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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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.” 

9:51 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

Stocks rise on vaccine and stimulus optimism

From CNN’s Paul R. La Monica

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

US stocks opened notably higher Tuesday. Investors continue to express hopes for another federal Covid-19 stimulus package and cheer the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine. That is offsetting lingering concerns that there could be more lockdowns imposed by states and cities if cases continue to spike.

Here's how the markets opened today:

  • The Dow gained 0.6%, or nearly 170 points.
  • The S&P 500 was up 0.7%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite also rose 0.7%.
9:35 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

New Jersey expects to receive 76,000 doses of vaccine this week, health commissioner says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Six acute care hospitals in New Jersey will have received the first doses of the vaccine by the end of the day Tuesday, according to the state's health commissioner.

By the end of the week vaccines should be available to an additional 47 acute care hospitals, Judy Persichilli added. The state expects 76,000 doses this week and of those about 20,000 will be released for long term care facilities, she said.

The state plans to have 18 hospitals receive the Moderna vaccine once it's approved. The full plan covers all 71 of NJ’s hospitals. The anticipation is that the vaccinations reach the general public by April or May, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

8:47 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

A New Jersey nurse celebrating her birthday was one of the first in the state to get a Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

A Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is administered at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, on December 15.
A Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is administered at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, on December 15. New Jersey Governor's Office

Frontline nurse Maritza Beniquez was among the first people in New Jersey to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccinations were given at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, in the presence of Gov. Phil Murphy among others.

Murphy tweeted Tuesday morning, calling the moment "historic."

Beniquez is also celebrating her birthday today, Mahen Gunaratna, Murphy's communications director, tweeted.

Watch:

9:15 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

FDA panel document confirms Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine's efficacy ahead of Thursday meeting 

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A participant receives an injection as part of a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna on August 4 in DeLand, Florida.
A participant receives an injection as part of a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna on August 4 in DeLand, Florida. Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto/Getty Images

An advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration released a briefing document on Tuesday morning detailing data on Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine candidate, which will be considered this week for emergency use authorization (EUA) in the United States among adults age 18 and older.

What's in the document: The document confirms that the vaccine's efficacy against Covid-19 was 94.5%, occurring at least 14 days after the second dose – an efficacy that had been previously reported by Moderna – and that the vaccine has a "favorable" safety profile. The proposed dosing regimen is to administer two 100-microgram doses of vaccine one month apart. 

The document also describes the components of the vaccine, which include mRNA – genetic information about the novel coronavirus called messenger RNA. The vaccine contains a synthetic mRNA that codes for a structure called the "pre-fusion stabilized spike glycoprotein" of the virus, or the part of the virus that it uses to attach to cells.

Among its other ingredients, the vaccine also contains fatty materials called lipids, tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate and sucrose. 

The document goes on to note that the mRNA-1273 vaccine has "a favorable safety profile, with no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an EUA." The most common adverse reactions to the vaccine have been injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain and chills, according to the document. Swollen lymph nodes have also been reported. 

There also have been reports of facial paralysis or Bell's Palsy, but the document notes "currently available information is insufficient to determine a causal relationship with the vaccine."

Overall, "the frequency of non-fatal serious adverse events was low and without meaningful imbalances between study arms (1% in the mRNA-1273 group and 1% in the placebo group)." 

As of December 3, the document notes that 13 deaths had been reported; six were among people given the vaccine and seven among those given a placebo. "These deaths represent events and rates that occur in the general population of individuals in these age groups," according to the document, as some were due to pre-existing cardiac disease and other causes.

About this week's meeting: 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 mRNA-1273 vaccine outweigh its risks for use in adults age 18 and older.

The committee will also discuss what additional studies should be conducted by the vaccine manufacturer following issuance of the EUA, to gather further data on safety and effectiveness.

8:34 a.m. ET, December 15, 2020

Do you have questions and concerns about the Covid-19 vaccine? CNN wants to hear them.

The Covid-19 vaccine has arrived in the United States, but it has been greeted with some public skepticism. Although the percentage of Americans willing to take the vaccine is rising, health officials are still struggling to combat distrust — especially among the Black community.

Do you have questions about the vaccine? International correspondents and experts will join CNN's town hall on Friday to discuss the vaccine and why some in the Black community are reluctant to receive it. 

Submit your questions and concerns here: