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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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:

10:25 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Covid-19 incidence was lower in NYC public schools than in the wider community, study says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A new study suggests that in-person learning within New York City's public schools was not associated with a rise in Covid-19 infections compared with the surrounding community – rather, the overall incidence was lower for people in public schools compared with the community.

But the study showed differences among children versus adults. 

Dr. Jay Varma, the city's senior health adviser, led the new study that published in the medical journal Pediatrics this month. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that the peer-reviewed study offers "the strongest evidence to date" of low Covid-19 transmission during in-person learning within schools. 

More on the study: The study included data on more than 200,000 people who were tested for coronavirus infection in New York City public schools between Oct. 9 and Dec. 18 last year. Among them, 0.4% tested positive for Covid-19. When cases were detected, the data showed that 0.5% of their close contacts in the schools subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

The study's authors — from the mayor's office, New York City Health and Hospitals and the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — analyzed the data, comparing Covid-19 cases that were connected to schools with those diagnosed in the community.

The researchers found that between Oct. 9 and Nov. 19, the incidence of Covid-19 was about 341 cases per 100,000 people among the school population compared with about 529 cases per 100,000 among the general community.

"We’ve said that our public school buildings are some of the safest places in New York City— and we’ve got the numbers to back it up," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his announcement on Wednesday.

But there were differences by age:

  • For children ages 5 to 17, the incidence was about 169 per 100,000 among the school population compared with about 384 per 100,000 for the community, the researchers found.
  • But among adults 18 and older, the incidence was about 956 per 100,000 for the school population and about 582 per 100,000 for the community, according to the study.
  • The researchers found that in December, the incidence of Covid-19 among the school population was about 464 cases per 100,000 compared with among the general community, it was about 510 cases per 100,000. Yet again, there were differences by age.
  • For children ages 5 to 17, the incidence was about 245 per 100,000 for the school population and about 367 per 100,000 for the community, the researchers found.
  • But among people 18 and older, the incidence was about 1,275 per 100,000 for the school population and about 560 per 100,000 for the community, according to the study.

"We found that staff may have an elevated risk of COVID-19 infection relative to the community, but that this risk is not clearly attributable to transmission in schools," the researchers wrote in the study. 

10:24 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Spain has not reported any cases of blood clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine, health minister says

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza

Spain's Health Minister Carolina Darias speaks during a government session in Madrid on February 3.
Spain's Health Minister Carolina Darias speaks during a government session in Madrid on February 3. Chema Moya/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said the country has not reported any cases of blood clots in patients inoculated with AstraZeneca vaccines. During an interview with local TV station, La Sexta, she called for caution while the matter is being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

“I would like to send a message of calm and caution. In Spain we have not been notified of any case related to blood clots,” Darias said. 

Darias said her Ministry is aware of the cases in Austria but not Denmark.

“We know about Austria, a young nurse who died and another one is recovering. But until now, I would like to say that the link between the vaccine and the blood clot caused has not been proved yet. So I would like to ask for caution, we are in good hands, EMA will announce what they consider is correct”, the Minister added.

Earlier on Thursday, Denmark decided to suspend for 14 days the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as a “precautionary measure” as it investigates “signs of a possible serious side effect in the form of fatal blood clots,” Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said.

Although several European countries have this week suspended use of vaccines from a specific batch of doses – batch ABV5300 – following reports of blood clots in a few patients, Denmark, Iceland and Norway are the first to pause use of all AstraZeneca vaccines.

10:28 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Pfizer vaccine prevents asymptomatic Covid-19 and death, data from Israel shows

From CNN’s Jacqueline Howard and Naomi Thomas

A syringe and vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on January 14.
A syringe and vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on January 14. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Thursday morning that real-world evidence from the Israel Ministry of Health show that there have been "dramatically" fewer Covid-19 cases and deaths among people in Israel who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine compared with those who have been not vaccinated.

The latest analysis from the Israel Ministry of Health is based on data collected between Jan. 17 and March 6, according to the announcement. During that time, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the only Covid-19 vaccine available in the country and the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, was dominant.

According to Pfizer and BioNTech's announcement, the latest analysis from the Israel Ministry of Health shows that two weeks after the second dose, vaccine effectiveness was at least 97% in preventing symptomatic disease, hospitalizations and death. The analysis also found that the vaccine effectiveness was 94% in preventing asymptomatic Covid-19, where infections show no symptoms

"We are extremely encouraged that the real-world effectiveness data coming from Israel are confirming the high efficacy demonstrated in our Phase 3 clinical trial and showing the significant impact of the vaccine in preventing severe disease and deaths due to COVID-19," Luis Jodar, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Pfizer Vaccines, said in the announcement.

"The findings which suggest that the vaccine may also provide protection against asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections are particularly meaningful as we look to disrupt the spread of the virus around the globe," Jodar said.

SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The announcement comes about two weeks after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finding that the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 – meaning people who were infected with the coronavirus and felt sick – decreased by 94% among those who received two doses of the vaccine. Even before the second dose, the vaccine's effectiveness approached 60%.

"This clearly demonstrates the power of the COVID-19 vaccine to fight this virus and encourages us to continue even more intensively with our vaccination campaign. We aim to achieve even higher uptake in people of all ages, which gives us hope of regaining normal economic and social function in the not so distant future," Yeheskel Levy, Israel Ministry of Health director, said in the announcement.

