The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 10:08 a.m. ET, January 9, 2021
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9:10 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Moderna says second dose of its Covid-19 can be effectively administered up to 42 days after first dose

From CNN's John Bonifield

A box of Moderna Covid-19 vaccines is unpacked at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in Boston on December 24, 2020.
A box of Moderna Covid-19 vaccines is unpacked at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in Boston on December 24, 2020. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Moderna believes the second dose of its Covid-19 vaccine can be effectively administered between 21 to 42 days after the first dose, Ray Jordan, a spokesperson for the company, told CNN Friday.

Moderna declined to say whether the company could meet demand for second doses of coronavirus vaccine if the incoming Biden administration releases all vaccine at once, instead of holding back half.

In clinical trials, Moderna's vaccine was given as two doses 28 days apart. On Friday, President-elect Joe Biden’s team said his administration would release all doses of coronavirus vaccines right away, instead of holding back half to ensure second doses are given on time, as the Trump administration has been doing.

When asked if Moderna would be able to produce enough additional vaccine to get second doses administered on day 28, the company declined to directly answer.

"Moderna is not aware of changed requirements associated with the Biden plan but has affirmed its plan to deliver according to the existing government supply contracts," Jordan said. "This includes an expectation of delivering 100 million doses by the end of the first quarter and 200 million doses total by the end of the second quarter. Earlier this week, Moderna reported having already delivered 18 million doses to the US government."

The World Health Organization’s vaccine advisers said earlier Friday that the second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine could also be administered as long as 42 days – six weeks – after the first dose.

5:35 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

There is no evidence homegrown variant is fueling coronavirus surge in the US, CDC says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

There is no evidence the United States has a homegrown variant of coronavirus that’s fueling the recent increased spread of the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. 

The White House coronavirus task force told states last week “there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities,” according to reports obtained by CNN.

But the CDC said there was no evidence of that yet.

“Based on scientific understanding of viruses, it is highly likely there are many variants evolving simultaneously across the globe,” a spokesperson said in a statement emailed to CNN.

“Additionally, there is a strong possibility there are variants in the United States; however, it could weeks or months to identify if there is a single variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 fueling the surge in the United States similar to the surge in the United Kingdom,” the spokesperson added.

“Researchers have been monitoring U.S. strains since the pandemic began, including 5,700 samples collected in November and December. To date, neither researchers nor analysts at CDC have seen the emergence of a particular variant in the United States as has been seen with the emergence of B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom or B.1.351 in South Africa.”

Variants of the virus first seen in Britain and South Africa have patterns of mutations that indicate they could make it easier for the virus to infect human cells, and thus to make it more easily transmitted.

5:30 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

CDC director warns of Covid-19 surge after US Capitol riot

From CNN's Keri Enriquez

Supporters of President Donald Trump are seen from behind scaffolding as they gather outside the US Capitol's Rotunda on January 6 in Washington, DC.
Supporters of President Donald Trump are seen from behind scaffolding as they gather outside the US Capitol's Rotunda on January 6 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield warned that the riots at the US Capitol on Wednesday was likely a coronavirus “surge event” and “is going to have public health consequences.”

In an interview with the McClatchy newspaper group on Friday, Redfield called the riots a “very, very sad day” and expressed concern that members of Congress and law enforcement could have been exposed by the pro-Trump mob, perpetuating the spread of coronavirus.

“I do think you have to anticipate that this is another surge event. You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol,” Redfield told McClatchy. 

“Then these individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now. So I do think this is an event that will probably lead to a significant spreading event,” Redfield said.

On Thursday, the US reported more than 4,000 deaths from coronavirus for the first time. Redfield warned that the numbers are likely to increase. 

“We’re going to continue to see mortality in the 2,500-5,000 a day range,” Redfield said. “This is going to continue to get worse through January, and probably parts of February before we really start to turn the corner.”

“We haven’t hit the peak of the current surge,” he added. “Clearly, the amount of mortality we’re seeing, as many of us are trying to stress, is more than we saw on Pearl Harbor or 9/11, over and over and over again. That’s the state of the pandemic unfortunately we’re at right now.”
5:30 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Second coronavirus vaccine dose is "absolutely critical," Fauci says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Friday that the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is essential for optimal protection. 

“The second dose is absolutely critical,” Fauci said. 

His comments came on the same day that CNN reported that the Biden administration will aim to release every available dose of the vaccine once he takes office. While quickly doing this could increase the number of people who receive their first dose of the vaccine, it may delay second doses for some. Under current guidance, the two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine must be administered 21 days apart, while Moderna’s two doses should be given 28 day apart.

Fauci said that one dose of Moderna or one dose of Pfizer “has not been proven to be efficacious to the degree that we want, and we don’t know how long the protection lasts.”

“Whatever you’re hearing, one dose of the Moderna and one dose of the Pfizer is not optimal,” Fauci said. “Optimal is one dose of Pfizer, followed in 21 days by the boost. Or one dose of Moderna followed in 28 days with a boost if you want optimal protection and optimal durability.”  
5:25 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Nearly 6.7 million people vaccinated against coronavirus, CDC says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Sergeant Brian Patrick McKnerney, of the New Jersey State Police, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Morris County vaccination site, in Rockaway, New Jersey, on January 8.
Sergeant Brian Patrick McKnerney, of the New Jersey State Police, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Morris County vaccination site, in Rockaway, New Jersey, on January 8. Sarah Blesener/The New York Times/Pool/AP

Nearly 6.7 million people have received their first doses of vaccine against coronavirus in the US and more than 22 million doses of vaccine have now been distributed, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

As of Friday morning, 30.2% of doses distributed have been administered, compared with 33% last weekend and 27.6% on Thursday.

