Pfizer seeks FDA approval for its vaccine, the CDC urges Americans to avoid Thanksgiving travel, and the federal pandemic response draws renewed concern. Here’s what you should know:
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Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is first to seek emergency use authorization in the US
Pfizer and BioNTech are applying for emergency use authorization from the FDA today for their coronavirus vaccine, the first to seek approval in the US. The news comes just days after the companies announced they had the data needed to seek emergency use and found the vaccine to be 95 percent effective and safe. The vaccine requires two doses a couple weeks apart, and the companies say recipients are protected from SARS-CoV-2 28 days after receiving the first shot. It will need to be transported and stored at incredibly cold temperatures.
It seems likely that the FDA will make its decision about granting emergency use authorization after its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meets on December 8, 9, and 10. After that, a CDC advisory committee will review the data and decide which groups should be vaccinated first. The vaccine could be available by the middle to end of next month. Moderna also released promising early results from its vaccine trial this week and may be ready to apply for FDA approval soon. It’s possible the agency will review the two mRNA vaccines at the same time.
The virus continues to surge as officials urge Americans not to travel for the holidays
Coronavirus cases and hospitalization rates continue to rise at alarming rates across the country. As of this week, more than a quarter of a million Americans have died of Covid-19. Infectious disease experts estimate that more than 3 million people across the US are currently infected and potentially contagious.
As the virus spreads swiftly, even state and local officials who were once resistant to issuing restrictions have started cracking down. Governors in states like New Mexico and California have announced new stay-at-home orders and bans on nonessential indoor services, while New York City’s public school system has halted in-person schooling. On Thursday, CDC officials urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving during the agency’s first news briefing in months. Even if you get tested beforehand or avoid air travel, there is no safe way to gather with people outside of your household to celebrate the holiday this year.
The federal pandemic response draws renewed concern as aid programs are set to expire at year’s end
Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday that he would be ending several of the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs at the end of the year. He asked that unspent money initially given to the Fed as part of the first stimulus bill be reallocated, a decision the central bank criticized. Two unemployment programs that assist millions are also set to expire at year’s end.
During a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing this week—the first in months—Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the rise in cases nationwide, touted the imminent arrival of a vaccine, and condemned the idea of a national lockdown. But clear-cut national guidelines remain elusive. Overall, the lack of transparency surrounding coronavirus policies across the country has made it harder for the public to evaluate the job being done and for individuals to tailor their behavior throughout this pandemic. All of this guarantees that, while the end may soon be in sight, this crisis will almost certainly get worse before it gets better.
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What makes it so challenging to document the tragedy of this pandemic?
While there is extensive reporting and data collection happening in an effort to record the impact of coronavirus, efforts to visually document the suffering wrought by this pandemic have been scattered at best. There are a few reasons for this. Medical privacy laws prevent hospitals from disclosing identifying information about patients, which includes images of faces, and there are malpractice lawsuits to worry about. Many families have been denied the opportunity to see loved ones before they die. Recording such an event would only be retraumatizing for all involved. And yet, the fact that there is so little imagery prevents us from bearing witness to tragedy, and may be part of the reason why this pandemic continues to seem abstract or overblown to so many Americans.
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