U.K. Rollout Hits a Snag; Canada Approves Vaccine: Virus Update

The U.K.’s vaccination campaign hit a stumbling block after two people with allergiesexperienced reactions to the Pfizer shot. Canada’s health authorities approved the vaccine, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said30,000 doses may arrive as early as Monday.

California’s average rate of positive tests over 14 days reached 8.8%, the highest since the spring as cases surged to another record. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned Americans to avoid crowded indoor social gatherings.

Pfizer said a cyberattack had exposed some documents filed with a European regulator relating to its vaccine review.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 68 million; deaths top 1.56 million
  • U.S. Hot Spots: December smashes records as deaths near 300,000
  • Chicago aims to offer all adultsfree Covid vaccine in 2021
  • Tophospital chain ready to vaccinate 1 million daily in India
  • Tracking coronavirus vaccines that will end the pandemic

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Chicago to Offer Vaccine to All Adults (4:51 a.m. HK)

Chicago is expecting to get thousands of coronavirus vaccine doses this month and is aiming to offer the vaccine free of charge to all adult residents in 2021,city officials said Wednesday.

After Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. receive federal approvals and city gets guidance from an immunization advisory committee, Chicago can move forward with its vaccine rollout plan. The city will allocate its initial doses to its 34 hospitals the week of Dec. 14, officials said in a press release on Wednesday. Health-care workers who treat Covid patients or conduct procedures that put them at high risk for spread will be the first to receive the vaccine. Chicago has about 400,000 health workers including doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff.

California Breaks Record Again (4 a.m. HK)

California reported 30,851 new virus cases, topping the record of 30,075 set over the weekend. The average rate of positive tests over 14 days reached 8.8%, the highest since the spring.

Hospitalizations jumped 3.8% in the past 24 hours to a record to 11,965 patients. With cases soaring, much of the state is now in lockdown as officials warn of intensive-care units becoming overwhelmed.

First Shipments of Pfizer Shots: 2.9M Doses (3:52 a.m. HK)

Less than half of the available 6.4 million doses of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine will be initially sent out to states, and 500,000 will be held separately in reserve by the government, according to a top official at Operation Warp Speed.

Gustave Perna, the army general who serves as Warp Speed’s chief operating officer, said on a call with reporters Wednesday that the U.S. plans to distribute 2.9 million doses in the first round of shipments following authorization of Pfizer’s still-experimental vaccine. The rest will be held back to be distributed to states and other jurisdictions when the first people vaccinated are due for their second dose 21 days later.

The half a million shots in reserve will be ready for unforeseen circumstances, Perna said, calling the move “good army general officer planning.”

Pfizer Documents Accessed in Cyberattack (3:02 a.m. HK)

Pfizer Inc. said some documents it had submitted to Europe’s top drug regulator regarding its Covid-19 vaccine had been accessed in a cyberattack on the agency.

The drugmaker and partner BioNTech SE said in a statement that they had been told by the European Medicines Agency that some documents relating to the regulatory submission for their vaccine and that had been stored on the EMA server had been unlawfully accessed.

The companies said that none of their systems had been breached in connection with the incident and that “we are unaware that any study participants have been identified through the data being accessed.”

The companies said EMA informed them that the attack would have no effect on the timing of the vaccine review.

N.J. Hospitalizations Could Exceed Earlier Peak (3 a.m. HK)

Two projections of New Jersey’s second-wave hospitalizations paint a dire picture, with hundreds of more people needing in-patient care than during the April peak.

In a worst-case scenario — no masks and people not social distancing — New Jersey hospitals would have 8,747 patients on Jan. 14, according to a model by the state health department. The state innovation office came up with 8,689 patients on Feb. 5. Last April 14, the pandemic’s height, 8,270 people required hospitalization in New Jersey.

In a moderate scenario, with people continuing to follow the precautions recommended by Governor Phil Murphy, the state would have 6,333 in-patients, according to the health department. The innovation office predicted 5,752.

Canada Approves Pfizer Vaccine (12:51 a.m. HK)

Canada’s public health authoritiesapproved Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s coronavirus vaccine, the first such authorization in a country that’s secured more doses per person than any other around the world.

