January 15 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:57 a.m. ET, January 16, 2021
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3:11 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Biden Covid-19 adviser: "We want to open the floodgates on vaccination"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Rick Bright testifies on May 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Dr. Rick Bright testifies on May 14, 2020, in Washington, DC. Shawn Thew/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Rick Bright, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, said the administration plans to “push harder” on vaccinations as quickly as possible.

“We want to open the floodgates on vaccination and make sure everyone who wants to get vaccinated can do so as quickly as possible,” Bright told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “It's going to take a lot of effort, a lot of hard work, and we're going to do as much as we can as fast as we can.”

Bright said the Biden administration plans to partner with states and strive for equity in vaccinations.

Bright was ousted from his role leading the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and filed an extensive whistleblower complaint alleging that his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored.

Operation Warp Speed under the Trump administration has “been very chaotic, very disruptive, and certainly not transparent and not in a coordinated fashion from the federal to state level,” Bright added. “President-elect Biden is going to improve those coordination[s], improve that communication so we can improve the efficiency by which we’re going to vaccinate Americans.”

2:15 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

US has administered more than 12 million doses to 10.6 million people, CDC says

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

People wait in line in a Disneyland parking lot to receive Covid-19 vaccines on January 13 in Anaheim, California.
People wait in line in a Disneyland parking lot to receive Covid-19 vaccines on January 13 in Anaheim, California. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

The US has given more than 12 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to 10.6 million people, according to data posted Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This breaks down to roughly 7 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and 5 million from Moderna.

More than 1.6 million people have already received both doses of a vaccine, CDC said. The numbers indicate 900,000 more people have received a first dose of vaccine in the past day, and that just over 39% of vaccines distributed have gone into arms.

The data, which are current as of 6 a.m. Friday, shows 31,161,075 doses distributed, 12,279,180 doses administered; 10,595,866 people who have gotten at least one dose; and 1,610,524 people who have gotten both doses. The total doses administered comprise 7,153,268 from Pfizer/BioNTech, 5,122,662 doses from Moderna, and 3,250 that are not identified.

1:17 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

New, more contagious coronavirus variants mean US must double down on mitigation, vaccination, CDC says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

The threat of new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus means the US must double down on efforts to protect people until a large number can be vaccinated, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. 

A variant first identified in Britain known as B.1.1.7 is being found in the US as well, and modeling indicates it could worsen the already terrible spread of the virus across the country, the CDC researchers said.

“Multiple lines of evidence indicate that B.1.1.7 is more efficiently transmitted than are other SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the CDC team wrote in the agency’s weekly report, the MMWR.

“Variant B.1.1.7 has the potential to increase the U.S. pandemic trajectory in the coming months.”

That means people need to do more to make sure everyone uses masks, tries harder to maintain social distancing and takes other measures known to reduce the risk of transmission. “Higher vaccination coverage might need to be achieved to protect the public,” the researchers added. 

Plus, the CDC needs to do more to keep an eye out for new variants, and for the appearance of this one. 

“CDC has also contracted with several large commercial clinical laboratories to rapidly sequence tens of thousands of SARS-CoV-2– positive specimens each month and has funded seven academic institutions to conduct genomic surveillance in partnership with public health agencies, thereby adding substantially to the availability of timely genomic surveillance data from across the United States,” the team wrote.

“In addition to these national initiatives, many state and local public health agencies are sequencing SARS-CoV-2 to better understand local epidemiology and support public health response to the pandemic.” 

It's not clear just how much more contagious any of the new variants are, the CDC noted. One variant first identified in South Africa and another one found in Japan among travelers from Brazil have yet to show up in US surveillance, the team said.

B.1.1.7 has been found in at least 50 countries and in a dozen US states.

