The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, April 15, 2021
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8:18 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

WHO: Europe surpasses one million Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

A person takes a photo at the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, on March 22, where thousands of crosses have been drawn on the pavement to commemorate the first anniversary since the death of the first Czech coronavirus patient.
A person takes a photo at the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, on March 22, where thousands of crosses have been drawn on the pavement to commemorate the first anniversary since the death of the first Czech coronavirus patient. Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

Europe has surpassed one million Covid-19 related deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. 

The grim milestone was passed last week, WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a press conference. 

Kluge warned that despite the progress of the European vaccine rollout the situation in the region remained "serious."

"1.6 million new cases are reported every week. That's 9500 every hour, 160 people every minute," he said.

The WHO Europe region is composed of 53 countries and includes non-EU states such as Turkey and Russia. 

Early signs of decline in some countries do not necessarily equate to "lower rates of transmission," Kluge cautioned.

The decline in incidence rates has been observed "only amongst the oldest" of people so far with hospitalization remaining "nonetheless at high levels" he added.

The WHO has continuously received reports of "intensive care capacity having been exceeded from all parts of the region" with Kluge pointing towards France where ICU admissions in April "reached the highest levels since last year."

Social measures in countries should be adjusted "based not on vaccination targets, but on the basis of epidemiology, and the ability of our health services and workforce to cope with Covid-19," Kluge said.

Correction: A previous version of this post attributed an incorrect quotation to Kluge. This has been corrected.

7:25 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Many Evangelicals say they won't be vaccinated. Some experts blame distrust and misinformation.

From CNN's Elle Reeve, Samantha Guff, Theresa Waldrop and Deborah Brunswick

At Pastor Tony Spell's Sunday sermon this week, he preached a different kind of message than usual to his congregants: Don't trust Covid-19 vaccines.

"I'll just tell you today, if being anti-mask and anti-vaccine is anti-government, then I'm proud to be anti-government," Spell, who has made a national name for himself protesting Covid-19 rules in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told Life Tabernacle Church congregants.

He goes on to falsely state: "If you have a 99.6% survival rate, why do you want somebody to contaminate your bloodstream with something that may or may not hurt you?"

Health experts in the US and beyond agree that Covid-19 vaccines continue to be safe and highly effective at preventing Covid-19 infection, which has killed more than 560,000 Americans and infected more than 31 million.

While 95% of Evangelical leaders who responded to a January survey from the National Association of Evangelicals said they would be open to getting a vaccine, Spell is adamantly against it. He's among the significant number of Evangelical Christians who have remained opposed to getting vaccinated for Covid-19.

The anti-Covid vaccine sentiment among Evangelicals is fed by a mixture of distrust in government, ignorance about how vaccines work, misinformation and political identity, some experts say.

Read more here:

 

6:58 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Beijing says more than 12 million residents have been vaccinated

From CNN’s Beijing bureau

People line up to be vaccinated against Covid-19 outside a residential compound in Beijing, on April 8.
People line up to be vaccinated against Covid-19 outside a residential compound in Beijing, on April 8. Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing’s Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday that the city has vaccinated some 12.5 million people, more than half of its population.

The state-run Beijing Daily reported that among the 12.5 million who have been vaccinated, 7.54 million people have received the second dose of the vaccine and 4.96 million people have received their first dose.

“There are now more than 400 vaccination sites across Beijing and the city can administer more than 400,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines each day,” reported Beijing Daily.

To encourage vaccination the city has started using strategies such as vaccination trucks and free shuttle buses to increase the inoculation rate.

As well as encouraging domestic vaccination, China has positioned itself as a leader in Covid-19 vaccine development and distribution.

The country has promoted and supplied shots to countries all over the globe, including Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Turkey and Brazil. The relatively low efficacy rate of Chinese vaccines, however, could hamper credibility and dent Beijing's so-called vaccine diplomacy.

