WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: When Will The Vaccine Be Available?

A NHS pharmacy technician at the Royal Free Hospital, simulates the preparation of the Pfizer vaccine to support staff training ahead of the rollout, in London, Friday Dec. 4, 2020. Yui Mok / Associated Press
A NHS pharmacy technician at the Royal Free Hospital, simulates the preparation of the Pfizer vaccine to support staff training ahead of the rollout, in London, Friday Dec. 4, 2020. Yui Mok / Associated Press

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: When Will The Vaccine Be Available?

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Hey there! It’s Monday, and for every donation to WBEZ today we’ll give a mask to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. The U.K. is ready to begin vaccinations. What’s the delay in the U.S.?

Doctors in the United Kingdom will begin giving a COVID-19 vaccine this week — and other nations will be paying close attention to how the U.K. distributes the shots to its 68 million residents.

Much like in the United States, health care workers, nursing home residents and people over the age of 80 will have the first chance to get the vaccine, which was developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

The shots — which must be frozen at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit — will first be sent to hospitals. Family doctors and temporary vaccination clinics will be next in line.

Why is the vaccine approved for distribution in the U.K., but not here?

U.K. health regulators depend on companies to provide summaries of their vaccine’s effectiveness, The Guardian’s health editor told NPR’s Weekend Edition. “The FDA in the United States actually demands all the raw details,” she said. [NPR]

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that his country will get up to 249,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before the end of December. [AP]

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration could approve that vaccine by the end of the week. The good news comes as the Trump administration outlined an ambitious plan for distributing the vaccine to as many as 24 million people by mid-January. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have invited an anti-vaccine doctor to testify during tomorrow’s hearing on coronavirus treatments. [New York Times]

As police around the world are warning about vaccine theft, smuggling and price-gouging, we don’t have to look back too far to find controversy in the Chicago-area. In 2004, a shortage of the flu vaccine left the elderly waiting in lines for hours. The Chicago Bears, however, had no problem getting the shots. [Chicago Tribune]

2. The Christmas surge could be worse than the Thanksgiving surge

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, cautioned today that Christmas gatherings could lead to more coronavirus cases than Thanksgiving.

That’s because Christmas celebrations, he said, often start several days before the holiday and continue into the New Year. [Washington Post]

Fauci’s warning comes as Illinois officials today reported 8,691 new and suspected coronavirus cases, including 90 more deaths. The state now has more than 796,000 known infections and more than 13,000 fatalities since the pandemic began. [WBEZ]

Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration has fired the administrator of the state-run LaSalle Veterans’ Home, where 32 residents have died during a COVID-19 outbreak. [WBEZ]

And Chicago Ald. Tom Tunney, the owner of Ann Sather Restaurants, has apologized for defying city and state orders when he allowed some customers inside. [Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, the Red Cross says it’s in need of blood donations from people who have recovered from the coronavirus. The antibodies in the blood can be used to “help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions” [Chicago Tribune]

3. Failing grades rise as students fall behind during remote learning

New research has found that many students began this school year behind — and remote learning especially hurt students of color and those in high-poverty communities.

The shift to remote learning set white students back one to three months in math, while students of color lost three to five months, according to a study expected to be released this week by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

And data recently released by school districts across the country showed significant increases in failing grades. (Chicago Public Schools officialssaid last monththat more students received As — and Fs — this fall compared to the same time last year.)

“I think we should be very concerned about the risk of a lost generation of students,” said former education secretary John B. King Jr. [Washington Post]

Meanwhile, many universities plan to bring back more students in January and February, even as the pandemic surges. [New York Times]

The rise in COVID-19 cases has led to sudden cancelations across college athletics. Gonzaga, the top-ranked men’s basketball team, canceled its next four games because of an outbreak within the program. [ESPN]

4. EPA rejects tougher soot standards, despite like to COVID-19 deaths

The Trump administration today decided not to tighten limits on the emission of soot, the county’s most widespread air pollutant. The administration has now rolled back more than 125 environmental safeguards, according to an analysis from The Washington Post.

The Environmental Protection Agency said the existing regulations, set in 2012 under the Obama administration, remain sufficient. But some public health experts asked for stricter limits, citing links between dirty air and COVID-19 deaths.

Soot comes from a variety of sources, including industrial operations and vehicle exhaust. Poor and minority communities often face greater exposure because they are closer to highways and industrial facilities. [Washington Post]

5. The Chicago Teachers Union takes legal action that could delay reopening plans

The Chicago Teachers Union today filed a challenge that could delay the reopening of Chicago Public Schools.

CPS said teachers will begin to return to the classroom next month for the first time since schools were closed in the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the teachers union first wants to negotiate health and safety conditions.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board previously refused to grant an injunction that would force the district to negotiate until CPS announced a reopening date.

If the labor relations board agrees with the union, bargaining could delay reopening by weeks. [Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Bob Dylan has sold all of his songs to Universal Music Publishing. [Pitchfork]

  • Google donated 1,000 computers to CPS students for Computer Science Education Week. [Sun-Times]

  • A nationwide shortage of substitute teachers has created more challenges for local school districts. [Chicago Tribune]

  • Here’s a list of holiday light displays in driving distance from Chicago. [Chicago Tribune]

Oh, and one more thing …

There are two kinds of holiday shoppers in my family: Those who are already finished and those who wait until the last possible minute (raises hand). But retailers say this isn’t the year to procrastinate.

Shoppers trying to avoid brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic have been ordering everyday items online — and that’s already put a strain on shipping.

“Don’t try to order after the 15th thinking you’ll get a better price, because the better price will be lost in extra shipping or not getting it on time,” the president of ShipMatrix, Satish Jindel, told the Chicago Tribune.

For those who wait too long, consider shopping local at stores that offer curbside pickup or same-day delivery. [Chicago Tribune]

Tell me something good …

December is the time for holiday lights, hot chocolate and “best of” lists. With movie theaters closed most of the year, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to new music.

NPR and Pitchfork both say the best song of the year was “WAP” by Cardi B. Personally, I prefer “Fire” by Waxahatchee. (And, based on all the year-end summaries from Spotify popping up in my social media feeds, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to our favorite albums from high school.)

What songs did you listen to this year? Feel free to tweet or email me, and your message might be shared here this week.

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! We’ll be back on Tuesday.

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