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FDA clears path for CDC to authorize vaccines in very young children, but Florida officials say they do not recommend them – News Opener

The Food and Drug Administration took the advice of a panel of advisers and authorized the COVID-19 vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer and Moderna for children as young as six months old on Friday, adding the final group to the nation’s vaccine program.

The regulator said Moderna’s
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two-dose vaccine is now authorized for children between the ages of 6 months old and 17 years old. It was previously authorized and is now fully approved for adults.

The BioNTech/Pfizer
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shot, which had already been authorized for older children and teens, is now authorized in children between 6 months old through 5 years old. It has already been fully approved for those 16 years old and older. The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for young children requires three shots using dosing specific to this age group. 

The move came after an advisory committee to the FDA earlier this week unanimously recommended that the benefits of both vaccines outweigh the risks for the nation’s youngest children. There are about 20 million children in the U.S. in the six months-to-five-year-old age group.

The next step is for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sign off on the FDA’s decision, a move expected to come either later Friday or Saturday. That should clear the way for vaccinations to start next week.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday defended his state’s decision not to apply for COVID-19 vaccines for young children, the New York Post reported. Florida is the only state not to make a preorder for vaccines for children aged 6 months to 5 years, a decision met with criticism from the governor’s political rivals this week, who asserted that Floridians will face more of a challenge in securing doses.

DeSantis, a Republican, backed his health department’s decision, saying he is opposed to administering the vaccines to young kids.

“We are affirmatively recommending against doing COVID vax for young kids, particularly the 6-month-old, the 2-year-old little kids,” he said at a press conference.

Read now: It’s time to let pharmacists prescribe COVID-fighting pills like Paxlovid

DeSantis argued that young children are at low risk from COVID, although many more became infected during the omicron wave, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and more than 1,000 have died.

U.S. cases are currently 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.

As Beijing struggles to contain a resurgence of new Covid-19 cases, the city has rolled out more than 9,000 testing stations to regularly screen people. WSJ’s Yoko Kubota visits one of them to unpack the costs of China’s commitment to its zero-Covid policy. Photo: David Sahay for WSJ

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• A new study by U.K. researchers has found that the omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID is less likely than delta to lead to long COVID, NBC News reported. The new research, which was published Thursday in The Lancet, is an observational analysis of people who signed up for a smartphone app-led project called the ZOE Covid Study. The researchers zeroed in on data from 41,361 adults who tested positive for Covid-19 between June 2021 and late November 2021 —when delta was dominant — comparing them to 56,003 adults who tested positive after omicron took hold between December 2021 and March 2022, when more than 70% of cases in the U.K. were estimated to be omicron.

• After all-night talks, members of the World Trade Organization early Friday reached a string of deals that included broadening production of COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world, the Associated Press reported. But the agreement was on a watered-down plan to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, which ran afoul of advocacy groups that say it did not go far enough — and could even do more harm than good. “The TRIPS waiver compromise will contribute to ongoing efforts to concentrate and diversify vaccine manufacturing capacity so that a crisis in one region does not leave others cut off,” WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala said of the waiver of intellectual property protections.

North Korea is facing a surge in fever cases after reporting its first local Covid-19 infection in mid-May. WSJ examines Kim Jong Un’s strategy to battle the pandemic in the impoverished country, which has little testing capacity and an unvaccinated population. Photos: KCTV; STR/AFP

• China on Friday defended its tough “zero-COVID” policy after the U.S. ambassador said it was causing serious damage to the global economy and foreign business sentiment, the AP reported separately. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the Chinese economy is recovering from the effects of the pandemic and “facts prove” the policy mandating lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing is “suitable for China’s national conditions and has stood the test of history.” China has sought to completely eliminate outbreaks of COVID-19 with tough restrictions, while most other countries are relaxing their anti-coronavirus measures to “live with” the disease.

• Thailand is lifting a pre-arrival registration requirement for foreign visitors that was seen as onerous and a drag on the recovery for its ailing tourism industry, the AP reported. The government’s COVID-19 center also said Friday that an outdoor mask mandate would be dropped as of July 1 except in crowded venues. The mask mandate was not controversial in Thailand and generally obeyed.

Read also: COVID patients with weak immune systems should get priority care to avoid new variants emerging, experts say

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 537.8 million on Friday, while the death toll rose above 6.31 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 86 million cases and 1,012,647 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 104.7 million have had a first booster, equal to 47.2% of the vaccinated population.

Just 16 million of the people aged 50 and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 25.3% of those who had a first booster.

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