There was good news for parents Friday when Pfizer said the vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech proved 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children aged 5 to 11 in a clinical trial, using a 10-milligram dose instead of the 30 mg given to adults.
Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -0.63% has submitted the data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to weigh in on its review of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness later in the day, the Associated Press reported. The news comes days after the White House unveiled its plan for administering the vaccine to children, which it expects to start in November, assuming the FDA authorizes it by then. That would mean the first children in that age group could be fully dosed by Christmas.
While children run a lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 has killed more than 630 people aged 18 or less in the U.S., according to the CDC. Nearly 6.2 million children have been infected with the coronavirus, more than 1.1 million of those in the last six weeks as the delta variant surged, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Advisers to the FDA will publicly debate the evidence next week. If the agency ultimately authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the final decision on who should receive them.
The CDC on Thursday, as expected, gave the go-ahead for booster doses of the Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -1.76% and Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.56% vaccines to be given to people 65 or older, nursing-home residents and people with weakened immune systems. It also allowed people to “mix and match” vaccines, or get a booster that is different from their primary dose.
“These past 20 months have taught us many things, but mostly to have humility,” CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky told an advisory panel. “We are constantly learning about this virus, growing the evidence base and accumulating more data.”
On Friday, Walensky told NBC’s “Today” show that the CDC has no preference to offer those wishing to mix vaccines. She also said it was “really encouraging” that the peak of cases caused by the highly transmissible delta variant seems to have passed. However, “we’re heading into winter, where respiratory viruses generally do thrive,” she cautioned.
“Our hard work is to continue to get those cases down, to continue to get people vaccinated, not only our children when and if they’re ready, but, as well, the 63 million Americans who are not vaccinated at all,” she said.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that almost 190 million Americans are fully vaccinated, still below the 70% threshold experts say is needed to stop the spread. And more Americans are getting boosters every day than primary doses, according to CDC data. About 340,000 people a day received a booster shot in the week through Tuesday, compared with an average of 157,605 people getting their initial shots.
The U.S. is still averaging more than 1,500 deaths a day, according to a New York Times tracker, even as new cases and hospitalizations continue to steadily decline. But rates vary across states, and new hot spots are emerging in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the tracker shows, while northern Minnesota is also still showing high caseloads and has called in the National Guard to help with staffing at long-term-care facilities.
Elsewhere, Gordon Brown, former U.K. prime minister and now ambassador for global health financing at the World Health Organization, said Thursday that there was a shortfall of 500 million vaccine doses in the global south, as he urged greater equity in vaccine supply.
The failure of wealthier countries to get vaccines to poorer ones is a “moral catastrophe of historic proportions,” he told a WHO news briefing.
The issue has become starker, now that booster programs have been launched in the U.S. and several European and Asian countries, he said.
“If, at the G-20, the world’s richest countries cannot expedite airlifting vaccines immediately, it will be an epidemiological, economic and ethical dereliction of duty that will shame us all,” he said.
Ukraine set a second straight single-day record for new cases and deaths, Medical Express reported. A government tally registered 23,785 new infections and 614 deaths in the ex-Soviet state, which has an underresourced public health service.
Neighboring Russia suffered a similar fate with 1,064 new fatalities and 37,141 new cases in a 24-hour period, according to the Moscow Times.