March 2 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Brett McKeehan, Rob Picheta, Kareem Khadder and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 0711 GMT (1511 HKT) March 3, 2021
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2:06 a.m. ET, March 2, 2021

Hydroxychloroquine should not be used to prevent Covid-19, WHO says 

From CNN’s Christopher Rios

A bottle of hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020.
A bottle of hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020. George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

A panel of World Health Organization experts has strongly advised against using hydroxychloroquine to prevent Covid-19 after reviewing all existing studies on the subject. 

The panel announced the recommendation in the BMJ medical journal on Monday, as part of the first version of WHO’s living guideline for drugs to prevent Covid-19. 

The panel concluded with high certainty that taking hydroxychloroquine does not prevent hospitalization or death from Covid-19. The panel also recommended that researchers studying hydroxychloroquine as means of Covid-19 prevention — also known as prophylaxis — consider ending their trials. 

Trump's claims: Hydroxychloroquine is typically used to treat autoimmune diseases and to prevent malaria, but early in the pandemic it was touted by former US President Donald Trump as a “game-changer,” prompting a flurry of clinical trials and a bump in sales of the pills. But many studies later showed the drug was not helpful in treating coronavirus patients and also did nothing to prevent infection.

The panel’s recommendation is based on six studies that included more than 6,000 participants. Three of the trials included volunteers who had a known exposure to Covid-19. 

“The panel felt that further research was unlikely to uncover a subgroup of patients who benefited from hydroxychloroquine prophylaxis on the most important outcomes (mortality, admissions to hospital) given the consistent results of the trials completed to date,” the researchers wrote.  

Emergency use: The US Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorization for use of the drug against coronavirus last year, and the National Institutes of Health stopped its research.

2:00 a.m. ET, March 2, 2021

Key things to know about the first single-dose Covid-19 vaccine authorized for use in the US

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

An employee with the McKesson Corporation packs a box of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines for shipping in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, on March 1.
An employee with the McKesson Corporation packs a box of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines for shipping in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, on March 1. Timothy D. Easley/Pool/Getty Images

The first single-dose Covid-19 vaccine has been authorized for use in the United States after advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously voted to recommend the Johnson & Johnson shot for Americans 18 and older.

Distribution of the vaccine began Sunday night, right after CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky officially rubber-stamped the authorization.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a bit different than the two already in use in the US. Most importantly, it only requires one dose and is easier to handle, because it can be kept at simple refrigerator temperatures for up to three months. That makes its rollout a lot easier compared to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

The technology is different too. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a brand-new technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA. They deliver genetic material directly into cells, which then follow the genetic instructions to make tiny pieces that look like a part of the coronavirus.

Those little proteins stimulate an immune response, generating antibodies and immune cells that "remember" what they look like and that will be ready to respond quickly in case of a fresh attack.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses viral vector technology. A common cold virus called adenovirus 26 is genetically engineered so it can infect cells, but won't replicate there. It cannot spread in the body, and won't give people a cold. Like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it delivers genetic instructions.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has shown efficacy of 72% in the US and offered 86% protection against severe forms of the disease in the country. Moderna's and Pfizer efficacy rate in clinical trials was 94% to 95%.

A version of this story appeared in the March 1 edition of CNN's Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

1:51 a.m. ET, March 2, 2021

CDC director issues stark warning to Americans about Covid-19 variants

From CNN's Holly Yan and Christina Maxouris

Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater on December 8, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater on December 8, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The US risks losing its recent gains in the battle against Covid-19 as highly contagious variants take advantage of Americans getting lax with safety measures.

"Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After weeks of tumbling case numbers, new infections are on the rise again — about 2% more this past week compared to the previous week, Walensky said Monday.

"Similarly, the most recent seven-day average of deaths has also increased more than 2% ... to nearly 2,000 deaths per day," she added.

Walensky also called out states easing up on Covid-19 safety mandates.

"I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19," she said.

"Please stay strong in your conviction. Continue wearing your well-fitting mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work.

"Ultimately, vaccination is what will bring us out of this pandemic. To get there, we need to vaccinate many more people."