February 10 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Christopher Johnson and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 6:34 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
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12:17 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

WHO recommends AstraZeneca vaccine for adults over 18 and in countries where new variants are circulating

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard and Naomi Thomas

A health worker holds up a vial of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine, in Yangon, Myanmar, on January 27.
A health worker holds up a vial of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine, in Yangon, Myanmar, on January 27. Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization's recommendations for the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca

Covid-19 vaccine, AZD1222, include all people ages 18 and older, including older adults.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Joachim Hombach, executive secretary of WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization said:

The immune response in people above 65 is almost the same as in younger people, and this makes us very confident."

The new recommendations were published on Wednesday and note that there are some populations for which data are limited or do not exist – including children, pregnant women, lactating women and other groups. "Until such data are available, vaccination of individuals below 18 years of age is not recommended," the guidance says.

"The available data on AZD1222 vaccination of pregnant women are insufficient to assess vaccine efficacy or vaccine-associated risks in pregnancy. However, it should be noted that AZD1222 is a nonreplicating vaccine," it says. It added that the "WHO does not recommend pregnancy testing prior to vaccination. WHO does not recommend delaying pregnancy because of vaccination."

For women who are breastfeeding, the guidance says that "a lactating woman who is part of a group recommended for vaccination, e.g., health workers, should be offered vaccination on an equivalent basis." It also said that it does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination

At the same briefing, the WHO also recommended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in countries where variants of the coronavirus are circulating.

The group of expert advisers looked at two aspects of the circulation of the variants in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization,Cravioto explained.

In the United Kingdom, Cravioto said preliminary analysis showed a slightly reduced efficacy against the variant first spotted there. The analysis also showed a limited reduction in titers of neutralization, which means the vaccine is still having a good effect protecting people infected with that variant.

In South AfricaCravioto said preliminary analysis showed “a marked reduction” in vaccine effectiveness against mild or moderate disease in a variant first spotted there. The analysis also showed a reduction in neutralizing antibody levels. However, he said the study was small and didn’t allow assessment of the vaccine against severe infection. He noted there is indirect evidence that there is still protection against severe disease.

Considering all these factors, we have made the recommendation that even if there is a reduction in the possibility of this vaccine having a full impact in its protection capacity, especially against severe disease, there is no reason not to recommend it’s use, even in countries that have the circulation of the variant,” Cravioto said.
12:01 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

EU drug regulator says it has not received an application for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

From CNN’s James Frater

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not been asked to approve the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V, the regulatory agency said Wednesday, saying it was responding to inaccurate reports that it had.

The EMA said in a statement that has given scientific advice to the maker of the vaccine.

“EMA is in dialogue and collaborating with the company to define the next steps. The developers have expressed their interest that the vaccine be considered for a rolling review,” the regulator said.

Hungary will this week become the first European Union country to start distributing the vaccine, it announced on Tuesday.

The Sputnik vaccine is already approved for use in Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Argentina, Bolivia, Algeria, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia and the Palestinian territories and has so far been administered to more than 2 million people worldwide.

12:21 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

These 8 US states have done the most digging for coronavirus variants

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

Only eight US states have genetically sequenced more than 1% of their total coronavirus cases during the pandemic, compared to a national average just under 0.4%, according to data updated late Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They include:

  • Hawaii (2.7%)
  • Maine (2.3%)
  • Washington (2.2%)
  • Wyoming (2.1%)
  • Utah (1.6%)
  • Oregon (1.3%)
  • New Mexico (1.0%)
  • New York (1.0%).

Meanwhile, 18 states have sequenced less than 0.1% of their confirmed cases.

The states with the highest raw numbers of sequences are Texas, with more than 15,500; California, with more than 13,000; and New York, with nearly 8,500. Six states report fewer than 100 sequences each.

These numbers come from sequences in a publicly accessible database from January 2020 to present, and may not represent the full number of samples that have been analyzed.

US labs have submitted 99,000 sequences of the coronavirus – less than 0.4% of its total cases -- to a genomics database known as GISAID. In comparison, the UK has submitted nearly 220,000 -- just over 5.5% of its total cases.

The US has been ramping up its sequencing efforts and is on track to process at least 7,000 samples per week, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. But more sequencing is needed to track the spread of variants across the country.

“Once we have more sequencing that's happening, we'll have a better idea as to how many variants there are and what proportion are out there,” Walensky said during a White House briefing Monday.

Experts have previously told CNN that the US should aim to sequence 5% to 10% of cases, in line with sequencing efforts in the UK. Given cases over the past seven days, this would amount to roughly 38,000 to 76,000 sequences in a week.

11:42 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Watch the CDC's new "Mask Up America" PSA

From CNN's Christopher Johnson

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency (CDC) has released a new public service announcement featuring iconic scenes from action movies to encourage Americans to wear masks.  

Scenes from films like "Austin Powers," "The Matrix" and "Mad Max" have been edited to include starring characters wearing masks.  

The 30-second spot asks the viewer to “SLOW THE SPREAD!” so that we can get back to “doing our favorite things.” 

Watch the video:

11:58 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Double masking can block over 92% of potentially infectious particles from escaping, CDC study says

From CNN Health’s Keri Enriquez

A man wears two masks as he visits Times Square in New York on December 10.
A man wears two masks as he visits Times Square in New York on December 10. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

New data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that double masking -- using a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask, like a disposable blue surgical mask -- can significantly improve protection from Covid-19. 

Researchers found that the combination of the two masks can block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping by creating a tighter fit around the face.

They also found that overall performance of medical procedure masks alone can be improved by folding mask edges inward and knotting ear loop strings where they meet mask fabric to reduce gaps.

