Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Vaccines for kids inch forward.,
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Moderna plans to build a vaccine manufacturing factory in Africa.
A study found that over 120,000 American children have lost a parent or caregiver to Covid-19.
The C.D.C. urged people to get flu shots to help hospitals stressed by Covid.
An update on vaccines for children
This morning, Pfizer asked the F.D.A. to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The agency said it would move quickly to review the request, and experts expect a ruling sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
If approved, the move could make more than 28 million children in the U.S. eligible for vaccines. And the need is clear: With the surge of the Delta variant, children accounted for as many as one in four infections last month, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even though children rarely become severely ill from Covid-19, nearly 30,000 were hospitalized in August.
There will be important differences with the pediatric vaccines. Pfizer has proposed giving children only one-third of the adult dosage.
“Kids react very strongly to vaccines so you can get a big response from them with a smaller dose than you would in adults,” our colleague Apoorva Mandavilli told us. “Also, side effects also go up with younger ages. The younger you go, kids have more fevers, more body aches.”
Apoorva’s 12-year-old son is fully vaccinated, and her 9-year-old daughter can’t wait. (“She’s dying to do sleepovers,” Apoorva said.) But many parents in the U.S., even some of those who are vaccinated, are more hesitant. According to a recent survey, roughly a third of parents of children ages 5 to 11 said they would wait and see before vaccinating their children.
“Some parents don’t think their children are really at high risk of Covid, and they don’t trust the vaccine yet,” Apoorva said.
Officials in Britain, Norway and other countries are also tailoring their approach for children, recommending a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those ages 12 and older. They are hoping to give children at least partial protection while sparing them rare, but potentially harmful, side effects.
A second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both been linked to an increased risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, especially in young men, although the condition remains extremely rare.
“They’re not saying, ‘We’ll only do one dose,'” Apoorva said. “They’re saying: ‘We’ll do one dose because we know that’s safe. And we’ll come back to the second dose when more data comes up.'”
In the U.S., advisers to the C.D.C. reviewed data on myocarditis in June, and unanimously voted to recommend the vaccine for children ages 12 and older, saying the benefits far outweighed the risk. So far, no one in the U.S. is seriously talking about starting with a one-dose regimen for children.
“Some of the experts I spoke to are frustrated and feel that, in the U.S., there’s so much fear of stoking anti-vax sentiment that a lot of scientists or doctors are reluctant to even broach anything negative about the vaccines,” Apoorva said.
Even without vaccinations for children under 12, the school year in the U.S. is off to a relatively positive start: A vast majority of students have been learning in classrooms full-time, mostly without interruptions.
Infection rates declined by 35 percent since Sept. 1, even as many schools opened their doors. And virus-driven school closures declined steeply from the end of August to late September, from about 240 a week to about 25 a week, according to a recent survey.
Apoorva walked through a lot of the science on today’s episode of “The Daily.” It’s well worth your time.
Biden pushes mandates
President Biden spoke in Chicago today to make the case that vaccine mandates from businesses are crucial to the economic recovery.
“My message is require your employees to get vaccinated,” Biden said. “With vaccinations we’re going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy, and anxiety in our schools. And empty restaurants. And much less commerce.”
“The unvaccinated also put our economy at risk because people are reluctant to go out,” he added. “Think about this. Even in places where there is no restriction on going to restaurants and gyms and movie theaters, people are not going in anywhere near the numbers, because they’re worried they’re going to get sick.”
Last month, Biden announced a private sector mandate that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing. He also moved to mandate shots for health care workers, federal contractors and most federal workers.
The State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the F.D.A. granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for mandates in both the public and private sectors. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. California became the first state to issue a vaccine mandate for all educators and to announce plans to add the Covid-19 vaccine as a requirement to attend school, which could start as early as next fall. Los Angeles already has a vaccine mandate for public school students 12 and older that begins Nov. 21. New York City’s mandate for teachers and staff, which went into effect Oct. 4 after delays due to legal challenges, appears to have prompted thousands of last-minute shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get vaccinated. Mandates for health care workers in California and New York State appear to have compelled thousands of holdouts to receive shots.
- Indoor activities. New York City requires workers and customers to show proof of at least one dose of the Covid-19 for indoor dining, gyms, entertainment and performances. Starting Nov. 4, Los Angeles will require most people to provide proof of full vaccination to enter a range of indoor businesses, including restaurants, gyms, museums, movie theaters and salons, in one of the nation’s strictest vaccine rules.
- At the federal level. On Sept. 9, President Biden announced a vaccine mandate for the vast majority of federal workers. This mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services.
- In the private sector. Mr. Biden has mandated that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing, helping propel new corporate vaccination policies. Some companies, like United Airlines and Tyson Foods, had mandates in place before Mr. Biden’s announcement.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated that Biden’s requirements would mean that 82 percent of the total population, and 90 percent of adults, would get their first dose by mid-2022. To date, 65 percent of all Americans have had at least one dose.
Several big employers have already imposed mandates — including 3M, Procter & Gamble and the airlines American, Alaska and JetBlue — but many others, like JPMorgan Chase and Walmart, have yet to issue broad requirements.
Some executives are worried that they will lose employees to mandates. But the experience from companies like United Airlines suggests otherwise. The company recently reported that 99 percent of its workers had been vaccinated and that it had received 20,000 applications for about 2,000 flight attendant positions, a much higher ratio than before the pandemic.
In health care, only a fraction of employees are not complying with mandates, although whether home health aids will accept vaccines at similarly high rates is still an open question.
Even after OSHA finalizes its rules, which could still be a few weeks away, some employers may still not act, betting that they won’t be punished because of the agency’s limited enforcement resources or that the standards could get bogged down in court.
What else we’re following
Arkansas lawmakers passed a bill aimed at weakening federal vaccine mandates.
The leader of the U.N. assailed the “stupid” rich-poor divide in vaccine distribution.
North Korea is accepting medical supplies from the W.H.O., the agency said, a relaxation of the country’s closed-border policies.
In an effort to accelerate vaccinations, France will start charging unvaccinated people for Covid tests. (Vaccinated people can still test for free.)
Asia-Pacific countries are racing to buy Merck’s antiviral Covid-19 pills.
Italy will lift its ban on dancing in nightclubs.
Greece will lift restrictions for vaccinated people in regions with high infections.
What you’re doing
The hardest thing I have encountered in coping with the coronavirus is to have to tell my much loved unvaccinated grandson that I can no longer see him until he is willing to be vaccinated. He is adamant in his refusal. I am almost 80 years old and live in a retirement community.
— Mary Kathryn Everitt, Asheville, N.C.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.