Biden delivers national address about Covid-19

By Ben Westcott, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:52 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021
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12:01 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

European Commission approves Johnson & Johnson vaccine

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood

A vial of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Janssen Vaccine is held at the US Department of Veterans Affairs' VA Boston Healthcare System's Jamaica Plain Medical Center in Boston on March 4.
A vial of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Janssen Vaccine is held at the US Department of Veterans Affairs' VA Boston Healthcare System's Jamaica Plain Medical Center in Boston on March 4. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission approved the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on Thursday, the fourth licensed vaccine to be authorized in the European Union.

The approval follows the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – the EU’s medicines regulator – authorization for the single dose vaccine “after a thorough evaluation” of Johnson & Johnson’s data found it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality. 

"The Janssen vaccine is the fourth authorized vaccine of the EU's portfolio and will help us enhance the vaccination campaign in the second quarter of 2021,” the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said, referring to the vaccine by the name of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines division.
“It only requires a single dose, which takes us another step closer to achieving our collective goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of summer," von der Leyen said in a statement.

Its approval offers a boost for the EU’s vaccination rollout that has been criticized as going at a slow pace, hit by supply problems and delays.

The statement added the Commission has approved the contract with the conditional market authorization that J&J deliver 200 million of their single dose Covid-19 vaccines to the EU starting in the second quarter of 2021.

12:16 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Iraq recorded over 5,100 cases of coronavirus Thursday

From CNN's Aqeel Najim and Mohammed Tawfeeq

The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported at least 5,170 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in Iraq to 745,462.

The health ministry also reported 26 Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total number of reported deaths in Iraq to 13,671 since the pandemic began.

There are currently 57,626 Covid-19 patients hospitalized across the county, among them 426 cases are in the Intensive Care Unit.

On Monday, the Iraqi health ministry extended a series of restrictive measures announced last month for two more weeks "in light of the increasing number of infections among citizens," to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The measures include a full curfew on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between March 9 through March 22.

Restaurants and cafes will be closed for dining but will allow pick-up services. All entertainment venues will be closed for two more weeks, including indoor parks, cinemas, sports halls, and swimming pools.

11:31 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Early Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine trial data shows antibody response after 8 days 

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

A box containing vials of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine sit on a counter at Louisville Metro Health and Wellness headquarters on March 4 in Louisville, Kentucky.
A box containing vials of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine sit on a counter at Louisville Metro Health and Wellness headquarters on March 4 in Louisville, Kentucky. Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Many of the people who got a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in an early clinical trial developed neutralizing antibodies against the virus by about day eight, and by day 57, all of the volunteers had, according to a study published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine in February. This is one of the first peer-reviewed studies to show how the single dose of the J&J vaccine worked in humans – and it worked well.

The company released data throughout the trial process. In January, J&J also published interim results of a larger part of the vaccine trial in the New England Journal of Medicine. That study showed the vaccine was safe and generated an immune response. 

For this part of the early stage trial, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston recruited 25 adult volunteers who were randomized into five different groups. One group got a single shot, another got two. In those two groups, scientists tried two different vaccine doses. Another group got a placebo. 

Scientists checked the volunteers’ antibody levels throughout the trial. For the purpose of this study, they reported the total results after 71 days. The company will follow up with these volunteers for two years. 

For the volunteers who got the vaccine, researchers saw that about 90% of those who got the vaccine developed antibodies against the coronavirus by day eight. By day 57, all of the volunteers who got the vaccine had developed neutralizing antibodies, a T-cell response and a cellular immune response after just a single dose. The response was even stronger at day 71.

A note on the study: The study had its limitations. It’s small and the elderly were not included, so it can’t necessarily be generalized to other age groups. Researchers say they will follow up with these volunteers to see exactly how long this protection may last. 

J&J is currently working on several other Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials, including to determine whether a second dose works better. It is also studying how its vaccine works in children and will study how it works in pregnant women. 

11:12 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

European regulator does not recommend suspending AstraZeneca vaccine use

From CNN's Richard Greene

The European Medicines Agency said Thursday that the benefits of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the risks, and did not recommend suspending use.

The EMA said it was aware that Denmark was suspending it due to reports of blood clots in people who had received it, but said: “There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine.”

The agency said “the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.”

And it said the number of blood clots seen in vaccine recipients was no higher than the rate among people had not received it in Europe. Full EMA statement here.

What this is about: Denmark, Iceland and Norway have suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine while the European Union's medicines regulator investigates whether the shot could be linked to a number of reports of blood clots.

Read more about the European countries who've decided to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine:

11:05 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

England is investigating a new coronavirus variant linked to travel from Antigua 

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood

A new coronavirus variant linked to travel from Antigua, and first identified in the UK, is being investigated by Public Health England (PHE), the agency said Thursday. 

