January 26 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021
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1:44 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

White House attempts to clarify Biden's 1.5 million vaccines per day comments

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters on Tuesday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters on Tuesday. Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to further couch remarks from President Biden raising the bar from 1 million to 1.5 million vaccines per day. 

“The President didn’t actually say, ‘the new goal is.’ The President said, ‘I hope we can do even more than that, and that is certainly, of course, his hope. He is continuing to push our team to get as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Psaki said.

Biden's official goal on administering vaccines still remains 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, multiple White House officials, including Psaki said on Tuesda – a day after Biden raised the new 1.5 million doses a day aspiration. That initial goal is enough to cover 50 million Americans with vaccines that require two doses

“That’s the number we set, based on the recommendations of health and medical experts, continues to be our goal. But does he want to beat that goal? Of course he does. But again, it is a goal that was set with contingencies,” she said.

Psaki also noted this vaccination effort “has literally never been done before.”

3:49 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

White House says they now have a grasp on Covid-19 vaccine supply

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez with Jason Hoffman

A day after she blamed the Trump administration for making it difficult to get a sense of America’s Covid-19 vaccine supply, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration now has a better sense of the country’s current stockpile.

She also indicated that President Biden will make additional vaccine supply available to states later this afternoon.

Asked by a reporter during Tuesday’s White House briefing whether the administration has its hands around a number of vaccines, Psaki said, “Well certainly. We monitor updates on a daily basis through Tiberius (analytic platform) and multiple systems that have available information, vaccine numbers that are distributed to states, what states have received, what they have distributed.”

“We have been connecting all the dots to ensure we have our best understanding of where the holdups are and we, of course, have that assessment, but we’re continuing to dig in every day and what the issues are. Why isn’t the vaccine getting out to states? What is the holdup with vaccinators? Why aren’t there more vaccine sites that are getting the supply they need?” she continued.

Despite the assessment, Psaki wouldn’t give details on a vaccine stockpile number.

Psaki also said the President will have more of an update on the stockpile later this afternoon, presumably during his 4:45 p.m. ET Covid-19 remarks, saying that he’ll have more to say on “additional vaccine supply that we’ll make available to states.”

Pressed later on why it’s taken so long to get a stockpile number, Psaki defended the administration’s timing.

“Well, six days in, the President is also giving an update on steps we're going to take to provide more vaccine supply to states across the country in response to their concern, there has not been a federal plan in place and that they haven't received the coordination, cooperation and information they desired. So, in my view that's a pretty rapid response to states' concerns,” Psaki said.

“We do have an assessment. … (Tiberius) provides vaccine information, publicly available information on vaccine supply that's gone to states and what's been used. It doesn't mean it's perfect. Oftentimes it isn't. But our concerns and our focus is not just on the supply, that's part of the issue, it is also about ensuring that states have the number of vaccinators they need," she continued.

1:24 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

WHO says it's OK to delay second dose of Moderna vaccine, but not to halve doses to stretch supply

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A pharmaceutical technician in Magdeburg, Germany, fills a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on Friday.
A pharmaceutical technician in Magdeburg, Germany, fills a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on Friday. Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

Vaccine advisers to the World Health Organization said it’s OK to delay the second dose of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for as long as six weeks, but recommended against halving doses to try to stretch supply.

The recommendations from WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, or SAGE, closely mirror those made for Pfizer’s vaccine, which uses very similar technology, and recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration.

They focus heavily on the scarcity of vaccine and explain the logic behind the recommendations.

“Some countries have therefore considered delaying the administration of the second dose to allow for a higher initial coverage. This is based on the observation that efficacy has been shown to be 91.9%, starting 14 days after the first dose, with a median follow-up time of 28 days,” WHO said.

“There appears to be protection against COVID-19 disease following one dose; however, there is insufficient information about longer-term protection beyond 28 days after a single dose, as most trial participants received two doses. It is of note that neutralizing antibody responses were modest after the first dose and increased substantially after the second dose,” it added. “WHO’s recommendation at present is that, if judged necessary, the interval between doses may be extended to 42 days. The evidence base for this extension is not strong, but this was the longest interval for any participants in the primary efficacy analyses of the phase 3 trial, though the great majority received the second dose after a shorter interval.”

