December 2 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020
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6:42 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

UK health secretary says Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine will be ready to roll out next week

From CNN's Josefine Ohema in London

In this Nov. 30 file photo, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual Covid-19 news conference at Downing Street in London, England.
In this Nov. 30 file photo, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual Covid-19 news conference at Downing Street in London, England. Alberto Pezzali/WPA/Pool/Getty Images

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will be ready to distribute next week.

“We are ready to roll out, this vaccine now has been approved from early next week," he said, speaking on Sky News.

According to Hancock, the vaccine will be distributed in three ways:

  • Health care facilities: 50 hospitals nationwide are already ready and waiting to receive the vaccine.
  • Vaccination centers, where people can go get vaccinated, are also being set up.
  • Community rollout will include general practitioners and pharmacists.

"I just want to thank all of the scientists (at) BioNTech and Pfizer, who are manufacturing this, who we've worked so closely with," Hancock said. "We're the first country in the world to have a clinically authorized vaccine to roll out.”

The government's clinical committee will give their advice later Wednesday about which priority groups will get the vaccine first and in which order.  

10:26 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

The UK has granted temporary approval for Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Claudia Otto and Fred Pleitgen 

A handout photo provided by Pfizer shows their vaccine vials.
A handout photo provided by Pfizer shows their vaccine vials. Pfizer

Britain has become the first country to allow the use of Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine after it was granted temporary authorization for emergency use, the companies announced.

This marks the first time that citizens outside of the worldwide clinical trials will have the opportunity to be immunized against Covid-19, according to BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin.

Pfizer and BioNTech previously said that analysis of the vaccine showed it was 95% effective with no safety concerns.

The vaccine will be made available across the UK starting next week, said a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care in a statement. More details will be released soon, including advice for priority groups like the elderly and health care staff to receive the vaccine.

“To aid the success of the vaccination programme it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed," the spokesperson said.

In a news release, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla hailed the emergency authorization as "a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19."
"This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the (Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK," he said.

Sahin added that the regulatory data was the result of "a scientifically rigorous and highly ethical research and development program."

The companies had previously signed an agreement to supply 40 million doses to the UK with delivery in 2020 and 2021.

CNN's Max Foster reports:

2:02 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

US reports more than 180,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

The United States recorded 180,083 new cases of Covid-19 and 2,597 virus-related deaths on Tuesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

That marks the second highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began. The highest remains April 15, with 2,603 fatalities.

The country has now confirmed at least 13,721,645 cases and 270,645 deaths from coronavirus.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.

See CNN's live tracker:

1:58 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Germany reports highest daily death toll of the pandemic

From CNN's Angus Watson

Germany reported 487 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours -- its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country's disease prevention and control agency. 

Daily Covid-19 fatalities have risen sharply in Germany over the past week. The country reported its highest daily deaths on Nov. 25, then again on Nov. 27, and again on Wednesday.

The RKI also recorded 17,270 new cases in the past day.

Germany has now confirmed at least 1,084,743 coronavirus infections and 17,123 virus-related fatalities, according to RKI data.

12:54 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Federal government will pay for dry ice for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, source says

From CNN’s Kristen Holmes

An employee makes dry ice pellets at Capitol Carbonic, a dry ice factory contacted by Pfizer for its Covid-19 vaccine, in Baltimore, Maryland on Nov. 20.
An employee makes dry ice pellets at Capitol Carbonic, a dry ice factory contacted by Pfizer for its Covid-19 vaccine, in Baltimore, Maryland on Nov. 20. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The US federal government will pay for dry ice to help out jurisdictions that do not have the freezers needed to store Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, a source familiar with Operation Warp Speed told CNN Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration has asked its vaccine advisers to meet Dec. 10 to discuss Pfizer’s application for emergency use authorization for its vaccine.

The temperature problem: States, cities and territories have worried about how they could handle the delicate vaccine if it is approved and distributed.

The vaccine must be shipped and stored at temperatures of around minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 75 degrees Celsius. That requires a special freezer that most hospitals, pharmacies or clinics do not have.

The solution: The federal government's plans to handle this problem were shared in a call with the health care industry, the source said.

Jurisdictions without an ultra-low freezer will automatically receive a complimentary shipment of dry ice within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine suitcase. The dry ice will be paid for and shipped by the federal government, the source told CNN.

The shipment will include the scoop, goggles, and cryogenic gloves needed to safely handle the dry ice.

The government is also contracting with the company making temperature monitoring devices that will be fitted onto each suitcase to ensure the vaccines inside never thaw out and get ruined. The suitcase will carry a log to notate temperature.

Each box can be used with the dry ice for five days and refreshed twice, meaning that the vaccine must be administered within a 15-day period. There may also be an option to refrigerate the vaccine for 20 days.

