February 19 coronavirus news

By Sarah Faidell, Brad Lendon, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0649 GMT (1449 HKT) February 23, 2021
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11:35 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Serious adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccines are rare, CDC study says

From CNN’s Amanda Sealy

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Washington, DC, in December 2020.
A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Washington, DC, in December 2020. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/Getty Images

When analyzing adverse effects after receiving either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, serious reactions accounted for less than 10% of those events according to a study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Researchers evaluated safety data that was reported through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) between Dec. 14, 2020 and Jan. 13 2021. During that time, 13,794,904 vaccine doses had been administered in the US and 1,602,065 had enrolled in the reporting system.

Out of that 1.6 million, 50.8% received the Pfizer-BioNTech and 49.2% received the Moderna vaccines.

The study found that during this time there were 6,994 reports of adverse reactions after receiving a vaccine. 6,354 (90.8%) of those events were considered non-serious and 640 (9.2%) were considered serious.

The most commonly reported symptoms were headache (22.4%), fatigue (16.5%) and dizziness (16.5%).

A total of 113 deaths were reported to VAERS with 78 (65%) of those occurring in long term care facility residents.

However the study noted, “available information from death certificates, autopsy reports, medical records, and clinical descriptions from VAERS reports and health care providers did not suggest any causal relationship between COVID-19 vaccination and death.”

Reports of anaphylaxis was also rare with just 62 reported incidents.

The study notes the there are limitations due to reporting biases and the fact that the reporting system is a voluntary self-enrollment program. 

It is also important to note that during the study’s time period, first and second doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had been made available, but only first doses of Moderna’s vaccine.

“These data provide reassurance and helpful information regarding what health care providers and vaccine recipients might expect after vaccination,” wrote the researchers.

11:59 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

US senator calls on social media to stop the spread of antivax disinformation targeting pregnant women

From CNN's Richard Davis and Brian Fung

US Sen. Richard Blumenthal arrives at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 12.
US Sen. Richard Blumenthal arrives at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 12. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, called on Facebook and Twitter to stop the spread of antivax disinformation targeting pregnant women, according to a news release Friday. 

Blumenthal said accounts have singled out women who have had miscarriages, wrongly linking it to Covid vaccinations. 

“Time and again, Facebook and its peers have moved far too slow in responding to the targeted harassment and promotion of destructive conspiracy theories against women and people of color,” Blumenthal said in letters addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. 

“Health officials across the country are vigilantly working to reassure the public that vaccines are safe and to achieve widespread immunity to save lives. Each piece of misinformation, each person bullied for doing the right thing, is a setback in our effort to end this costly pandemic,” he added.

Major medical groups in the United States say that pregnant women should get the vaccine.

  

10:57 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

G20 should establish a vaccine task force, UN secretary general says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio 

UN Secretary General António Guterres speaks via video during the Munich Security Conference on February 19.
UN Secretary General António Guterres speaks via video during the Munich Security Conference on February 19. Munich Security Conference

UN Secretary General António Guterres has told leaders at the Munich Security Conference in Berlin that the G20 should create an emergency task force to put in place a global vaccination plan.

“Vaccines must be available and affordable for everyone, everywhere, vaccine equity is crucial for saving lives and for saving economies,” Guterres said Friday, calling for a doubling of the current vaccine production capacity. “Countries need to share excess doses and to provide the billions needed for the Covax initiative to be in full swing.”

COVAX is a program co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

“I believe the G20 is well placed to establish an emergency a task force to prepare such a global vaccination plan,” Guterres added.

 

10:45 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Leading Democratic senator says he still hopes US Covid-19 relief can be bipartisan

From CNN's Ali Main

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy on February 19.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy on February 19. CNN

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said he's already begun meeting privately with Democratic and Republican members of his committee and urged them to work together on Covid relief legislation.

"I hope it can be bipartisan by the time we get done," he told CNN's Poppy Harlow Friday.

