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News Wrap: U.S. negotiates with Pfizer to secure more coronavirus vaccine doses

In our news wrap Wednesday, Trump administration officials confirmed they are negotiating to buy more of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo self-quarantines after coming in contact with the virus, President-elect Biden formally introduced Pete Buttigieg as his pick for secretary of transportation, and Republican senators again pushed unfounded claims of election fraud.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: Trump administration officials confirmed they are negotiating to buy more of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

    It follows reports that they passed up earlier chances to buy more than the 100 million doses that are now under contract.

    Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar defended the government's effort, and he pointed to the expected approval of Moderna's vaccine.

  • Alex Azar:

    Within days, we hope to have another 94 percent-plus effective — safe and effective vaccine added to our arsenal, with tens of millions of doses, hundreds of millions doses coming in the months ahead, is truly something historic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Democratic governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, said today that federal officials have cut initial vaccine allotments for states and cities by half, to 4.3 million doses. There have separately been reports that Pfizer scaled back production due to supply problems.

    The Trump administration tonight is saying that vaccine allocations have not yet changed, but that they depend on supply. Meanwhile, a major snowstorm across the Northeast raised concerns today that vaccine distribution might be delayed.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is self-quarantining after coming in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. The State Department says Pompeo tested negative so far. The secretary has drawn criticism for hosting large in-person holiday parties amid the pandemic.

    President-elect Biden today formally introduced Pete Buttigieg as his choice for secretary of transportation. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is openly gay, and Mr. Biden said that his selection shows the Cabinet will be the most diverse ever, despite calls for more by some progressives.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    Our Cabinet doesn't have just one first or just two of these firsts, but eight precedent-busting appointments, and today a ninth, the first openly gay nominee to lead a Cabinet department and one of the youngest Cabinet members ever.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, President Trump voiced frustration with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for acknowledging Mr. Biden as president-elect.

    In a tweet overnight, he said — quote — "Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight."

    A number of other Republican senators heeded the president's call and today continued to push unfounded claims of election fraud at a hearing held over Democrats' protests.

    The federal government's former cybersecurity chief, Christopher Krebs, said that the claims are undermining confidence in democracy. Krebs was fired by President Trump after the election.

    In France, a court convicted 14 people linked to attacks on the "Charlie Hebdo" satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket in 2015. The attacks left 17 people dead. All three gunmen died in police raids. The widow of one of them was tried in absentia and given a 30-year prison sentence.

    A Chinese lunar probe has returned to Earth bringing back the first samples of the moon in more than 40 years. State TV tonight showed radar video of the unmanned capsule descending over Inner Mongolia. It contains about 4.5 pounds of rocks and debris. This is the latest success for China's ambitious space program.

    Back in this country, the Federal Reserve offered a brighter projection for economic growth next year. Policy-makers promised again to maintain stimulus measures, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that a key interest rate will stay near zero through at least 2023.

  • Jerome Powell:

    The economy will be growing in expectation, should be growing at a fairly healthy clip by the second half of next year. But it's going to be a while before we're really back to the levels of labor market — the sort of conditions in the labor market that we had early this year and for much of the last couple of years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Fed now estimates that unemployment will decline to 5 percent by the end of next year. That's half-a-point better than the last estimate.

    The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to hear arguments on compensating student athletes. A lower court has barred the college sports governing body, the NCAA, from curbing pay and benefits for Division I football and basketball players. A number of states have already passed laws against any limits.

    The state of Florida is halting commercial oyster fishing in a region that once produced 10 percent of the nation's supply. Wildlife officials voted today to close Apalachicola Bay to oyster harvests through 2025. The shellfish have declined as water is drained off upstream for human use.

    And on Wall Street, stocks mostly marked time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 44 points to close at 30154. The Nasdaq rose 63 points, to reach another record close. And the S&P 500 added six.

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