The Vaccine Business, China's Houston Consulate, and the MLB | Daily Skimm | theSkimm
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A Gambling Shot

The Story

The US is getting into the vaccine business.

What do you mean?

There are more than 150 vaccine candidates around the world. And public health experts are optimistic at least one will be ready to roll out by next year. But the Trump admin isn't waiting around. Earlier this month, it handed $1.6 billion to Novavax to help ramp up human trials for its vaccine – and put in an order for 100 million doses. Yesterday, gov officials reached a nearly $2 billion deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. And said 'save us 100 million doses of your vaccine.' It's part of a larger effort that some are calling necessary but unusual.

Unusual how?

Apparently, private companies reportedly buy most vaccines. And that's mainly by design. It's something the drug industry's reportedly lobbied for since companies pay more than the gov. But a COVID-19 vaccine is a hot commodity and the gov realizes that. In April, the Trump admin launched Operation Warp Speed with one goal: to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine to Americans by next year. In order to do that, the gov has been selecting the most promising candidates and giving them a financial boost.

This is good, right?

Some experts say yes. And that the move could get more Americans vaccinated, quicker. Others are more cautious. There's no guarantee the vaccines will work. And Novavax hasn't been successful in bringing a single vaccine to market in its three decades in business. The Trump admin has set some guidelines for Pfizer, saying the money will only be available if it's successful. But Novavax executives stand to make tens of millions of dollars even if their vaccine doesn't work. Meanwhile, there's concern some Americans won't get vaccinated even if one is ready to roll out.

Has anything like this happened before?

Yes. In the early '90s, Congress created the Vaccines for Children Program. It buys vaccines for kids whose families are uninsured, underinsured, or unable to pay. In 2009, the Obama admin granted a French drugmaker $190 million for an H1N1 vaccine. The drug passed the clinical trial phase and later hit the market. The Trump admin is hoping for similar results.

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The pandemic has taken a toll on the US financially and emotionally. Many are hoping a vaccine will help get things back to normal. And the Trump admin is ready to open up its wallet to make it happen.

And Also...This

Why the US is saying 'Houston, we have a problem'…

China's consulate. This week, the Trump admin ordered China to close its Houston consulate by tomorrow. The building processes things like visas and passports for eight Southern states (including Florida, Georgia, Mississippi) and Puerto Rico. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – the acting chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee – called it a hub of China's "vast network of spies." And a State Department official said the shutdown was necessary to protect Americans' intellectual property and private info. After receiving the order, consulate employees were seen burning files. The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the closure a "political provocation." And warned that if the US didn't back down, it would take "necessary reactions" – which could mean closing a US consulate in China.

What the House has been working on...

Removing Confederate statues. In a bipartisan vote yesterday, the House voted overwhelmingly to remove statues of people who served in the Confederacy from the Capitol. It's the latest push to remove Confederate monuments in the US – an effort that's been going on for years, but took on new urgency amid the nationwide protests after George Floyd's death. The bipartisan vote was seen as a tribute to the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. The bill now goes to the Senate, but it's unclear if it will be passed into law. Especially since President Trump has been a vocal supporter of Confederate symbolism.

This conservation bill. Yesterday, the House passed the Great American Outdoors Act. It's being called the most significant conservation legislation in decades. It sets aside $900 million a year to help with national park maintenance. And would provide billions for neglected repairs at popular attractions like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. The bill already passed the Senate last month so it heads to President Trump – who's expected to sign it.

Who's still singing 'take me out to the ball game'...

Everyone at home. Today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. But since fans aren't allowed in the stadiums, the league's helping them cheer virtually. People can submit their choice of cheers, boos or claps through a new MLB feature. And sound operators at the ballparks will use the reactions to play similar crowd noise in the stadiums. Play ball.

Who's asking for some understanding…