The Food and Drug Administration is set to expand COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to all adults and Pfizer is asking federal regulators to authorize its new COVID pill. The moves come as cases of coronavirus are on the rise again across the country and the president's controversial vaccine mandate faces an uphill court battle.
But the biggest news out this week is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, has now halted enforcement of the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for private employers.
The order, which would have gone into effect January 4, calls for businesses with 100 or more employees to either require vaccinations or weekly testing for the unvaccinated.
OSHA was complying with Biden's order, even after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put a hold on it two weeks ago. Then, last Friday, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit voted to keep blocking the mandate, calling the government's order "fatally flawed," saying it raises "serious constitutional concerns." The legal battle over the mandate is far from over and is expected to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to the legal challenges to the president's federal mandate, protests against state mandates are also taking place.
In California, parents and teachers rallied at the state capitol against Gov. Gavin Newsom's vaccine mandate for students. "We still have a say so on what applies to our children," said Boomer Bennett. "For a woman, it's hard for me to tell her who birthed this child what to do with that child."
Across the country, the number of COVID cases has increased 27 percent in the past three weeks. But as the numbers rise new treatments are on the way.
This week Pfizer is asking regulators for approval for an experimental pill that promises success in combating the virus.
"Within three days of the symptoms, you have now 89% protection from disease leading to hospitalization with our medicines, and the data indicate 100% protection from death," said Pfizer's Dr. Mikael Dolsten.
"And even if you start the medicine five days after having contracted the disease COVID-19 with symptoms, you have now 85% protection," said Dolsten.
And a government advisory panel will discuss expanding eligibility for COVID booster shots on Friday, which could be available by the weekend. Some states are already offering booster shots to everyone 18 and up.
While more treatments are becoming available for those who want them, the president's vaccine mandate on private citizens could face a very difficult road ahead in the legal system with the challenges likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.