February 2 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021
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11:09 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Cold chain storage for vaccines "is a really tricky process," says Walgreens chief medical officer

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Walgreens chief medical officer Dr. Kevin Ban.
Walgreens chief medical officer Dr. Kevin Ban. CNN

The cold chain storage for coronavirus vaccines "is a really tricky process," Walgreens chief medical officer Dr. Kevin Ban said on Tuesday.

The remarks came after Ohio health officials reported that vaccines given by Walgreens in five of Ohio’s long-term care facilities had not been stored under the proper cold storage conditions.

"It would seem that our systems failed, now we're trying to figure out exactly what happened there, so that we can protect it from happening again in the future," Ban told CNN. "This cold chain takes a lot of, I mean, literally, it takes cryogenic gloves, and so these things will happen. We just need to be transparent, and we need to fix them," Ban said. 

According to Ban, none of the patients experienced any adverse side effects, and after getting in touch with the manufacturers, they learned the patients will need to be revaccinated. 

Too many vaccines: Ban added that Walgreens was left with excess vaccines due to "very high" vaccine hesitancy and the lower-than-expected occupancy in long-term care facilities. 

"We found ourselves in a situation where we had more vaccine than we needed -- the last thing we would do was ever hold it -- and so, immediately what we did was get in touch with the states to make sure that we were compliant with their wishes," Ban said.

"Walgreens does not determine who gets vaccinated, we're the last mile of this, we're the ones who actually distribute and administer it, but only based on state eligibility."

10:26 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

We need to "double down" on public health measures to fight virus variants, Fauci says

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Anthony Fauci is interviewed by Chris Hayes on February 2.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is interviewed by Chris Hayes on February 2. MSNBC

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the United States needs to keep an eye on Covid-19 variants because "they could be a problem."

"One of the wildcards that we have to keep an eye on are the mutations, the mutants that are out there, because if they become dominant that then can lead to another surge," Fauci told MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Tuesday, when asked if he was concerned about a fourth wave.

"The best way to prevent them from becoming dominant is double-down on public health measures," he added.

"I think if we doubled down uniformly and consistently with the public health measures, at the same time as we phase in increasing numbers of people getting vaccinated, we shouldn't see that (fourth wave)." 

10:03 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could limit spread of coronavirus, researchers say

From CNN's Michael Nedelman and Jessica Firger

A member of medical staff at the NHS Nightingale North East hospital draws up the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on January 26 in Sunderland, England.
A member of medical staff at the NHS Nightingale North East hospital draws up the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on January 26 in Sunderland, England. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine may reduce coronavirus transmission, rather than simply reducing the severity of disease, according to researchers.

The vaccine showed 66.7% efficacy against symptomatic disease starting two weeks after the second shot, according to a preprint posted Tuesday by researchers at the University of Oxford.

The study did not measure transmission directly, but researchers collected regular nasal swabs from participants and found that the rate of positive PCR tests fell by half after two doses of the vaccine.

If the vaccine were simply making infections more mild, PCR positivity would not change, the authors argued.

“While transmission studies per se were not included in the analysis, swabs were obtained from volunteers every week in the UK study, regardless of symptoms, to allow assessment of the overall impact of the vaccine on risk of infection and thus a surrogate for potential onward transmission,” the authors wrote.

Coronavirus vaccine trials have primarily looked at prevention of symptomatic cases of Covid-19. Previously, there has been little other public data suggesting that vaccines could prevent people from passing the infection to others.

9:11 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Younger adults are the biggest spreaders of coronavirus in US, study suggests

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The biggest spreaders of coronavirus in the US are adults aged 20 to 49, and efforts to control the spread -- including vaccination -- should focus on that age group, researchers reported Tuesday.

Children and older adults accounted for very little spread, the researchers said -- suggesting that reopening schools may not contribute to spread, if transmission is controlled among younger adults, they said.

How they conducted the study: The team at Imperial College London used cell phone location data covering more than 10 million people and publicly available information on the spread of the virus to calculate which age groups were most responsible for the spread of the virus.

The results: They found that adults aged 20 to 49 accounted for about 72.2% of Covid-19 infections after schools reopened in October. Less than 5% of infections came from children, and less than 10% from teenagers.

And it might be adults aged 35 to 49 who are the biggest factor in driving the pandemic -- this group accounted for 41% of new transmissions through mid-August, compared to 35% for adults 20 to 34.

Containment efforts like mass vaccination programs aimed at this age group "could bring resurgent Covid-19 epidemics under control and avert deaths,” according to the study.


8:19 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Indian Health Service to direct most coronavirus funding to testing and mitigation

From CNN's Christopher Rios

The Indian Health Service (IHS), which serves Native Americans in the United States, announced Tuesday it will use $1 billion of Covid-19 relief funds mostly for testing, containment and mitigation efforts.

Some $790 million will go toward testing, contact tracing, containment, and mitigation, while $210 million will be allocated to vaccine distribution and access, according to IHS.

“We will continue to work in partnership with our urban Indian organization partners to distribute these critical resources for the immediate support of our COVID-19 response,” said acting IHS director Elizabeth Fowler. 

IHS serves 2.6 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives. The agency, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, has so far received nearly $3 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act signed by then-president Donald Trump in December.

7:33 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Kentucky governor files lawsuit challenging bills limiting his emergency powers during pandemic

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

After the Kentucky General Assembly voted today to override a series of Gov. Andy Beshear's vetoes on bills by the state’s Republican supermajority, which limit the governor’s emergency powers, Beshear has now filed a lawsuit seeking temporary and permanent injunction.

“Today, the General Assembly attempted to surrender to COVID-19 and accept the casualties. As your Governor, I cannot let this happen,” Beshear said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Beshear’s lawsuit seeks to stop House Bill 1, named “An Act relating to reopening the economy in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in response to the state of emergency declared by the Governor of Kentucky beginning in March 2020 and continuing throughout the year of 2021 and declaring an emergency.” 

The governor is also fighting Senate Bill 1, which limits “the effective dates of executive orders issued by the Governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly and prohibit[s] the Governor from issuing a new executive order relating to the same emergency without the approval of the General Assembly.” 

The lawsuit also argues against Senate Bill 2, which, among other things, will “require administrative regulations promulgated under the section to be in effect no longer than 30 days if imposing restrictions on gatherings or imposing mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements.”

The governor’s lawsuit argues that the bills are “unconstitutional and if allowed to take effect will cause significant harm to the Governor’s constitutional duty to respond COVID- 19 and the overall public health during the pandemic.”

7:07 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Large UK study confirms Covid-19 antibodies last at least 6 months

From CNN’s Zahira Rahim

A large British study looking at coronavirus infections in real life confirms what lab experiments have shown: most people keep some antibodies to the virus for at least six months after recovery.

The study also indicates 8.8% of the UK population had been infected with coronavirus by December – but almost twice as many Blacks, 16.3%, had evidence of previous infection.

The study from UK Biobank, a biomedical database and research group, measured levels of previous infection in various population groups across the UK from the end of May to the beginning of December. It showed 99% of the participants who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 retained antibodies for three months after being infected and 88% had them for six months.

“Although we cannot be certain how this relates to immunity, the results suggest that people may be protected against subsequent infection for at least six months following natural infection. More prolonged follow-up will allow us to determine how long such protection is likely to last,” Naomi Allen, UK Biobank chief scientist, told a news briefing Tuesday.

Antibodies were found in a greater proportion of younger people compared to older participants. The researchers said 13.5% of participants under 30 had detectable antibodies, while only 6.7% of those over 70 did. And 16.3% of Black volunteers in the study had antibodies to the virus, compared to 8.5% of White participants and 7.5% of participants of Chinese ethnicity.

Allen said the team did not know whether the antibodies could provide protection against new variants of coronavirus. “I think it's just too early to tell about the level of protection,” she said. According to a report published Monday by Public Health England, the B.1.1.7 variant spreading across the UK and the world risks becoming somewhat resistant to the immune protection offered by vaccines as it continues to mutate.

Rory Collins, head of the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, said Tuesday that people who had previously been infected should still take care and obey social distancing guidelines.

"We can't be sure that [antibodies provide] complete protection,” Collins said, adding that scientists still did not know if people who had been previously infected could still carry and transmit the virus.

The study included 20,000 people who have been taking part in a range of Biobank studies, plus their adult children and grandchildren. UK Biobank collected monthly blood samples and data on potential symptoms from the group. By far the most common symptom detected by people who had once had Covid-19 were the loss of smell and taste. These symptoms were reported by 43% of participants with detectable antibodies. And 24% who tested positive had no symptoms at all.

6:49 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Idaho relaxes some Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Gov. Brad Little
Gov. Brad Little Idaho Public Television

Idaho’s governor announced Tuesday that the state is moving into Phase 3 of its pandemic recovery plan, relaxing some of its economic restrictions.

“The gathering size limitation will increase from 10 to 50 people,” Gov. Brad Little said in an address to the state Tuesday.

Bars and restaurants can operate, but only with regular table seating. People interested in holding large events must first get permission from the local health department, unless they are political or religious in nature.

“We have seen a dramatic drop in cases in the state,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. “People are wearing their masks. People are social distancing. I think people are really trying, and I think it’s paying off.”

Idaho reverted to Phase 2 of its restriction plan in November after new Covid-19 case numbers reached record levels.

6:43 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Oxford-AstraZeneca study supports spacing out doses and estimates good efficacy after one shot

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

Vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
Vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine showed 66.7% efficacy against symptomatic disease starting two weeks after the second shot, according to a preprint posted Tuesday by researchers at the University of Oxford.

The new analysis adds new trial sites and a month of new data to the mix, building upon earlier results announced by AstraZeneca that its vaccine had showed an estimated 70.4% efficacy.

However, the latest analysis also suggests the vaccine may offer substantial protection after a single shot. 

The study estimates 76% efficacy up to three months following one dose. This is based on a subset of 88 symptomatic infections, split unevenly between the vaccine and placebo groups between 22 and 90 days after vaccination. The study also found relatively stable levels of antibodies during this time frame, “with minimal waning by day 90.”

Furthermore, the authors suggest there could be higher efficacy with more spaced-out doses. Among adults 18 to 55, vaccine efficacy appeared to rise when the time between shots was spaced out from less than six weeks to more than 12. However, more information is needed to know how statistically different that finding is.

Taken together, the findings may bolster the UK’s decision to recommend spacing out doses up to 12 weeks apart, according to a statement from the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, Andrew Pollard.

Some context: AstraZeneca announced last month it had completed enrollment in its Phase 3 trial in the United States, which will serve as “the primary basis” for the company’s eventual application to the US Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine has already been authorized in a number countries such as the UK and India, but authorization may not come in the US until late March at the earliest, according to Operation Warp Speed’s Moncef Slaoui.