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Billionaires Add $1 Trillion To Their Net Worth As Millions Of Their Workers Struggle For Survival 

Throughout the timeline of the pandemic alone, billionaires in the US have collectively increased their net worth by more than $1 trillion. Many of these billionaire’s US workers, on the other hand, have been struggling to deal with unsafe working conditions that leave them susceptible to potential infection, and without hazard pay or any increase in compensation for working in a pandemic, many have been struggling for survival. 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and founder, added more than $70 billion to his new worth during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing his total net worth up to $185 billion. Workers at Amazon and Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods have spent a majority of the pandemic protesting against the unsafe working conditions they’re being forced to work in, and the endless pressures from management to keep up with the overwhelming demand. 

Several workers who have participated or led protests at Amazon over working conditions specifically have alleged that they were fired as a result of their efforts to receive basic level safety. Profits and stockholder shares for the company have increased by billions of dollars throughout 2020, however, Amazon only provided a small fraction of those extra earnings in hazard pay and bonuses for workers on the frontline actually risking their lives everyday to further fill Bezos’ pockets. 

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In fact, Amazon ended all hazard pay back in June 2020, and instead has provided workers with sporadic one-time bonuses. On average workers have seen about a 99 cent increase in their paycheck during the pandemic, for comparison, Bezos earns about $11.7 million every single hour. 

“It’s infuriating that we live in fear every day because of minimal efforts to protect us, while executives take in tons of money while sitting safely at home.”

An anonymous employee working for Amazon recently spoke with the media about the conditions, and chose to keep their identity a secret out of fear that they would be left unemployed and with no source of income. “What they considered hazard pay was just for show. We couldn’t see a difference unless we were willing to work almost 60 hours a week. Several of us had no choice because we’re the breadwinners of our family.”

Jessica Oneto was a Whole Foods employee in California who quit in October 2020 partially due to the working conditions management was forcing upon its employees throughout the pandemic. 

“They gave us hazard pay for maybe a couple months. It was only $2 and they literally took it away as the pandemic got worse. One of the biggest companies couldn’t afford to keep it up?”

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Elon Musk, owner of Tesla Motors, earned an additional $140 billion throughout the pandemic, making him the wealthiest person in the world with a total net worth of $195 billion. Workers for Tesla have been subject to multiple factory Covid outbreaks, and unsafe conditions brought on by Musk himself, who defied local shutdown orders by reopening his plants and resuming factory production. 

Musk even went as far as to threaten his employees if they didn’t also defy the state lockdown orders by sending out an email that implied they would lose unemployment benefits if they didn’t show up to work and risk infection. At least two workers were fired for not showing up due to the fact that they were immunocompromised and worried about getting sick. 

“While people in cubicles stay home to work, we can’t do that and we don’t get any hazard pay/ Nothing has changed. Musk can afford to do so much more and he doesn’t. I find it sickening to see how much Elon Musk’s wealth has grown while we take all the risks. All we get is a ‘thank you so much’ email,” said a Tesla employee at the Fremont plant who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. 

Another Fremont employee cited ongoing mistreatment toward Black workers at Tesla specifically: “Musk has not once addressed this issue in his workplace or supported Black Lives Matter. No hazard pay or bonus. They gave all regular workers their regular raise, but being that I’m maxed out at my position I didn’t get anything.”

As the old saying goes the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, and this global health crisis has truly exemplified that. The only positive that workers have seen come out of these obscene billionaire wealth increases is how much more it’s being discussed now. The power of social media has created a large conversation over how America specifically runs, and why it allows this handful of white men to hoard so much wealth while millions of Americans are on the brink of complete homelessness.

Delta Airplane

Delta And United Airlines Will Permanently Remove International Change Fees 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the travel industry in the US in more ways than one. Many major airline companies have begun implementing new policies to help cushion the economic blow that the tourism sector has suffered from within the past ten months of the pandemic. Most recently, Delta and United airlines have announced that they will be permanently eliminating change fees for flights across the globe. 

