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Coronavirus update: CDC approves booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines

The FDA is ready to consider boosters for young children

COVID-19 booster vaccine doses
Photo (c) SDI Productions - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 45,312,103 (45,234,901)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 733,435 (731,541)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 242,698,743 (242,288,846)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,933,356 (4,925,854)‌

CDC signs off on booster shots

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has endorsed booster shots using vaccines produced by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The CDC agreed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendation to move forward.

The CDC also backed the FDA’s approval of “mixing and matching” vaccines, allowing someone inoculated with one type of vaccine to receive a booster of another type. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky issued her decision based on a unanimous recommendation of a CDC advisory committee.

“These recommendations are another example of our fundamental commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19,” Walensky said.

FDA to consider Pfizer vaccine for younger children

An FDA advisory committee meets next week to decide if the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine should be given to children between the ages of five and 11. Today, the agency released data collected by the drugmakers that shows the vaccine is 90% effective in young children.

The clinical trials studied a dose of 10 micrograms of the vaccine given to children aged five to 11. The smaller dose, about a third of what adults receive, is aimed at reducing side effects while still generating robust antibodies.

The companies reported that the vaccine appeared to be more than 90% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 while producing minimal side effects in the primary clinical trial. The antibody response to the vaccine was comparable to the one seen in people 16 to 25 years old.

Experts worried about the pandemic’s mental health impact

The world can be a scary enough place for young people without a global pandemic. Health researchers, alarmed at rising mental health issues among teens and young adults, believe COVID-19 may be partly to blame.

The CDC recently reported that visits to emergency rooms for suicides and suicide attempts among girls aged 12 through 17 increased more than 50% in early 2021 compared to 2019.

In a statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. The group said the pandemic “has struck at the safety and stability of families.” 

Around the nation

  • Washington: Some state legislators say they are being blocked from entering certain parts of the state capital building after lawmakers passed a law requiring everyone to provide proof of vaccination. As many as 26 legislators have not yet complied, and officials say their key cards have been deactivated.

  • Massachusetts: State health officials report that the number of “breakthrough” cases, in which fully vaccinated people test positive for the virus, is declining. In the last week, health officials counted 3,431 new breakthrough cases, down significantly from the previous week's 4,034 cases.

  • Arizona: Health officials say they are already planning to vaccinate the state’s children between the ages of five and 11 in preparation for expected approval from the FDA and CDC. Jessica Rigler, an assistant director with the Arizona Department of Health Services, says the state will initially have a third of the doses needed to vaccinate Arizona’s 600,000 eligible children.

  • Kentucky: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Kentucky Medical Association have launched a campaign called “Take it from me,” in which former vaccine skeptics who survived the illness urge people to get vaccinated. Marshall County resident Ethan Koeler, who was hospitalized for two weeks, said he would have gotten the shot if he had known how horrible the virus is.

  • North Carolina: The town of Garner will celebrate Christmas this year with a Christmas parade on Dec. 18. The parade was canceled the previous two years -- last year because of COVID-19 and in 2019 because of “threats of violence.”

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