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FDA authorizes Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine, the agency announced on Friday night.

Why it matters: It's a major milestone in the U.S. fight against COVID-19, clearing the way for the initial rollout of a vaccine that has been found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects.

What to watch: A Department of Health and Human Services official told Axios that Operation Warp Speed is working with governors to ensure that vaccine distribution begins "within 24 hours" of the FDA's authorization.

  • 636 locations equipped with ultra-cold storage capacity across all 50 states will receive about 2.9 million doses in the initial Pfizer shipment, according to Operation Warp Speed officials.
  • An equal number will be held for the second dose of the vaccine, which is meant to be administered 21 days later.
  • Health care workers and nursing home residents are expected to be the first to receive the vaccine.

Worth noting: An EUA is not a full approval. Rolling out the vaccine is contingent upon companies generating more data needed to support full approval, including ongoing placebo-controlled trials to understand the long-term effects.

The big picture: The U.K. became the first country to grant emergency approval to the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 2, followed by Bahrain and Canada. The FDA will meet later this month consider granting an EUA for Moderna's vaccine, which has been found to be 94.5% effective.

By the numbers: The U.S. is the country with the most confirmed total cases, reporting more than 15 million cases and over 290,000 deaths as of Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Go deeper: Pfizer board member confirms U.S. government turned down offer for more vaccine doses

U.S. grants temporary protected status to thousands of Venezuelans

Venezuelans living in the United States will be eligible to receive temporary protected status for 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to the U.S. amid economic, political and social turmoil back home. Former President Trump, on his last full day in office, granted some protections to Venezuelans through the U.S. Deferred Enforced Departure program, but advocates and lawmakers said the move didn't go far enough.

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Zuckerberg floated possibility of remote work in January 2020. Sandberg thought he was "nuts"

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg thought Mark Zuckerberg was "nuts" when he raised the possibility in January 2020 that 50,000 Facebook employees might have to work from home. By March 6, they were.

Why it matters: In an interview Monday with Axios Re:Cap, Sandberg explained how Facebook moved quickly to respond to the pandemic with grants for small businesses and work-from-home stipends for its employees, and how the company has been watching the unfolding crisis for women in the workforce.

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Supreme Court declines to hear case on qualified immunity for police officers

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal for a lawsuit brought against Cleveland police officers that challenges the scope of qualified immunity, the legal doctrine which has been used to shield officers from lawsuits alleging excessive force, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The doctrine has been the subject of scrutiny from civil rights advocates. Eliminating qualified immunity was one of the key demands of demonstrators during nationwide protests in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.

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CDC: Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take fewer precautions in certain situations, including socializing indoors without masks when in the company of low-risk or other vaccinated individuals, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday.

Why it matters: The report cites early evidence that suggests vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection, and are potentially less likely to transmit the virus to other people. At the time of its publication, the CDC said the guidance would apply to about 10% of Americans.

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Ripple CEO calls for clearer crypto regulations following SEC lawsuit

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by the SEC, it would put the U.S. cryptocurrency industry at a competitive disadvantage.

Why it matters: Garlinghouse's comments may seem self-serving, but his call for clearer crypto rules is consistent with longstanding entreaties from other industry players.

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Republican Sen. Roy Blunt will not seek re-election in 2022

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) will not run for re-election in 2022, he announced on Twitter Monday.

Why it matters: The 71-year-old senator is the No. 4-ranking Republican in the Senate, and the fifth GOP senator to announce he will not run for re-election in 2022 as the party faces questions about its post-Trump future.

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COVID Tracking Project officially ends daily updates, citing improved government transparency

The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer group of data analysts, researchers, and journalists brought together by The Atlantic, published its final daily update on Monday — the one-year anniversary of its founding.

Why it matters: The project quickly became a vital resource for news media, academic researchers, and everyday Americans to track COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the absence of reliable and public data from the federal government.

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As Congress eyes massive infrastructure bill, energy and climate move closer to center stage

The imminent enactment of Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package creates space for lawmakers and the White House to craft infrastructure plans with big climate and energy-related provisions.

Why it matters: President Biden, during the campaign, vowed to make low-carbon energy, climate-resilient infrastructure and transportation projects a big focus of an economic recovery package. And the Texas power crisis could give fresh momentum to investments in grid modernization.

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