December 14 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 4:06 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
32 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
8:47 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

US Health secretary urges Americans to get Pfizer vaccine: "This is a 94% effective vaccine"

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz and Susannah Cullinane

Alex Azar, US secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on November 19.
Alex Azar, US secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on November 19. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

"This is a 94% effective vaccine. It's going through every, every, aspect of FDA process with integrity and transparent data," US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie Monday on “Today.”

"If you are recommended to get it and it's available for you, oh, please do get it. Protect yourself and protect those around you. Please get the vaccine," Azar said.

He reiterated that the US should have enough vaccine to inoculate 20 million people by the end of the month.

"We know we have a vaccine available to get to 20 million people by the end of December, and then a total of 50 million by the end of January, and, as Dr. Slaoui said, 100 million people by the end of March – but should have 100 million shots in arms by the end of February, between first and second doses."

More on the vaccine: Eleven months after the earliest recorded case of coronavirus in the United States, medical workers are preparing to give the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, with deliveries set to arrive at administration sites this morning.

Thousands of vials of the vaccine were collected for distribution across the country Sunday after it passed its last regulatory hurdle.

It's up to states to allocate their share of vaccines, but the CDC has recommended that frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities get the vaccine first. Officials warn it could be months before the vaccine becomes available to many Americans as the virus continues to surge, breaking grim state and national records.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta provides analysis:

8:18 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Azar will witness health care workers get vaccinated on "historic day"

From CNN Health’s Ben Tinker

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he will watch frontline workers get vaccinated in Washington, DC on the first day of the rollout.

Today is such a historic day, as we hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel of this horrible pandemic,” Azar said Monday.

“I’m just excited that I’m going to get to see some frontline health care workers today, as part of the plan to George Washington Hospital vaccination, and get to see them getting vaccinated -- some of the first people in the county,” Azar told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on “Today.”

First vaccinations for public could start in February: Azar said he believes the general public should be able to start getting vaccinations by late February and March -- earlier than some other experts have forecasted.

"I think we could be seeing that (general public vaccination) by late February going into March. It really, again, is going to be up to our nation's governors, but with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, we'll have, as I said, as many as 100 (million) shots in arms by the end of February," Azar told Guthrie.

"If we get the Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca vaccine approved in January, when their data comes in, we'll have significant additional supplies. And again, late February, in the March time period, I think you'll start seeing much more like a flu vaccination campaign – people going into their Kroger, their CVS, or Walgreens, Walmart."

Watch Dr. Celine Gounder on New Day:

8:49 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

US government negotiating order of additional 100 million vaccine doses, Pfizer CEO says

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on December 14.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on December 14. CNN

The United States is currently negotiating an additional order of 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This is Bourla's first interview since his company's vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the United States. 

"So far we have an agreement with the US government to provide them 100 million doses and this is a fixed order -- and we will provide those 100 million doses starting from now by the end of the first quarter and we will honor this commitment. But the US government is asking more. They have asked now for an additional 100 million doses from us," Bourla told Gupta Monday morning.

"We can provide them -- the additional 100 million doses -- but right now, most of that we can provide in the third quarter. The US government wants them in the second quarter," Bourla said. "We are working very collaboratively with them to make sure that we can find ways to produce more or allocate the doses in their second quarter as well, but we haven't signed this agreement yet."

Bourla said he was "not at all" concerned the quality of the vaccine will diminish as manufacturing ramps up, because the firms have strict "high standards of quality."

"The 1.3 billion that we believe we will provide, they will definitely meet the highest standards of quality," Bourla said of doses expected in 2021. "Already we know how to do it and although it looks like a giant step, for us it's what we do every day. So right now, I feel quite comfortable that we will be able to do it smoothly."

Watch Here:

7:58 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Germany to get 11 million vaccine doses by March

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Germany is set to receive 11 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by March, the country's health ministry announced Monday. 

In January alone, there will be three to four million doses of vaccine provided,” ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz told journalists at a regular news briefing.

"Eleven million vaccine doses will be available from BioNTech by March,” he added.

Kautz said that Germany expects the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve the BioNTech vaccine by the end of December, which will then be confirmed by the European Commission. “Immediately thereafter, inoculations can commence,” Kautz said. 

BioNTech is a German company.

On Sunday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn called on EMA to speed up the approval process for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

It has already been approved by the United Kingdom, which started distributing it last week, and the United States, where it is being rolled out on Monday.

7:52 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

St. Nicholas visit to Belgian care home hit by virus outbreak was "error in judgement," say authorities

From CNN’s Mick Krever in London

A Belgian care home where 75 people were infected with coronavirus and one resident died made an “error in judgement” by allowing a visit by a man playing the Christmas character Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas), the local municipality says.

The municipality of Mol in Belgium’s Flanders region said that “in-depth scientific research” would be needed to definitively say whether the visit was the cause of an outbreak at the Hemelrijck care home.

So far 61 residents and 14 staff members have tested positive, and one resident has died, according to the municipality.

How it happened: The man who played St. Nicholas, the son of a resident, tested positive for coronavirus after his visit, it said. He “was not feeling sick at the time of the visit,” the municipality said, and “the activity was not cleared beforehand with the crisis center, otherwise negative advice would have been given.”

CNN has reached out to the care home’s operator, Armonea, for comment.

One resident who was already in a “palliative stage” has died, and one other with symptoms is being given oxygen therapy at the care home, the municipality said. The “vast majority” of those infected are doing well and not showing symptoms, it said.

“Contrary to messages in the media, Saint Nicholas did not visit every room,” the municipality said. “The management reassures us that the Saint only visited common areas, including the seating areas. The Saint maintained distance at all times from the residents, and did remain in any area longer than a few minutes. The Saint did not hand out presents.”
8:51 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Pfizer CEO says he's not taken his firm's coronavirus vaccine yet

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on December 14.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on December 14. CNN

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has not taken the company's Covid-19 vaccine yet, he told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Monday morning.

"No I haven't taken it yet and we are having an ethical committee dealing with the question of who is getting it," Bourla said in his first interview since his company's coronavirus vaccine was authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use.

Bourla gave a nod to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that the first vaccine doses should go to health care workers and long-term care facility residents.

"There are very strict allocation rules," he said. "We are very sensitive to not cut the queue."

1.3 billion doses next year: Bourla said there will be around 1.3 billion doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine manufactured globally next year.

"This year we will have around 50 million doses available, most of them have already been manufactured," Bourla told Gupta on Monday.

"Next year we will do 1.3 billion doses," Bourla said. "We are working very diligently to increase this number."

7:45 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Japan suspends travel scheme and boosts business support payments

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan will suspend its "Go To" travel subsidy as it battles a winter wave of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday.

Discounted travel to Tokyo and Nagoya provided by the Go To government campaign will be suspended immediately until January 11. Go To travel subsidies will be suspended nationwide from December 28 at least until January 11.

The Go To scheme offers travelers up to 50% discounts on transportation, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and shopping, in an effort to encourage domestic travel during the pandemic downturn.

Suga said discouraging travel would help curb a current spike in cases.

"I decided to take the maximum measure to keep down the infection and alleviate the burden to the medical system, so that everyone in Japan can have a calm new year," Suga said.

He also announced a $11,500 per month support payment for hospitality businesses, to help owners comply with a shortening of trading hours. Doctors and nurses treating serious Covid-19 patients will receive a bonus payment of $50 per hour.

7:35 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Physicians' group recommends vaccines "should not be withheld from pregnant individuals"

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured on December 8 in Cardiff, Wales.
A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured on December 8 in Cardiff, Wales. Justin Tallis/Pool/Getty Images

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the newly authorized Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine “should not be withheld” from people who are pregnant and should be offered to those who are breastfeeding.

"While safety data on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy are not currently available, there are also no data to indicate that the vaccines should be contraindicated, and no safety signals generated from DART [Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology] studies for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine," ACOG said in an advisory statement on Sunday.

The physicians' group recommended that pregnant people should be able to make their own decision in conjunction with their clinical care team, adding that they would "otherwise be considered a priority population for a vaccine approved for use under EUA [Emergency Use Authorization]."

ACOG recommended that Covid-19 vaccines be offered to lactating individuals "when they meet criteria for receipt of the vaccine" based on the priority order outlined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

ACOG also recommended vaccination among people who actively trying to become pregnant or are thinking about pregnancy.

"Additionally, it is not necessary to delay pregnancy after completing both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine," said the statement.

UK regulators have said that until more evidence is available, people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant within three months should delay their vaccination.

7:08 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Germany's situation is "dead serious," says President

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin 

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gives a speech in Berlin on December 14.
Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gives a speech in Berlin on December 14. Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Monday that tougher lockdown restrictions in Germany are vital to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, calling the situation “dead serious.” 

“From Wednesday onwards, our public and private life will be more restricted than we have ever seen in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he said, adding: “The situation is dead serious.”

In a rare speech, the German president addressed the nation a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country would return to tighter lockdown restrictions from Wednesday over the festive period. Non-essential retail and services as well schools and kindergartens will close down until January 10, 2021. 

“Thousands of deaths in a week, and an infection rate that threatens to get out of control. We cannot avoid drastic measures…. We can't risk a situation where the health system can't cope anymore," Steinmeier added.

He said he understood that people are beginning to show coronavirus fatigue but reiterated how vital it is that everyone sticks to the measures announced on Sunday and contributes to bringing down the high infection numbers. 

Germany recorded 16,362 new coronavirus infections on Monday -- 4,000 more than a week ago -- according to data from the Robert Koch Institute, the country's agency for disease control. The overall number of infected people stands at 1,337,078. The death toll rose by 188 to 21,975, data showed.

On Friday, Germany recorded nearly 30,000 new coronavirus infections and nearly 600 deaths within 24 hours in a record day for both daily infections and fatalities.