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Developing vaccines is very hard work, as evidenced by Tuesday's news that AstraZeneca is pausing its clinical trials on a COVID-19 vaccine after a patient appeared to develop a serious neurological condition. And that raises an unsettling question: What if a vaccine is further away than most of us expect?

Axios Re:Cap digs in with Stat News reporter Adam Feuerstein, who helped break the AstraZeneca news.

Go deeper

Dec 4, 2020 - World

UN: "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme. Photo: Souleymane Ag Anara/AFP via Getty Images

Next year is "going to be catastrophic" in terms of worldwide humanitarian crises, World Food Program executive director David Beasley warned on Friday, per Reuters.

Driving the news: The stark outlook comes as many countries contend with not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also possible famine, economic instability, conflict and other humanitarian crises. A record 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year, a nearly 40% increase from 2020, the UN projected earlier this week

DeVos extends federal student loan relief to Jan. 31

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is extending federal student loan relief, which includes a pause on payments and interest accrual, through Jan. 31, the Department of Education announced Friday.

Why it matters: Payments have been paused since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the relief was set to expire on Dec. 31 . The relief measures, which also include the suspension of collections of defaulted federal student loans, have helped mitigate some of the pandemic's negative consequences for millions of borrowers.

Dec 4, 2020 - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.