An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Wednesday 13-1 to recommend that people ages 12 to 15 receive a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The extra shot can be given at least five months after the end of the original two-dose regimen.
CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, is expected to quickly sign the recommendation of the Agency’s Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices, paving the way for the additional doses to be given immediately. The committee also strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds should also get a booster. Earlier guidance said the age group “can” get a shot.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the booster earlier this week, basing its decision largely on data from Israel that found no new safety concerns, with 6,300 12- to 15-year-olds receiving a Pfizer booster five months after their second dose.
The booster is seen as a crucial weapon against the pandemic as students return to classrooms after the winter break amid a historic, omicron-driven rise in cases. Boosters are already recommended for all 16 years and older.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is the only US option for children of all ages. About 13.5 million 12- to 17-year-olds – just over half of this age group – have received two Pfizer shots, according to the CDC.
The CDC Committee stressed that primary vaccinations and masking are even more important than boosters in preventing serious illness and transmission. Boosters for healthy children are useful, especially during the current major outbreak, but less significant, several committee members said. Immunocompromised youth are already entitled to extra shots.
Also in the news:
The ►Grammy Awards, originally scheduled for January 31, have been postponed for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. A new date has not been announced.
►USA had an average of 491,000 new infections daily over the past seven days, almost double the previous seven days, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky at a briefing at the White House on Wednesday. Hospital admissions increased by 63%, she said.
►A new variant of coronavirus, called IHU based on the French institute where it was first identified, has infected more than 10 people, but is not considered a variant of interest or concern by the World Health Organization.
A New York teacher was arrested after injecting a teenager with a COVID-19 vaccine without parental consent, the Nassau County Police Department said Monday. Laura Parker Russo, 54, was charged with unauthorized pursuit of a profession, according to a press release.
📈Today’s figures: The United States has recorded more than 57.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases – or one in six people in the country – and more than 831,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: More than 297 million cases and 5.4 million deaths. More than 206.8 million Americans – 62% – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we read: US coronavirus cases surpass previous records: How omicron shapes the pandemic.
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The unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic was denied entry to Australia for the tournament
Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player and nine-time Australian Open champion, has been denied entry to Australia for this year’s tournament due to visa irregularities associated with his medical exemption from getting the COVID vaccine.
Djokovic, who has openly been contemptuous of COVID vaccines and mitigation measures, said on Tuesday he had been granted a waiver, a notice that received severe setbacks. The tournament’s host city, Melbourne, has endured more than 260 days of lockdowns due to the pandemic.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison even threatened to put Djokovic “on the next plane home” if he could not prove the legitimacy of his medical reason for not being vaccinated. Although Djokovic has not boarded that plane yet, his participation in the Australian Open is in grave danger.
– Dan Clouds
CDC isolation guidelines are confusing, counterproductive, the AMA says
The CDC’s new guidelines for quarantine and isolation are not only confusing, they put people at risk. This is the claim of an organization that typically joins the country’s health protection agency – the American Medical Association.
The guidelines, issued on December 27, shortened the time that those infected with the virus or exposed to it should stay away from others for five days. After that, provided that the person in question has no symptoms or that they resolve, the CDC recommends wearing a mask around others for five days.
It’s not enough, says the AMA, which claims that based on the CDC’s own information, about 31% of those who test positive for the virus can remain contagious five days later.
“Doctors are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could further overwhelm our healthcare system,” said AMA President Dr. Gerald E. Harmon, in a statement. “A negative test should be required to complete isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Recurrence without knowing its status unnecessarily risks further transmission of the virus.”
‘She was NOT vaccinated. That was the problem. ‘ A politician from Southern California dies of COVID at age 46
The COVID death of a Southern California politician who opposed vaccine mandates has sparked a heated debate over vaccinations on her husband’s Facebook page.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby, a Republican who ran for state assembly in 2020 and planned to pursue a seat again this year, died of COVID this week at the age of 46.
Ernby had previously opposed government-mandated vaccinations for children and as recently as December expressed his opposition to mandating COVID vaccines, saying: “There is nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now.”
Her death from the disease triggered a firestorm of reactions on social media, and some commentators expressed their sympathy with her husband, Mattias Ernby. Others, however, had more pointed remarks, including one named Len Thomas, who wrote, “If your wife had been vaccinated, she would still be alive.”