WHO also recommended focusing on vaccinating health workers at high risk of infection and older people. “Protecting high-risk health workers has a threefold purpose: (i) to protect the individual health workers; (ii) to protect critical essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and (iii) to prevent onward transmission to vulnerable people. Protecting older people will have the greatest public health impact in terms of reducing the number of deaths,” WHO explained.

There’s no data about what happens if people get one dose of one vaccine and then a second dose with a different vaccine. “If different COVID-19 vaccine products are inadvertently administered in the two doses, no additional doses of either vaccine are recommended at this time,” WHO said.

WHO also noticed very rare cases of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis but, like the CDC, says people with known allergies should not avoid the vaccine – unless the allergy is to polyethylene glycol (PEG), a component of the vaccine. 

“The vial stoppers are not made with natural rubber latex, and there is no contraindication or precaution to vaccination for persons with a latex allergy. In addition, as mRNA-1273 does not contain eggs or gelatine, there is no contraindication or precaution to vaccination for persons with allergies to any food substances,” it says.

“Currently there are no data on the safety or efficacy of vaccination in persons who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of COVID-19 treatment. Hence, as a precautionary measure, vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days to avoid interference of the antibody treatment with vaccine-induced immune responses,” WHO concluded.

1:21 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

UK prime minister "expects and hopes" European Union will honor vaccine contracts

From CNN’s Nada Bashir

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leads a virtual news conference on Tuesday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leads a virtual news conference on Tuesday. Justin Tallis/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he expects and hopes vaccine contracts from manufacturers in the European Union will be honored, after the EU warned it would take action to counter pharmaceutical companies delivering vaccine doses later than contracted. 

"On supply of vaccines from abroad and supply into this country, I’ve got total confidence in our supplies. We’ve been over this many times in the last few days and hours," he said. "I’ve seen what commissioner Kyriakides has said and all I would say is, obviously we expect and hope that our EU friends will honour all contracts and we fully expect that that will happen,” he added. 

On Monday, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said “the European Union will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights” regarding vaccines.

Speaking in Brussels, she said the EU wants "clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU."

"In the future, all companies producing vaccines against Covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries. Humanitarian deliveries are of course not affected by this," she added.

4:38 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

UK passes 100,000 coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Richard Greene, Lauren Kent and Nada Bashir

A view of the skyline of London from Hampstead Heath on January 25, 2021, as Londoners continue to live under Tier 4 lockdown restrictions.
A view of the skyline of London from Hampstead Heath on January 25, 2021, as Londoners continue to live under Tier 4 lockdown restrictions. Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, government data Tuesday showed.

The country reported 1,631 new deaths, taking the total to 100,162.

The United Kingdom becomes the fifth country in the world to report that many deaths from the pandemic, following the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

In a statement, UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said the figures were "heart-breaking," adding that the government is working to vaccinate the most vulnerable in society.

“The vaccine offers is the way out, but we cannot let up now and we sadly still face a tough period ahead. The virus is still spreading and we’re seeing over 3,500 people per day being admitted into hospital," Hancock said.

On Tuesday's Downing Street press conference, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply sorry” for the lives lost adding that he took “full responsibility for everything the government has done.”

“We truly did everything that we could and continue to everything that we can to minimize loss of life and minimize suffering at what has been a very, very difficult stage in a very, very difficult crisis for our country,” Johnson said.

In the same press conference, Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty commented on the number of people in hospital with the virus saying the number is still at a very high level throughout the country but looks as though it is coming down "very slightly," in some areas including London.

12:45 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Second dose of Covid-19 vaccine can be administered 19 to 42 days after first dose, Pfizer CEO says

From CNN's Amanda Sealy

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday it’s important to give the second dose of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine on time, but added that he didn’t think “giving it a week later or two is a very big issue.”

“You need to make sure you give the second doses as the studies recommend the vaccine works which is in three weeks,” Bourla said during the Bloomberg The Year Ahead event. “In our study we actually had from 19 to 42. Within this framework, I’m fine. Beyond that, it’s serious.”

While the proposed window between doses was 21 days in Pfizer’s vaccine efficacy trial, it still included participants who received their second doses within a “predefined window” of 19 to 42 days, according to FDA materials.

There have been concerns that the limited vaccine supply will prevent people from getting their second doses of vaccines on time.

