Thursday, October 21, 2021

FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J Boosters, Backs ‘Mix-and-Match’

The Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel will issue recommendations on Thursday regarding which groups should receive boosters and on what timeframe. Once those recommendations are made, booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines could be available within days, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The FDA also authorized mixing and matching coronavirus vaccines, allowing Americans to receive a different vaccine for their booster shot than their original vaccine.

Some research has indicated that mixing coronavirus vaccines may produce stronger immune responses, and several European countries as well as Canada have already allowed residents to mix vaccines prior to booster shots. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau received an AstraZeneca vaccine for his first shot and Moderna for his second.

The FDA authorization allows any recipient of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to receive a second dose of either the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, or Pfizer vaccines, at least two months after the first shot.

However, recipients of the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines must wait at least six months before receiving a booster. For now, seniors or people at higher risk of COVID-19 because of underlying medical or workplace conditions may receive a booster shot.

The Biden administration authorized boosters for the Pfizer vaccine last month for seniors and immunocompromised Americans. That decision came following some confusion over the authorization timeline, after the president claimed in August that boosters would soon be authorized for the general population.


Kyrsten Sinema Is Arizona’s New Maverick

Nothing reveals the double standard by which Beltway Washington deals with mavericks than the different treatment accorded two independent-minded senators in recent years.

The late John McCain of Arizona was celebrated for going against his party, never more so than when, in 2017, his one vote killed a GOP repeal of parts of Obama­care. But now, for standing up to the $3.5 trillion Biden budget extravaganza, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema is fast becoming a pariah in her party, as McCain was in his.

Media scorn has been brutal. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times attacked her. Saturday Night Live portrayed her as obstructionist and came as close as one is still allowed in these PC times to saying that she was a dumb blonde. Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias denounced her as a tool of corporate lobbyists and asked, “Is Kyrsten Sinema on the take?”

Her former colleagues in the House have singled her out. “This is not progressives versus moderates,” said Representative Ro Khanna (D., Calif.), a progressive and the assistant whip of the House Democratic caucus. “This is the entire Democratic Party and Joe Biden versus Kyrsten Sinema.”

Back home in Arizona, the state Democratic Party just passed a resolution criticizing her and hinted at a possible primary challenge in 2024. Angry, hectoring left-wing activists pursued her into a public restroom and proudly posted a video of their stunt.

Key Washington Democrats have effectively disowned her. When Dem­ocratic leaders issued a joint statement condemning the bathroom harassment, Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) withheld his endorsement because the statement didn’t include a rebuke of Sinema’s policy views.

President Biden was little better. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan pointed out his passive-aggressive response: “I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody. . . . It’s part of the process.” Noonan noted that “to announce it is part of the process is to make it part of the process. It was as if he were saying: Yeah, she’s got me mad. Hound her some more.”

The left-wing anger against Sinema may in part be explained by her having once been such a strong progressive. A bisexual triathlete who was raised in poverty and became a social worker, Sinema in 2013 became the first member of Congress to list “None” as her religion. In the early 2000s, she was the spokeswoman for the Green Party and dressed up in a black veil and a pink tutu to protest the war in Iraq. As a Democrat, she was elected to the state house in 2004 and retained her bomb-throwing zeal.

When I met her at an immigration conference in Phoenix in 2006, she introduced herself by extending her hand and saying, “Hi. I’m Kyrsten. I’m in the Arizona house and I’m a socialist.” The lefty Phoenix New Times named her “Best Local Lefty Icon” as late as 2011, praising her as “a valiant champion for the poor, the underprivileged, and the state’s immigrant population.”

But glimmers of a changed attitude and a suspicion of the limits of impersonal government programs could be seen early on. In her 2009 book Unite and Conquer: How to Build Coalitions That Win and Last, she wrote dismissively of “the dread disease” of “identity politics” and how liberals too quickly embraced the “mantle of victimhood.” When she ran for Congress in 2012, she said her social-work ethos prompted her to pledge to govern “the same way I try to live my life — which is to seek understanding of those around me rather than to move forward with a combative attitude.”

Once in Congress, Sinema did follow that new course. She sought out Re­publicans to co-sponsor her bills, she tempered her rhetoric, she became a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, and she voted three times against electing Nancy Pelosi as speaker. When she ran for the Senate in 2018, one of her ads deplored how people in Washington “are more interested in their talking points and their ideology than getting stuff done.”

