January 28 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Zahid Mahmood and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021
32 Posts
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8:46 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

German vaccine commission recommends AstraZeneca's vaccine should not be given to people over 65

From CNN’s Claudia Otto 

Germany's vaccine commission has recommended that the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford should not be given to people over 65 years old, the German Interior Ministry said Thursday in a statement. 

According to the statement, a study by the Standing Committee on Vaccination at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has found there is insufficient data on the effectiveness of the vaccine for this age group. 

“It is not possible to make a statement for the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people over 65 years of age,” the statement said.
9:06 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Fauci not comforted by protection from current vaccines against South African variant

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters during a briefing at the White House on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters during a briefing at the White House on January 21. Alex Brandon/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Thursday that the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa is troubling to him and that work is already being done on a booster vaccine dose that is directly aimed at the variant. 

“The one in South Africa, George, troubles me,” Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “This is something that is now really dominating the South Africa scene, when you look at the vaccines that we have available now, the neutralizing antibodies that they induce, so we’re talking about things just in a test tube, when you measure that against the South African isolate it is diminished by multifold in its ability to cover it.” 

He added, “It’s still within the range of what you predict would be protective. But I take no great comfort in that.” 

Fauci said that they are already “trying to stay a step or two ahead of things by making vaccines along the same type that we made for the ones we’re giving now, but having it be directed specifically against the isolate that’s in South Africa.”  

This means that if it’s necessary, though it may not be, “we’ll already be on the road to being able to give people a boost that directs against the South African isolate. That’s what we’re doing right now, so we’re just, yeah, we’re not taking any chances.” 

 

8:15 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Europe needs vaccines. So why is it squabbling with AstraZeneca?

From CNN's Charles Riley

Vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in London on January 7.
Vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in London on January 7. Leon Neal/Getty Images

The European Union has been locked in a very public and acrimonious fight with AstraZeneca over vaccine delays.

Although the heat may have slightly cooled after a meeting late Wednesday, the problem still has yet to be solved.

AstraZeneca says it can't deliver as many doses as the European Union expected. The European Commission, which ordered the vaccine on behalf of EU member states, says this is unacceptable, and the drugmaker must find a way to increase supply.

The dispute is playing out against a dire backdrop. EU countries including Germany are running low on vaccines, and the slow rollout of shots across the bloc is threatening a very fragile economic recovery from the pandemic.

After Wednesday's meeting, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the discussion with AstraZeneca (AZN) CEO Pascal Soriot had a "constructive tone," but she requested more information from the company on its deliveries.

Read the full story here:

8:11 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Another lab study suggests Pfizer vaccine works against variants identified in the UK and South Africa

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

More preliminary results in the lab suggest the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will be effective against new, more contagious coronavirus strains first identified in South Africa and the UK. 

As in previous studies, antibodies were slightly less effective against the virus with three key mutations in the variant identified in South Africa. However, Pfizer and BioNTech said, “the small differences in viral neutralization observed in these studies are unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine.”

The researchers engineered versions of the virus in the lab that carry some of the mutations found in the variants. They tested them against blood taken from 20 people who had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as part of a clinical trial.  

The lab study – conducted by researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch – did not test all the mutations found in the variants, and researchers note that “clinical data are needed for firm conclusions about vaccine effectiveness against variant viruses.” 

The results were posted Wednesday on the preprint server bioRxiv and have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. 

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday a new vaccine against the variants does not appear to be necessary. In a news release, they said they will continue to monitor strains and will conduct studies to monitor how effective the vaccine is in the real world. Pfizer said earlier this week it was “laying the groundwork” to create a vaccine booster that could respond to coronavirus variants, if necessary.

Moderna, the maker of the other coronavirus vaccine authorized in the United States, said this week its Covid-19 vaccine created antibodies that neutralized the coronavirus variants first found in the United Kingdom and South Africa, and it planned to test a booster against the variants “out of an abundance of caution.”

##Vaccines

10:34 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

As WHO investigators in Wuhan leave quarantine, China says it'll cooperate on virus tracing

From CNN's Beijing bureau

Members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 leave The Jade hotel in Wuhan, China, after completing their two-week quarantine on January 28.
Members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 leave The Jade hotel in Wuhan, China, after completing their two-week quarantine on January 28. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Ahead of the World Health Organization's Covid-19 origins investigation in Wuhan, China said in statement today that it will work with the WHO and "promote their scientific, objective, comprehensive, and balanced assessment and review."

After China's National Health Commission [NHC] Minister Ma Xiaowei spoke with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom in phone call Wednesday, a NHC statement on Thursday said the country would make practical recommendations to help improve "global preparedness and its response to future public health emergencies."

Tedros Adhanom praised the long-term and effective cooperation between the two sides, thanked China for the thoughtful arrangement of the international expert group on tracing the virus, and was satisfied with the progress of the in-depth exchange between the two sides," the statement added.

"Both sides will work together to complete the scientific cooperation on virus tracing in China," it said.

A 13-member team of WHO scientists arrived in China on January 14 to start a highly awaited investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019. The expert panel left their hotel for the first time on Thursday after completing a two-week quarantine in the central Chinese city.

Read more about the WHO investigation here:

7:38 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

A rural medical center in Georgia is suspended from vaccine program after inoculating school staff

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe and Joe Sutton

A rural Georgia medical center has been suspended from the state's Covid-19 vaccination program for six months after the facility administered vaccines to staff of the local school district.

