The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Sharon Braithwaite, Meg Wagner and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 12:08 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021
29 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
7:57 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Fauci says it probably won’t make a difference if second vaccine doses are delayed by a couple weeks

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

It probably won’t make a big difference if people can’t get a second Covid-19 vaccine until six weeks after the first, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday.

On Thursday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say that people could schedule second doses of vaccine up to six weeks after their first if they were unable to get it in the recommended time frame -- 21 days after the first shot for the Pfizer vaccine, or 28 days after the first shot for the Moderna vaccine.

On Thursday, Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that people were “taking a chance” if they waited up to six weeks, although it was possible it was “not going to be a big deal.”

Fauci explained to CNN’s John Berman on New Day Friday that clinical trial said it’s optimal to stick with the recommended time frames. What the CDC is saying, Fauci said, is “sometimes the situation is stressed, where it’s very difficult to be exactly on time. So, we’re saying you could probably do it six weeks later, namely two additional weeks.” 

He said that “quite frankly, immunologically, I don’t think that’s going to make a big difference.”

“I don’t see a big problem with that if the situation on the ground means the stress is such you can’t precisely do 28 days or 21 days,” Fauci said.

He said that there is no disagreement between the CDC and himself: “They’re saying, practically speaking, if you gotta do that, it very likely is not going to make a big difference.”

Watch more from Fauci's interview with CNN here:

7:48 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

CDC still working on goal to double coronavirus sequences to expand hunt for mutations

From CNN Health's Elizabeth Cohen

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] did not meet a goal to quickly ramp up surveillance for possibly dangerous coronavirus mutations, according to numbers from the federal agency.

At the beginning of the year, Dr. Gregory Armstrong, director of the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told CNN he hoped that over the next two weeks that the agency would more than double the number of coronavirus genomes being sequenced in the US. While the number of sequences did increase over those two weeks, it did not double.  

The hope was to sequence an additional 3,500 coronavirus samples per week. But only 2,250 to 2,650 additional samples were sequenced, according to CDC numbers, with more expected soon as private labs have recently come online to help in the effort.

Hunting for new mutations is a critical part of combatting the spread of the virus. While most mutations are harmless, some might be able to spread more quickly, be more deadly, or be resistant to coronavirus vaccines. 

The US has been criticized for having a lackluster sequencing program. Last week, President-elect Joe Biden said he would increase funding for coronavirus surveillance efforts when he takes office.  

“We simply do not have the kind of robust surveillance capabilities that we need to track outbreaks and mutations,” according to a Biden’s American rescue plan issued last week. 

The US ranks 33rd in the world for sequences per 1,000 cases of Covid-19, falling behind countries that have far fewer resources, such as Senegal and Sierra Leone, according an analysis by the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using data from GISAID, an independent data sharing initiative. 

“We’re not even doing as good as Ouagadougou,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, referring to the capital of Burkina Faso. 

Hotez added that when it comes to genomic sequencing, the US comes up “profoundly small, and that’s tragic. And it’s costing American lives.”

Read the full story here.

7:32 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Germany death toll "depressing" and "inconceivable," officials say

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto in Berlin

A coffin labeled with the inscription "Covid 19" is pictured at a crematorium in Dülmen, Germany, on January 19.
A coffin labeled with the inscription "Covid 19" is pictured at a crematorium in Dülmen, Germany, on January 19. Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance/Getty Images

German health officials on Friday described the death toll from Covid-19 in the country as “depressing” and “inconceivable,” as the total number of fatalities passed the 50,000 mark.

"A total of 50,642 people have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, that is a depressing to me, almost [an] inconceivable number,” the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, Lothar Wieler, told journalists during a press conference in Berlin. 

Cases are too high, but we are seeing a slightly positive trend in case numbers.”

At the same briefing, German Health Minister Jens Spahn reiterated the call for people to respect existing anti-coronavirus measures to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.

“We see some initial relief in the intensive care unit facilities,” he said, but cautioned that the number of patients admitted to intensive care units “are still at too high.”

Around 1.5 million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany, the minister said.

Spahn then added that with the expected approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine candidate in the EU, he hoped to have everyone in the country vaccinated by the summer.

7:20 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Good timing could help Biden administration's vaccine strategy, but challenges remain

From CNN's Sara Murray and Kristen Holmes

President Joe Biden signs executive orders as part of the Covid-19 response, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci look on, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21.
President Joe Biden signs executive orders as part of the Covid-19 response, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci look on, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

As US President Joe Biden takes steps to try to ramp up vaccine production, experts say the biggest boon to his administration's vaccine strategy could simply be good timing.

Experts tell CNN that Biden's team may be positioned for success even if it does relatively little, as the administration absorbs a flawed vaccine-distribution effort but at the same moment manufacturers hit a stride and states work out the kinks in their own distribution plans.

"They're going to take advantage of the learning curve," said Vijay Samant, a former Merck executive who oversaw the production of three successful vaccines during his tenure. Samant said vaccine manufacturers have had months to work out supply bottlenecks and that manufacturing was always projected to speed up in the coming months.

Biden's chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday expressed confidence in the President's once seemingly far-reaching goal to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days.

Still, questions remain about where US vaccine supply currently stands.

Biden's team has said it's flying somewhat blind when it comes to the supply of vaccine and how it has been allocated across the country. A source close to the transition told CNN that the Biden team had been denied access to critical resources it needed to accurately gauge the supply and prepare to take over the rollout before Biden took office.

For the Biden team, it's critical to understand how much supply is on hand and how much could realistically be available in the coming months. States have said they need clear and consistent guidance on vaccine supply so they can continue to streamline their vaccination programs.

Read the full story here:

7:08 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

IOC dismisses Olympics cancellation rumors

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Japan National Stadium, where some events for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are planned to take place, is seen from a rooftop observation deck in Tokyo, Japan, on January 21.
Japan National Stadium, where some events for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are planned to take place, is seen from a rooftop observation deck in Tokyo, Japan, on January 21. Kiichiro Sato/AP

Reports of this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games being canceled due to Covid-19 are “categorically untrue,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in a statement to CNN on Friday.

The Times of London, citing an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition, reported earlier on Friday that Japanese authorities had privately concluded the Olympics could not proceed due to the ongoing pandemic. CNN has not independently verified this report.

The IOC’s statement reads: “Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the Government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. This is categorically untrue.

“At an IOC Executive Board meeting in July last year, it was agreed that the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would be held on July 23 this year, and the programme and venues for the Games were rescheduled accordingly. All parties involved are working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer."

The IOC statement also said organizers will be “implementing all possible countermeasures against COVID-19” and reiterated its commitment to the successful delivery of the Games later this year.

Officials in Tokyo have also been quick to reject the rumors. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said in a press conference Friday that "cancelation and postponement of the Games have not been discussed." Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also denied the reports, saying his government is “determined” to “realize a safe and secure Olympics.”

Saturday marks six months until the postponed Games are due to begin.

6:20 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Hungary reaches deal to purchase Russia vaccine

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Boglarka Kosztolanyi in London

A dose of the Sputnik V vaccine is seen during a coronavirus vaccination campaign in Moscow, Russia on January 21.
A dose of the Sputnik V vaccine is seen during a coronavirus vaccination campaign in Moscow, Russia on January 21. Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Hungarian Government has reached a deal with Russia to purchase a “large quantity” of Russia’s Sputnik Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s Foreign Minister announced during a visit to Moscow on Friday. 

“I am happy to announce that we have signed an agreement today under which Hungary can purchase a large quantity of vaccine from Russia in three tranches,” Peter Szijjarto said, adding that additional details regarding the agreement -- namely specifics on when the first vaccines will be delivered -- would be released later. 

“It’s Hungary’s national interest to speed up vaccinations. Because of the slow arrival of vaccines so far, this is only possible if we buy effective and safe vaccines from another source,” he added. 

The Hungarian government has complained about what it considers the slow arrival of vaccines approved and purchased by the European Union as a whole.

Men carry a box containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as the first shipment of it arrived in Budapest, Hungary, on January 12.
Men carry a box containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as the first shipment of it arrived in Budapest, Hungary, on January 12. Szilard Koszticsak/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The bloc had agreed to distribute vaccines at an equal pace and on a pro rata basis, but speaking to a local radio on Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban blamed Brussels for the slow distribution and urged the European Medicines Agency to approve other vaccines, such as the Oxford/AstraZeneca candidate. 

