ORLANDO, Fla. – Just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday and as new vaccine information appears to offer more hope, coronavirus cases are climbing across the U.S.
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals.
The news comes days after competitors Pfizer and Moderna reported that preliminary results from late-stage trials involving their vaccines showed their shots were almost 95% effective.
Pfizer even announced on Friday that it was moving forward with asking U.S. regulators to approve emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine.
AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage results for a potential coronavirus vaccine and if approved by health officials once the company asks for emergency approval, its vaccine could be the easiest to widely distribute because AstraZeneca’s shot can be stored at normal temperatures.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also cheaper. AstraZeneca, which has pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its cost at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20 a dose, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have struck to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.
AstraZeneca said it will immediately apply for early approval of the vaccine where possible, and it will seek an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization, so it can make the vaccine available in low-income countries.
All three companies’ vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.
While the world continues to wait to see what happens in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, many countries, including the U.S., are seeing another wave of the virus. On Sunday, more than 141,000 new cases were reported nationwide, bringing the nation’s total number of cases to more than 12.3 million since the start of the pandemic. More than 6,400 of those cases were reported in Florida, according to the state department of health.
The latest numbers come days ahead of Thanksgiving, a time when people typically gather with family and friends. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, is advising against those gatherings this year due to the virus.
Instead, health officials are asking Americans to keep gatherings small and among those who live in the same household. The agency is also encouraging people to stay home and avoid traveling for the holiday to prevent spreading the virus to other places.
In Central Florida, long lines at COVID-19 testing centers have been reported for several days as residents hoping to see loved ones for the holidays are getting tested for the novel coronavirus.
Drivers began lining up in their cars outside the Orange County Convention Center before 6 a.m. on Monday to get tested for COVID-19.
Emergency management officials said long lines are expected again this week as millions prepare to travel for Thanksgiving.
Mike Jachles, with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said it will not only be busy on Monday, but he’s expecting all state-run testing sites to be busy leading up to Thursday.
He’s urging people to plan ahead and have a full tank of gas and use the restroom before arriving at the testing site.
Jachles also said people should know what test they will need before traveling whether it’s a PCR or molecular test, which allows up to three days for results depending on lab workload or a rapid antigen test, which provides results in the same day.
Anyone hoping to get a test at the convention center can preregister at patientportalfl.com.
Below is information provided by the Florida Department of Health for Monday, Nov. 23.
The Florida Department of Health reported 6,331 new cases on Monday, bringing the state’s overall total to 944,745 cases since March.
The Florida Department of Health on Monday reported 96 people have recently died from COVID-19. As of Monday’s coronavirus report, a total of 18,310 deaths across the state have been related to the coronavirus, a number that includes 225 non-resident deaths in Florida.
State health officials have always maintained that virus fatalities are often delayed in being reported to the FDOH, with some deaths not reported for a month or more.
Currently, there are 3,754 people with the virus hospitalized in Florida as of Monday afternoon, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.
Florida’s positivity rate - the number of positive tests compared to overall tests-- ranged from 5.1% to 8.44% over the past two weeks. For tests reported Sunday, it was 6.57%.
[READ YESTERDAY’S REPORT: Florida reports 6,500 new coronavirus cases on Sunday]
Below is a breakdown of the coronavirus numbers across the 10-county Central Florida region for Nov. 23:
|County||Cases||New Cases||Hospitalizations||New Hospitalizations||Deaths||New Deaths|
The Associated Press contributed to this report.