Fauci, Walensky testify on Biden’s Covid-19 response

1 min ago

US will share coronavirus vaccine with the world after Americans are immunized, Fauci says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

The US will share coronavirus vaccines with the rest of the world once Americans are immunized, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

He said the US was already taking steps to help people around the world get vaccines by supporting the COVAX global vaccine distribution effort headed by the World Health Organization and nonprofit vaccine groups.

“We are giving $4 billion to COVAX. But we also know once we get our own country vaccinated, since we have suffered worse than virtually any country besides Brazil – we are both way up there with over 530,000 deaths – then we will make any surplus vaccine available to the countries who have not the resources to be able to make it themselves,” Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said helping other countries get vaccines is a way to protect Americans.

“We are all in this together as a globe. If you look at H1N1 or Ebola or Zika or now Covid, anything that affects areas around the world is potentially a threat to us,” she told the hearing.

“Indeed, these variants, the ones that we are most concerned about right now, also started in outside countries. So I think we have to work as a nation to protect our nation, and I think we have to work as a globe to protect the globe, and to ensure that we can get resources to resource-limited settings to make sure that we can get vaccines out.”

2 min ago

CDC plans to update travel guidance for fully vaccinated Americans, Walensky says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

House E&C
House E&C

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to update its guidance about whether fully vaccinated Americans can safely travel, its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday

“We had internal conversations as we were rolling out guidance for what you can do with vaccination, about what we should say or do about travel. Those never hit pen to paper. They were conversations among subject matter experts,” Walensky told a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“As you may recall, at the time that we released that guidance, just last week, I believe, just 9% of Americans were fully vaccinated. We are now up to about 11%. We are revisiting the travel question. That’s a really key question.”

2 min ago

“Long Covid” is real and needs more study, Fauci says 

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

House E&C
House E&C

“Long Covid” – a syndrome that affects many people who have recovered from the acute effects of coronavirus infection, needs more study, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

“This is real. This is not imaginary. These are people whose symptoms are real,” Fauci told a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He laid out the symptoms:

“Profound fatigue, muscle aches, temperature dysregulation, unexplainable tachycardia and what people refer to as brain fog, which is just a strange feeling of being unable to focus or concentrate for any period of time,” Fauci said. 

Tachycardia refers to an unusually fast heart rate. “They’re lying in bed and their heart rate is 110, 105, 115, which is distinctly abnormal for someone that is sitting down or in bed,” said Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

 He said the National Institutes of Health had been given $1.15 billion to study the problem. “You will be hearing more announcements,” he said.

“But it is a very disconcerting syndrome that I believe is going to have effects that will go on well beyond the control, epidemiologically, of this syndrome.”

Asked about reports that vaccination might help alleviate symptoms, Fauci said more study is needed.

 “The issue is thus far that it’s anecdotal,” he said. “Many people get spontaneously better anyway, and if you get vaccinated and get better, you are not sure whether it’s the vaccine or the spontaneous recovery. So you’ll have to do a randomized trial in order to determine that.”

41 min ago

CDC plans to update guidance on reducing physical distancing in schools to 3 feet, Walensky tells lawmakers

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

House E&C
House E&C

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to issue new guidance allowing less social distancing in schools, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

She said the agency is looking at studies that indicate physical distancing of 3 feet is sufficient to keep students and teachers safe in school.

“As soon as our guidance came out, it became very clear that six feet was among the things that was keeping schools closed. And in that context, science evolves. So there has been one study that was published late last week that demonstrated in Massachusetts, where there’s generally 100% mask wearing, that three feet was actually safe. Student rates and teacher rates of disease were the same at six feet versus three feet,” Walensky told a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“There are several other emerging studies that I am aware of,” she added. “As we look at those studies in the context of this Massachusetts study, we are looking to update our guidance.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) pressed Walensky. “I would urge you to act and act now. We don’t need to wait for additional studies,” McMorris Rodgers said.

“We are actively looking at additional studies. We have only one published study to date,” Walensky answered.

“I, too, am a mother of three, one who has been home schooled the entire year. So I am entirely with you that we need to get our children back.”

See the entire exchange between Rep. McMorris Rodgers and Dr. Walenski:

2 min ago

Fauci says testing in US will show by April whether AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine works safely

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Jens Schlueter/Getty Images
Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Testing in the US will show by April whether AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine works safely, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

But he cast doubt on fears that the vaccine, developed with Britain’s University of Oxford, causes blood clots.

Fauci noted that European regulators are not unduly concerned about reports of blood clots among vaccinated people that have frightened many governments into suspending vaccination programs using AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

“The actual incidence of the clotting is not more than you would expect in the population in the absence of the vaccine. That is why they are insisting that the concern is not founded on the reality of what’s going on,” Fauci told a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that the European Medicines Agency has said there is no indication the vaccines make people more likely to suffer blood clots.

