December 8 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Nada Bashir, Luke McGee, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020
43 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:41 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

People need to take the 2 doses of Pfizer vaccine "to feel confident that they're protected at 95%," CEO says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A phial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine concentrate is prepared for administration at Guy's Hospital on December 8 in London.
A phial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine concentrate is prepared for administration at Guy's Hospital on December 8 in London. Victoria Jones/Pool/Getty Images

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that while the company saw some level of protection twelve days after the first dose of their Covid-19 vaccine, “the protection is not full.”

“This is a two-dose vaccine, so people need to take two doses to be able to feel confident that they’re protected at 95% — 95% chance of being protected,” Bourla said during an International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations briefing on Tuesday. “At the dose one, it’s around 50%, something like that.”

Bourla added that from an epidemiology point of view, this is important because when a population starts having some type of immunity from the first dose, “that helps.”

“But again, I say, it’s a very big mistake if anyone tries to do it with only one dose when … with two, you almost double the protection,” he said.

Bourla's comments come after the United Kingdom became the world's first nation to begin vaccinating its citizens with a fully vetted and authorized Covid-19 shot —the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

11:18 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

New York City mayor says he expects Covid-19 related restrictions "in a matter of days"

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference in New York City on December 8.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference in New York City on December 8. NYC Media

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated he expects Covid-19 related restrictions in the city “in a matter of days.”

“The statement the governor made yesterday makes clear we can expect in a matter of days new restrictions,” he said, referencing warnings from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo yesterday.

“No one is happy about it, I feel for the small businesses that might be affected and their employees, but this situation has to be addressed,” he continued.

Later de Blasio said, “it’s important to recognize that we’ve gone through a really tough stretch here over the last few weeks and unless there is evidence that that is going to change rapidly unfortunately restrictions are needed to protect us all.”

He is in constant communication with the state and is aligned with their position.

“I think there is urgency here,” he said, adding “what’s clear is we’re going to see these restrictions in a matter of days.”

11:10 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine data published in peer-reviewed journal confirms 70% efficacy

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England.
In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. University of Oxford/John Cairns/AP

Drugmaker AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine candidate was found to have 70.4% efficacy in an interim analysis of Phase 3 trial results, published for the first time in a peer-reviewed journal.

The findings fall in line with the efficacy that AstraZeneca previously announced in November for its vaccine, developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

The analysis, published in the journal The Lancet on Tuesday, found that the vaccine's efficacy in trial participants who received two full doses of vaccine was 62.1%, and then efficacy in those who received a half dose followed by a full dose was 90%.

"Overall vaccine efficacy across both groups was 70.4%," the researchers – from the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca and other institutions around the world – wrote in the study.

"Here, we present the first interim safety and efficacy data for a viral vector coronavirus vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, evaluated in four trials across three continents, showing significant vaccine efficacy of 70.4% after two doses and protection of 64.1% after at least one standard dose, against symptomatic disease, with no safety concerns," the researchers wrote.

More on the study: The study includes data from trials conducted in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa between April and November. The safety data are based on more than 20,000 participants and the efficacy data are based on more than 10,000 participants.

The study says that across all four studies, "the vaccine had a good safety profile." There were 175 severe adverse events in the trials total: 84 events among those who received the vaccine and 91 in the control group. "Three events were classified as possibly related to a vaccine," according to the study. Those included a case of haemolytic anaemia, transverse myelitis and high fever.

There were four deaths during the course of the trials, but all were unrelated to the vaccine, caused by a road traffic accident, blunt force trauma, homicide and fungal pneumonia.

11:10 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Administration official explains why US passed up a chance to buy more Pfizer vaccine

From CNN's Jim Acosta

Officials leading the White House's "Operation Warp Speed" effort to mass produce a coronavirus vaccine passed up a chance to purchase more than the current total of 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine as part of a concerted effort to keep the administration's options open to other vaccines being developed at the same time, an administration familiar with the situation said. 

"They shouldn't have closed the door" to securing more Pfizer doses at the time the purchase was made, the official said. "They could have left the door open" to buying more Pfizer doses, the official added. 

