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Senate confirms Murthy as surgeon general

Coronavirus vaccine hesitancy is a top challenge

Vivek H. Murthy adjusts his mask during his confirmation hearing on Feb. 25, 2021.
Vivek H. Murthy adjusts his mask during his confirmation hearing on Feb. 25, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed, 57-43, President Joe Biden’s pick to be surgeon general, setting up Vivek H. Murthy for his second turn at the post.

Murthy’s nomination for surgeon general of the Public Health Service and medical director in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service received bipartisan support.

Murthy served as surgeon general under former President Barack Obama and was an adviser to the Biden campaign and transition. He’s been a prominent figure in several of the administration’s COVID-19 briefings with reporters.

Murthy will play a key role in guiding the nation’s pandemic response and vaccination efforts as the nation’s top public health messenger. One of Murthy’s challenges will be to combat coronavirus vaccine hesitancy. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he pledged to combat vaccine skepticism by relying on science and focusing on each community’s individual needs. He repeatedly said that instilling vaccine confidence is not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Murthy also told senators that he wants the government to expand access to naloxone and medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. He’d also like the government to invest in addiction prevention, especially in schools. Under Obama, Murthy helped lead the nation’s response to the opioid epidemic. 

When Murthy was confirmed in 2014, he faced Republican criticisms about his views on gun control and his support for the 2010 health care law.

Now, the Biden administration is looking to expand upon that law.

The recently enacted $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package contained provisions to expand the law’s subsidies for insurance individuals buy on their own, provide more generous COBRA subsidies for workers who left their jobs but want to keep their employer-sponsored insurance and offer incentives for states that did not expand Medicaid under the 2010 law to do so.

The Biden administration also is leveraging its executive power to support the law, including by extending the enrollment period for the law’s marketplace insurance until Aug. 15.  

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