March 25 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth and Eliza Mackintosh, CNN

Updated 0635 GMT (1435 HKT) March 26, 2021
14 Posts
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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.

8:01 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

The CDC is tracking a recent uptick in Covid-19 cases. Its chief says spring breakers and eased restrictions concern her

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

People play volleyball in Daytona Beach, on March 24, as college students arrive in Florida for spring break.
People play volleyball in Daytona Beach, on March 24, as college students arrive in Florida for spring break. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Top US health officials say they're encouraged by the accelerating Covid-19 vaccinations.

But not enough Americans are fully vaccinated yet to suppress the spread of the virus -- and eased restrictions across the country coupled with spring break crowds could spell trouble, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday.

"What concerns me is the footage of what's happening in spring breakers, in people who are not continuing to implement prevention strategies while we get fully scaled up," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House Covid-19 briefing.

The coming weeks are especially critical: Covid-19 cases in the country have seen a slight increase, according to Walensky, while a highly contagious -- and potentially more deadly -- variant is circulating. Some experts have warned that by getting lax with safety measures, the country could see infections surge again.

And Walensky said that the latest Covid-19 data has her worried.

"Cases continue to increase slightly. The most recent seven-day average is nearly 55,000 per day, up about 3% from the prior seven-day average. The most recent seven-day average of new hospitalizations is about 4,600 per day and is similar to the data on Monday. And the latest seven-day average of deaths -- approximately 968 per day -- has also remained flat this week," Walensky said Wednesday.

"I continue to be worried about the latest data, and the apparent stall we are seeing in the trajectory of the pandemic," Walensky said. "CDC is watching these numbers very closely."
8:42 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

"One mistake after the other." How AstraZeneca went from pandemic hero to villain

From CNN Business' Julia Horowitz in London

After teaming up with Oxford University, AstraZeneca produced a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine in just nine months, a huge achievement that will help end the pandemic. But a series of missteps along the way has led to scathing criticism from policymakers and health officials, tarnishing the company's image as a hero of the coronavirus era.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker mistakenly gave some volunteers a half dose of the vaccine during clinical trials, and it has been criticized for omitting crucial information from its public statements. US regulators have questioned the accuracy of its vaccine data, and severe production delays in Europe have resulted in a political firestorm and a breakdown in relations with EU leaders.

"What we have with AstraZeneca is a company that is not straightforward, that cannot be relied upon," Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, said in a radio interview with the BBC on Wednesday.

AstraZeneca's (AZN) failure to deliver tens of millions of promised doses to the European Union, which is struggling to roll out vaccination programs, led the bloc to impose export restrictions that have already prevented at least one shipment of vaccines to Australia. Leaders could move to make the restrictions even tighter Thursday.

Meanwhile, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases expressed concerns earlier this week that AstraZeneca had presented "outdated" data from a trial of the vaccine's effectiveness. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the agency's director, called it "an unforced error" that could erode trust in a "very good vaccine."

AstraZeneca updated its data on Thursday, reporting that the trials showed its vaccine to be 76% effective in preventing Covid-19 symptoms. Earlier this week, it had said its shot was 79% effective. The rare rebuke from US regulators was a major blow to the company's credibility.

"They've made one mistake after the other," said Jeffrey Lazarus, head of the health systems research group at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

Read more:

7:08 a.m. ET, March 25, 2021

France's Macron admits failures in vaccine rollout amid surge in Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Saskya Vandoorne in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron visits a Covid-19 vaccination center in Valenciennes, France, on March 23.
French President Emmanuel Macron visits a Covid-19 vaccination center in Valenciennes, France, on March 23. Yoan Valat/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has admitted failures in the country's vaccination campaign and vowed to accelerate the rollout, days after the government was forced to impose new coronavirus restrictions to contain a surge of Covid-19 sweeping the country.

“We weren’t fast enough, strong enough on it,” Macron told Greek television channel ERT Wednesday, in a rare admission of failure regarding Europe’s vaccination efforts. 

“We didn’t shoot for the stars as much as others. I think that should be a lesson for all of us. We were wrong to lack ambition, to lack the madness, to say, ‘It’s possible, let’s do it’,” Macron said.

“You can give that to the Americans, as early as the summer of 2020 they said: let’s pull out all the stops and do it. They had more ambition than us,” he said in the interview, “We didnt think [the production of a vaccine] would happen that quickly.”

He added, “Everybody, all the experts said: Never in the history of mankind was a vaccine developed in less than a year.”

On Tuesday, the French president declared the vaccination campaign a “national priority,” promising to put the rollout at the heart of the country's Covid-19 battle.

As of Monday, 9.3% of the total French population had been partially vaccinated, according to Our World in Data. 

Last week, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new coronavirus restrictions in 16 regions, including the greater Paris and Nice areas, as the country attempts to contain a third wave of infections.

Outdoor social gatherings of more than six people are now illegal in France, as part of efforts to contain the country’s Covid-19 outbreak, an interior ministry spokeswoman told CNN Thursday.

France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin told police chiefs Wednesday to “be strict” with the rule of six, particularly in the 16 regions that are under lockdown lite, according to the spokeswoman. 

The new measures, which went into effect Friday at midnight, will last at least four weeks but are less restrictive than measures imposed in March and November of last year.