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States beg for Warp Speed billions to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.


  • Warp Speed is the $10 billion initiative to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine timeline. Early projections said it would take years to develop and distribute a vaccine, but it increasingly looks like one will be approved for use this year.

The big picture: CDC director Robert Redfield has estimated that price tag at $6 billion.

  • States have thus far gotten $200 million, with another $140 million on the way before the New Year, reports WashPost.
  • "It's kind of like setting up tent poles without having the tent," Maine CDC director Nirav Shah told reporters.

Between the lines: The CDC is asking for Pfizer's vaccine candidate. The company laid out a timeline earlier this month that said it could request an emergency use authorization by late February.

How it works: Pfizer has a facility in Michigan where vaccine vials will be packed into dry ice pods, NPR reports.

  • These "pods will be loaded into boxes that can keep these ultra-cold temperatures for up to 10 days. And they'll be moved around the country in cargo planes and trucks by carriers like UPS and FedEx."

The bottom line: "As far as trying to reach all populations with effective vaccine, that's going to be a real challenge," said Mississippi's state health director Thomas Dobbs.

Biden's Day 1 challenges: The immigration reset

President-elect Biden has an aggressive Day One immigration agenda that relies heavily on executive actions to undo President Trump's crackdown.

Why it matters: It's not that easy. Trump issued more than 400 executive actions on immigration. Advocates are fired up. The Supreme Court could threaten the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and experts warn there could be another surge at the border.

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Coronavirus crisis engulfs NFL, as the Broncos and 49ers become the latest teams impacted

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with the Denver Broncos' quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles had been identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

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Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.

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Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

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Joe Biden considers retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

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WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.

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Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.

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