A knotted medical mask can block 63% of aerosols that may contain coronavirus, a significant improvement from blocking only 42% of particles when unknotted. The findings were published Wednesday in the CDC’S Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Beginning in January 2021, the CDC tested the double masking and knotting methods to evaluate mask performance protection. Researchers found the effectiveness of cloth and medical procedure masks can be improved by ensuring they are well fitted to the contours of the face to prevent air and particles from escaping from gaps around the mask’s edges.

The study found that when both a source of infection and uninfected source were both fitted with double masks, the uninfected person’s exposure to potentially infectious particles was reduced by 96.4%.

When both people wore knotted and tucked masks alone, the uninfected person’s cumulative exposure to potentially infectious particles was reduced by 95.9%.

Both findings highlight the importance of a good fit to maximize mask performance to reduce exposure.

“This observation suggests that amendments to improve fit might result in equivalent improvements, regardless of the masks baseline filtration efficiency,” the researchers wrote. 

It is unclear how or if the CDC will incorporate these new findings into its mask recommendations.

The CDC team used a medical procedure mask, like blue surgical masks, and a three-layered cloth mask for a total of twelve different mask combinations. They performed tests using various combinations of no mask, double masks, and unknotted or knotted and tucked medical procedure masks.

When studying ‘double masking’ these experiments utilized one cloth over one medical mask. The researchers did not include any other combinations of masks, such as cloth over cloth, medical procedure mask over medical procedure mask, or medical procedure mask over cloth.

The study also did not provide any guidance on mask fitting. 

“The data in this report underscore the finding that good fit can increase filtration efficiency. Multiple simple ways to achieve better fit have been demonstrated to be effective,” the analysis reads.  

“Until vaccine-induced population immunity is achieved, universal masking is a highly effective means to slow the spread," it added.

11:27 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

CDC issues recommendations for the safest way to celebrate Valentine's Day during the pandemic

From CNN Health’s Ashley Ahn

Pike Place Flowers in Seattle on February 9. Workers at the shop are preparing for Valentine's Day.
Pike Place Flowers in Seattle on February 9. Workers at the shop are preparing for Valentine's Day. Ted S. Warren/AP

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released recommendations Monday for the safest way to celebrate Valentine’s Day during the pandemic, suggesting people gather virtually unless they live together. 

The agency advised Americans to drop off Valentine cards or decorations. Activities for Valentines to do together included taking a walk, preparing a special meal or dessert, planning a special movie or game night and having a picnic outside.

The CDC said celebrating outdoors is safer than indoors if a person is meeting someone who does not live with them. 

1:06 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

71% of Americans are now willing to get Covid-19 vaccines, Gallup poll finds

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Drivers wait in line at a Covid-19 vaccination site in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 27.
Drivers wait in line at a Covid-19 vaccination site in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 27. Damian Dovarganes/AP

Seventy-one percent of Americans are now willing to get Covid-19 vaccines, up from 65% in late December and the highest number on record since July, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

Of those unwilling to get a vaccine:

  • 25% said they were concerned about the rushed development of the vaccines
  • 22% said they want to wait and see that it's a safe for others
  • 16% said they did not trust vaccines in general
  • 9% said they wanted to see how effective it is

The number of both Republicans and Democrats willing to be vaccinated, 51% and 91% respectively, is the highest percentage for each group to date. Since late December, willingness is up six percentage points among Republicans and eight percentage points among Democrats.

The poll, which had a margin of error of ±2% pts., also found that two-thirds of Americans were not satisfied with how vaccination is going in the US -- including 21% who are “very dissatisfied.” Thirty-four percent of Americans are satisfied, including 4% who are “very satisfied.”

The poll was conducted January 25-31 and included a random sample of 4,098 Americans age 18 and over.

11:33 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Denmark registers over 1,600 case numbers of UK coronavirus variant

From CNN's James Frater and Sharon Braithwaite

Denmark is recording increasing case numbers of the UK coronavirus variant, the State Serum Institute (SSI) said Wednesday in a report.

The coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the UK on September 20, "has been found among 1,690 people in Denmark in the period from 14 November to 2 February," the SSI said.

In the first week of February, 27.1% of positive cases analyzed for their genetic material were carrying the B.1.1.7 variant, up from 20% the week before, according to the SSI.

"Based on these tests, the group now estimates the reproductive number for the virus variant B.1.1.7 to be 0.99," the SSI report said.

A reproduction rate (or R number) of 1 would mean each person with coronavirus will infect an average of one other person.

The SSI report added that coronavirus restrictions currently in place might have led to a decrease in the R number over the last week, however that development "must be interpreted with caution, as there may be variation over time, and it is too early to assess whether there is a stable trend."

12:03 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

WHO recommends use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine as two-dose shot, 8 to 12 weeks apart

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

A health worker receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Édouard Herriot hospital in Lyon, France, on February 6.
A health worker receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Édouard Herriot hospital in Lyon, France, on February 6. Olivier Chassignole/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Wednesday released its interim recommendations for using the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in people 18 and older. The new guidance was developed based on advice issued by its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization.

WHO recommends the vaccine is administered eight to 12 weeks apart.

WHO's interim guidance states: "In light of the observation that two-dose efficacy and immunogenicity increase with a longer interdose interval, WHO recommends an interval of 8 to 12 weeks between the doses. If the second dose is inadvertently administered less than 4 weeks after the first, the dose does not need to be repeated. If administration of the second dose is inadvertently delayed beyond 12 weeks, it should be given at the earliest possible opportunity. It is recommended that all vaccinated individuals receive two doses."

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is administered as an intramuscular injection and has an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic coronavirus infection, according to WHO's interim recommendations.

WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said on Wednesday that SAGE had already made recommendations on the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and that in "in the coming weeks, you will see more recommendations coming out as we review the evidence from the different candidates."

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the time interval recommended by the WHO for doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.