 

1:24 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

UN secretary general calls on nations to share vaccines as world surpasses 2 million Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard and Richard Roth

UN Secretary General António Guterres speaks in a video message on January 15.
UN Secretary General António Guterres speaks in a video message on January 15. United Nations

In wake of the Covid-19 pandemic claiming 2 million lives, the head of the United Nations has called for countries to "commit now" to share excess doses of vaccines.

"The world’s leading economies have a special responsibility. Yet today we are seeing a vaccine vacuum. Vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all," UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a video message on Thursday. 

"Some countries are pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need. Governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, but 'vaccinationalism' is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery," Guterres said. "We need manufacturers to step up their commitment to work with the COVAX facility and countries around the world to ensure enough supply and fair distribution. We need countries to commit now to sharing excess doses of vaccines."

Guterres specifically referred to COVAX, a World Health Organization global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries. 

"Sadly, the deadly impact of the pandemic has been made worse by the absence of a global coordinated effort. In the memory of those two million souls, the world must act with far greater solidarity," Guterres said in his video message. 

"Safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out — and the UN is supporting countries to mobilize the largest global immunization effort in history. We are committed to making sure that vaccines are seen as global public goods — people’s vaccines."

12:58 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Global coronavirus death toll surpasses 2 million

More than two million people across the world have now lost their lives due to coronavirus.

According to Johns Hopkins University, 2,000,905 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic.

The US leads with the most deaths followed by Brazil and India.

12:57 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Despite administration pledge, there appear to be no more "reserve" second vaccine doses to release

From CNN's Kristen Holmes and Sara Murray

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a news conference on Operation Warp Speed and COVID-19 vaccine distribution on January 12 in Washington, DC.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a news conference on Operation Warp Speed and COVID-19 vaccine distribution on January 12 in Washington, DC. Patrick Semansky/Pool/AP

Hopes of a surge in Covid-19 vaccine shipments under a new policy to release second doses held in reserve appear to be evaporating — with the revelation that those doses have already been distributed.

A senior Trump administration official told CNN Friday that when the administration announced that it would be releasing reserved doses last week, many of those reserves had already been released into the system starting last year as production was ramping up. 

The revelation seems to contradict what US Health and Human Services secretary announced on Jan. 12 at an Operation Warp Speed briefing, where he said the administration would be “releasing the entire supply for order by states, rather than holding second doses in reserve.”

The official who spoke with CNN pushed back on a report that the second-dose supply was "exhausted," instead characterizing the reserve as a rolling and replenished supply with new production.

The source emphasized that the supply would still benefit from those extra doses already in circulation — but acknowledged that this means there will not be a sudden surge in distribution numbers, as many had been led to believe. 

Michael J. Pratt, the chief communications officer for Operation Warp Speed, also denied the notion the reserve was “exhausted” in a statement to CNN. 

“This week, nearly 13 million total doses have been provided to states to order, millions more than other weeks, as the reserve of second doses is completely made available to order against, Pratt said. “States have yet to fully order against their ordering caps. As stated this week, we have now moved to the phase where the full amount released to OWS is being made available to order, first to cover second doses, second to provide additional first doses.” 

The news shocked and angered officials in at least one state.

“I am demanding answers from the Trump Administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown tweeted Friday. “This is a deception on a national scale. Oregon’s seniors, teachers, all of us, were depending on the promise of Oregon’s share of the federal reserve of vaccines being released to us.”

Oregon's health director wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar Thursday, demanding he reconcile his statement last week about "releasing the entire supply" with this revelation.

CNN obtained a letter written by Oregon Health Director Patrick Allen, in which he recounted a call with Brown and Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gustave Perna on Thursday. 

"During that call, he informed us there is no reserve of doses, and we are already receiving the full allocation of vaccines," Allen wrote. "If true, this is extremely disturbing, and puts our plans to expand eligibility at grave risk. Those plans were made on the basis of reliance on your statement about ‘releasing the entire supply’ you have in reserve. If this information is accurate, we will be unable to begin vaccinating our vulnerable seniors on January 23rd, as planned."

