The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung, Kara Fox, Kareem Khadder, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:06 PM ET, Mon March 1, 2021
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12:51 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

First truck carrying Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives at UPS shipping facility

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace 

The first UPS truck carrying the Johnson & Johnson vaccine just arrived at the carrier’s Worldport hub in Louisville, Kentucky. The company says deliveries will start Tuesday for the eastern half of the country.

More trucks carrying the vaccine are expected to arrive at the facility throughout the day Monday.

UPS says two people will unload vaccine shipments by hand onto more than 150 miles of conveyer belt where machines will sort vaccine packages in 13 minutes time. Packages will then be loaded onto UPS cargo planes along with regular, everyday packages— even though vaccine shipments are getting priority over other packages.  

UPS head of healthcare Wes Wheeler told CNN in an interview that the network has plenty of capacity to carry the new vaccine. The company has already shipped tens of millions of Pfizer and Moderna doses. 

“The pressure was really high in December heading into peak season, of course. We had much more volume than we normally have,” Wheeler said. “But now we’re in a steady state, and adding another vaccine really is not a big problem for us. We have plenty of capacity, and we know exactly how to handle the data.” 

Some more context: The White House said Monday 3.9 million doses are going out in this initial wave of shipments. Johnson & Johnson said Monday the goal is to distribute 20 million doses of the vaccine by the end of this month.

12:31 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Distribution of Johnson and Johnson vaccine "should be even across communities," White House says 

From CNN's DJ Judd

Boxes containing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are loaded into a truck in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, on March 1.
Boxes containing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are loaded into a truck in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, on March 1. Timothy D. Easley/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who chairs the White House coronavirus equity task force, told CNN Monday that while there are benefits to the newly approved Johnson & Johnson single-dose Covid-19 vaccine that make it appealing for treating marginalized and hard-to-reach communities, “overall, you know, we do think that the distribution again should be even across communities.”

Over the weekend, the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that a single-dose vaccine has an advantage, particularly in settings where a second dose “would be challenging,” and could be used to help protect the homeless, people in the justice system, and those with limited access to health care like people who are homebound or live in rural areas.

Still, to ensure that the vaccine is spread across all communities, Dr. Nunez-Smith told CNN, "we will be tracking biometrics such as zip code and social mobility to see where vaccines are going.”

Should it arise that any one vaccine is being deployed in a disproportionate manner to one community over another, Nunez-Smith said, “we’re here provide support and technical assistance to pivot and intervene and correct if and when needed.”

12:07 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

White House says scheduling a vaccine appointment "remains too difficult in too many places"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House holds a Covid-19 press briefing on Monday, March 1.
The White House holds a Covid-19 press briefing on Monday, March 1. The White House

The White House expressed concern Monday amid ongoing issues facing many Americans who are now eligible for Covid-19 vaccines but still struggling to set up vaccination appointments, suggesting the federal government may step in to provide support to states.

“Scheduling an appointment is too difficult – remains too difficult – in too many places,” White House Covid response team coordinator Jeff Zients said during Monday’s virtual Covid briefing.

He said that “things have gotten better” in some states and localities, suggesting, “The pharmacy systems are often better at scheduling appointments."

“But overall, too many Americans are suffering frustration, taking up way too much time to schedule an appointment,” Zients said.

Despite the increase in vaccine supply and vaccination sites, Zients said the administration is looking to help states improve their website capacities, as well as “lower tech solutions that the federal government might be able to provide,” including call centers and people who can help navigate the system.

As of now, Zients acknowledged, “Scheduling remains, for far too many people, too frustrating, and we need to make it better.”

WATCH:

12:48 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

31 states plus DC are now allowing teachers to get Covid-19 vaccines

Compiled by CNN's Yon Pomrenze, Evan Simko-Bednarski and Elizabeth Stuart

Three more states have started allowing all or some teachers and school staff to receive the Covid-19 vaccine starting today, bringing the total to 31 states plus Washington, DC.

The additional states are Louisiana, Mississippi and Connecticut. Though some states have announced they are prioritizing teachers, vaccine availability remains a concern across the country. Several other states have announced they will open up vaccination appointments to educators later this month.

There are 19 states where teachers are still not eligible to receive the vaccine as a specific group — although some educators might fall into the current age group that state is vaccinating.

Here are the states where all or some teachers are eligible:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. Hawaii
  10. Idaho
  11. Illinois
  12. Iowa
  13. Kansas
  14. Kentucky
  15. Louisiana
  16. Maryland
  17. Michigan
  18. Minnesota
  19. Mississippi
  20. Nebraska
  21. Nevada
  22. New York
  23. North Dakota
  24. Ohio
  25. Oregon
  26. Pennsylvania
  27. Tennessee
  28. Utah
  29. Virginia
  30. West Virginia
  31. Wyoming
  32. Washington, DC

Here are the states where teachers are not yet eligible:

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. Indiana
  4. Maine
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Missouri
  7. Montana
  8. New Hampshire
  9. New Jersey
  10. New Mexico
  11. North Carolina
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Rhode Island
  14. South Carolina
  15. South Dakota
  16. Texas
  17. Vermont
  18. Washington
  19. Wisconsin
11:55 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

CDC director "deeply concerned" about potential shift in trajectory of the pandemic

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

The White House
The White House

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she is “deeply concerned” about the potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic.

