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Covid News Watch

Dec 22, 2021

Omicron ‘Is Going to Find You,’ Fauci Says in Warning to the Unvaccinated + More

Omicron ‘Is Going to Find You,’ Fauci Says in Warning to the Unvaccinated

The Washington Post reported:

While the country grapples with the latest coronavirus explosion due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, Anthony S. Fauci on Tuesday reassured those Americans who are vaccinated and boosted that they would have considerable protection from serious illness.

Fauci went one step further in predicting that Omicron, which is even faster-spreading than the Delta variant that sent infections spiking earlier in the year, “is going to find” those who are unvaccinated.

“That’s why I worry about the people who refuse to get vaccinated. When you’re dealing with any SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 virus, it’s a problem,” he said to MSNBC’s Alicia Menendez. “When you’re dealing with one that spreads so rapidly and you are unvaccinated, the virus is going to find you.”

Anthony Fauci Says Only 30% of Americans Might Be Classed as Fully Vaccinated

Newsweek reported:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, has said that in the future it’s possible that only those who have had a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine could be considered by the government as “fully vaccinated,” which is currently only 30% of all Americans.

Fauci made the comments on MSNBC on Tuesday night. Asked whether the definition of “fully vaccinated” would change to include a booster dose as well, Fauci said: “The semantics of what you’re calling ‘fully vaccinated’ or not — for regulatory or requirement purposes — doesn’t avoid the fact that if you want to really be optimally protected, go get a boost.”

Army to Announce Vaccine That Protects Against an Array of COVID Variants

The Hill reported:

The U.S. Army is expected to announce that it has developed a vaccine that protects against an array of COVID-19 variants, Defense One reported.

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) has been developing a spike ferritin nanoparticle (SpFN) vaccine since early 2020 and began early-stage human trials of the vaccine in early April.

Kayvon Modjarrad, director of WRAIR’s infections disease branch, told Defense One that the early-stage trials ended this month, and yielded positive results that are currently under review.

The SpFN vaccine uses a protein with 24 faces which allows for scientists to attach the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on different faces, according to Defense One.

FDA Authorizes Pfizer’s COVID Treatment Pill, the First Oral Antiviral Drug Cleared During the Pandemic

CNBC reported:

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization Wednesday to Pfizer’s COVID treatment pill, a major milestone that promises to revolutionize the fight against the virus.

The medication, which is recommended for people at a high risk of hospitalization or death, could be available to patients as early as this weekend. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC earlier this month the company has already shipped some of the pills to the U.S. so they can be prescribed as soon as the FDA authorization comes through.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to quickly follow suit with its seal of approval, authorizing its distribution.

Pfizer Pill Adds to Growing U.S. Stockpile of Virus Treatments

Bloomberg reported:

The Biden administration expects to take delivery of 4 million courses of COVID-19 treatments by the end of January, according to officials familiar with the matter, sharply ramping up therapies for the disease as the Omicron variant spreads.

The treatments include a monoclonal antibody product, pre-exposure preventive drugs for immunocompromised people, and new antiviral pills awaiting Food and Drug Administration authorization, the officials said. That authorization is expected as soon as Wednesday.

How Omicron Broke COVID Testing

Vox reported:

A surge in cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant has stretched America’s COVID-19 testing capabilities to their limit. Rapid antigen tests are out of stock at many drug stores, and lines for PCR tests stretch around the block in cities across the United States. The problem will likely get worse as more people travel for the holidays and fuel new outbreaks, long before new supplies of tests from the federal government are scheduled to arrive.

With test supplies dwindling, some local officials are urging the Biden administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law that allows the president to order private companies to manufacture certain products during emergencies.

The supply crunch for tests might seem sudden, but it’s actually been months in the making. Limited federal investment, a sluggish regulatory approval process, and ongoing shortages of raw materials and workers have all hampered test manufacturing.

Fauci Says the U.S. Is Considering Changing Its 10-Day Isolation Guidelines for Vaccinated People Who Test Positive for COVID

Business Insider reported:

The White House’s chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that the U.S. is considering shortening the 10-day recommended isolation period for vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days.

But Fauci said the guidelines should be reassessed for people who test positive but who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic so that they can get back to work sooner.

The White House has yet to announce a revision to the policy.

South African Study Offers Omicron Hope Ahead of Second Coronavirus Christmas

Reuters reported:

A South African study offered pre-Christmas good tidings about the severity of Omicron on Wednesday as the fast-spreading coronavirus variant forces countries across the world to impose new curbs.

The study by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and major universities, which had not been peer-reviewed, compared South African Omicron data from October and November with data about Delta between April and November.

