December 9 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Eoin McSweeney, Nada Bashir, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 10, 2020
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4:16 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

US has a "moral responsibility" to help make sure the vaccine is fairly distributed, Fauci says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said that he believes the United States has a "moral responsibility" to ensure equitable distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine around the world. 

"There are countries on our globe that have different resources and different capabilities of responding to epidemics and pandemics that are common to all of us," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Wednesday during a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health virtual event.

While speaking, Fauci emphasized that he was giving his personal opinion and not speaking on behalf of the United States.

Fauci's comments were made a day after President Trump signed an executive order aimed at prioritizing the shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans before other nations.

"We have a moral responsibility as a rich country, along with other rich countries, to make sure that when we have the facilities and the capabilities – be it life-saving drugs for HIV, life-saving preventions for HIV, or a vaccine for Covid-19 – that as a global community, we do everything we can to make sure that there is the equitable distribution of those countermeasures throughout the world," Fauci said. "I think we all need to pull together as a global community to make sure that there’s equitable distribution."

4:01 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Fauci says Covid-19 vaccine allergic reactions are concerning, but are likely "unusual and rare"

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A phial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine concentrate is diluted with 1.8ml sodium chloride ready for use at Guy's Hospital in London on December 8.
A phial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine concentrate is diluted with 1.8ml sodium chloride ready for use at Guy's Hospital in London on December 8. Victoria Jones/AFP/Getty Images

While the significant allergic reactions that two health care workers in the United Kingdom experienced after receiving Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine are of concern, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that such a reaction is likely "unusual and rare."

The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said on Wednesday it was "fully investigating" those two cases.

"It obviously, Sanjay, is of some concern because there are people who have what’s called allergic diathesis or tendencies to get allergic reactions," Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta during a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health virtual event on Wednesday. 

Yet "it likely is an unusual and rare effect but clearly everyone now is aware of that and will be looking at that -- and particularly taking care of people who do have underlying allergic phenomenon, that they may be cautious about vaccination or at least be prepared to respond with some sort of anecdote to the reaction," Fauci said.

Fauci added: "If I were a person that had an underlying allergic tendency, I might want to be prepared that I might get a reaction and therefore be ready to treat it." 

 

3:38 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

People with "severe allergic reactions" may not be able to get Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Slaoui says

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser for the Defense Department's Project Warp Speed, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8.
Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser for the Defense Department's Project Warp Speed, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

With news that two United Kingdom health workers had allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, White House vaccine chief Moncef Slaoui said Wednesday that the US Food and Drug Administration will likely consider this information as it makes its determination on emergency use authorization.

National Health Service England Wednesday said that people with a “significant history of allergic reaction” to vaccine, medicine or food or those who have been advised to carry an adrenaline autoinjector should not be given this vaccine in the UK. 

Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, said at a news briefing that people with a history of severe allergic reaction had been excluded from the clinical trials, so he said, the adverse reactions from the two health professionals was “new news.”

The FDA will ultimately determine if people with severe allergic reactions should be allowed to get the vaccine or not.

“The expectation will be that subjects with known severe allergic reactions should not take the vaccine, until we understand exactly what happened here,” Slaoui said. 

CNN's Phil Black reports. Watch below:

2:59 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Over half of Americans say they would get a first-generation Covid-19 vaccine, new poll finds 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Vail Health Hospital pharmacy technician Rob Brown takes mock Covid-19 vaccines out of a thermal shipping container in the pharmacy at the hospital on December 8, in Vail, Colorado.
Vail Health Hospital pharmacy technician Rob Brown takes mock Covid-19 vaccines out of a thermal shipping container in the pharmacy at the hospital on December 8, in Vail, Colorado. Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Over half – 53% – of Americans have said that they would likely get a first-generation Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available, according to new poll results from Axios-Ipsos, released Wednesday. 

This number has increased from 51% before Thanksgiving and 38% in early October, Ipsos said.

Most people – 69% – said they were more likely to take the vaccine if it had been proven safe and effective by public health officials. And 67% and 65%, respectively, said they would likely take one if it had a 90% or more effectiveness rate, or it had been on the market for a few months.  

Sixty percent said that they would be likely to take it after being presented with a situation where Presidents Barack Obama, George Bush and Bill Clinton took the vaccine publicly. This was “an improvement over baseline but not as convincing as the safety arguments,” Ipsos said. 

The Axios-Ipsos poll is based on a nationally representative sample of 1,101 American adults and was conducted between December 4 and 7.

2:35 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Pennsylvania governor tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference in Malvern, Pennsylvania, on October 1, 2020.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference in Malvern, Pennsylvania, on October 1, 2020. Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group/Daily Local News via Getty Images

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for coronavirus and has no symptoms.

Wolf’s wife Frances has been tested and the couple is awaiting her results, according to a statement. Wolf is currently isolating at home and received his results after a routine test.

Wolf will continue to govern remotely, the statement said.