Throughout the entire pandemic airlines throughout the world and nation have recognized that there would be a major decline in travel, so they began eliminating fees that are typically charged to travelers who change their international flights or cancel them all together. Initially this was just a temporary move so that travelers wouldn’t have to worry about paying more money in the middle of a global health and economic crisis, however, Delta and United realized the elimination of these fees is actually a great thing for consumers and the airlines all together. 

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For Delta specifically, the airline will waive its $200 international change fee for any flight that “originates in the US or between the US, Mexico and the Caribbean going forward, including code-share flights,” according to the company’s announcement. Basic economic fares are excluded and according to Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian this elimination has proven to be extremely valuable.

“Our approach has always been to put people first, which is why we’re extending our current change fee waiver and making lasting changes to our practices, so customers have the trust and confidence they need long after the pandemic ends.”  

Delta is going to continue to charge $75 for same-day standby, but the airline is extending its Covid-19 policy waivers which removes change fees for all domestic and international tickets purchased through March 30th of this year. 

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United Airlines also recently announced that they would be eliminating change fees for international flights moving forward. For domestic flights, change fees will also be eliminated but only for flights booked before or on March 31st of this year. The airline wrote a statement in which they claimed that the decision was “made recognizing that flexibility is more important to our customers than ever.” 

United initially implemented the no-change fee policy back in August for all domestic flights which inspired a slew of other airlines in America to waive their flight change fees as well. American Airlines became the first US airline to get rid of change fees completely for all flights from North or South America and the airline has also eliminated their fee for domestic same-day standby.

American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer, Vasu Raja, recently released a statement regarding the choice, stating that the company is “committed to making travel easier for customers who fly on American.” 

It’s expected that other modes of transportation that make up the tourism sector for the US’s economy will also begin to implement policies and waivers of fees like these airlines at least in the beginning of the post-pandemic reopening of the country as a means of rebuilding what was lost within the past ten months.

US Covid Vaccine

Covid-19 Vaccine Delays And Lack Of Federal Action Putting US In Deadly Position 

For the past 40 days, the US has surpassed 100,000 hospitalizations relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. While health officials across the country are doing their best to speed up vaccine distribution so that average Americans can begin receiving their dosages, a lack of federal action and planning is once again hindering the nation’s ability to heal from this pandemic. 

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, spoke with the media recently about how America “really needs to get this vaccine out more quickly, because this really is our only tool for beating this pandemic.” Experts have been saying from the beginning that universal mask wearing, social distancing, and widespread vaccination is the only way this pandemic will fully reach its end. However, after ten months of nearly no enforcement of these procedures on a federal level, over 22 million Americans have been infected, and over 370,000 have died.

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So far 22.1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine has been distributed, and 6.7 million people have actually received their first dose, however, the initial plan was to get 20 million people vaccinated with their first dose by the end of 2020. Due to a complete lack of interest from the current president and his administration within the past two months, hundreds of thousands of Americans have continued to suffer while their government watched and made daily claims of a fraudulent and unfair election. The only new aide that the government has provided is a $600 stimulus check to every American, after nearly nine months of no other economic assistance.

The US hit a new record last week and surpassed 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day. California alone is thought to be a major epicenter for the virus, after they added almost 50,000 new cases on Sunday alone, bringing the state total up to more than 2.6 million. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been recording data regarding this pandemic in America since March, within the first 11 days of 2021, 28,400 new Covid-19 deaths have been reported. At this current rate, more individuals could die from Covid-19 in January than any other month of this pandemic due to an extreme influx in holiday travel and lack of policy. 

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“We should expect to set new records for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the coming weeks. Policy action is urgently needed to mitigate the worst possible outcome.”

Joe Gerald, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, recently expressed great concern about the “inevitable arrival of the more transmissible” strain of Covid-19 that has appeared in the UK, and is thought to have been in the US since September. “If it gathers a foothold it will accelerate, lengthen, and deepen the outbreaks in Arizona and other states like it.” 

