March 25 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth and Eliza Mackintosh, CNN

Updated 0635 GMT (1435 HKT) March 26, 2021
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12:58 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Pfizer begins vaccine trial for children between ages of 5 and 11

From CNN's Nadia Kounang and Amanda Sealy

Duke University researchers started testing Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for children under the age of 12. The company told CNN at least two children have already gotten their first shot.

Pfizer vaccine currently has an emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for those 16 years old and older.

Pfizer is starting the trials first in children between 5 and 11 to determine the appropriate dose. Vaccines will start with 10 micrograms. If that dose is tolerated, the trial will escalate to 20 micrograms and then 30 micrograms. An adult dosage of Pfizer vaccine has 30 micrograms. There is also a 3 microgram option. As with adults, children will be on a two-dose schedule, 21 days apart.

If the 10 microgram dose is tolerated in the 5-11 year old group, the trial will follow the same process for children between the ages of 2 and 5. If tolerated in that age group, next would be vaccine trials for the youngest children, between 6 months and 2 years.

If 10 micrograms is tolerated in the 5-11 age group, the trial will also follow the same process for the 2-5 age group and then for the group of children 6 months to 2 years.

Pfizer has already evaluated the vaccine in 2,259 children between the ages of 12 and 15. The company told CNN the tolerability findings were strong enough among this age group to encourage trials in younger children. They anticipate being able to share the data about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in the older children age group soon.

 Results from the under-12 trial are expected by the end of 2021. 

12:20 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Sweden and Iceland partly resume AstraZeneca vaccine rollout

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Eleanor Pickston

Syringes are loaded with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, Sweden, on February 17.
Syringes are loaded with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, Sweden, on February 17. Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Iceland and Sweden are partly resuming their use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the Swedish Public Health Agency and the Icelandic Directorate of Health announced on Thursday.

“As the epidemic of COVID-19 is widespread in society throughout Europe and there has been an increase in the number of infections in Iceland recently, there is no doubt that there is a continuing need for this vaccine and that the benefits of its use outweigh the risks," the Icelandic Directorate of Health said in a statement.

The statement also said the vaccine could be safely used for people over the age of 70, and that “younger individuals who have not experienced serious side effects after the first dose will probably be able to complete the vaccination with the same vaccine.”

The statement adds the vaccine will likely be made available to people between the age of 60 and 69.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Public Health Agency says in its statement that vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine could continue for people aged 65 and over, saying the the European Medicines Agency (EMA) “had determined that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks.”

The statement further states that “it cannot be ruled out that some rare cases of serious side effects may be associated with the vaccine. However, these suspected cases have so far only been reported among younger people, not in people over 65.”

As a result, the vaccine will not be used in Sweden for people under the age of 65 “pending further safety data for those ages.”

“The vaccine is very useful for the elderly, many become seriously ill with Covid-19 every day. At the same time, we have not seen a risk of these rare and serious side effects in the elderly. That is the reason why we are lifting the suspension of the vaccine for people over the age of 65," Johan Carlson, director general of the Swedish Public Health Agency, said in the statement.

Remember: On March 11, Iceland suspended its use of the vaccine while waiting for advice from the European Medicines Agency. The Swedish Health Ministry also paused its rollout of the vaccine on March 16 while awaiting investigation by the European Medicines Agency and its Swedish equivalent.

On March 18, the EMA’s safety committee concluded its preliminary review of a signal of blood clots in people vaccinated with AstraZeneca, stating “the benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects.”

On Wednesday, Iceland announced a three-week tightening of restrictions following a new group of infections that have broken out in the country involving the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in England.

11:49 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Biden will announce new vaccine goal of 200 million shots by first 100 days in office

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

President Biden will announce a new coronavirus vaccine goal of 200 million shots in arms in his first 100 days in office at his 1:15 p.m. ET news conference today, a White House official tells CNN. 

CNN reported yesterday that Biden was expected to announce his new goal at the news conference and that he had strongly hinted he would double his original goal 100 million shots in his first 100 days, which he cleared in 58 days.

The announcement comes after Biden in recent days has consulted with his advisers and health experts on what a new, realistic goal would be. 

The current US seven-day average is about 2.5 million doses per day. That pace would get the country to more than 205 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by day 100 of Biden's presidency.

11:58 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Study finds mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are effective in pregnant and lactating women 

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a Covid-19 vaccination site in Las Vegas on March 15.
A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a Covid-19 vaccination site in Las Vegas on March 15. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are effective in pregnant and lactating women, who can pass protective antibodies to newborns, according to research published Thursday in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard looked at 131 women who received either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Among the participants, 84 were pregnant, 31 were lactating and 16 were not pregnant or lactating. Samples were collected between Dec. 17, 2020 and March 2, 2021. 

The vaccine-induced antibody levels were equivalent in pregnant and lactating women, compared to non-pregnant women. The antibody levels were “strikingly higher” than those resulting from coronavirus infection during pregnancy, the team noted. 

“These vaccines seem to work incredibly effectively in these women,” said one of the researchers, Galit Alter, a professor of medicine at the Ragon Institute. 

In addition, the team found that women passed protective antibodies to their newborns, measured in breast milk and the placenta. Alter said additional research is needed to understand how long those protective antibodies last in newborns. 

The findings are in line with recent research, though this is the largest study on vaccines in pregnant women, to date. Pregnant and lactating women were not included in the initial clinical trials of the vaccines.  

Participants used the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s V-safe tool, which allows people who have received a Covid-19 vaccine to track their reaction. Alter said they found no evidence of more side effects or more intense side effects in pregnant and lactating women than in the general population. 