The official said the decision was made as part of a plan to "diversify" the nation's vaccine arsenal through the purchase of millions of doses from Pfizer's rivals. At the time, officials at "Operation Warp Speed" had no idea the Pfizer vaccine was going to be this effective.  

"The plan was to diversify and don't put all your eggs in one basket," the official continued.

Now, the US simply may have to hope that the other vaccines being produced by other companies are just as effective as the Pfizer doses, the official said.

If the other vaccines being manufactured by Pfizer's rivals don't perform at the same level, it could have a detrimental effect on inoculating the American public, the official said, noting it may be difficult to match Pfizer's efficacy rate.

"It's going to look bad," the official continued, if the other vaccines don't perform as well as the doses from Pfizer. But the official said the hope is that the other vaccines will be as effective as the Pfizer doses.

Additional reporting from CNN's Ali Main

11:06 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Arizona reports nearly 7,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Konstantin Toropin

Latajah Byron, a medical assistant at Embry Women's Health, registers a person at a COVID-19 testing site on December 2 in Peoria, Arizona.
Latajah Byron, a medical assistant at Embry Women's Health, registers a person at a COVID-19 testing site on December 2 in Peoria, Arizona. Sean Logan/The Republic/USA Today Network

Arizona has posted a record-setting number of new Covid-19 cases today — 6,973 new cases, according to the state's data dashboard.

Today's case count replaces the old record-high of 5,442 cases that was set on Dec. 3.

Arizona did report a massive 10,322 new Covid-19 cases on Dec. 1, but the state's health department said "this large number of newly reported cases is a result of the extended four-day weekend.” Because of the lag in the data reporting, it is not clear how those cases break down over the Thanksgiving holiday days.

The state has been experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases in the last few weeks with daily case counts regularly topping 3,000 new Covid-19 cases. 

Arizona has reported a total of 378,157 cases of Covid-19 and 6,973 reported deaths to the disease since the pandemic began. 

Note: Some of these numbers were released by the Arizona Department of Health Services and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN's database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

10:44 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

New York City mayor says “next week the vaccine will be here in NYC”

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference in New York City on December 8.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference in New York City on December 8. NYC Media

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while the world is 10 months into the pandemic crisis, there is finally an “end in sight” as “next week the vaccine will be here in NYC.”

“This is the final phase of the war against the coronavirus,” he said Tuesday. 

“We have one more big battle ahead,” he said, stressing that everyone just needs to get through the next few winter months.

Remember: The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss Pfizer's application for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine candidate.

A similar meeting is scheduled next week for Moderna's vaccine candidate. FDA officials say their decisions on the vaccines could come days to weeks after the meetings — it depends on what questions come up.

9:47 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

The UK approved a Covid-19 vaccine before the US. Here's why.

From CNN's Zamira Rahim

Operations for the roll-out of the first Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses get underway at a health center in Cardiff, Wales, on December 8.
Operations for the roll-out of the first Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses get underway at a health center in Cardiff, Wales, on December 8. Sarah Tilotta/CNN

The UK began administering the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside clinical trials today, just days after the country approved the vaccine last week.

The US has not yet approved any coronavirus vaccine: The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss Pfizer's application for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine candidate, but FDA officials say their decisions on the vaccine could come days to weeks after the meetings — it depends on what questions come up.

So why was the UK first? The vaccine was granted emergency authorization in the UK by its independent regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which has played a crucial part in the process.

The MHRA began a rolling review of Pfizer and BioNTech data from October, with each "package" of data reviewed as soon as it became available. This allowed regulators to examine the data in detail before a final authorization application was submitted.

According to the MHRA, a rolling review "can be used to complete the assessment of a promising medicine or vaccine during a public health emergency in the shortest time possible."

This approach helped accelerate the authorization process and a formal review of all the necessary information began in the UK on Nov. 23, leading to last week's approval announcement.

