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
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9:30 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

EU to seek clarification from Pfizer on Covid-19 vaccine delays

From CNN’s James Frater and Katharina Krebs in London

The European Union will seek clarification from Pfizer on reports of new delays in delivering Covid-19 vaccines, chief spokesperson for European Commission Eric Mamer said during a press briefing on Friday.

Mamer stressed that the Commission is constantly in contact with the manufacturers and are aware of recent developments.

Last week Pfizer said that shipments from its vaccine facility in Puurs, Belgium, would be temporarily reduced as it scales up to produce 2 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses in 2021.  

Eric Mamer explained that the deliveries are organised specifically between the Member States and the companies, while the Commission supports the relationship between the two. 

“We will of course continue our contact with BioNTech/Pfizer to ensure that we have always the latest information and see what are the next steps that need to be taken based on this,” he said. 

Some background: Italy announced Wednesday it will take legal actions against pharmaceutical company Pfizer over Covid-19 vaccine delays.

"Unfortunately this week we received 29% fewer vaccine jabs from Pfizer and we have been told that we will receive 20% fewer vaccine jabs next week," the country’s extraordinary coronavirus commissioner Domenico Arcuri said Thursday during a press conference. The vaccination rollout has been "significantly" slowed down due to this delay, Arcuri added.

"Until last Saturday we vaccinated an average of 80,000 people a day, with a peak of 92,618 in 24 hours. After Saturday, the people who were vaccinated are just over a third, 28,000 on average," he said.

Pfizer said last week that in order to increase capacity, changes were needed to the process and facility, and additional regulatory approvals would be required.

Pfizer's vaccine partner BioNTech later said that the original schedule for deliveries to the European Union would resume the week beginning Jan. 25.

BioNTech said it hoped to “increase delivery beginning the week of February 15," which would result in delivering “the fully committed quantity of vaccine doses in the first quarter and significantly more in the second quarter."

8:56 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

UK government denies plan to pay $683 to people who test positive for Covid-19

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

The British government has denied reports that suggest that it intends to pay everyone in England who test positive for Covid-19 and additional £500 (which is about $683), in an effort to increase the number of people respecting lockdown rules.

“We already offer a £500 payment to support those on low incomes who cannot work from home,” the British Prime Minister’s spokesperson told journalists during a briefing on Friday, according to PA Media. “That £500 is on top of any other benefits and statutory sick pay that people are eligible for.”

"We've given local authorities £70 million for the scheme and they are able to provide extra payments on top of those £500 if they think it necessary,” the spokesperson also said.

8:52 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

US can do better than Biden's goal of 100 million vaccines in 100 days, says Fauci

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s John Berman Friday that he thinks that the country will do better than the goal of 100 million vaccine doses administered in President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office. 

“Obviously, you want to do as best as you possibly can, I’d like it to be a lot more,” Fauci said, when asked how satisfied he would really be if, by April 30, there were exactly 100 million Americans vaccinated. “The goal was set but you don’t want to get fixated on was that an undershoot or an overshoot.” 

Fauci said that you go for 100 million over 100 days, “if we do better than that, which I personally think we likely will, then great.”

“We’re just going to go for it for as much as you possibly can,” Fauci said. “When you set a goal, if you do better than the goal, that’s terrific, I hope we do.” 

Some background: US President Biden has pledged to provide 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in his first 100 days of office. 

White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday he thinks the vaccine supply will be adequate to meet this goal.

8:35 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Kiev in talks to purchase 1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko is pictured during an event on September 10, 2020, in Kiev, Ukraine.
Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko is pictured during an event on September 10, 2020, in Kiev, Ukraine. Evgen Kotenko/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

The Ukrainian capital of Kiev is negotiating with several manufacturers to purchase one million vaccine doses, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said during a briefing on Friday.

I am using all my foreign contacts and connections to provide Kyiv with the vaccine,” Klitschko said.

“It is a question of buying 1 million doses for the vaccination of 500,000 Kyiv residents,” he added.

The mayor stressed that the capital is ready to buy the vaccine with the money from the city budget.

City authorities have preliminary agreements with some manufacturers and the capital has an infrastructure ready for vaccination: there is equipment for storing the vaccine, vaccination rooms, and specialists who will conduct centralized training, Klitschko said.

"We must prevent the spread of the disease. First of all, to protect the most vulnerable categories of the population,” he emphasized.

For background: Covid-19 vaccination has yet to begin in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week the European Union should pay increased attention to the Eastern Partnership countries in purchasing and supplying the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine.

As of Friday, the country reported 5,348 new coronavirus cases and 163 new daily deaths, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on his official Facebook page.

The current death toll currently stands at 21,662, whilst the total number of cases recorded since the pandemic began is now 1,182,969, according to the government's dashboard.

8:21 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane is pictured during a match between Alcoyano and Real Madrid at the El Collao stadium in Alcoy, Spain, on January 20.
Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane is pictured during a match between Alcoyano and Real Madrid at the El Collao stadium in Alcoy, Spain, on January 20. Jose Breton/AP

Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid announced in a statement on Friday that manager Zinedine Zidane has tested positive for Covid-19.

The club did not provide any further details.

The Frenchman was present on the touchline as Real fell to a humiliating defeat to third-division club Alcoyano in the Spanish Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Zidane guided Real to their first La Liga title in three years last season after having previously led them to three consecutive UEFA Champions League successes in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and one league title in 2017, among others, in his first spell in charge.

Real currently sit second in the league, seven points behind local rivals Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

The team is scheduled to play Alavés away in La Liga on Saturday.

8:01 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

It's 1 p.m. in London and 8 a.m. in New York. Here's the latest on the pandemic in Europe

Here are some of the key coronavirus lines from Europe today:

  • France will require negative Covid test from EU travelers from Sunday. A negative PCR test will need to be taken within 72 hours of a journey. For travelers from outside the EU (including the UK), France has already imposed tougher measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.
  • Germany has surpassed 50,000 Covid-19 deaths, according to data published Friday by the country's disease control agency.
  • The UK is considering a full closure of its borders to contain the spread of new Covid-19 variants, according to Environment Secretary George Eustice. Eustice also did not deny reports that the government is considering giving £500 ($685) to people who test positive for Covid-19, as an incentive to self-isolate. 
  • Denmark has suspended all flights from the United Arab Emirates for five days due to pre-flight testing issues. The flight ban goes into effect Friday night.
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.