February 5 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jo Shelley, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT) February 6, 2021
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9:21 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine effective against UK variant, University of Oxford statement says 

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau

An NHS member prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Stithians Showground near Truro, England, on January 26.
An NHS member prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Stithians Showground near Truro, England, on January 26.  Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine “has similar efficacy against the B.1.1.7 ‘Kent’ coronavirus strain currently circulating in the UK to previously circulating variants,” a statement from University of Oxford published Friday read.

The university said a preprint of ongoing work to assess effectiveness of its coronavirus vaccine also described recent analysis “showing that the vaccination results in a reduction in the duration of shedding and viral load, which may translate into a reduced transmission of the disease.” 

Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and Immunity and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said: “Data from our trials of the ChAdOx1 vaccine in the United Kingdom indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7, which caused the surge in disease from the end of 2020 across the UK.”

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said the university was working with AstraZeneca to “optimise the pipeline required for a strain change should one become necessary.”

“This is the same issue that is faced by all of the vaccine developers, and we will continue to monitor the emergence of new variants that arise in readiness for a future strain change,” she added. 

9:01 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

America's unemployment rate fell last month — but jobs recovery is still dragging during the pandemic

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

America's unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in January, beating economists' expectations but still signaling a sluggish recovery. 

The US economy added 49,000 jobs last month, according to the government jobs report released Friday morning. 

8:54 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US this week outnumbered new cases 10 to 1

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

People wait in an observation area after receiving the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, February 3.
People wait in an observation area after receiving the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, February 3. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In the past week, more than 9 million Covid-19 vaccines doses were administered in the United States, according to data reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s nearly ten times more than the 958,965 new cases reported in the same seven-day period, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.

New cases were down 15% from last week, JHU data shows. Meanwhile, the pace of vaccinations increased about 5% from last week, CDC data shows.

9:03 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

US secretary of state congratulates Russia on Sputnik V vaccine, Russian official says

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the US State Department in Washington, DC, on Thursday, February 4.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the US State Department in Washington, DC, on Thursday, February 4. Evan Vucci/AP

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken congratulated Russia on the effectiveness of the Gamaleya Insitute’s Sputnik V vaccine. 

“Yesterday, I've been discussing it with Anthony Blinken, with him we touched on Sputnik V. He congratulated us on the fact that this vaccine was effective,” Lavrov told reporters at a joint press conference with EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on Friday.

“We agreed to promote contacts between our scientists and laboratories to find opportunities for cooperation in this area with our European colleagues,” the Russian minister said. 

“We have intensive contacts on this matter. Many countries are interested in buying and manufacturing this vaccine on their territories. Chancellor Merkel, in her telephone conversation with President Putin, also mentioned opportunities of developing cooperation between Germany and Russia,” he added. 

Lavrov told reporters that Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the vaccine, also contacted Oxford/AstraZeneca manufacturers, “to produce a combined variant of vaccine that would comprise [the] positive effects of both vaccines.” 

Some context: After criticism last year for an early rollout, Russia's Sputnik V vaccine has shown to be 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 and 100% effective against severe and moderate disease, according to an interim analysis of the vaccine's Phase 3 trial results published in The Lancet this week.

8:26 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

Different vaccines likely won't be divided by age groups right now, Dr. Sanjay Gupta says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Pharmacy technician Sara Berech prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, on December 15, 2020.
Pharmacy technician Sara Berech prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, on December 15, 2020. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta says he doesn’t predict certain vaccines being administered to different demographic groups right now.

Responding to a viewer question about the possibility of administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those between the ages of 20-49 when they are eligible, Gupta said this on CNN's "New Day":

“That could be the case later on. … We'll see, but not right now. I mean, these vaccines, especially given that the demand is so much greater than the supply, the idea of starting to parse it out that way — we'll see what the CDC says — but I doubt that will be the way they go with this."

About the vaccine: Johnson & Johnson officially asked the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine is delivered in a single shot, whereas Pfizer and Moderna's require two doses. It was shown to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a global Phase 3 trial, according to the company, and its efficacy against moderate and severe disease was 72% in the US.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, when it was trialed, that happened at a different time. It was later in this pandemic, and it happened in different places: South Africa, Brazil, places where we know these variants have been spreading,” Gupta explained. 

“So when we say 95% effective with the Pfizer vaccine compared to 85% effective for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I don't know that you can say that as a direct head-to-head comparison, because you are essentially testing it against a sort of different disease,” Gupta said. 

“They're all really good vaccines. I think you've got to inoculate people who are the greatest risk of dying, of getting sick, of being hospitalized,” which will lead to death rates going down, he added. 

8:17 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

What is COVAX? The world's best hope for getting everyone vaccinated, explained

By CNN's Tim Lister

It's called COVAX -- and it may be the best hope in vaccinating the world.

The relative obscurity of this vaccine program belies its critical role in the global battle against Covid-19. Indeed, COVAX may well be the most important acronym of 2021. As vaccine nationalism rears its ugly head, it's the best -- perhaps the only -- bet on getting billions of doses to lower- and middle-income countries.

COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations. Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.But raising the necessary funds will be a tall order, and the logistics are daunting.

It has secured almost 2.3 billion doses for distribution this year. Of that total 1.8 billion should be made available to 92 of the world's poorest countries -- the majority of which (1.3 billion) will be at no cost.

Gavi has plenty of experience in getting vaccines to populations in need -- it has helped vaccinate half the world's children against other diseases, such as polio, meningitis and typhoid. But the Covid-19 campaign dwarfs those programs.

Read the full report here:

8:09 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

Nearly 80% of German care home residents have received at least one vaccine shot

From Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto in Berlin

Christine Ehrenproft and Martina Neuhold prepare Covid-19 vaccines at the DRK nursing and care center in Sangerhausen, Germany, on January 13.
Christine Ehrenproft and Martina Neuhold prepare Covid-19 vaccines at the DRK nursing and care center in Sangerhausen, Germany, on January 13. Hendrik Schmidt/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Nearly 80% of Germany’s care home residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 800,000 have also received the second shot, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a press conference Friday.

Spahn said that Germany received the first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday with 1.7 million doses due to be delivered to German states over the weekend. Another three million doses are expected to arrive in the country in late February, he added

The European Union is finalizing negotiations with Novovax, a new Covid-19 vaccine that was found to be 89.3% effective during clinical trials conducted in the UK. Spahn indicated Germany was in talks to purchase more vaccines as he said they will “sign further contracts with vaccine developers to get more doses for potential booster shots.”

For the first time in three months, the number of new infections per 100,000 residents has fallen to under 80 – the lowest level since 24 October.

''Hard weeks are still ahead of us -- we are on the way out of the pandemic and we are taking this path with determination but cautiously," Spahn said. 

He added that Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of Germany’s federal states will convene next week to discuss if steps to ease coronavirus restrictions --such as the re-opening of schools and kindergartens -- can be considered at this stage. 

The head of Germany's main public health authority -- Lothar Wieler from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) – warned on Friday that the more contagious coronavirus variant from the UK currently accounts for just under 6% of infections.

Wieler warned that ''we expect that the B.1.1.7 variant will spread further -- and we must slow it down." 

On Friday Germany recorded 12,908 new coronavirus infections -- a drop of 1,114 cases compared to the same day last week, according to RKI. The country's death toll remains high, with 855 deaths registered in the last 24 hours. 

8:01 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

Poland to ease leisure restrictions in mid-February, PM says

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on leisure from mid-February by allowing hotels, cinemas and theatres to re-open alongside all outdoor sports activity.

In a press conference on epidemic safety on Friday, Morawiecki said that cinemas, theaters, opera houses and philharmonics can operate at up to 50% capacity from February 12. Hotels and businesses offering accommodation will also reopen under the same reduced capacity.

Morawiecki added a strategy that reopens the country progressively is both “good and not so good news.”
“Better for those, of course, who can, at least partially, run their own business, and worse for those who cannot do it,” he said. 
“Our decisions will be valid for two weeks from next Friday so that everyone can prepare properly for the changes, but now we have to be ready for different variants. COVID-19 is unpredictable.”

Some background: Poland started to relax its coronavirus restrictions on Monday, when the government permitted stores in shopping malls to reopen. Gyms, fitness centers remain closed and restaurants can only serve take-out or deliveries. 

According to the latest data from John Hopkins University, Poland has had 1,539,564 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, with 38,712 deaths.

7:40 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

It's still safest to avoid indoor dining, even if more US states are allowing it

From CNN's Jen Christensen

With the Super Bowl this weekend and Valentine's Day coming up, you may be planning a special meal but health experts say with the pandemic still raging in the US and with variants popping up, the safest choice is takeout.

Despite the high number of cases, more American states and cities are letting restaurants open their doors to diners, albeit with limitations.

Last Friday Los Angeles said its restaurants could reopen with restrictions and 50% capacity. Chicago reopened with rules that encourage physical distancing and masks. New York announced restaurants could reopen at 25% capacity just in time for Valentine's Day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that eating inside during a pandemic can be done, but only if it's "done carefully." 

"If you do indoor dining, you do it in a spaced way where you don't have people sitting right next to each other," the director of the the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN's Don Lemon. "Good airflow" is key, he said. What you want to avoid is breathing in other people's exhaled breath, which cold be laden with virus.

Read the full story here: