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Photo: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, one day after it was endorsed by a panel of independent experts.

Why it matters: The authorization of a second coronavirus vaccine, coming exactly one week after the FDA cleared Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for emergency use, increases vaccine access for millions of Americans and marks another milestone on the country’s path to curbing the pandemic.

Between the lines: Moderna's vaccine, which the FDA confirmed is safe and has a 94.1% efficacy rate, does not need to be stored at ultracold temperatures and comes in smaller batches, making it easier to distribute to rural areas than Pfizer's vaccine.

What they're saying: "To have two vaccines against a novel virus authorized and distributed within a year is extraordinary, and to have one of these vaccines developed by scientists at the NIH should be a great source of pride for every member of the HHS family and every American," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in response to the FDA's authorization.

  • "The DoD, with the work of General Perna and Operation Warp Speed, stands ready to work with our public and private-sector partners to ensure doses reach Americans as soon as possible," Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said.

What's next: The FDA's decision means that the distribution of roughly 6 million doses of Moderna's vaccine will begin this weekend.

  • The Centers for Disease Control has advised that frontline workers and nursing home patients be the first recipients of available vaccines. Thousands began receiving the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine last week.
  • A CDC committee will decide on Sunday which "priority group" should come next, with "essential workers" like teachers and law enforcement likely to be recommended, according to the New York Times.
  • Governors will then be responsible for determining which people within that group will receive their state's limited supply of vaccines.

The big picture: The authorization of Moderna's vaccine comes one day after a record 3,438 Americans were reported to have died from the virus. It also comes amid confusion and concern after the Trump administration informed state after state that they'll be getting 25%-40% fewer Pfizer vaccine doses next week than they'd been expecting.

What to watch: Operation Warp Speed officials said Johnson & Johnson closed recruitment for its Phase 3 trials — which have enlisted about 44,000 people — on Thursday.

  • The company is expecting results on its one-dose vaccine candidate by early January.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Florida police arrest data scientist who challenged state on COVID-19 dashboard

Florida's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard displayed on a computer screen. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rebekah Jones, a former Florida health department data scientist who says she was wrongly fired last year, has been charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Driving the news: Jones turned herself in Sunday night after a warrant was issued for her arrest. Authorities raided her home last month, causing outcry online after she tweeted a video of the incident.

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.