COVID-19 Update

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President Donald Trump’s coronavirus vaccine czar said Tuesday that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines are safe, with only 10% to 15% of volunteers reporting side effects that were “significantly noticeable.”

The side effects, which come from the vaccine shots, can last up to a day and a half, said Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the Trump administration’s Covid-19 vaccine program Operation Warp Speed. The people who’ve suffered from side effects have reported redness and pain at the injection site as well as fever, chills, muscle aches and headaches, he said, adding most people have no noticeable side effects.

“The longer, more important kind of adverse events such as some autoimmune disease or others have not been reported in a different way between the placebo group and the vaccine group in these two trials, which is very reassuring,” he told The Washington Post. “I always make sure we say that [while] we know the short term and I’m going to call it midterm effects of the vaccine is now well understood, the very long-term safety is not yet understood by definition.”

A panel of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a public meeting on Tuesday voted that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to receive the long-awaited coronavirus vaccine. 

The recommendations now must be approved by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield before the vaccine can be distributed to states and ultimately to the groups part of the Phase 1A distribution plans. 

The plan to distribute the vaccine to health care workers and long-term care residents is also dependent on authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which still has to approve an application of emergency use from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the first to apply, and biotech company Moderna. Both companies have developed coronavirus vaccine candidates that have proven over 90% effective in late-stage clinical trials. 

A president who preached "America First" is demanding to know why the United States could end up third, or worse, in the global vaccine race.

President Donald Trump and his deputies are privately admonishing Food and Drug Administration officials for not moving faster to authorize promising coronavirus vaccines — a push partially motivated by Trump’s desire to claim credit for record-fast vaccine development, four officials said.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows grilled Commissioner Stephen Hahn and other top FDA officials in meetings this week on their decisions to require more rigorous review of initial data from the first vaccine candidates. In particular, they questioned why the agency won't authorize a vaccine until after Dec. 10 at the earliest — about a month after Pfizer first reported that its shot was more than 90 percent effective, and roughly three weeks after Moderna announced similarly impressive findings. Multiple Trump appointees and even some career civil servants have argued that every day of delay could make a difference for the most vulnerable populations in a life-threatening pandemic.

As anticipated, a key advisory panel is urging that health care workers and nursing home residents should be the first to get coronavirus vaccine doses in the coming weeks. 

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met today to vote on a proposal that would give vaccine priority to the two groups. 

Recommendations that health care workers and nursing home residents get vaccinated first passed by 13 to one during the Tuesday meeting. 

The two groups encompass around 23 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million. 

As the virtual meeting got underway, panel member Dr Beth Bell of the University of Washington noted that on average, one person is dying of COVID-19 per minute in the U.S. right now, 'so I guess we are acting none too soon.' 

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