowering the cost of tests. and we use the $83 billion that came in the american rescue plan. 10 billion of that went to
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schools to set up the school testing programs, 8.3 billion has gone to community testing sites, including for the uninsured and at the community health centers, the pharmacy program dr. walensky mentioned, 5 billion has gone to procure tests and supplies, and an additional 4.5 billion will go towards this 500 million that we are in the process of procuring. 29 billion has gone directly to states from previous supplementals for them to build and promote testing programs within their jurisdictions. the testing money, as you recall, was for testing, contact tracing and mitigation efforts. and some of the funds have been used for mitigation efforts. for example, when children are crossing the border, you know, one of the responsibilities that we have within hhs is to make sure that anyone who -- that the children that are unaccompanied
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are cared for, and we used some of the funds to test those children and then to separate them from covid-negative children at the border. >> i'm going to repeat my question because you did not answer it. has any of that money been used for non-testing-related purposes at the border? >> for the mitigation purposes as well, which the legislation allowed the funding to be used for. >> i will follow up with you, because i don't feel like i'm getting an answer. dr. fauci, just last week, the president once again said that covid-19 is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. and let me make very clear that i've encouraged vaccinations. i believe in them.
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but contradicting the president's statement, in maine our largest health system reported that absences of vaccinated staff caused by covid-19 last week was at the highest point since vaccines became available. this increased by fourfold. does the message that covid is a pandemic of the unvaccinated still hold true with the emergence of omicron? and do you agree with the "new york times" which has twice reported that while the covid vaccine is critical in preventing hospitalizations and death, it is less effective against the omicron variant? >> thank you for that question,
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senator. yes, indeed. there is no doubt that the omicron variant, when you look at the protection against symptomatic disease and asymptomatic infection dramatically goes down to about 30%. what maintains itself, it goes up to about -- it's about 70% against severe disease. when you boost, what happens is you get a rather significant reconstitution of the protection, particularly against hospitalization. so if you were to say that omicron or even covid-19 as it is is really a pandemic when you're talking about pandemic that causes serious disease, there is no doubt that there is an extraordinary divergence of risk between a vaccinated and
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unvaccinated person in response to the question just a bit ago when i said that if you look at vaccinated versus unvaccinated, there is a 17 times greater chance of being hospitalized and a 20 times greater chance of dying if you are unvaccinated versus vaccinated. >> thank you. senator hassen? >> thank you, madam chair, and senator burr, that you for your ongoing look. i deeply appreciate it. dr. fauci, i want to start with a couple questions for you. we need to make sure that individuals who become seriously ill with covid-19 can receive treatment and that doctors have clear guidelines on the effectiveness of each treatment for the latest variant. and you touched on this in your opening statement, but i would like you to just expand a little bit on this. in light of omicron, how is the
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administration evaluating new covid-19 treatments and monitoring the effectiveness of existing treatments? >> thank you for that question, senator. there are a number of studies that have been conducted and are being conducted right now, and they have to do with studies that are nih sponsored, one of which is the covid-19 treatment trials, or actt, -c-t-ta-c-t-t, since 2020 have been the basis of the anti viral remdesivir. particularly those studies, and those of monoclonal antibodies,
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have been found to be effective against delta, and especially one has proved ineffective. accelerating covid-19 therapeutic infections and vaccines, and they are anti virals. antivirals like poxlovid and remdesivir, the trials had been done. according to how we know what to use, the nih has put together a guidelines panel made up of 48 highly qualified clinicians and individuals with experience in covid-19 to give a prioritization of what you do if you're infected and with advanced disease in the hospital as well as what you do as an
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outpatient. they're fairly clearly delineated which are accessible by going to the nih website and and guidelines panel, and people can get a pretty good idea, clinicians throughout the country and around the world, of how to use these antivirals. thank you. >> thank you. >> i want to follow up. i am grateful that the administration heeded my call to send fema teams to help with treatments. however, the team is only scheduled to stay a short period of time. so, dr. fauci, what additional support and personnel is the administration prepared to provide to new hampshire and other states to help treat covid-19 patients in the most effective way possible? >> there are several things. perhaps assistant secretary o'connell can answer, but i can assist by saying there are at
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least 60 surge teams that have been deployed to help those areas that have difficulty because of the surge and the fewer volume of cases to be able to handle them with regard to everything from hospitalizations to treatment and other implementations. >> and i appreciate that assistant secretary o'connell is in a good position to follow up, and i'd like to follow up after the hearing. but i did want to ask one other question to dr. walensky. we've long had problems with accurate state vaccination data in new hampshire. it's come to light that the cdc's data on new hampshire's vaccination rates is also inaccurate. apparently the cdc cannot consistently distinguish in its data between first doses of the vaccine and boosters. as a result, the agency incorrectly records boosters as first doses, artificially raising the vaccination rate. the cdc's data is inaccurate for other states as well. we've been looking at this for
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other states, too. so what steps is the cdc taking to resolve these data inaccuracies, and when will the cdc have accurate data for new hampshire? >> thank you, senator. this is a really important question. so cdc is the compiler of the data and we rely on the state immunization services to provide cdc the data at the state level. now, among the challenges with these accuracies is that if people don't bring in their card, they are counted as a first dose when in fact their card would have been a third dose, and we rely on the states to work to reconcile any differences if a person put in a middle initial on one card but not on another. and we're working closely with every single state to increase the accuracy, we're encouraging people to bring their cards because that also increases the accuracy. we recognize this challenge and we are working state by state, including in new hampshire, to reconcile these inaccuracies to get them more accurate in our comprehensive reporting of every
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state. >> i appreciate that very much. thank you, madam chair. i'll just say that what i'm hearing you say to the general public is it's really important to help with the accuracy of data by keeping your card, taking a photo of your card, making sure you're sharing all your information at the site where you're getting a vaccine or booster shot. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. senator marshall. >> president biden inherited a vaccine, a distribution plan, trillions of dollars in funding but unfortunately the administration has chosen to put all their eggs in one basket, prioritized unconstitutional vaccine mandates and testing. yet comparing 2021 to 2022, covid infections have increased 72% and deaths increased 27%. this we know. if you look at this data, your current plan is not working. the current plan is not working. we need therapeutics at warp speed. miss o'connell, who is
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responsible for this failure? >> senator marshall, thank you for that question. we are making six therapies available to the american people free of charge. >> who is responsible for the failure? >> senator marshall, we continue to make therapies available at warp speed to the american people. >> the biden administration has allocated over $80 billion for testing and only $15 billion on therapeutics. it's obvious that your plan has failed. we can't keep throwing good money after bad money. this is insanity. we have to admit our mistakes and go a different direction. miss mcconnell, would you commit to an operation warp speed for therapeutics? >> senator marshall, thank you. therapeutics are part of operation warp speed, and that's how we have the six therapies that we're currently making available to states free of charge. >> they will be available afr delta has already come and gone
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and also have, of course, omicron will be said and done as well. dr. fauci, 59% of americans and 81% of republicans do not have a favorable opinion of you. frankly, honestly, you've lost your reputation. the american people don't trust the words coming out of your mouth. every day you appear on tv, you do more damage than good when it comes to educating the public on covid. suppose you were leading a team in an effort to try to get people to stop smoking cigarettes, but every time your spokesperson goes on television, over half the nation goes out and buys a pack of marlboros. wouldn't you stop that person from appearing on national television? >> once again, senator marshall, i believe that's a real distortion of the reality. if you look at everything that i've said on tv, it is to validate, encourage and get people to abide by the
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recommendations of the centers for disease control and prevention. look at everything i've ever said. >> perception is reality, and you're hurting the team right now. you are hurting the team right now. dr. fauci, you previously told this committee under oath that nih and niaid have never gained research with the alliance. however, the department of defense inspector general released yesterday that eco alliance approved darpa in 2019, seeking funding on that and more coronaviruses. this and product defuse, d-e-f-u-s-e, did not reach the potential for providing the function moratorium. the proposal does not talk about
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research. that's a direct quote from the darpa rejection letter. the same rejection from darpa was not rejected but under niaid, it's research that took place at the wuhan institute of virology. why did you tell the company that your agency has not gained research? why did you violate the moratorium that was in place? and finally, will you commit today to release all records fully unredacted by the end of this week so congress and the american people can know the truth about nih's role and the origins of covid-19? >> again, senator, it really pains me to have to point out to the american public how absolutely incorrect you are. what came out last night on project veri toss was a grant
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that was submitted to darpa. then it distorted and said, we funded the grant. we have never seen that grant, and we have never funded that grant. so once again, you are completely and unquivocally incorrect. when we joined the darpa proposal, it was a grant we never saw and didn't fund, so you are incorrect. >> our social media will have all the supporting documents and we will support it on the record as well. thank you. >> you're backing down on this. why don't we go and look at the very top statement that we're talking about a grant that was submitted to darpa -- >> are you saying this was not bio gaining research? are your pcr definitions just a
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way to get a response? >> senator, would you please allow the witness to respond. >> we know that the guardrails for what can be done or not were not established by me, they were established by a three-year process led by the office of science and technology policy to the white house. >> and decided by you in a secret meeting at the white house in december of 2019. >> senator, that is incorrect. this refers exactly to what i was talking about in response to senator rand paul. you are incorrect, completely, and every time i try to explain -- >> you keep saying i'm incorrect but the facts are on my side. why will you not commit to sharing everything -- >> senator marshall -- >> -- to this congress? >> dr. fauci, this hearing is incredibly important to the american people. there are millions of people infected with the covid virus. >> right.
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>> it is impacting every part of our economy, every family is asking for answers to critical questions. both sides of the aisle have asked tough questions. but we are not going to allow this committee hearing to be another personal attack that undermines our ability to deal with this terrible virus that is impacting so many people. i will then turn to senator smith. thank you. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, chair murray -- well, i'll just let that go. as we move into the third year of the covid-19 response, it seems to me that our strategy is shifting. we are shifting from a goal of trying to get to zero covid cases to eradicaing the virus, and our goal is really much more about minimizing the damage of this pandemic. you and i have talked about this, dr. fauci, as well with dr. walensky.
