CDC readies for COVID-19 vaccine in youngest kids

Preschooler getting ready for vaccine
Preschooler getting ready for vaccine

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The Washington Post is reporting that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials are telling vaccine providers to prepare for a Feb 21 rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 4 years, just 1 week after advisers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are set to vote on an emergency authorization of the vaccine.

The updated pediatric COVID-19 vaccine operational guide says that, upon approval, 10 million doses of the vaccine will be ready to ship on Feb 21 and Feb 25. There are 18 million US children ages 6 months to 4 years, and all will require at least two doses of the vaccine.

Initial data showed that two doses of the vaccine did not generate a significant immune response in young children, and a third dose will likely be needed. Those findings, as well as safety issues, will be discussed next week during a meeting of the FDA's VRBPAC (Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.)

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 64.2% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 75.7% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 42.5% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster shot.

More states lift mask mandates

Almost exactly 2 years after the first US COVID-19 outbreak was identified in Seattle-area nursing homes, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said yesterday that the state's outdoor mask mandate will be lifted on Feb 18, ABC News reports. The mandate was for venues of 500 people or more.

Inslee said next week he will address indoor mask mandates.

Rhode Island also announced it will lift its mask or proof-of-vaccination requirement for indoor businesses tomorrow, and plans on ending the statewide school mask mandate early next month, the Associated Press reports.

After a flurry of mandates have been left to expire or were abandoned by governors this week, the CDC is considering updating its guidelines on the metrics that states should use when considering lifting public health measures such as mask mandates, sources tell Politico. Under current metrics, more than 90% of the country is still encouraged to use masks indoors.

The United States reported 215,748 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 3,435 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.

The 7-day average of new daily cases is 227,903, with 2,576 daily deaths, according to the New York Times tracker

Surges in Hong Kong, South Korea, Russia

In global developments, Hong Kong's COVID-19 surge is intensifying, with cases more than doubling this week, and officials today said emergency departments in some districts are overloaded.

In a statement today, the Hospital Authority urged people who test positive on rapid tests and have no symptoms or mild symptoms to recover at home rather than go to the emergency room. Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection reported 986 new cases today, up from daily totals in the 300s earlier in the week.

Similarly, South Korean officials are urging people with mild symptoms to treat themselves at home, according to Reuters. Amid stretched resources, officials are focusing treatment on high-risk groups and have done away with contact tracing and mandatory self-isolation. Yesterday the country reported a daily high of 54,122 cases.

Russia today reported another daily record high, with 197,076 cases reported. Officials said the Omicron variant has been detected in 70% of infections.

Africa is on track to controlling the pandemic this year, leaders from the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said today at a briefing. Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, the group's regional director, said African countries have gotten better at responding to each new surge, but she said too many lives have been lost and the pandemic has cost Africa a loss of $13.8 billion in gross domestic product.

She urged countries to use lessons learned over the past 2 years to strengthen their healthcare systems to be better prepared to handle future disease waves.

The global total today rose to 404,498,492 cases, along with 5,781,589 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

CIDRAP News Editor Lisa Schnirring contributed to this story.

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