The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Florence Davey-Attlee, Hannah Strange and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021
44 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
6:05 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine generates immune response, few side effects, in early trials

From CNN Health's Maggie Fox

Early stage trials of Johnson & Johnson's experimental coronavirus vaccine show it generated an immune response in nearly all volunteers, with minimal side-effects, after a single dose.

The company expects to report details of more advanced trials later this month and is hoping to apply for authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration soon after.

Researchers who tested the vaccine in a combined Phase 1-2 trial -- mostly meant to show safety -- found either one or two doses of the vaccine generated both antibody and T-cell responses against the coronavirus. The trials were not designed to show whether the vaccine protected people against either infection or symptoms of coronavirus -- that's what the ongoing Phase 3 trials are designed to do.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, an international team of researchers who tested the vaccine in around 800 volunteers said the early stage trials showed it was safe and probably should work.

The FDA has given emergency use authorization to two coronavirus vaccines – one made by Pfizer with partner BioNTech, and another by Moderna. Both were about 95% effective in preventing symptomatic disease in their Phase 3 trials. They use messenger RNA or mRNA – a new vaccine technology.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine arm Janssen uses a different approach for its vaccine, often referred to by its experimental name Ad26.COV2.S. It uses a weakened version of a common cold virus called adenovirus 26 to carry genetic material from the virus into the body, prompting human cells to produce pieces of the virus, which are then recognized by the immune system.

Read more on this story:

5:09 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Even after schools reopened, coronavirus cases were lowest among younger children, study says

From CNN Health’s Jamie Gumbrecht

As some areas of the country push to reopen school buildings, a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that Covid-19 cases were lowest among younger children even after schools restarted for in-person learning. But to safely reopen schools, transmission in communities must be kept in check.

The report, published Wednesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, considered more than 2.8 million laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases in people under age 24, from March 1 through December 12, 2020. 

More than 57% of those cases occurred among people ages 18 to 24. Cases among children and teens paralleled cases among adults through the summer and fall -- including spikes in cases in early summer followed by a decline, and then a steep increase in October through December.

By early December, 62% of US K-12 school districts had opened for full or partial in-person learning. Despite that, reports of school outbreaks were “limited,” CDC researchers wrote. Covid-19 incidence among the general population was similar in counties with in-person learning – 401.2 cases per 100,000 people – and those that were all-online – : 418.2 per 100,000 people.

There was no sign that increased cases among school-age children and teens preceded increases in other age groups; however, there were increases among other age groups after cases increased among people ages 18 to 24.

To prevent coronavirus transmission in schools, transmission in the community must be controlled, the report said. Communities and schools should implement mitigation strategies such as wearing masks, and people must adhere to them. CDC recommendations already say K-12 schools should be the last to close after all other mitigation measures have been attempted, and the first to reopen once it’s safe to do so, the report noted. 

“When community transmission is high, cases in schools should be expected, and as with any group setting, schools can contribute to COVID-19 transmission, especially when mitigation measures, such as universal and proper masking, are not implemented or followed,” the report said.

There are limitations to the report, including that Covid-19 cases are likely underestimated among young people, and case trends among teachers and school staff members are not available.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged that his administration will reopen most schools within 100 days of taking office. 

4:36 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Portugal to enter a new lockdown from Friday, but schools stay open

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca in Cascais, Portugal

Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa holds a press conference at Palacio da Ajuda in Lisbon on January 13.
Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa holds a press conference at Palacio da Ajuda in Lisbon on January 13. Patricia De Melo/AFP/Getty Images

Portugal is set to enter a new lockdown on Friday but schools will remain open, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on Wednesday. 

“We have to take over the joint responsibility of stopping this pandemic together,” Costa said in his press conference. 

“The fundamental message of the decisions that we are taking is to return to our duty of home curfew -- as we had in March and April -- when we stopped, with success, the first wave,” Costa said.

“The rules that we are reimposing are essentially the same as March and April, with one exception which is tied with the democratic schedule around the Portuguese elections on January 24; and with the necessity of not sacrificing again our current generation of students and as such, we will maintain all the education systems fully operational as they are currently,” he said. 

The announcement comes amid rising concerns over record coronavirus numbers, after Portugal reached its highest number of daily cases and coronavirus related deaths. 

4:08 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Moderna CEO says he does not think coronavirus variants pose problem for current vaccine 

From CNN's Gregory Lemos

Stephane Bancel in 2019  in New York City.
Stephane Bancel in 2019  in New York City. Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Wednesday he does not believe variants of coronavirus that have been detected in the UK, South Africa or Brazil, and now seen in many countries, will affect the efficacy of his company's vaccine.  

"I think the question is more medium term as the virus continues evolving over time," Bancel said Wednesday during the annual JP Morgan Health Conference.

"I'm not worried for the short term but we are watching that very closely because I think that we might be moving into a world where we need new strains of vaccine down the road -- but not in the short term," he said.

Pfizer President Angela Hwang said she is "bullish" about what the Pfizer vaccine is capable of doing in terms of reacting to mutations and variants, but they are watching it closely as well. "What we have to realize is the virus could change and we may need a new vaccine altogether," Hwang said.  