The PHE statement said the variant B.1.324.1 was designated as "under investigation" on March 4 after two cases were found in the South East of England who had recently travelled to Antigua, but is not being categorized as concerning for now.

“The variant contains the spike mutations E484K and N501Y, both usually associated with Variants of Concern (VOC), however it does not feature specific deletions that would lead to a designation as a VOC,” the statement said.

PHE added that contact tracing teams have completed thorough investigations to identify and follow up any close contacts and no additional cases have been found to date. 

11:00 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

People flying into New York from other US states will no longer have to quarantine starting April 1

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano and Kristina Sgueglia

A person walks through LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, on March 6.
A person walks through LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, on March 6. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York from another state or US territory beginning April 1, according to a press release from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

International travelers are still mandated to quarantine.

“This is great news, but it is not an all-clear for New Yorkers to let their guard down. To beat this virus once and for all we all must continue doing what we know works to stop the spread, including wearing masks, washing our hands and practicing social distancing,” Cuomo said in the release.

Regardless of quarantine status, all people exposed to Covid-19 or returning from travel must still continue daily symptom monitoring through day 14 and immediately self-isolate if any symptoms develop.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said 2.5 million total doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. He says he plans to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when he becomes eligible on March 17.

10:52 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Africa has recorded nearly 4 million Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, WHO says

 From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke

Africa is inching toward four million cases and over 106,000 deaths, one year after the Covid-19 global pandemic was declared, according to the World Health Organization.

Of those confirmed cases, in Sub-Saharan Africa and Algeria, about 3.5% were healthcare workers, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a virtual press briefing Thursday. 

Moeti said some 11 healthcare workers catch Covid-19 every hour, and that number is even higher in some countries such as Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Algeria where over 10% of cases are healthcare workers.

Although there has been an uptick in cases in some African countries, "the continent has experienced a plateau over the past three weeks," Dr. Moeti said.

"As of yesterday, almost 14.8 billion doses have been delivered to 22 African countries, 19 African countries have now started vaccination campaigns and through COVAX more than 518,000 doses have been administered," she added.

The WHO continues to monitor the circulation of Covid-19 variants, recording 15 African countries now reporting the variant first detected in South Africa, while nine countries have reported the variant first detected in the UK. 

COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and WHO and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations. Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.

10:33 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

YouTube says it has removed more than 30,000 videos with Covid-19 vaccine misinformation

From CNN’s Richard Davis and Brian Fung

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images

YouTube has removed more than 30,000 videos containing misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, the company said Thursday. 

The videos “included claims about Covid-19 vaccinations that contradict local health authorities or the World Health Organization,” said Elena Hernandez, a YouTube spokesperson. “Overall, since February 2020, we have removed over 800,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading coronavirus information.”

YouTube’s policy against Covid vaccine misinformation dates to October of last year, when the company announced that false claims, such as that the vaccine is lethal or will lead to microchip tracking, would be removed. 

YouTube has come under increasing scrutiny for the way its recommendation engine can lead unsuspecting users down extremist rabbit holes and spread misleading claims. Earlier this month, CEO Susan Wojcicki said former President Donald Trump’s account will eventually be restored after it was suspended for incitement. 

Axios was first to report YouTube’s latest removal statistic.

10:21 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Get up to speed: Here's what you need to know about the pandemic around the world today

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser

It's just after 10 a.m. in New York, 3 p.m. in London, and 11 p.m. in Hong Kong. On this day one year ago, the World Health Organization officially declared coronavirus a global pandemic.

Here's what you need to know to get up to speed today:

US: More than 29 million cases have been reported in the US since WHO declared a global pandemic.

On this day last year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a congressional hearing that "things are going to get much worse before they get better."

"But I did not in my mind think that much worse was going to be 525,000 deaths," Dr. Fauci said Thursday on NBC's "Today" show.

Europe: Iceland, Norway and Denmark became the latest countries in Europe to say they're suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as they investigate reports of blood clots in some patients who were inoculated. AstraZeneca says "patient safety is the highest priority."

Latin America: A second wave of Covid-19 is ripping through Brazil, pushing hospitals and ICUs toward collapse and claiming record numbers of daily deaths. The US has the most deaths it the world followed by Brazil and Mexico, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Africa: At least 19 African countries have now started vaccination campaigns and through Covax, more than 518,000 doses have been administered, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. At least 22 African countries have received almost 14.8 million doses through Covax as of Wednesday, WHO African Region reported in a tweet.

Asia: India has the highest cases in Asia and the second highest cases in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Middle East: Turkey and Iran are the only countries in the Middle East to make the list of the top 20 countries with the highest cases in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Go There: CNN's Sanjay Gupta will answer your questions as the world marks a year of the Covid-19 pandemic. While we wait, read more of his reflections on a year of the pandemic here: