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Fauci says new vaccines could be ready for possible approval within weeks, not months



WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost public health experts, said Sunday that the U.S. is “weeks away, not months away” from considering the approval of new coronavirus vaccines.

In an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who will be staying on as President-elect Joe Biden’s chief science adviser, said he was optimistic that the vaccine candidates being made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca can be fully evaluated soon.

“I would imagine within a period of a week or so, or at the most, a couple of weeks, they’re going to be getting their data together and showing it to the FDA,” Fauci said of the two pharmaceutical companies.

“They’re going to have to get their data and safety monitoring board to look at it to see if it is appropriate to start, you know, essentially putting the package together to get an emergency use authorization. But we’re weeks away, not months away, for sure.”

The Food and Drug Administration has already approved two vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, for emergency use. While both those approved vaccines, as well as the one being developed by AstraZeneca, require two shots spaced out weeks apart, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine needs only one.

There have been almost 14 million vaccinations in the U.S. so far, according to data from Bloomberg News. The pace of vaccinations continues to increase, with more than a million people vaccinated on three days last week.

But there have been concerns about the pace of the vaccine rollout, with widespread frustration about supply, state guidelines and appointment availability. Amid that backdrop, the Trump administration recommended last week that all states should allow anyone 65 and older, as well as those with some underlying health conditions, to receive the vaccines, instead of using more stringent criteria.

Fauci said that he had spoken to Gen. Gustave Perna, the head of the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout, about the issue as recently as Sunday morning.

He said that there had been a “misunderstanding” about initially wanting to hold back supply of the vaccine to be sure that everyone who received a first dose was able to get a second one. But now that the supply appears “consistent and reliable,” Fauci said that those doses don’t need to be held back.

The news comes as the incoming Biden administration continues to double down on its goal of 100 million coronavirus vaccinations in the first 100 days after Biden takes office.

“One thing that’s clear is that the issue of getting 100 million doses in the first 100 days is absolutely a doable thing,” he said, adding that Biden is ready to use expansive government power to make sure companies are making enough vaccine components and personal protective equipment to ensure a steady supply.

Coronavirus cases and deaths have skyrocketed in the last few months, despite warnings from public officials like Fauci.

More than 23,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 in the last seven days, an average of more than 3,000 per day. And over that same period, daily new cases averaged about 228,000.

And there’s growing concern about mutations of the virus that could be more contagious. Even if the new strains aren’t more deadly, Fauci said the increased infections could put even more strain on the nation’s hospital system.

“Just by numbers alone, the more cases you have, the more hospitalizations you have and the more hospitalizations you have the more deaths you have,” he said.

But he stressed that American public health officials are “all over” researching the potential effects of these mutations, and said that the public has the tools it needs to fight back.

“When you have a variant that is really very, very different, in the sense that it’s more contagious, it tells you to do two things,” Fauci said. “One, double down on the public health measures we’ve been talking about all the time. Be very compulsive, as the president-elect says, at least for the first 100 days and maybe more, everybody wear a mask, keep the distance, avoid congregate settings.”

He added: “But also, another important thing: The easiest way to evade this negative effect of these new isolates is to, when the vaccine becomes available, people should get vaccinated. If there was ever a clarion call for people to put aside vaccine hesitancy, if we can get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, we’d be in very good shape.”

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Boris faces fishermen rebellion over 'disgraceful' Brexit deal – 'Sold us down the drain'



BORIS JOHNSON has been facing increasing calls to review the current Brexit trade deal struck with the European Union over claims he “betrayed” fishermen and let down businesses exporting into the bloc.

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Trump should not be prosecuted for Capitol riot incitement, former FBI Director James Comey says



President Donald Trump should be convicted by the Senate, but not criminally prosecuted for inciting Capitol rioters, former FBI Director James Comey said Sunday, adding that it would give America space to “heal.”

“The country would be better off if we did not give him the platform that a prosecution would for the next three years,” Comey told British broadcaster Sky News, which like NBC News, is owned by Comcast Corp.

“Instead, turn off the camera lights,” said Comey, who was fired from his role as FBI Director in 2017 by Trump while he was leading a probe into the president’s 2016 presidential campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, added.

“I’d like to see some of the lights go out and he can stand on the front lawn at Mar-a-Lago and shout at cars in his bathrobe and none of us will hear it,” he said.

Trump became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice last week for his role in inciting a violent mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The Senate will now decide whether Trump should be convicted on the incitement of insurrection charge, and there has also been discussion of potential criminal charges arising from the same conduct after he leaves office.

Comey, 60, said he would like to see Trump convicted by the Senate and barred from ever holding public office again, but the ex-FBI boss said he was concerned a prosecution would impede Biden’s efforts to reunite the nation.

“The country needs to find a way to heal itself and the new president needs the opportunity to lead and heal us — both literally and spiritually,” Comey said. “And that will be much, much harder if the Donald Trump show is on our television screens every single day in the nation’s capital.”

He said the trial would give Trump the attention he craves.

“That would go on for three or four years,” Comey said. “How does Joe Biden do what our country needs him to do in that environment?”

The decision to prosecute a former president should be a balancing test between the strength of the criminal case, and the socially and politically divisive consequences of a trial, according to NBC News’ legal analyst Danny Cevallos.

“If the case against Trump for incitement was a slam dunk, then the benefit of prosecution may outweigh the potential harm to the republic,” Cevallos said in response to Comey’s comments. “The prosecution’s case is not a slam dunk. Trump has formidable free speech and other defenses to incitement.”

History has seen America faced with a similar dilemma, he said, adding that President Gerald Ford issued a controversial pardon for former President Richard Nixon, which many say cost Ford his popularity and a longer term as president.

“We’ll never know, but a Nixon prosecution might have prolonged — rather than solved — the country’s pain,” he added.

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The attack on the Capitol, the seat of American democracy, reverberated through the country, causing political upheaval just days before Joe Biden comes into power and leaving authorities throughout the country on alert for more violence ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Comey said he was optimistic that the threat of new violence will be neutralized, but said it has to be taken very seriously by law enforcement.

He said he was “sickened” by the attack on the Capitol and the failure to defend the building.

“It mystifies and angers me,” Comey said, adding: “It will be important for our country to understand that failure.”

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