Hwang said Pfizer is ready should the virus change and "that's where the beauty of the mRNA technology comes in." 

"With the sequence, we are going to be able to make a new vaccine in very short order, in as little as six weeks," Hwang said.  

Both Moderna and Pfizer use a modular type of technology that allows the vaccine formula to be changed quickly in case a viruses mutates so much that it eludes the immune response prompted by a vaccine.

2:57 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

More than 10 million people in the US have had their first Covid-19 shot

From CNN's Michael Nedelman and Maggie Fox

People are vaccinated at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on January 13 in New York City.
People are vaccinated at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on January 13 in New York City. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Just over 10 million people have received their first coronavirus shots and 29.3 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The US is still lagging far behind its target vaccination rate, but the new numbers indicate that close to a million people received vaccination shots in a day – although the CDC’s numbers are not reported in real time and states complain that the data is lagging. The CDC reported Tuesday that more than 9 million people had been vaccinated as of 9 a.m. ET.

According to the CDC, as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, 29,380,125 doses had been distributed and 10,278,462 people had received first doses of vaccine.

The Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed announced changes Tuesday aimed at speeding up the vaccine administration process, including releasing more doses of vaccine and urging states to vaccinate anyone 65 and older, and younger people with chronic conditions that might make them more vulnerable to severe disease.

2:21 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

WHO director asks wealthy nations to share vaccine with low income nations

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme Director Dr. Michael Ryan speaks during a daily press briefing at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 9, 2020.
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme Director Dr. Michael Ryan speaks during a daily press briefing at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 9, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

As Covid-19 case numbers continue rising globally, Dr. Mike Ryan, director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, on Wednesday called upon wealthy nations around the world to help bridge a global vaccine inequity gap.

"There are populations out there who want and who need vaccines who are not going to get them unless or until we begin to share better," Ryan said during a virtual Q&A Wednesday.

In the 36 days since countries started vaccinating, 28 million vaccine doses have been administered, he said. According to Ryan, of the 46 countries who are currently vaccinating, only one is a low income country.

“We really have to look at this in terms of equity,” Ryan said.

Ryan added there have been 5 million new cases of Covid-19 and 85,000 deaths linked to the virus globally in the past week.

"Essentially all regions apart for Southeast Asia are showing increases," Ryan said, highlighting that the Americas still account for half of all new cases and 45% of deaths globally. 

"We've seen that perfect storm of the season, the coldness, people going inside, increased social mixing, and a combination of factors that have driven increased transmission in many, many countries," Ryan said.

"It's interesting when we talk about tolerance, kindness and solidarity, that they are probably the most powerful countermeasures we have right now," he also said. "You have to have the attitude that this disease ends with me.”

2:07 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Italy becomes sixth nation to surpass 80,000 deaths

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo in Rome

Italy marked a grim milestone on Wednesday, as its total coronavirus death toll passed 80,000.

The country has registered 80,326 total deaths and currently has the sixth highest global death toll, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

According to health ministry data, there were 15,774 new daily cases, bringing the total number of cases in Italy to 2,319,036.

A total 2,579 intensive care beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients, 59 less than Tuesday.

1:25 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Almost 39 million Covid-19 cases and 925,000 deaths in the Americas, health organization says

From CNN's Jaide Garcia

Medical staff monitor and treat sick patients infected with the Covid-19 virus at the UMASS Memorial DCU Center Field Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 13.
Medical staff monitor and treat sick patients infected with the Covid-19 virus at the UMASS Memorial DCU Center Field Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 13. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

The Americas have reported almost 39 million coronavirus cases and nearly 925,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) director Carissa Etienne told journalists during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

Last week 2.5 million people across the Americas were infected with Covid-19, which Etienne said was the highest weekly case count since the virus reached the region. 

Local health systems in Canada and Mexico are struggling to keep up with demanding care, and early January data suggests "infections are on the rise in Costa Rica and Belize" Etienne added.

In South America, every country has reported a rise in cases over the last few weeks. 

The PAHO director also said PAHO is working with every country in the region to help secure vaccines. Their effort includes but is not limited to providing support for vaccine demand planning, logistics, coaching management, surveillance, information system strengthening, as well as health worker training and vaccine communication planning.

12:46 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

New York City working out plan to use Yankee stadium as a vaccination site

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Yankee Stadium is seen on March 28, 2019 in New York City.
Yankee Stadium is seen on March 28, 2019 in New York City. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is working on a plan to use Yankee Stadium as a vaccination site, he said Wednesday. 

“That plan is in motion,” de Blasio said, and the city will announce details when the plan has been worked through. 

The move comes after the mayor announced the Gotham Health Clinic on Staten Island is opening today as a 24-hour mega vaccination site.

The New York City Health & Hospital Corona in Queens will follow it by opening on Saturday, and Citi Field in Queens Empire Outlets on Staten Island will open later this month. 

As of Tuesday, New York City has administered 28,599 new Covid-19 vaccine doses, de Blasio said.

But he added that at least 12 new cases of the new variant of Covid-19, first identified in the UK, have been discovered in New York, with two of those cases being found in New York City residents.