11:14 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

New York City mayor suggests Broadway shows could come back in September

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

A view of the "Hamilton" marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York on May 3, 2020, as Broadway productions closed their doors during the coronavirus pandemic.
A view of the "Hamilton" marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York on May 3, 2020, as Broadway productions closed their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the vision is to bring theatre back in September, but he added “that all depends on getting these pieces right.”

“We’ve been talking to the Broadway community, and for a while now the vision has been to bring shows back in September, obviously that all depends on getting these pieces right,” de Blasio said when asked if there was a target date for when shows can resume.

“The lead time to bring back a show is really extensive,” de Blasio said which is why he is prepping six months out. 

“I feel very good about September, we just need to do the work now, and we need more of that guidance and clarity from the state so we can lock it in," he added.

10:46 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Denmark extends AstraZeneca vaccine suspension for further 3 weeks

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston

Søren Brostrøm, Director General of the Danish Health Authority, left, and Tanja Erichsen, from the Danish Medicins Agency, attend a press briefing about the status of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 25.
Søren Brostrøm, Director General of the Danish Health Authority, left, and Tanja Erichsen, from the Danish Medicins Agency, attend a press briefing about the status of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 25. Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Denmark will extend its suspension of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for an additional three weeks to give time for further assessment, the country’s health authority announced on Thursday. 

"At this time, we believe that our basis for making a final decision on any future use of the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca is too uncertain. Many studies have been initiated, but we do not yet have any conclusions. Therefore, the hold on using the vaccine remains in effect," the Director General of the nation's health authority, Søren Brostrøm, said on Thursday. The statement was issued in English as well as Danish.

Denmark was one of the first European countries to put the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on hold earlier this month, after concerns of increased risks of blood clots in patients post-inoculation were registered in the country. 

The European Medicines Agency last week found that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “is safe and effective in preventing Covid-19 and its benefits continued to be far greater than its risks” but that it could not “rule out definitively” a possible link with blood clots. Most European countries including Germany, Italy, France, Spain have since restarted use of the shot. 

Approximately 150,000 people in Denmark had already received the AstraZeneca shot before it was suspended. 

10:26 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

White House launches new program to vaccinate dialysis patients against Covid-19

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The Biden administration on Thursday announced new plans to allocate Covid-19 vaccines to dialysis centers nationwide. This new partnership with dialysis clinics is an effort to vaccinate people receiving dialysis, as well as health care personnel in outpatient dialysis clinics. 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, applauded the partnership in a written statement released on Thursday, saying that she is "proud" the CDC has partnered with dialysis provider organizations to support the vaccination of most dialysis patients and health care personnel.

"This effort is another important step in making sure that vaccines reach the most medically vulnerable communities and that equity continues to anchor our efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic," Walensky said in the statement. 

Dialysis is used to treat people with kidney failure, which affects more than half a million people in the United States, and most people go to a dialysis center for treatment.

"Each year, more than 550,000 people receive regular dialysis treatments through the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease Program. The dialysis partners effort will onboard clinics that participate in the Medicare program to administer COVID-19 vaccines to their patients and workers," Walensky said, adding that dialysis facilities already have "longstanding" experience administering vaccinations, such as flu and hepatitis B shots.

Walensky added that people on dialysis often have more severe outcomes when they contract Covid-19, half require hospitalization and 20% to 30% die, she said.

"Furthermore, advanced stage chronic kidney disease disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities, including African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives," Walensky said. "Dialysis clinics provide a trusted innovative pathway to help COVID-19 vaccines reach populations that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic." 

In response, the nonprofit American Kidney Fund issued a statement on Thursday applauding the White House's decision to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to dialysis centers. The American Society of Nephrology tweeted a link to the White House's announcement about the dialysis program, calling it "big news."

10:35 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Florida will allow all people over age 18 to get Covid-19 vaccinations starting April 5

From CNN’s Devon M. Sayers  

A health care worker directs people at a vaccination site in North Miami, Florida, on March 10.
A health care worker directs people at a vaccination site in North Miami, Florida, on March 10. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida will open up Covid-19 vaccination eligibility to all over people over the age of 18 starting on April 5, the governor announced.  

The state will phase in lowering the age eligibility for vaccinations, with all people 40 and up being allowed to get vaccinated starting Monday, then expand eligibility to all people over 18 the following week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in the news release.  

Currently, Florida is allowing people over 50, people with some medical conditions and those with essential jobs to get the vaccine.  

“We have made great progress and I look forward to continuing to work hard to make sure everyone in Florida who wants a shot, can get a shot,” the governor said in a prepared video.  

  “No mandate, but access for all,” DeSantis said  

10:32 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Biden is expected to announce a new US vaccination goal today

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

U.S. President Joe Biden replaces his face mask following an event in Washington, DC on March 24.
U.S. President Joe Biden replaces his face mask following an event in Washington, DC on March 24. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden is expected to announce his new vaccination goal today, according to two sources familiar with the plans. He will hold his first news conference at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Last week, Biden hinted he could double his original goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days, which he cleared long before that date.

In recent days, Biden has consulted with his advisers and health experts on what a new, realistic goal would be and plans to announce it Thursday. 

Biden said that if Americans continue to get vaccinated and follow health and safety guidelines, there is a "good chance" that family and friends will be able to celebrate the Fourth of July together in small groups. 

The President directed states to make all adults eligible to get Covid-19 vaccines by May 1.