The authors found that the risk of hospital admission was roughly 80% lower for those with Omicron, and that for those in hospital the risk of severe disease was roughly 30% lower. “Compellingly, together our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants.”

South Africa’s Drop in Daily New COVID Cases Suggest Its Omicron Peak May Have Passed, Experts Say

Business Insider reported:

COVID-19 cases in South Africa have been steadily declining in recent days, prompting some experts to say the country’s peak of the Omicron variant may have passed.

Marta Nunes, senior researcher at the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics department of the University of Witwatersrand, told the Associated Press she believes this “sustained drop” in cases “indicates that we are past the peak.”

It’s important to note that case numbers are not a wholly reliable indication of the trajectory of a virus, with potential delays in testing and fluctuations in numbers being two common factors that could impact the data.

Vulnerable Children Aged 5 to 11 to Be Offered COVID Jabs

The Guardian reported:

The government’s vaccines watchdog has recommended COVID vaccinations should be extended to the most clinically vulnerable children aged five to 11, but could wait another month or more before extending them more widely.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which also announced the expansion of the booster program to some younger teenagers, will for now only recommend vaccines for around 330,000 younger children.

The JCVI’s recommendations are UK-wide, though it is then up to the governments of each UK nation to decide whether to accept them.

France Cancels Order for Merck’s COVID Antiviral Drug

Reuters reported:

France has cancelled its order for Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) COVID-19 antiviral drug following disappointing trial data and hopes instead to receive Pfizer‘s (PFE.N) competing drug before the end of January, the health minister said on Wednesday.

France is the first country to publicly say it has cancelled an order for the Merck treatment after the company released data in late November suggesting its drug was markedly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalizations and deaths in its clinical trial of high-risk individuals by about 30%.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to decide whether to approve the Merck and Pfizer pills in the new year.

Israel to Offer Fourth COVID Vaccine Dose in Bid to Outpace Omicron

NBC News reported:

Israel is to offer a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to people older than 60 or with compromised immune systems, and to health workers, as part of a drive to ramp up the shots and outpace the spread of the Omicron variant.

A health ministry expert panel — whose findings have yet to be implemented — recommended Tuesday that those eligible receive the fourth shot at least four months after receiving their third.

The panel further recommended that the time allotted between second and third shots be reduced to three months from five.

Dec 21, 2021

‘No Crisis’ Despite Surging COVID Cases, Says CEO of New York’s Largest Hospital System + More

CEO of New York’s Largest Hospital System Says ‘No Crisis’ Despite Surging COVID Cases

Newsweek reported:

The CEO of New York state’s largest hospital system urged people to stay calm amid the surge in coronavirus cases while appearing on CNN Tuesday.

Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health — which serves New York City, Long Island and Westchester County — told CNN that while the area’s positivity rate is rising, it does not automatically mean an increase in hospitalizations.

Dowling said that as of Tuesday, hospitals in the Northwell Health network were still managing the case increases.

“We’re doing very, very well. Very manageable. There’s no crisis,” he said. About 460 COVID-19 patients are in the hospital system, less than 10% of its overall capacity, Dowling said.

Vaccinated People With COVID May Soon Not Have to Isolate for 10 Days — if They’re Asymptomatic — Fauci Suggests

Forbes reported:

The federal government is considering relaxing its guidance for people with COVID-19 to isolate for 10 days after developing symptoms — particularly for healthcare workers with asymptomatic cases — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday, as the U.S. faces a likely huge influx in mild breakthrough cases from the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant.

Fauci was asked about the isolation period after Dr. Anish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, suggested on Twitter the 10-day period may be “excessive” for people who have received booster shots and only have mild breakthrough cases — though he noted “more data” on exactly when people stop being contagious “would be nice.”

CDC Director Says Initial COVID Shots ‘May Not Be Enough’ as Omicron Rapidly Sweeps the Nation

CNBC reported:

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has “over 50 mutations and because of those mutations, just being vaccinated with two doses may not be enough” ahead of the holidays.

Walensky told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” on Monday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “examining” its definition of fully vaccinated. Right now, the agency defines full vaccination as two weeks after the second dose of one of the two-shot vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer or two weeks after the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

Even so, Walensky said that vaccines “may not prevent infection” according to data so far. She said this means people need “to continue to wear their masks to prevent the infections overall.”

FDA Expected to Authorize Pfizer and Merck COVID Pills This Week

Bloomberg reported:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize a pair of pills from Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. to treat COVID-19 as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter — a milestone in the fight against the pandemic that will soon expand therapies for the ill.