Some more context: Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its vaccine guidance to state: ”The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible.

However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. There are currently limited data on efficacy of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.”

11:37 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Boston will allow some indoor businesses to reopen on Monday 

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the city will return to "Phase Three, Step One" on Monday, after reopening was temporarily paused in December. He made the announcement during a news conference today.

In "Phase Three, Step One," Walsh said the following businesses may reopen at 25% capacity:

  • Indoor recreational and athletic facilities and venues
  • Indoor event spaces
  • Arcades
  • Indoor fitness centers and health club
  • Movie theaters
  • Museums
  • Aquariums
  • Sightseeing tours
  • Indoor historic sites and spaces

Gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, he added.

Walsh confirmed 316 new cases and five new deaths from Covid-19, bringing Boston’s total number of Covid-19 cases to at least 51,506 and at least 1,133 total deaths.

Marty Martinez, chief of Boston Health and Human Services, also noted in today’s press conference that Massachusetts changed the vaccine prioritization to allow people 75 and older to be eligible to receive the vaccine starting next week.

Note: These numbers were released by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

11:35 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Berlin set to enforce two-test strategy to detect new coronavirus variants

From CNN's Inke Kappeler and Stephanie Halasz

A medical worker prepares to take a nose swab sample from a young man for a Covid-19 test during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on January 07, 2021 in Berlin, Germany.
A medical worker prepares to take a nose swab sample from a young man for a Covid-19 test during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on January 07, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Authorities in Berlin will now require citizens to take a second coronavirus test in order to better detect new variants of the virus, a spokesperson for Berlin’s Health Minister Dilek Kalayci said Tuesday. 

According to the spokesperson, the new strategy will be implemented from the first week of February and will apply to all tests carried out in the city of Berlin. 

A spokesperson for the Berlin Senate added that the new measure is to be enforced in an effort to prevent the closure of further hospitals in the city. 

Some background: The move comes just days after the Vivantes Humboldt-Klinikum hospital in Berlin was placed under quarantine following an outbreak among both patients and staff of the coronavirus variant first detected in the UK. 

As of Tuesday, 24 cases of the UK variant have been detected at the hospital, including 13 patients and 11 members of staff, the hospital confirmed.

In a different Berlin hospital — the Klinikum Spandau — two additional cases have been identified in patients. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people infected with coronavirus in Germany has reached 2,158,407 and 53,317 have died, according to figures from John Hopkins University.

11:12 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Johnson & Johnson says it’s “optimistic” about vaccine trial results, which may be available early next week

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is held by a Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigational pharmacy technician before it is administered in a clinical trial on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado.
A dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is held by a Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigational pharmacy technician before it is administered in a clinical trial on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson told investors it expects to share further details on its Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine study results by early next week.

“Stay tuned,” said Alex Gorsky, chief executive officer and chair of Johnson & Johnson’s board of directors, during the company’s earnings call Tuesday.

Gorsky said that the company is “hopeful” that the efficacy and safety data from the earlier trials is a “good precursor” to the kind of data in the larger population in its Phase 3 trial. 

“We won’t know for certain, but we remain optimistic,” Gorsky said.

Results from J&J's Phase 1/2a trials showed that a single dose of the vaccine induced a strong immune response in nearly all the people who got the vaccine. The immune response was similar across the age groups, according to the company.

If J&J’s trial shows its vaccine is effective, it could help speed up the slow US vaccine rollout. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one dose, while the authorized vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses three to four weeks apart. Johnson & Johnson is also testing a dual dose in a separate trial and said it should have data on that toward the end of the year. 

The company also said it’s watching closely how its vaccine protects against variants.

Joseph Wolk, J&J’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said that the company is currently “on track” to meet its manufacturing commitments to the US, EU and to developing countries. 

“There’s still some fluidity with respect to timelines,” Wolk said. 

Earlier, J&J committed to producing and deploying at least a billion doses of vaccine during the calendar year, including at least 100 million doses to the US population.

Because the company doesn’t have the results yet, it said it was “premature to speculate” on the financial impact from the potential distribution of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

“I'm proud of the progress of our Covid-19 vaccine candidate. And the fact that we move so quickly while maintaining the highest level of science and safety standards,” said Gorsky. “Johnson & Johnson was built for times like these.”