The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Nectar Gan, Jenni Marsh and Tara John, CNN

Updated 0455 GMT (1255 HKT) December 21, 2020
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1:15 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine may provide more doses than originally thought, FDA says

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Torrance Memorial Medical Center on December 19 in Torrance, California.
A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Torrance Memorial Medical Center on December 19 in Torrance, California. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Doran Fink, deputy director-clinical of the Division of Vaccines and Related Products Applications at the US Food and Drug Administration, on Sunday said that the FDA is working with Pfizer to update the prescribing information and fact sheets about its Covid-19 vaccine, to make sure health care providers get the most vaccine doses from each vial.

The company has overfilled the vials, and with careful administration, instead of the five doses indicated on the label, it will usually yield six, or possibly even seven, doses, Fink told the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Fink said that the FDA has posted the information on its website.

“In order to optimally address the pandemic,” Fink said. "We do want health care providers to be using every full dose that can be obtained from each vial.”

11:21 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Here's where things stand in Congress with the stimulus negotiations

From CNN’s Manu Raju

Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Congressional leaders are still trying to hammer out the $900 billion Covid-19 relief deal and believe it could take much of the day to iron out the last remaining disagreements before finally unveiling the text to the rest of Congress shortly before votes occur, aides said Sunday.

Lawmakers also have not yet seen the text of the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package that leaders are trying to push through to fund the government through next September. The goal is to tie the Covid-19 relief bill to the massive omnibus package.

If finalizing the bill drags on today, as many expect, Congress may — for the fourth time since September — be forced to pass another stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. It’s possible, one source said, they may have to pass a 1-2 day stopgap.

What happens next: Once the text is unveiled, the House Rules Committee will have to consider the package - a meeting that could take several hours. Then, they will have to schedule House floor debate and set up votes in the chamber. 

The Senate is more complicated because it requires consent of all 100 members to schedule a vote, and it’s uncertain if that will happen if any member is unhappy with the bill or the process. If they can’t get an agreement for a quick vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be forced to take procedural steps to up a vote, a process that could take several days.

10:59 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Long-term care facilities in New York state will begin receiving Covid-19 vaccines on Monday

From CNN's Laura Ly

Long-term care facilities across New York state will begin receiving Covid-19 vaccines on Monday, according to a New York state official.

There are 618 New York long-term care facilities enrolled in a state program where employees working with CVS and Walgreens will go to the facilities and administer the vaccines to residents and staff, Gareth Rhodes, special counsel to the state Department of Financial Services, said during a news briefing Friday. 

The program starts on Monday. About three weeks after administering the first dose, Walgreens and CVS employees will return to the long-term care facilities to administer the second dose, Rhodes said. 

Rhodes said that both pharmacies will split vaccination duties. CVS plans to complete their portion of the first-dose vaccinations within the first two weeks. Rhodes said the state is still working with Walgreens on establishing a schedule, but that he expects a “similar timetable.”

11:01 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

First Moderna shots likely to happen Monday morning, Operation Warp Speed lead says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20.
Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20. Paul Sancya/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The first shots of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine are “most likely” going to be administered Monday morning, Operation Warp Speed lead Moncef Slaoui told CNN on Sunday.

“It’s going to be slightly easier to distribute,” said Slaoui, “because it doesn’t require as low temperature as Pfizer.”

Slaoui said he was “thrilled” that Moderna and Pfizer were able to come out with “exceptionally effective” vaccines so close together.

11:25 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Operation Warp Speed chief says "low" chance the vaccine does not work on new Covid-19 variants

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui speaks with CNN on Sunday, December 20.
Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui speaks with CNN on Sunday, December 20. CNN

It is “very unlikely” that the vaccines currently available will not be effective on the reported new variant of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom, Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui told CNN on Sunday.

“Up to now, I don’t think there has been a single variant that would be resistant to the vaccine,” Slaoui said. “We can’t exclude it, but it’s not there now.”

Slaoui said that Covid-19 may be prone to variance, as the RNA process the virus uses is more prone to mistakes. He added that critical aspects of the virus, like the spike protein involved in a vaccine, are very specific to Covid-19 and unlikely to mutate much.

“Because the vaccines are using antibodies against many different parts of the spike protein, the chances that all of them change, I think, are low,” said Slaoui.

11:00 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

First shipment of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine leaves distribution facility in Mississippi

From CNN’s Melissa Alonso 

Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20.
Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20. Paul Sancya/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

A truck carrying Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine departed from the McKesson facility in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on Sunday. 

"After months of preparation and close planning with McKesson, Operation Warp Speed and state and local officials, the Covid-19 vaccines will begin moving to dosing centers throughout the United States," said a FedEx press release. 

FedEx SenseAware ID, a Bluetooth low-energy sensor device, will be affixed to vaccine shipments, which was also done to the Pfizer vaccine shipments distributed across the US last week, according to the delivery services company. 

The SenseAware ID will ensure the "temperature-sensitive deliveries move swiftly and safely through the FedEx Express US network with FedEx Priority Overnight service," said the release.  

9:52 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

CDC issues new recommendations on getting Covid-19 vaccine for people with allergies

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

Syringes and vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to health care workers in Reno, Nevada, on December 17.
Syringes and vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to health care workers in Reno, Nevada, on December 17. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations on getting a Covid-19 vaccine for those with a history of allergies.

The recommendations, published on the CDC’s site on Saturday, suggest that people who have ever had a severe allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, to any ingredient in a Covid-19 vaccine should not get that vaccine.

The CDC considers a reaction severe if it requires the person to be treated with epinephrine or they need to be hospitalized. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include shortness of breath, a closing of the throat, nausea, and dizziness.

The agency added that people with a history of anaphylaxis to other vaccines or injectable medications should consult their doctor on getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

In corresponding guidance issued to vaccine providers, the agency said the “CDC considers a history of severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis to any vaccine or to any injectable therapy (e.g., intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous) as a precaution, but not contraindication, to vaccination.”

For people with a personal or family history of severe reactions unrelated to vaccines or injectable medicines, the CDC says, they may still get the Covid-19 vaccine. The agency added that individuals who have a history of allergies to any oral medications or people with milder reactions to vaccines may also still get vaccinated.

If an individual does experience anaphylaxis after their initial covid-19 shot, the CDC says they should not get the second shot.

More details: The agency recommends that vaccine providers monitor all people for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine; those with a history of severe allergic reactions should be monitored for 30 minutes. In the event that a reaction does occur, the CDC says all vaccine providers should have epinephrine, antihistamines, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and timing devices on hand to treat and monitor reactions.  

They also note that reports of severe reactions need to be sent to the national Vaccine Adverse Reporting System.

On Saturday: During a CDC advisory committee meeting reviewing the use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, CDC’s Tom Clark said of the more than 272,001 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine administered as of Saturday there have been six serious allergic reactions.

8:50 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

WHO: England’s new Covid-19 variant picked up in Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad in London

World Health Organization (WHO) Covid-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove is concerned about the virus spreading
World Health Organization (WHO) Covid-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove is concerned about the virus spreading Getty Images

The new Covid-19 variant, originating from south-east England, has been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and as far as Australia, World Health Organization (WHO) Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said on Sunday.

"We understand that this variant has been identified also in Denmark, in the Netherlands and there was one case in Australia and it didn’t spread further there,” she told the BBC in a pre-recorded interview. 

Asked whether it was her understanding that the new variant originated or evolved from southeastern England, she said: “It is, yes. From the information that [the UK] shared with us in either south-east England or in London, yes.”

She added that “the UK had picked [the existence of the new variant] up in September and seen that this had been circulating in south-east England since September.”

“It is of concern that the virus is spreading and that it has so many mutations,” she said.  

She also added: “We understand that the virus does not cause more severe disease from the preliminary information that [the UK] shared with us, although again those studies are underway to look at hospitalized patients with this variant.”

Van Kerkhove said that doing more sequencing will be helpful in determining whether this variant is circulating elsewhere.

“The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. So we really need to do everything we can right now to prevent spread,” she added.

8:26 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Belgium to block travellers from UK for 24 hours from midnight

From CNN’s James Frater

Belgium is the latest European country to block travelers from the United Kingdom due to a new coronavirus variant.

From Monday, flights and trains from the UK will be blocked for a 24-hour period, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Sunday morning. 

As a precautionary measure, we have decided to stop flights from the UK from midnight for a period of 24 hours, and just as importantly for our country, to do the same for the Eurostar (train) -- because that's actually the main way that people from the UK come into our country,” he said, speaking to CNN affiliate VRT's Sunday morning news program "De Zevende Dag." 

He said the initial ban would last a day “because the scientific consultation is still ongoing," on the variant -- which British health officials say can spread faster than other Covid-19 variants but is not more dangerous.

"We do not have a conclusive answer there yet. As a precautionary measure I think it is appropriate. Of course it could be extended yes, if that proves necessary," he added.

“We are now in consultation with France - and that is important because you also have a number of people who come by car from the United Kingdom,” he added. “We are already doing preventive checks on the road at the border between France and Belgium.”

The Netherlands earlier announced similar restrictions on people entering from the UK.

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