"When we started our development last year in January, our aim was to make a difference for people worldwide and to help end this pandemic," Dr. Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, said in the announcement. "One year after the declaration of a pandemic by the WHO, we now see that we are on the right track to accomplish our goals."

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said data from Israel that shows the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine prevents asymptomatic infection and death is a message of hope one year on from the declaration of a pandemic. 

“It is a great opportunity, I think, that in this day of the first anniversary of the declaration of a pandemic, we do have a message of hope,” Bourla told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on Squawk Box. 

Bourla explained that the data comes from a country where more than 55% of the total population has been vaccinated.

Efficacy so far in Israel is at 97%, saying “all three measures, mild disease, hospitalizations and deaths are north of 97% in real world efficacy with millions of people vaccinated.” 

Perhaps most important of all, he said, it appeared to be 94% effective against asymptomatic transmission. 

Bourla said that this is important for society, “because the asymptomatic carriers, the asymptomatic patients are the ones that they are spreading the disease mainly.” 

“This is the first time that we are coming with a confirmation of a real world evidence study of that magnitude,” he said.
9:45 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Pfizer CEO urges people to get whatever vaccine is offered first

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said he felt liberated after getting his second dose of Covid-19 vaccine. 

“I did my second shot a few days ago and I tweeted about it and I felt liberated,” he told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on Squawk Box Thursday. “My family haven’t received it yet, but I hope pretty soon we’ll find opportunities to get them vaccinated as well.” 

 Bourla also echoed public health experts, telling CNBC’s Becky Quick that he would encourage people to get whichever vaccine was available to them first.

“I will tell you in full honestly what I tell to my relatives or my family if they’re asking me what to do,” Bourla said. “And I tell them, if you get, if you try to get an appointment for a Pfizer vaccine and the center will give it to you in two months, and you can get an appointment for another vaccine, the J&J let’s say, this week, I urge you to go and do the J&J vaccine, it’s very important.”
10:36 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Germany changes priority vaccination strategy to target borders

From CNN’s Claudia Otto

German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks to the media in Berlin on March 5.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks to the media in Berlin on March 5. Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images

Germany is changing its priority vaccination strategy in “hotspot areas” to vaccinate the entire population in border areas in an effort to reduce entry of the virus into the interior of the country, the German Health Ministry Press Office told CNN on Thursday.

New vaccination rules in Saxony, Bavaria, Saarland and, if necessary, other states mean they can start to vaccinate the entire population in hotspots at Germany’s borders.

“We are adapting the vaccination ordinance to new findings and developments. To this end, we are adhering to prioritization in order to protect those who are particularly vulnerable. But at the same time, we want to pragmatically make rapid vaccination possible. We need to strike a balance between vaccinating as many people as possible and doing so in the most targeted way possible,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said about the new rules.

For example in Vogtland, Saxony, a border region where infection numbers are very high, everybody over 18 will now be able to be vaccinated according to local health authorities.

9:40 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

UK regulator tells Brits to get their AstraZeneca vaccines despite European concerns

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

The UK’s medical regulator has issued a statement reassuring the British public that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is still safe, despite Denmark’s decision to suspend use of the vaccine after one person died from a blood clot following inoculation.

“This is a precautionary measure by the Danish authorities. It has not been confirmed that the report of a blood clot was caused by the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine. People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so,” the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement Thursday.

“Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccine have now been administered across the UK,” Dr. Phil Bryan, MHRA Vaccines Safety Lead said. 

Stressing that public safety will always come first, Bryan said that “reports of blood clots received so far are not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population.”

9:35 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Swiss-Italian company confirms deal to produce Sputnik V vaccine

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Zahra Ullah

Swiss-Italian company Adienne confirmed that it has struck a deal with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to produce Russia’s coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V

Dr. Antonio Francesco Di Naro, Adienne Pharma & Biotech President, told CNN the deal was signed last month and his company is currently in the technology transfer process. 

Di Naro stressed he could not say when production will actually begin as Adienne requires approval from the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) – the regulatory body that oversees pharmaceutical companies in Italy – before they can start manufacturing. 

“I need to inform the AIFA when I am ready to be inspected. We have not applied for it yet, we are in the process of technology transfer from Russia,” Di Naro told CNN on Thursday. 

Di Naro added the goal is to receive the approval to manufacture by the end of the year.

Di Naro explained the European Union’s vaccine regulator – the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – which began a rolling review of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine last week, is the body to approve the clinical safety of the product and “commercialization.” But AIFA can give go ahead to manufacture the vaccine without EMA approval. 

“If the EMA doesn’t approve for Europe but we have the approval of AIFA to manufacture Sputnik, we can sell in other countries. But for this, I need the AIFA authorization,” Di Naro said. 

The Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce released a statement earlier this week welcoming the Adienne-RDIF deal and said production could start as early as July 2021, adding the partnership could see production of 10 million doses by the end of the year. 

But Di Naro was much more conservative with his timeframe: “We are working towards being inspected by the end of this year [by AIFA]. Today we cannot confirm any numbers and of course there is a potential for the next year coming, but I cannot produce this amount of vials this year, if I’m not inspected.”

Di Naro added manufacturing a vaccine is not like “manufacturing chewing gum.”