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Moderna, Pfizer vaccines provide new hope as COVID-19 spreads rapidly

Moderna has joined Pfizer in approaching the vaccine finish line, with a vaccine candidate the company says was 94.5% effective at preventing infection. Pfizer's candidate, announced last week, was over 90%.

Why it matters: There could be two U.S. vaccines in distribution before the New Year. This is a reason for Americans to buckle down for one last stretch to help save lives.

  • There are a million new cases nationwide in the past six days alone.
  • U.S. deaths are once again over 1,000 a day.
  • Hospitals are filling up and health workers are stretched thin.

Now there's hope: The two companies plan to apply for emergency-use authorization later this month, and they could begin to immunize 20 million people as soon as December.

  • Health care workers are at the top of the list, followed by essential workers, people with high-risk medical conditions and senior citizens.
  • The general public could be offered the vaccine as soon as April, Dr. Anthony Fauci said today.
  • "This does not mean that in April, everybody who’s going to be wanting a vaccine who’s not in the priority group is going to get it. It means starting at that point, you would likely begin to use those," he said.

Between the lines: Moderna’s vaccine can be kept in standard freezer storage for up to six months and refrigerators for up to 30 days — unlike Pfizer's candidate, which needs to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

The bottom line: Governors would ultimately have the final say of how to roll out the vaccine in their states.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) this morning: “This vaccination process has not been thought through at all. ... They're now saying we're going to do vaccines and distribution. You start off with a very high level of skepticism among the general population. That's 50% that don't trust the vaccine."

Go deeper: Axios Re:Cap interviewed Moderna's chief medical officer on its blockbuster vaccine news. Listen here.

The questions the COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to answer

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

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Podcast: Behind the Faces of COVID

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.

WSJ: Pfizer to ship half as many COVID vaccines this year, citing supply chain issues

Pfizer and BioNTech have halved their original estimate for how many coronavirus vaccines will be shipped globally by the end of this year, citing supply-chain issues, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The U.K. government has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine — enough to inoculate some 20 million people. The companies now expect to ship 50 million vaccines by the end of 2020, instead of 100 million, per WSJ.

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Warner Bros. to release all 2021 movies on HBO Max and in theaters at same time

In a move that will undoubtedly shape the future of cinema for years to come, Warner Bros. said Thursday that it will release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max, the streaming service owned by its parent AT&T, at the same time that the films debut in theaters.

Why it matters: It's the latest and most aggressive effort by a movie studio to get its titles in front of audiences at home during the pandemic. The move is a major blow to movie exhibitors, which are already struggling to survive the pandemic.

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Trump refuses to say whether he has confidence in Barr

President Trump declined to say on Thursday whether he still has confidence in Attorney General Bill Barr, after insisting that Barr "hasn't done anything" to investigate his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.

Why it matters: Trump has weighed firing Barr in recent days, seething about the attorney general's statement this week that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

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Biden taps Brian Deese to lead National Economic Council

President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that he has selected Brian Deese, a former Obama climate aide and head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, to serve as director of the National Economic Council.

Why it matters: The influential position does not require Senate confirmation, but Deese's time working for BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager and an investor in fossil fuels, has made him a target of criticism from progressives.

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How institutions that control vast wealth fall through U.S. regulatory cracks

Financial regulation is not exactly simple anywhere in the world. But one country stands out for the sheer amount of complexity and confusion in its regulatory regime — the U.S.

Why it matters: Important companies fall through the cracks, largely unregulated, while others contend with a vast array of regulatory bodies, none of which are remotely predictable.

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Trump nominee Christopher Waller confirmed to Fed board

The Senate voted 48-47 on Thursday to confirm Trump nominee Christopher Waller to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors — filling one of the two vacant slots on the influential economic body.

Why it matters: It's one of the last marks left on the Fed board by Trump, who has nominated five of its six members.

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