February 25 coronavirus news

By Eoin McSweeney, Hannah Strange and Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 0642 GMT (1442 HKT) February 26, 2021
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6:13 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

FDA gives permission for Pfizer vaccine to be stored at normal freezer temperatures

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center associate chief of pharmacy operations Terrence Wong moves 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a freezer on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. The Eastern Colorado VA Health Care System was chosen as one of 37 VA centers around the country to receive the vaccine because of their ability to store the vaccine at extremely cold temperatures and vaccinate a large number of people.
Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center associate chief of pharmacy operations Terrence Wong moves 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a freezer on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. The Eastern Colorado VA Health Care System was chosen as one of 37 VA centers around the country to receive the vaccine because of their ability to store the vaccine at extremely cold temperatures and vaccinate a large number of people. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images/FILE

The US Food and Drug Administration handed Pfizer a victory on Thursday, agreeing to allow its Covid-19 vaccine to be transported and stored for up to two weeks at "conventional temperatures" typically found in pharmaceutical freezers. 

The FDA’s decision can relieve some of the constraints that have made the vaccine especially difficult to store and distribute.

The FDA previously recommended that the vaccine be stored at ultra-cold temperatures between -80 and -60 degrees Celsius, but noted in its announcement that the change to temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers "reflects an alternative to the preferred storage of the undiluted vials."

"Pfizer submitted data to the FDA to support this alternative temperature for transportation and storage," Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

"This alternative temperature for transportation and storage of the undiluted vials is significant and allows the vials to be transported and stored under more flexible conditions," Marks said. "The alternative temperature for transportation and storage will help ease the burden of procuring ultra-low cold storage equipment for vaccination sites and should help to get vaccine to more sites."

The change in storage temperatures for the vaccine will be noted in updates to the "fact sheet" for health care providers administering the vaccine that is available on the FDA's website.

5:03 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Biden acknowledges 50 million Covid vaccine doses while warning, "This is not a victory lap"

From CNN's DJ Judd

Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images
Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

President Biden gave remarks commemorating 50 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered Thursday, taking the time to mark the occasion while still warning of the road ahead.

“The more people get vaccinated, the faster we're gonna beat this pandemic,” Biden said Thursday. “That's why one of my first goals in office, when I was, just before I sworn in, I indicated that my goal was to get 100 million Covid vaccine shots in people's arms in my first 100 days as President.” 

Biden compared the nation’s vaccination rate with that of his predecessor’s administration, highlighting, “In the weeks before I became president, the previous administration saw 6 million shots administered in the last week."

The President added: "This coming week, we will administer over 12 million shots, double the pace in just six weeks that we've been in office...This not a victory lap. Everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day when everything is back to normal, depends on all of us."

4:58 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

UNICEF ships 504,000 vaccine doses to Ivory Coast

From CNN's Tim Lister 

UNICEF has shipped 504,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses from Mumbai airport, bound for Ivory Coast on Friday, a UNICEF spokesperson said in a news release.

Ivory Coast is the second country to receive Covid-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization's COVAX program, following a vaccine shipment to Ghana on Wednesday. 

The vaccines were produced by the Serum Institute of India, in the Indian city of Pune, and are part of the first wave of Covid-19 vaccines headed to low and middle-income countries.

3:12 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

US needs more equitable vaccine distribution systems, Biden's surgeon general pick says

From CNN's Samira Said

POOL
POOL

The US needs more equitable vaccine distribution systems to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and any in the future, the Biden administration’s nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, said Thursday.

"Disparities we often see with vaccine distribution are often related to pre-existing structural challenges that we have – one of them being a lack of access to health care that many people unfortunately face," Murthy said during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination.

Murthy, who was also surgeon general under the Obama administration, said community health care clinics, mobile units, and strategically placed vaccination centers are needed to equalize vaccine access – not only to fight Covid-19 but also potential future pandemics. 

"If we want to – not only with Covid, but with future potential pandemics – have a system that can respond well, we've got to ensure that we have community health centers that can actually distribute this vaccine,” Murthy said, in response to a question from Sen. Chris Murphy on equitable vaccine access.

“We've got to be able to quickly stand up mobile units to bring the vaccine to where people are. And we also have to ensure that we are establishing community vaccination centers strategically in locations where typically it's hard for people to access these vaccines," Murthy added.

3:37 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Europe's vaccine rollout "will continue to be difficult" the next few weeks, official says

From CNN's James Frater

European Council President Charles Michel gives a press conference at the end of the first day of a two-days video conference of the Members of the European Council on the Covid-19 pandemic, in Brussels, on Thursday, February 25.
European Council President Charles Michel gives a press conference at the end of the first day of a two-days video conference of the Members of the European Council on the Covid-19 pandemic, in Brussels, on Thursday, February 25. Olivier Hoslet/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union's vaccine rollout "will continue to be difficult" in the next few weeks, European Council President Charles Michel said during an EU summit Thursday. 