The recent riot at the US Capitol will also likely lead to a “surge event” of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to the fact that a majority of Trump’s supporters are anti-mask, and the footage from the violent event clearly showed a crowd of hundreds of individuals not wearing a mask, mobbed together in a giant crowd. 

Medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen recently shared a statement to the press about this reckless riot that will lead to even more death and infection: “It’s very likely they’re engaging in other risky behaviors there and potentially seeding coronavirus all around the country, wherever they came from. I hope that everyone who participated in those events will go back and quarantine and get tested.”

Many of the rioters who have been identified from images online but have yet to be arrested are being placed on No Fly lists, and local authorities for individuals who came from out of state to participate in the riot have been notified of their citizens involvement in the act of domestic terror that took place last week.

Man Filing for Unemployment

Weekly Jobless Claims Remain Stagnant As Hiring Slows Down In America 

Throughout this past week in America there have been indicators that the labor market is continuing to weaken, and new jobs aren’t being created at a rate they once were. The pandemic obviously has everything to do with this, however, despite the decline in hiring throughout the nation, first-time filings for unemployment remained relatively stagnant in the end of 2020. 

This is surprising because in terms of the pandemic and economy, the US has entered into its worst phase so far; and that began back in November. First-time filings have been on a steady increase throughout the fall, but by the end of last week, weekly claims totaled 787,000. The Labor Department and Dow Jones both estimated that 815,000 filings would’ve been the total based on the trends that existed at the end of the year. 

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The report showed that compared to the week prior the amount of filings decreased by 3,000 for first-time filings, and 126,000 for continued claims. Now, the total amount of individuals receiving continuous claims is around 5.07 million and those receiving benefits from all government assisted programs declined by 420,000 to 19.2 million. 

This week ADP reported that private contracts and workers accounted for 123,000 job losses in December, which is the first time that the sector of the labor market has seen such a substantial decline in employment. Ian Shepherdson, a chief economist, recently spoke with the media about this predictable yet devastating consistency in unemployment. 

“A combination of Covid fear and state-mandated restrictions on activity in the services sector is squeezing businesses, and no real relief is likely until a sustained decline in pressure on hospitals emerges.”

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The Labor Department is currently projected to report that the US economy has added at least 50,000 jobs to the labor force in America at the end of 2020. However, the unemployment rate has continued to increase and is now at 6.8%, according to estimates from Dow Jones. 

While the labor market continues to remain in deep distress the average for continued unemployment claims has oddly decreased; last week it fell down to 818,750, for comparison this time last year the amount of continued claims totaled 219,750. 

Illinois is the state responsible for the biggest drop in claims with a decline of 62,765. Multiple states showed that they gained more than 10,000 claims in the last week; including Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, and Texas. 

The fourth quarter is expected to show a considerable growth in the amount of new hires that occurred. This is also based on current investment and consumer spending data. The Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow tracker of activity is predicting a 8.9% gain for “domestic product” and employment.

Biden 2020

Congress Certifies Joe Biden’s Presidential Victory After Capitol Riot

This time yesterday Congress was gearing up to count the Electoral College votes and confirm Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States when a mob of violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building after the current President spoke with the crowd and encouraged them to not back down.

Coronavirus Vaccination

4.2 Million Americans Have Been Vaccinated For Covid-19

Although more than 4 million Americans have now been vaccinated with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, health experts are saying the country needs to start moving a lot quicker. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to the media this past Sunday regarding the current rate that America is getting its citizens vaccinated. 

“No excuses, we’re not where we want to be, but hopefully we’ll pick up some momentum and get back to where we want to be in terms of getting people vaccinated.” 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 13 million doses have already been distributed throughout the nation, however, the federal government had repeatedly promised that 20 million individuals would have received their initial dose by the end of 2020. While they may be behind with their original predictions, the rate of distribution is still increasing.

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According to Fauci 1.5 million doses were administered within 72 hours this past week, which means the rate is continuously increasing as well. Moncef Slaoui is the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, who recently told the media that 17.5 million doses have now been shipped and the government is confident that this will help that rate increase even further. 

