Thursday morning news – December 17, 2020

FDA panel reviews Moderna emergency use application » The Moderna coronavirus vaccine could take another critical step toward approval today. 

A group of FDA advisors will meet for the second time in eight days as they review Moderna’s application. 

Paul Duprex is director of vaccine research at the University of Pittsburgh. He told the Associated Press…

DUPREX: Just like the Pfizer vaccine, which is a messenger RNA vaccine, the Moderna vaccine works equivalently and is being sent forward for emergency use authorization. 

FDA scientists released documents ahead of today’s meeting finding Moderna’s vaccine to be safe and effective. Like Pfizer’s vaccine, trials have shown it to be about 95 percent effective. 

Developing countries face longer road out of pandemic » With the United States and other Western countries now rolling out vaccines, the path out of the pandemic seems clear for those wealthy nations.  But for poorer countries, the road will be far longer and rougher. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The World Health Organization created an ambitious program known as COVAX. It aims to ensure the entire world has access to COVID-19 vaccines. But so far, it has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year and it’s running low on cash. 

Developed countries, some of which helped fund the research with taxpayer money, are buying up shots. Meanwhile, some poorer countries that signed up to the COVAX initiative are looking for alternatives because of fears it won’t deliver.

The head of global health at the World Economic Forum, Arnaud Bernaert, said “it’s simple math.” Drugmakers will likely make about 12 billion doses of vaccines next year. And wealthy nations have already reserved nine billion of those doses.  

That means the light at the end of the tunnel is still barely visible in developing countries. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Top lawmakers say coronavirus relief bill is close » Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says lawmakers are making progress toward a compromise on a coronavirus relief bill. 

MCCONNELL: Mr. President, the Democratic leader and I worked into the evening, alongside the speaker of the House and the House Republican leader. We made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package.

McConnell speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday. 

And Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed. 

SCHUMER: We are close to an agreement. It’s not a done deal yet, but we are very close. 

A bipartisan group of senators released text this week of a $908 billion proposal. 

Republicans continue to press for liability protection for businesses while Democrats want more aid for state and local governments.

McConnell said the two sides agreed they will not break for Christmas until they come together on a bill.

Senate panel probes reported election problems » Meantime, a Senate committee on Wednesday looked into reported voting irregularities in last month’s election.

Ron Johnson is the Republican chairman of the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs panel. He said he believes Joe Biden is the legitimate winner but Congress must address voter concerns so the public can feel confident in the next election.

JOHNSON: It’s legitimate congressional oversight that is necessary when we have such a large percentage of the American population in both the 2016 and 2020 elections not accepting the results as legitimate. That’s a problem. We need to fix that.

Among the witnesses, Christopher Krebs, the former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. 

KREBS: On November 12, 2020, government and industry executives from the election security community issued a joint statement reflecting a consensus perspective that the 2020 election was the most secure in U.S. history.

President Trump fired Krebs one month ago today after he contradicted the president’s claims about widespread voter fraud. 

On Wednesday, Krebs again told lawmakers that the election went smoothly. 

Lawmakers bickered heatedly at times. Republicans said handling of the election was sloppy in many states and districts. 

Democrats disagreed and said the hearing only elevated groundless claims of voter fraud.

(AP Photo/Hans Pennink) In this Monday, July 27, 2020 file photo, a nurse prepares a syringe during a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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