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The Pfizer Vaccine Was Shipped with Extra Doses. That’s Both Good News and Normal.

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  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which began rolling out for emergency use on Monday, were shipped with extra doses.
  • While each vial is meant to contain five full doses, some pharmacists have reported finding vials containing sixth and seventh doses.
  • On Wednesday, the FDA confirmed that these extra doses can be used, expanding the nation’s supply by up to 40%; however, that number will likely be lower because pharmacists threw away hundreds of extra doses prior to the FDA’s approval and because partial doses can’t be mixed.
  • The inclusion of these additional doses is completely normal, as vaccine manufacturers usually overfill their vials in case of human errors such as spills.

Pfizer Vaccine Shipped with Extra Doses

On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for pharmacists to use extra doses that are sent in vials for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

Vials of the vaccine, which began distribution under emergency use authorization on Monday, are only meant to contain five doses; however, many pharmacists across the country have reported receiving vials with an extra or even two extra doses. 

With those extra doses, this theoretically means that the current national supply of 100 million doses could increase by up to 40%. While there will almost undoubtedly be a rise in available doses because of this finding, the actual increase will likely be somewhat lower than that.

That’s partially because before the FDA approved the use of these extra doses, many pharmacists — confused on whether they were allowed to use them — began throwing out hundreds of extra doses. 

Because the vaccine has been approved on an emergency use basis, pharmacists must abide by strict guidelines unless otherwise stated. In other words, if the FDA says there are five doses, pharmacists are only able to distribute five doses.

Since the coronavirus pandemic is an extraordinary situation and the vaccine is in high demand, many pharmacists then reached out to the FDA and Pfizer, asking both if they are able to use the extra doses. That’s when the FDA then signaled its approval to use them. 

Still, both the FDA and Pfizer have said that any leftover vaccine from multiple vials should not be pooled to create a full dose in order to prevent any potential cross-contamination.

That’s because, namely, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored in ultra-cold conditions and doesn’t contain preservatives. Essentially, you don’t want to be potentially mixing vials that were taken out of the freezer at different times.

Companies Sending Vaccines with Extra Doses is 100% Normal

The fact that the Pfizer vaccine contains extra doses is completely normal. Vaccine manufacturers usually overfill their vials in case there are any spills or other kinds of human or mechanical error.

Because of that and concerns raised that the extra doses might be some sort of harmful mistake, multiple public health officials have stressed that this is not a giant error. 

“I think this is more clever pharmacists than something missed by Pfizer,” Former Obama administration health official Andy Slavitt told Politico.

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler also said on The Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday that the vials weren’t “mismeasured.”

“It’s not sloppiness,” he added. “It’s the way those vials are designed.”

Bottom line: while extra vaccine is normal, that doesn’t mean this isn’t good news. In fact, it’s great news. 

Twitter to Ban Vaccine Misinformation

Also on Wednesday, Twitter announced that, starting next week, it will begin placing warnings labels on and even removing some tweets that contain debunked claims about COVID-19 vaccines.

Twitter’s move follows both Facebook and YouTube, which have also announced crackdowns on vaccine-related misinformation. 

As far how Twitter will decide whether it’s removing a tweet or simply flagging it, the platform says it will delete outright misinformation, including: 

  • “False claims that suggest immunizations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations, including statements about vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy;”
  • “False claims which have been widely debunked about the adverse impacts or effects of receiving vaccinations;”
  • And “False claims that COVID-19 is not real or not serious, and therefore that vaccinations are unnecessary;”

Twitter also noted that tweets which could fall into more of a gray area will be given warning labels. For example, that could include someone questioning unproven side effects associated with the vaccine.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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