Overnight Health Care: New strain, family visits raise fears deadliest months of pandemic now ahead | Administration accelerating launch of vaccinations in pharmacies | CDC: Severe allergic reactions from COVID vaccine rare

Overnight Health Care: New strain, family visits raise fears deadliest months of pandemic now ahead | Administration accelerating launch of vaccinations in pharmacies | CDC: Severe allergic reactions from COVID vaccine rare
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care. Even amid the extraordinary events of pro-Trump rioters storming the Capitol, there is still a raging pandemic killing thousands of Americans every day.  

So diving in there, because the nation has a long road ahead.

New strain, family visits raise fears deadliest months of pandemic now ahead


The bright lights of the winter holidays are giving way to a dark winter of death and disease across the United States as a new variant of the coronavirus that has already killed more than 350,000 Americans begins to worry public health experts and officials.

Millions of Americans who traveled to see family over the Christmas and New Year's holidays once again threaten to contribute to an already unprecedented spike in cases caused by family gatherings over the Thanksgiving holidays.

Fourteen of the 20 worst outbreaks in the world, measured by the number of residents per 100,000 infected, are American states. Arizona, California, Rhode Island and Tennessee have all recorded an average of more than 90 new cases a day per capita over the last week.

It is too early to tell whether the Christmas holiday will lead to a substantial spike in cases. Most states paused testing and reporting of new case data over at least a few days during the holiday week, muddling figures from the first several days of the new year.

But experts are also worried by the new variant of the virus that broke out first in the United Kingdom. Early research suggests that variant is substantially more transmissible than previous strains. While experts say it does not appear that the strain causes more severe disease, the simple arithmetic of higher transmission is likely to lead to more death.

Read more here.

Meanwhile, the administration wants to speed up the slow vaccine rollout


Trump administration accelerating launch of COVID-19 vaccinations in pharmacies

The Trump administration is accelerating the launch of a program to offer coronavirus vaccines in retail pharmacies in an effort to speed up the slow rollout of immunizations, officials said Wednesday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters the original plan was to ramp up the program over time. 

But the administration has come under fire recently over the slow and sloppy rollout of vaccines under Operation Warp Speed. Officials had set a goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of December, but fell far short.

As of Wednesday, about 5.3 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Azar said tens of thousands of pharmacies have already enrolled in the program, though only a few thousand will start vaccinating people initially because of supply constraints. 

State efforts: Azar urged states not to get bogged down in the silos of priority groups, and said it's better to get shots into arms quickly, even if every single health worker hasn't been vaccinated yet. 

"Right now, there is no reason that states need to complete, say vaccinating all health care providers, before opening up vaccinations to older Americans or other, especially vulnerable populations," he said.

Read more here.

CDC reports severe allergic reactions from COVID-19 vaccinations rare 

While nearly 2 million people were vaccinated against COVID-19 during a 10-day period in December, only 21 experienced severe allergic reactions, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday.

Most of those people had a history of allergies or allergic reactions, and for the 20 people the CDC followed up with, all had recovered and been sent home. 

Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, stressed allergic reactions are an “exceedingly rare” occurrence.

“Of course, we all would hope that any vaccine would have zero adverse events, but even at 11 cases per million doses administered, it's a very safe vaccine,” she said. 


The risks of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 are much higher, Messonnier said, with more than 2,000 people dying per day.

Read more here.

WHO head 'disappointed' China is blocking entry of COVID-19 investigative team 

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pressuring Beijing to allow an international team to investigate the origins of the coronavirus in China after he said they are being blocked from entering the country.

“Today we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing on Tuesday. “I am very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute.”

He also said he has been in contact with Chinese officials and has "been assured that China is speeding up the internal procedure for the earliest possible deployment.”

President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE has attacked the WHO for not being tough enough on China, where the coronavirus was first detected. The exact way in which the outbreak began in China remains unclear.


A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is still working out the “necessary procedures” with the WHO, according to CNN.

Read more here 

What we’re reading

3 health care policy predictions now that Democrats have won control of the Senate (Vox.com 

Dr. FauciAnthony FauciOne dose of Pfizer vaccine offers significant protection for those who have had COVID-19: studies Fauci: Whatever COVID-19 vaccine is available, 'take it' Julia Roberts presents Award of Courage to Fauci: 'You have been a beacon for us' MORE says US should have had better coronavirus vaccine rollout (CNN.com

U.S. is blind to virus variant swamping British hospitals, scientists warn (The New York Times

State by state 


Louisiana shatters records for new COVID cases, hospitalizations (WWL) 

What to know about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in D.C., Maryland and Virginia (Washington Post)  

Legislation needed for Gianforte to lift mask mandate has been introduced (KTVH)