February 19 coronavirus news

By Sarah Faidell, Brad Lendon, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 1:49 AM ET, Tue February 23, 2021
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5:03 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

One dose of Pfizer vaccine reduces symptomatic Covid-19 by 85% after a month, study shows

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on February 18, in Bogota, Colombia.
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on February 18, in Bogota, Colombia. Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

A new study provides more evidence that a single dose of coronavirus vaccine might be enough to significantly reduce disease.

People who got a single dose of Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine were increasingly less likely to develop Covid-19 symptoms as time passed -- and they were 85% less likely to get sick two to four weeks after getting their first shot, Israeli researchers report.

The findings, released as a letter to the Lancet medical journal, are likely to bolster calls for governments to move to a single-dose regimen to stretch out vaccine supply until manufacturers can make more. 

How the study was conducted? The team at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center looked at the medical records of roughly 9,000 health care workers, more than 7,000 of whom were vaccinated starting in December.

“By Jan 24, 2021, of the 9,109 eligible staff, 7,214 (79%) had received a first dose and 6,037 (66%) had received the second dose,” they wrote.

More than 90% got their second dose on time, by 21 or 22 days after the first dose.

The team looked at the rate of infections during those crucial three weeks. They found a 47% reduction in symptomatic coronavirus infections among the health care workers during the first two weeks after the first shot and an 85% reduction over the following two weeks.

“Of the 170 healthcare workers who became infected, 89 (52%) were unvaccinated, 78 (46%) tested positive after the first dose, and three (2%) tested positive after the second dose,” they wrote.

It’s possible that asymptomatic cases were missed. The team only counted people who had symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.


3:29 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

A drop in Covid-19 cases can be deceptive, official warns

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Although the rise of Covid-19 variants in the United States could spell trouble, pharmaceutical companies and scientists are confident vaccines will evolve with them, senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt told CNN.

"We are used to mutations with the flu. This is a much higher percentage of success than the flu," Slavitt, who is responsible for the US coronavirus response, told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Thursday.

The US has witnessed a 26% decline in new cases from this time last week, continuing the trend of the steepest decline in new cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

But variants, many of which appear to be more transmissible, have been spreading, with more than 1,500 cases reported in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccination delays caused by harsh winter weather gripping much of the US also mean many people will have to work "double time" to get back on track, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert

"It's been slowed down; in some places going to a grinding halt," Fauci said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday.

Many states hit early in the storms, particularly Texas, had to cancel vaccination appointments due to dangerous road conditions and power outages.

Read the full article here:

2:40 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

US reports more than 69,000 new Covid cases on Thursday

From CNN's Alta Spells

The United States reported 69,230 new cases of Covid-19 and 2,542 additional related deaths on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

This brings the national total in the US to 27,896,042 confirmed cases and 493,082 coronavirus related deaths.  

At least 73,377,450 vaccine doses have been distributed and 57,737,767 doses have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


2:00 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Indian state announces fresh Covid-19 restrictions as cases surge

From CNN's Swati Gupta

A health worker collects a nasal swab for a Covid-19 test at a railway platform in Mumbai, on February 17.
A health worker collects a nasal swab for a Covid-19 test at a railway platform in Mumbai, on February 17. Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

India’s western state of Maharashtra has announced fresh restrictions to combat a surge in Covid-19 cases across the state, especially in Mumbai, the local administration said Thursday.

Local officials in Mumbai have begun stamping hands of those who are meant to be quarantining at home, and the government says they will be enforcing all Covid-19 restrictions for public gatherings and mask mandates.

Any violation of the fresh restrictions “will lead to action against organizers and concerned management,” the local government warned.

Among other measures announced, Mumbai will mandate a compulsory seven-day institutional quarantine for all passengers arriving from Brazil.

Three other districts have been directed by the state government to take immediate preventive measures as the number of cases have also surged in these areas.

The state of Maharashtra recorded more than 5,400 cases within 24-hours Thursday, including 38 deaths, according to the state government.


12:38 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Taiwan blames "external forces" for blocking BioNTech vaccine deal. China says it had nothing to do with it

From CNN's Nectar Gan

The Chinese government has denied it obstructed Taiwan's coronavirus vaccine purchase from BioNTech after the island's health minister revealed that its deal with the German drugmaker fell through at the last minute due to possible "political pressure."

Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Thursday it was "purely fabrication" that Beijing had intervened in BioNTech's vaccine sale to Taiwan, state news agency Xinhua reported.

A day earlier, Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said in a radio interview that Taiwan and BioNTech were about to sign a deal for 5 million vaccine doses in December, when the company suddenly backed out.

"In the process of (discussing the deal) I had always worried that there would be external forces intervening," Chen said, without naming any country. "We believe there was political pressure," he said.
"Back then we had already prepared our press release. But certain people don't want Taiwan to be too happy."

Read the full article here:

11:55 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Paraguay to start Covid-19 vaccinations next week

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias

A batch of Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines is unloaded from a plane at Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Luque, Paraguay, on February 18.
A batch of Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines is unloaded from a plane at Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Luque, Paraguay, on February 18. Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images

Paraguay received its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines Thursday through a government purchase of 4,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

The country will roll out its vaccination campaign Monday by immunizing front-line health workers in the ICU, according to health authorities.

“A total of one million Sputnik V vaccines were purchased through direct negotiations with the Russian Fund, the vaccine's manufacturing agency. On Wednesday, Presidents Mario Abdo Benítez and Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation and it was agreed to expedite the procedures for the shipment of 300,000 doses,” a statement from the Paraguay Ministry of Health published Thursday says.

Paraguay approved the emergency use of the Russian vaccine on January 15. The country also expects to receive 4.3 million doses of the AstraZenaca vaccine purchased via COVAX, an initiative to provide equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Paraguay has recorded 148,622 confirmed cases and 3,008 coronavirus related deaths, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University.


11:55 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

More than 1,500 reported cases of concerning variants in the US, CDC says

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

At least 1,549 cases of coronavirus strains first spotted in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the United States, according to data updated Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vast majority of these cases are the more contagious variant which was originally detected in the UK. This variant has been found in 41 states and Washington, DC. More than a quarter are in Florida.

In addition, there are 21 total cases of a strain initially seen in South Africa, in nine states and Washington, DC. Five total cases of the strain first linked to Brazil have been discovered among four states.

CDC says this does not represent the total number of such cases circulating in the US but rather just those that have been found by analyzing positive samples.


11:56 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Pregnant women are at a 70% higher risk for Covid-19 infection, study finds

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. 
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Pregnant women appear to be at a higher risk of Covid-19 infection, researchers reported.

The study, which was published Tuesday, shows the Covid-19 infection rate among pregnant women in Washington state was 70% higher than in similarly aged adults in the state. It also found that rates of infection among pregnant women of color were two to four times higher than expected. 

"Pregnant women were not protected from COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic, with the greatest burden of infections occurring in nearly all racial/ethnic minority groups," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

For the study, the research team gathered data from 240 pregnant Covid-19 patients in 35 hospitals and clinics, which account for 61% of the state's annual births, from March through June 2020. 

"Our data indicates that pregnant people did not avoid the pandemic as we hoped that they would, and communities of color bore the greatest burden," said Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, an ob-gyn with the University of Washington School of Medicine and the report's senior author.

According to the study, the Covid-19 infection rate in pregnant women in the state of Washington was 13.9 out of every 1,000 deliveries, compared to an overall rate for 20- to 39-year-olds in the state of 7.3 out of 1,000.

"Higher infection rates in pregnant patients may be due to the overrepresentation of women in many professions and industries considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic — including healthcare, education, service sectors," lead author Dr. Erica Lokken said in a news release.   

The researchers suggest that pregnant people should be broadly prioritized for Covid-19 vaccination. 

"Pregnant women are written out of the allocation prioritization in about half of U.S. States. Many states are not even linking their COVID-19 vaccine allocation plans with the high-risk medical conditions listed by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] —which include pregnancy," Waldorf said. 

1:24 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

US pharmacies see high Covid-19 vaccine demand "outweigh inventory"

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard and Ashley Ahn

A pharmacist administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a Walmart Pharmacy in Danvers, Massachusetts, on February 1.
A pharmacist administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a Walmart Pharmacy in Danvers, Massachusetts, on February 1. Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Demand for coronavirus vaccines is outstripping supply in the federal retail pharmacy program for the United States. CNN finds appointments are filling up quickly.

Many pharmacies told CNN this week that they can receive and administer far more vaccine doses than are arriving so far. Albertsons Companies Inc., a US grocery company headquartered in Boise, Idaho, is using less than 10% of its capacity, according to Albertsons spokesperson Andrew Whelan. 

"We have the capabilities to administer 150,000 doses every single day and can take on about 90% more supply within our network," Whelan told CNN.

Hy-Vee, a chain of supermarkets in the Midwest, told CNN that having more vaccine doses to administer to the public would be beneficial. 

"The limited supply of the vaccine has been our biggest challenge," said company spokesperson Christina Gayman. "We would love to vaccinate every single person who inquires, but supply is still limited."

Meanwhile, Meijer Inc. has administered 66,000 doses since mid-January with an anticipated additional 30,000 this week, company representative Frank J. Guglielmi told CNN. Most doses have been administered in Michigan, where Meijer is both a state and federal vaccine partner.

"As far as support, we just need more vaccines,” Guglielmi said.

Walgreens, one of the first pharmacies to begin administering Covid-19 vaccines in December through a separate partnership with long-term care facilities, has administered more than 3 million vaccines as of Monday, with an allotment of 180,000 doses per week through the federal program, company spokesperson Kelli Teno told CNN. 

"As we roll out to broader populations, vaccine demand has continued to outweigh inventory," Teno said. "We share the enthusiasm of the nation in vaccinating people as quickly as possible, but patience is needed as vaccine inventory continues to build in the coming weeks and months and we're able to vaccinate more communities."