Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, speaks with Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer of the White House COVID-19 response team, before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Susan Walsh | Getty Images
The House coronavirus subcommittee will hear Thursday from three top Biden administration health officials about the United States’ efforts to ramp up vaccinations as Covid cases, including those from dangerous variants, are on the rise.
The hearing, which will also focus on the enduring need for people to wear masks and follow social distancing measures, is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET. It will be livestreamed.
The event comes two days after dozens of states abruptly stopped administering Johnson & Johnson‘s single-dose Covid vaccine in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that those shots be paused while it investigates cases of women who developed a rare blood-clotting disorder.
Some fear that recommendation, which was issued in response to six reported blood-clot cases out of nearly 7 million J&J doses administered, could hinder the global campaign to inoculate the world out of the pandemic.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., is set to hear from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, as well as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. David Kessler, a top Covid response official in President Joe Biden‘s Department of Health and Human Services, is also on the witness list.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listens during a hearing, with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, on the Covid-19 response, on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images
While the U.S. is vaccinating more people than ever, Covid cases are on the rise in more than half of its states. More than 71,000 cases per day were tallied on average in the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s almost a race between getting people vaccinated and this surge that seems to want to increase,” Fauci said Wednesday on CNN.
The emergence of Covid variants — such as B 1.1.7, which has recently swarmed Michigan and is now the most common strain in the U.S. — has health officials urging Americans to keep taking health precautions, despite the accelerating vaccination efforts.
Meanwhile, experts say Johnson & Johnson’s recent vaccine woes could fuel vaccine skepticism.
In their push for all eligible people in the U.S. to get vaccinated for Covid, officials have stressed that all available options — from Pfizer–BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are safe and effective. All three have been authorized for emergency use by the FDA. The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two separate doses, to be administered three to four weeks apart.
But the six cases of women who developed the rare blood clots pushed the FDA to recommend pausing J&J’s shot “out of an abundance of caution.”
All of the women developed the condition within about two weeks of inoculation, health officials told reporters Tuesday. One of the women died.
“I think it will have an effect on hesitancy, period. Whether it should or not is a different matter,” Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, told CNBC.
Since Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine involves only one dose, experts say the pause could also reduce vaccine access for some communities.
“This vaccine was being biased to use in more austere settings, places where you couldn’t deliver two doses, you wanted to deliver one dose and be done with the vaccination schedule,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who sits on Pfizer’s board, told CNBC on Tuesday.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion Inc. and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings? and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”