Currently vaccines are only being administered to healthcare workers and long-term care patients who are much more susceptible to getting infected with Covid-19. While America continues to wait for vaccinations to be distributed, our current administration is still battling the results of the 2020 election, meaning no further health and safety guidelines are being enforced throughout the nation, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are still being infected. 

The US has reported over 100,000 new Covid-19-related hospitalizations every day for 33 consecutive days, and a majority of the states are still relatively open in terms of businesses and public settings. With holiday travel restrictions being practically non-existent this past month, even more Americans are expected to become infected in the coming weeks. 

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“There’s no running away from the numbers. It’s something that we have absolutely got to grasp and get our arms around and turn that inflection down by very intensive adherence to the public health measures, uniformly throughout the country, with no exceptions.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus response, recently claimed, however, that there is still hope for the US and other countries currently enduring massive surges in new cases and deaths, but only if these countries adopt federally enforced measures such as mass-testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantining. President-elect Joe Biden has made multiple claims in the past that it’s likely he would be placing America under another lockdown once he’s inaugurated to alleviate all the pressure currently being placed on the nation’s hospitals. 

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged Americans, especially those who gathered over the holidays, to “self-quarantine, get tested, wear a mask, wash their hands and watch their distance. The projections are pretty scary, but they’re projections, and what we do now matters. I want people to understand that if we get over this current surge, then things will start to get better, but it depends on the actions that we all take right now.”

Covid-19 vaccines are expected to continue to be distributed throughout the nation to all vulnerable parties first. Fauci has claimed that it is likely most Americans will be vaccinated by the summer, however, that will also be dependent on what happens with this pandemic in the meantime in terms of new infections.

Novavax Covid-19 Vaccine Is Beginning Its Phase 3 Trial In The US

Vaccine maker Novavax and federal health researchers in the United States announced this Monday that they will begin a Phase 3 trial for the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine. This marks the fifth vaccine against the coronavirus that has reached this phase in the US. 

“We’ve come this far, this fast, but we need to get to the finish line. That will require multiple vaccines using different approaches to ensure everyone is protected safely and effectively from this deadly disease.”

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently released a statement regarding the vaccine, claiming that Novavax plans to enroll around 30,000 individuals across 115 trial sites in the US and Mexico. The vaccine is specifically known as NVX-CoV2373, and it will also be entering a Phase 3 trial in the united Kingdom as well. 

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Much like Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine’s, Novavax is a two-dose regime that is designed to boost the body’s immune system and help it recognize the coronavirus should it enter into the body. The vaccine manufactures its own antigens which mimics the virus’ distinct spike protein. The antigen itself can’t “replicate or cause Covid-19,” either. 

Novavax announced the promising data that the initial phases of the trial showed proves that the vaccine is safe and effective, and has so far only produced mild reactions that are typical to other vaccines as well. If the vaccine proves to be effective in the Phase 3 trials, it’ll be much easier to distribute than Pfizer and Moderna’s due to the fact that those vaccines must be kept at ultra-cold freezer temperatures, while the Novavax vaccine can be stored at refrigerated temperatures. 

Johnson&Johnson and AstraZeneca are the other two companies that have vaccines currently in their own Phase 3 trials currently as well. Trials for these companies are also occurring on an international level to ensure full security in terms of the vaccine’s safeness. 

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Novavax should also be one of the companies receiving an infusion of funds from Operation Warp Speed, a program created by the Trump administration to help increase vaccine development. However, now that Pfizer and Moderna have already begun distributing their vaccines to healthcare workers and other vulnerable groups in America, there may be less funding available. 

Dr. Gregory Glenn, the firm’s president of research and development, recently published a news release addressed to Americans who may be hesitant to sign up for the Phase 3 trial for the Novavax vaccine, expressing the importance of the research that they’re doing every day. 

