Yesterday, the United Kingdom approved Pfizer’s Coronavirus Vaccine ahead of the United States and the European Union. Britain’s emergency authorization kicked off a vaccination campaign, which places the United States under more intense pressure to move faster to get vaccine doses to the people. However, Britain’s move is seen by some as a political strategy or one that guarantees its front of the line place for deliveries of the vaccine. Until yesterday, no country had authorized fully-tested Covid-19 vaccine, as Russia and China approved vaccines without large-scale efficacy tests. American regulators have been slow-moving in vaccine approval because they are validating test results themselves, rather than leaning heavily on independent analysis of the vaccine trials. Developing the vaccine is one thing; transporting it is another. Pfizer’s vaccine must be transported at South-Pole temperatures, meaning that its storage requirements will limit its initial distribution to hospitals only. It will be later expanded to nursing homes, then smaller clinics and doctors’ offices. The United States has already preordered 100 million doses from Pfizer, and the FDA is expected to authorize the vaccine shortly after an advisory panel on December 10.
President elect Joe Biden spoke to opinion columnist for the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, about his top priority: getting a general stimulus package through Congress before January 20. Biden spoke about the ten million people who are worried about mortgage payments and rent, and that those unemployed for too long will have a difficult time rejoining the workforce. Biden believes that economic growth requires the help of everyone, stating that “there’s no reason why the top tax rate shouldn’t be 39.6 percent, which it was in the beginning of the Bush administration. There’s no reason why 91 Fortune 500 companies should be paying zero in taxes.” However, Biden will have to figure out how this administration will work with Senator Mitch McConnell if the Republicans continue to hold the Senate. On this, Biden commented, “There are a number of things that when McConnell controlled the Senate that people said couldn’t get done, and I was able to get them done with [him]. I was able to get them to, you know, raise taxes on the wealthy.” Biden’s goal is to rebuild the middle class and invest in rural America. The president-elect was set to meet virtually with small business owners and workers to discuss the economic hardship brought on by the pandemic as they await more financial relief. Lawmakers say they tentatively expect to reach an agreement on the stimulus package by December 11 and avoid a government shutdown.
When it comes to foreign policy with China, Biden stated that his “goal would be to pursue trade policies that actually produce progress on China’s abusive practices — that’s stealing intellectual property, dumping products, illegal subsidies to corporations.” But to do this, the United States needs leverage, which we currently don’t have. One way to increase leverage is to develop industrial policy for government investment in American research and development, infrastructure and education as a way to compete with China, a strategy that has some bipartisan support. In Biden’s words, “we got to figure out how to work together.” Otherwise, “we’re in real trouble.”
In other news, Biden’s pick for deputy Treasury secretary, Adewale Adeyemo, will be the first Black deputy, making history alongside the first female secretary, Janet L. Yellen. Adeyemo served as President Barack Obama’s international economics advisor. After leaving the White House in 2017, Adeyemo went to work for BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. He left in 2019 to become president of the Obama Foundation. When announced by Biden, Adeyemo spoke about his desire to reduce the nation’s inequality and increase the prosperities of the middle class.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 1268 that will allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to be placed on the state’s Certified Nurse Aide Registry and become eligible for permanent employment in long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities. Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, stated that “Temporary nurse aides are being hired by long-term care providers every day, and their commitment to patient care, coupled with the lessons they’ve learned during an unprecedented public health emergency, has strengthened a workforce pipeline that had been careening toward disaster for years… This vital legislation which is now law, will ensure their continued role in our facilities and communities.” Since the temporary nurse aid program as approved in April of this year, almost 4,000 people have completed training and been hired. With this bill, they have a pathway to continue full-time employment post-pandemic.