A key federal advisory committee is set to consider on Tuesday whether to recommend that a pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine be offered to 5- to 11-year-olds, setting in motion a string of decisions that could lead to children getting shots as early as the end of next week.
Federal officials hope that the pediatric dose can help close a major gap in the nation’s vaccine campaign that has worried parents, educators and public health leaders. If the Food and Drug Administration grants authorization, about 28 million children will become eligible for shots. Only the youngest, those under 5, would remain uncovered.
The F.D.A.’s advisory committee of experts will hear from officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who will discuss how Covid-19 has affected children and data on whether coronavirus vaccines are safe for them. Representatives from Pfizer will discuss the company’s clinical trial, involving more than 4,400 children aged 5 to 11.
The committee’s recommendations on whether to authorize vaccines are not binding, but the F.D.A. typically follows them in the days after the vote. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time and will be streamed on YouTube.
It is unclear how many parents would quickly vaccinate their elementary schoolers if given the chance. Polling has showed that roughly a third of these parents are eager to do so right away, while a third prefer to wait. Since federal regulators cleared a full dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 to 15 in May, 46 percent of that age group has been fully vaccinated, compared with about 69 percent of those 18 and older.
The dose for younger children would be one-third of the strength given to people 12 and older, with two shots given three weeks apart. Pfizer and BioNTech are asking the F.D.A. to authorize distribution on an emergency basis.
The process may go more smoothly than when the vaccine manufacturers sought authorization of booster shots for adults — an issue that preoccupied and divided the agency’s regulators and its outside experts for much of the past two months.
All recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine are eligible for a booster at least two months afterward. Recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are eligible for boosters six months after their second injection if they fit the following broad categories: older adults, people with certain medical conditions and those in risky jobs or living situations.
Pfizer has provided the F.D.A. with safety data on two study cohorts of children ages 5 to 11, both of roughly equal size. The first group was followed for about two months, the second for about two and a half weeks. Pfizer cited efficacy data only for the first group of about 2,200 children, saying its vaccine had an efficacy rate of 91 percent against symptomatic Covid-19.
On Friday, F.D.A. regulators said in an analysis of Pfizer’s pediatric trial data that the benefits of staving off Covid-19 with the vaccine generally outweighed the risks of the most worrisome side effects for young children.
Regulators modeled scenarios that involved varying levels of spread of the virus, and assumed the rate of two vaccine-associated heart conditions would be the same in the younger children vaccinated with a one-third dose as in adolescents aged 12 to 15 who received a full dose.
Federal health officials have said that cases of those heart conditions — myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, inflammation of the lining around the heart — after the second dose of a vaccine tend to be mild and resolve quickly.
The Chinese government ordered the northwestern city of Lanzhou locked down on Tuesday as officials carried out widespread testing to quash a small Covid-19 outbreak.
Lanzhou, a city of about four million people, reported six new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, and a total of 39 over the past week. China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, has been battling a recent flare-up of new cases largely in the northwest of the country that were spread by domestic travel.
The country enforces a strict “zero Covid” policy, carrying out widespread lockdowns and testing to eliminate even small-scale outbreaks.
By Monday evening, medical workers had tested nearly 12 million people in Gansu Province, including more than 2.8 million in Lanzhou, its capital. The testing in Lanzhou continued on Tuesday.
Residents were told to stay home and avoid all unnecessary outings.
“The province will continue to use big data and house-by-house investigations to strengthen the management and control of key populations and key areas,” Zhang Hao, a spokesman for the provincial health commission, told a news conference. “Local communities will be utilized to strictly control the flow of people.”
Nationwide, China announced 29 new domestic coronavirus cases on Tuesday. Most of those were concentrated in the northwest, including 15 in Alxa League, an area of Inner Mongolia. Beijing, the capital, reported three new cases on Tuesday.
This week China has also expanded its extensive vaccination program by extending eligibility to children as young as 3.
The effort to vaccinate younger children began Monday, according to documents issued by several provincial governments, including Hunan, Hubei and Hainan. The goal is to drive the vaccination rate above the current 76 percent.
The government approved emergency use of vaccines produced by Sinovac and Sinopharm for children aged 3 to 17 in June, but the mass inoculation for children was limited to those aged 11 to 17.
An outbreak in Fujian last month ignited public discussion of protecting younger children, as many of those infected were kindergarten and primary school students.
Facing pressure for keeping its Covid vaccine out of reach of poorer countries, Moderna said on Tuesday that it had agreed to sell up to 110 million shots to African Union member nations — a move that one prominent activist described as a mere “drop in the ocean.”
The company said it would deliver 15 million of the shots by the end of this year and 35 million more by the end of March, offering a modest supply boost for a continent with severe vaccine shortages and some of the world’s lowest vaccination rates.
The New York Times reported this month that Moderna’s shots have gone almost entirely to wealthier countries. Moderna has shipped a larger share of its doses to high-income countries than any other vaccine manufacturer, according to recent data from the data firm Airfinity.
“It’s a drop in the ocean for what the needs are,” Fatima Hassan, the head of the Health Justice Initiative in South Africa, said of Moderna’s announcement. “It’s up to 110 million for a population and a continent of 1.3 billion,” she said, noting pressure on the company from the White House, activists and the news media.
Moderna also said on Tuesday that it was “working on plans” to bottle doses of its Covid vaccine somewhere on the African continent as soon as 2023, in addition to its plans announced this month to open a factory in Africa at an unspecified date.
Moderna has been sharply criticized for not sharing its vaccine recipe or transferring its technology to manufacturers in poorer countries that could make its shots for local markets.
The company has repeatedly said that it is unable to supply more doses quickly to countries in need because it has limited manufacturing capacity and because all of its production this year had been locked up through existing orders from governments like the United States and the European Union.
Fewer than 6 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and fewer than a third of African nations had fully vaccinated 10 percent of their populations by the start of this month.
With the new deal with Moderna, the African Union now has two direct vaccine supply deals for its member countries. The African Union has ordered 220 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, with the option to order 180 million more. Deliveries from that order began in August.
Moderna and the African Union were in talks this past spring about a potential supply deal, but those talks fell apart because Moderna could not offer the doses until next year, according to two African Union officials. The negotiations restarted this month.
Moderna’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, said in a news release that the Biden administration had helped broker the deal.
Moderna has also agreed to sell more than 210 million doses, at an average purchase price of just under $10, to Covax, the United Nations-backed program to vaccinate the world’s poor. The company has not yet supplied any of those shots, a Covax spokesman said on Tuesday.
The tens of millions of Moderna doses that have made it to low- and lower-middle-income countries have been almost exclusively through donations from the United States.
How can you tell whether German lawmakers have some protection against the coronavirus or have tested negative?
Look at their wrists.
As the country’s newly elected federal lawmakers met in the main hall of the historic Reichstag building on Tuesday, they were doing so for the first time in a year and a half in full numbers and without social distancing.
To ensure the lawmakers’ safety, those taking part were required to show proof of vaccination, recent infection or a negative test result. And so they don’t have to show their documents multiple times, they were given wristbands of red, black and gold to indicate that their status had been checked.
Over 700 of Germany’s federal lawmakers, elected to represent their constituents a month ago, were meeting to choose a new parliamentary president. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet remain in their posts until a new government is formed.
Lawmakers not wanting to show their papers were allowed to follow the first meeting in reserved and socially distanced seats in the visitors’ balcony.
Ms. Merkel, who did not run for re-election in the recent vote and is therefore no longer a member of Parliament, watched the proceedings from the balcony.
Thousands of employees in New Zealand who have close contact with customers at restaurants, gyms, bars and hair salons will be included in a vaccine mandate that has previously applied to health workers and teachers, the government said on Tuesday.
As a result, about 40 percent of all New Zealand workers will be required to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
“Vaccinations will be mandated for everyone who works in any workplace where a vaccine certificate is required for entry,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference, noting that the decision had been made at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The mandate “will play a big part in helping to minimize the spread of the virus in the highest-risk venues by reducing the potential for Covid-19 to enter the business in the first place” Ms. Ardern added.
The announcement came after New Zealand set a target on Friday to vaccinate at least 90 percent of the eligible population aged 12 and over.
New Zealand has had one of the world’s most successful Covid-19 responses. But an outbreak of the Delta variant that began in mid-August prompted the authorities to put Auckland, the country’s largest city, under lockdown.
In a country of nearly five million people, 74 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose and 61 percent are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.
Hong Kong, already home to the world’s longest pandemic quarantine, plans to further tighten its rules for overseas arrivals, a move that could further dent the city’s status as a global financial hub.
Hong Kong now requires people arriving from “high-risk” countries — which include the United States and much of Europe — to spend 21 days in hotel quarantine. Almost all other overseas arrivals must spend 14 days. Only people arriving from mainland China can skip quarantine.
City officials had carved out limited exemptions, such as for high-ranking executives of financial corporations or insurance companies and celebrities amid concerns that the strict quarantine regime would exacerbate an exodus of foreign businesses. But Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said on Tuesday that most of those exemptions would end soon, as part of continuing attempts to allow Hong Kongers to travel to mainland China without quarantining.
“We have to ensure that our anti-Covid-19 practices are more in line with the mainland practices,” Mrs. Lam said, “so that the mainland authorities will have a level of confidence to enable Hong Kong people to go into the mainland.” China is the only major country still aiming for complete eradication of the virus.
Exemptions will remain in place for people whose work involves Hong Kong’s daily transportation and shipping needs, such as cross-boundary truck drivers. Mrs. Lam did not specify which other exemptions might remain.
Hong Kong has recorded just two locally transmitted cases in the past five months, but Mrs. Lam said the city had still not met Beijing’s standards.
She acknowledged the unhappiness of many foreigners and others involved in the financial sector, calling the situation a “dilemma.” But she has made clear that, forced to choose between the rest of the world and mainland China, she would prioritize the mainland.
