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What you need to know about coronavirus on Monday December 28

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Nursing home residents and frontline workers were among the first to receive the immunization, including a virologist who was part of the team that first isolated Covid-19 in Italy. In Spain, 96-year-old Araceli Rosario Hidalgo said “thank God” as she became the first in the country to be given the shot, Reuters reported.

While most countries followed EU guidance on prioritizing the elderly, health care workers and vulnerable populations first, the Czech Republic took a different approach — administering its first dose to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

The inoculations provide some respite amid a tough winter surge of the pandemic in Europe, which has seen renewed lockdowns, mounting death tolls and the spread of a more contagious variant first detected in the UK. Germany, once lauded for its pandemic mitigation approach, topped 30,000 deaths on Monday after health authorities reported 348 Covid-19 related fatalities in the past day.
The vaccination program could go down as one of the greatest achievements in the history of the European project, which has been battered in recent years by a surge in nationalist parties and UK’s departure from the bloc, Kara Fox reports. The EU’s vaccine strategy marks a positive step towards greater unity after European countries were criticized at the start of the pandemic for not working together. Yet some nations jumped the gun this weekend — doses were administered in Germany and Slovakia ahead of the official start date.

But little could subdue the optimistic mood. German pilot Samy Kramer used his flight path to trace a giant syringe in the sky ahead of the vaccination campaign’s launch. “There are still relatively many people opposing the vaccination and my action may be a reminder for them to think about the topic, to get things moving,” Kramer told Reuters, following his one-hour, 44-minute flight over southern Germany.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Should I take the vaccine if I have underlying conditions?

A: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday posted new guidance for people with certain underlying medical conditions, who are at increased risk of more severe Covid-19.

  • The guidance addresses people with weakened immune systems, people with autoimmune conditions and those who have previously had Guillain-Barre syndrome and Bell’s palsy.
  • All of these groups “may receive an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine” according to the recommendations, provided they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
  • People with HIV and those with weakened immune systems due to other illnesses or medication should be aware of “limited safety data” on the use of Covid-19 vaccinations in those populations, and that they may experience a weakened immune response to a vaccine.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Trump signs coronavirus relief and funding bill into law after lengthy delay

US President Donald Trump signed the massive $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill into law Sunday night, averting a government shutdown that was set to begin Tuesday, and extending billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to millions.

The delayed signature came after he blindsided lawmakers last week, criticizing the size of the stimulus checks — negotiated by his own administration.

The chaos comes as the US prepares to grapple with potential holiday Covid-19 surges. Hospitals across the country have reported more than 100,000 patients for the 26th day in a row. Despite warnings from officials, hundreds of thousands of people were screened at airports nationwide last week. It prompted America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, to warn that America’s Covid-19 battle may yet see its “darkest days.”

Journalist who documented Wuhan coronavirus outbreak jailed

Chinese journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak, has been jailed for four years by a Shanghai court. She was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to one of her defense lawyers Zhang Keke on Monday. The offense is commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights activists, Nectar Gan and James Griffiths report.

While Zhang is one of a number of independent reporters who have been detained or disappeared in China since the beginning of the pandemic, she is the first citizen journalist known to have been sentenced for her role in reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could get UK approval in days

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine is set to receive UK regulatory approval within days and could be rolled out by January 4, British media reported on Sunday. It comes after UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the company had submitted its “full data package” for the vaccine to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for review.

Last month, the lack of clarity surrounding several aspects of the data from the vaccine trials raised some eyebrows in the scientific community. But — if approved — AstraZeneca’s vaccine could prove more valuable for the world than Moderna or Pfizer’s candidates. The shot, developed with the University of Oxford, is considerably cheaper than the others; is far easier to transport and distribute; and AstraZeneca has promised to supply hundreds of millions of doses to low- and middle-income countries, delivering the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis to those nations in perpetuity.

ON OUR RADAR

  • 2020 was a tumultuous year for most people, and that’s no less true for Queen Elizabeth II. That said, the pandemic has given her renewed relevance.
  • Israel entered its third lockdown on Sunday as coronavirus cases continue to climb.
  • Japan will ban foreign nationals from entering the country from today through to the end of January after several cases of the new Covid-19 variant were recorded there.
  • In Europe — home to some of the richest countries and most generous social safety nets — concerns around hunger and deprivation existed long before the Covid-19 crisis. And when the pandemic hit, things got even worse.
  • A Boy Scout troop helped create a ‘hug booth’ for nursing home residents, allowing them to embrace visitors without touching at all.

TOP TIP

Vaccine passports may be on the horizon

Now that coronavirus vaccines are starting to roll out in the US and abroad, many people may be dreaming of the day when they can travel, shop and go to the movies again. But in order to do those activities, you may eventually need something in addition to the vaccine: A vaccine passport application.

Several companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their Covid-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries. Here’s how.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“When I look back on this year, I’m going to remember the lives that we lost … I’m going to carry the lessons we learned at their expense for the rest of my career.” — CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta

In today’s episode, Dr. Gupta opens up to Anderson Cooper about what it’s been like to cover the pandemic every single day. Listen Now.

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