“We recognize that volunteers considering our trial may have questions about the potential impact on their ability to receive an authorized vaccine when it becomes available to them. We wish to reassure participants that we are working to ensure that their involvement in our trial does not negatively impact their ability to be vaccinated at the appropriate time,” he stated, continuing on that volunteers who are worried about receiving the placebo shot in the trial should also understand how important that data is as well. 

The United Kingdom just wrapped up all the enrollments for their Phase 3 trial of the Novavax vaccine, and the US and Mexico should hopefully be following suit in the new year. In the meantime, continue to listen to your healthcare professionals and follow all the necessary protocols still in place to keep us all safe and healthy.

Trump Signs Covid-19 Relief And Government Funding Bill 

President Donald Trump has signed the $2.3 trillion Covid-19 relief and government funding bill into law this past Sunday night. The $900 billion coronavirus relief package will extend unemployment benefits to millions of jobless gig-workers, independent contractors, and long-term unemployed individuals. 

12 million Americans have been receiving benefits from two key pandemic unemployment programs. This past weekend would’ve marked their last weekend of payments had this bill not been signed; they will now receive another 11 weeks. All individuals collecting unemployment payments will also be receiving an additional $300 weekly through the middle of March. 

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Since Trump didn’t sign the bill on Saturday, however, those who are in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs will likely not receive a payment for the final week of 2020, and the $300 additional payments may only last 10 weeks due to the fact that the states can’t provide benefits for weeks before a program is fully authorized. 

The Covid-19 relief package was initially passed by Congress on Monday and then was flown to Mar-a-Lago on Thursday so Trump could then sign it. After endless hours of negotiations, the current president finally signed the bill, which will provide $600 stimulus payments to all adult Americans, and $1,200 to all couples; exactly half of what was given out during the initial round of stimulus payments. 

Trump himself has been spending the past month trying to get the 2020 election investigated on dozens of baseless claims of voter fraud, in fact, this past weekend when he signed the bill Trump claimed that the Senate would be “considering legislation that repeals Section 230, and thus start an investigation into voter fraud.” It’s currently unclear what that legislation would actually look like, and it’s important to note that there has been 0% evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election. 

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The two programs previously mentioned that are being extended allows the self-employed, freelance, and gig workers to qualify for up to 39 weeks of payments, and will now be opened up to those who can’t work in general due to the pandemic. 

The new deal extends the programs for up to 11 weeks and each will close to new applicants on March 14th but will continue through April 5th for individuals who have existing claims and have not reached their maximum number of weeks by that point. Eviction protection is also extended until January 31st and will provide $25 billion in rental assistance to those who are unable to work for pandemic-related reasons. 

It’s estimated that 9.2 million renters in America have lost their employment during the pandemic, and are struggling to pay their rent. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented an order in the beginning of the pandemic that halted some evictions and rental payments through 2020, however, the program didn’t cancel out the payments, so without this new package many Americans were gearing up to receive a massive bill on January 1st for all the rent they would owe from the past nine months.

New Strain Covid-19

Researchers Believe New UK Covid-19 Strain Has Already Infected ‘Hundreds’ Of Americans

Researchers studying the new UK strain of the coronavirus believe that it likely already is in the US, and has been since mid-November. It’s important to note that health officials have already determined that the new strain shows no major differences from the Covid-19 virus that we’ve been battling for the past ten months, and the vaccine will still work against this variant. The biggest issue has been that individuals who get infected with this strain are more likely to have a severe case of the virus. 

“If I had to guess, I would say it’s probably hundreds of Americans by now, it’s very possible it’s arrived multiple times in multiple places.”

Michael Worobey is the head of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona who recently spoke with the media about this new strain’s entrance into the US. Scientists in the UK have traced the new strain’s earliest known appearance to Kent, London on September 20th of this year. 

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“Imagine the amount of infected travelers leaving London — that’s been increasing exponentially,” said Trevor Bedford, associate professor in the vaccine and infectious disease division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Both Worobey and Bedford have estimated that the virus likely made its way to the US in mid-November. 

