CDC Gives Final Signoff on U.S. Vaccination Start: Virus Update
A worker wearing wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sprays disinfectant inside a classroom at Baekyoung high school ahead of the college scholastic ability test (CAST) in Anyang, South Korea. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

CDC Gives Final Signoff on U.S. Vaccination Start: Virus Update

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally signed off on U.S. vaccinations against Covid-19 to begin as early as Monday, saying the goal is to “help restore some normalcy to our lives and our country.”

New York City, where indoor dining at restaurants and bars is halting on Monday, said its positive-test rate remains above the 5% threshold that influences virus-related restrictions. New Jersey plans to being vaccinations on Tuesday.

While the virus is raging in much of the U.S., the head of the government’s vaccine drive said as much as 80% of the U.S. population could be vaccinated by next summer, putting “herd immunity” within reach.

Germany’s health minister called for swift European Union approval of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, saying all necessary data are in.

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CDC Gives Final Signoff on U.S. Vaccination Start: Virus Update

California Retreats From Record Cases, Deaths (2:05 p.m. NY)

California’s new cases and deaths dropped Sunday from a record the day before. The state reported 30,334 new infections, bringing the total to 1.6 million, while 122 new deaths were added for a total of 20,969.

Hospitalizations climbed to a new high, while the number of available intensive-care unit beds, still hovering near a record low, increased by 25 to 1,444. The state has imposed a stay-home order on about two-thirds of its residents over the holiday season as the supply of ICU beds dropped below its threshold.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Saturday that fatalities increased in the past week, with three deaths in the county every hour.

French ICU Cases Rise After Weeks of Decline (2 p.m. NY)

Covid-19 patients in intensive-care units in France increased for the first time in almost four weeks, rising by 10 to 2,871, according to the Health Ministry. Hospitalizations for illness related to the virus, which include ICUs, climbed by 259, the most in three weeks.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases rose for a sixth straight day, topping 12,000 for the first time since Nov. 27.

By contrast, deaths increased by 150, the least in seven weeks.

CDC Gives Formal Vaccine Signoff (1:10 p.m. NY)

CDC Director Robert Redfield said he signed an advisory panel’s recommendation to use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in people 16 and older, a formality required to kick off the U.S. vaccine drive.

Vaccinations are “set to start as early as Monday,” Redfield said in a statement Sunday.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the U.S., CDC’s recommendation comes at a critical time,” he said. Deploying a vaccine is “the next step in our efforts to protect Americans, reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and help restore some normalcy to our lives and our country.”

Ireland Infections Quicken After Lockdown (12:46 p.m. NY)

Ireland’s pace of Covid-19 infections is increasing and a cause for concern, two weeks after the government rolled back a nationwide lockdown, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said.

The rolling five-day average of cases is back to more than 300 after declining for weeks, he said. Ireland reported 429 new cases Sunday, “a large number by the standard of recent weeks,” Holohan said. It’s only the second day since mid-November with more than 400 cases.

U.S. Hospital Strain to Peak in January, FDA Ex-Head Says (12:04 p.m. NY)

A slowing of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. Midwest and West offers “hopeful signs,” even as infections on the east and west coasts are accelerate, former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Even with the imminent start of vaccinations in the U.S., “we need to keep the health-care system from getting maxed out,” Gottlieb said. “They’re not going to see peak burden on hospital resources probably until mid January, late January.”

New Jersey Shots to Start Tuesday, Murphy Says (12:03 p.m. NY)

New Jersey’s coronavirus cases passed 400,000 on Sunday with another 4,170 positive tests reported. An additional 24 people in the state died of illness related to Covid-19, bringing the toll to 15, 883, which is the nation’s fifth-highest.

The first vaccines in New Jersey will be administered on Tuesday, according to Governor Phil Murphy.

Lithuania Tightens Restrictions (11:43 a.m. NY)

Lithuania’s government decided at an emergency meeting on Sunday to tighten a national lockdown for the next six weeks, closing nonessential stores, restricting mobility within the country and allowing people to leave home only for work and to buy food.

Lithuania has Europe’s second-highest 14-day average of new cases per capita.

NYC Remains Above Positive-Test Threshold (11 a.m. NY)

With indoor dining at New York eateries due to halt on Monday, the positive-test rate remained higher than the 5% benchmark that helps determine virus-related restrictions by the city, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

While bars and restaurants are being restricted to outdoor and takeout service under an order by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the city’s “vaccine command center” is due to open on Monday.

New York City reported 206 new hospitalizations for Covid-19 on Sunday, 13 more than the previous day. The positivity rate was 5.5%. It’s been at more than 5% since Nov. 30.

Most of U.S. to Be Vaccinated by June: Slaoui (9:30 a.m. NY)

As many as eight in 10 people in the U.S. could be vaccinated by next summer, according to Moncef Slaoui, who heads the government’s push to approve and distribute vaccines.

After the FDA authorized emergency use of the the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, a Moderna Inc. vaccine “likely will be approved by Friday,” Slaoui said on “Fox News Sunday.”

It’s part of a portfolio of six products to ramp up the number of available doses in the U.S., he said.

“We need to have immunized about 75% to 80% of the U.S. population before herd immunity can really be established,” he said. “We hope to reach that point between the month of May and the month of June.”

Slaoui said “we are very concerned by the level of hesitancy we see” in people’s acceptance of vaccines.

Portugal Reports Record Deaths (9:28 a.m. NY)

Portugal on Sunday reported 98 deaths, more than the previous daily record of 95 announced on Friday, and taking the total number of fatalities to 5,559.

Abu Dhabi to Reopen to Foreign Tourists (9:26 a.m. NY)

Abu Dhabi is planning to reopen for international tourists by early January as it eases restrictive measures, looking to recover from the pandemic.

The capital of the United Arab Emirates will allow visitors from a group of countries it deems safe, and that list will be updated every two weeks, according to an official at the Department of Culture and Tourism. The timeline for re-opening may change, the official said. Travelers from other countries with a lower safety grade will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

Half of Brazilians Wouldn’t Take Chinese Vaccine, Poll Shows (9:22 a.m. NY)

Half of Brazilians wouldn’t take the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. with Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, a Datafolha poll shows.

The Chinese vaccine, known as CoronaVac, has the highest rejection rate among those polled, at 50%, according to data published Saturday by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

More than a third wouldn’t take a vaccine developed by Russia and a quarter would reject one produced by the U.K. The lowest rejection rate, of 23%, is for a U.S.-developed vaccine.

Kuwait Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine (7:50 a.m. NY)

Kuwait authorized the use of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine, while nearby Bahrain registered one made by China’s Sinopharm Group Co.

EU’s Michel Sees Vaccine Approval ‘in Coming Weeks’ (7:46 a.m. NY)

European Council President Charles Michel said he expects the first Covid vaccines to be approved in the EU “in the coming weeks, maybe even before the end of the year.”

The bloc has decided to follow its regulatory process and “not to play” with approval, Michel said. European countries are working on a simultaneous vaccination drive, to avoid some countries falling months behind others, Michel said in an interview with France Inter radio Sunday.

Slovakia Plans to Impose Hard Lockdown (7:30 a.m. NY)

Health Minister Marek Krajci will propose at a government meeting Wednesday to impose a nationwide hard lockdown restricting the movement of people, he said on TV Markiza. The proposal has the support of Premier Igor Matovic.

Italy to Start Vaccination in Mid-January (5:48 a.m. NY)

Italy plans to start vaccinating its population in mid-January, coronavirus emergency chief Domenico Arcuri said. The country is facing a potential third wave of new cases after the Christmas holidays, unless citizens continue to follow restrictions, virologist Massimo Galli said in an interview with Il Messaggero.

Israel Likely to Accelerate Vaccination Schedule (5:27 a.m. NY)

Israel will likely begin to make Covid-19 vaccines available to the population ahead of schedule, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The capacity of the country’s health-care organizations will allow Israel to bring forward the Dec. 27 starting date for inoculation, Netanyahu said Sunday.

U.K. Government Warned About Christmas (6:33 p.m. HK)

The U.K. government has been warned by leaders of the National Health Service that a plan to ease lockdown restrictions in hard-hit parts of the country for the Christmas holiday period could lead to a third wave of infections, the Times of London reported.

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government would likely ease the tightest restrictions affecting millions of Britons in time for the holidays with further steps for the five-day period over Christmas.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News Sunday that the government would not be “canceling” the Christmas break. “I think people do need that five-day window for Christmas to spend a bit of time with their loved ones” Raab said.

Germany to Enter Hard Lockdown (6:08 p.m. HK)

Germany will enter a hard lockdown from Wednesday with non-essential stores shuttered, employers urged to close workplaces and schoolchildren encouraged to stay home.

The tighter restrictions, including a ban on New Year’s gatherings and related fireworks sales, will last until at least Jan. 10 after a looser shutdown failed to halt a surge in infections.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should be granted EU approval as soon as possible, because “all the necessary data are available,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Twitter.

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