Coronavirus Vaccine Updates: More contagious variants spreading rapidly in US, study says

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- As more cases of the highly contagious variants first found in the UK and in South Africa are discovered across the U.S., the race is on to track, identify and test the worrying mutations to see how well the vaccines being rolled out can protect against them.

It's a race against time but most countries don't have any or enough capacity to monitor these rapidly emerging new variants. Though surveillance is now ramping up in the U.S., we're still relying on information from scientists in the UK.

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Here are more of today's headlines:



President Biden wants to use NFL stadiums for COVID-19 vaccine distribution
President Joe Biden says his administration intends to take up the NFL on its offer to use all of the league's stadiums as COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Biden mentioned the offer that came from Commissioner Roger Goodell in a letter this past week during an interview on CBS' Super Bowl pregame show.

Pastor gets heartfelt sendoff
A Suffolk County pastor received a heartfelt sendoff this weekend from staffers at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Doug Jansson, 42, got sick with COVID-19 in December and was put on life support. He has fully recovered and now says he looks forward to getting back to the work he loves with the church.

More than 2.1M vaccine doses administered
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state has administered over 2,136,209 vaccine doses through the state's vaccination program. The total week 8 federal allocation of vaccine delivery to providers will be complete today. As of 11 a.m. Sunday, New York's health care distribution sites have received 1,874,975 first doses and already administered 87 percent 1,627,191 first dose vaccinations and 76 percent of first and second doses. Delivery of the week 9 allocation from the federal government begins mid-week.

Health officials fear large Super Bowl gatherings
The coronavirus pandemic is on a collision course with one of the biggest sporting events of the year: Super Bowl Sunday.

Health officials fear that the large gatherings could spark another surge. The warnings came from all corners of the country ahead of the big game Sunday, with local and state leaders reminding Americans that despite the hopeful signs in declining numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, now is not the time to let their guards down.

Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic
With President Joe Biden vowing to get younger students back to the classroom by spring, some experts want the U.S. to refocus its COVID-19 testing system less on medical precision than on mass screening that they believe could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

As vaccinations slowly ramp up, they say turning to millions more rapid tests that are cheaper and faster but technically less accurate than the predominant genetic tests may improve the chances of identifying sick people during the early days of infection, when they are most contagious.

The case for widescale rapid testing is getting a boost from universities and school systems that have used the approach to stay open through the latest waves of the pandemic.

AstraZeneca vaccine being tweaked to fight S. Africa variant
Developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine expect to have a modified jab to cope with the South Africa coronavirus variant by autumn, the vaccine's lead researcher said Sunday.

Health officials in Britain are trying to contain the spread of the variant first identified in South Africa amid concerns that it is more contagious or resistant to existing vaccines. More than 100 cases of the South African variant have been found in the U.K.

Sarah Gilbert, lead researcher for the Oxford team, told the BBC on Sunday that "we have a version with the South African spike sequence in the works."

Pregnant mother survives COVID, gives birth at Staten Island hospital
A young woman was in an ICU on Staten Island fighting for her life last fall, but now she's back after giving birth to a baby son.

Unwilling to wait, poorer countries seek their own vaccines
Some poorer countries are getting tired of waiting to get vaccines through a United Nations program, so they are striking out on their own.

Countries including Honduras, Serbia and Mexico have cut their own private deals. Experts are increasingly concerned that these go-it-alone efforts could undermine a United Nations-backed program to get COVID-19 shots to the neediest people worldwide.

Police presence stepping up in France amid pandemic
Police in France are stepping up patrols to penalize people caught breaking the coronavirus-related curfew. Officers patrolled the streets of Paris Friday night, paying surprise visits to businesses that stayed open past the 6 p.m. curfew and breaking up any gatherings. Businesses that violate the curfew risk a two-week closure for a first offense, and up to a month for repeat offenses. Police officials say they are no longer being tolerant of violators, because virus infection levels are too high.

COVID vaccination sites in New York and New Jersey closed due to snow
COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites in New York and New Jersey have suspended operations on Sunday because of the winter storm.

Vaccine appointment tips for seniors
The competition to simply get a vaccine appointment has been called COVID's version of "The Hunger Games" which is leaving the most vulnerable group, 65 and up, at a supreme disadvantage. But 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda has some tips on leveling the pandemic playing field.

Top 7 COVID vaccine questions answered

You had questions about COVID-19 vaccines and 7 On Your Side is getting you answers from doctors on the front line of the pandemic.

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