“Hungarians need the vaccine, not an explanation,” he said. 

Some context: Orban is facing a potentially tight parliamentary elections in 2022 and his government is ramping rhetoric as it attempts to be seen as handling the coronavirus outbreak in the country well.

The country reported 1,311 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday and 98 additional deaths from the virus. A total of 356,973 have contracted the virus in the country and 11,713 have died with Covid-19.

6:00 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Tokyo Governor denies rumors Olympics will be canceled

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attends a press conference in Tokyo on January 15.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attends a press conference in Tokyo on January 15. Hiroto Sekiguchi/The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Images

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has denied reports of the Olympic Games being canceled in a press conference Friday saying, "cancelation and postponement of the games have not been discussed."

This comes after The Times of London, citing an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition, reported earlier Friday that Japanese authorities had privately concluded that the Olympics could not proceed due to the ongoing pandemic. CNN has not independently verified the report, which officials in Tokyo were quick to refute.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also denied the reports, saying his government is “determined” to “realize a safe and secure Olympics” during a press conference Friday.

Read more on this story here:

5:17 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

About 6 in 10 Americans don’t know when or where to get a Covid-19 vaccine, study finds

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

Staff and volunteers distribute the Covid-19 vaccine to people as they remain in their vehicles at The Forum in Inglewood, California, on, January 19.
Staff and volunteers distribute the Covid-19 vaccine to people as they remain in their vehicles at The Forum in Inglewood, California, on, January 19. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

About 6 in 10 Americans don’t know when or where to get a coronavirus vaccine, a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds. 

The report, based on surveys conducted from January 11 to 18 with 1,563 participants, also suggests Americans are experiencing a range of emotions as a result of the chaotic vaccine rollout. Half said they are “frustrated,” a third said they felt “confused,” and nearly a quarter are “angry.”

The Biden administration has been left with a huge challenge on vaccine administration. Most Americans don’t know when or where they can get a vaccine, including older Americans, who are already eligible to get a vaccine in a growing number of states,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a news release Friday. "Understandably large numbers of people are frustrated, angry and confused.”

The survey also found that 55% of essential workers they interviewed said they have enough information about where to get a vaccine, but do not have enough information to know when they will be eligible for their shots. Additionally, 21% of health care workers interviewed who have not yet gotten vaccinated said they don’t have enough information about how to obtain a coronavirus vaccine. 

The report also found Black, Hispanic and lower income adults are among the groups least likely to say they have enough information about vaccines. At least 6 in 10 said they don’t have enough information about where to get vaccinated, and at least two-thirds said that they do not have enough information about when they can get vaccinated.

About half (48%) of the public expects vaccine distribution to “get better” under President Biden’s administration, while most others expect the situation to “stay about the same” (36%). Relatively few (12%) expect distribution to “get worse," the survey stated. 

Regardless of personal politics most of the survey participants -- 60% -- rated their state government’s performance on vaccines as only fair or poor.

4:26 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Missouri state health department not reporting results of positive antigen tests in Covid-19 case counts

From CNN's Alta Spells

The Missouri state health department has not been including results from antigen tests (rapid tests) when reporting Covid-19 case totals, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday. 

State health department data requested by the Post-Dispatch showed "antigen tests caught an average of 648 positive cases a day in December and 644 positive cases a day in January — numbers that were not included in the state’s daily report of new COVID-19 cases," the newspaper reported. 

Data analysis conducted by the Post-Dispatch showed that, "in January, the numbers would be 20% to 40% higher on any given day," if the antigen test results had been included in the daily case counts, according to the newspaper. 

The Post-Dispatch noted that the CDC updated its probable cause definition in August to include positive antigen test results, even among asymptomatic people.

"Since August, the state has collected 52,683 positive results from antigen tests but not included them in the state’s tally of 443,838 cases," the newspaper reported.

When asked about the state's antigen test reporting, Lisa Cox, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services told the Post-Dispatch, "This has been an active discussion lately about how and when we will report antigen/probables publicly as they have continued to become a much larger portion of testing overall." She said, “It’s likely this piece will become part of our standard public reporting within the next week or so.”

CNN has reached out to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and is reaching out to other states to determine if Missouri’s counting methods are unique. 

Note: These numbers were released by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University.