Dec 15, 2020
Top COVID-19 news
Amid the pandemic, news is fast-moving – and sometimes confusing. Coverage is here to help. Our new series provides a clear, fact-based digest of the top news for health consumers.
First vaccine is delivered
The first COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, has been authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration and is being distributed across the country this week. Massachusetts is receiving approximately 59,000 doses starting Dec. 14, and expects to receive 300,000 by the end of December.
Who can get the vaccine? In line with state and CDC recommendations, health care workers who are directly exposed to COVID-19 patients and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to receive the vaccine, with other groups receiving it in coming weeks and months.
Moderna faces key public hearing
On Dec. 17, a panel of independent scientific experts will meet publicly to decide whether a second vaccine, this one produced by Cambridge-based Moderna, is safe and effective enough to recommend emergency use authorization to the Food and Drug Administration.
What do we know so far? According to data from Moderna’s drug trials, the vaccine has proven 94% effective in approximately 15,000 volunteers, with no serious side effects. An independent review by FDA scientists confirmed those findings. Trial data will be peer-reviewed in coming months, which will provide more information about how effective the vaccine is, and what side effects it may have.
New restrictions in Massachusetts
Starting Dec. 13, there are new capacity limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, new mask requirements in offices and restaurants, and some businesses such as indoor theaters have been ordered to close. In addition, several municipalities, including the city of Boston, have implemented more strict standards on a town-by-town basis.
Why? Like much of the country, Massachusetts is seeing a weekslong rise in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. By restricting gatherings, health officials are trying to prevent a series of successive surges spurred by travel and indoor socializing during the winter holidays. Advice from the CDC remains the same: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Avoid crowds. Stay six feet from people who don’t live with you. Don’t socialize indoors.
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