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so we need, of course, to minimize hospitalizations and deaths caused by covid. we do that through vaccines and through therapies. we also need to minimize the covid damage by understanding how to keep kids in school, how to keep businesses open, and how to protect against the damage that is caused by social isolation and burnout and other stresses that injures our mental health. it seems to me that this is happening while covid continues to seriously stress our health care system. and while we still have people in this country, including, sadly, some members of congress who continue to spread misinformation and lies about the pandemic. so it seems like we have to be realistic that these cycles of the pandemic, until it becomes endemic, are going to continue. we'll probably continue to see some unpredictable variants arise. madam chair, i just want to say i hope this committee can find some time to discuss these issues as they relate to global
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vaccine strategy, because this is going to be crucial to our work to protect americans' health as we go forward since we are not an island. but let me ask, i'm very interested in how we think about, like, the data that is important for americans to keep in their minds as they're trying to measure relative risk. last week public health experts published some interesting articles that suggested that we should maybe think about incorporating covid-19 data into aggregate risk for all respiratory viruses that are circulating, including the flu and rsv. maybe this data, if we could look at it in realtime from medical facilities and ers and so forth, testing facilities, private homes, even, would give us a better picture of what's happening. let me ask dr. walensky and dr. fauci, if you could talk a little bit -- about this. i want to understand how you think about this question of
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relative risk, how we should be transitioning and what we consider from daily case counts, for example, to looking at other data and particularly how you evaluate this idea of looking at all respiratory illnesses in one basket. >> senator smith, this is such a critically important question. thank you for raising this. so we have to do two things simultaneously. right now we're dealing with an omicron surge where we have the most number of cases we've ever had in a day in this country. we have to get out of this omicron surge, but in the meantime, we have to look down the field and look at what is this going to look at when we're not in a surge, and what does this look like in terms of endemic disease? some of this disease is not as severe as it was. we have to look critically at hospital capacity. what can our hospitals handle?
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if people are coming in with covid or hospital staff are out with covid, that's a really important measure we're going to look at. and one of the things we probably still are going to examine, although perhaps with less import, is the actual number of cases, and why that's important in general is because it generally foreshadows what's coming into the hospital. so knowing that and understanding what that might mean for the future of hospitalizations, future severity and future capacity, all of those things are things we're looking at right now. one of the things you critically mentioned are the efforts in daily moderatization. how do we continue to keep the pedal to the metal, as it were. we didn't have information data, we didn't have a way to link with personal identifiers removed, electronic health records with our testing records. we had 187 health records that
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could do that. now we have 10,000. we need to scale up our efforts and do it not just for covid and not just for other respiratory diseases like flu or rsv, as you note, but for all diseases. so we're looking at doing this for eternal mortality, for sickle cell disease, for opioid injury, for many, many diseases, and this is going to be the power of our data modernization efforts, and i'm very grateful for resources from congress to be able to leverage those. thank you. >> thank you. madam chair, i believe i'm out of town but i'll have other questions if we have a second round. >> we will have a second round. senator tuberville. >> thank you, madam chair, thank you for being here today. this administration has been in charge of the federal covid response for a year. i have to say i don't think it's been a job well done. our federal government not only sets the tone and guidance for how millions of people should be handling covid, we set the standard for the world.
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our information has to be correct. i continue to hear that we need to follow the science, and i agree. we have to yet hear the clarity from this administration. we are conflicting guidance across the board. in order to be effective, guidance has to be understood and implemented by the average american. but most americans can't make heads or tails of anything coming out of this administration. so we are, all of us, failing this test. one thing i do know is that when we finally, toward the end of this thing, congress is going to have an investigation. we all know that. we've heard that the fda and president biden say 55 years will be needed to share data related to a lot of those decisions. but we will have to investigate, this group will have to investigate and have the information before 2076.
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heck, most of us won't be here in 2076. this investigation will look into who had authority to make decisions. i know there are more people making decisions behind the scenes. so what i'd like to know is, i'm just concerned how badly the response has been. it's handled -- president biden has handled this in his first year. we heard all the pluses and minuses. this administration took office with three effective vaccines and basically drove it into a ditch. at times it seems like no one is in charge. you started the year by dismantling warp speed, underinvesting in testing, and we've spent billions in that, first with delta and now omicron. people can't find a test. i'm getting texts as we speak sitting here, where do i get a test? we spent billions on this.
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if we can't find a test and test positive, they can't get treatment. monoclonal antibodies are in question. if you have a problem, who do you go to? who is the head coach of this virus that you have to go to, whether it's in the administration, whether it's one of you. dr. fauci, who do we go to? >> the person who is in charge of that is jeff seinz. >> at the white house. >> at the white house. and we need the team going over every day what the strategies are, what the issues are, what the problems are, what we've done right, what we've done wrong. we've examined it literally continually, sir. >> has he done a good job? >> i think given the circumstances we're in right now, i believe he's done a very good job. i really do. this is an extraordinary virus,
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the likes of which we have not seen even close to in well over 100 years. it is a very wiley virus. it has fooled everybody all the time, from the time it first came in from delta to now omicron, very unpredictable, and we're doing the best we possibly can. >> dr. walensky, it's been reported by some virologists and scientists that this year 700 people have died from taking the regular flu vaccine. the vaccine advisor adverse reporting system reported that the number of people dying after or following the covid vaccine is actually in the thousands. now, this is what i'm hearing. i give you a chance to refute that or confirm it here. is this true? do we have that many people die after taking one of these vaccines? >> senator, thank you for that question. a vaccine advent reporting
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system is a report that happens after being vaccinated. if you got hit by a car tragically after being vaccinated, that gets reported in the system. the vaccines are incredibly safe. they protect us against omicron, they protect us against >> do you have any clue on that? hundred? >> i don't know the number. >> microphone. >> sorry. i don't have a number but i think part of the confusion is
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when you do a reporting, if you get vaccinated and you walk out and get hit by a car, that is considered a death. that's the thing that gets confusing. everything that happens after the vaccination, even if you die of something completely obviously unrelated, it's considered a death. so, if i had med static cancer and got vaccinated, that's a death. >> and every one of those is adjudicated. >> i understand. i'm in rural alabama. i get a home test and test positive. asymptomatic. what do i do? people call what do i do? i don't have a doctor around. >> so, you're asymptomatic? no symptoms, feel well? >> yes. >> you stay home for five days and the next five days, you can go out, wear a mask, don't travel, go to gyms.
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>> if i get real sick? >> first, you call your physician and in fact, call regardless. call your provider. if you're continuing to have symptoms, then you stay home until symptoms resolve? >> no therapeutics? >> call your physician and see if you're eligible? >> a lot of people don't have physicians. they have a drugstore. >> thank you, madam chair. thank you, ranking member, burr. i want to thank all of the witnesses here for testifying today. your continued work, thank you so much as we combat this pandemic in real time. so, first i want to accolade the concerns my colleagues have raised about at-home testing. boast the pcr and the at-home rapid test. americans are standing in extremely long lines to get
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covid tests and hospital emergency departments in my home state of nevada have seen a significant increase because there aren't enough alternatives. this is only adding to the stress. nevada's been expanding testing option but increase federal support on the ground. in addition to home testing, we feel is critical and in the future, the federal response must be proactive in this space. i'm a little concerned about the testing keeping up with the variants. this is all happening in real time. covid is evolving. you don't know what strain may become the dominant strain. in addition to the effectiveness of the vaccines and therapeutics, the testing accuracy must also keep up. dr. fauci, with recent reports about the current variant settling more in the throat than
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the nose for some patients, what are we doing with the development and deployment of rapid-at home test verses saliva and nasal swab? and how rapidly do you think the over-the-counter testing can be approved, delivered, looked at, approved, delivered to the american public to make sure they're less anxious? >> yes, there have been recent reports that, in fact, the sensitivity and the ability to detect, in a swab of the throat, verses the nasal fair ngs, that's a preliminary report. if the data are strong enough, then the company, whatever who makes that will likely go to the fda to ask to change the indication because the emergency use authorization is for a nasal swab. the if the data indicate that
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it's better to get an oral or other swab, they would present that to the fda. so, would leave that to dr. woodcott to answer the question. >> first, i would like to say people should not use swabs designed as nasal swabs and try to swab their throat. they may stab themselves. that would not be good. what we need to do is have tests that see whether the throat swab, as dr. fauci said, could provide more sensitivity. we know tests are picking up omicron. but right now with less sensitivity than they did some of the other variants. as far as time, as i said. after the i tap program does the testing at nih, fda has been able to authorize within a day or two of getting those data.
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however, the companies would have to change the test configuration to accommodate the larger swab that you'd use in the throat and that's probably what would take the most time as well. >> and as we've seen with some of the testing, the reagents or the materials that it really takes to use the test, is there the ability to people to return a test that may no longer work? can those agents, any of that be recycled if they're returned to the company? how do we not dispose and get some recycleability out of that? is that possible in some way? >> i can get back to you on the parameters. >> thank you, appreciate that. people are talking about the public health data.
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we're noting about all the daily statistics and about possibly death. and so, positive or negative, critical. this data is critical, as far as what we fund. and sometimes there's notes to say that we shouldn't include home testing in the daily statistics because they may not be reliable. to build on testing and statistics you needed to do your job, how is the cdc working with the state, local health or hospitals to be sure that the voluntary self reporting guidance is going to be accurate and give us a kind of statistics we need going forward? >> thank you for that question, senator. so, we are routinely reporting pcr tests and that is what our updated statistics are. there's passive reporting that occurs with rapid tests. i want to understand the importance of rapid at-home tests.
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for people to be empowered to use the rapid tests to do the right thing. generally they tend to be people with milder symptoms. they may have been vaccinated, have a runny nose and do the test at home. less important is counting that case than it is that person stay home, isolate, do the right thing and not be forward transmitting. i think many tests have different purposes. but even if we don't count them, is empower the public to do the right thing through the pandemic. >> thanks. >> if the chair and ranking
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member limed their comments to five minutes, just like you expect those folks to limit to five minutes. we didn't get started until 25 minutes after asking these folks their questions. i want to note also that in this process as i'm sure you who are testifying today that some of what we do is performing and some of what we do is to become informed. i do both from time to time. i'm not just one camp or the other in that regard. i want to point out how much i personally and i think the majority of the country respect you individually and professionally for the work you do. you're scientists, not politicians. nevertheless, you're being made subject to the political whims of various political individuals and that comes at a high cost, which unfortunately, i fear, will lead some to not want to
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participate in helping our government make scientific choices. but i very deeply appreciate your commitment to the american people and your desire to do things as well as we possibly know how to do. that doesn't mean they'll be done perfectly. doesn't mean you won't make mistakes and there won't be changes from time to time, sometimes as data comes in different than you anticipated. and other times it's because you're wrong. that's where we are. unfortunately, the administration was wrong in not building testing capacity at a time when we all thought covid was going away. i remember the summer and the fall going to a drugstore and seeing two rapid tests on the shelf and those things stayed there for days. no one was interested in buying a rapid test. and apparently the administration didn't think it should be aggressively building rapid tests. omicron came along, caught
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people by surprise and we were obviously badly mistaken. the administration was and we're suffering in part because of that. let me ask, with regard to pat [ inaudible ] ms. o'connell is that being subject to warp speed. my understanding is pat is more superior than other virals. shouldn't we focus on getting that out? >> we're in active conversations with pfizer about how to increase their time limits. my understanding and the scientists can feel free to jump in is the process required to generate this particular antiviral is one very hard to accelerate. what we have been able to do is find additional doses to try to unlock additional capacity where they can find it.
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and we're continuing to do that actively. >> thank you. dr. wolensky, good to see you. as i've looked at the covid tracker report, i note it goes through november 20th. if we didn't have daily information, we couldn't make good decisions. i wonder do we need to invest in either developing a new subagency or a task force to get basically immediate data, daily data so we knee what's going on? and that's for those of you making the decisions. do we need to do a much better job going faster on the data? >> also to comment on our covid data tracker. i think you're speaking to the 27 jurisdictions that we now compile data that allows the jurisdictions to report together
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their testing data, their cases data, immunization data, age data, as well as death data. it's over two-third of the country we do and it's three or four weeks in the rear. so, midjanuary, we'll have data through the end of december. it simply does take that long to compile data and death data are generally lagging. we're now updating that. they're six weeks in the rear and we're working hard to keep them real time. >> i note retailers apparently get data and correlate it daily. i'd hope we could find a way to increase the speed with which we get that data. i'm going to make a comment. and that is i think it would be helpful if people knew when they should get tested, when it's called for. because a lot of individuals, myself included, get tested when
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there's no indication i need to and there's a huge demand in test in short supply. and when people have been exposed, please let us know what it means to be exposed. i'm in a room and i'm sure someone in here has omicron. do we all need to get tested? i know -- i wanted to ask that of dr. fauci, i can't do that given my time. thank you. >> that is a question we all want answered and i will give dr. fauci the opportunity to respond to that. >> dr. fauci. >> well, the cdc guidelines make that very clear and it is if you are exposed to an individual with known -- if you're in a period of 15 minutes at a time or a total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. in a situation where you come into close contact.
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that's the fundamental core of the cdc guidelines. >> that's exactly right, in terms of the definition of exposure, in terms of who should get tested. you should get test fd you have symptoms. if you have a rapid at-home test and you continue to have symptoms, you should do another test. get test after five days of your exposure with the definition dr. fauci mentioned. we're testing through tests to stay in other mechanisms as well. many reasons to test. but really most importantly if you're exposed, if you have symptoms and if you're going into a setting where you might be seeing an immuno compromised person, not able to take a vaccine. >> thank you very much. senator casey. >> chair murray, thank you very much for the hearing. i want to start by commending the public service of all the members of the panel.
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dr. wo lenski, fauci and woodcog and assistant secretary kaunl. in particular, i want to reiterate statements i think i had to make before in light of dr. fauci's commendable public service, not just in the middle of the pandemic, throughout the pandemic but decades. i think i speak for people back home and across the country that, not only have confidence in your integrity but your work in public health. and so, we're grateful for that. let me start with a question for dr. wolensky. i'm quoting from a statement you made friday on television. and i'll quote two sentence.
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one, is quote, the overwhelming number of deaths over 75% occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. really these are people who were unwell to begin with and yes, really encouraging the news and the context of omicron, unquote. now, this statement, and i know is part of a broader interview, caused great concern. i know, from my work as a senator for years, that you and your team at cdc, whether it's your policy or the work that you do, that policy and work are both focussed on insuring that all americans receive the best possible treatment and protection. this is especially important for older adults. and people with disabilities who
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may need additional support and protection. so, context is important. in an interview like this. so, please explain what point you were making. that's number one. the point you were making. and secondly, outline the commitment to protecting older adults and people with disabilities as we continue to address the pandemic. >> i'm grateful for the opportunity to explain this. and you know too, step back, that interview on friday, i recently spoke to a study on the high level of protection against vaccines. much of it was cut and that phrase was taken out of context as you note. it was 1.2 million people vaccinated and 36 people pass said. demonstrating inremarkable effectiveness of our vaccines but no less tragic is the 36 people who passed because of covid-19 and that many of them
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had comorbidities. that i've spent my career taking care of, comorbidities, that, prior to the cdc, we saw time and time again, disproportionately impacting people of covid-19 and the hospitals i cared for patients. what are we doing at cdc? we have tool kits for patients with disabilities. we have accessible m materials american sign language, and braille, so that people with disabilities can access our materials. we have improved data collection systems on our covid data tracker. you can track vaccination status by disability. we've made sure those are reporting and we're fundsing our public health partners to do more. and if anything, the issue on friday has redoubled our commitment to continuing to make
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sure that we have access for people with disabilities. >> i appreciate that and appreciate the time it took to respond. i would suggest and maybe even ask you to spend some time meeting with leaders from both disability and aging communities to walk through what you just walked through and even expand beyond that. >> we're already planning. thank you. >> i want to turn to vaccine development for children. the reeceants setbacks for trials under five is of great concern. so many parents are exhausted from this pandemic. i know we can't change the outcome of the trials but we can take steps to reassure parents that their young children will get vaccinated as soon as possible. dr. fauci, dr. woodcock, anything you can tell us about
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speeding up the development of vaccines for children under five. >> thank you for that question, senator. i'll take a quick shot at it and then pass it over to dr. woodcock. the situation, i believe the public needs to understand is trials from six months to four years was broken into two groups. six mungs to 24 months, to four years and in the dosage that was used, the individual, the children, the younger group, the trial met the end point of noninfeweriority, comparing it to the what would be the standard of success. however, for the middle group, 24 months to one-year group, they did not meet that standard of noninfear yort. it was felt this will likely be a three-dose vaccination for those group.
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trials are being done to see if they can get that data to have a uniform dose and regimen. but i'll pass it over. >> of course i can't say a lot. but we are working very closely with the manufacturers of the vaccines on accelerating and making sure that vaccines are available for the youngest children. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you, madam chairman. it says a lot about 2021 when the most appreciated gift under the christmas tree in our family was covid kits for everybody. i'm still getting thank yous for those. dr. wo lenski, there's been diskougz about some of the confusion with guidance and just some very clear asks to tell us what that is. so, a question that i'm going to forward to you from a teacher
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is, if the teacher is fully vaccinated, boosted, tests positive for covid, but after they test positive, they feel pretty fine. no fever, no nothing. after five days, can that teacher return to school without testing negative just so long as that individual wears a mask? >> yes, thank you, senator. >> that's exactly what i needed to know. i'm going to be having a zoom meeting later this afternoon with several different alaska-based companies that have more than 100 employees. they're quite concerned about the mandate that requires testing of unvaccinated employees. we all know this is under litigation now and things may change on that.
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right now they're real concern is if this goes into place and we are required to insure that these unvaccinated individuals receive testing, right now, testing all around this state is in limited supply. the front page of the anchorage daily news shows the line of cars that are waiting to get their pcr test. you can't find the at-home tests available in the stores now. it is becoming harder and harder. and then again, if you really do have a mandate in place, that's going to require this. i know the question has been asked about what more is being done? i know we've heard the extraordinary federal resources that have gone that way. but the facts on the ground remain that we are in an extraordinarily short supply of testing, whether it's the
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at-home kits or whether it's the ability to get the testing that you need. it's cold back home right now and my hearts go out to those workers working in the outdoor drive in where they have to go out when it's 20 below as it is in fairbanks. that's more of a statement rather than a question there. but i think it is important for folks to realize that we're still in a very difficult place when it comes to accessibility. dr. wolenski, this is a question for you and you and i have had many conversations last year about the specific impact of conditional sale orders as relate to the cruise industry. that industry was effectively shut down for all of 2020 and we were able to salvage a bit of it
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as things relaxed last year. but in fairness, the industry itself has undertaken extraordinary precautions as one industry to make sure that people are protected from this virus. so, the question to me -- to you is i want to make sure that alaska communities and businesses can have a season this coming year. and right now people are making their decisions as to whether or not to book a trip to alaska for the summer or not. i understand the conditional sale order is set to expire in a few days in recognition that the companies have practices that ad here or exceed guidance in the order. i guess i'd like assurance from you that they can count on that. ; that this is clear guidance and messaging to those within the industries and to those who are counting on being able to
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have a season this coming summer. >> yeah, thank you, senator. and i think the conditional sales order and the fact the industry has stepped up and now interested in doing and exceeding, as you know, the compliance with the sale order without the order necessarily needing to be in place is a real testimony to how well that's worked and how we've worked collaboratively with the industry. what i can say is over the last two weeks with omicron, we've seen a 30-fold increase in cases on ships during the season because of omicron. while i anticipate that with ships following conditional sale order, we'll continue to do the oversight and watch and do all the technical assistance and support and every single way. we anticipate the order will not be renewed and the cruise ship industries will continue to understand this is a really safe practice for those industries. what i can't predict is what the summer will bring. >> understand that. but for right now, you expect
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the guidance to stay in place? >> that's my anticipation. >> thank you. >> senator hickenlooper. >>. >> now it's on. thank you madam chair, ranking member chair. first, i wants to reiterate some of what senator romney said. i was the odd man out. i worked as a scientist a number of years and then a mayor of a big city and pretty much the only scientist among the mayors and a governor, and now i'm one of the only scientists among senators. i recognize, from that long lisch of experience the frustration that you must feel having to put up with the attacks and assaults when you're out there trying to do your job. and something that each of you
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have committed to, is the service of society. anyway, i just want you to know that i appreciate how difficult science is. it's not perfect and when you combine that with the complexity of dealing with any large bureaucracy. i'm not making apologies. these are just like any -- well, we're having a war against this virus and just like in any wartime situation, mistakes have serious consequences. i appreciate more than i can say how much work you all have done. and i don't think anyone here thinks you're not trying your vest r very best all the time. really appreciate that. dr. fauci, i think one of the problems we haven't gotten far enough on is innovation. and how do we stimulate it to go faster? and how do we increase, not just
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the breadth of the vaccines but the durability -- i'm not sure how many letters there are in the greek alphabet but i know there's going to be another one. in the process, because i think we're -- this country is known for innovation. it's one of the tools we have we know will work. i'm hoping you can take the opportunity to be a little bit optimistic and feel you're not going to be judged and held accountable because people want to hear we are going to look at these things successfully. >> thank you for your original kind comments. as you know, as a scientist, that there are fundamental basic issues that are discovery. that once you get the discovery, then you can do the implementation of the discovery. the basic research and clinical research investments that have been made, literally for decades
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prior to the new revelation that we had a very threatening virus among us is the very reason why we were able to use new platform technologies as well as design to get highly successful and safe vaccines. that same thing is going on right now. it isn't well known because it isn't front page yet and you know, as a scientist, when you're doing your basic research, it's only until you get the result that people understand what you've been doing. there's a lot of investment, not only in improving the vaccines that we have for covid, for saars covid 2, but a lot of work, i mentioned in my opening statement is looking at the tools of basic and applied science to develop the next generation of vaccines, particularly universal coronavirus vaccines, or at least universal sars covid 2
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vaccines so we won't be chasing after the next variant. that we'll be able to have a vaccine with the capability of responding to every iteration of a variant and there's a lot of work going on with that right now but again when you're doing basic research as you can appreciate more than anyone, that usually isn't very well rick uginized by the public. >> point well made. in terms of testing and parallel thought and dr. woodcock, maybe you can address it. testing, at retail, maybe as high as 22 or $23 in some places. i keep reading about different approaches to testing. that we might find a way to do reduce the cost of testing down to -- instead of $15, could be 15 cents. at least for the chemical side of it.
