May 12, 2021

Senator Hassan Secures Commitment from Top Health Official that Next Round of Potential COVID-19 Booster Shots Would Be Free to Americans

Senator Hassan also Urged Top Officials to Change Mask Restrictions for Commercial Fishermen

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer for COVID Response in the Biden administration, said that the next round of COVID-19 booster shots would be free to the public if the boosters are deemed necessary in response to a question from Senator Maggie Hassan during a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing.

 

In addition, The Washington Post reported on Senators Hassan and Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) push for administration officials to ease mask restrictions for commercial fishermen. Both Senators cited concerns that they had heard from fishermen that wearing a mask on the open water is unsafe. Last week, Senator Hassan spoke with fishermen in New Hampshire about this issue during a visit to the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative in Seabrook.

 

See below for coverage highlights.  

 

The Hill: Biden health official says COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be free

By Nathaniel Weixel

 

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be free to the public if they are needed, a top U.S. health official said Tuesday.

 

David Kessler, the chief science officer for the White House's COVID-19 response team, told senators at a hearing on Tuesday that the federal government has funding to purchase the next round of vaccines, so individuals won't have to pay.

 

"We are planning, and I underscore the word planning, to have booster doses available if necessary for the American people,” Kessler told the Senate Health Committee.

 

"We do have the funds to purchase the next round, if they are necessary. So we will be able to purchase the next round to ensure if there are boosters, they are free, just as the last round," Kessler said.

 

"Beyond 2022? I look to your guidance, and your colleagues, on at what point do you transition back to a commercial market, but I think for this coming round we are going to proceed as we have proceeded," he added.

 

Kessler was responding to a question from Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who had asked what Congress could do to ensure fair pricing in the long-term for COVID-19 vaccines, especially given the significant taxpayer investments in many of the vaccines.

 

Comments by drug company executives have raised concern that once the public health emergency ends, they will significantly raise prices on their COVID-19 vaccines. […]

 

The Washington Post: The Health 202: Commercial fishermen are also frustrated by mask mandates

By Paige Winfield Cunningham

 

Those frustrated over the Biden administration’s conservative approach to mask and social distancing guidance have been questioning its cautious rules for schools, summer camps and the outdoors.

 

Guess who else is frustrated by mask mandates? Commercial fishermen.

 

Commercial fishing crews must be masked at all times, regardless of the number of people.

 

The requirement stems from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule issued in February saying all those on public transportation must be masked. The Coast Guard interpreted the rule to apply to all vessels, including commercial fisherman who sometimes work with crews of just three to five people. There are around 39,000 commercial fishermen in the United States.

 

In a hearing with top administration health officials yesterday, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) brought this up. They begged CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to revise the guidance, saying they’ve heard deep frustration from fishermen who argue that wearing a mask while doing their work is unsafe.

 

“Not only is a wet mask dangerous out on the open water — these guys are used to relying on sign language on the boat, and with the mask it’s a real safety issue,” Hassan said at a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which featured top Biden health officials giving an update on the pandemic response.

 

[…] Walensky seemed aware of the issue during yesterday’s hearing but didn’t give any specific answers. She said the agency is working on new agency guidance.

 

“We are in the process of reconsidering industry guidance because of this situation,” Walensky said.

 

There aren’t exceptions for fishermen who have gotten a coronavirus vaccine.

 

David Goethel is a commercial fisherman who alerted Hassan to the issue when she visited the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative in Seabrook, N.H. Goethel, who operates a 44-foot stern trawler, told me he has been fully vaccinated and that one of his two employees have received the first dose of a vaccine.

 

Yet they must still wear masks — including while they’re sleeping — under the Coast Guard guidelines. Goethel said he hates telling his two workers they need to mask up while cleaning fish — a messy activity that can result in the dirtying of masks — but he worries that a Coast Guard patrol will show up.

 

Goethel also said masks make it nearly impossible to communicate with his crew members on the noisy ship, which uses a diesel engine.

 

“I can’t see if they understood a shouted order,” he told me. “I can’t see if they’re getting themselves into a problem with the gear; it’s just patently unsafe and unnecessary.” […]

 

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