August 7, 2020

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is trying to make sure an eventual coronavirus vaccine is affordable for everyone.

The foundation has donated $150 million to the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker, the Gavi vaccine alliance announced Friday. The money will help speed up the development and distribution of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine and make it available to 92 poorer countries for no more than $3 per dose.

"Too many times we've seen the most vulnerable countries left at the back of the queue when it comes to new treatments, new diagnostics and new vaccines," said Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley. But the consequences of such inequities when distributing a COVID-19 vaccine would be devastating. "If only the wealthiest countries in the world are protected, then international trade, commerce and society as a whole will continue to be hit hard as the pandemic continues to rage across the globe," Berkley continued.

The Serum Institute of India is one of several manufacturers working with AstraZeneca to make its candidate vaccine. It's also the go-to supplier for the World Health Organization, The Wall Street Journal notes. A total of 92 countries will be eligible to receive the discount vaccine as Gavi seeks $2 billion total to further support vaccine access. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:34 p.m.

Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield wanted to extend the agency's No Sail Order for cruise ships set to expire on Wednesday, but was blocked by the White House, The New York Times reports.

At the beginning of the pandemic, there were several coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships; the Diamond Princess, for example, saw 700 of its 3,711 passengers and crew members test positive for COVID-19, with 14 dying. Wanting to avoid a repeat of this, Redfield argued the No Sail Order, which went into effect in April as a way of combating the coronavirus, should be extended until mid-February 2021, but he was overruled during a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting on Tuesday, the Times reports. The task force decided instead ships will be able to set sail after Oct. 31.

The Cruise Lines International Association says the industry generates $53 billion in economic activity every year, and its biggest market in the United States is Florida. Republican politicians in the swing state and cruise industry lobbyists have been arguing that the No Sail Order should not be extended, but White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern told the Times the task force's decision was not politically motivated.

"The president, the vice president, and the task force follow the science and data to implement policies that protect the public health and also facilitate the safe reopening of our country," he said. Catherine Garcia

7:02 p.m.

On Wednesday, six rockets landed near Erbil International Airport in northern Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan region, the Ministry of Interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government announced, and a U.S. defense official told CNN there are initial indications that three of the rockets hit a base housing U.S. troops.

There are no reports of U.S. injuries, CNN reports, but the official called the attack "troubling" because of the number of rockets fired and the possibility that several of the rockets were larger than those typically used.

The Ministry of Interior said the rockets were fired from the direction of Sheikh Amir, a town in Nineveh province that is controlled by Hashad al Shabbi, a predominantly Shia paramilitary force.

Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region of Iraq Masrour Barzani tweeted that "the KRG will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Kurdistan's stability and our response will be robust. I have spoken to the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, on the importance of holding the perpetrators accountable." Catherine Garcia

5:57 p.m.

The NBA Finals are always high stakes, but there are several storylines behind the seven game series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat that tips off Wednesday night that could turn it into a particularly memorable showdown.

Friends-turned-nemeses — LeBron James will don the Lakers purple and gold against the Heat, whom he helped lead to back-to-back titles during his four-year stint in South Beach that ended in 2014. James' decision to leave the Heat and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted him 2003, was received warmly around the league and paid off when he won he brought a ring to Ohio in 2016, but Miami fans still have a sour taste in their mouths, and James' relationship with Heat president, Pat Riley, has reportedly diminished after the abrupt departure. James has downplayed the personal aspect of the series, but there is history there.

It's about time — Most franchises wouldn't be too concerned about a 10-year gap between Finals appearances, but the Lakers are different. They've been to 32 Finals throughout their history, the most of any team in the NBA, but it's been a decade since they made it this far and won their last championship behind the late Kobe Bryant, whose presence will certainly loom over the series.

Legacies — Any postseason series James plays in at this point in his Hall of Fame career has an affect on his legacy, but securing another ring would go a long way. James has made nine of the last 10 NBA finals, including this year's, but some of his critics still knock him for going 3-6 in his previous appearances. A title would also likely throw James' co-star Anthony Davis into a conversation about the best big men of all time. On the Miami side, Erik Spoelstra is continuing to cement himself as one of the league's great coaches, and their leader Jimmy Butler is trying to establish that he's capable of being the centerpiece on a title-winning team. Tim O'Donnell

5:27 p.m.

Another study is warning against President Trump's debunked coronavirus treatment.

