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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6:20 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Single dose of Covid-19 vaccine might be enough for people previously infected with virus, NIH director says

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

It’s possible a single dose of coronavirus vaccine might be enough to protect people who have recovered from a bout of Covid-19, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Thursday.

“It does look as if in those individuals, a single dose, basically it's a booster for them because they already had the infection, they already have some antibodies that may be sufficient and they may not need the second dose,” Collins told CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. 

Collins said that the NIH is “trying to collect as much data as possible about that right now.” 

But, overall, he said that a single dose strategy for everyone could result in unforeseen consequences. “Are those people who are in between first and second actually sitting ducks for getting infected?” Collins asked.

“Is that actually a way that we might encourage more mutations to happen because they're only partly protected? The virus has a chance to live a little longer in their system and pick up some changes," he said.

Collins said that until the data showed otherwise, the authorized two doses three to four weeks apart is the regimen that should be followed.

6:29 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

NIH director says new coronavirus variants pose potential risk of another surge

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins CNN

New, more contagious variants of the coronavirus could fuel a renewed surge of infections, the director of the National Institutes of Health said Thursday.

“Right now, it does look as if in the United States, we're at some risk of another surge due to this variant called B.1.1.7,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said in an interview with CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The B.1.1.7 variant was first identified in the UK and it has turned up in 43 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Collins noted that the US is on a downward trend of cases and hospitalizations from Covid-19. But that may not last.

“We should not in any way assume that that downward slope is inevitable. It could start back up again,” he said. 

He also pointed out that vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities may have had an impact on the drop in hospitalizations.

“That may partly now account for the fact that we are seeing a drop in serious illnesses, but we are nowhere near out of the woods,” Collins said.

He told Gupta that while vaccination efforts can reduce infection rates, it will take time.

“Our best hopes in the interim is for people to do the other things to limit that transmission, like wearing your mask and not congregating indoors,” Collins said.

5:59 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Missouri will allow K-12 teachers to receive Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

Missouri will soon enter an eligibility phase for Covid-19 vaccination that will allow school teachers and other essential workers to get vaccinated starting March 15, Gov. Mike Parson said at a news conference Thursday.

Phase 1B — tier three of the state’s Covid-19 Vaccine Plan — makes eligible K-12 educators and school employees, child care providers, grocery store employees and critical infrastructure workers in energy, food, agriculture, and other sectors, Parson said. The new phase makes approximately 550,000 more Missourians eligible to be vaccinated, he said.

“We have prioritized saving lives first and foremost. This is exactly why we started with our health care workers, our first responders and our most vulnerable population,” the governor said. “Tier three represents another very important part of our society. They are the workers in many of the industries we depend on each day to keep our day to day lives operating normally."
5:48 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers partner with supermarket chain to host multi-day Covid-19 vaccination clinic

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

The supermarket chain Giant Eagle, Inc. today announced a partnership with the Pittsburgh Steelers to host a multi-day Covid-19 vaccination clinic at Heinz Field, according to a release from Giant Eagle.

The clinic will run from March 2 through March 5 with a “significant number” of appointments available each day, but if additional vaccine supply is made available, the clinic will be extended with additional appointments, the release said.

In order to take part in the Heinz Field vaccination clinic, patients have to have an appointment and qualify under Pennsylvania’s expanded Phase 1A criteria. Appointments will be made available through Giant Eagle’s online scheduling tool starting Friday, according to the release.

“We are excited to partner with the Steelers organization to make ongoing vaccination opportunities accessible to neighborhoods surrounding the city by hosting this clinic at Heinz Field,” Giant Eagle spokesperson Jannah Jablonowski said. “Giant Eagle Pharmacy is committed to supporting the comprehensive care of our communities, and we are pleased to do our part to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine throughout Western Pennsylvania.”
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.