Welcome to the WBD News Flash, your weekly highlight of HR benefits and healthcare news. Weekly, we will provide you with the top trending industry news stories in healthcare, human resources, legislation, benefits technology and administration, and more. Make the WBD News Flash your go to reference for current events!

“Open Season” For Vaccines in April?

Dr. Fauci thinks it’s possible. The nation’s top infectious disease expert appeared on the Today show last week, and stated that by April, he thinks “virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.”

Of course, eligibility won’t be the only hurdle to getting the nation vaccinated against Covid-19. Logistically, Dr. Fauci cautions, it will still take “several more months.” But he projects that the “overwhelming majority” of the U.S. population could be vaccinated by the end of summer.

The reason for this anticipated climb in vaccination rates? It’s production, which will be ramped up in coming months to allow more a “mass vaccination approach,” Dr. Fauci says. The increase is already here, to a certain extent: President Biden’s task force leader Jeff Zients says the weekly vaccine distribution is already 8.6 million doses above the deliveries received just three weeks ago. Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

Pfizer Vaccine Staves Off Some Covid Variants  

Pfizer’s study on the Kent (UK) and South African variants of Covid-19 has yielded positive results, as researchers found antibody responses after a the second dose of vaccine was administered. Researchers used blood samples from people who received just one dose as well as the second dose. They found that a single dose didn’t neutralize the South African variant, but the second dose was enough to get a strong antibody response against the variant viruses. Read more at The Guardian.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca says they could have Covid-19 variant vaccines in six months’ time. The company is currently rolling out a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK and EU, but the vaccine is reportedly offering “minimal protection” against the South African variant.

State Legislators Move to Cap Drug Prices

Lawmakers in Hawaii, Maine, Washington, Oklahoma, and other states have all filed bills designed to reduce prescription drug costs. Often drafted with bipartisan support, the bills are in response to high consumer demand for action on high costs of drugs in the U.S. — sometimes so high that patients simply don’t take necessary drugs because of the price.

Lawmakers point to drugs like Enbrel, a rheumatoid arthritis prescription which has gone up in price 457% since 2002, according to a government report. Humira has had a similar rise, going up 470% since 2003. In Europe, where Humira is not protected by patent, the drug company has cut its prices by 80%. States considering tax penalties on companies raising drug prices year after year point to Enbrel and Humira as potential targets. Read more at KHN.