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West Virginia governor claims every person over 65 could be vaccinated by Valentine’s Day

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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice lauded his state’s coronavirus vaccine distribution success, and claimed that if the Mountain State had the “doses by Valentine’s Day, every person in this state, 65 years of age and older, would be vaccinated.” 

West Virginia has spent the past three weeks as either the number one or number two state in the nation for vaccine doses administered per capita, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid-19 Vaccination Tracker. The state also boasts a first dose administration rate of 95.2% and a second dose vaccination rate of 46.8%, according to vaccine data posted to West Virginia’s Covid-19 dashboard Wednesday.

Justice broke down his state’s “all in” approach for distributing the Covid vaccine on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith”  

“We didn’t necessarily take the federal approach, we took a practical approach, and we took an all in approach,” Justice said during a Wednesday evening interview. “We brought our National Guard, our local pharmacies, our local health care people, and our local health clinics and everything.”

Justice added that the West Virginia model “isn’t rocket science, this is just about moving and not sitting back and planning a strategy.”

The vaccine rollout remains slower than expected, however, in multiple states across the country. Wisconsin, for example, has been lagging behind and has only distributed 42.5% of its Covid vaccine doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Tony Evers called the state’s vaccine rollout “a little bumpy.” Evers said his state didn’t receive enough vaccines from the federal government and that those administering vaccines needed more time to prepare.

West Virginia has administered nearly 12,000 doses, 77% of their dose supply. Justice underscored the importance of placing older Americans at the forefront of a vaccination strategy. 

“We looked at this just one way, and it was age and age, and age, and we knew we had to move,” Justice said. “We didn’t want vaccines sitting on a shelf, we needed them in people’s arms.”

January 2021 already ranks as the worst month on record in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic began with more than 79,000 fatalities, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. It marks a grim milestone that surpassed the December’s record by more than a thousand deaths. 


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Dr. Fauci says Covid vaccines can be easily adapted to new variants, drugmakers working on boosters

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Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Pfizer and Moderna‘s current Covid-19 vaccines can be easily adapted to target new strains of the virus, something the drugmakers are already working on, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

New strains of the coronavirus have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil that have given scientists some cause for concern. Although it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed lifesaving vaccines and treatments against the disease.

Some early findings published in the preprint server bioRxiv, which have yet to be peer reviewed, indicate that the variant identified in South Africa, what scientists are calling the B.1.351 strain, can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments and may reduce the effectiveness of the current line of available vaccines. Fauci told CNN in an interview that it was very similar to the new strain found in Brazil.

However, there is some good news: The newly developed mRNA technology used to make the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna makes it easy to adapt to the new strains, Fauci said. He added that the drugmakers are already working to make so-called “booster” shots that will target the variant found in South Africa, which appears to be more problematic than the others.

“We’re already trying to stay one or two steps ahead of the game so that if, in fact, we have a situation where the South African strain is prevalent here — it’s here, but it’s certainly not dominant — you want to really get ahead of it from a protection standpoint,” Fauci said. “You’re going to want to have a vaccine that specifically addresses that strain.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said federal agencies would collaborate to study how effective Covid-19 vaccines are against mutated strains of the virus. While the authorized remain highly effective against the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the U.K., “things get a bit more problematic” with the B.1.351 strain.

Even then, both vaccines have proven to be about 95% effective in preventing Covid-19 in clinical trials, allowing a little bit of cushion where the vaccines will still work even if any of the variants reduces their effectiveness, the infectious disease expert has said.

Testing the effectiveness of the booster vaccines doesn’t require starting from scratch, Fauci said. The booster shots won’t need to go through the same large-scale clinical trials that were required for the original vaccines to receive the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization in December, he said, adding that they could get through with a “quick phase one” trial instead.

“You don’t have to do a 30,000 person trial or a 40,000 person trial,” Fauci said. “You work with the FDA and you could bridge information from one trial to another. Bottom line is we’re already on it.”

Moderna announced Monday that its Covid-19 vaccine might be less effective against the B.1.351 strain in South Africa, and that the company is accelerating work on a booster shot to guard against that variant “out of an abundance of caution.”

Pfizer said on Tuesday that the company, along with German drugmaker BioNTech, would also develop a booster shot, according to a Reuters report. A spokesperson for the company was not immediately available to respond to Fauci’s comments.


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Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy issues a warning to GameStop, AMC bosses

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