“As this virus rages, my positive test is a reminder that no one is immune from Covid, that following all precautions as I have done is not a guarantee, but it is what we know to be vital to stopping the spread of the disease and so I ask all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, socially distance yourself from those not in your household, and, most of all, take care of each other and stay safe," the statement said.

2:31 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

More than 278,000 courses of Covid-19 antibody treatments have been sent to medical facilities, HHS head says

From CNN's Jen Christensen

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington DC, on November 19.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington DC, on November 19. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

More than 278,000 courses of the two antibody treatments that have received emergency use authorization to treat Covid-19 have gone out to medial facilities, according to US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. The treatments, made by Eli Lilly & Co. and Regeneron, are for non-hospitalized patients.

Azar, who spoke at an Operation Warp Speed briefing Wednesday, said that the administration is working to send out more. 

Azar also encouraged people who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past three months to donate their plasma. As of the end of November, nearly 106,000 people with Covid-19 have been treated with plasma from recovered patients, according to UScovidplasma.org. 

“Please contact your local American Red Cross or local American blood bank or go to coronavirus.gov for more information about how you can volunteer to be a donor and give the gift of life,” Azar said.
2:09 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

HHS secretary says he would be willing to get first Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Jen Christensen, Ellie Kaufman and Sara Murray

United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, in Washington, DC.
United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he’d gladly get the first Covid-19 vaccine after authorization, if for no other reason than to demonstrate to Americans that he has “supreme confidence” in the integrity of the vaccine approval process and the quality of the Covid-19 vaccines.

“I wouldn’t ask the American people to do something that I wouldn’t be able to do myself,” Azar said at an Operation Warp Speed briefing on Wednesday. 

The Operation Warp Speed team said they were so focused on getting the vaccine out to Americans that they hadn’t thought about who would get the actual first shot.

“We’ve been so focused on speed, getting it out, and deferring to the governors,” Azar said.

“We probably do need to ah, make a plan for, who’s going to get it first visibly,” said Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed.

“We’re all going to be available, if it’s appropriate at the time to receive the shot,” Perna said. 

More on the vaccine: Perna said that 2.9 million doses of vaccine will be distributed in the first shipment from Pfizer if the emergency use authorization is granted by the US Food and Drug Administration. 

Perna said that there were initially 6.4 million doses the federal government expected to receive from Pfizer in the first shipment. He separated 500,000 doses for reserve supply, then separated that number in half because the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to be effective, bringing the total in the first shipment to 2.9 million doses.

2:02 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

No vaccine has been approved in the Americas as region sees highest number of new Covid-19 cases, PAHO says

From CNN's Jaide Garcia 

Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Americas, speaks about the coronavirus pandemic during a press briefing at PAHO Headquarters in Washington DC, on March 6.
Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Americas, speaks about the coronavirus pandemic during a press briefing at PAHO Headquarters in Washington DC, on March 6. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will meet with member states this week to to discuss preparations for a vaccine as the Americas region experiences its highest levels of new Covid-19 cases, the group's director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said Wednesday.

Etienne said "no vaccine has been approved across our region yet," but added that a "number of vaccine candidates are under consideration." 

Speaking during an information session, she warned that when the vaccine is first available to be distributed, there will not be enough for everyone immediately.

"The objective is to save lives, using the first deployment to reach those most vulnerable to develop severe forms of Covid-19," Etienne said. "Health care workers will likely be among the first to benefit from a vaccine and will also play a key role in raising awareness about the importance of immunizations."

She urged "now is not the time to relax," as the region faces more than 28.5 million cases and at least 753,000 deaths due to Covid-19.

Among the South American countries, Etienne said Brazil is reporting the highest number of new Covid-19 cases with hospitals at capacity in some areas —putting the entire health system under strain. 

"These figures and trends make it clear that our region must re-double preventive measures, especially in preparation for the year-end holidays," Etienne said. 

1:56 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Senate Democratic leader calls on GOP leader to "join the rest of the Senate" in stimulus negotiations

From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8. Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "join the rest of the Senate" in bipartisan stimulus negotiations, while describing last night's proposal from the White House as "an encouraging sign that the Republican leadership is moving in the right direction by endorsing the size of the gang of eight’s bill."

"It would do a whole lot of good if the Republican leader would drop the daily tirades and diatribes which seem to be based on some alternative reality and join the rest of the Senate in urging the bipartisan negotiations now underway to continue," Schumer said.

Schumer praised the price tag proposed by the White House but criticized certain aspects of the proposal, including "an unacceptably low amount" of unemployment benefits in exchange for the $600 direct payments included.

In encouraging McConnell to sit down and negotiate, Schumer said, "That’s where the real action is and where bipartisan agreement on the basic concepts will ultimately be forged."

Schumer further praised Biden's picks, including Gen. Lloyd Austin for secretary of Defense and Xavier Becerra for Health and Human Services secretary, and chastised his Republican colleagues for holding Biden's nominees to different standards than Trump's.