The approval paves the way for Justin Trudeau to begin a government campaign to vaccinate Canadians against Covid-19, which has killed more that 12,800 people in the country so far. The prime minister said last month that a majority the population should be able to get their shots by September.

Arizona Sees Most Deaths Since August (12:20 a.m. HK)

Arizona on Wednesday reported 108 new Covid-19 deaths, the biggest daily tally since mid-August, bringing the state’s toll to 7,081. The spike in fatalities came a day after Arizona recorded a record 12,314 new cases as the state struggles with a surge rivaling the one it faced in the summer.

French Resistance to Covid Vaccine Grows (12:20 a.m. HK)

More than half of the French don’t plan to get a shot against Covid-19, according to a survey by pollster Elabe for BFM TV published on Wednesday. Of those surveyed, 52% said they certainly or probably won’t get vaccinated, up 4 points from two weeks earlier. That’s even as 70% of respondents said they’re worried about the coronavirus. Resistance to the vaccine is greatest in political groups opposed to the government of Emmanuel Macron, the survey found.

Covid Was in Italy in November 2019: CDC (12:15 a.m. HK)

The coronavirus was circulating in Italy as soon as the end of November 2019, according to anew report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lending weight to other studies that have suggested an earlier appearance of the disease in Europe.

Michigan Lawmakers Infected After Giuliani Visit (11:55 p.m. HK)

An outbreak of Covid-19 in the Michigan House infecting at least eight members and 21 staffers has forced the cancellation of voting sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.

The infections come roughly a week after President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared, unmasked, for marathon testimony before a House committee probing unsubstantiated claims of large-scale fraud in Michigan’s presidential election. Giuliani later tested positive for the virus.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, issued a statement Tuesday saying that several members “requested time to receive results” from Covid-19 tests. Chatfield spokesman Gideon D’Assandro declined to provide the names of those infected, and said those cases were “cumulative for the year.”

Giuliani’s visit to Arizona last week also led to a cancellation of legislative sessions this week to prevent spread of the virus.

U.S. in Talks With Merck on Treatment (11:08 p.m. HK)

Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. program to accelerate drugs and vaccines to thwart the pandemic, is in negotiations with Merck & Co. to secure supply of a treatment for the deadliest cases of Covid-19.

As hospitalizations top all-time highs in the U.S., Warp Speed’s chief scientific officer, Moncef Slaoui, told Bloomberg that talks with Merck for the under-the-radar drug, CD24Fc, ensued after the drug giant acquired a 10-person biotechnology company that had spent decades developing it. Within months, patients with severe and critical cases of Covid-19 could get access to the intravenous treatment that appears to halve the risk of both respiratory failure and death.

U.S.’s Azar Warns About Indoor Meetings (10:48 p.m. HK)

The U.S.’s Azar said it’s important to wear a face covering and avoid indoor gatherings as the holiday season approaches.

“Please look out for those overcrowded indoor gatherings,” he said on CNN. “Whether it’s restaurants or bars or multi-household gatherings, just please be careful.”

Luxembourg Extends Curbs, No Holiday Exception (10:18 p.m. HK)

Luxembourg’s new virus infections are still too high, which is why the partial lockdown in place since Nov. 26 will be extended until Jan. 15, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said at a press conference. Restaurants and cafes will remain closed and people aren’t allowed to invite more than two people from the same household to their home. No exceptions will be made for the holiday period. “I know this is difficult, but this is not the time to loosen the curbs,“ Bettel said.

U.K. Says Those With Allergies Should Avoid Pfizer Shot (7:01 p.m. HK)

The U.K.’s National Health Service warning about allergies came a day after the U.K. became the first western nation to begin a Covid vaccination program.

Both patients, who were staff members of the NHS, are recovering well, according to the health service.

Positive Case on Cruise to Nowhere (9:10 a.m. HK)

A Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. shipreturned early to Singapore after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19. About 2,000 people are on the Quantum of the Seas vessel and they’ve been told to stay in their rooms as a precautionary measure.

“We know this isn’t exactly how you planned to spend your cruise, and we are terribly sorry,” Royal Caribbean said in a note to passengers. Breakfast was delivered to guests in their rooms and passengers were given permission to smoke in their bathrooms.

— With assistance by Dan Reichl

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