Expecting that the FDA will soon give the green light, vaccine advisers to the CDC scheduled meetings for Saturday and Sunday to discuss the Moderna vaccine. The group must vote to recommend it, and the CDC must accept that recommendation before vaccinations can begin.
“I think this is a very exciting moment,” Dr. Hayley Gans, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told CNN. “The data that was presented to us was striking in its efficacy.”
If the Moderna vaccine is authorized, officials expect another 7.9 million vaccine doses to be shipped to states next week, Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said. Two million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s had been allocated for next week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said earlier this week.
“We still anticipate that every American will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by June,” Giroir said.
“I’ve had the chance to be intimately involved in every step of the way here in the development of these vaccines. There have been no shortcuts taken, there’s no hidden information,” he told CNN. “This is something you want to do, for yourself, for your family, for the future of our nation.”
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, meanwhile, has been rolled out this week, with the first doses primarily being given to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
• Cases: The country’s average number of daily cases across a week was 216,674 on Thursday — a record high, John’s Hopkins University data show. That’s more than three times what the daily case average was during a summer peak in July. More than 233,000 cases were reported on Thursday alone — the third-highest one-day count on record.
• Deaths: The nation averaged 2,633 Covid-19 deaths daily across the last week — the highest average yet. The total reported Thursday, 3,270, is the third-highest daily total on record.
Model raises prediction for number of deaths by April
An influential coronavirus model at the University of Washington on Friday projected that a total 562,000 people in the US will have died from Covid-19 by April 1 — up significantly from the prediction it made last week, when it forecast 502,000 deaths by that date.
The increase is due to surges in cases and deaths, with particularly large increases in California, the model from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation says.
The US could see more than 3,750 deaths reported daily in mid-January, the IHME predicted. The country so far has reported a total of 310,700 Covid-19 deaths.
VP and surgeon general get vaccines on live TV
After getting his shot, Pence said history will show this week’s vaccine rollout marked the beginning of the end of the pandemic, “but with cases rising across the country … we have a ways to go.”
“What I hope is that this is showing those health care workers … that we care about you, and the fact that we’re here, getting this live, is to give them confidence, that this is safe — we believe this is safe, and they must do this to protect themselves,” Montgomery Rice said.
Some states see Covid-19 numbers surge, others loosen restrictions
Florida reported the highest number of daily new cases since mid-July. Kentucky’s governor announced a record number of new deaths, saying it was “by far the most people that we’ve lost.” Pennsylvania’s health officials announced the state’s number of hospitalizations is double the peak in the spring, with more than 1,200 Covid-19 patients in the ICU.
“We continue to hear of additional hospitals across the state that have few ICU beds left, or in some cases no ICU beds left,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday.
But while many states are still battling a ferocious spread, others are loosening restrictions.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said this week that Covid-19 case numbers have gone down in the state and announced she was lifting all curfews for bars and restaurants and removing limitations for social gatherings.
Bars and restaurants will be able to resume normal operations as long as customers are seated when eating or drinking, wear masks when not seated, be seated 6 feet away from other groups and there are no more than eight people per group, the governor said. The governor also announced she was lifting gathering limitations, but a distance of 6 feet is required between groups.
In Utah, where health officials said hospitals across the state are operating at capacity, Gov. Gary Herbert announced he was removing the restriction on alcohol sales after 10 p.m., saying local bars and restaurants have demonstrated a willingness to enforce physical distancing and mask wearing when customers aren’t eating or drinking.
“We appreciate the willingness to step up and help enforce protocols that make bars and restaurants a safe environment for the patron to come and participate,” the governor said.
‘Another couple of dark months ahead of us’
While the country waits for the vaccine impacts to really kick in — something that won’t likely happen until the early summertime, when vaccines will become more widely available — the tools that could immediately work to help curb the spread of the virus are the ones that have been touted by experts for months: face masks, social distancing and regular hand washing.
“You don’t want to just say, ‘Oh, well, we’re almost there,’ because we’re not. We have another couple of dark months ahead of us if we don’t do something at this point to try to stop this dreadful upward curve of hospitalizations and cases and deaths.”
“This is not the moment to be throwing down your guard and gathering for the holidays,” he added.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee said that while authorization of vaccines is an important turning point in the pandemic, the sobering reality is that more residents are getting sicker and the decisions people made over the Thanksgiving holiday is having a severe impact on the state’s hospital system.
“One thing this vaccine will not solve or cure is selfishness or indifference to what is happening to our neighbors around us,” he said.
CNN’s Amanda Watts, Lauren Mascarenhas, Nakia McNabb, Kay Jones, Sara Murray, Ellie Kaufman, Nadia Kounang, Priscilla Alvarez,Tina Burnside, Melissa Alonso ontributed to this report.