Coronavirus update: Pfizer vaccine reportedly safe for young children, FDA panel says boosters aren’t for everyone

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COVID-19 tests are getting harder to find

Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University ‌(previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses)‌.

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 42,091,633 (42,008,645)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 773,781 (672,406)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 228, 678,343 (228,460,002)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,695,251 (4,689,580)‌

Pfizer says vaccine is safe for young children

Drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech, who developed one of the three COVID-19 vaccines in use in the U.S., say Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials show their vaccine is both safe and effective for use in children as young as 5 years old.

They report the trials showed a favorable safety profile and robust antibody responses when administered to children between the ages of 5 and 11. Currently, the vaccine is approved only for people age 12 and older.

“Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240 percent in the U.S. – underscoring the public health need for vaccination,” said Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO at Pfizer. “These trial results provide a strong foundation for seeking authorization of our vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, and we plan to submit them to the FDA and other regulators with urgency.”

FDA panel: Booster shots not for everyone

In a vote late Friday, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel voted to recommend booster shots only for people age 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems. The panel of health experts concluded most people don’t need a booster shot at this point.

The vote is seen as a setback for the Biden administration, which announced last month that it would pursue a broad rollout of the boosters. But Dr. Luciana Borio, the FDA’s former chief scientist, backs the panel’s conclusion. 

“The advisers made a very sensible decision by recommending that ... the boosters be made available to a subset of the initial population that was proposed, the elderly, the ones that are most vulnerable to complications from COVID,” Borio told NPR. "And I think it also shows that the process really worked, that there was a very fulsome scientific debate on the merits about the proposed plan." 

At-home COVID-19 tests are now hard to find

Last year consumers stockpiled toilet paper. This year they’re loading up on at-home COVID-19 tests. As the Delta variant spread across the nation over the summer, anecdotal evidence showed the tests were almost impossible to find at drug stores.

The Wall Street Journal reports many businesses have snapped up these test kits in anticipation of offices reopening. Some schools are also reportedly stockpiling them.

But just how reliable are these tests, which yield results in about 15 minutes? According to the Journal, scientists say they're most reliable when used on people who have displayed symptoms.

Around the nation

  • Florida: The state is finally getting some relief from COVID-19. Federal health officials report there were 8,976 COVID-19 patients in 255 Florida hospitals on Sunday. That’s down nearly 16% from the previous Sunday.

  • New York: The latest super-spreader concern is not a concert or crowded sporting event. Health officials are worried about the upcoming meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Diplomats from around the world will meet in person after last year’s virtual gathering.

  • South Dakota: South Dakota is one of the states in which many residents have declined a COVID-19 vaccination, but it appears to be catching up. The latest numbers show nearly half the state’s residents are now fully vaccinated and 57% have received at least one shot.

  • Oklahoma: State health department officials say they are “cautiously optimistic” that the tide is turning in their state. After reaching new case levels not seen since January’s surge, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reports new cases have declined by nearly 15% in the last week.

  • Wisconsin: State health officials report two counties within the state experienced “critically high” COVID-19 case activity levels last week, due primarily to the spread of the Delta variant. Out of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, only Menominee County is showing no significant change in high case activity level.

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