Coronavirus updates: FDA authorizes Moderna vaccine; Democrats ask CDC to list educators as critical group; Pence gets vaccinated

Author : lafij24732
Publish Date : 2020-12-19 10:58:52


Coronavirus updates: FDA authorizes Moderna vaccine; Democrats ask CDC to list educators as critical group; Pence gets vaccinated

USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as vaccines begin to roll out nationwide. Just this week, the U.S. marked the stark milestone of more than 17 million cases and 300,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines:

► A second COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration. Trucks will begin moving the vaccine this weekend, with the first of 5.9 million already manufactured Moderna shots expected to be given on Monday.

► The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization, Dr. Michael Ryan, said a team of international experts looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic will travel to China the first week of January. The team will visit the suspected site of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan. “The purpose of the mission is to go to the original point at which human cases were detected and that we fully expect to do that,” Ryan said.

► As apprehension about the pandemic intensifies, more Americans – nearly three-quarters – say they wear masks every time they leave the house, according to a poll released Friday by Kaiser Health News. While 87% of Democrats said they always wear a mask out of the house, 71% of independents and 55% of Republicans said the same.

► Vice President Mike Pence publicly received a COVID-19 vaccine Friday morning. "I didn't feel a thing. Well done," said Pence, who called the vaccine safe and effective. Also vaccinated were second lady Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who held up a thumbs up after getting the shot.

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► House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were both given the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday as part of an effort to show Americans the shots are safe and effective.

► California reported 3% intensive care unit bed availability on Thursday. Hospitals in Southern California are facing the brunt of it as ICU capacity dropped to 0%, state data showed..

► The two health care workers in Alaska who experienced adverse reactions just 10 minutes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine were released from Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau on Thursday, according to the Anchorage Daily News. One worker experienced anaphylaxis and was hospitalized for two nights, while the second had a mild reaction and was released after about an hour.

► Johnson & Johnson said Thursday it had completed enrollment for its phase 3 clinical trial for its COVID-19 vaccine with 45,000 participants. The company said it hopes to release interim data by the end of January.

► United Airlines officials confirmed Friday that a passenger who fell ill on one of its flights Monday and later died had COVID-19 symptoms. The flight from Orlando to Los Angeles diverted to New Orleans on Monday night for the medical emergency, and United said the passenger died at the hospital.

► Millions of families struggling with COVID-19's economic turmoil are seeking help — many for the first time — from charity organizations for meals and holiday gifts. The Salvation Army is projecting 6.6 million people will come to them for support, up from 2.6 million on a regular holiday season, and officials with the organization said they are worried they won't be able to meet the demand.  

► Eight nuns living at a Wisconsin facility for elderly and ill sisters have died from COVID-19 since Dec. 9. The School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province said that there were others who have tested positive among the 88 nuns living at Notre Dame of Elm Grove.

 

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► One in every five state and federal prisoners in the U.S. has tested positive for COVID-19, a rate more than four times higher than the general population, according to data collected by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has 17.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 311,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 75 million cases and 1.6 million deaths. 

Here's a closer look at today's top stories:

Democrats in Congress ask CDC to list eductors as critical group for vaccine

A Friday letter obtained by USA TODAY and signed by 25 Democratic members of Congress urges the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to list K-12 teachers and school personnel among the groups of critical workers who will be prioritized in vaccine distribution. 

Teachers getting sick from COVID-19 or quarantining because of exposure to the virus has been a major hurtle to keeping schools open in recent months. The letter says that vaccinating teachers will make it easier to reopen schools while also protecting educators, who put themselves at a greater risk for contracting the virus when they teach in-person.

"Prioritizing COVID- 19 vaccinations for K-12 educators and school personnel recognizes the essential work of these professionals, enables a safer return to in-person instruction, and provides the means necessary for tens of millions of workers to breathe life into the American economy," the letter says.

The letter, addressed to CDC director Robert Redfield, acknowledges states have the final say in vaccination distribution, but the federal agency's guidance helps shape those policies.

Among the members of Congress who signed the letter: Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (North Carolina), Haley Stevens (Michigan) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands).

FDA authorizes Moderna vaccine to join US fight against COVID-19

Americans will soon have access to a second COVID-19 vaccine after Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, granted emergency authorization Friday to a vaccine made by Moderna.

The clearance, which is authorization rather than approval because longer-term research is still needed, comes less than a week after the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German collaborator, BioNTech, got a similar OK.

On Thursday, an independent advisory committee reviewed data from human trials of Moderna's mRNA-1273 vaccine, deciding its benefits outweighed its risks. The vaccine, according to a trial that included 30,000 volunteers, protected more than 94% of recipients from active disease, without causing major safety concerns.

Trucks will begin moving the vaccine this weekend, with the first of 5.9 million already manufactured Moderna shots expected to be given on Monday. Moderna says it will be able to deliver 20 million doses of its vaccine by the end of December. Another 80 million will be available in the first few months of 2021, under a contract signed in August that brought the U.S. government's direct financial backing of the company to $2.5 billion.



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