In positive news for parents, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted 17-0 in favor of vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 with the shot developed by Pfizer
agreeing that the benefits outweigh the risks in that age group.
The vote must now be endorsed by the FDA, and will then move to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a final stamp of approval. The CDC ‘s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is set to meet next Tuesday and Wednesday, after which a decision must be approved by CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
There are more than 25 million children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 11, many of whom are back in classrooms and relying on other mitigation measures like masks and distancing to avoid getting sick.
“We can’t forever have mitigation, particularly in schools,” said Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatrician at Stanford University Medical Center and one of the committee’s acting chairs. “Children need the more open life, as we all do.”
About 6.3 million children have had COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic, making up about 16% of all cases in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The White House explained last week how it plans to administer vaccines to that younger age group, saying it will use 25,000 pediatricians’ offices, in addition to 100 children’s hospitals, “tens of thousands” of pharmacies, and some school and community sites.
The U.S. is still averaging more than 1,400 COVID-19 deaths a day, according to a New York Times tracker, although new cases are averaging fewer than 75,000 a day, or less than half the number seen in early September.
But most deaths and cases are happening in unvaccinated people, and hot spots Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are still leading the way in cases measured on a per capita basis.
Vermont, New Hampshire, and Colorado, meanwhile, are still averaging more cases than they were two weeks ago.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the pandemic is “far from finished” and urged greater equity in vaccine supply. The WHO’s emergency committee, which meets every three months, called for research into next-generation vaccines for longer-term control of the pandemic, as AFP reported.
Elsewhere, a Brazilian Senate panel voted to bring nine criminal charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, including for “crimes against humanity,” for his handling of the pandemic, the Times reported. The panel accused Bolsonaro of intentionally allowing the virus to spread unchecked in an effort to reach herd immunity without pausing the economy. Brazil has lost more than 606,000 people to the pandemic, the second highest death toll after the U.S. and one that is widely held to be underestimated.
In the U.K., a parliamentary watchdog founds that the government’s test-and-trace system failed to achieve its main goal of cutting infection levels and helping the country return to normal, despite getting an “eye-watering” £37 billion in taxpayer funds, the Guardian reported. The chair of the watchdog, Dame Meg Hillier, said the program treated taxpayers like “an ATM.”
Russia set yet another record one-day death toll of 1,106, the Moscow Times reported, as it prepares to shut down for a full week in an effort to contain the spread. Tuesday’s increase brings the official death toll to 232,775 — Europe’s highest — though authorities are accused of dramatically playing down that figure. A Moscow Times analysis of excess deaths published by the federal statistics agency Rosstat puts Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the pandemic at 660,000.
Australia will start offering booster shots of the Pfizer COVID vaccine to anyone above the age of 18, the Conversation.com reported. Australians will be allowed to take a third dose six months after a second one.
Another California county closed down an In-N-Out burger-chain location on Tuesday because the chain refuses to enforce COVID-19 vaccination rules, the Associated Press reported. Contra Costa County health officials indefinitely shut the Pleasant Hill restaurant after it ignored repeated warnings to verify that customers who wanted to dine indoors had vaccination cards or proof they had tested negative for the virus in the past 72 hours.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 244.6 million on Wednesday, while the death toll edged above 4.96 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 45.6 million cases and 738,890 deaths.
India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34.2 million and has suffered 455,653 deaths. Brazil has the second officially reported highest death toll at 606,646 and 21.7 million cases.
In Europe, Russia has reported the most fatalities at 229,672 deaths, followed by the U.K. at 140,253.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 109,316 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.