Coronavirus updates: FDA authorizes 2nd vaccine; Dozens of Democrats in Congress want teachers vaccinated

Joel Shannon

Joshua Bote
 
| USA TODAY

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Mike Pence gets COVID-19 vaccine

Vice President Mike Pence received the COVID-19 vaccine on December 18.

Associated Press, USA TODAY

USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as vaccines begin to roll out nationwide. Just this week, the U.S. marked the stark milestone of more than 17 million cases and 300,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines:

► A second COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration. Trucks will begin moving the vaccine this weekend, with the first of 5.9 million already manufactured Moderna shots expected to be given on Monday. 

► Both vaccines carry “a remote chance” of causing a severe allergic reaction. As the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations begin ramping up, the FDA is looking into five in the U.S., including a severe reaction in Alaska. 

► In Turkey, a fire broke out at an intensive care unit treating COVID-19 patients after an oxygen cylinder exploded, killing nine people.

► President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will be getting their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, according to Biden’s incoming press secretary, Jen Psaki. Among high-profile politicians to receive the vaccine Friday: Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

► California has emerged as one of the most lethal hot spots in the nation currently, leading to scenes reminiscent of New York City in the spring. ICU capacity has dropped to 0% at hospitals in Southern California, state data showed.

► Federal officials closed the Washington Monument to visitors on a temporary basis beginning Friday after U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who led a private tour of the monument this week, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

► Anti-lockdown sentiment is featured prominently in a major music collaboration. Van Morrison crafted an anti-lockdown tune with Eric Clapton. Proceeds from “Stand and Deliver,” will go to Morrison’s Save Live Music campaign benefitting those working in the music industry in the UK and Ireland.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 17.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 313,669 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 75 million cases and 1.6 million deaths. 

Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:

Americans will soon have access to a second COVID-19 vaccine after Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, granted emergency authorization Friday to a vaccine made by Moderna.

The clearance, which is authorization rather than approval because longer-term research is still needed, comes less than a week after the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German collaborator, BioNTech, got a similar OK.

On Thursday, an independent advisory committee reviewed data from human trials of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine, deciding its benefits outweighed its risks. The vaccine, according to a trial that included 30,000 volunteers, protected more than 94% of recipients from active disease, without causing major safety concerns.

Trucks will begin moving the vaccine this weekend, with the first of 5.9 million already manufactured Moderna shots expected to be given on Monday. Moderna says it will be able to deliver 20 million doses of its vaccine by the end of December. Another 80 million will be available in the first few months of 2021, under a contract signed in August that brought the U.S. government’s direct financial backing of the company to $2.5 billion.

– Karen Weintraub

One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population. In some states, more than half of prisoners have been infected, according to data collected by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project.

As the pandemic enters its 10th month — and as the first Americans begin to receive long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines — at least 275,000 prisoners have been infected, more than 1,700 have died and the spread of the virus behind bars shows no sign of slowing. New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far outstripping previous peaks in April and August.

“That number is a vast undercount,” said Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex.

Venters has conducted more than a dozen court-ordered COVID-19 prison inspections around the country. “I still encounter prisons and jails where, when people get sick, not only are they not tested but they don’t receive care. So they get much sicker than need be,” he said.

Now the rollout of vaccines poses difficult decisions for politicians and policymakers. As the virus spreads largely unchecked behind bars, prisoners can’t social distance and are dependent on the state for their safety and well-being.

— The Associated Press

Contributing: The Associated Press

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