This comes as House Democrats plan to take a major step forward to push President Biden's proposal through their chamber by the end of next week. After this, the legislation will be sent to the Senate, where Democrats have already laid the ground work to pass the $1.9 trillion bill without Republican support, through the budget reconciliation process.

"I know a lot of Republicans who say privately that they know we have to go forward but what about this or that?" Leahy said, adding, "almost all the reconciliation bills have been bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats coming together. We should do that."

Leahy acknowledged that if a relief bill can't get GOP support, it will likely move forward through reconciliation, but he thinks "we're a lot better off if we can work out bipartisan bills."

He noted his and Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby's commitment to bipartisanship, saying he thinks they can bring together members of both parties on their committee, but "we can't sit here and just keep talking back and forth and doing nothing. The fact is the American people need help right now."

Watch:

10:32 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Johnson & Johnson applies for WHO authorization that could make its vaccine available in 190+ countries

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine vials in Klerksdorp, South Africa, on February 18.
Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine vials in Klerksdorp, South Africa, on February 18. Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced it has asked the World Health Organization for emergency use listing for its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine.

The company said it had delivered the data from its late-stage trial to the WHO.

An emergency use listing would make the vaccine available in more than 190 countries, including multiple developing countries. If authorized, it would also allow J&J to supply the COVAX program – a global distribution and procurement agency that is helping manage Covid-19 vaccines for 190 participating countries.

In December, J&J came to an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, that is backing the COVAX program. If authorized, J&J expects to provide up to 500 million doses to COVAX through next year, the company said.

“Our filing with the World Health Organization marks another important step in our effort to combat COVID-19 and also in our unwavering commitment to equitable access,” Dr. Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson’s vice chair of the executive committee and chief scientific officer, said in a news release. "If we are to end the global pandemic, life-saving innovations like vaccines must be within reach for all countries.”

J&J filed for a conditional marketing authorization application in the European Union on Monday.

Next Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration will consider the data the company submitted for an emergency use authorization of the vaccine in the United States. J&J has promised to deliver 100 million doses of its single-dose vaccine to the US by the end of June.

The Covid-19 vaccine’s efficacy against moderate and severe disease ranged from one country to another:

  • 72% in the US
  • 66% in Latin America
  • 57% in South Africa

It was 66% effective globally. This was measured starting one month after the shot. The vaccine is 85% effective overall at preventing hospitalization and 100% at preventing death in all regions where it was tested.

Read more on the J&J vaccine:

10:26 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

EU doubles contribution to COVAX global vaccine effort

From CNN’s James Frater

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on February 17.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on February 17. Aris Oikonomou/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union has announced a further 500 million euros – approximately $606 million – in funding for the World Health Organization-led COVAX program, doubling its total contribution so far to 1 billion euros – approx. $1.2 billion – according a statement issued by the EU on Friday.

COVAX is a program co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world

“This new pledge brings us closer to achieving COVAX's target to deliver 1.3 billion doses for 92 low and middle income countries by the end of 2021,” the EU said. “Team Europe is one of the lead contributors to COVAX with over €2.2 billion, including another €900 million pledged today by Germany,” the statement added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU remains “committed to ensuring universal access” to coronavirus vaccines.

“With this new financial boost we want to make sure vaccines are soon delivered to low and middle-income countries. Because we will only be safe if the whole world is safe,” she said Friday. 

European Commissioner for Health a Food Safety Stella Kyriakides added that the EU is “working to share doses” secured under its advanced purchase agreements, preferably through COVAX, with the Western Balkans, Africa and other neighboring states.

“Humanism and solidarity are essential values for Europe. These values have been our compass since the onset of the pandemic,” Kyriakides said.

Read more about the COVAX program here.

9:31 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

People of color are underrepresented in US vaccine trials, new study finds

From CNN's Nicquel Terry Ellis

People of color have been vastly underrepresented in US-based vaccine trials for the last decade, according to a new study released Friday by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Harvard, Emory and other institutions.

