Everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine will be able to get one by the end of summer, CDC director says
From CNN's Naomi Thomas
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on “Fox News Sunday” that she anticipates every American who wants a Covid-19 vaccine will be able to get one by the end of summer.
“We anticipate by the end of the summer, we will have enough vaccine in order to vaccinate the entire US population that is eligible,” Walensky told Fox News’ Chris Wallace, adding that her primary concern remains vaccine hesitancy.
Once there is enough vaccine, Walensky said, “we very much need to make sure that everybody rolls up their sleeves when it’s their turn, when they’re eligible.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Thursday said that “open season” for vaccination could begin in April, and the majority of Americans could be vaccinated by the middle or the end of the summer.
9:53 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021
Covid-19 cases have declined sharply. Experts say these factors will determine what happens next
According to the latest model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, another 130,000 Americans are projected to die of the virus over the next three and a half months,
And while Covid-19 numbers may be trending in the right direction now, there are four key factors that will determine how the next months unfold, the IHME said in a briefing accompanying its model.
The two first factors are things that will help drive pandemic numbers down. They are increasing vaccinations and declining seasonality – referring to the pattern of lower transmission that's likely in the US during the spring and summer months.
"Two factors, however, can slow or even reverse the declines that have begun," the IHME team said.
The first factor is the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the UK and experts warned could become the dominant strain in the US by spring. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 980 cases of the variant have so far been detected across 37 states.
The second factor, according to the IHME team, is "increased behaviors that favor COVID-19 transmission."
"Transmission has been contained over the winter through mask wearing, decreased mobility, and avoidance of high-risk settings such as indoor dining," the team said. "As daily case counts decline and vaccination increases, behaviors are likely to change towards increased risk of transmission."
When we can go back to normal "depends on how we behave right now," CDC director says
From CNN's Ben Tinker
As of Sunday morning, there have been more than 27.5 million confirmed Covid-19 cases in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While the seven-day average of new cases is down significantly week over week, there is still sustained community transmission of the virus across the country.
“Do you think that, by the end of this year, you and I will be able to walk down the street without a mask?” Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I think that very much depends on how we behave right now,” Walensky replied. “All of us need to do our part. If we have another surge because we are not taking the proper mitigation strategies, I think it would be foolish for me to project.”
10:57 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021
Iran reports more than 7,300 new Covid-19 cases
From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim
Iran reported 7,390 new daily coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the country's total number of Covid-19 related cases to 1,518,263.
The new Covid-19 related case infection numbers were announced by Iran’s Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadaat Lari in a news conference on state TV.
The country also reported 62 new Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the country's death toll to 58,945 on Sunday.
The Health Ministry said 3,709 patients remain hospitalized in ICU.
Iran is the hardest hit Middle East country by the coronavirus pandemic in total cases and deaths.
On Tuesday, Iran began its rollout of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, according to a live broadcast on state television.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the top priority groups for vaccination are doctors and nurses working at intensive care units of the hospitals.
The country continues to keep restrictions in place to try to avoid a larger outbreak of cases.
10:57 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021
Japan approves Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
From CNN’s Junko Ogura
Japan has officially approved Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine, the nation’s Health Ministry said on Sunday.
This is the first coronavirus vaccine approved in Japan.
The country received a shipment of roughly 400,000 doses of the vaccine from Belgium on Friday, the Health Ministry added.
Japan is currently witnessing its third wave of coronavirus and has recorded 415,184 confirmed cases as of Saturday.
The country is set to host the Summer Olympic Games in July.
9:29 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021
Dozens of UK politicians call on prime minister to end lockdown by end of April
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy
Dozens of politicians from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's own Conservative party have called for an end to lockdown measures at the end of April, when the country’s nine top-priority groups are due to have had a first dose of coronavirus vaccine.
Lawmaker Steve Harvey posted a letter on Twitter Saturday which he said was signed by 63 Conservative lawmakers.
"Once all nine priority groups have been protected by the end of April, there is no justification for legislative restrictions to remain," the letter says.
The letter argues that the "national priority" of reopening UK schools to students "must be achieved by March 8."
Responding on Sky News Sunday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he didn't think "you could set an arbitrary target and not be evidence led."
The UK has helmed one of the world's fastest vaccination efforts, with Raab saying it "is on course to hit the first milestone" on Monday of giving a first dose to its four top priority groups. The UK has decided to focus on giving a first dose to as many people as possible, then give the second dose when supplies allow.