12:35 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Vote to put health care workers first for coronavirus vaccine was easy, says CDC vaccine adviser

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A healthcare worker collects a self-administered coronavirus test at a testing site in Los Angeles, California on November 30 following the Thanksgiving holiday.
A healthcare worker collects a self-administered coronavirus test at a testing site in Los Angeles, California on November 30 following the Thanksgiving holiday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

It was an easy choice to prioritize health care workers for any coronavirus vaccine that might get authorized, one of the vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

“The decision for health care personnel to be in the first group to receive vaccine, I think was a relatively easy decision for me and the rest of the members of the committee,” Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN's Erin Burnett.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to place health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities first in the queue for any authorized Covid-19 vaccine.

“Health care personnel are on the front line taking care of patients, and protecting them in this time of pandemic is particularly important,” Atmar said. 

“What was a little bit more difficult for me was the decision on residents of long-term care facilities. Certainly, this is the group that suffers the greatest burden of disease -- 40% of deaths in the US have been among persons in long-term care facilities. And I think that information persuaded me to add them to the list of the initial group to receive the vaccine,” he added.

The vaccine candidates: Two companies have already applied for emergency use authorization for coronavirus vaccines. But there will still only be 40 million vaccines available by the end of December, even if both get immediate go-ahead from the FDA. So ACIP will have to make choices about which populations to prioritize.

Each vaccine requires two doses, so 40 million shots will cover 20 million people. There are 21 million healthcare workers in the US.

The next few groups that may be prioritized include essential workers like firefighters, teachers, and then high-risk people with underlying conditions, said Atmar.

10:52 p.m. ET, December 1, 2020

Japan tops 150,000 Covid-19 cases, record number of people are in intensive care

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan surpassed 150,000 Covid-19 cases Wednesday after reporting 2,029 new infections in the past 24 hours, according to the country's Health Ministry.

The nationwide total number of cases now stands at 151,098.

The Health Ministry also added 33 new deaths, bringing the country's death toll to 2,185.

Japan has seen nine straight days of a record-high number of coronavirus patients in intensive care and on respirators, with 493 people on Tuesday, up 21 from the previous day.

Tokyo reported 372 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the capital's total number of infections to 41,311.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said on Monday the country is facing "a sense of crisis."

"The number of people in serious condition tends to lag behind new cases. So, the fact that serious ones have increased to nearly 500 means we're facing a sense of crisis," Tamura said.
11:03 p.m. ET, December 1, 2020

US nursing home coronavirus cases hit highest peak since the spring, new report shows

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

A resident in a wheelchair at an assisted living facility in Boston, on Sept. 2.
A resident in a wheelchair at an assisted living facility in Boston, on Sept. 2. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Nursing homes in the United States recently reported their highest weekly new coronavirus cases since the spring, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) said in a report published Tuesday. The rise correlates with a surge in infections nationwide.

“Our worst fears have come true as COVID runs rampant among the general population, and long term care facilities are powerless to fully prevent it from entering due to its asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, in a statement.

Nursing homes in the Midwest were particularly hard hit, with a more then 400% increase in weekly cases since mid-September. During the week of Nov. 15, 49% of new nursing home cases were in the Midwest.

Between mid-September and the week of Nov. 15, there was a 177% rise in new weekly nursing home cases nationwide. The rise in cases has been accompanied by a rise in coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.

The report cites data from Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Health experts say that rising community spread of the virus is a good indicator for surges in nursing homes.

“Given the fact that our elderly population is the most vulnerable and the rising level of Covid across the U.S. shows no signs of stopping, it is paramount that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the highest priority for the vaccine distribution to long term care residents and staff,” Parkinson said.
11:03 p.m. ET, December 1, 2020

China has promised millions of coronavirus vaccines to countries globally. And it is ready to deliver them

From CNN's David Culver and Nectar Gan

Inside a gray warehouse at the Shenzhen International Airport in southern China, a row of white chambers sits in a cordoned-off corner, each fitted with a display screen showing the customized temperature inside.

A security worker in face mask, surgical gown and rubber gloves stands guard. Anyone entering this part of the warehouse has to either complete two weeks of quarantine or wear a head-to-toe hazmat suit.

These climate-controlled rooms, totaling an area of 350 square meters (3,767 square feet), are soon to be filled by rows and rows of Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines -- after they receive approval from the country's drug regulators. From there, they'll be loaded onto temperature-controlled compartments of cargo jets and flown to continents around the world.

In the coming months, China will be sending hundreds of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines to countries that have conducted last-stage trials for its leading candidates. Chinese leaders have also promised a growing list of developing countries priority access to its successful vaccines.

This global campaign presents China an opportunity to repair its image, which was damaged for its initial mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak -- rather than being blamed for the primary spread of the virus it can potentially be esteemed for helping to bring an end to the pandemic.

Read the full story.