Overnight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing $1.7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J

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© Getty Images Overnight Health: NIH reverses Trump’s ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing $1.7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J

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Today: The Biden administration reversed a ban on fetal tissue research. Johnson & Johnson scientists said they do not see a casual relationship between their vaccine and blood clots and the Biden administration is investing $1.7 billion into combating COVID variants.

We’ll start at the NIH:

It’s official: NIH reverses Trump administration’s ban on fetal tissue research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially on Friday rescinded the ban on using fetal tissues in research, reversing a Trump-era policy instituted almost two years ago.

In a notice, the agency announced it was overturning the Trump administration’s policy that an ethics board to review all applicants for NIH grants involving fetal tissue from elective abortions. Trump also blocked NIH scientists from obtaining new fetal tissue derived from abortions for research purposes.

The notice also said the Department of Health and Human Services and NIH will no longer assemble an NIH Human Fetal Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board.

“NIH reminds the community of expectations to obtain informed consent from the donor for any NIH-funded research using human fetal tissue … and of continued obligations to conduct such research only in accord with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations, including prohibitions on the payment of valuable consideration for such tissue,” the notice reads.

The move comes after a group of 26 Democratic House members wrote to President Biden calling for an end to the restriction on research involving fetal tissue

Read more here.

Growing focus on variants: Biden administration investing $1.7B into tracking, combating COVID-19 variants

The Biden administration on Friday unveiled its plans to invest $1.7 billion into tracking and combating COVID-19 variants as new strains make up about half of all infections across the nation.

The administration announced its planned distribution of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan directed at assisting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local governments in detecting and monitoring COVID-19 variants.

The plan allocates $1 billion to bolstering genomic sequencing through providing money to laboratories for collecting COVID-19 samples, sequencing the DNA and releasing the data.

A total of $400 million will go toward innovation initiatives, including founding six Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology, and another $300 million is set for a data system to track sequencing information.

Key quote: “Our ability to spot variants as they emerge and spread is vital, particularly as we aim to get ahead of dangerous variances before they emerge, as they are in the Midwest right now,” Andy Slavitt, senior White House pandemic adviser, said.

Read more here.

Johnson & Johnson on blood clot cases: ‘Insufficient’ evidence of ‘causal relationship’ between vaccine and cases

Video: CDC holds emergency meeting over J&J Covid vaccine (NBC News)

CDC holds emergency meeting over J&J Covid vaccine
What to watch next

Johnson & Johnson scientists said on Friday that there’s currently “insufficient” evidence of a “causal relationship” between the company’s COVID-19 vaccine and the rare cases of blood clots that prompted a pause in distribution.

Company researchers wrote a letter to the editor of The New England Journal of Medicine published Friday that said “at this time, evidence is insufficient to establish a causal relationship between these events” and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The researchers’ remarks followed after the CDC and FDA recommended a temporary halt in administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines, due to six cases, out of more than 6.8 million vaccinations, of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and low blood-platelet counts.

“CVST is a very rare health condition, and thus far, events reported in recipients of the … vaccine are occurring within the range of published background incidence,” the researchers wrote. “It is important to note that the incidence of CVST associated with low platelets is unknown and is considered by the FDA and the CDC to be extremely low.”

The vaccine manufacturer noted that in the clinical trial program when one case of CVST emerged, there was “no clear causality established.”

Read more here.

Meanwhile, the delay will continue: CDC advisory panel will meet again on J&J vaccine in a week

An independent advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will meet again next week to resume deliberating about the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine, agency director Rochelle Walensky said.

The meeting on April 23 will mark 10 days since federal regulators recommended a nationwide pause on the use of the vaccine due to a small number of extremely rare types of blood clots in people receiving the vaccines.

Every state has since suspended the use of J&J’s single-dose shot, and the company has paused its clinical trials, as well.

As the delay lengthens, there are worries both that the stoppage will lower the willingness of some members of the public to get vaccinated and that it is keeping millions of shots out of action while more than 700 people are still dying from COVID-19 every day.

Read more here.

Greene, Boebert only lawmakers to vote against bone marrow transplant bill

First-term GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.) on Thursday evening were the only lawmakers to vote against a bill to reauthorize a bone marrow transplant program.

The measure passed the House 415-2. It reauthorizes the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program and National Cord Blood Inventory, which facilitate bone marrow and umbilical cord blood donations and transplants for people with leukemia or other blood diseases.

The bill also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a review of the state of the science on using adult stem cells and birthing tissues to develop new therapies that could potentially be included in the program.

The bipartisan measure was sponsored by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

Reasons? Greene wrote on Twitter that the bill did not have sufficient protections against the use of fetal tissue.

“The Fake News Media is attacking me for being TOO PRO-LIFE (100%),” she tweeted. “Last night, Congress passed a bill which is not clear about preventing buying of body parts of babies murdered in the womb. I voted NO.”

In a separate statement on Friday, Greene also said the bill was rushed. Boebert’s office did not return a request for comment.

Read more here.

What we’re reading

More young people are getting hospitalized as Covid variants spread. Here’s what we know (CNBC)

Next-generation Covid-19 vaccines are supposed to be better. Some experts worry they could be worse (Stat)

New global coronavirus cases nearly double in two months (The Washington Post)

Nearly half of US states reported an increase in Covid-19 cases this week. Here’s what experts say can help stop another surge (CNN)

State-by-state

Insurance companies warn that a plan to expand publicly-funded health insurance could drive businesses out of Connecticut (Hartford Courant)

Oregon’s reporting more daily COVID-19 cases than it has in months (OPB)

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