American Oversight’s Covid-19 Oversight Hub provides news and policy resources to help you keep track of investigations into the government’s pandemic response. The project brings together a public documents database, an oversight tracker of important ongoing investigations and litigation, regular news updates, and deeper dives into key issues.
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New Vaccines Appear, Old Ones Go Missing
Last week, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson released Covid-19 vaccine trial results. Novavax’s two-dose vaccine was nearly 90 percent effective in trials conducted in Great Britain, but its efficacy rate dropped in a South African trial because of the prevalence of the B1.351 variant. Johnson & Johnson announced that its one-dose vaccine is 66 percent effective overall, and more than 80 percent effective at preventing severe cases of Covid-19. Both candidates have less-stringent storage requirements than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The new vaccines are welcome news, as the U.S. must speed up vaccination efforts to reach widespread immunity: If the country were to administer 1.2 million doses per day, sufficient immunity would not be reached until January 2022. But distribution remains hampered by inefficiencies at the federal, state, and local levels. As states complain of vaccine shortages, federal officials have been scrambling to determine the whereabouts of more than 20 million doses. In addition, most states are not publicly reporting racial data on vaccinations, even though it is required by the federal government.
States Unable to Use $44 Million CDC System
As states struggle to distribute vaccines, they’ve encountered difficulties with the Vaccine Administration Management System, a web-based application developed by consulting company Deloitte for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Though VAMS was supposed to be a “one-stop shop” where employers, state officials, clinics, and individuals could schedule and report vaccine doses, the system has been crippled by bugs, such as randomly canceled appointments, unreliable registration, and clinic staff being locked out of the dashboard. As a result, many states have abandoned it and are attempting to build alternative systems. In some cases, officials have resorted to tracking vaccinations by hand.
We received copies of the CDC’s May 2020 contract with Deloitte, which describes the system as “a centralized COVID-19 mobile reporting application” for vaccine distribution, as well as a timeline that showed the application was set to be piloted and updated in August 2020. The contract awarded Deloitte nearly $16 million; the CDC awarded Deloitte another $28 million contract for the project in December.
OSC Finds Misconduct in Federal Pandemic Response
After investigating a whistleblower complaint, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that over the last decade, the Department of Health and Human Services misappropriated millions of dollars that had been allocated to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for vaccine research and emergency preparedness. This misuse was so common that officials referred to the “Bank of BARDA” within the agency. A whistleblower also disclosed that when Americans were evacuated from Wuhan, China, at the onset of the pandemic, they were met by U.S. officials who were not wearing proper protective gear.
American Oversight has also received records from OSC of 142 whistleblowers complaints from March to November 2020. The complaints were submitted to a wide range of federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Veterans Health Administration, the latter of which faced more than 30 allegations. Though much of the content of the allegations is redacted, the number of complaints is a significant increase from the 31 that had been counted by the Project on Government Oversight in May 2020.
White House Releases Covid-19 State Profile Reports
The Biden administration created a website to compile and make available Covid-19 State Profile Reports for the public. Throughout the pandemic, some states, including Florida and Oklahoma, have been slow to share the reports. The Trump administration had made these reports available to state governors, but had not directly shared them with the public.
New CDC Research
In recently released papers, CDC researchers concluded that when masks and social distancing are present, schools can open in person without seeing major Covid-19 spread. However, researchers cautioned that indoor athletics can lead to infections and should be limited if schools hold in-person learning, and also wrote that overall levels of community transmission must be reduced by restricting high-risk activities such as indoor dining at restaurants.
American Oversight Investigates State Covid-19 Policies
In December, American Oversight requested records from health departments in multiple states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Iowa, seeking assessments about the impact of mask mandates and other policies on the spread of Covid-19. Both Georgia and Iowa have said that they have no records responsive to these requests, suggesting that the states had not conducted any analysis on how such a policy could affect transmission rates. Georgia still lacks a statewide mask mandate, and Iowa’s governor did not impose a mandate until Nov. 17. American Oversight is continuing to investigate the varying state approaches to the pandemic.
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