Scientists in the UK and around the world are now scouring genetic sequences of certain Covid-19 cases in the US to determine if any match up with the UK variant. So far none have been found, but that’s likely due to the fact that the US’s surveillance and tracking system is lacking when compared to other countries. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently discussed this new strain with the press in one of his daily briefings. 

“You really need to assume that it’s here already, it certainly is not the dominant strain, but I would not be surprised if it is already here and we didn’t detect it.” 

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The UK Covid-19 strain has not been identified in the US via genetic sequencing, however, of the 17 million coronavirus cases that the nation has now dealt with, only 51,000 have been sequenced, so there’s really no telling how many of those millions of cases were the UK strain. The CDC released a statement about their tracking efforts this week in response to this strain’s momentum in the UK. 

“Given the small fraction of US infections that have already been sequenced, the variant could already be in the United States without being detected.” 

In order to detect new variants of the virus, scientists must look at samples from infected patients and then sequence the genetics of those samples to look at the specific letter order in the genetic code. Since mid-November, when it’s believed this new strain entered the US, the UK has performed 9,000 genetic sequences while the US has only performed 300. 

Last month, however, the CDC launched a new strain surveillance program that would require states to send in at least 10 samples, two times a week, for analysis; the agency is expecting to have this program fully up and running in January. 

Moderna Vaccine

FDA Advisory Panel Officially Recommends Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine 

An advisory panel working for the Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization, nearly one week after Pfizer’s vaccine was approved. The panel itself isn’t a part of the FDA, but is a crucial part in the process of a new vaccine being approved for public consumption. 

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met this Thursday and unanimously voted 20-0 in favor of the vaccine’s approval. Now the FDA will review the committee’s analysis and trial data, like they did with Pfizer, and will likely start sending out the vaccine next week throughout the nation. 

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The committee’s unanimous vote indicates that each expert on the panel believes that the scientific evidence gathered from Moderna’s clinical trials prove the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for individuals 18 years or older. Dr. James Hildreth is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and was a member of the panel who recently spoke with the press about how hopeful he was after looking through all the data.

“To go from having a sequence of a virus in January to having two vaccines available in December is a remarkable achievement.” 

The committee’s main role is to provide solid advice to the FDA for moving forward in terms of vaccine distribution. Members have obviously been quite busy the past two weeks as now two vaccines are receiving the green light to be administered to Americans starting this month. For the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, frontline healthcare workers and other priority groups (nursing home residents) began receiving their initial doses this Monday. 

Panel member Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatrician at Stanford University Medical Center and professor of pediatrics, claims that with Moderna’s vaccine “the evidence that has been studied in great detail highly outweighs any of the issues we’ve seen and it really supports us being able to put the pandemic in our background, really move forward and finally provides a safe and effective way to get to herd immunity.”

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The Moderna vaccine reportedly is 94% effective in providing immunity against the coronavirus; Pfizer’s is just as effective as well. One of the biggest hurdles that healthcare workers/vaccine administers have had to deal with in terms of Pfizer’s vaccine is the fact that it has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures beyond what standard pharmaceutical freezers typically can handle.

Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, can be kept at a standard freezer temperature, which would make it much easier to store and allow it to be distributed to more vaccination sites throughout the nation who may not have the technology to store Pfizer’s vaccine. 

Both of the vaccines require two separate doses; the Pfizer vaccine’s second dose must be given 21 days after the first while Moderna’s can be given 28 days later. 

These vaccines couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is currently in the worst phase of the pandemic yet. More than 17 million people have been infected with Covid-19 and over 310,000 people have died. As case numbers surpass 100,000 daily and deaths surpass 1,000, the federal government is continuing to debate whether or not to give its citizens $600 or not and is continuing to allow the states to determine what establishments remain open to curb the spread. 

While President-elect Joe Biden has made numerous policy promises in terms of curbing the spread, he won’t be taking office for another month, and as we’ve seen, a lot of damage can be done in a month.