PORTAGE, Mich. – President Joe Biden toured a state-of-the art coronavirus vaccine plant Friday, intent on showcasing progress even as extreme winter weather across the U.S. handed his vaccination campaign its first major setback, delaying shipment of about 6 million doses and causing temporary closures of inoculation sites in many communities.
While acknowledging the weather is “slowing up the distribution,” Biden said at the Pfizer plant in Michigan that he believes “we'll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year.” His speech melded a recitation of his administration's accomplishments in its first month confronting the pandemic, a vigorous pitch for his $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and criticism of his predecessor.
The disruptions caused by frigid temperatures, snow and ice have left the White House and states scrambling to make up lost ground as three days' worth of vaccine shipments were temporarily delayed. Even the president's trip to see Pfizer's largest plant was pushed back a day due to a storm affecting the nation's capital.
Before the trip, White House coronavirus response adviser Andy Slavitt said the federal government, states and local vaccinators are going to have to redouble efforts to catch up after the interruptions. The setback comes just as the vaccination campaign seemed to be on the verge of hitting its stride. All the backlogged doses should be delivered in the next several days, Slavitt said, still confident that the pace of vaccinations will recover.
Group of 7 to help poor nations
Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers promised Friday to immunize the world's neediest people against the coronavirus by giving money, and precious vaccine doses, to a U.N.-backed vaccine distribution effort.
But the leaders, under pressure over their vaccination campaigns at home, were unwilling to say how much vaccine they were willing to share with the developing world, or when.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the G-7 leaders held a virtual meeting that fair distribution of vaccines was “an elementary question of fairness.”
But she added, “No vaccination appointment in Germany is going to be endangered.”
After their first meeting of the year – held remotely because of the pandemic – the leaders said they would accelerate global vaccine development and deployment” and support “affordable and equitable access to vaccines” and treatments for COVID-19. They cited a collective $7.5 billion from the G-7 to U.N.-backed COVID-19 efforts.
Argentine official asked to resign
President Alberto Fernández asked Argentina's health minister to resign after a well-known local journalist said he had been given a coronavirus vaccination preferentially after requesting one from the minister, a government official said Friday.
The president “instructed his chief of staff to request the resignation of health minister” Ginés González García, who is in charge of the government's COVID-19 strategy, said the official, who was not authorized to release the information and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The scandal erupted when journalist Horacio Verbitsky, whose stories and columns on a website and on the radio are seen as pro-government, said he called the minister to request a vaccination and González García summoned him to the Health Ministry where he received a Sputnik V vaccine shot Thursday.
Study: 17 million cases missed early
For every documented coronavirus infection during the first six months of the pandemic last year, five cases slipped by undiagnosed – 16.8 million – according to a federal study led by a University of Maryland, Baltimore County graduate.
The results of the National Institutes of Health study led by immunologist Dr. Kaitlyn Sadtler “suggest a much larger spread of the COVID-19 pandemic than originally thought,” wrote Sadtler, who heads the Section for Immunoengineering at NIH's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. The study reviewed data from January through July of last year as the pandemic ramped up across the country.
The study also indicates that Black and Hispanic communities were hit hardest by the virus from its outset.
No vaccine for 2 who dressed up
Two women who dressed up to make themselves appear as older adults to get coronavirus vaccinations were turned away and issued trespass warnings in Orlando, Florida, officials said.
Dr. Raul Pino, state health officer in Orange County – where Orlando is located – said the women disguised themselves on Wednesday with bonnets, gloves and glasses.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Guido told the Orlando Sentinel that the women altered their birth years on their vaccination registrations to bypass the state system, which prioritizes people age 65 and older. It appeared that the women had gotten the first shot, but it was unclear where.