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i realize you have to put in packaging. >> sure, i believe the rad exprogram, which congress provided funding for quite some time ago is really cutting edge. they have a sort of shark tank approach. they're really looking for innovation. they provide assistance to developers and i really believe that's promising. that we will come up with additional technologies. they're easier to manufacture and easier for people to use and cheaper. >> i have obviously more questions but i'll yield the floor back for now. >> thank you. >> reading the paper last night, lead editorial in the "washington post" and i about dropped it when i read the first paragraph. in the title of the editorial is living with covid.
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quite understandably the coronavirus pandemic, at first, was a dire emergency but it can't be one forever. the crisis will have to shift to a manageable health threat without massive disruption and overwhelming anxiety. president biden has been fighting the virus as an emergency in his first year but a shift must come before too long. never thought i'd read anything like that in a place like "the washington post" but i think it reflects where we're at in the journey. generally, when you wrestle with something of this magnitude, where it's dominated the conversation for now two years and you're still seeing results similar to, if not worse, from
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when we started, it would beg the question do we need to take a different approach? it's been very top down. been put in place, understandably by the agencies that would be most pertinent. but you look at the results, at the fact that a third of the country, for whatever reason, is not going to get vaccinated, you have a mandate that now is going to force the hand. and when you get someplace like the "washington post" saying we got to take a different approach. i'm wondering do we have it within our constitution, when we've been bought in for so long that this is the way it's got to be. listen too, senator casey earlier. made a very good point. everybody talks about data, paying attention to the data.
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and whether this is so ravaged such a small percentage so significantly of a population with comorbidities that are elderly, it just keeps saying why don't we change the approach? you don't want to have the legacy of being a country in disruption and full of anxiety. kind of what i'm hearing today, i'm not sensing that we're going to see a real change in approach and even more so doubling down on what now, for two years, has arguably not gotten us in a place where we feel better about it, where we're not drowning in anxiety and i'm going to pose the question to dr. woodcock.
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you've been involved in federal health care in one way or another for a long time, acting commissioner at the fda. normally, a board of directors, a ceo would be fired as a ceo, number one, a board of directors would be questioned in terms of how good they are to where you're not directing for something other than what we've had. which, in my opinion would be decentralizing it, providing the information to the american public to make their own best decisions. dr. woodcock, do you think that is sensible? do you think the "washington post" makes sense? and are you willing to change up there on the panel to reflect accordingly. >> i think we're talking about
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natural disaster and you can fire a board of directors because your factory was devastated by a hurricane, tornado, or a wildfire but i don't know whether that would improve the situation. i think right now we need to focus on continuity of operations for hospitals and other essential services as this variant sweeps through the population. i don't think that will last a really long time. that's where i think we are right now. i don't think prior approaches reflect what's going on right now. i think it's hard to process what's actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get covid. and what we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation and other essential services are not
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disrupted while this happens. i think after that, will be a good time to assess how we're approaching this pandemic. >> i'm out of time but i think if you want to regain the frust of the american public you probably need to look at a total revamp on what we do in terms of how we contend with it over the next year or so or i think you're going to get more forceful editorials from places you would never imagine. if you keep doing the same thing, generating the same results, that isn't the formula for success in any endeavor. >> thank you. senator baldwin. >> thank you, madam chair. i want to thank all of our witnesses today. and i also want to just underscore the preface that our colleague senator romney gave to his questioning.
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i like the way he described that sometimes we come to perform, sometimes we come to be informed. i guess i would speculate if there were to be a true tit for tat on the performance angle, there's any number of areas we could go, i reflect on proposals for ultra violet light and drinking bleach and drinking hydroxychloroquine. we could go there but it's not constructive. and so, i'm going to be constructive in my questions. and i just urge my colleagues to do that. we're all in this together. and we have a duty to act responsibly in that fashion and again, thank you to our witnesses. dr. wolensky, i'm going to start with you on a topic i bring up
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frequently when you're in our presence and that is the tools we have to do genomic sequences to better understand and track variants. i know there's been much investment in that. i'd like to hear what tools that we have in place now that we didn't before and what you see the future of this genomic sequencing is, especially as the committee looks at pandemic preparations for future potential pandemics. >> thank you, senator baldwin and for your championing the ability to ramp up the resources from the american rescue plan. that $1.7 billion did allow to us detect omicron swiftly. we heard about this variant that was coming from south africa and we didn't know if it was here
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yet but knew it had a unique footprint on pcr. what we did immediately after hearing about this is enhance surveillance for the footprint and to enhance sequencing so that any sequence that has this -- many sequences that have this footprint -- we were specifically looking for the omicron variant. within days we found it. within three days, i think, that we start doing the enhanced surveillance and within days, 10s, 40s. by four days later, december 5th is when we started tracking it in the background genomic sequences. it's a collaboration with krds labs, public health partners to do 10s of thousands of sequences a week. we look at the number of cases out there and our goal is to
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detect a variant present with .1% at 99% confident. we're planning to ramp this up for other viruses, for other food born outbreaks as well as for waste water investigation. we have the capacity to do that there as well. thank you for championing this effort which ruly did allow us to detect omicron in real record speed. thank you. >> thank you. next assistant secretary o'connell, when we last met at this committee, i asked you for a commitment a significant portion of the defense acted funding to secure as part of the american rescue plan be invested in the raw materials needed to
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make n 95 masks here in america? the alarming spread of omicron has made the need for n 95s even more clear. and yet asper has not spent any of the american rescue plan funding on the raw material needed to make n 95s in america. while it has invested 3.1 billion on other priorities. primarily using prior supplemental funding. the fda reports that 60% of the kn 95 masks, that are being imported from china, are fake. and americans still can't go to a local pharmacy and purchase an american-made n 95. so, president biden has personally urged americans to upgrade the quality of the masks they wear. i want to know when the american people will be able to buy an
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american-made n 95 mask that they know will protected them and when we can expect asper to invest the american rescue plan funding into the raw materials necessary? >> thank you for that question. you can buy an n 95 mask manufactured in america now. we have 737 million in the strategic national stock pile and we're in the process, this month, we hope, to award or next month as contracts go, to award an agreement for warm-base manufacturing of n 95 masks. what we're asking the vendors to return to us as part of the proposal is their ability to manufacture 141 million masks a month at a surge capacity and to be able to maintain that manufacturing at a 20 to 30% rate in times where demachbd
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mand is not as high. we're very invested and we'll continue to look and i appreciate your support of and getting us the american rescue plan dollars that we're currently investing and we'll continue to look at the right ways to invest at and appreciate the conversations you and i have had around that. >> thank you very much. i appreciate the witnesses have been here well over two and a half hours. we are going to have a second round of questions. so, i'm going to recess for ten minutes to allow a break for our witnesses. we'll reconvene at 12:45.
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good morning. chair murray, rank member burr, i appreciate the opportunity to join you to provide an update on the covid-19 pandemic and the omicron variant. for it's been just under two years since we were alerted to sars covid two, in china. since then we've worked with partner agencies and congress. to take action. omicron is driving case counts to unprecedented heights in the united states and around the world. there are promising emerging data from south africa and the united kingdom that hospitalization rates for people infected with omicron are lower compared to prior variants.
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they seem consistent with what we're seeing so far in the united states. despite a potential decrease in severity, it's resulting in hospitalization increases across all age groups, including children age 0 to 4. the emergent of the omicron variant again emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters. just last week we made important progress towards increasing booster coverage through four key actions. first, we expanded eligibility of booster doses to those 12 to 15 years old. and cdc strengthens booster recommendation, now recommending 12 to 17 years of age should receive a booster five months after their initial vaccine series. thrd, we recommend that
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moderately or severely immuno compromised 5 to 11-year-olds receive an additional 28 days after their first shot. and we shorten the recommended time between a primary mrna series and a booster dose from six months to five months. each action increases access to vaccines and booster doses at a time when protection is critical. as we continue to monitor this rapidly volving virus, we are working quickly to adapt with it. over the holidays, cdc updated the quarantine and isolation guidance. first for health care workers and then the general public. i know this resulted in numerous questions. i would like to take a moment to walk through it now. four people who tested positive for covid-19, cdc recommends isolation for five days. if you're asymptomatic, without
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a fever for 24 hours, you no longer need to isolate. however, you should continue to wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others, including at home and in public for additional five days. we recommend you avoid activities where you're unable to wear a mask and avoid travel for the full ten days. in addition, cdc changed the recommended time for quarantine. people who are not up to date on recommended covid-19 vaccines should quarantine for five days. if they come in contact with someone with covid-19. people who don't develop symptoms by day five should get tested. if you test positive, begin isolation. people who test negative should continue to wear a well-fitting mask when around others for additional five days.
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these are concystsant with over 100 studies collected over the past two years, indicating people are most infectious in their first few few days of infection and significantly less infectious ten days after infection. a core part of cdc's mission is to translate science into best practices and real-world circumstances. over the holidays, we saw the growing surge of omicron and took swift science-based action to address the very real possibility of staffing shortages and hospitals and other essential areas of the workforce, including schools, pharmacies, public safety, labs, grocery stores and other sites, where shortages could have and have proven to have dire public health consequences. this is the right guidance for what we currently know about transmission and the real world circumstances we currently face.
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as we will learn more, we will continue to update accordingly. omicron is likely not to be the last curveball this virus throws at us. we have the tools to prevent further spread of this virus. this means for everyone five and older, please get vaccinated. for those 12 and older, get your booster shot. and please continue to ad here to the multilayered prevention measures, including masking and yes, washing your hands. thank you and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. dr. fauci. >> madam chair, ranking member burr, members of the committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss with you the role of the national institute of biology and infectious diseases and the support of research addressing our nation's response to covid-19. in our most recent hearing november 4th, i discussed the importance of booster shots to
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enhance immunity to protect against the variant. it's increased protection over and above the original level forded by the primary vaccine reg minute. today a new variant, called omicron, that's rapidly spread throughout the world, including a massive unprecedented surge in the united states. this variant ahas a large number of mutations with increased transmission, convalescent plasma and antibodies induced by current vaccines. this far, data from our own laboratories at ainid as well as around the world have inucted that vaccine induced antibodies lose poetancy in neutralizing the omicron variant.