Despite being studied as an early coronavirus treatment, studies have found the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine ineffective and even dangerous when used to fight coronavirus. A study published Wednesday added to that evidence, finding that the drug was ineffective in preventing health care workers from contracting coronavirus.

For the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania focused on 125 health care workers. Some of them received hydroxychloroquine for eight weeks from April to July, while others got a placebo. Throughout that time, four of the 64 workers who got the drug ended up with COVID-19, while four of the 61 who got the placebo did as well. Six of those who tested positive developed coronavirus symptoms, but none needed to be hospitalized. As a result, the researchers said they "cannot recommend the routine use of hydroxychloroquine" to prevent infections among health care workers.

In June, a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed hydroxychloroquine wasn't effective in preventing coronavirus infections after exposure to the virus. The FDA has since removed its emergency use authorization for the drug as a coronavirus treatment, and in July it released a study showing how the drug could cause serious side effects in hospitalized patients. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:03 p.m.

Fox News' Chris Wallace received mixed reviews for his performance as the moderator for the first 2020 presidential debate. Some analysts blamed him for failing to keep things under control, while others believe he did the best he could. For his part, Wallace said he's "just sad with the way" it all turned out.

In an interview with The New York Times, Wallace spoke candidly about the situation, admitting that he felt desperate while trying to prevent the candidates from interrupting each other. He also said he didn't realize until it was too late that President Trump wasn't planning to stop ignoring the ground rules (Wallace refused to say whether Trump deserved the primary blame for how things unfolded). "I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did," he told the Times, adding that, despite his lengthy journalism career, "I've never been through anything like this."

Afterwards, Wallace had no desire to celebrate, though he did reluctantly accept a glass of champagne from his producers at the airport. He said he's "been involved in a certain amount of soul-searching" since returning home. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

4:51 p.m.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) never wastes an opportunity to roast a CEO.

On Wednesday, three pharmaceutical executives, including former Celgene CEO Mark Alles, testified on drug pricing for the House Oversight Committee. While at the company, Alles saw a massive increase in the price of the cancer drug Revlimid — and Porter broke down just what it got Alles in return.

Porter started her takedown by asking Alles if he knew what a Revlimid pill cost in 2005: $215, she reminded him with the help of a whiteboard. And by the time Alles left the company late last year, after its sale to Bristol-Myers Squibb, a single Revlimid pill cost $763. "Did the drug get substantially more effective in that time? Did cancer patients need fewer pills?" Porter questioned, trying to figure out why Celgene upped the price. Alles answered by saying Revlimid proved effective in more patients. "So you discovered more patients who might benefit from paying $763 a pill?" Porter rhetorically responded, outlining how the average senior in her district couldn't even afford one pill.

Porter then moved on to tear apart the $13 million Alles made in 2017 as Celgene's CEO. "It's 200 times the average American's income and 360 times what the average senior makes on Social Security," Porter noted. She then reminded Alles just how he made "half a million dollars, personally, just by tripling the price of Revlimid." "The drug didn't get any better, the cancer patients didn't get any better, you just got better at making money," Porter concluded. Watch her questioning below. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:36 p.m.

Meet the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Kamala Khan.

Marvel Studios has cast newcomer Iman Vellani as the title character in the upcoming Disney+ show Ms. Marvel, Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter reported on Wednesday. Vellani in playing Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan will be portraying the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first Muslim superhero.

Kamala Khan, who draws inspiration from Captain Marvel, became Marvel's first Muslim character with her own comic in 2014, and the Reporter notes her comics are known for "exploring Kamala's identity as a Pakistani American living in a religious family while trying to find her own way." Vellani isn't an established actor, and in fact, according to Deadline, this is her first role in a major Hollywood production. She was previously a part of the Toronto International Film Festival's Next Wave Committee made up of "young film enthusiasts," and in a Q&A for the TIFF website, asked what character she'd play in a movie, she responded, "Iron Man ... duh."

In addition to starring on her own Disney+ show, Ms. Marvel is expected to appear in upcoming Marvel movies as well. Kumail Nanjiani, who's set to star in Marvel's Eternals, congratulated Vellani on Wednesday, tweeting, "Your work is going to mean so much to so many people, myself included." Needless to say, you may not have heard the name Iman Vellani prior to today, but in the years ahead, get ready to hear it a whole lot more. Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads