February 7 coronavirus news

By Adam Renton, Brad Lendon, Amy Woodyatt, Melissa Mahtani and Michael Hayes, CNN

Updated 0155 GMT (0955 HKT) February 8, 2021
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11:10 p.m. ET, February 6, 2021

AstraZeneca says its Covid-19 vaccine shows limited protection against South Africa variant

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

The Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine provides limited protection against mild disease in cases caused by the variant first identified in South Africa, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca told CNN Saturday.

The Financial Times first reported Saturday that a study due to for release Monday showed the vaccine does not appear to provide protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the virus variant. CNN has not obtained a copy of the study.

“In this small phase I/II trial, early data has shown limited efficacy against mild disease primarily due to the B.1.351 South African variant,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement. “However, we have not been able to properly ascertain its effect against severe disease and hospitalization given that subjects were predominantly young healthy adults.” 

AstraZeneca said it does believe the vaccine could provide protection against severe disease.

“Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started adapting the vaccine against this variant and will advance rapidly through clinical development so that it is ready for Autumn delivery should it be needed.”

11:10 p.m. ET, February 6, 2021

Variant surges are possible but not inevitable, Fauci says

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Health experts have warned that the spread of new coronavirus variants, some of which appear to be more transmissible, could lead to them becoming predominant and spur more case surges.

But that is "not necessarily an inevitability," Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC's "The Beat" on Friday.

One of the best ways to keep variants from spreading and to prevent more mutations, he said, was "to double down on public health measures to prevent the virus from going from one person to another: the masking, the distancing, the avoiding congregate settings."

Another is for the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible, said Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"As soon as the vaccine becomes available, please go out and get vaccinated, because the combination of vaccination and public health measures will bring the level of virus down so low you won't give it a chance to mutate," Fauci said.

9:40 p.m. ET, February 6, 2021

2 football ex-internationals died from Covid-19 after they both appeared on a TV special

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Iran is mourning the death of two former national team football players who died from Covid-19 within a week of each other in Tehran.

Mehrdad Minavand, 45, and Ali Ansarian, 43, played professionally in Iran's Pro League for Persepolis Football Club and were cherished by fans across the country.

The former teammates are believed to have contracted the coronavirus when they co-hosted an online television special on the derby match between Persepolis FC and Esteghlal FC, according to Iran's state news agency, IRNA.

Read the full story here.

8:03 p.m. ET, February 6, 2021

States are looking to help their vulnerable communities as vaccine distribution ramps up

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

As officials make strides to improve accessibility to Covid-19 vaccines in the United States, some states are turning their focus to the underserved and vulnerable communities that have not yet been eligible for protection.

Though the country's vaccination rate is not at President Joe Biden's hoped-for level of 1.5 million shots per day, the US has recently gotten closer, having averaged 1.3 million new shots a day over the last week, according to federal data.

States initially raced to vaccinate their priority populations, often health care workers and people in long-term care facilities, followed by seniors and/or essential workers, with many states saying demand for vaccines was exceeding supply.

Now New York, with about 75% of hospital workers inoculated, may become the first state to offer vaccine access to people with the simultaneous presence of two or more medical conditions, no matter their age. The governor's office listed cancer, chronic kidney disease, pulmonary disease and heart conditions as some of the comorbidities and underlying conditions that the state will use to determine eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said Friday that the state is now vaccinating those in the prison system along the same guidelines as the general public.

And in Texas, the Houston Health Department said Friday that it will prioritize "vulnerable populations" and "underserved communities" as it receives additional vaccine allotments.

Houston leaders said Saturday that publicly run hospitals serving the uninsured were getting a smaller percentage of vaccine doses than private hospitals.

"If you want to address the disparity, you've got to send the doses to the venues that are reaching those regions," Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference.

Read the full story:

10:45 p.m. ET, February 6, 2021

China approves Sinovac Biotech vaccine for wider use against coronavirus

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

China's National Medical Products Administration on Friday granted conditional market approval to the Coronavac vaccine, state-run Xinhua news agency reported Saturday.

Coronavac is an inactivated Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, the news agency said.

Some context: According to a January statement by the Sao Paulo government, Coronavac was just 50.38% effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, significantly lower than earlier results showed.

While the number exceeded the threshold required for regulatory approval, it fell far below the 78% previously announced, raising questions as to the veracity of the data and fueling skepticism over the apparent lack of transparency regarding Chinese vaccines.