An F.D.A. panel gives Pfizer’s vaccine the green light
Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Thursday passed a critical milestone on the path to approval in the United States, as a panel of experts formally recommended that the Food and Drug Administration authorize it. With rare exceptions, the F.D.A. follows the advice of its advisory panels.
The agency is likely to grant an emergency-use authorization within days, prioritizing health care workers and nursing home residents to begin receiving the first shots early next week.
This formal blessing may help the nation to slow the spread of the virus just as infections and deaths are surging, reaching a record of more than 3,000 daily deaths on Wednesday. More Americans died of Covid-19 Wednesday than were killed on Sept. 11 or in the Pearl Harbor attack.
Next steps: Within 24 hours of the vaccine’s being cleared by the F.D.A., an initial shipment of 6.4 million doses will leave warehouses to vaccinate more than three million people across the country.
In other developments:
The French government said it would delay relaxing some Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, including pushing back the reopening of theaters and museums, because rates of new cases were not falling as fast as expected.
The European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s top drug regulator, whose approval is necessary for countries in the bloc to begin rolling out the coronavirus vaccine, has begun an investigation after it was hit by a cyberattack.
Wealthy nations representing 14 percent of the global population have bought over 50 percent of promising coronavirus vaccines, prompting accusations that they are hoarding vaccines to the detriment of less developed countries.
E.U. breakthrough on a $2.2 trillion stimulus package
European Union leaders in Brussels on Thursday reached an agreement on $2.2 trillion in budget and stimulus funds after weeks of negotiations with Poland and Hungary that had held up the hefty financial package.
The compromise will still tie the funding to rule-of-law standards, such as an independent judiciary and transparency in spending, two principles that have weakened under Hungary and Poland’s illiberal governments, but it watered down these measures.
Brexit: With little movement on Brexit trade negotiations, the European Commission on Wednesday published no-deal contingency measures that aim to prevent chaos on Jan. 1. Britain and the E.U. have until Sunday to strike a deal on the country’s departure from the bloc.
The dozens of farmers slaughtered by Boko Haram
Just over a week ago, more than 70 subsistence farmers from Zabarmari, a village in northeastern Nigeria, were executed by Boko Haram militants, who accused the agricultural workers of betraying them and reporting the fighters’ presence to the Nigerian Army.
People in rural areas of northeastern Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, have largely been left at the mercy of Boko Haram by a government whose security forces have mainly retreated from the countryside to protected garrison towns.
Villagers have been caught in a deadly Catch-22, in which reporting the militants runs the risk of gruesome reprisals, while staying silent may incur the wrath of the Nigerian military, which has been accused of routinely shooting villagers dead and burning down their houses during raids.
Quote: “Everything is shattered now,” said Ibrahim Abubakar. Four of his friends were beheaded, he said.
If you have 9 minutes, this is worth it
Are cities a safe place to live during a pandemic?
When the pandemic struck, coronavirus cases rose rapidly in dense urban centers like New York, rekindling the age-old debate over town versus country and sending the wealthy scurrying to rural idylls — many of which are now experiencing surging case loads of their own. We asked seven experts if the anti-city backlash was warranted.
Here’s what else is happening
Beirut port explosion: The Lebanese judge investigating the fatal explosion in the port of Beirut in August charged the acting prime minister, Hassan Diab, and three former ministers with negligence.
Death penalty: Brandon Bernard on Thursday night became the ninth man executed by the U.S. federal government since July despite a high-profile campaign for clemency. Mr. Bernard, who was 18 at the time of his involvement in a 1999 double murder-robbery, apologized to the family of the victims and to his own family in the moments before his death by lethal injection.
Airbnb: The vacation rental company became the year’s biggest I.P.O., fueling talk of a new stock market bubble, a day after the food delivery start-up DoorDash had its first day of trading. Airbnb’s offering raised $3.5 billion, compared with DoorDash’s $3.4 billion.
Climate crisis: Wildfires in California over the summer destroyed countless ancient redwoods, hundreds of giant sequoias and more than one million Joshua trees. After last year’s catastrophic wildfires, Australia is experiencing its first major blaze in this wildfire season.
Time ‘Person of the Year’: Time magazine named President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as its person of the year, on the grounds that the two had “offered restoration and renewal in a single ticket.”
Snapshot: The town of Ansbach in Bavaria, above, allowed only a few of the usual Christmas market stands to open. City and town squares across Germany are empty of the usual huts, sounds, scents and lights, as the coronavirus forces the country to skip its beloved annual Christmas markets.
Lives Lived: As the nation’s first nationally syndicated lesbian columnist who wrote about gay life, Deb Price covered both the everyday for same-sex couples and more pointed issues like the debate over gay people in the military. She died last month at 62.
What we’re listening to: This episode of the podcast “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions.” It’s an exploration of inequality, featuring a great interview with the economist Raj Chetty.
Now, a break from the news
Listen: “Evermore,” Taylor Swift’s surprise second album entirely written and recorded in quarantine, is out today. “To put it plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs,” the singer wrote on Twitter.
Make the most of your time indoors with our At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the Back Story on …
The case against Facebook
The U.S. government and more than 40 states sued Facebook on Wednesday, saying it illegally crushed competitors and demanding that the company undo its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Shira Ovide, our On Tech writer, broke down what’s next.
What’s the argument from the government and from Facebook?
Shira: Trying to reduce competition by purchasing rivals is an explicit violation of America’s antitrust laws. The tricky thing, however, is that the government had given Facebook permission to buy Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014. Facebook’s argument is that it’s unfair for government officials to try a do-over now.
How will the lawsuits affect people who use Facebook?
Lawsuits like this might take years to resolve. Anything dramatic — like a government-imposed rewinding of the WhatsApp and Instagram acquisitions — might not happen for years, if ever. Your experience with Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger won’t suddenly be different tomorrow.
Why is this happening now?
Some government officials had tough words for Facebook. But they left off one important point: They are suing Facebook only after years of their failures to restrain its power and because there is now political will to do so.
Will this hold Facebook back?
It is possible that Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple or even Microsoft could alter their behavior because they’re bogged down by court cases or worried about looking like bullies. Companies fearful of unwanted scrutiny could also change things we like about their products and services.
That’s it for this briefing. Have a restful weekend.
Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on why the U.S. turned down more vaccine doses from Pfizer.
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