The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 3:31 p.m. ET, April 4, 2021
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12:05 p.m. ET, April 4, 2021

South Korea’s health minister warns of a fourth coronavirus wave

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul 

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol speaks during a press briefing in Seoul on February 13.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol speaks during a press briefing in Seoul on February 13. Yonhap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

South Korea’s Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol warned that South Korea could be at the crossroads of a fourth coronavirus wave after the country recorded more than 500 new cases for the fifth straight day.

“For the past week, the number of daily new cases has been around 500, clearly showing an increasing trend of infection,” Kwon said at a briefing on Sunday.  

He asked the public to follow health protocols to prevent Covid-19 infection, cancel all unnecessary meetings and actively participate in the vaccination process. 

Health official Son Young-rae, in the same briefing, said the government will monitor the infection trend this coming week and make a decision whether to adjust its social distancing measures. 

Social distancing measures stand at Level 2 for the greater Seoul area, Busan and Jeonju while the rest of the country is at level 1.5.   

10:38 a.m. ET, April 4, 2021

"We’re just at the beginning of this surge" in the US, infectious disease expert says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

The US is in category five hurricane status when it comes to Covid-19 and it hasn’t begun to see the beginning of the fourth surge yet, said Michael Osterholm, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy director, on Sunday.

“Let me say that, at this time, we really are in a category five hurricane status with regard to the rest of the world,” Osterholm said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “At this point, we will see in the next two weeks, the highest number of cases reported globally since the beginning of the pandemic. In terms of the United States, we’re just at the beginning of this surge, we haven’t even really begun to see it yet.”

Osterholm said that over the past year, there have been surges of cases that cycle between US regions, starting in the Upper Midwest and Northeast, which then subside, and move to the southern sunbelt states, which then subside and go back to the original regions.

“We’re now I think in that cycle where the Upper Midwest is just now beginning to start this fourth surge,” he said. “I think it was a wake-up call to everyone yesterday when Michigan reported out at 8,400 new cases, and we’re now seeing increasing number of severe illnesses, ICU hospitalizations, in individuals who are between 30 and 50 years of age who have not been vaccinated.”

2:58 p.m. ET, April 4, 2021

Loss of 15 million Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine doses can be made up in weeks, expert says

From CNN’s Jake Tapper

A Premise Health healthcare worker loads a syringe with the Covid-19 Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine on March 26 in Buffalo, West Virginia. 
A Premise Health healthcare worker loads a syringe with the Covid-19 Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine on March 26 in Buffalo, West Virginia.  Stephen Zenner/Getty Images

Emergent Biosolutions has been assisting in the production of Covid-19 vaccines for Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca for months, a source familiar with the situation told CNN on Saturday. 

In addition to the batch of 15 million doses that had to be discarded, Emergent has successfully produced 115 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which are in various stages of the supply chain, the source said.

The source added that it’s “not that unusual” for the pharmaceutical industry to have to discard batches of vaccine, and the fact that Emergent and J&J detected the contamination before any of the impacted doses shipped “showed the system worked.”

More background: The federal government moved to stop any further risk of contamination at a Baltimore contract vaccine manufacturer where 15 million potential doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine were spoiled last month, telling rival drugmaker AstraZeneca it must move its production from the plant and find somewhere else to make its vaccine.

The Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore was making coronavirus vaccines under contract to both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Last month, a batch of Johnson & Johnson "drug product" failed quality control and was taken out of production, both J&J and Emergent have said.

The federal government has directed Johnson & Johnson to fully take over its vaccine production at the plant, an administration official told CNN Saturday. The company confirmed it was taking tighter control of the production process.

The Emergent BioSolutions plant, which had been making doses of both Johnson & Johnson's vaccine as well as a vaccine made for AstraZeneca, will now only produce J&J vaccines, the official said. The Health and Human Services Department has directed that the AstraZeneca vaccine will now be produced at another plant, although the official did not specify where.

"Johnson & Johnson is assuming full responsibility regarding the manufacturing of drug substance for its COVID-19 vaccine at the Emergent BioSolutions Inc. Bayview facility," the company said in a statement emailed to CNN.

 

11:07 a.m. ET, April 4, 2021

More than 161 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US, according to CDC data  

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

A cancer patient receives her COVID-19 vaccine in an oncology unit at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center on April 2, in Louisville, Kentucky. 
A cancer patient receives her COVID-19 vaccine in an oncology unit at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center on April 2, in Louisville, Kentucky.  Jon Cherry/Getty Images

More than 161 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US, according to data published Saturday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported 161,688,422 administered doses, about 77.8% of the 207,866,645 doses distributed. That’s 4,081,959 doses reported administered since Friday, for a seven-day average of 3,072,527 doses per day. 

Of the 104 million people who have received at least one dose, more than 59 million are fully vaccinated, CDC data showed.  

Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.