CNN also contacted vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, as well as Moderna’s distribution partner McKesson and did not get a response. 

The revelation that second doses weren't strictly held in reserve was first reported by The Washington Post, which also reported that the Trump administration shifted its strategy to begin tapping into second doses late last year.

“We are hearing there is not a stockpile of vaccine for second dose but that it was more of a ‘paper exercise,’” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “The stockpile appears to be all on paper, they were tracking anticipated need but not actually holding back product.”

The bottom line, Plescia said, is vaccine will remain scare for at least a few more weeks. 

“I think the original message got lost in a lot of overpromising,” Plescia said. “Until there is a more robust supply we need to be clear with the public that opportunity to get the vaccine is limited.”

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Nadia Kounang and John Bonifield contributed to this report.

12:49 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

UK announces closure of all travel corridors starting Monday

From CNN's Amy Cassidy and Duarte Mendonca

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference at 10 Downing Street in London on January 15.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference at 10 Downing Street in London on January 15. Dominic Lipinski/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The United Kingdom will close all travel corridors from 4 a.m. local time Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday.

Speaking at a news conference, Johnson stressed the only way to get into the country is by having a negative coronavirus test result.

"This means that if you come to this country, you must have proof of a negative Covid test that you've taken in the 72 hours before leaving. And you must have filled in your passenger locator form, and your airline will ask for proof of both before you take off," Johnson said.

"You may also be checked when you land and face substantial fines for refusing to comply, and upon arrival, you must then quarantine for 10 days, not leaving your home for any reason at all. Or take another test on day five and wait for proof of another negative result and we will be stepping up our enforcement, both at the border and in the country," Johnson added.

12:57 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Pfizer reassures European commission that all guaranteed doses "will be delivered in the first quarter"

From CNN’s James Frater and Duarte Mendonca

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement in Brussels on December 21, 2020.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement in Brussels on December 21, 2020. Johanna Geron/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has been briefed and reassured by Pfizer's CEO that "all guaranteed doses of the first quarter will be delivered in the first quarter," she said Friday.

In a statement released to CNN, Leyen said she "immediately called the CEO of Pfizer, and he explained that there is a production delay in the next weeks," but reiterated that Pfizer would deliver the vaccines as agreed.

"He's personally on the case in reducing the delay period, and to make sure that they will catch up as soon as possible. That was very important to convey the message to him that we urgently need the guaranteed doses within the first quarter," Leyen concluded.

Earlier Friday Pfizer announced shipments from its vaccine facility in Puurs, Belgium, will be temporarily reduced as it scales up to produce two billion Covid-19 vaccine doses in 2021. 

The company said that in order to increase capacity to reach two billion, changes are needed to the process and facility, and additional regulatory approvals will be required. 

12:16 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Canada responds to Pfizer vaccine shipping delays

From CNN's Paula Newton

Canada’s procurement minister called it "unfortunate" that Pfizer vaccine shipments would be delayed noting, "such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits."

This comes as CNN reports Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine shipments will be temporarily reduced outside the US as manufacturing scales up.

Specifically Pfizer said on Friday that shipments from its vaccine facility in Puurs, Belgium, will be temporarily reduced as it scales up to produce two billion Covid-19 vaccine doses in 2021.  

Canadian procurement minister Anita Anand says that she believes Canada, by the end of March, "will be able to catch up such that we will be on track with the total committed doses for Q1."

Speaking at a news conference Friday, Anand said:

"I understand from my discussions with Pfizer that all countries that are receiving doses from Pfizer’s European facility will be equitably treated in terms of the reductions." 
"Pfizer believes that by the end of March we will be able to catch up, such that we will be on track with the total committed doses for Q1. This is unfortunate, however such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits."

Anand said Pfizer will have some "temporary" delays at some production lines at its facility in Puurs, Belgium, so that they could further expand manufacturing capacity.