About 20 million people are expected to get their first shots by the end of this month. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said officials will soon provide a dashboard with the number of Covid-19 vaccinations completed, “so we know exactly how we’re doing on getting shots in arms.”
Just on Wednesday, California reported a stunning 53,711 new Covid-19 cases. The number includes 41,081 new cases on Wednesday — the most recorded by the state in a single day to date — as well as 12,630 cases from “several prior days” due to the implementation of an auto-processing feature, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.
Vaccinations will ultimately change the country’s grim trajectory, but not for a few months, experts have said. Until then, experts say people should wear masks, avoid crowded indoor spaces and try to protect each other during this holiday season.
“What people need to know is, we are still at a dangerous and critical part of this pandemic, and tens of thousands of American lives are at stake, really, every week, and we can flatten the curve,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at HHS, told CNN’s John Berman on Wednesday.
A green light for a second Covid-19 vaccine in the US could be just days away and would bring 20 million more doses by the end of the month.
“It looks to be roughly 95% effective at preventing disease, including 100% effective at severe disease, about 95% effective in preventing disease in people who are over 65, across different ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds,” Offit told CNN.
Remaining hospital bed numbers are shrinking
The devastating numbers prove the pandemic is still far from over — and the virus is running rampant within many American communities. Strained hospitals across the country continue to see a surge of patients and their available bed numbers dwindle.
Los Angeles County reported fewer than 100 intensive care unit beds remaining, an alarming new low for the nation’s most populous county.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “the hospitalization rate is not good,” as the city reported about 2.89 hospitalizations per 100,000 people (officials want this number to be under 2).
He said hospitalization numbers are an “indicator of the bigger problem we’re still facing and we’re going to be fighting for weeks now.”
The numbers across the country could grow even higher if Americans opt to travel and gather unsafely for the upcoming holidays. Experts have for weeks warned against traditional celebrations to avoid further spread of the virus, which could in turn lead to another surge of cases.
Governors across the Northeast and Midwest issued a video encouraging Americans to “double down” on safety measures like masks and social distancing during the holiday season and to reconsider travel plans.
“If you’re planning to travel or gather with other households for the holidays, we urge you to reconsider,” Ohio’s governor added.
Health care worker has adverse reaction to vaccine
While the vast majority of vaccines have been administered without issue, Alaska officials confirmed Wednesday that a health worker suffered an allergic reaction to Pfizer’s vaccine on Tuesday.
Doctors treated the worker, a middle-aged woman, and said she is in stable condition. She had no known history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines, doctors said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that adverse reactions to any vaccine can be expected when it expands beyond a clinical trial.
“Once you decide to dispense the vaccine widely, you’re talking about millions and tens of millions and ultimately hundreds of millions of doses,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “So you may see reactions that you didn’t see in the clinical trial.”
The Alaska worker felt flushed within 10 minutes of receiving the vaccine, and later reported symptoms including shortness of breath and elevated heart rate.
According to Dr. Lindy Jones, an attending physician at Bartlett Memorial Hospital in Juneau where the worker was treated, she was held in the vaccine monitoring area immediately after receiving the shot, and took Benadryl. After she reported shortness of breath, she was taken to the emergency room.
When Jones saw her in the hospital, she was experiencing shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate, and had developed a rash covering her face and torso, he said.
Jones told a news conference he gave her epinephrine, to which she “responded immediately.”
Over the course of the night symptoms re-emerged but the healthcare worker responded to an epinephrine drip and steroids. By early in the morning the worker was weaned off epinephrine and has remained stable since then.
Offit, of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, said health officials will need to look into the case further.
“About one out of every million people that get a vaccine can have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine,” Offit said. “What we need to find out is what specifically seems to be inducing this allergic reaction.”
CNN’s Cheri Mossburg, Jacqueline Howard, Andrea Diaz, Tina Burnside, Deidre McPhillips, Nadia Kounang, Lauren Mascarenhas, Sara Weisfeldt, Rosa Flores, Virginia Langmaid and Shelby Lin Erdman contributed to this report.