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Study confirms AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is moderately effective

Peer-reviewed research published Tuesday confirms that the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is moderately effective at preventing infection, and appears to keep people out of the hospital.

Why it matters: Some questions remain about AstraZeneca's vaccine, but the findings released in The Lancet medical journal help validate that the product works and is safe.


The big picture: When AstraZeneca's vaccine was administered in two standard doses, it was about 62% effective in preventing symptomatic infections.

  • That's not as high as the roughly 95% efficacy reported by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but AstraZeneca's has some other advantages over those two, including easier distribution.
  • No one who had received both doses of the vaccine in AstraZeneca's trials developed a severe infection or had to be hospitalized.

The big question: The company accidentally gave some patients a modified dosing regimen — a half dose, followed by a full standard dose. In those patients, the vaccine registered 90% efficacy.

  • Experts have puzzled over those results since AstraZeneca's initial release, and the research published Tuesday doesn't have many answers.
  • The group that got the half-dose didn't include anyone older than 55 — the people most at risk for severe infection. We still don't know whether that skewed the results or AstraZeneca accidentally hit on a better dosage.

The lower initial dose also appeared to be much more effective in preventing asymptomatic spread — a critically important part of stopping the virus from spreading.

House passes For the People Act to expand voting rights

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

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House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

The House voted 220-212onWednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

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Republicans are demanding a full 600-page reading of Biden’s COVID relief bill

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

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Here’s how a single resignation, retirement or death could flip control of the 50-50 Senate

Note: Bernie Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Data: Axios Research/ProPublica/NCSL; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Nineteen seats in the U.S. Senate could potentially flip parties if there's an unexpected vacancy, according to Axios' analysis of state vacancy rules, which most often allow the governor to appoint a replacement.

Why it matters: Depending on the senator, a single resignation, retirement or death — by accident or old age — could flip control of the 50-50 Senate, or give Democrats a two-vote cushion.

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White House works with Democrats to ensure Biden quickly fills any federal court vacancies

The White House is quietly working with Senate Democrats to ensure President Biden has a steady stream of nominees for the federal courts, according to people familiar with the matter and an administration official.

Why it matters: Biden wants the federal judiciary to better reflect the country’s demographics, and to try to shield his unfolding legislative agenda from a judiciary currently dominated by Trump appointees.

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Journalists around the world face record persecution

Around the world, journalists are being targeted at record levels by despots, eager to silence the press.

Why it matters: Experts worry that the United States' wavering stance on press freedoms over the past few years may have empowered autocrats looking to gain power and undermine democracy by going after journalists.

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FBI, Homeland Security warn of increasing threat to Capitol

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

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Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

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