The US is still struggling to catch up to the promised target of 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020.

The CDC said 22,137,350 doses of vaccine had been distributed as of 9 a.m. Friday and 6,688,231 people had received their first doses of vaccine.

States have said they don’t have enough staff or money to administer coronavirus vaccines at the needed rate.

5:18 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Some states have tapped dentists, retired physicians and medical students to administer vaccines

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

As the US looks for ways to speed the administration of Covid-19 vaccines, some states and providers are pulling in non-traditional vaccinators, including dentists, retirees and students, to aid in the process. 

On Monday, the California Department of Consumer Affairs approved an emergency waiver allowing dentists to administer Covid-19 vaccines to people ages 16 and up. The American Dental Association says dentists are cleared to give the vaccine in multiple states, including Oregon, where the first dentist in the US to administer a Covid-19 vaccine did so last month. 

Some health systems, like Mount Sinai Health System in New York City and The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medicine, are tapping a well of newly trained nursing, medical and dental students to aid in the vaccination effort.

“We have been using some atypical vaccinators because we're trying to prioritize keeping our licensed nurses at the bedside,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, professor of emergency medicine at UAB. “While we're rolling out vaccine, we're simultaneously dealing with a patient surge.” 

Some jurisdictions are looking to retired health care workers, who have the skills to administer vaccines and aren’t actively attending to Covid-19 patients.

“It’s a lot of retired physicians that are standing up to act as vaccinators,” New Jersey State Commissioner of Health Judy Persichilli said during a news conference Wednesday.

Covid-19 vaccinators must be trained and authorized. 

Dr. William Reynolds, president of the American Optometric Association, says optometrists are an untapped resource in the vaccination effort. He said they are widely distributed and ready to jump in in smaller and rural communities that may need more manpower.

The association says 19 states allow optometrists to administer medicine via injection – and in California, they can administer flu and shingles vaccines – but they aren’t authorized to give the Covid-19 vaccine, specifically. 

“We want to be part of the solution,” said Reynolds.

5:13 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Fauci says US watching coronavirus to make sure vaccines work against any new variants

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Anthony Fauci speaks at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland.
Anthony Fauci speaks at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Health officials are watching to make sure that coronavirus vaccines are effective against any variants that arise, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Friday.

Fauci remarked on a study that indicates changes being seen in the virus are not, so far, affecting whether vaccines will work. “Right now, the scientists … have taken a close look at this, and have determined that the antibodies that are induced by the vaccine that we’re using now are still very effective against the mutant strain,” he said during an event on health equity hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University.

“We will also be looking at that very carefully and following it very carefully,” he said, adding that if anything changed then manufacturers can quickly modify the vaccine to match.

“Right now, the data indicate that the UK mutant is still quite sensitive to the antibodies that are induced by the vaccine,” he said. “But again, we’re going to be very careful. We’re going to continue to follow that to make sure that it stays that way.”
4:44 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Canadian prime minister anticipates "tough" days ahead as country considers extended lockdowns

From CNN’s Paula Newton

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Ontario, on January 8.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Ontario, on January 8. CTV Network

Canada continues to set new daily records for Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Frankly, it’s frightening to see cases rise at home and around the world, day after day,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a news conference from Ottawa Friday. 

Trudeau pleaded with Canadians to continue to follow local public health guidelines as vaccines continue to roll out across the country. 

“Quantities of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine will scale up in February. Remember that Canada has the most vaccines secured per capita in the world, which means that, by September, we will have enough vaccines for every Canadian who wants one,” Trudeau said. 

Some provincial leaders have said that federal authorities have not yet delivered enough doses to meet the demand for vaccinations for priority groups like health care workers and resident of long-term care centers. 

According to government data, Canada has vaccinated less than 1% of its population, and most of those with only a single dose. 

10:08 a.m. ET, January 9, 2021

Pfizer declines to say if it can produce vaccine quickly enough to get second doses out on schedule if Biden releases withheld supply

From CNN's John Bonifield

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020.
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Pfizer declined to say Friday whether it could meet demand for second doses of coronavirus vaccine if the incoming Biden administration releases all vaccine at once, instead of holding back half. 

Pfizer’s vaccine is supposed to be given as two doses 21 days apart. On Friday, President-elect Joe Biden’s team said his administration would release all doses of coronavirus vaccines right away, instead of holding back half to ensure second doses are given on time, as the Trump administration has been doing.

When asked if Pfizer would be able to produce enough additional vaccine to get second doses administered on day 21, the company declined to directly answer.

"Pfizer is confident in our ability to deliver 200 million doses of our vaccine to the U.S. government by July 31st. We are committed to collaborating with the Biden Administration on common-sense solutions to the challenges in vaccine distribution, so that as many Americans as possible have access to our vaccine as quickly as possible," Pfizer said in a statement.