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the encouraging news is a third shot boost significantly reconstitutes and enhances antibodies from boosted individuals, strongly suggesting that boosters will play a major role in protecting our population, at least from severe dezeer in the context of the ongoing massive surge of the omicron variant we're currently experiencing. underscoring why it is so important for the unvaccinated to get vaccinated and for those who are already vaccinated to obtain a booster shot. therapies in general are important part of arming against covid. in this regard, the nih has been heavily involved in the development and/or clinical testing of several effective antibodies.
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however, we ascertained some are negtively impacted by the omicron variant. direct antiviral therapies are an extremely important tool in the fight against covid-19. importantly, it appears the mutations expressed by the omicron variant do not interfere with the oral antiviral drugs that nih funded -- >> this committee will reconvene. i want to make clear this committee will conduct itself with decorum and respect. if i hear personal attacks, i will gavel and move on. i want to thank committee members and i'm going to be strict with the five-minute rule as we've moved way past our time and need to move on. with that, i look forward to the next round of questions so we can get to the essential work of addressing the pan dem, which has upended so many lives and continues to threaten the public
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health. we begin with senator baldwin. >> thank you, madam chair. doctor, during our last hearing, we discussed the critical need for my biopreparedness work force act legislation i introduced with my colleagues to strengthen our outbreak response workforce so we can better prepare for the next pandemic. this legislation would address the serious workforce shortages and recruitment challenges you mentioned by establishing a new loan repayment program focussed on encouraging students to pursue careers as clinicians and bio preparedness health professionals. at this -- as this committee assembles a package of policies to respond to the next pandemic, it's important to remember
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without people there is no preparedness. in the midst of the omicron surge, it's never been clearer that we need a robust and capable workforce to fully respond to public health emergencies. this would go a long way towards that goal. dr. wolensky, as public health leader k you share more about how a strong clinical and public health workforce is key and how legislation by the bio preparedness workforce acted is important for future health emergencies. >> thank you, senator. there's so much here. first, let me say there's been a recent study that's demonstrated our public health workforce is down about 80,000 jobs. so, to give you a sense -- and that's not physicians who are actually doing the work on the ground. in the hospitals. this is a public health
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workforce, down 80,000 jobs. we saw, through the pandemic, the challenges in short of the volume of people doing public health work and where they're locatted and their experience. we need an upskilled work force. we need people to do the genomic sequences, we need people as diverse as the communities they serve. we also need to make sure that they are compensated, have the right salaries, and as you say, have loan repayment for their work. infectious physicians don't do procedures and by virtue of not doing procedures, there's not a lot of to move into that. public health americorps is a
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big piece of that. we're grateful to resources from congress to do so. but there's a vital need now to expand our public health workforce in laboratory capacity, in disease outbreak investigation, and workforce that is upskilled and as diverse as the communities we serve. thank you. >> thank you. we all know that vaccines remain the best way to protect yourself against existing variants of covid-19 and i have been encouraged by the fda's work to authorize vaccines for the public, but parents continue to be concerned we don't have a vaccine for their kits as omicron surges. dr. woodcock, can you provide an update on where we are in examination of the authorization of covid-19 vaccines for children under 5? >> certainly. as dr. fauci said earlier, one of the companies, pfizer, had done trials.
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there are other trials going on. there were probably complications with the dose in the slightly older of the younger children. perhaps indicating that a third dose, as dr. fauci said, might be needed to primary regimen. fda is working with the company very closely, trials are ongoing. i, too, have heard from many, many parents of the youngest children. they have other children in school. they may have immunocompromised individuals in their household, and there are people who really want to get this vaccine. so one of the vaccines and get the children vaccinated. we're working very intensely on this right now. we're working, of course, with nih and with the companies. >> thank you. i yield back. >> thank you. senator paul. >> dr. fauci, it's disappointing for you to suggest that people
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who dare to question you are responsible somehow for violent threats. realize that by attacking me, you're attacking the one member who actually has suffered from violent attacks. i was at the ball field the day steve scalise almost died. i was ten feet away from a staffer who was shot in the leg. we had over 160 rounds of semiautomatic weapons fired at us, ammunition. so for you to somehow suggest that somehow i or people who dare to oppose you are responsible for threats, that's insulting. the person who shot at us and almost skilled steve scalise was a rabid supporter of bernie sanders, but the one thing you'll find is not one of us accused bernie sanders of being responsible for that. so this is the kind of ignorant sort of personal attacks that you have engaged in. you engaged in these attacks with fellow scientists. not only was it three scientists from harvard, oxford, and stanford that you chose to
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malign, 50,000 scientists and medical doctors signed this petition. and what they wanted was something that most americans think is pretty reasonable. it's a different kind of approach. instead of saying that everyone is the same and everyone should get the same treatment and everybody to just get vaccinated, what it did is it said that the death rate for this disease is extraordinary in the risk being different, according to ages. so if you look at an 80-year-old, it's at least 1,000 times greater death rate than it is for a 10-year-old. so wouldn't we want to say that, well, we're going to assess the risks of each individual and have the treatment according to that, or would we simply say everyone should be vaccinated? the death rate for kids under 18 is about 1 in a million. a little bit les than the chance of being struck by lightning. we don't yet know fully whether or not kids who have already had covid might be at risk for some of the side effects of the vaccine, still needs to be explored. but for a kid under 18 who has
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already had koed, it's about 1 in a million. it's extraordinarily uncommon for a kid to die. if you already had the disease, it's pretty a great deal less than that. many americans wonder why you steadfastly refused and worked with others to try to hide any knowledge of natural immunity and how it would affect our decision making. so for example, you have a 10-year-old kid, and his mom comes up and he gets myocarditis from the vaccine and dies. admittedly a rare complication, bought what do you tell her when she said he had covid three months ago. why would you force me to have my kid vaccinated without checking to see if he's immune. the idea of natural immunity is upon which vaccines are based. all of medicine is based on the idea of acquiring natural immunity. people often respond and say, but you don't know how long it
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will last. we don't know how long vaccines will last either. it doesn't make us anti-vaccine. we know the vaccines are waning very quickly in potency. we do know that the vaccine against omicron really isn't preventing transmission. you have noticed that the debate has shifted and the debate is now talking about trying to prevent hospitalizations and death. i agree with those statistics. i think it's a good idea if you're at risk to be vaccinated. i'm against authoritarianism and against man datszidates. the anger that's developed with you is you don't want to give us advice. you want to tell us what to do. you think you are the science and everybody who responds to you, how dare you. how dare you criticize science? as if you somehow are science. that kind of arrogance, that hubris, is really -- that's where the anger is coming towards you. if you were one doctor among hundreds of doctors in the government who gave advice, i don't think anybody -- people
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might object to your advice, but there wouldn't be such a degree of agger, but you're so certain you're right, you're not willing to hear anyone else. three epidemiologists of which you're not even an epidemiologist, three prominent in their field, you maligned them. you spoke openly with dr. collins and you did not disagree that let's paint them as fringe. you went after them and said we will do a public takedown, not in science or nature, in wired in the nation, a leftwing publication. you have engaged in base politics. you wonder why there's so much anger. you're not an objective scientist. you lost that long ago. so many of the things that people want, they want to know why you're forcing their children to be vaccinated when 95% of people at risk have been vaccinated. over 95% of people over 65, it's a huge voluntary success, and yet you won't rest until you force every child to get this. yes, there's a -- >> senator paul, your time has
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expired. >> many people want you to go, but nobody wishes you violence. >> urtime has expired. i will use one time of my remining five minutes to allow senator fauci to respond. >> thank you very much. >> dr. fauci, sorry. >> thank you, dr. murray. >> no, no. >> so first of all, senator, again, at a hearing such as this, where there are almost 900,000 people in this country have died from this outbreak, you have chosen to just personal attacks on me that go back to multiple hearings. and again, just for the record, for people to check, i have never said take people down in that email. there was an email that was sent to me, see, and again -- >> you agreed with dr. collins. >> senator paul, this is my time. >> you know, you personally attacked me, and the things that you do are incorrect. and proven incorrect.
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you have publicly accused me at a hearing of being responsible for the death of 5 million people. when there is not a single, single shred of evidence that anything that was done with the nih had anything to do with covid-19. you talk about things like gain of function -- >> dr. fauci, i'm going to let you respond continually, but i think you have responded. >> i appreciate the time. thank you very much, madam chair. i just want to say, i'm actually stunned by the amount of misinformation. the only thing i have ever done, and this will take 20 seconds, if you look at the things i have said, they have been to support the recommendations of the cdc, of their advisory committees, and of the fda. i have told people that it's important to get vaccinated, to get boosted, to wear a mask, and to be prudent. that's the only thing i have said. i haven't dictating anything
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that's only a monolith with me. it's always public health practices. and anybody that goes back over any record of me, they know that. >> thank you, and i will retain the balance of my time. thank you. senator casey. >> thank you, chair murray. i want to start with dr. walensky. as you know, the cdc has been working with my staff on an outstanding nursing home vaccine data request. i would appreciate it you and your team would continue to work with me and with our team at the aging committee to resolve this manner. >> yes, thank you, senator. i'm aware of that matter and we're committing to continuing to work with you. thank you. >> thank you. let me turn to a matter for health and human services. assistant secretary o'connell, you know our nation's long-term care facilities were ground zero during the first year of the covid-19. 200,000 residents and workers when you add up the number of
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residents plus the number of workers who died. it gets to 200,000 over these two years. however, nursing home deaths have declined, declined dramatically thanks to the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. it's a credit to the administration that 90% of nursing home residents and 80% of workers have been vaccinated. we know that infections are on the rise right now in nursing homes, raising safety concerns and putting additional pressures on workers who have been stretched thin. for instance, we know the pandemic has worsened existing staffing shortages and turnover issues. so we also know at the same time that the rescue plan that democrats passed in march helps to fill the staffing gap with a $500 million initiative for strike teams based upon legislation that i was leading
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recently. these strike teams provide medical personnel and other supports that help nursing homes get through the surges like the one that we're seeing right now. on the 22nd of december of last year, i along with three of my colleagues sent a letter to secretary becerra asking how health and human services was protecting nursing home residents and workers in the current covid-19 surge, including the distribution of booster shots. what is hhs doing to insure nursing homes have the supports they need to protect residents and workers who care for those residents? >> senator casey, thank you so much for your question. we share your concern for nursing home staff and long-term care facility residents and have continued to do all we can to make sure they have access to boosts. we have worked with pharmacies to bring in vaccination clinics,
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bring those to the long-term care facilities and skilled nursing facilities, so the vaccines are available on the ground and the residents don't have to travel or access the vaccines on their own. in addition, asper has been sending since the beginning of the pandemic or since the beginning the tests were available 2.8 million tests per week to long term care facilities across the country. we know how important it is that they're able to surveil any disease in their facilities and having access to these tests is one of the ways they can stay on top of where they are. so we share your concern, and we'll look forward to responding to your letter. >> thanks very much. >> senator burr. >> thank you, madam chairman. ms. woodcock, i know you said a while ago that you're excited
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about what radexx accomplished, and i think we are all, but fda issued resized guidance saying it would focus its review efforts on at-home kits with developers with the capacity to manufacture more than 500,000 tests per week within three months of being authorized. why did the fda move the goalpost at this particular time and suggest to companies that can't ramp up to that manufacturing that they're not going to get an accelerating eua pathway? >> well, because of what some of the members have been discussing over the last several hours, that we have an urgent need for high-volume home-based tests. and we have a queue. we have moved heaven and earth to get as many done as possible. we have approved, authorized
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over 400 different kinds of tests or test collection devices during this pandemic. but as far as what the queue is, the priority, we're prioritizing the highest volume, just putting them to the front so that we can get home test kits into the hands of -- >> dr. woodcock, i get what you're doing. my question is this, what does this say to the innovative company that's out there that doesn't have the manufacturing capacity and without us marrying them to a large manufacturing capacity, it's basically saying don't innovate because you're not going to get consideration under the eua if you don't have a manufacturing capacity of 500,000 tests a week. >> it says these are prioritized. it doesn't say we won't get to the others. >> well, get to the others, i mean, there's all a sense of urgency here. i just think that that might have been thought of before we did this. let me go to you, ms. o'connell.
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i'm really challenged on this procurement of 500 million tests, as you can tell. and one, i don't understand why there's not been a release that came out of asper or barta, publicly announcing here's how many we have contracted. but i have to find it somewhere in a dod contract that a very limited amount of people go to, certainly not one that i regularly looked at. but based on one of your contracts, we have 13.6 million tests costing $190 million. i think that's from the vodka distributor. when i break that down, that's about $14 a test. now, cms just put out a new rule that mandated that insurers must cover up to eight tests per person per month for a family of four, that's 32 tests, and they can reimburse at $12. now f i'm a manufacturer, and
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i'm under a $12 reimbursement or i can go over here and sell directly to the federal government and get $14, i'm probably going to sell to the federal government and get $14. where am i wrong? >> thank you, senator burr. we continue to work to access the tests that will be distributed as part of the 500 million, and the test that you're referring to, so first of all, dod by tradition has put out whenever we have done an assisted acquisition with them, they put out within the first 24 hours of that contract going out an announcement that the contract has gone out. so that's what you're seeing. and that's been de rigueur. it's been the way dod has approached this through our entire relationship. we're continuing to -- >> why is asper not putting out a similar public statement? >> we would be happy to, and thank you, senator. i'll go back and talk to the communications team and see if there's a companion press
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release that makes sense for us to put out. >> well, i'm not sure you addressed my concern, which is it's more profitable to sell to the federal government than it is to put it on retail based on the reimbursements this administration has required of insurers. i hope you'll think about that. this is alarming to me. as we have all displayed, there are no tests out there. there are no tests on the shelves that people can go in, buy and take home and do it. so it makes even more confusing the cdc's policy that if you want to take a test, go ahead and take it. it's not required but you can take it. you can't get it. dr. fauci, just very quickly, south african data suggests that omicron may have an ability to build immunity to delta. delta does not have an immunity -- does not build an immunity to omicron. have you got any comments on
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that? cyprus announced a delta-crom variant. are you worried about that? we have been about three weeks behind israel throughout this whole thing. even though we have seen south african data go up and go back down very quickly, israel epidemiologists just this week said they expect that for the next two weeks they will see a doubling of the infections in israel. meaning they're not following the same timeline that we saw in south africa. how should we interpret that for the u.s.? >> okay, thank you very much for those questions, senator. with regard to the cross protection, i think it's too early to tell because you're dealing with multiple population demography of people who have been previously infected, vaccinated, or what have you. it seems pretty clear that if you get infected with omicron, you're going to get good protection against omicron but also good protection against some of the other spill-overs. we really have yet to have seen,
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and i think the basis of your question is a reasonable one. if we wind up getting infected with omicron at a very, very low level of pathogenicity, is that sort of almost like a live attenuated vaccine? i don't think we can say that right now. we really have to see how things spread out when we see how that fares in the next variant. there will be invariable another variant. we're going to have to take a look at whether or not there's any protection there. that's the first thing. with regard to the delta-chron, this new variant, right now, even though it's got a bunch of mutations that people look at, it is not something that at least the w.h.o., who has looked at this carefully, feels that has to be something of great concern. but we always keep our eye on it to make sure. so when you say it's not of a great concern now, the one encouraging thing about it is that it's been around for a while. it isn't something that just propped up, and yet omicron
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completely outstripped it, as did delta. it doesn't look like it has the capability of being transmissible of being a problem. nonetheless, we still keep an eye out on it. with regard to israel, i'm sorry, i forgot your question about israel. could you repeat if? >> we're way over time. >> they run about three weeks in front of us. yet their experience is not up and down drastically like south africa data begins to show. they went and now it looks like over the next two weeks their epidemiologists say it's going to double and maybe double again before they hope it comes down. what should we expect? >> i think that's a great question, senator. what it really reflects is that when you have an outbreak of a particular variant, how high it goes up, when it peaks and comes down is a reflection of what the status is in your country. because if you look at what you saw in south africa, they were almost free of delta when they got omicron.
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so omicron sort of had the unfettered capability of going way up and way down. when you talk about what happened in israel, that's a different population. it's a mostly vaccinated population. so they're likely going to see breakthrough infections. in the united states, we have such a large country with such differences in vaccinations versus infections, et cetera, that we believe we will see it peak and we will see it come down, but it's very difficult to predict whether it's going to be a sharp decrease or whether it's going to do this. our own feeling, and i believe that dr. walensky feels the same way as i do, that it's going to vary depending upon where in the country you are. how much infection you had previously, what is the level of vaccination, so we may see a peak up and down in some regions of the country and a peak up and doing this in other regions of the country. >> thank you very much. senator smith. >> thank you, madam chair.
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i would like to ask a question of dr. walensky if i could. i think we all know that americans need better access to rapid testing, and this is a big deal for us in terms of trying to figure out what are our health risks, how do we protect ourselves, and how do we also go about our lives. i think that we are making headway here, that we have a long way to go. dr. walensky, i would like you to talk about this issue of how we should be or not collecting and analyzing the data from rapid home tests. should we be incorporating this data into like, should we try to capture that data? is this important for local communities as they're trying to make decisions about masking and other public health strategies that they want to deploy? should we be thinking of the data from rapid tests as a tool for individual risk assessment or as an important tool for population level understanding of what's happening? how do you see that? >> thank you so much, senator.
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we have been using the pcr test, not the rapid tests. the lab tests, the molecular tests, to really capture our case counts and really good a good view of where we are in terms of the epidemiology, anticipating what is coming in to the hospitals. but the self tests are a really important, valuable tool for people to empower themselves, to not expose themselves to other people, to get information about their own health. and so if an individual were to test positive, if they're feeling unwell, they should certainly consult with a health care provider, a pharmacist and your health department. but if you're feeling well, then use that rapid test to say, my test is positive, i need to stay home and isolate, protect myself from the community -- the community from me, and protect my loved ones so they don't get infected themselves. i think that it's less about the absolute case count of understanding whether you have asymptomatic infection or a runny nose and your rapid test is positive then it is really
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about empowering you to do the right thing and not be forward transmitting. >> could you talk about what other countries are doing? are they trying to incorporate the rapid testing data into their metrics? how is that working in other places around the world? >> some countries are and some countries aren't. london and uk have been doing more reporting of rapid testing, but they too are saying they're missing, i think somewhere around 40%. i would have to confirm that number, but they too, they capture more they we have tried to, they also agree that they're missing some as well. >> okay. thank you very much. madam chair, i'm going to cede back the rest of my time. i want to acknowledge something i think has been going on today that i think deserves being called out. you know, dr. fauci has been the target of a concerted and coordinated campaign of disinformation and distortion. and person attacks. and then he's being blamed for
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all of this hatred and anger that has been generated against him. i think we just need to be honest here. that this is being done by some members of the republican party that are using it for fund-raising. i'm not saying that that's happening by members of -- i'm just saying that is happening. it was pointed out to me that somebody sent out in 2021 a fauci for prison email. i just think it's important that we -- i have to call this out. and i think it's important that we see it and we have to try to rise above this kind of behavior. our committee here should be focusing on these kinds of kind of nitty-gritty policy questions, and we're not always going to agree. i have never heard dr. fauci or dr. walensky declare themselves to be invincible. i certainly am not, but that should not mean that individuals, career public
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servants are subjected to this kind of abuse. >> thank you. senator collins. >> ms. ocono, i want to follow up on my previous questions to you because i don't feel frankly that i got answers. i'm asking you specifically how much money was diverted from the testing budget to deal with the surge of people, including unaccompanied minors, illegally crossing the southern border? and how much money was diverted out of the funds allocated for the strategic stockpile? >> thank you, senator collins. again, all of the funds, as they were appropriated to the american rescue plan or for testing, contact tracing, and
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mitigation efforts. of those funds, funds were used to test unaccompanied children at the border and then to mitigate the covid positive cases so they wouldn't enter the community and spread covid. which was, you know, a use of the funds that was allowed under the testing, contact tracing, and mitigation requirements. >> well, you're still not answering my question on the amount of money that was used to deal with the crisis at the southern border. so i will tell you that our staff's investigation found that $850 million out of the testing budget and another $850 million out of the allocation for the stockpile were instead used to deal with the crisis at the
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southern border. do those numbers sound right to you? >> senator, i'll be happy to take that back and discuss that with our finance team to make sure that those numbers are the same numbers that they're tracking. >> well, i have to say that it's interesting to me that you knew all of the numbers, and i commend you for this, that were going to community programs, to schools, et cetera. but you can't tell me how much was reallocated to deal with the crisis at the southern border. a crisis that were it brought under control we would have these funds for the purposes that they were intended. let me ask you further. what do you mean when you say mitigation? as applied to the southern border and the surge, the
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unprecedented surge of people crossing? >> thank you. one of the important things that we needed to do when we identified a covid positive unaccompanied child was to make sure, for example, they didn't ride on the same bus to a shelter with a covid negative child. there were additional costs for transportation to keep the children separate, to mitigate spread as the statute allowed us to spend those funds. in addition, within the shelters, it was necessary to set up a separate room where covid positive unaccompanied children would reside so they wouldn't interact with the covid negative children, and that required additional, you know, additional resources in those shelters in order to keep them separate. so when the children entered the community with their sponsors, they were not bringing covid into the communities. >> well, i will tell you, having visited the southern border in late march, testing was being
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done, but people had been there for weeks at a time with no testing. and there were people, adults who were released into the community with no testing. the fact remains that if we had the southern border under control, we would be using the $850 million designated for testing to buy more rapid tests. we would be using the money out of the stockpile, the $850 million for the purposes for which it was intended. so i think that this is a problem that has contributed to the shortage of testing, the uncontrolled crisis at the border, and i also am perplexed
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by the lack of federal orders for tests between january and september of 2021. which i know from my experience in maine caused a major manufacturer, abbott, to lay off 400 workers that were producing those tests because it lacked the federal orders. that makes no sense to me. and seems very short-sighted. thank you. >> thank you, senator. senator hickenlooper. >> great. thank you, madam chair. and again, thank each of you for your public service. dr. walensky, i wanted to talk to you just for a moment about genomic sequencing. even before covid-19 appeared, colorado made a genomic
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sequencing of diseases a high priority, and we're now i think one of the leading states in detecting changes as they evolve in covid-19. we test about 15% of all positive covid tests. i think that's still one of the highest rates in the country. and we also monitor waste water for community detection. so dr. walensky, how would we -- or how can we expand genomic surveillance and expand those capabilities in order to try to stay ahead of existing but also future threats? covid-19 or otherwise. how do we close the gap between the states that are heavily sequencing and following this and those that aren't? >> yes, thank you for that and for your leadership in colorado in genomic sequencing. as i mentioned, you know, we need to have both numbers and breadth and geographic
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distribution in order to get a real good view of what's happening in genomic sequencing. we need to sample from state labs so we get samples from every lab. we also get samples from commercial labs which gives us a lot of volume. we have partnerships with 19 academic medical centers in order to do so. what we do and power our genomic sequencing is so we're able to detect a sequence that's present in less than .1%. we scale up based on the number of cases we have, we scale up or scale down. what we're able to do with omicron, when we saw the footprint of the pcrs, a similar footprint as alpha, we were able to do targeted enhances surveillance of sequences that had that initial footprint and able to identify sequences even before they reached that .1% threshold. as you said, we and scale this up in waste water. we're able to scale it up for
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purposes of antimicrobial resistance and other things which we're looking forward to doing now that we established this incredible capacity. >> right, great. perfect. ms. o'connell, i want to ask you a question in terms of, we talked a lot about the distribution of tests and whether it's schools or workplaces, hospitals. we talked about how at this moment we don't have enough tests out there. and we're not getting results quickly enough. in terms of the distribution of tests, on a national level, we're still obviously working on a system. i know the administration is hard at work on this, but some states like colorado already have systems in place where tests are being mailed directly to people in their home. and i guess i'm -- i don't know, is the federal government working with states like colorado in trying to look those
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systems already in place and how do we integrate the federal system with those states? >> that's terrific what colorado is doing. we have invested $29 billion with the states so they could set up such testing programs. however, they saw fit. and we are seeing states like colorado use those funds to be able to do exactly what we're hoping to do on a national level. we are in the process, as we talked about today, setting this up, working with the u.s. postal service as the federal government, we will allow american households to order and have them delivered to their house as well. i imagine that we will -- these will be in addition to what colorado is able to provide. and we want to have as many tests, of course, available to all americans as possible. so if colorado is already doing it, that's terrific. i'm sure we will learn some lessons from the experiences you had in your state and apply those to this national
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initiative. >> great. thank you on that. and then just real quickly, dr. fauci, we have heard from dr. walensky just talking about how to integrate the aggregation of large amounts of data. and we have had a discussion about israel versus south africa and it really is a question of how do we take -- my question is, how do we take information from global sources and, you know, learn from those countries who are ahead of us on the curve, make sure that we're learning from their experiences? and i think how can we do a better job working with our international partners to make sure that we are prepared for the next greek letter. >> yeah, thank you very much. excellent question. and we are just actually doing that. every week to ten days, i have a long phone call with chris witty
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and patrick valence, who are the two leading medical and scientific advisers to the prime minister of england to get a feel of what's going on there. we have regular phone calls with our israeli colleagues, and every saturday or sunday morning, depending upon what it is dr. walensky and i and others are on the phone with our south african colleagues. so we're in literally constant communication with them. >> great. thank you. >> thank you. senator marshall. >> the american people, my family, all of our families are struggling as this pandemic continues to drag on with no end in sight. the words i hear every day multiple times each day continue to resonate and echo in my mind as i sit here. words like i'm tired, confused, burnt out, scared, and frustrated. the list goes on. what's making the situation worse are the officials leading our nation's covid response going on national television and contradicting each other.
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and of course, some supreme court justices are spreading misinformation as well. dr. walensky, this past week, you recommended asymptomatic people be able to return to work after five days. but dr. fauci ambiguously corrected you on national television and suggested folks needed a test before return. how does that make you feel when dr. fauci or someone like justice soomayor upstages a previous statement of yours, blatantly contradicts and undermines your guidance and offers false claims that cause more confusion for the american people? >> thank you, senator. i have the great honor of leading the agency of 12,000 public health serviceants in this country, and we work collaboratively with tens of thousands of public health officials around the country to provide guidance. i also get to work with a covid-19 task force that is fult of a multidisciplinary group of people with diverse expertise from immunology to drug
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regulation to epidemiology. this science is moving really quickly, and i know you will appreciate that it's moving fast and it is changing. >> right. you're not answering my questions. i'll move on. the fda has recently set up protocols for monoclonal antibodies to be prioritized based on race. have they done a multiple regression analysis on race to see if it's indeed an independent factor. if hasn't, don't you think zip code would be more predictive? wouldn't it make more sense to priortize those antivirals to senior citizens and those with comorbidities, regardless of brace, especially if the analysis proves my opinion? dr. woodcock. >> what fda did was to recommend if, you know, that people at high risk would be candidates
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for these products. >> did you do a multi-regression analysis on this independent factor? >> we did not. >> okay. >> we did not. we don't make those kind of recommendations. we make -- >> you can do studies, right? the fda and cdc can do studies to see if it's a truly independent factor, or if not truly, it should be about your comorbidities and your age. so dr. fauci, according to forbes, you have an annual salary in 2020 was $434,000. you oversee over $5 billion in federal research grants. as the highest paid employee in the entire federal government, yes or no, would you be willing to submit to congress and the public a financial disclosure that includes your past and current investments? after all, your colleague, dr. walensky, and every member of congress submits a financial disclosure that includes their
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investments. >> i don't understand why you're asking me that question. my financial disclosure is public knowledge and has been so for the last 37 years or so, 35 years. >> the big tech giants are doing an incredible job of keeping it from being public. we'll continue to look for it. where would we find it. >> all you have to do is ask for it. you're so misinformed it's extraordinary. all you have to do is ask for it. >> this is a huge issue. wouldn't you agree with me that you have -- you see things before members of congress would see them. so that there's an air of appearance that maybe some shenanigans are going on. you know, i don't -- i assume that's not the case. >> what are you talking about? my financial disclosures are public knowledge and have been
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so. you are getting amazingly wrong information. >> so i cannot find them. where would they be if they're public knowledge? where? >> it is totally accessible to you if you want it. >> for the public. >> for the public. to the public. you are totally incorrect. >> senator marshall. senator marshall, dr. fauci has answered you. it is public information, and he's happy to give it to you if you would ask. senator moran. >> chairwoman, thank you. i know this has been talked about. i have watched a bit of the hearing from my office this morning and into this afternoon. but would you highlight for me, i suppose this is for dr. woodcock, lots of funding. i think adequate funding. certainly knowledge about winter months would bring an increase in cases.
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what's the challenge in not being better prepared for access to testing, in-home and elsewhere? and how soon will that change? >> i don't think that's -- i think that's a question for assistant secretary o'connell. but i would tell you fda has approved or authorized over 400 tests or collection systems just for covid. we have approved -- authorized 15 over the counter tests. but it's capacity that we're talking about here. production capacity. >> so there's no -- what you're telling me, dr. woodcock, is there's no problem with the fda approval of tests. it's the manufacturing process and the supply chain? >> we could do more with more resources. we have authorized over 2,000 different device products,
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including the 400 tests related products in two years so that's an incredible increase in the work load. we really appreciate the funding congress has provided. however, the test manufacturers, many of them give us incomplete results. we have to go back and forth with them. the i-tap program we're doing with nih for home testing i think will improve that tremendously. that's a big advance forward. but there's also the matter of production capacity with this huge surge and so many more people becoming infected. >> is there a separate fda results process in which the test is read and determined positive or negative? there's no challenges there in that process? >> that's what the i-tap program over at nih is doing.
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they're actually doing the laboratory and clinical testing for the manufacturers. and then they send us the data. and so it's standardized and it's a panel. and that is really accelerating our ability to get these authorized very quickly. as i said earlier, we have authorized them within two days of getting the data from the i-tap program. so that's a tremendous set-up that i think is really beneficial, where we have standardized testing by scientists and the government, and that enables the manufacturers to get their products through very fast. >> thank you. ms. o'connell. >> thank you, senator. and just to pick up where dr. woodcock left off, once those tests are authorized, asper reaches out to the manufacturers to make sure that we're optimizing the manufacturing capabilities. so that part is sort of a seamless process that we have. but all of the work we're doing in testing in this
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administration is in service of four priorities. one, to expand the number of testing sites that are available. two, to expand the number of tests that are available. that's the part that i'm working on to increase capacity. three, the kinds of tests that are available. that's a part dr. woodcock just discussed. and then to help lower the cost of tests. >> and is there -- is there a problem? i don't know whether the testing devices are manufactured domestically. do we have another challenge of the importation of tests, as we did with masks and gowns and gloves? >> we continue to look for tests wherever we can find them. and we have encouraged actually some test manufacturers that are approved in europe to apply for fda approval here in the united states. so i do anticipate we will have some importation of tests at some point. but we have used the defense production act authorities 12 times to support the domestic
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manufacture of tests and to priority rate those orders so we can increase the supplies and manufacturing capacity here in the u.s. >> in the third of a minute that i have left, we have changed, i think, our view on masks recently, and we're emphasizing n-95s. is there any intentions to -- is there a plan to manufacture additional 95 masks so they're more available? is there a way to make them more comfortable? i'll leave that -- that's the crux of my question. >> we continue to support the manufacture of n-95 masks. we have 737 million in the strategic national stockpile. all sourced from 12 domestic manufacturers. so we're continuing to support that. we are also in the process of putting out an agreement for warm base manufacturing, so we're able to keep this pucast that we currently have going, even when demand diminishes. so that's all under way right
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now. as far as fit and style and how they work, i'm sure, you know, colleagues at the table are probably have various pieces of their programs that might be participating to that effort and consulting with the manufacturers on how that will work. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> move to senator tuberville. >> i know there's plenty of misinformation on both sides, you know, when it comes to covid. but i would say this. the fearmongering on the left is -- i'll give you a couple questions here about this. has made the matters much worse. dr. fauci, i want to ask you this for my constituents back in alabama. ivermectin. my constituents read this, hear about it. 40-year drug, they call it a wonder drug. it's about a nickel a tablet. it's done wonders supposedly in india and several other places. and then you have this new antiviral pill that we're coming out, and my constituents are
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saying this is going to cost $500, $600, $700 each. could you give me a rundown on the difference in those two, what you think about them, get it on record here so i can tell me people back home, this is what dr. fauci says. >> sure. so paxlovid, the drug from fooisz, has shown in a randomized placebo controlled trial to be highly effective to the point of 89%. almost 90%. >> what's it called? >> paxlovid. it's made by pfizer. and it's been shown in a very well controlled randomized placebo controlled trial that if you take that drug compared to the placebo within the first three to five days, within the first three days, you have about an 89% chance of preventing you from going to the hospital or dying. there were no deaths in the paxlovid group, and there were several deaths in the placebo
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death. that's paxlovid. ivermectin has had noncontrol trials suggesting it might be effective, mostly anecdotal. the cdc -- excuse me, the nih guidelines panel have looked at the data and felt it is not sufficient evidence to say that it works or it doesn't. the w.h.o. recommends strongly against it and suggests that it might actually be harmful. the nih active studies are doing a whole bunch of studies with ivermectin as well as others to try and settle it once and for all, to prevent people from taking it if it doesn't work because it could be toxic. so there's a world of difference between ivermectin and paxlovid. >> but this is a 40-year drug. and we're talking about one that's just now coming on the market. so we actually know that much about this pfizer drug? i wish they would come up with a lot easier names.
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>> they always do that. they fool me too with the names, coach. but it is what it is. the fact is, i think it's kind of a miscomparison to say one is a 40-year drug and one is a drug that was just discovered. it was just discovered but it was shown in a very well controlled clinical trial to be highly effective. even though ivermectin is a good drug for some parasites, it's not been shown in a well controlled placebo controlled trial to be effective in covid. >> okay. thank you. dr. walensky, i don't know if anybody has asked this question. i want to get it clored up. our supreme court justices last week looking into the situation with the mandate, justice sotomayor said there's 100,000 children that are sick as we speak with omicron and a lot of them are serious and in hospital. is that true, true or false? >> i don't have the number of children in the hospital right now. it's likely less than 100,000.
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>> yeah, and justice breyer said, you know, if we continue to lay this ruling, that we're going to have 750,000 more that are not vaccinated infected a day. i mean, does that make sense to you? >> what i can tell you is our children between ages of zero and 4 are one of the only places where our hospitalization rates are currently rising and children who are in the hospital are generally unvaccinated. not uniformly, but generally unvaccinated. and that's true for not just our zero to 4, who are obviously ineligible, but also true for our 5 to 11-year-olds as well as 12 to 17-year-olds. >> thank you. thank you all for being here today. thank you very much. thank you, madam chair. >> thank you so much. i have one final question for ms. o'connell and dr. walensky. in the past, we are seen school districts that serve a significant number of students of color or those in low income or rural areas facing great
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challenges in accessing ressources. how is the federal government working now to make sure states are equitably distributing tests and necessary resources like masks to all school districts, particularly those that serve predominantly students from families with low income, students of color, or rural students? and ms. o'connell, i'll start with you. >> thank you, chair murray. equity is woven into all of the work we're doing in this response. it's something that we remain focused on, including making sure that schools across all states are able to access the tools and resources they need. we gave $10 billion as you know from the american rescue plan for schools to be able to set up their funding programs. we're also -- testing programs. we have also made it possible through operation expanded testing which dr. walensky can talk more about, where we have regional hubs where schools can contract directly with labs to run their programs for them.
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that was designed for schools that might not otherwise have resources to be able to manage a testing program on their own. in addition, we're making tests available through the federally qualified health centers and rural health centers, and we have done that with masks as well, earlier in the year. >> thank you. dr. walensky. >> maybe i'll just pick up exactly where o'connell has put down. so our i cap program, our increased testing program, does place tests in pharmacies in social vulnerable indices that are high by design. tests health care centers and community centers just as the assistant secretary mentioned. we also continue to support screening tests at no cost to child care centers, k-12 schools and congregant settings through the program assper mentioned. operation expanded testing, we prioritize high schools and all schools that have high social
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vulnerability, and we have on the website now that's active where you can enroll. >> thank you. senator burr, i understand you have two additional questions. >> a couple if i could, madam chair. this is for dr. woodcock and ms. o'connell. it's my understanding that prior to omicron, barta informed some therapeutic manufacturers they would no longer be supporting additional work on new therapies because there's no longer an unmet need, which may impact whether and how fda prioritizes reviewing such therapies. did barta and fda change course on this policy once the omicron variant was discovered in november? >> barta's decision to put that notification out was in light of the fact that the therapeutics development was moved over to operation warp speed, and barta was supporting the therapies that were being developed through the warp speed effort. it was a way of combining the funding that was available to be able to move the therapies
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through faster. barta never stopped supporting therapy work. but i'll let dr. woodcock. >> yeah, we still regard there is an extreme unmet medical need for therapeutics at most stages of the disease. particularly the late stages, where we still don't have interventions, so people are dying in the late stage of disease or getting into the icu, going on a ventilator. so of course, we have 670 inds we have been -- clinical protocols that are ongoing to my knowledge. the robust development is still ongoing in the therapeutic area. >> so how much funding has barta allocated to therapeutics this year, and how much is left to spend? >> i'll have to go back and check that on the actual
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development. we spent a lot of funds this year on the procurement of the therapeutics that are already been developed, but would be more than happy to bring that number to you and your staff. >> i'm talking about the development end of it. because there's a firm belief out there that barta went to the industry and said, we're not supporting this anymore. they didn't say this got moved over to operation warp speed, which by the way, doesn't exist anymore, but barta said we're not supporting therapeutics because there's not an unmet need. that's what the industry heard. i would love for you to clarify that for me. last thing, dr. woodcock. since we did discuss the point of care and at-home testing. i happened to come up with a chart that fda put out not long ago. let me just, and you're probably familiar with it. one ismolecular, one is antigen, and one is serology. for the molecular and antigen,
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if you test yes for point of care or at home, that kicks you to the right. the next box is high manufacturing capacity. if your answer is no there, it kicks you down to an fda intends to decline box. there's no option. so if you're not a high manufacturing test, then fda is going to decline to review. boy, i gotta tell you, i think this is a huge mistake. now, if you tell me that you've got a couple hundred tests that fall into the high manufacturing capacity right now at the fda, where you have got the luxury of being able to kick out new innovative companies that haven't solved their manufacturing yet by all means, tell me that's the case that there are a couple hundred. right now, ms. o'connell is
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struggling to buy 500 million tests, where 47, maybe 50 million there. that leaves another 450 million to purchase. and we're going to distributors trying to buy their inventory, not to manufacturers trying to buy their capacity. something's not right here, guys, on testing. and i will tell you, the current administration's chief of staff got it right in 2020, march, and he said testing is broken. testing is broken, testing is broken. i just say to all of you right now, testing's broken. and ms. o'connell, i think the responsibility falls to the asper. i wrote the law. if in the case of cdc they were the delay to begin with, but to acquire testing, that falls in your lane. and i for the life of me can't figure out after $82 billion, except for somebody sitting down
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and saying, well, we just don't need those tests, we don't need to buy them. how you could let abbott close two lines because there wasn't any business. these are some of the most premier manufacturers in the world world that we've let get out of the mass manufacturing of home test business. if i'm wrong, tell me i am. i respect all four of you in a huge way. but i also express my disapproval very quickly, and that's what i'm doing today. anything you want to add to that, ms. o'connell. >> thank you, ranking member, let me clarify the initial contracts you're speaking of toward the 500 million were the available inventory the be distributes have, the distributes contracts the contracts are being worked, you'll see the capacity quickly. we just haven't been able to
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draft the distributors but thee coming. >> my suggestion in the future, when you huddle inside the covid team, get the administration to refrain from making these proclamations until we got the product, until we know who negotiating, we're now three weeks since the president said we'll buy 500 million tests, we have 50 million contracts, i don't know how long until we get the rest of the contracts, this is not dissimilar since we said we'll boost everybody in america, yet we rolled it out jusz over 60 to start with, then bringing it down, now where we should have been on day one because we had the product available but listen, you guys have a tough job. and i don't know anything else congress can do than create the statutory frame work you can
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work in to do your job which exists or provide the funding to allow you to acquire. those are the only two things to do other than bitch and gripe when it doesn't happen when as quickly as we like but tony i really respect you and i'm sorry you and your family are going through what you're going through but please understand, we go through that every time we go home, with millions of people in north carolina, millions that believe the bad information that's out there, millions of people that have a loved one in the hospital but there's no monoclonals for them to take. millions of people who are unvaccinated, probably wish today they'd gotten vaccinated, probably wish they'd gotten boosted but they're now in the icu and their wife or husband or daughter is calling us and saying what do i do? so we're here to support.
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if there's a need, tell us, but don't think we're just going to sit here and print money without a full accountability of where it has gone and i hope the secretary is listening to that conversation today, senator blunt and i said give us a full accounting of the $82 billion and we'll entertain additional funding for testing, that was 10 days ago, i'm not sure when we're going to get it or if we're going to get it, but it is conditional and this is the most powerful person on the other side of the appropriations and i think she knows i'm seizure on this one. there's got to be accountability on the money and the way it's spent. thank you for being here, thank you madam chair woman. >> thank you, i want to truly thank all our witnesses today, dr. walensky, dr. fauci, we know this is a difficult, changing time and you've all been through it for a long time. i think you do understand the
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frustration, i'm sure you all have it as well, where we are, we all want to find solutions and we stand at your back to be able to provide those, but thank you so much for answering all our questions. this is really important conversation about the threat of the new covid variant or whatever the next one is and the pandemic response and we really appreciate the work you and all the people in your agencies do, so for any senators who wish to ask additional questions, questions for the record due in 10 business days, at 5:00 p.m. and with that the meeting is adjourned.
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>> we'll reair the senate health
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committee hearing of the federal response to new covid-19 variants tonight at 8:30 p.m. eastern on c-span, also watch online on our website or new coverage on the app c-span now. president biden is in atlanta today talking about voting rights and election integrity, joined by vice-president kamala harris on the grounds of clark university, you can watch the event at live starting 3:50 p.m. eastern online at our website, and our new app, c-span now. >> book tv, every sunday on c-span 2, features leading authors discussing the latest nonfiction books, at 8:20 p.m. eastern, former new jersey governor and 2016 presidential candidate chris christi, his new
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