Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care.
There’s some good news on the vaccine front, but the U.S. has now confirmed 10 million COVID-19 cases. And President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPence to attend Senate GOP lunch on TuesdayBiden transition team to mull legal action over agency’s transition delays: reportsManchin shoots down chance that Senate Democrats nix filibuster, expand courtMORE is getting a head start on his coronavirus response.
Let’s start with the vaccine news:
Pfizer coronavirus vaccine candidate more than 90 percent effective, interim analysis shows
After weeks of mounting coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, the country finally got some good COVID-related news on Monday morning: An interim analysis found Pfizer’s vaccine candidate is more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.
- The results are better than expected. “[90 percent is] an incredibly high number for most vaccines,” said Bob Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco. “Most people were expecting 50 to 70 percent.”
- It won’t be available right away. The first high-risk groups, such as health care workers, could receive the vaccine in December, but most of the general public will likely not get it until several months into 2021.
- It’s still important to take precautions. Because the vaccine will not be available right away, mask-wearing, distancing and washing hands are still crucial.
“We all need to keep two seemingly contradictory facts in mind,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted Monday. “1. We are entering the hardest days of the pandemic. The next two months will see a lot of infections and deaths. 2. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Today, that light got a bit brighter.”
Biden lauds Pfizer news, but urges country to remain cautious
President-elect Joe Biden is setting realistic expectations about the future of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden on Monday lauded the news of Pfizer’s progress on a COVID-19 vaccine but urged Americans to be cautious because widespread vaccination is still many months away.
In a statement, Biden said Pfizer’s announcement that interim data showed its vaccine is 90 percent effective is “excellent news” that gives Americans “cause for hope.”
But Biden said the news does not mean there is a cure. He urged patience and attempted to set realistic expectations that the timetable for any potential vaccine has not changed, and it will be well into 2021 before there is widespread vaccination.
“America is still losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19, and that number is rising — and will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions. That is the reality for now, and for the next few months. Today’s announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same,” Biden said.
Trump contrast: “STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!” President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence to attend Senate GOP lunch on TuesdayBiden transition team to mull legal action over agency’s transition delays: reportsTrump campaign lawyers worry about pushing lawsuits that could undermine election: reportMORE tweeted after the news.
Trump has used the development of a vaccine as a political tool. He’s accused Food and Drug Administration scientists of being part of a “deep state” conspiracy to slow a vaccine, and said the agency was pulling a “political hit job.”
US surpasses 10 million COVID-19 infections
The United States became the first country to surpass 10 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, according to a count from The Washington Post, a grim milestone that comes as experts warn of a surge this fall and winter.
The U.S. continues to have more cases than any other country, averaging more than 111,000 new cases per day. Nearly 133,000 new cases were reported on Friday, the highest number reported in a single day.
Experts had long warned that new cases would surge in the fall and winter as the cold weather forces people to spend more time indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.
Cases started climbing in the U.S. in September, before increasing rapidly in recent weeks.
“We all realize our nation is in a critical phase of the pandemic, with significant community spread,” Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir told reporters on a call Monday.
Read more here.
Biden unveils COVID-19 task force
The experts include Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority who said he was forced out his position earlier this year after opposing promoting unproven treatments.
Bioethicist and oncologist Zeke Emanuel, who served as former adviser to the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act and is brother of former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and Atul Gawande, a surgeon who served as adviser to the Clinton and Obama administrations, will also serve on the panel.
Other experts who will serve as co-chairs include Vivek MurthyVivek Hallegere MurthyBiden unveils COVID-19 task forceThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden sets to work amid post-election limboCuomo: ‘The political pressure of denying COVID is gone’ with Trump defeatMORE, a former surgeon general who served in the Obama administration; David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of internal medicine, public health and management and the founding director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center.
NIH study: Hydroxychloroquine had no benefit for hospitalized COVID-19 patients
In what should be the final nail in the coffin for hydroxychloroquine, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study officially concluded the drug provides no benefit for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday, though the NIH stopped the study in June on the recommendation of an independent data monitoring board.
The study found that while hydroxychloroquine did not cause any additional harm, it didn’t help patients either.
“While we hoped that hydroxychloroquine would help, even this is an important result as we work together to find effective treatments for COVID-19,” said Samuel Brown, a critical care physician at Intermountain Healthcare and an investigator who helped lead the trial.
What we’re reading
As COVID-19 cases spiral, leaders around U.S. lose urgency on prevention (STAT)
A little-known Trump appointee is in charge handling transition resources to Biden – and she isn’t budging (The Washington Post)
Shot to prevent HIV works better than daily pill in women (The New York Times)
State by state
Utah governor declares emergency, issues mask mandate (The Washington Post)
Coronavirus cases, positivity rate on the rise in California (NBC Bay Area)
Wisconsin hospitals caring for more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients as state ranks among worst in U.S. for new cases (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
The Hill op-eds