In her first year in the Senate, the nonpartisan GovTrack survey found her to be the most conservative Democrat. One notch less conservative than she was eclectic libertarian senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.).

In May, the Arizona Republic asked her what her long-term goals in the Senate were. She replied:

Most folks in Arizona aren’t thinking to themselves, “What is the government doing for me today?” They’re often thinking about what the government is doing to me today, right? . . . I want Arizonans to, one, not have to think about their government very much. But, two, when they do, to think to themselves: “Well, that it is at least a little less bad than it used to be, it’s less painful than it used to be and Kyrsten has done some work to help make my life a little bit easier and a little bit better.”

It’s no wonder that such a minimalist governing agenda prompted a senior Senate Democratic aide to describe her as “an enigma shrouded in mystery.”

But perhaps she isn’t. She has long held out McCain as a political role model, and in her first speech as a senator she called him “a personal hero.”

“I think she definitely would like for her legacy to be ‘the maverick’ like him,” Grant Woods, a former state attorney general of Arizona and a former chief of staff to McCain, told Time magazine. “He was instinctively drawn to doing the opposite of what he was told and what people expected. She’s definitely attracted to that image.”

On substance, she has emulated McCain in putting herself in the room where deals are cut, as she did when she helped broker the COVID-19 relief package in March and, in August, the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that won 19 Republican votes in the Senate.

But the media clearly reject any comparisons to their hero McCain. “Sinema is missing perhaps the most important facet of McCain’s persona — the glue that, more than any stubbornness or mavericky vote, . . . was responsible for his exalted status,” explained Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy. “He absolutely craved the spotlight. He practically had an endowed chair on Meet the Press. He appeared in Wedding Crashers. When McCain died, several thousand reporters all filed stories at once about his famous press scrums in the Capitol or on the campaign trail.” In other words, McCain treated the media as the important players they like to see themselves being. Left unsaid was the fact that McCain was the most prodigious leaker of Senate insider stories that body had ever seen. The media reward loose lips.

Sinema doesn’t leak, distrusts the media, and avoids giving interviews in nonnational outlets. In 2018, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar laughed that “trying to report on Sinema’s Senate campaign was like having to deal with an incompetent cable company. Calls and e-mails to her campaign went unreturned for days.”

The liberal sources the media rely on have long made clear their view of her as a non–team player. In 2016, she was nowhere to be seen at a massive Hillary Clinton pre-election rally at Arizona State University, which is in her home district and where Sinema teaches. A Democratic operative spotted her at a local coffee shop instead, holding a campaign event for herself at the same time.

To pressure Sinema to pledge her vote for Biden’s $3.5 trillion bill, progressives have tried everything, from accosting her on airplanes to putting her face on a milk carton at local football games. They are actively recruiting Representative Ruben Gallego, who took Sinema’s House seat, to primary her in 2024.

But defeating her won’t be easy. She has $3.6 million in her campaign ac­count, and an OH Predictive Insights poll found her overall favorability rating roughly equal to that of fellow Arizona Democratic senator Mark Kelly. Sinema is less popular among Democrats but has a 40 percent favorability rating among Republicans.

In addition, it’s entirely possible that Sinema could win her primary even if most Democrats vote against her. Arizona law allows unaffiliated voters — one in three of all those registered — to vote in any primary. In both 2010 and 2016, John McCain lost the votes of registered Republicans in his party primary but prevailed by cleaning up with independents.

Some Sinema sympathizers also believe she can build back some goodwill within the party if both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a pared-back version of Biden’s social-welfare extravaganza eventually become law.

But don’t bet on it. The Hill reported that other issues will continue to stick in the craw of progressive groups, chief among them her stubborn support of the Senate filibuster.

So if progressives continue to find reasons to lust for a primary challenge, they should realize they are putting her Senate seat at risk. Many Democrats aren’t convinced that a liberal such as Gallego could win the general elecyion after a bloody internecine primary. “There’s a near zero chance he would win statewide,” a Democratic operative told The Hill. “That’s something Democrats will really have to ask themselves in seeking to defeat Sinema, is do they want someone to primary her who will almost certainly hand the seat to Republicans?”




No comments: