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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.



Moderna Covid-19 vaccine documents accessed in EMA cyberattack

Moderna said on Monday it was informed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) certain documents related to pre-submission talks of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate were unlawfully accessed in a cyberattack on the medicines regulator.

The EMA, which assesses medicines and vaccines for the European Union, said earlier this month that it had been targeted in a cyberattack, which also gave hackers access to documents related to the development of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Moderna said its submission to the EMA did not include any information identifying individual study participants and there is no information at present that any participants had been identified in any way.

Moderna's vaccine is highly effective, FDA says, clearing way for second vaccine

Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine is 94 percent effective at preventing symptomatic illness and appears to prevent the spread of the virus as well, according to documents released Tuesday.

The findings set the Moderna vaccine up for FDA emergency use authorization by the end of this week, meaning Americans could soon have two highly effective Covid-19 vaccines.

The high efficacy was noted after two doses of the vaccine, given 28 days apart. This is about the same level of effectiveness as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first shots of which were given to health care workers on Monday.

Click here to read the full story.

‘It’s an economic war’ — Warren Buffett urges Congress to extend PPP

Warren Buffett, the legendary investor and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, on Tuesday urged Congress to extend aid to small businesses as they continue to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s an economic war,” Buffett told CNBC. Small businesses have become "collateral damage in a war that our country needed to fight," he said.

Specifically, he urged lawmakers to extend the Paycheck Protection Program.

“I think the country owes it to the millions of small-business people … just renew the PPP and get us to the end of the tunnel,” Buffett said. “When we went into World War II, a lot of industries were shut down; everything went to the defense production. Well, we’ve shut down a lot of people in this particular induced recession and others are prospering.”

Fauci says Biden, Harris should receive coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that he thinks President-elect Joe Biden should receive a Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible for security reasons. 

When asked in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" whether he thinks Biden should receive the vaccine right away, Fauci said, "I believe so."

"I mean, this is a person who will very soon be the president of the United States. ...Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will very soon be the Vice President of the United States. For security reasons, I really feel strongly that we should get them vaccinated as soon as we possibly can. You want him fully protected as he enters into the presidency in January, so that would be my strong recommendation."

A transition official said Monday that Biden is consulting with Fauci on the vaccine and plans to take it in public when Fauci recommends he should do so.

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

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.

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.

'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.

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.