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Coronavirus Update: Parents await CDC decision on COVID vaccines for young children as Biden administration ships shots in anticipation of yes vote

Parents across the U.S. are awaiting the outcome of a meeting of an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scheduled for today, at which experts will make a decision on adding children aged 5 to 11 to the COVID vaccine program.

If the panel votes in favor, it will be down to CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky to make the final recommendation. A decision in favor would mean that about 28 million children in the U.S. in this age group would qualify for a COVID-19 shot. The U.S. has secured enough doses of the vaccine developed by these companies to cover this group of children, the White House said Monday.

“Parents should feel comforted not just that their children will be protected, but that this vaccine has gone through the necessary and rigorous evaluation that ensures the vaccine is safe and highly effective,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Monday during a White House briefing.

Dr. Gwen Nichols, chief medical officer at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society agreed.

“While children may be at lesser risk than older adults for severe COVID-19 infections, they are still at risk,” she said in emailed comments. “Widespread vaccination is critical to help stop the pandemic, and this includes the vaccination of younger children.”

An EUA for the younger age group ‘will allow vaccinated children to interact with more freedom, including with their parents and grandparents. This is particularly important for immunosuppressed patients, including those with blood cancers who have been in an impossible situation with their younger children returning to school in-person.”

The Biden administration is already assembling and shipping millions of COVID-19 shots for children in anticipation of a yes vote and the first could go into kids’ arms by midweek, the Associated Press reported. “We are not waiting on the operations and logistics,” said coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients.

By vaccinating children, the U.S. hopes to head off another coronavirus wave during the cold-weather months when people spend more time indoors and respiratory illnesses can spread more easily. Cases have been declining for weeks, but the virus has repeatedly shown its ability to stage a comeback and more easily transmissible mutations are a persistent threat.

Read also: A world remembers: Memorials honor COVID-19’s 5 million dead

The U.S. is still averaging more than 1,300 COVID deaths a day, according to a New York Times tracker, an undesirably high number almost two years into the pandemic. Alaska remains a hot spot, along with Colorado, where cases are rising the fastest in the nation. As most cases and deaths are in unvaccinated people, the urgency for that group to get their shots remains if they are to avoid dying a preventable death.

The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that almost 193 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 58% of the overall population, well below the 70% experts say is needed to halt the spread. Among people 12 years and over, some 67.9% are fully vaccinated.

Read:Newsweek cover on vaccines for children slammed by health experts: ‘Why not add a foot-long needle for good measure?’

Media reports continue to highlight stories of unvaccinated people regretting their decision when they become seriously ill. CNN reported Monday on one patient in Seattle returning to the hospital in late October to apologize to staff for his decision not to get his shots.

Richard Soliz, a graphic artist, spent 28 days on a ventilator and heart monitor in late August through September.

“I am certain that there is truth to this virus, and not being vaccinated leaves you vulnerable to the extent of possibly really taking a person’s life,” Soliz told CNN. “I personally know that, because I was not vaccinated. I did not act, I wasn’t certain, and I nearly lost my life.”

Soliz is far from alone.

Elsewhere, a judge suspended a Dec. 31 deadline for Chicago police officers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but didn’t interfere with a requirement that they be regularly tested, the AP reported. Disputes over vaccinations should be handled as a labor grievance with an arbitrator, Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell said.

The judge noted that COVID-19 has killed many officers nationwide.

“In light of that terrible sacrifice, the police unions’ request just to have their grievances heard seems a pretty modest task,” Mitchell said.

China is urging families to stock up on food and daily necessities as it prepares for further restrictions on movement to curb a series of outbreaks, the New York Times reported. China has enforced a “zero” COVID policy that includes widespread testing and lockdowns to stamp out any small resurgence of the coronavirus. The country of 1.4 billion has already locked down several cities in the North.

Read and watch: Shanghai Disneyland abruptly locks down, tests 33,000 visitors, remains shuttered for two days, apparently over single COVID contact

Tens of thousands of tourists and staff were tested at Shanghai Disneyland on Sunday, according to state media, after a person who had recently visited the park tested positive for Covid. Photo: Chinatopix/Associated Press

A CDC study published last week found that vaccine-induced and infection-induced immunity to COVID lasts six months, but the vaccine offers more consistency and creates a big boost in antibodies. The study involved analyzing the agency’s own data from more than 90 peer-reviewed studies, and was first reported by the Washington Post.

Several Russian regions are considering additional restrictions or extending a workplace shutdown to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases that has already prompted Moscow to re-impose a partial lockdown nationwide, Reuters reported. Russia reported 1,178 deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, its highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 39,008 new infections. Russia has set regular records in recent weeks as its population remains vaccine-hesitant, making it the worst hit country in Europe.

Indonesia has become the first country to grant an emergency use authorization to the vaccine developed by Novavax
the AP reported. The vaccine doesn’t require the extremely cold storage temperatures that some other vaccines need, which could allow it to play an important role in increasing supplies in poorer countries around the world.

Novavax said it has already filed for authorization of the vaccine in the United Kingdom, European Union, Canada, Australia, India and the Philippines.

Don’t miss: Why a pill you take at home could change the direction of the pandemic

As the FDA nears a decision on authorizing Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children 5-11 years old, public-health officials and pediatricians are sharing research with families to assure hesitant parents of the shot’s safety. Photo: John Locher/Associated Press

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 247 million on Tuesday, while the death toll edged above 5 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 46 million cases and 747,033 deaths.

 India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34.3 million and has suffered 458,437 deaths. Brazil has second highest death toll at 607,922 and 21.8 million cases.

In Europe, Russia has the most fatalities at 235,318 deaths, followed by the U.K. at 141,098.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 109,738 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively understated.

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