“Hong Kong’s primary advantage lies in being the gateway to the mainland,” she said. “If businesses established in Hong Kong could not go into the mainland, I think it will significantly reduce the attraction of Hong Kong as an international business hub.”
Still, there are signs that the attraction has dimmed considerably. On Monday, the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Hong Kong’s top bank lobbying group, publicly urged the government to ease quarantine rules, calling the city’s global status “increasingly at risk.” Nearly half of its members have considered moving employees and operations abroad, the group said.
A separate quota for 6,000 Hong Kong residents to travel, quarantine-free, from the mainland each day does not appear to be affected.
The largest police union in New York City asked a judge on Monday to allow unvaccinated police officers to continue working, despite the city’s recently imposed vaccine mandate, which requires all municipal workers to have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose by Nov. 1.
In a lawsuit filed in Staten Island, which is home to many police officers and has a vaccination rate that lags behind the citywide average, the Police Benevolent Association of New York said it opposed a vaccine mandate for police officers that does not allow the option of being tested weekly instead of being vaccinated.
The lawsuit also claimed that the mandate — which the mayor announced last week — does not contain sufficient protections for officers who might object to the vaccines because of religious beliefs. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city will be “offering religious accommodation,” but that “valid religious exemptions” are rare.
While most lawsuits trying to stop government vaccine mandates in New York and elsewhere have failed to gain traction, some federal judges have appeared more sympathetic to suits that narrowly attack vaccine mandates for not accommodating religious beliefs.
Police unions across the country, from Chicago to Washington State, are urging members to resist Covid vaccine requirements — despite Covid being by far the most common cause of officer duty-related deaths this year and last, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
The New York police union’s lawsuit argues that the city did not give officers enough time to seek religious exemptions. Officers seeking exemptions are required to apply by Wednesday — one week after the mandate was announced — to avoid being placed on leave without pay.
As of last week, about 70 percent of employees of the New York Police Department had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. The P.B.A., which represents rank-and-file officers, has been generally supportive of an earlier policy that had allowed unvaccinated officers to test weekly for the virus. The lawsuit claims that “test-or-vax” rule was effective in protecting public safety.
The lawsuit was filed on a day when a large crowd of people — including many fire, police, and sanitation workers — marched in protest against the vaccine mandate. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, some demonstrators carried large American flags and loudly chanted, “We Will Not Comply.”
Nearly three months after Tyson Foods mandated coronavirus vaccines for all its 120,000 U.S. workers, more than 96 percent of them are vaccinated, the company’s chief executive, Donnie King, said in an employee memo on Tuesday.
Less than half of Tyson’s work force was inoculated when it announced on Aug. 3 that it would require vaccines. Nearly 60,000 more Tyson employees got the shot following the announcement, Mr. King said. Tyson has said workers must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 as a condition of employment.
“This is an incredible result,” Mr. King wrote, “not only for our company, but for your families and our communities across the country.”
Tyson was one of the first major companies to mandate vaccines after incentives like paid time off to be inoculated started to lose traction. Its stance was notable because it included frontline workers even as labor shortage concerns prevented many companies from expanding vaccine mandates beyond the office.
Meatpacking involves close quarters and long hours, which make its workers particularly vulnerable to catching the coronavirus. A number of workers died last year after the virus swept through the nation’s processing plants.
“Has this made a difference in the health and safety of our team members? Absolutely,” Mr. King wrote of the vaccine requirement. “We’ve seen a significant decline in the number of active cases, companywide.”
Mr. King said he had “received many notes from team members who have helped convince others in their family, and in their community, to get vaccinated.”
Tyson has plants across the South and Midwest. In Arkansas, where it is based, 57 percent of residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
To help encourage vaccination, executives have visited plants to have small group conversations about the vaccines. The company also addressed common myths about the vaccine and took questions from employees at a panel that included two outside physicians.
“We hit this number thanks to the many, many thousands of individual conversations,” Mr. King said.
Tyson is offering employees religious or medical accommodations to the mandate and does not have a cutoff date for evaluating those considerations, a spokesman said. It will assess requests “based on careful consideration of the individual facts and our commitment to the safety of our employees.” Some unvaccinated employees granted exemptions, though, will be placed on leave.
“To those who remain unvaccinated — this is your choice, and we respect that choice,” Mr. King said. “If you change your mind and want to rejoin Tyson — let us know. Our doors are open.”
The results of Tyson’s vaccine mandate will be examined closely by other companies, as well as federal and local officials, as they weigh their own approaches to vaccine mandates. Last month, President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to order large employers to require vaccination against the coronavirus or weekly testing. Many companies are now preparing to move forward but have been awaiting more details.
So far, vaccine mandates have largely proven effective. United Airlines, which said in August that it would require all employees to provide proof of vaccination, recently announced that more than 99 percent of its work force was vaccinated. In California, health care employers have reported vaccination rates of 90 percent or higher.
Legal experts generally say companies have the right to make vaccine mandates, but there has been pushback, particularly from local politicians. Arkansas is seeking to require employers that mandate vaccines to allow for exemptions, including a testing alternative. And Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas issued an executive order banning private employers from mandating coronavirus vaccines.