What We’re Reading: Vaccine Distribution; OxyContin Maker Pleads Guilty; Testing in the Workplace

Operation Warp Speed officials said they plan to release 6.4 million vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the initial distribution; OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to role in opioid epidemic; spotlighting difficulty in employer testing for COVID-19.

US Officials Say 6.4M Vaccine Doses Will Release in First Distribution

Yesterday, officials from the US government’s Operation Warp Speed program said they plan to release 6.4 million coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine doses across the nation in its initial distribution after the first vaccine is cleared for emergency use. According to Reuters, officials noted that states and other jurisdictions had been informed last Friday of their estimated vaccine allocations in the first shipments, with governors expected to determine how best to distribute the vaccine within their respective states.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty, Takes Responsibility for Opioid Epidemic

As reported by the Associated Press, OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty yesterday to 3 criminal charges, including providing misleading information to the Drug Enforcement Administration to boost company manufacturing quotas, paying doctors to write more prescriptions for painkillers, and paying an electronic health records company to send doctors information on patients to encourage the prescription of opioids. Conducted in a virtual hearing with a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey, the guilty pleas were entered by Purdue board chairperson Steve Miller. The company’s guilty plea deal includes penalties and forfeitures totaling $8.3 billion, although Purdue is only responsible for a fraction of that cost in a direct payment to the federal government, $225 million.

Spotlighting Difficulty in Employer Testing for COVID-19

While the CDC has issued guidance to employers to include testing for COVID-19, an article published by Kaiser Health News detailed the difficulty cited by employers in testing amid the pandemic. The price to regularly test workers, particularly for tests with a shorter result turnaround, such as polymerase chain reaction, can be up to $135 with a 36- to 48-hour turnaround and $250 with a 1-day testing turnaround. Typically, public health departments would work directly with employers to administer testing, but these local agencies are said to be chronically underfunded and overworked.