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Pfizer and BioNTech's preliminary analysis of their potential vaccine is the best coronavirus news so far

Pfizer and BioNTech's preliminary analysis — suggesting their vaccine was 90% effective at preventing symptomatic coronavirus disease — created some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

Why it matters: 90% efficacy is on the high end of what experts were hoping for, and Pfizer's good — albeit preliminary — news is also an encouraging sign for how well other, similar vaccines could work.


Between the lines: The Pfizer vaccine targets what's called the "spike protein" of the virus. So do all of the other vaccines being developed by major manufacturers working with Operation Warp Speed, STAT's Helen Branswell writes.

  • "There was always a discussion: Is the spike protein the right target? Well, now we know it's the right target," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told STAT. "So, it's not only immediate good news, it really is optimistic about what's going to roll out in the next several months with the other vaccines."
  • A highly effective vaccine could also convince people that getting it is worthwhile. "Vaccine hesitancy diminishes proportionately inversely with the efficacy of a vaccine," Fauci said.

Yes, but: One big outstanding question is whether the Pfizer vaccine blocked mostly mild cases, or some severe ones too.

What we're watching: Millions of Americans could possibly be vaccinated by the end of the year.

  • But a lot of things still have to go right, including the complicated logistics of distributing vaccines across the country, determining who should get them and how, and then ensuring recipients get both shots of the vaccine.

Go deeper: Axios Re:Cap interviews Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla about vaccine data, distribution, politics, and how he reacted upon receiving the news.

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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