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The Making of a D.C. Institution

Hot Topics | December 18th, 2020

The Smithsonian Institution is nothing short of, well, a Washington D.C. institution. A visit to the city is hardly complete without a visit to one of the cultural and scientific trust’s 19 museums or the National Zoo.

Although the Smithsonian is synonymous with America’s capital, it owes its existence to British scientist James Smithson who bequeathed his estate to the United States to create “an establishment for the increase and diffuse of knowledge.” In an ironic twist, no one knows why Smithson decided to leave his estate to a country he never visited in his lifetime. That being said, Smithson is interred at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C., which happens to be open to the public if crypts are your type of tourist attraction. 

If crypts aren’t your thing, we have some good headlines this week:

Five days of vaccine news in five bullets

  • Did the deluge of COVID-19 vaccine news this week leave your head spinning? We summarize the highlights below:
    • Pfizer and BioNTech: This week the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech were administered to healthcare workers around the U.S. following the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization last week. (The Washington PostThe Hill)
      • The U.S. government is also in the process of negotiating the procurement of 100 million additional doses of the vaccines. (POLITICOThe Hill)
      • Healthcare workers made a curious discovery this week: Six or sometimes seven full does of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be drawn from the vials, which are labeled to hold five doses. On Wednesday, the FDA authorized hospitals and pharmacists to administer these sixth or seventh doses, if the full doses could be drawn from a vial. The additional doses, which are the result from a routine industry packaging practice, could increase the U.S. vaccine supply up to 40%. (POLITICO)
    • Moderna: Following an endorsement from an FDA advisory committee on Thursday, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate is expected to receive an Emergency Use Authorization. If authorized, Moderna’s vaccine candidate would be the second to become available to the American public. (The Washington PostThe Hill)
    • Vaccine Brand Names: Wondering when we can stop referring to the COVID-19 vaccines as COVID-19 vaccines? Companies are not expected to announce brand names for COVID-19 vaccines until the FDA fully approves the shots, expected in 2021. (STAT)

Sackler’s take the hot seat

  • Yesterday members of the Sackler family testified in front of the House Oversight Committee on the role of Purdue Pharma in the opioid epidemic. During the hearing, members of Congress peppered Dr. Kathe Sackler and David Sackler of knowing more than they let on and for evading responsibility for their role in the crisis. Tensions ran high, with Rep. James Cooper (D-Tenn.) telling David Sackler, “Watching you testify makes my blood boil…I’m not sure that I’m aware of any family in America that’s more evil.” (The HillSTAT)

Drug card program gets yellow card

  • On September 24, President Trump announced a plan to send 33 million Medicare beneficiaries a card that could be used to pay up to $200 in prescription drug costs. This week, his administration’s plan encountered an unexpected roadblock: An obscure industry group that sets standards for health benefit cards has blocked the cards from being created. The consortium rebuffed the cards on the grounds that they would not be consistent with the other cards it regulates, which can be used to purchase more than drugs. (POLITICO

Don’t expect this campaign to take home a Clio

  • The Department of Health and Human Services had earmarked more than $300 million for a star-studded ad campaign to boost public confidence in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country. The only problem is that few of the celebs on HHS’ wish list expressed interest in the campaign for a variety of reasons. According to POLITICO, the project has faced a litany of issues with personnel and vendors.

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