While the number of cases had been declining, the most recent seven-day average of new cases at about 67,200 people represents an increase of a little more than 2% compared to the prior seven days. The most recent seven-day average of deaths has also increased more than 2%.

“Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained,” Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response team briefing on Monday.

Walensky said the country can stop the surge of cases in this country by wearing a mask that fits, maintaining social distance, practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding crowds.

“Please stay strong in your conviction,” Walensky said. “Continue wearing your well-fitting mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work.”

 

WATCH:

11:07 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Johnson & Johnson working on booster for coronavirus variants, CEO says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Johnson & Johnson is currently working on a booster to help its Covid-19 vaccine deal with coronavirus variants, CEO Alex Gorsky told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Monday.

“While we’re encouraged and we’re confident in the current vaccine that we have, you’ve always got to be preparing for the future, and frankly for the unknown," Gorsky said. "So, we’re doing that as we speak.”
11:03 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

The US has approved 3 Covid-19 vaccines. Here's what they all have in common.

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Johnson & Johnson's single-dose coronavirus vaccine has become the third Covid-19 shot approved for use in the US. Previously, Pfizer and Moderna's two-dose vaccines had been approved.

None of the three vaccines contains additives that can sometimes cause strong reactions, such as antibiotics, preservatives or adjuvants, which are compounds used to boost the immune response that can add to the kick of any vaccine.

That means a very low risk of allergic reaction, especially life-threatening anaphylaxis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only a few cases of anaphylaxis in people who have been given the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, and all were easily treated.

Only one case of anaphylaxis has been reported in the 44,000 people who have tested the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Plus, all three target a specific part of the spike protein called the receptor binding domain. As the name implies, it's the part the virus uses to grapple cells. Mutations to this particular region could weaken the efficacy of all three vaccines.

Luckily, all three appear to stimulate an overwhelming immune response — one much stronger than people get after a natural infection. So far, it appears to be enough to continue at least partially protecting people from the most concerning variants.

9:50 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

EU begins laying groundwork to pave the way for Covid-19 vaccine passports this summer

From CNN’s James Frater

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer speaks during a conference in Brussels, Belgium, on March 5, 2020.
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer speaks during a conference in Brussels, Belgium, on March 5, 2020. Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The European Commission has started laying the groundwork for a vaccine passport that could let European Union citizens travel this summer, it announced.

The Commission intends to publish a legislative proposal for vaccine certification by the end of March, Commission chief spokesperson Eric Mamer said.

In January, the European Union and its 27 member states agreed a set of guidelines that would form the basis of the passports, “but the exact information still needs to be determined,” he said.

To avoid discrimination and citizens being turned away at a border, the Commission’s intention is that the passports “would not only state whether or not a person had been vaccinated, but also whether this person has had recent PCR test, or can be deemed Covid immune, for health reasons i.e., antibodies,” Mamer added.

Asked whether the scope of the legal proposal would extend to international travelers traveling into the EU, Mamer said: “We will have to come back to you once the proposal is made, we cannot give details for the moment.” 

Expanding on the details of technical work currently underway to prepare the passports Johannes Bahrke, the EU’s Digital Economy spokesperson said, “It's a question of: how a certificate can be checked, because it's important that they are safe; and how the data is safe; what's the technical standard.”

Bahrke said, “all these kind of details now need to be agreed among member states based on the guidelines that are in place.” 

Speaking following a meeting of European Leaders last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it would be “at least three months” before the passports could be rolled out.

“Member states will need to move fast with the implementation if we want such a green certificate to be in place by summer,” von der Leyen said. “They will have to ensure a quick and complete rollout in the National Health System, and in the border systems."

 

9:36 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Decline in UK's Covid-19 cases is due to lockdown and vaccine rollout, UK foreign secretary says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

A paramedic draws up the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Darlington, England, on March 1.
A paramedic draws up the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Darlington, England, on March 1. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

With a strict, government-imposed lockdown in place, the United Kingdom has seen a continued decline in its Covid-19 cases over the last few weeks.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab attributes it to the lockdown and the “swift rollout of the vaccines.”

“Over 20 million people now have had their first dose, and that clearly is protecting people, having an impact on transmission. So, of course, there's a long way to go, but the signs, the progress is all positive, and we've got light at the end of the tunnel here,” he told CNN.

Although the country is set to reopen its schools on March 8, it will being back non-essential retail, such as hairdressers, gyms, museums, zoos and theme parks on April 12.

Raab said it’s important to stick to the roadmap, which he called optimistic but cautious.

“We don't want to undo and unpick the progress that we've made, or subject people to the risk of, let's face it, dying, when it can be preserved and protected,” he said Monday. “It's an evidence-based approach, and we've got a series of steps we'll take.”

He added: "We want to know that when we come out of this lock down, we stay out of it.”