The Georgia Department of Public Health was notified Tuesday that the Medical Center of Elberton had been vaccinating Elbert County School District staff members who were outside of the Phase 1A+ category of people eligible for the vaccine.

After an investigation, the DPH confirmed the information and suspended the medical center, a release from the department said.

CNN has reached out to the Medical Center of Elberton for comment.

Elbert County School Superintendent Jon Jarvis said many of the district's more than 500 employees have been eager to receive the vaccine.

"It's hard to wear a mask when you're trying to teach students sounds," Superintendent Jarvis told CNN affiliate WXIA. 
"The vaccination for teachers, bus drivers, school nutrition workers ... they should be considered in the first group in my opinion."

Read the full story here:

7:55 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Europe is facing a "pandemic paradox," WHO director says

From Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

Military medical workers collect swab samples at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing center in Turin, Italy, on January 12.
Military medical workers collect swab samples at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing center in Turin, Italy, on January 12. Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Thirty European countries have reported “a significant decrease in 14-day cumulative incidents” of new coronavirus cases but it still “too early” to consider easing restrictions, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director Hans Kluge said.

At least 25 European countries are currently facing partial or nationwide lockdown measures and these appear to be having an impact, Kluge said at press conference in Copenhagen Thursday.

Despite these positive indicators, Kluge warned it is still “too early to ease up” restrictions with Europe’s “high transmission rates” still impacting health systems. Countries “opening up rapidly is a poor strategy” he added.

Deaths in the region have also continued to “plateau at record levels” with 38,000 deaths reported last week.

Kluge added that Europe is facing a “pandemic paradox,” with the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine offering “new hope” as the continent continues to grapple with the threat of “newly emerging variants of concern.”

This paradox, where communities sense an end is in sight with the vaccine, but at the same time are called to adhere to restrictive measures in the face of a new threat is causing tension angst, fatigue and confusion,” Kluge said.

“Continued high rates of transmission and emerging Covid-19 variants of concern" have "raised the urgency of the task to vaccinate priority groups," he added.

According to Kluge, 33 European countries have reported cases of the UK variant whereas 16 European countries have found cases of the South African variant.

As the pandemic has expanded to over a year, Kluge remarked the European region is also dealing with a “parallel pandemic” of poor mental health.

According to the International Labor Organization, the pandemic has meant that half of young people aged 18-29 are now suffering from anxiety and depression.

Healthcare workers have not been left unscathed either, with 20% of healthcare workers suffering from anxiety and depression. 

Kluge said European countries need to “stay patient” cautioning it “will take time to vaccinate against Covid-19.”

“The introduction and gradual lifting of measures based on epidemiological criteria remains our best option to allow economies to survive and minimize collateral effects” he concluded.

Read more on the WHO reaction here:

7:15 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Covid vaccinations will not be a prerequisite at the Tokyo Olympics says CEO, as swimming qualifier is postponed

From CNN’s Blake Essig, Chandler Thornton and Aleks Klosok

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto speaks to the media in the Japanese capital on January 28.
Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto speaks to the media in the Japanese capital on January 28. Takashi Aoyama/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Having had a coronavirus vaccine will not be a stipulation to compete in the Tokyo Olympic games this summer, officials said Thursday.

Olympic officials expect vaccination programs to have progressed and hope as many people as possible will be vaccinated when the Olympics, which were postponed last year, are scheduled to start in July.

But Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said they "will not consider the vaccine as a prerequisite."

Of course it’s desirable that as many people as possible would be vaccinated, and that would bring about positive benefit, but even if vaccination is not done, we will be able to hold the games," Muto told reporters in a news briefing following a call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

Muto added that vaccinations would be administered for athletes but would not be an obligation.

Earlier on Thursday, the final Tokyo 2020 Olympics artistic swimming qualification event, due to be held in March, was postponed until May as a result of Covid-19 travel restrictions in Japan.

The event was also set to double up as an Olympic test event with Covid-19 countermeasures in place. But this has now been moved from March 4-7 to May 1-4, at the same venue, according to International Swimming Federation.

Some background: Whilst Bach vowed that the event would go ahead on Wednesday, questions remain on how Japan can pull off such a complex sporting event in the middle of a global pandemic that has infected 100 million people worldwide and killed more than 2 million.

Is Tokyo able to pull off the biggest sporting event of the year? Read more here:

6:50 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

US infections are decreasing, but 80,000 more Americans could die in the next three weeks

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A nurse practitioner administers a Covid-19 swab test in Shirley, New York, on December 18, 2020.
A nurse practitioner administers a Covid-19 swab test in Shirley, New York, on December 18, 2020. John Paraskevas/Newsday/Getty Images

Covid-19 cases in the United States may be trending in the right direction but, with new variants circulating in the country, experts say there is still reason to worry.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a variant first spotted in the UK has been detected in at least 28 states. Minnesota officials also recently announced the first US case of another variant, detected in a traveler from Brazil.

They're more transmissible, which can lead to increased number of cases, and increased stress on our already overtaxed system," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.

With more than 80,000 deaths to coronavirus in January, the pandemic has hit the US the hardest this month. But a CDC ensemble forecast projects there could be another 84,000 virus-related fatalities by February 20.

As the country still grapples with vaccine allocation and distribution problems, federal data shows only about half of the vaccine supply that has been distributed in the US has been administered. According to one official, it could be "months" until every American who wants to get the vaccine can.

Read the full story here: