December 15 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020
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1:12 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020

Doctor says she found out 27th Covid-19 patient died while walking to get coronavirus vaccine

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor speaks during an interview on December 15.
Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor speaks during an interview on December 15. CNN via Webex Cisco

Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor said getting her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine was “bittersweet,” because as she was walking to receive the vaccine, she heard her 27th patient had died from the virus. 

“It was very emotional for me to get that vaccine yesterday. And even just thinking about it now, I kind of tear up, because have been waiting for this for a long time. I’ve been on the Covid unit since March, so I’ve been doing it pretty much every day, except for a day off here and there. So I had been looking forward to yesterday for a long time,” Briones-Pryor, a physician at the University of Louisville Health, said to CNN’s Dana Bash. 

“I know we still have a hard fight ahead of us. It’s not over, but at least for me this is hope,” she added.

Briones-Pryor said she would not have gotten the vaccine if she didn’t think it was safe and encouraged everyone “to do their part.” 

She said that other than her arm being a little sore, she has no side effects. 

12:57 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020

White House vaccine chief says Biden should be vaccinated

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

President-elect Joe Biden speaks on December 14 at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks on December 14 at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Patrick Semansky/AP

In agreement with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments, Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, says President-elect Joe Biden should be vaccinated.

“I think it’s very important that our leaders — departing ones and arriving ones — are protected. I think both President Trump and President-elect Biden, they’re both parts of the higher age group, and therefore, higher risk, so, yeah, I think they should be vaccinated.”

This would also show the public that they trust the vaccine and lead by example, he added.

Slaoui also said the administration has a plan to push out public messaging on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine so that the American people trust the vaccine.

President Trump’s role in driving that message is “very important,” he added.

“There's a whole fringe of the population that listen to the President very carefully, and therefore, he has an important role. I know he’s been very supportive of the vaccine development, so I hope he will be of course as supportive of its usage.”

Watch:

12:11 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020

White House vaccine chief says he is "optimistic" about the Moderna vaccine

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, speaks during an interview on December 15.
Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, speaks during an interview on December 15. CNN

Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, says he hopes the US Food and Drug Administration will authorize Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization (EUA) this week after it was confirmed to have 94.5% efficacy against the virus.

“I think the data are similar to those of the Pfizer vaccine," he told CNN. "So my expectation is it should be, hopefully, approved also on Friday, a day after the advisory committee [meets.] But, of course, we'll see."

An advisory committee to the FDA released data in a briefing document on Tuesday morning that confirmed the vaccine has a "favorable" safety profile.

The document will be discussed in a meeting this Thursday, during which the FDA's Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will review and provide recommendations on whether the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks for use in adults age 18 and older.

Once approved, Slaoui said the shipment could start 24 hours later. More than 6 million doses of vaccines will be shipped to more than 3,200 sites, he added.

“We're ramping up to distribute more vaccines.”

Watch more:

11:23 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

One of first doctors to receive vaccine says dialogue about health disparities is a pandemic "silver lining"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Lenox Hill Hospital Chair of Emergency Medicine Yves Duroseau receives the Covid-19 vaccine from Doctor Michelle Chester at Long Island Jewish Medical Center on December 14 in New York.
Lenox Hill Hospital Chair of Emergency Medicine Yves Duroseau receives the Covid-19 vaccine from Doctor Michelle Chester at Long Island Jewish Medical Center on December 14 in New York. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

New York physician Dr. Yves Duroseau, one of the first health care workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine in the US, said he received the vaccine on live television yesterday because he thinks it’s important to be a role model for others. 

Duroseau, the chair of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, said he was sending a message as both a leader and physician who has seen patients suffer from Covid-19, as well as to “communities who are maybe reluctant to take the vaccination.”

“There are communities that have suffered disproportionately, and it's very important that they also realized the need to take the vaccination,” he said to CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

Just 20% of Black Americans and 26% of Hispanics said they wanted a coronavirus vaccine right away, according to a survey out today from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Duroseau said a “silver lining” of the pandemic is that the country is having a conversation about health care disparities. 

“We have to reach out to…not just minorities but rural areas. We have to make sure that everyone is included, and we're talking about health care disparities in ways that we've never spoken about them,” he said. 

He said he’s feeling “great” nearly 24 hours after getting the vaccine. 

As someone who lost a family member to the virus, he warned people to not let up on social distancing measures and other guidelines.

Watch:

11:22 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

A health care worker explains why she got vaccinated: "I've seen enough death and dying"

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Shawn Hendricks, a Maryland health care worker, speaks during an interview on December 15.
Shawn Hendricks, a Maryland health care worker, speaks during an interview on December 15. CNN via Webex Cisco

Shawn Hendricks, a Maryland health care worker, always knew she wanted to get vaccinated. Her mother, brother and brother-in-law had already caught the virus, so “it hit home personally,” but work had also shown her the impact of coronavirus.

“I’ve seen enough death and dying within the hospital,” she told CNN.

Hendricks, nursing director of medicine, was the among the first employees at University of Maryland Medical Center to get vaccinated.

“I knew the impact that the vaccine would have because we need it. I always have felt very strongly that if we don't widely vaccinate, this pandemic is going to get worse, the numbers are going to continue to increase,” she said Tuesday.

She says she felt good after getting her shot, and she was observed for a period of time to ensure she had no side effects or adverse effects.

The vaccine is being rolled out while there has been hesitancy in the Black and Latino community to take it. Hendricks says she understands their concern, but having dedicated her life to science and medicine and having done her research, she was willing to get vaccinated.

“I urge, you know, members of our Black community to become vaccinated. We are three times more likely to be affected with Covid than any other ethnic group. So it would only behoove us to be smart about it.”

She added:

“Unfortunately, if it hasn't hit your doorstep yet, it's like a game of Russian roulette. You’re just waiting for your turn.”

Watch:

11:06 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

Walgreens will put ultra-cold freezers at about 100 sites to store Covid-19 vaccine, company official says

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Rick Gates, Walgreens’ senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare, speaks during an interview on December 15.
Rick Gates, Walgreens’ senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare, speaks during an interview on December 15. CNN

Rick Gates, Walgreens’ senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare, told CNN Tuesday that the company is planning on placing freezers that can maintain the temperature needed to store the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. 

"You need to think about the Pfizer vaccine, which does have more challenging storage requirements, but that's something that's just – we've had to plan for. So we are putting out ... ultra-cold freezers in about 100 sites across the US, and then dry ice as well," Gates told CNN's Julia Chatterley.

"So, we're planning for it, and it's all about the storage. Remember, after we store the vaccine – that comes back to preparing and shipping to the long-term care facilities – that's a pretty standard process, we just have to worry about the storage, which we're planning for," he added.

As far as having enough staff to vaccinate the general public, Gates said that starting Monday, Walgreens is hiring 25,000 total team members and about 9,000 pharmacy team members, to ensure they are ready to administer this vaccine.

10:59 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

New York City has administered 73 first dose vaccines, mayor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Lenox Hill Hospital Chair of Emergency Medicine Yves Duroseau receives the Covid-19 vaccine from Doctor Michelle Chester at Long Island Jewish Medical Center on December 14 in New York.
Lenox Hill Hospital Chair of Emergency Medicine Yves Duroseau receives the Covid-19 vaccine from Doctor Michelle Chester at Long Island Jewish Medical Center on December 14 in New York. Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York City has already administered 73 first dose vaccines to health care workers, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Nearly 41,000 more doses are expected to be available by the end of the day at 42 hospitals.

Frontline healthcare workers and nursing homes remain top priority.

“This is going to really speed up,” he said, calling it “incredibly encouraging.”

10:28 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

Top House Republican sends letter to Speaker Pelosi requesting vaccination program on the Hill

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Kristin Wilson with Sunlen Serfaty

Rep. Rodney Davis walks to the Capitol for a vote on September 17 in Washington, DC.
Rep. Rodney Davis walks to the Capitol for a vote on September 17 in Washington, DC. Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

GOP Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Monday asking for there to be a comprehensive vaccine program, especially for essential workers on the Hill.

"Offering immunity vaccinations to the House’s high-risk and frontline essential workers is not only fundamental to the institution’s continuity of operations but is its duty to care for the health and safety of its staff and Members," he wrote in the letter. "Additionally, implementing a clear plan will signal to both the private and public sector that the House has confidence in the vaccine. I have every confidence in our ability to rollout a successful program by the end of January based off the House’s existing flu vaccination model – a tried and trusted program that many House Members and staff are familiar with and benefited from."

Important to note: CNN asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer last week about when members of Congress would get vaccinated. He said there were ongoing discussions at the time but couldn't provide details.

Separately, a Capitol official tells CNN that Capitol Hill has not been notified regarding how many doses of the vaccine will be available.

10:12 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

New Hampshire administers its first Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

The first Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was administered in New Hampshire at Elliot Health System today during an event attended by Gov. Chris Sununu.

Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said the state received “a little over 12,000 vaccinations” and they are hoping to have all of those vaccines “into arms in the next week to two weeks.” 

Vaccinations at long-term care facilities will start on Monday and will take about three weeks for everyone to receive their first dose, Shibinette said. 

Sununu said he will be the first to step up to get his vaccination when it is time, but because he is “fairly young” and doesn’t have any health conditions, he disagrees with getting a dose before those who may need it more. 

“I know there's talk of elected officials and all of this getting their vaccine before those in a long-term care facility or before nurses, I think that's ridiculous frankly,” Sununu said. “I just completely disagree with that, that's my personal opinion.”

Sununu did say if other elected officials are older or have underlying conditions, they should be in the “first mix as well.”