A federal advisory committee will meet Tuesday to decide whether to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.
If the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decides the benefits of vaccination outweigh risks in this age group, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would make a recommendation. If Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off, vaccines would become available as soon as Wednesday at pharmacies and pediatricians’ offices.
“There are children in the second grade who have never experienced a normal school year,” Walensky said. “Pediatric vaccination has the power to help us change all of that.”
The vaccine, which will be free, would be delivered at one-third the dose given to adolescents and adults, in two shots at least three weeks apart. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be available in this age group. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still being tested in adolescents and children.
In several small trials, Pfizer-BioNTech saw no serious side effects connected with the shots, though some are likely to appear later as millions of children receive the vaccine. Typical side effects, which go away within a day or two, include headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, pain at the injection site and vomiting, nausea or diarrhea.
In a study of about 2,500 children, the vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. Although children are far less likely to suffer severe COVID-19 infections than adolescents or adults, they still can become seriously ill or even die, and can have symptoms that linger for months.
Presidential adviser Jeffrey Zients said Monday that the Biden administration has ordered enough vaccines for all 28 million American children in the 5-11 age group, anticipating they’ll be authorized. The administration’s distribution program will be “running at full strength” the week of Nov. 8, he said.
– Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY
Got more questions? Here’s what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and children
Also in the news:
►The first-dose vaccination rate of U.S. adults has reached 80%, and 70% of adults are fully vaccinated, the White House said Monday.
►9 in 10 Americans identifying as atheist report being at least been partially vaccinated against the virus, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The number was higher than Catholics and Protestants.
►Pennsylvania is offering five days of paid leave – in addition to the paid day off to get vaccinated – to state employees who get their COVID shots by the end of the year. The state treasurer said the incentive could cost the state more than $100 million.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded 46 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 747,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 247.3 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 192.6 million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Coronavirus cases in children grew by 129% nationwide in the six weeks after schools opened compared with the same period before classes started, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from the CDC.
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In anticipation of this week’s expected authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for young children, parents eager to get their elementary school-age children vaccinated are calling pediatricians, booking appointments for shots and asking questions about them.
The expected rush of kids has prompted pediatricians and clinics at larger health systems to request shipments of doses from state and local health departments, plan weekend clinics to immunize children and hold special events to attract families and encourage immunization. While the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout initially relied on mass immunization sites and chain pharmacies from coast to coast, pediatricians are now ready to take a larger role.
“I get lots and lots of questions,” said Dr. Christina Johns, a pediatrician in Annapolis, Maryland. “Not just in my practice, but also online, in the grocery store and from neighbors.”
– Ken Alltucker
The pace of new virus cases has risen 5.4% in the United States in the last week, a worrying uptick suggesting the delta variant-driven wave hasn’t ended.
There were 523,194 new cases nationwide in the week ending Monday, after dropping to a recent low point of 495,194 in the week ending Oct. 26, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. At the current pace, 52 new infections are recorded every minute.
The analysis shows cases are rising in 23 states, up sharply from as few as eight states just a week ago.
Before delta began taking hold around July 1, cases had fallen to less than 80,000 per week, or less than one-sixth the current figure. At their worst in the delta wave, however, cases were being reported more than twice as fast.
Deaths, which are a lagging indicator, have been falling. In the week ending Monday, the United States had 9,119 COVID-19 deaths, or 54 per hour.
– Mike Stucka
Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York firefighters faking being sick and taking time off work in protest of the city’s vaccine mandate for its employees will face “consequences.”
De Blasio made the comment Monday at a news conference but did not specify what would happen. Around 9,000 of the city’s workers were placed on unpaid leave Monday for failing to meet the mandatory vaccination deadline, de Blasio said. More than 90% of city employees have been vaccinated.
“We have every reason to believe there’s a lot of people out there claiming to be sick who are not. It’s not acceptable,” de Blasio said. “So the thing to do is to do the right thing, come to work, protect people as you took an oath to do. And look, this is something that we don’t tolerate. In the end when people do this kind of thing, there are consequences.”
More than 2,000 of the city’s 11,000 firefighters have taken sick days in the past week, but Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said no firehouses have closed despite “irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members (that) is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters.”
A judge on Monday suspended a Dec. 31 deadline for Chicago police officers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but didn’t interfere with a requirement that they are regularly tested. Disputes over vaccinations should be handled as a labor grievance with an arbitrator, Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell said.
“The effect of this order is to send these parties back to the bargaining table and to promote labor peace by allowing them to pursue” remedies under Illinois law, Mitchell said.
The grievance process could last months, the city said last week. Officers who haven’t been vaccinated still must be tested twice a week under city policy. Officers can lose work and pay if they don’t disclose their vaccine status.
The controversial Biden administration plan to require companies with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccination for their workers or require weekly testing cleared another hurdle Monday when the Office of Management and Budget completed its regulatory review.
The plan requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects. The Federal Register will publish the emergency temporary standard “in the coming days,” the Labor Department said in a statement. It’s not clear when the mandate would become effective.
Biden announced the plan in September, and attorneys general in two dozen states quickly sent the White House a letter threatening to challenge the mandate in court.
Contributing: The Associated Press