"I think the advantage is that the MHRA has been undertaking a rolling review, which means that as Pfizer accumulated data on how they manufactured the vaccine ... MHRA could keep pace with that," David Salisbury, associate fellow in Chatham House's Global Health Programme, told CNN. "That has allowed the MHRA to be nimble and keep pace."

9:49 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Key pandemic relief programs are set to expire in just weeks. Here's where stimulus negotiations stand.

From CNN's Lauren Fox

The American flag flies half mast at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 7.
The American flag flies half mast at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 7. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell summed it up on Monday: "We are down to the wire."

If there is going to be a stimulus deal, if millions of Americans who depend on expanded unemployment benefits are going to continue getting that help, Congress has to come to an agreement and soon.

Here's a look at where stimulus negotiations stand:

The sticking point: The issue for the bipartisan group is liability insurance. That's why you didn't see them unveil legislative text Monday, and it is why the group talked again into the night for several hours. For months, including liability protection was standing in the way of the talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and it is still standing in the way of benefits for millions of Americans.

This is the item that Republicans are insisting on, not unlike how Democrats have been pushing for months to ensure state and local governments get another round of funding. Democrats know they don't get state and local funding without finding a path forward on liability and Republicans know they don't get liability without something for state and local.

Aides say the meeting Monday night was productive and it served as an opportunity for members to vent and lay out each party's side of the liability issue. But there still isn't a resolution.

Areas of potential compromise: It's possible that if senators can't find an agreement, the bipartisan group could decide to take out state and local and liability and move forward without them. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told CNN that Monday night. McConnell on the floor Monday told Democrats that Congress does "not need to resolve every one of our differences to get badly needed relief out the door."

The big question is, could you actually get enough Democrats to vote for a package that did not include state and local funding? Most members I've asked about this have said they can't agree to anything without it.

Where most lawmakers do agree:

  • Funding for vaccine distribution
  • Another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses
  • Funding for schools
  • Continuation of long-term unemployment benefits so individuals can get the benefits for 39 weeks instead of just 26
  • Extending the eviction moratorium

What could come next: Now that there is an extra week on the congressional calendar, some of the pressure might be off the bipartisan group to come up with a deal so quickly.

The reality is that the momentum visible last week was a direct result of pressure folks were feeling with the Dec. 11 spending deadline. This stimulus package was always going to be attached to the long-term spending deal and with that deadline kicked off until Dec. 18, there is more time.

More time can be good in that it gives negotiators room to find a middle ground and in this case it gives a group of lawmakers who are operating without committees, time to write a bill. But, it can also backfire. Congress operates best and most efficiently when its back is against the wall. More time means that these talks can drag out, giving people more time to nitpick and change their minds.

Read more here.

9:28 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

This is a big week for vaccines in the UK and US. Here's what you need to know.

Empty vials of the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at a health facility in Cardiff, Wales, on December 8 after being loaded into syringes in preparation for vaccinating frontline workers during the first day of the UK's vaccine rollout.
Empty vials of the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at a health facility in Cardiff, Wales, on December 8 after being loaded into syringes in preparation for vaccinating frontline workers during the first day of the UK's vaccine rollout. Sarah Tilotta/CNN

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in many parts of the world, the UK and the US are taking important steps this week in their vaccination efforts.

If you're just reading in now, here's where things stand:

  • First vaccines given in the UK: The United Kingdom began administering the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside clinical trials today, launching a sprawling public health campaign to vaccinate tens of millions of people in just a matter of months. Margaret "Maggie" Keenan, who turns 91 next week, became the first person in the world to receive an authorized, fully-vetted coronavirus vaccine.
  • US FDA advisers meet this week: The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss Pfizer's application for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine candidate. A similar meeting is scheduled next week for Moderna's vaccine candidate. FDA officials say their decisions on the vaccines could come days to weeks after the meetings — it depends on what questions come up.
  • Data on the vaccine candidate: Ahead of the meeting later this week, the FDA released data confirming Pfizer's vaccine efficacy against Covid-19. The document goes on to detail the safety profile of the vaccine as "favorable" and notes that the most common adverse reactions to the vaccine have been reactions at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever.