A panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday gave its endorsement to both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children below the age of 5, the last group to be added to the vaccine program.
The panel voted 21-0 that the benefits of Moderna’s MRNA, -6.85% two-dose vaccine for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years outweigh the risks.
The committee also voted 21-0 in favor of BioNTech BNTX, -6.02% 22UA, -5.84% and Pfizer’s PFE, -1.79% three-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children between 6 months and 4 years old. The dosing for both vaccines is different than it is for adults.
The FDA is not required to follow the advice of the advisory committee but often does. Once the regulator makes its decision on both vaccines, the next step in the regulatory process is getting an OK from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and then a final signoff from CDC director Rochelle Walensky.
Experts and parents cheered the news, although some fretted that others may opt not to get their children their shots, given the highly charged political background that has persuaded many Americans not to get vaccinated against COVID.
In other news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and the man who has led the U.S. through the pandemic, tested positive for COVID on Thursday. The 81-year-old is isolating and experiencing only mild symptoms.
The news comes as U.S. cases are averaging 104,153 a day, up 3% from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker. The number has remained relatively flat through June, although it is thought to be higher in real life as many people are now testing at home and the data are not being collected.
There are also regional differences in case numbers with the Northeast, a recent hot spot, seeing declines, while cases are rising in the West and South.
Hospitalizations are showing a similar trend. The country is averaging 29,858 hospitalizations a day, up 8% from two weeks ago, but they are climbing faster in California, where they’re up 20% from two weeks ago, and Florida, where they’re up 27%. The daily death toll stands at 319 on average, up 14% from two weeks ago.
Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• There was disappointing news from the World Health Organization, which said the number of new weekly deaths from COVID rose in the latest week to snap five straight weeks of declines. In its weekly epidemiological update, the agency said there were more than 8,700 fatalities in the week through June 12, up 4% from the previous week. Cases were flat, however, at some 3.2 million.
• North Korea, which is already struggling with a wave of COVID cases, said it has a new “epidemic” of an intestinal disease, the Associated Press reported. The disclosure is unusual for such a secretive country, which is also experiencing economic turmoil. It’s unclear how many people are infected in what the official Korean Central News Agency said was “an acute enteric epidemic” in the southwestern city Haeju. The agency didn’t name the disease, but the term enteric refers to intestinal illnesses, such as typhoid, dysentery and cholera, which are caused by germs in contaminated food or water or contact with the feces of infected people.
• Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and his wife have tested positive for COVID, according to a statement from the Republican. “Both of us are experiencing very minor symptoms. We will be following CDC guidelines and will be isolating,” the couple said in a statement. Ricketts is the son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, and the Ricketts family owns baseball’s Chicago Cubs.
• The COVID outbreak in Chinese capital Beijing that is understood to stem from a bar called Heaven Supermarket is easing after millions of people were tested, the South China Morning Post reported. Beijing city government spokesperson Xu Hejian said that while the bar cases are fading, “the possibility of hidden infections in communities still exists.”
Here’s what the numbers say
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 537.4 million on Thursday, while the death toll rose above 6.31 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 85.9 million cases and 1,012,609 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 221.9 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 66.8% of the total population. But just 104.6 million have had a first booster, equal to 47.2% of the vaccinated population.
Just 15.9 million of the people aged 50 and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 25.2% of those who had a first booster.