What We’re Reading: US Increases Pfizer Pill Order; California At-Home STI Tests; Supreme Court Hearing on Vaccine Mandates

The Biden administration doubled its order of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral drug; California is now the first state to require health insurance plans to cover at-home STI tests; the Supreme Court will hear in-person arguments Friday to decide whether to block federal vaccine mandates.

Biden Administration Doubles Pfizer COVID-19 Pill Order

President Biden announced Tuesday that his administration doubled its order of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral drug, The New York Times reported. The Pfizer pill has been shown to reduce hospitalizations, and this upcoming supply increase will eventually provide enough pills for an additional 10 million Americans, bringing the government’s total order of the drug to 20 million treatment courses. According to a senior administration official, there will be 35,000 additional courses delivered in January and 50,000 more in February, in addition to 350,000 treatment courses that were already expected over the next 2 months. This announcement comes after the US set a global record for COVID-19 cases Monday.

California Requires Health Insurance Plans to Cover At-Home STI Tests

In an effort to address the sexually transmitted infection (STI) epidemic, California is now the first state to require health insurance plans to cover at-home tests for HIV, chlamydia and syphilis, and other STIs, as reported by Kaiser Health News. Part of a broader law, this rule took effect January 1 for people with state-regulated private insurance plans and will go into effect later for the millions of low-income California citizens enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. Similar to COVID-19 testing kits, some STI tests require patients to send samples to a lab for analysis, while some at-home oral HIV tests give results in a few minutes. Infectious disease experts hope the new rule will bring better disease monitoring to rural and underserved parts of California, reduce the stigma patients experience when seeking care, and give patients more control over their health.

Supreme Court Hearing on Federal Vaccine Mandates Friday

The US Supreme Court will hear in-person arguments Friday in preparation to decide whether to block Biden's vaccine mandates for large businesses and health care workers, Reuters reported. The court will hear from business and religious groups, multiple Republican-led US states, and other groups, with rulings expected soon after. The opposition to the mandates claim the administration is overstepping its authority by establishing vaccine mandates on the federal level. In the past, the Supreme Court has rejected several religious-based challenges to state vaccine requirements, but Friday's cases are the first to address the federal government's authority to issue its own vaccine mandates.