Nobody’s words were as poignant as Mattias Ernby’s words, which, by correcting those who claimed Kelly Ernby had received the COVID vaccine, wrote: “She was NOT vaccinated. That was the problem.”
“We can not vaccinate the planet every 4 to 6 months,” warns the vaccine maker
The United States and other developed countries are considering another booster for their populations, but a co-creator of the AstraZeneca vaccine warns that “we can not vaccinate the planet every four to six months.”
“It’s not sustainable or affordable,” Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the Daily Telegraph. Pollard said vaccination efforts should be targeted at the vulnerable.
Pollard estimates that 9 billion COVID vaccine doses, including those manufactured by AstraZeneca, have been given worldwide since the first non-trial doses were dotted at the end of 2020. He said efforts to keep everyone protected from infection must be abandoned.
“At some point, society needs to open up. When we open up, there will be a period of a bump in infections, which is why winter is probably not the best time,” he told the Telegraph. “But it is a decision for the policy makers, not the researchers.”
Pollard said in an interview with Sky News that it is too early to say whether future coronavirus variants will be milder than those that emerged earlier in the pandemic. “I do not think at present we can be sure that future versions of coronavirus, the sons and daughters of omicron, will cause mild illness,” he added.
The Supreme Court hears the challenge of federal mandates in the midst of a historic rise
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in challenges to two federal vaccine claims Friday at a time when the omicron variant is causing infections to rise. While judges have repeatedly rejected challenges to state and local COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the Biden administration is almost guaranteed a tougher reception. Federal courts have long recognized the power of the state and local governments to regulate public health. But the federal government is a different story.
Brandon Trosclair, a second-generation merchant and former Republican candidate for legislative office in Louisiana, filed a lawsuit in which he challenged the federal requirement that his workers be vaccinated.
“I just thought it was incredibly wrong to put that burden on both the employer and … on the employee.” read more here.
– John Fritze
Influenza + coronavirus = Flurona: Should we be worried?
Texas Children’s Hospital announced this week that tests confirmed a child was infected with influenza A and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The patient was not admitted and is recovering at home, the hospital states. Health experts expect to see more “flurona” amid rapidly rising cases of influenza and coronavirus
“I expect to see lots of concomitant infections in the future, but I do not see anything to suggest that it makes COVID infections worse,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases. “These are two viral pathogens that we actually have medication for.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
The entertainment industry is struggling in the midst of the recent rise
As COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant continue to rise, entertainment offerings and events are again canceled or postponed. The Critics Choice Awards show, set for Sunday, was postponed. The same was the New York Film Critics Circles award ceremony, which was originally scheduled for next Monday. “Late Night with Seth Meyers” was canceled all week after the star tested positive. Broadway is having a hard time, too. “Mrs. Doubtfire” producer Kevin McCollum announced that the musical would take a break from January 10 to March 14. read more here.
“Ms. Doubtfire has been under development for six years. We are doing everything in our power to prevent the virus from ending our run on Broadway prematurely,” McCollum said. “By taking this break, we can afford to launch an extended race starting in March.”
The cool designer fabric masks do not cut it with omicron, experts say
As common as drug masks have become, health experts say they do little to prevent small virus particles from entering your nose or mouth and are not effective against the omicron COVID variant. Omicron spreads faster and more efficiently than other known COVID-19 variants, making it extremely transferable – even through thick fabric masks. Experts urge the public to choose three-layer surgical masks, KN95 or N95 masks, which provide more protection against the highly contagious variant. Several countries, such as Germany and Austria, have requirements for surgical masks in public.
“Fabric masks will not cut it with omicron,” Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech researcher, told NPR.
– Gabriela miranda
The spring semester is sprouting up online at many schools
A new year and the new strain of coronavirus are reviving well-known problems for the nation’s millions of college students. Some universities have already decided to offer the first weeks of the spring semester virtually. And those who offer a personal start say digital education is still an option. What’s more, some who had rolled back COVID-19 precautions have reintroduced these measures, such as the University of Alabama, which reintroduced its masking requirements.
Davidson College professor Chris Marsicano, who is leading the College Crisis Initiative to study how colleges respond to the pandemic, says about 10% of the 400 major universities the group has reviewed so far plan to start online for the spring semester.
“This is not like last fall, where going online for a little bit could mean being online forever,” he said. “All indications are that any delay or remote start will be followed up shortly thereafter by a return to normal operation.”
– Chris Quintana
Starring: Associated Press