 

9:34 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Fauci: US is facing a pause, not a cancellation, of the J&J vaccine

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's top infectious disease expert, says the recommended pause on the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is just that: a pause -- and not a cancellation -- and will likely last days to weeks.

I doubt very seriously if we're talking about weeks to months," he told CNN on Wednesday.

And that pause, he added, should help underscore and confirm "how seriously we take safety even though it's a rare event."

"If anybody's got a doubt that 'Oh, they may not be taking safety very seriously,' I think this is an affirmation that safety is a primary consideration when it comes to the (Food and Drug Administration) and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That's why it was done," Fauci added.

The two agencies recommended Tuesday that the country pause the use of the J&J vaccine over six reported US cases of a "rare and severe" type of blood clot, among more than 6.8 million Americans who got the shot.

A day later, advisers to the CDC put off making any decision about recommendations for the vaccine, with members of the group saying they need more information.

Read more here:

Hear from Dr. Fauci on CNN:

 

6:15 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Hong Kong expands Covid-19 vaccinations to under 30s

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong

People queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Center in Hong Kong, on April 5.
People queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Center in Hong Kong, on April 5. Zhang Wei/China News Service/Getty Images

Hong Kong is expanding its Covid-19 vaccination program to include residents aged 16 to 30, with bookings starting from April 23, the government announced on Thursday, according to public broadcaster RTHK.

Residents aged 16 and above will be able to receive the BioNTech vaccine, while the Sinovac jab will only be available for people aged 18 and above, RTHK reported. Those under 18 will be required to show a parental consent form.

The lowering of the age requirements means another 1.08 million people will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine, and the program will cover 88% of the city's population, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said, according to RTHK.

Nip also announced that vaccination centers offering BioNTech jabs will cease operating at the end of September, RTHK reported.

People who wish to receive the BioNTech vaccine must get their first dose by the end of August.

About 318,700 people have been fully vaccinated in Hong Kong as of Wednesday evening, according to government statistics.

 

6:10 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Germany's Covid-19 death toll nears 80,000

From CNN's Claudia Otto in Berlin and Jaide Garcia in Los Angeles

A coffin labeled with the inscription "Attention! Covid-19" is pictured at a crematorium in Tuttlingen, Germany, on February 4.
A coffin labeled with the inscription "Attention! Covid-19" is pictured at a crematorium in Tuttlingen, Germany, on February 4. Felix Kästle/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

The German agency for disease control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), has recorded 29,426 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, and 293 additional deaths.

That brings the total number of cases in the country to 3,073,442.

Germany is now nearing a total of 80,000 recorded Covid-19 deaths. Its current toll is 79,381.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said Thursday that Germany has vaccinated 17.6% of its population.

Spahn added that 500,000 to 900,000 people are vaccinated each day, and 90% of the new infections are caused by a variant first detected in the UK.

RKI also said Germany's vaccine campaign had been affected by the delay over the Johnson & Johnson shot.

The company paused its European rollout shortly after American health authorities recommended halting distribution of the vaccine in the US.

The pause was initiated over six reported cases of a "rare and severe" type of blood clot, among more than 6.8 million Americans who got the shot. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is also reviewing possible links between blood clots and the vaccine.

6:05 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Indian capital imposes weekend curfew as cases rise

From CNN’s Manveena Suri in Delhi

A health worker takes a swab sample to test for Covid-19, as people queue to be tested at a government hospital in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, on Thursday, April 15.
A health worker takes a swab sample to test for Covid-19, as people queue to be tested at a government hospital in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, on Thursday, April 15. Altaf Qadri/AP

A weekend curfew is to be imposed with immediate effect in India’s capital region of Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Thursday.

“Cases are on the rise and we have made some decisions. We have decided there will be a weekend curfew in Delhi. We hope this will break the chain,” Kejriwal said during a virtual press conference.

On Wednesday, Delhi reported 17,282 new cases, a record single-day increase since the start of the pandemic.

The total number of cases in the region currently stands at 767,438, including 11,540 deaths, according to figures issued by the Delhi Health Department.

Kejriwal said only essential services will be permitted over the weekend. He added that people could apply for curfew passes to get married as spring was a popular time for weddings.

The number of guests allowed at weddings has been capped at 50.

Other restrictions in place during the week have also been announced, including the closing of all malls, gyms, spas and auditoriums.

Cinemas in Delhi will only be allowed to operate at 30% capacity and restaurants will only be allowed to deliver.

The curfew comes after the Delhi government announced a slew of other restrictions to tackle the rise of coronavirus cases. 

A night curfew was implemented in the Indian capital on April 6 from 10pm to 5am local time and currently remains in place until April 30.

Since April 11, Delhi has recorded more than 10,000 cases per day with the positivity rate rising from 9.43% to 15.92%.

5:20 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Denmark removes AstraZeneca shot from its vaccination program

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen in Milan, Duarte Mendonca in London and Chloe Adams in Glasgow

Director General of the Danish Health Authority (DHA), Søren Brostrøm addresses a press conference to explain why the AstraZeneca vaccine has been removed from the country's vaccination program, on April 14, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Director General of the Danish Health Authority (DHA), Søren Brostrøm addresses a press conference to explain why the AstraZeneca vaccine has been removed from the country's vaccination program, on April 14, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Denmark has removed the AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot from its vaccination program, saying it is not needed because the country has reached “such an advanced point” in its inoculation rollout.

Earlier this month European drug regulators said there was a possible link between the vaccine and rare blood clots.

However the European Medicines Agency (EMA) also stressed that the benefits of using the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

"We are basically in agreement with EMA's assessment regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. That is why it is important to emphasise that it is still an approved vaccine [in Europe]," Director General of the Danish Health Authority (DHA), Søren Brostrøm, said Wednesday.
"And I understand if other countries in a different situation than us choose to continue using the vaccine,” he added.

The DHA paused the use of AstraZeneca on March 11. Denmark's vaccination effort has continued with shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

“If Denmark were in a completely different situation and in the midst of a violent third outbreak, for example, and a healthcare system under pressure – and if we had not reached such an advanced point in our rollout of the vaccines – then I would not hesitate to use the vaccine, even if there were rare but severe complications associated with using it," Brostrøm said.

 

5:14 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

US could have 300 million excess vaccine doses by the end of July, report says

From CNN's Jessica Firger

Syringes containing a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are seen at a clinic in Los Angeles, California, on April 10.
Syringes containing a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are seen at a clinic in Los Angeles, California, on April 10. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The US could have an estimated 300 million excess Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of July, according to a report from Duke University.

Researchers used data on the US government's advance purchase commitments with drug giants to arrive at the estimate.

The country has commitments for vaccines with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax.

The AstraZeneca and Novavax shots are yet to receive emergency use authorization in the US, according to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The report authors also reviewed vaccine production timelines and used US Census data to estimate demand.

Their estimate accounts for the nation retaining enough doses for most children in the country.

The researchers also assume that 75% of the US population will receive a two-dose vaccine and 25% will receive a single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Given the recent pause that will limit use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the US, their projections may not be entirely accurate.

Regardless, the US and other wealthier countries should expect to have a vaccine surplus in the future, the authors write.

Currently, 10 nations that amount to less than half the world’s population have used three-quarters of Covid-19 vaccine doses, but many poorer countries still don’t have a supply at all. 

“The world’s wealthiest nations have locked up much of the near-term supply. At the current rate vaccines are being administered, 92 of the world’s poorest countries won’t vaccinate 60% of their populations until 2023 or later,” write Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center and Dr. Mark McClellan, director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.
“Now is the time to advance an effective plan for distributing additional excess doses as they become available."

The authors say the US should invest more to strengthen the COVAX vaccine scheme and make excess doses available to other nations.

They also write that the US should support other nations so they can produce vaccines on their own.