The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung, James Griffiths, Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0004 GMT (0804 HKT) April 17, 2021
13 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:32 p.m. ET, April 16, 2021

Pregnant women will be offered Covid-19 vaccines in the UK

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

A nurse prepares the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen, Wales, on April 7.
A nurse prepares the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen, Wales, on April 7. Jacob King/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Pregnant women “of any age” in the United Kingdom will be offered either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines in a new advice published on Friday by UK’s vaccine advisers.

The updated guidance reads: “Although clinical trials on the use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy are not advanced, the available data do not indicate any harm to pregnancy. JCVI [The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] has therefore advised that women who are pregnant should be offered vaccination at the same time as non-pregnant women, based on their age and clinical risk group.”

The guidance further states that “there is now extensive post-marketing experience of the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the USA with no safety signals so far. These vaccines are therefore the preferred vaccines to offer to pregnant women.”

“Pregnant women who commenced vaccination with AstraZeneca, however, are advised to complete with the same vaccine,” the guidance adds.

1:23 p.m. ET, April 16, 2021

West Virginia identifies first case of the variant detected in Brazil

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

West Virginia officials have identified the first case of the P.1 Covid-19 variant, first identified in Brazil, in Berkeley County, Gov. Jim Justice announced during a briefing on Friday.

West Virginia currently has 129 breakthrough cases of Covid-19, said Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state's health officer and public health commissioner.

Breakthrough cases are those cases that occur in people who get infected with Covid-19 at least two weeks after they received the full cycle of the vaccine.

The state is also reporting two cases of the variant first identified in South Africa, and 365 cases of the variant first detected in the UK. Dr. Clay Marsh, the state's coronavirus czar, said the state also has 174 cases from the variant first identified in California.

Note: These numbers were released by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh, and the West Virginia state health officer, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

1:18 p.m. ET, April 16, 2021

Italy announces gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN’s Nicola Ruotolo and Arnaud Siad

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi speaks during a news conference in Rome on April 16.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi speaks during a news conference in Rome on April 16. Remo Casilli/Pool/AP

Italy will see a gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions starting April 26, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a news conference on Friday.

Students will attend classes at school in person in all yellow and orange zones, while students in red zones will partially follow classes online. Outdoor activities will be allowed to operate, such as restaurants and outdoor theaters.

Italy continues to classify regions under a color-coded system — white, yellow, orange and red — with measures adjusted to reflect infection levels in the region. Red zones are the most stringent classification of coronavirus restrictions in Italy, with severe limitations on movement. 

The Italian prime minister said that “the government is taking a risk, a reasoned risk based on data” but the premise to this risk is that every activity that reopens observes rules scrupulously such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Speaking at the same news conference, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said "it is much more difficult to get infected" in outdoor spaces than indoors. He added the increase in vaccinations will allow the government to “schedule further openings also for indoor activities.” 

The numbers: In the past day, Italy has seen a rise in cases by at least 15,943, which brings the total number of people infected to at least 3,842,079 since the pandemic started. At least 429 people died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll in Italy to at least 116,366 since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Higher Health Institute, on Friday, the contagion rate in Italy is down.

1:09 p.m. ET, April 16, 2021

Moderna will reduce Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to UK and Canada due to supply chain issues

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid and John Bonifield

A skid of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are moved on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, on April 3.
A skid of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are moved on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, on April 3. Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Moderna will be reducing the size of expected second-quarter deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to a number of countries, including Canada and the UK, due to supply chain issues, the company said in a statement sent to CNN on Friday. 

“Taking into account the current supply, demand, and distribution landscape, Moderna will be making adjustments to expected Q2 delivery quantities in a number of countries including Canada and the U.K.,” the company said. 

“The trajectory of vaccine manufacturing ramp-up is not linear, and despite best efforts, there is a shortfall in previously estimated doses from the European supply chain," the statement added. 

The company did not say how much this reduction would be or how quickly the dose shortfall could be fixed. Moderna said it’s working with drug substance manufacturing partner Lonza to deliver a sustained supply in the “shortest possible timeframe” and is in “close contact with all governments.”

12:13 p.m. ET, April 16, 2021

CDC director says she recognizes the need to move quickly on J&J vaccine

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a White House Coronavirus Briefing on April 16.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a White House Coronavirus Briefing on April 16. Pool

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she recognizes the importance of “moving quickly” on the paused Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

Responding to a question from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins during a White House Covid-19 briefing, Walensky said that sense of urgency is why the CDC is holding two emergency meetings of its independent vaccination advisory committee. The first meeting was held this week and the next meeting is scheduled for April 23.

When the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met this week, members said it needed more data to understand potential risks of the J&J vaccine. Use of the vaccine was paused after the identification of six cases of a rare blood clots along with a low number of blood-clotting cells known as platelets. Walensky said the CDC is currently conducting a risk-benefit analysis of the J&J vaccine.

“What I would say to the American people is that, what we found is really extremely rare cases through our vaccine safety monitoring system,” Walensky said during Friday's briefing. “We want to convey to the American public, we have two vaccines that are readily, readily available, the Pfizer and Moderna, and people should continue to roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated.”

She said the CDC has also reached out to more than 10,000 providers to ensure that they know what kind of cases to look for in case other people experience these rare clotting issues after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy added that the pause shows that the safety system is working. More than seven million people have received the J&J vaccine and the vast majority are “just going to be fine.”

“Just remember this is your safety system working for you,” Murthy said. “If anything, I believe should increase people’s confidence that they’re being told what’s going on.”

11:49 a.m. ET, April 16, 2021

Biden administration announces federally-run mass vaccination site in Alabama

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt, front, speaks at a briefing on April 16.
White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt, front, speaks at a briefing on April 16. White House

The Biden administration announced it is launching another federally-run mass vaccination site in Alabama, another step toward promoting vaccine equity.

“Today we’re announcing another federally run mass vaccination site in Bessemer, Alabama, that will have the capacity to administer 7,000 shots per week,” White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt said at Friday’s briefing.

By the end of next week, Slavitt said, “We will have opened 37 mass vaccination sites in 26 states, with a combined capacity of administering a total of 125,000 shots per day.”

Earlier this week, the administration announced another new mass vaccine site in Central Point, Oregon, noting that the administration will pass its March 29 goal of adding a dozen new sites by Monday.

The new sites come as all American adults will be eligible for vaccinations by April 19.  

9:39 a.m. ET, April 16, 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets AstraZenca vaccine

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks on April 16 in Berlin.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks on April 16 in Berlin. Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, her spokesperson Steffen Seibert said on twitter. 

“I am happy that I received the first vaccination with AstraZeneca today. I would like to thank everyone who is involved in the vaccination campaign – and everyone who is vaccinated. Vaccination is the key to overcoming the pandemic,” Seibert said on behalf of Merkel.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been controversial in Germany with many people initially refusing to take shot because of safety concerns.

In March, Germany announced it would only administer the vaccine to people ages 60 and older on the advice of the country’s vaccine committee. The move followed reports of rare blood clots in the brains of 31 people following a first dose.

##Vaccines

9:24 a.m. ET, April 16, 2021

Covid-19 cases in Iran top 25,000 for 3rd day in a row

From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim

A person is tested for Covid-19 in Ahvaz, Iran, on March 14.
A person is tested for Covid-19 in Ahvaz, Iran, on March 14. Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Iran's ministry of health reported 25,261 new daily coronavirus cases on Friday. This marks the third day in a row Iran has topped 25,000 cases.

Yesterday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country is suffering a fourth wave of coronavirus. He said the cause of this wave is the variant that was first detected in the UK, which he claimed entered Iran from Iraq. 

The new cases reported Friday bring the country's total number of Covid-19 related cases to 2,194,133 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The country reported 328 new Covid-19 related deaths, raising the country's death toll to 66,008. At least 4,652 patients remain hospitalized in intensive care units, a spokeswoman for the ministry of health, Sima Sadat Lari, said according to Iranian state media IRNA.

Iran is the country hardest hit by the Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East. 

The health ministry said 295 cities and towns have been categorized as "Red Zones" in Iran. These zones are in semi-lockdown and non-essential businesses are closed.

8:54 a.m. ET, April 16, 2021

Covid-19 variant first detected in India now in the UK

From CNN's Katya Krebs

There are currently 77 positive cases of the new Covid-19 variant that was first detected in India in the UK, according to the latest figures from Public Health England. 

There are 73 cases in England and four in Scotland, a PHE spokesperson told CNN.

The B.1.617 variant includes a number of mutations. The Indian Health Ministry has said that such mutations increase infectivity and aids in escaping immune response. The variant has been designated a Variant Under Investigation by PHE. Enhanced contact tracing and all appropriate measures will be undertaken, it added.  

Currently, the UK variant – B.1.1.7 – is the dominant strain in the country with 209,492 confirmed cases. The percentage of people testing positive in the country however is dropping , the Office of National Statistics said on Friday.