“Our top priority now is speeding up the production and delivery of vaccines and vaccinations across the European Union," Michel said. "It's why we support the Commission's efforts to work with [the] industry to identify bottlenecks, guarantee supply chains and scale up production. And we want more predictability and transparency to ensure that pharmaceutical companies comply with the commitments."

“We know that the next few weeks will continue to be difficult as far as vaccinations are concerned. However, I would, at the same time, like to give a message of hope and optimism," Michel added. 

More than 50 million doses of vaccines will have been delivered to the EU, with more than 29 million doses administered as of Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. That's about 6.4% of the bloc's total population and 8% of the adult population.

3:01 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

About 68 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Military personnel prepare for the opening of a mass Covid-19 vaccination site in the Queens borough of New York, on Wenesday, February 24. T
Military personnel prepare for the opening of a mass Covid-19 vaccination site in the Queens borough of New York, on Wenesday, February 24. T Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

About 68 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 68,274,117 total doses have been administered, about 74% of the 91,673,010 doses delivered.

That’s about two million more administered doses reported since Wednesday, for a seven-day average of about 1.5 million doses per day.

Just over 46 million people have no received at least one dose of vaccine and about 21.5 million have been fully vaccinated with both shots, CDC data shows.

Note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.

2:38 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Hungary facing "most difficult two weeks" of the pandemic so far, prime minister says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Hungary is facing its "most difficult two weeks" of the coronavirus pandemic so far, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a video message Thursday, according to Hungary's International Communications Office. 

Orbán added that Hungarian hospitals are facing unprecedented pressure due to the spread of Covid-19 variants.

“I have nothing but bad news. The situation is that we are facing the most difficult two weeks of the entire epidemic," Orbán said in the video posted to Facebook. "Due to the appearance of new mutations, the number of infections is increasing intensively, and will continue to increase."

Orbán also said the country "will need every physician, every nurse, every ventilator," Hungary's International Communications Office told CNN. 

“We are racing against time,” Orbán added. "I’m asking everyone to register and to have themselves vaccinated.”

Hungary has recorded at least 414,514 coronavirus cases and at least 14,672 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. 

2:42 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

California business owner speaks out against anti-Asian attacks after suspected hate crime

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Kelly Shum, owner of Mad Butcher Meat Company —a family-run Chinese butcher shop in Sacramento, California, spoke out against anti-Asian sentiments and attacks her family has faced for the past year — since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recently, a customer found a mutilated cat in the parking lot of Shum’s business, which Sacramento Police is investigating as a hate crime, according to reports. Shum said the suspected man had come into the store beforehand.

“I would be lying to you if I told you I was surprised. I wasn't surprised that it had gotten to this level of violence. We've been dealing with this for the last year. We actually have a security guard out front, which is very not typical of a butcher shop, but we actually have him out front for our safety and protection and this is the exact reason why,” Shum told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

Shum became emotional as she told Keilar of other instances of when her family faced racist attacks and verbal slurs. 

“It's very difficult for me to talk about. The reason why we have a security guard in the first place is because most of our workers are Chinese here. And, my sister was at the door with a mask, since we knew what the perception was, my sister was actually at the door, enforcing that people wear a masks because we knew how people felt about it, and someone tried to attack her and when they did they called her the China virus and the coronavirus, and — like I said. I'm just not surprised at the level of violence and anti-Asian rhetoric, especially anti-Chinese rhetoric, that's kind of going around right now,” Shum said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed measures specifically targeting bias and hate crimes against Asian people, but Shum said that she doesn’t think it will make a difference.

Shum noted how she was interrogated about the cat incident as if she did it as a publicity stunt and was told that “maybe this wasn’t going to be taking seriously as a hate crime and maybe it’s going to be categorized under vandalism.”

“I don't think that anything's going to come of this. I don't think there is actually going to be change just because a bill has been passed passed. I just saw with my own experience this week how devastating and traumatizing that this can be,” Shum explained.

2:53 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Oregon governor extends Covid-19 state of emergency for 60 days

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visits the Marion County and Salem Health COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Salem, Oregon, on January 13.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visits the Marion County and Salem Health COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Salem, Oregon, on January 13. Abigail Dollins/Statesman-Journal/Pool/AP/File

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown extended the state of emergency due to Covid-19 for an additional 60 days on Thursday, according to a statement released by her office.

The state of emergency will last through May 2 and means that Oregon can fully utilize federal Covid-19 relief and assistance, including help with vaccine distribution, the statement said.

“When I issued my first state of emergency declaration last March, there were 14 known cases of Covid-19 in Oregon,” Brown in the statement. “Today, we have now seen more than 150,000 cases across the state, and, sadly, 2,194 deaths.”