“The EMA has indicated very, very clearly, that they feel that this is not an issue with regard to the supposed adverse event of blood clotting,” Fauci said. The company will submit evidence of safety for its emergency use authorization for the vaccine with the US Food and Drug Administration based on US testing.

 “We in the United States have an ongoing trial that is fully enrolled with the AstraZeneca product. As we get into April, there will likely be enough data to make a determination as to the EUA,” Fauci said.

2 min ago

Fauci calls detection of Covid-19 variants “one of the most concerning developments” in ongoing pandemic 

House E&C
House E&C

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in his written testimony today that while he is “cautiously optimistic” about the future, he is aware many challenges remain.

He pointed to the Covid-19 variants as one of those challenges.

“One of the most concerning developments of the ongoing pandemic is the detection of genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2, some of which appear to be more transmissible than the original virus and less responsive to certain therapeutic agents and vaccine formulations,” Fauci said.

He noted that so far, scientific evidence suggests that the Covid-19 vaccines that are currently being distributed in the United States “continue to be effective against these variants.” Her urged the public, however, to “remain vigilant.”

“NIAID is rapidly conducting research to better understand these emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2, how they interact with the immune system, and their implications for COVID-19 therapeutic and vaccine formulations,” Fauci said in his testimony.

Dr. Fauci: This is one of the most important advances we will be pursuing

2 hr 43 min ago

The hearing just started. Here’s a look at the latest US Covid-19 vaccination figures.

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House is holding a hearing now on the Biden administration’s efforts to increase Covid-19 vaccinations as the country continues to battle the pandemic and prevent possible surges.

The witnesses include:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical adviser
  • Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Peter Marks, director of Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration

While vaccinations are ramping up in the US, experts worry that some Americans are letting up too early and threatening to wipe out the progress made so far.

At least a dozen state leaders have eased Covid-19 restrictions this month, often citing improving Covid-19 trends and growing vaccination numbers.

Here’s a look at the latest Covid-19 vaccine figures from the CDC:

  • The CDC reported Tuesday that 110,737,856 doses have been administered – about 77% of the 142,918,525 doses delivered.
  • The seven-day average remains above 2.4 million doses per day.
  • Nearly 22% of the population – about 72 million people – has received at least one dose of vaccine
  • Nearly 12% of the population – about 39 million people – are fully vaccinated
  • Among the 65-and-older population, more than a third are fully vaccinated, and nearly two-thirds have received at least one dose.
  • All states have fully vaccinated at least 10% of their adult population.

Track Covid-19 vaccines in the US here.

2 hr 44 min ago

Biden laid out 2 target dates for his coronavirus response plan

From CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Jeff Zeleny and Maegan Vazquez

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

During a speech marking the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic last week, President Biden offered a plan to lift the country from crisis using a pair of upcoming dates:

  • May 1: When he will order states to allow all adults to receive vaccines
  • July 4: When he said Americans can again celebrate Independence Day in person

Biden said the efforts he’s undertaken in office could allow for a semblance of normality within months.

“After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation but begin to mark our independence from this virus,” he said.

Biden said the administration will also roll out a set of tools after May 1 to help Americans locate places to get a vaccine. The President underscored the need to accelerate the reopening of schools and said the administration plans to issue further guidance on what people can and cannot do once fully vaccinated.

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during Friday’s briefing that the vaccine locator tools first announced by Biden will include setting up a website and a call center. In addition, the administration will deploy technology teams to improve state and local websites providing vaccine appointments.

3 hr 27 min ago

The threat of Covid-19 variants will be a key topic in today’s hearing

From CNN’s Christina Maxouris

Experts have said safety measures will be crucial because multiple variants of the virus are circulating — including the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the UK.

B.1.1.7 is projected to become the dominant variant in the US by the end of this month or early April, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday. Because it is highly contagious, it could cause a surge in cases, and vaccination levels are not high enough to stop such a spike, experts have said.

“The way the variants spread is by letting our guard down,” Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting CDC director, told CNN on Monday. “By not wearing masks, by not social distancing. If we can hang in there for a few more months, there will be enough vaccine for every adult in America to be vaccinated.”

“Then we can truly let go of some of the restrictions that are in place. But if we do this too quickly, we could see an increase in cases, we could see a backslide that is occurring in many European countries and that does not have to be the outcome here in America,” he added.

Research published last week suggested that the variant was associated with an estimated 64% higher risk of dying from Covid-19.

Another peer-reviewed study has linked the variant to a higher risk of death, according to a paper accepted by the journal Nature. This time, the risk of death from the variant was estimated around 55% higher than earlier strains after adjusting for a number of factors like age, sex, and where and when tests were conducted.

A subsequent analysis in the study that accounted for missing and potentially miscategorized test results found the overall increased risk of death may be somewhat higher — around 61% more than earlier strains.

The study was not able to factor in vaccination nor could it show why the variant might be more deadly than earlier strains. Researchers have said current vaccines generally offer good protection against the B.1.1.7 variant.