February 3 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Jo Shelley, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021
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9:01 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Covid-19 vaccination can be accelerated without delaying the second dose, Fauci says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A pharmacy technician prepares doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a mass Covid-19 vaccination event on January 30, in Denver, Colorado.
A pharmacy technician prepares doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a mass Covid-19 vaccination event on January 30, in Denver, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Good Morning America Wednesday that delaying second doses of Covid-19 vaccine so that as many people in the US can get a first dose is “not necessarily” what he recommends.

Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that it looks like there is going to be a much steadier supply or cadence of vaccines coming in through February and into March. 

“Certainly you don’t want vaccines sitting around in the refrigerator or in a freezer if they’re ready to go, you want to give them to people,” Fauci said. “But if you balance it well, George, you can get as many people in their first doses and then when the next shipment comes in, take care of the people that are about due for their second and then give more to the first.” 

“I think you can accelerate it without necessarily dramatically delaying the second dose,” Fauci said. “If you miss it by a few days to a week or two, I don’t think that’s a big problem, as the CDC says, but I’d be concerned about delaying it for three months or so.”

When asked about Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine data that found 76% efficacy up to three months following one dose and  possible higher efficacy among more spaced-out doses, Fauci reminded that this a different type of vaccine from the mRNA vaccines already in use in the United States.

“You got to be careful because you’re dealing with different vaccine platforms,” he said, adding that the data that is available for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines “are solid” about getting a second shot 28 days and 21 days later, respectively.  

“We know just from immunology in general that a little flexibility on either end of that is not going to be a big deal, however if you delay it longer you don’t know whether or not the efficacy is going to be maintained over a period of time, and you don’t know how low it’s going to go,” he said. 

9:03 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Lawmakers condemn "appalling" video of England's chief medical officer being verbally abused in the street

From CNN’s Samantha Tapfumaneyi

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty attends a coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street on January 22, in London, England.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty attends a coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street on January 22, in London, England. Leon Neal/Getty Images

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty was verbally abused in the street and called a liar, a video uploaded to TikTok on Tuesday showed.

In the video, a young man can be seen repeatedly telling Whitty he is a liar.

The TikTok account that posted the video has since been deleted.

Whitty has been at the forefront of Covid-19 pandemic as an adviser for the UK’s government, and regularly appears in press conferences with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock condemned the video and told BBC Breakfast: “I think the individual concerned is pathetic. I think it’s ridiculous what he’s doing.”

Hancock praised Whitty, saying, “Chris Whitty is one of the greatest living scientists and his advice to the government, all the way through this, and his advice to all of us in the population has been incredibly, incredibly smart and thoughtful and he's a great asset to this nation.”

Matt Vickers, Conservative MP for Stockton South, also criticized the video via Twitter.

"This is appalling, I really can't believe this footage," Vickers wrote. "Chris Whitty is doing all he can to help guide us through this crisis and should never be subjected to this abuse."

UK Health Department told CNN that they are “worried that the more these videos circulate, the more it might encourage others to do the same thing.”

8:31 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

GSK and CureVac plan to develop Covid-19 vaccine against "multiple emerging variants"

From CNN's Rob North and Sharon Braithwaite

Britain's GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and German biopharmaceutical company CureVac plan to develop a Covid-19 vaccine that could be available in 2022 and would address emerging variants, the two companies said Wednesday in a joint statement.

The two firms have teamed up in a €150 million euro ($180 million) collaboration to "jointly develop next generation mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 with the potential for a multi-valent approach to address multiple emerging variants in one vaccine," the statement reads.

The development program will “begin immediately, with the target of introducing the vaccine in 2022, subject to regulatory approval.”

GSK will also support the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of CureVac’s first generation Covid-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV in 2021.

8:48 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Increasing number of EU countries not administering AstraZeneca vaccine to the elderly

From CNN’s James Frater 

Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Belgium has joined a growing number of EU countries to decide against giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the elderly.

Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said on Tuesday that only those under 55 years of age would receive the vaccine, citing a lack of data on its use in older people.

Speaking to VRT News, he said: “The Superior Health Council says very clearly that AstraZeneca is a very good vaccine for people between 18 and 55 years old. However, it also said we don't have enough data in our hands today, to say with certainty, that it is that good for older people too.
“If you are not sure if it is that good for older people too, then, of course, the advice is to start using for the people under 55 years of age,” he added.

He added this was “preliminary advice” and the country was “playing it safe” for now. 

Belgium’s Vaccination Taskforce will meet on Wednesday evening to review the country’s vaccination strategy.

It is the latest European country to recommend not administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the elderly. On Tuesday, France announced it would restrict its use to people under 65. Germany and Austria have issued similar recommendations, citing lack of data.

However, the European Union's medicines regulator has previously approved the vaccine without age restriction. In a statement last month, the European Medicines Agency said that protection was expected in older adults despite a lack of data.

7:51 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine appears to substantially reduce transmission of the coronavirus, study shows

From CNN's Michael Nedelman and Laura Smith-Spark

A nurse prepares a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in Oldham, England, on January 21.
A nurse prepares a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in Oldham, England, on January 21. Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine appears to substantially reduce transmission of the virus, rather than simply reducing the severity of disease, UK researchers have suggested.

The rate of positive PCR tests declined by about half after two doses, according to preliminary results by researchers at the University of Oxford that have yet to be peer reviewed.

Their analysis, released as a preprint Tuesday, also supports spacing out doses and estimates good efficacy after just one shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

The study did not measure transmission directly -- for example, by tracing contacts who were infected by study volunteers. But the researchers did collect regular nasal swabs from some participants and found that the rate of positive PCR tests fell by half after two doses of the vaccine. After one dose only, the rate of positive tests fell by 67%.

"While transmission studies per se were not included in the analysis, swabs were obtained from volunteers every week in the UK study, regardless of symptoms, to allow assessment of the overall impact of the vaccine on risk of infection and thus a surrogate for potential onward transmission," the authors write. 

If the vaccine were simply making infections milder, PCR positivity would not change, the authors argued in the preprint analysis.

Read the full story:

8:11 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Olympic athletes won't need Covid-19 vaccine for Tokyo Games

From CNN’s Selina Wang, Junko Ogura and Aleks Klosok

Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images
Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Athletes and officials will not be required to have a Covid-19 vaccine to participate at this summer’s Olympic Games, organizers announced on Wednesday as they published the Tokyo 2020 pandemic "Playbook."

The book outlines rules to try to stop the spread of Covid-19 at the Games. Olympians will be required to download the Japanese government���s contact-tracing app, submit an itinerary of their stay in Japan and prepare a list of all the people they expect to have close contact with during their time in the country.

Failure to comply with the Playbook rules may result in athletes being barred from participating in the Games.

Spectators will also be asked to refrain from singing or chanting to support athletes.

Organizers said they expect to publish two further versions of the Playbook in April and June.

Questions persist over Japan's readiness to host the Olympics as the country continues to battle rising Covid-19 cases. Tokyo is one of a number of the country's 47 prefectures that are currently under a state of emergency.

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8.

Read the full story:

5:38 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

British scientists say the next dangerous Covid variant is likely already out there. We just don't know it yet

From CNN's Scott McLean and Florence Davey-Attlee

Employees work on sequencer machines at the Sanger Institute. 
Employees work on sequencer machines at the Sanger Institute.  Florence Davey-Attlee/CNN

Almost a month into a third nationwide lockdown, most of England seems to be in hibernation: stores are shuttered, high streets are deserted, and trains are almost empty. But in one small village in the countryside near Cambridge, in eastern England, there is a hive of activity.

Dressed in white lab coats and surgical masks, staff here scurry from machine to machine -- robots and giant computers that are so heavy, they're placed on solid steel plates to support their weight.

The staff at the Sanger Institute are much more than essential workers -- right now, they're doing some of the most important work on Earth: genetically sequencing the coronavirus. Internally, it's called "Project Heron."

The labor-intensive project, involving hundreds of people, is being done just down the road from the Cambridge pub that Francis Crick walked into in 1953 to declare he'd "found the secret of life" -- the structure of DNA. Today that discovery is allowing scientists to spot dangerous mutations in the genetic code of coronavirus that could make the pandemic much worse than it already is.

"We're looking for mutations that may allow the virus to either be more transmissible or to cause more severe disease, and particularly now that vaccines are beginning to be rolled out globally, we're looking potentially for mutations that we think might affect the ability of the vaccines to protect people," said Ewan Harrison, a microbiologist who is helping coordinate the network of scientists working on the Covid-19 genomics operation in the UK.

Less than two months ago, that network of scientists and Britain's growing mountain of genetic data helped to identify and trace the spread of the variant that has now become dominant in the UK.

4:13 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Here's why some people test positive after getting a Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A health worker administers a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Petah Tikva, Israel on February 1.
A health worker administers a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Petah Tikva, Israel on February 1. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

A Covid-19 vaccine does not provide full or immediate protection, which means it's still possible to get infected and test positive for the virus. 

Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts did. He tested positive after he got his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino, who coaches the men's team at Iona College in New York, also tested positive after getting his first dose.

They could have tested positive for a few reasons:

  • There's a lag between vaccination and protection: It takes a few days to a few weeks for the vaccine to work, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You could test positive before the vaccine kicked in.
  • Vaccination prevents most, but not all disease: You could still test positive after being vaccinated since the vaccine is not 100% effective. The two US-authorized vaccines are highly effective but they don't provide total protection.
  • Vaccination prevents disease, but it's still unclear if, or how much, the vaccine prevents all infections: "The information is less clear whether the vaccines will prevent the virus from infecting us and we can remain without symptoms. That's still under study." said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and a professor of preventive medicine in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University.
  • Vaccines don't work retroactively: You could test positive because you were infected before you got the vaccine and just did not know it yet. 
  • The variant question: There's concern that certain variants that have been spreading in the US could be less susceptible to the protection that comes from vaccines. Preliminary lab data shows the vaccines should provide protection, and public health leaders want to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible to limit the opportunities the virus has to mutate.

Read the full story:

3:33 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

China to supply COVAX with 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses

From CNN's Beijing bureau

China says it will provide 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to COVAX, a global initiative with the ambitious goal of distributing 2 billion vaccine shots to poorer countries.

The vaccines would be supplied at the request of the World Health Organization, China's Foreign Ministry said.

"At the request of the WHO, China is ready to provide 10 million doses of vaccines to COVAX, mainly to meet the urgent need in developing countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a briefing Wednesday. "This is another important measure taken by China to promote equitable distribution of vaccines, international anti-epidemic cooperation and the global community of health for all." 

Wang added that WHO has started to review authorization for emergency use of Chinese vaccines.

"China has officially joined COVAX and is in close communication with WHO and other sponsors of the plan, working together to make vaccines a global public good and make them more accessible and affordable to developing countries," Wang said.