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Dec. 15 Coronavirus updates: Health care workers among first to receive vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts that the U.S. could achieve herd immunity by "the end of the second quarter 2021."
Image: People walk across the almost deserted market square with decorated Christmas tree in Leipzig, eastern Germany
People walk across a nearly deserted market square decorated for Christmas in Leipzig, Germany on Monday.Jens Schlueter / AFP - Getty Images

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Health care workers across the United States were among the first Americans to get the federally approved coronavirus vaccine, marking a critical moment in the fight against Covid-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top disease expert, predicted that after vaccines are more widely deployed the country could achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 by "the end of the second quarter 2021."

The beginning of this new phase in fighting the virus came as the U.S. death toll passed 300,000, and recorded more than 200,000 infections in one day.

777d ago / 1:34 PM UTC

U.S. records another 200,000-plus Covid cases, California sets another new daily record

The U.S. counted more than 200,000 Covid-19 cases Monday, reporting 261,250 cases, according to NBC News' tally.

The high total was partially due to a backlog of nearly 50,000 probable cases reported in Texas. The country also reported 1,642 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the death toll to more than 301,000.

As of Monday, at least 1 in 20 in the U.S. have had the disease.

The outbreaks are shifting: In the past two weeks Rhode Island, Indiana and Tennessee have had the highest per-capita rate of infections. Two weeks ago, it was North Dakota, Wyoming and South Dakota.

These states set single-day records:

  • California, 39,541 cases
  • Rhode Island, 46 dead
777d ago / 1:24 PM UTC

Poor countries face long wait for vaccines despite promises

NEW DELHI — With Americans, Britons and Canadians rolling up their sleeves to receive coronavirus vaccines, the route out of the pandemic now seems clear to many in the West, even if the rollout will take many months. But for poorer countries, the road will be far longer and rougher.

The ambitious initiative known as COVAX created to ensure the entire world has access to COVID-19 vaccines has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has yet to confirm any actual deals to ship out vaccines and is short on cash.

The virus that has killed more than 1.6 million people has exposed vast inequities between countries, as fragile health systems and smaller economies were often hit harder. COVAX was set up by the World Health Organization, vaccines alliance GAVI and CEPI, a global coalition to fight epidemics, to avoid the international stampede for vaccines that has accompanied past outbreaks and would reinforce those imbalances.

But now some experts say the chances that coronavirus shots will be shared fairly between rich nations and the rest are fading fast. With vaccine supplies currently limited, developed countries, some of which helped fund the research with taxpayer money, are under tremendous pressure to protect their own populations and are buying up shots. Meanwhile, some poorer countries that signed up to the initiative are looking for alternatives because of fears it won't deliver.

777d ago / 12:39 PM UTC
778d ago / 11:55 AM UTC

U.K. government's Christmas Covid plan 'will cost many lives,' medical journals warn

Two of the U.K.’s leading medical journals delivered a stark warning to the government on Tuesday: Do not relax coronavirus restrictions for Christmas.

In a joint editorial, only the second the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal have written together in more than 100 years, the editors warned that the government is “about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives.” 

The British government has said that it would relax restrictions between Dec. 23 and 27, and allow up to three families to form a “bubble” so they can spend the holiday together. However, cases are rising and on Monday the government announced London would face the harshest level of restrictions, with restaurants and pubs banned from serving food and gym classes prohibited.

Criticizing the government’s delay in implementing the first lockdown in the spring, the editors called on the government to “reverse its rash decision” for the holiday relaxation and impose new restrictions over the holiday period to bring numbers down ahead of a likely third wave.

778d ago / 11:49 AM UTC

'Great British Bake Off' judge Prue Leith gets vaccinated

A judge on "The Great British Bake Off" joined the first wave of Britains who received a clinically approved Covid-19 vaccine.

Prue Leith, 80, shared a photo of a nurse injecting the vaccine into her arm on Twitter. The news came a week after Britain administered the first Covid-19 vaccine in the world.

"Who wouldn't want immunity from #Covid19 with a painless jab?" she said on Tuesday.

778d ago / 11:27 AM UTC

Santa's 'immune' to Covid-19 and will still be coming to town, WHO says

There may be a pandemic, but Santa Claus is still coming to town, according to the World Health Organization.

“I understand the concern for Santa because he is of older age,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, at a press conference on Monday. “I can tell you that Santa Claus is immune to this virus.”

Despite the travel restrictions in place around the globe, world leaders have relaxed measures just for him, she said, adding that both he and his wife, Mrs. Claus, are doing well during their busy season.

In her message to kids, she did get in a health warning, mentioning the importance of Covid-19 precautions — one that will likely be music to parents' ears.  

Physical distancing by Santa Claus and of the children themselves must be strictly enforced, so it is really important that the children of the world still listen to their moms and dads and guardians and make sure they go to bed early on Christmas Eve,” she said.

778d ago / 11:15 AM UTC

German officials pressure E.U. to approve Covid vaccine

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister has increased his pressure on the European Union’s regulatory agency and demanded that a coronavirus vaccine will be approved before Christmas.

The news agency dpa reported Tuesday that health minister Jens Spahn said “our goal is an approval before Christmas so that we can still start vaccinating this year, also in Germany.”

Spahn is pushing for a quick approval of a new vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer that has already been authorized for use in Britain, the United States and other countries. But Germany cannot use it because it is still waiting for approval by the European Medicines Agency, or EMA.

778d ago / 10:19 AM UTC
Image: People demonstrate outside the Torentje, the office of prime minister, during his speech announcing a five-week national lockdown in The Hague.
People demonstrate outside the Torentje, the office of prime minister, during his speech announcing a five-week national lockdown on Monday in The Hague.Bart Maat / AFP - Getty Images

People demonstrate outside the Torentje, the office of prime minister, during his speech announcing a five-week lockdown, on Monday in The Hague.

778d ago / 10:14 AM UTC

Hospital's workers get their groove on to celebrate vaccine arrival

Health care workers in Boston said they felt “good as hell” as they danced to celebrate the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday.

With masks on, the front-line workers stepped outside and boogied to the popular Lizzo song in a TikTok posted by Boston Medical Center CEO Kate Walsh.

The hospital was among the first in Massachusetts to get the vaccine, receiving 1,950 doses, Jenny Eriksen Leary, a BMC spokeswoman told NBC Boston. Doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit, emergency department and on floors that treat COVID-19 patients, will be among the first to receive the doses, she said.

It’s not the first time that the hospital’s health care workers have put on their dancing shoes. On Friday, the surgical ICU team got their groove on celebrating the discharge of one of their patients to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.”