The study, which examined data from 230 vaccine trials with nearly 220,00 participants, found that White people made up the majority, or 78%, of participants in trials conducted between June 2011 and June 2020.

Black people, however, accounted for 11% of participants, Hispanics made up 12%, and American Indians/Alaska Natives represented 0.4%.

The study, published in the JAMA Network Open, comes as the nation grapples with a Covid-19 pandemic that has disproportionately impacted people of color. Health care leaders are working to combat vaccine distrust among Black and brown people, saying the shot is the key to preventing further devastating in their communities. 

Black and Latino Americans are dying of Covid-19 at three times the rate of White people and being hospitalized at a rate four times higher, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers are now advocating for increased diversity in vaccine trials saying it will help address vaccine hesitancy, counter safety concerns and educate communities of color. They also note that many vaccine trials failed to fully report demographic information on participants.

"This collaborative work highlights a problem that's plagued the scientific community for too long — inadequate representation in clinical trials," said Dr. Steve Pergam, an associate professor in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. "The diversity seen in Covid-19 vaccine trials demonstrate we can do this, but we need to assure future studies focus not just on rapid enrollment but also on inclusion."

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN last year that he wanted to see people of color enrolled in Covid-19 vaccine trials at double their percentage of the population because their communities were hit hard by the pandemic. The US is 12% Black and 18% Latino.

But last summer, researchers said they were struggling to recruit people of color for Covid-19 vaccine trials. For example, in August, Black and Latino people made up only 10% of the 350,000 people who had signed up for a coronavirus clinical trial.

Moderna made efforts to increase the number of people of color in its vaccine trials, but the company didn't meet the levels Fauci suggested.

Black leaders say many Black Americans refused to sign up for trials because they don't want be "guinea pigs" for vaccine trials because of the nation's history of racism in medical research. They cited the Tuskegee experiments from 1932-1972 that recruited 600 Black men — 399 who had syphilis and 201 who did not — and tracked the disease's progression by not treating the men as they died or suffered severe health issues.

10:29 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

US may have enough vaccines to fully vaccinate its population by July

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Members of the National Guard work at a Covid-19 vaccination site in Los Angeles on February 16.
Members of the National Guard work at a Covid-19 vaccination site in Los Angeles on February 16. Mario Tama/Getty Images

In the first three months since the first Covid-19 vaccine shot was administered in December, the US government has delivered about 73.4 million doses to states and jurisdictions, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have each promised to deliver 200 million doses to the US by the end of May, for a total of 400 million doses. That’s enough to fully vaccinate 200 million people – or about 60% of the US population before summer.

The next three months will bring us into late May. If the US is able to distribute all of the doses they’ve received from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna by then, the pace will have picked up by about three times what it was in the first three months.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to present trial data to the US Food and Drug Administration next week for emergency use authorization. The company has promised to deliver 100 million doses of its single-dose vaccine to the US by the end of June.

Along with another 100 million doses promised from Moderna for the end of July, an additional 150 million people could be fully vaccinated, enough to cover the full US population.

9:03 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Walgreens’ Covid-19 vaccine allocation in US will increase by more than 300,000 doses next week

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Walgreens pharmacist Jessica Sahni administers the Pfizer-BioNTech Coovid-19 vaccine at the New Jewish Home in New York, on December 21, 2020.
Walgreens pharmacist Jessica Sahni administers the Pfizer-BioNTech Coovid-19 vaccine at the New Jewish Home in New York, on December 21, 2020. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Walgreens will receive more than 480,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses per week from the US federal government starting on Feb. 25, the company announced Friday.

This more than doubles the pharmacy’s previous weekly allocation of 180,000 doses.

Walgreens says it will conduct vaccine administration in a total of 26 states and territories.

The company also said it had administered more than three million Covid-19 vaccines in long-term care facilities and “vulnerable populations.”