England and Scotland have been under lockdown since early January, with Wales and Northern Ireland under lockdown since late December.
The group, while commending the "tremendous pace of the vaccine rollout," stressed that the government's "roadmap must demonstrate how the vaccine rollout translates into a return to normal life."
The group called for the reopening of pubs, restaurants, and other hospitality venues by Easter, "in a way which enables them to be Covid secure but also to operate in a commercially viable manner."
The vaccine should not only provide "us with immunity from Covid but it must also give us permanent immunity from Covid-related lockdowns and restrictions," they concluded.
6:09 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
WHO Wuhan mission finds possible signs original 2019 Covid-19 outbreak was wider than previously thought
From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh
Investigators from the World Health Organization looking into the origins of coronavirus in China have discovered signs the outbreak was much wider in Wuhan in Dec. 2019 than previously thought. They are urgently seeking access to hundreds of thousands of blood samples from the city that China has so far not let them examine.
The lead investigator for the WHO mission, Peter Ben Embarek, told CNN in a wide-ranging interview that the mission had found several signs of the more wide-ranging 2019 spread, including establishing for the first time that there were over a dozen strains of the virus in Wuhan already in December.
The team also had a chance to speak to the first patient Chinese officials said had been infected, an office worker in his 40s with no travel history of note, reported infected on Dec. 8.
The slow emergence of more detailed data gathered on the WHO's long-awaited trip into China may add to concerns voiced by other scientists studying the origins of the disease that the virus may have been spreading in China long before its first official emergence in mid-December.
Ben Embarek, who has just returned to Switzerland from Wuhan, told CNN:
"The virus was circulating widely in Wuhan in December, which is a new finding."
He explained that Chinese scientists presented his team with 174 cases of coronavirus in and around Wuhan in Dec. 2019. Of these, 100 had been confirmed by laboratory tests and another 74 through the clinical diagnosis of the patient's symptoms.
Ben Embarek said it was possible this larger number – of likely severe cases that had been noticed by Chinese doctors early on – meant the disease could have hit an estimated 1,000-plus people in Wuhan that December.
Ben Embarek said the mission – which comprised 17 WHO scientists and 17 Chinese – had broadened the type of virus genetic material they examined from early coronavirus cases that first December. This allowed them to look at partial genetic samples, rather than just complete ones, he said. As a result, they were able to gather, for the first time, 13 different genetic sequences of the SARS-COV-2 virus from Dec. 2019. The sequences, if examined with wider patient data in China across 2019, could provide valuable clues about the geography and timing of the outbreak before December.
Ben Embarek said: "Some of them are from the markets... Some of them are not linked to the markets," which includes the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, thought to have played a role in the virus' first spread. "This is something we found as part of our mission... part of the interaction we had all together."
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Peter Ben Embarek’s name on second and subsequent references. It’s been updated.
8:42 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021
Iraq announces restrictions to contain Covid-19 spread
From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq
Iraq has announced a number of restrictions "in light of the increasing number of infections among citizens" to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The country will impose a curfew between Feb. 18 and March 8, according to a statement released by the Iraqi cabinet Saturday night.
Muslim worshippers are not allowed to pray inside mosques starting Feb. 18, the statement said.
Restaurants and cafes will be closed for dining but will allow pick-up services. All entertainment places will be closed for two weeks, including indoor parks, cinemas, sports halls, and swimming pools.
What the numbers show: Iraq has reported a total of 641,628 cases and 13,164 coronavirus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
8:38 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021
Lebanon starts Covid-19 vaccine rollout
From CNN's Ben Wedeman
Lebanon is starting its coronavirus vaccination campaign today, with 90 staff members at the Rafiq Hariri Hospital in Beirut set to be inoculated.
The first person to get the vaccine is Dr. Mahmoud Hasoun, the head of the Covid-19 ward, according to hospital spokesman Nisreen Husseini.
The vaccinations will take place in 10 cubicles at the hospital complex, with ambulances parked nearby in case anyone experiences side effects.
Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, has urged priority groups to get vaccinated first.
He also said authorities should avoid "Wasta" to fast-track getting the vaccine – an Arabic term referring to using one’s connections or influence. A total of two million doses will be delivered in the coming weeks, he said on Twitter on Saturday.
Lebanon's first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine landed at the Beirut International Airport early Saturday evening and was received by Minister of Health Hamad Hassan.