Pfizer, BioNTech: COVID vaccine effective in teens

Pfizer and BioNTech today announced that their COVID-19 vaccine was 100% effective and triggered a robust antibody response in a phase 3 US trial involving 2,260 adolescents 12 to 15 years old. The immune responses in that age-group, the companies said, exceeded those recorded previously among 16- to 25-year-olds.

The companies say they plan to submit the data to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of the vaccine in this age-group.

"The initial results we have seen in the adolescent studies suggest that children are particularly well protected by vaccination, which is very encouraging given the trends we have seen in recent weeks regarding the spread of the B.1.1.7 UK variant," BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in the companies' press release.

Cases rise as variants spread

As of yesterday, US COVID-19 cases caused by variants included 11,569 B117 cases in 51 jurisdictions, 312 B1351 cases in 31 jurisdictions, and 172 P1 infections in 22 jurisdictions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) variant tracker.

And coronavirus cases as a whole are increasing, with a 7-day average of 66,800 new infections and close to 1,000 deaths each day, per a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. The United States reported 61,240 new COVID-19 cases and 875 deaths yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.

Certain areas of the country are once again COVID-19 hot spots, with the New York Times reporting that coronavirus infections remain at an "alarmingly high" plateau in New York. The 7-day average of new cases in that state has stayed at 3,500 to 4,000.

In a White House COVID-19 response press briefing today, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, discussed a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study released today, which found that US deaths climbed 15.9% in 2020. Hispanic, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native populations had the highest death rates, and COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.

"Sadly, based on the current state of the pandemic, these impacts have remained in 2021, where we continue to see that communities of color account for an outsize portion of these deaths," Walensky said. "The data should serve, again, as a catalyst for each of us to continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible."

White House senior advisor on pandemic response Andy Slavitt announced that the administration is opening three more federally operated vaccine sites in addition to the two announced on Monday. The sites, capable of giving 3,000 shots a day, will open in Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee; and Greenbelt, Maryland.

State mask mandates face hurdles

Both Walensky and Slavitt reiterated President Joe Biden's earlier plea for Americans to remain vigilant against the spread of the virus, encouraging vaccination and mask wearing. "Together, we can win this race and save lives," Slavitt said. "If we're acting on our own, we will lose even more people."

Today, however, the Wisconsin Supreme Court shot down Gov. Tony Evers's request to issue public health emergency orders mandating face masks without the approval of the Republican-majority state legislature, per USA Today. The justices also declared the current state mask mandate invalid and said that Evers overstepped his authority in issuing emergency declarations during the pandemic.

In similar blows to state mask requirements, USA Today reports that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has rescinded the state's mask mandate, while in Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon announced that he won't put back in place a mask mandate that ended 2 weeks ago.

Other vaccine news

  • A total of 189,451,285 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, the CDC COVID Data Tracker shows, with 147,602,345 administered and 53,423,486 Americans fully vaccinated.

  • All 50 states have now indicated that they plan to open COVID-19 vaccination to adults of all ages by May 1, CNN reports.

  • Amid a coronavirus resurgence in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the White House for more vaccine doses yesterday, later announcing that the state's direct allotment (in addition to the federal allotment to pharmacies) will be about 620,000 next week, a 12% increase over this week, according to Fox News. Yesterday, Michigan recorded 5,177 new COVID-19 cases and 48 deaths, according to gov. The state's 7-day average of new infections is 4,680, the highest since Dec 14, 2020, mlive reports.

  • A CDC data-based report today from the Center for Public Integrity says that the federal program responsible for sending vaccines to nursing homes had vaccinated only half of US long-term care workers by Mar 15. In seven states and Washington, DC, the rate was more dismal, at less than a third.

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