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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2:39 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

More than 23.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, according to CDC data

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

A Covid-19 vaccine is administered in Seattle on Sunday.
A Covid-19 vaccine is administered in Seattle on Sunday. Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images

More than 23.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that at least 23,540,994 total doses have been administered, about 53% of the 44,394,075 doses distributed.

Nearly 20 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and nearly 3.5 million people have been fully vaccinated, the data shows. 

Remember: States have 72 hours to report vaccine data, so data published by the CDC may be delayed – and may not necessarily mean all doses were given on the day reported. 

2:04 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

White House says Defense Production Act has been invoked to speed up vaccine production

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped from a manufacturing plant in Portage, Michigan, in December.
Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped from a manufacturing plant in Portage, Michigan, in December. Morry Gash/Pool/Getty Images/File

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration has already invoked the Defense Production Act to help boost vaccine supply and did so within 24 hours of an executive order Biden signed last week. 

“It's already been invoked and underway, so those efforts to ramp up production are already underway. They started as of less than 24 hours after the president signed that executive order and made that announcement last week,” Psaki said at Tuesday’s White House press briefing. She did not say which specific companies are a part of the Administration’s efforts through the DPA.

The President on Thursday directed federal agencies to use "all available legal authorities, including the Defense Production Act" to boost vaccine supply.

1:49 p.m. ET, January 26, 2021

In-person learning with minimal Covid-19 spread is possible with the right precautions, study says

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

With the right mitigation strategies, it’s possible to open K-12 schools for in-person learning with minimal Covid-19 transmission, according to a study published Tuesday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study by researchers from Wisconsin and California examined 17 K-12 schools in rural Wood County, Wisconsin, that conducted in-person learning this fall. It found lower Covid-19 case rates than in the larger community and few cases of in-school transmission.   

Of 5,530 students and staff, 191 tested positive for Covid-19. The researchers found that Covid-19 case rates in schools were 37% lower than the surrounding community.

Contact tracing and investigation determined that seven of those 191 cases, 3.7%, – all among students – were contracted in school. Three of the seven students who tested positive were from one elementary school class. 

The schools did not conduct routine Covid-19 screening, but they implemented mitigation measures.

Students were each provided with three to five double- or triple-layered cloth masks. Masks were required in schools and statewide, and more than 92% of students of all age groups wore them.

Cohorts of 11 to 20 students from the same grade level met for classes and lunch indoors, where students were often seated next to the same person. Cohorts were asked not to mix, and the researchers found no in-school transmission between different cohorts.

Staff were told to mask, social distance and limit time in shared indoor spaces. If a student was out of school with Covid-19 symptoms, their siblings were also told to stay home.

When a student or staff member tested positive for the virus, school officials used interviews to identify close contacts – anyone who was within 6 feet of the person for longer than 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours. Those close contacts were required to quarantine at home, and if they developed symptoms during that time, officials investigated whether in-school spread was the cause.

The team says their findings suggest that even with varying positivity rates in the community, students are not necessarily at increased risk for the virus if they attend in-person classes. In fact, they say that being in a monitored environment such as the classroom may increase adherence to public health measures.

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.”