An announcement may come as early as Wednesday, according to three of the people. They asked not to be identified ahead of the authorization and cautioned that the plan could change.

Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid, and Merck’s molnupiravir are intended for higher-risk people who test positive for COVID. The treatments, in which patients take a series of pills at home over several days, could ease the burden on stretched hospitals with infections poised to soar through the winter in the U.S.

Biden Plan Will Send out 500 Million Coronavirus Tests and Federal Vaccinators Across 12 States

The Verge reported:

The White House says President Biden will deliver a speech Tuesday to announce a plan to distribute 500 million free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests beginning next month, as the administration ramps up attempts to deal with the spread of the Omicron variant. The administration says it will set up a website for Americans who want to request a test to be delivered to their homes for free.

The president’s so-called “winter plan” will also send 1,000 medical military members — including doctors, nurses, and other personnel — to hospitals overwhelmed with COVID patients and will set up more free federal testing sites.

And the administration says it will deploy hundreds of federal “vaccinators” across 12 states, Tribes, and territories to help “enable thousands of additional appointments over the next few weeks.”

9 NHL Teams Hit Pause as COVID Surges Across League

Newsweek reported:

As COVID surges across the league, nine NHL teams have been forced to halt all activity.

The league and NHL Players’ Association said Sunday the plan was to avoid a full league shutdown, pausing team activities on a case-by-case basis and postponing all cross-border games through Thursday. The Christmas break begins Friday and runs through Sunday, with games scheduled to resume next Monday.

Approximately 10% of the league’s players are in virus protocol. With the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants in North America, it is unlikely for the hockey players to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Moderna Could Be Ready to Develop Omicron Booster in Weeks — CEO

Reuters reported:

COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna (MRNA.O) does not expect any problems in developing a booster shot to protect against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and could begin work in a few weeks, Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said in an interview.

Moderna hopes to start clinical trials early next year on a vaccine to protect against the fast-spreading Omicron variant but for now is focussing on a booster dose of its current mRNA-1273 vaccine.

“It only needs minor adjustments for Omicron. I don’t expect any problems,” Bancel said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger published on Tuesday.

Bill Gates Says He’s Canceled His Holiday Plans Due to Omicron, but He Believes the Wave Will Be Over by March

Business Insider reported:

Just when it seemed like life would return to normal, we could be entering the worst part of the pandemic,” Bill Gates said as he kicked off a Twitter thread about the variant.

But the billionaire also said he believes this current wave of the coronavirus will be over by March of next year since the new coronavirus variant spreads so quickly.

Because of its quick transmissibility, Gates thinks we could get out of this wave in under three months.

Omicron Sweeps Across Nation, Now 73% of New U.S. COVID Cases

Associated Press reported:

Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in Omicron’s share of infections in only one week.

Much about the Omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness.

Highly Vaccinated United Arab Emirates Reports Most Virus Cases in Months

Associated Press reported:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday recorded its highest daily virus caseload in months, a spike that comes as the Omicron variant races across the globe and the Mideast tourist hub prepares to welcome hordes of tourists for the holidays.

The emirate reported 452 infections in the past 24 hours, including two deaths — an increase not seen in the highly vaccinated Gulf Arab state since mid-September.

The UAE boasts one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with authorities reporting that over 99% of eligible residents have received at least one dose. The government also offers Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots to all adults.

German Committee Recommends Booster After Three Months as Omicron Spreads

Reuters reported:

Germany’s STIKO vaccine authority on Tuesday shortened the recommended period between a second coronavirus shot and a booster to three months from six, reflecting the increasing presence of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

The authority said anyone over age 18 should have a booster using an mRNA vaccine three months after completing a two-shot course of COVID-19 vaccines.

For the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that period remains four weeks.

STIKO also recommended that anyone over age 12 who was infected with the coronavirus should receive a shot at least three months after they recovered.

Dec 20, 2021

Biden Administration Bypasses Vaccine Experts + More

The Biden Administration Has Been Sidelining Vaccine Experts

The Washington Post reported:

The U.S. government, over the past few weeks, has made three important decisions on vaccines without consulting independent panels of experts.

On Nov. 19, the Food and Drug Administration authorized boosters for all adults — regardless of their job or any underlying health conditions.

On Nov. 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that everyone 18 and above should get a booster shot, a revision of previous guidance that strongly recommended boosters only for those 50 and older.

Then, on Dec. 9, the FDA authorized booster shots (of Pfizer) for 16- and 17-year-olds, moving the age of eligibility down from 18.

Before last month, the standard practice was for the agencies to convene standing outside advisory committees, whose members inspect the relevant data, debate it and vote. That did not happen in these cases, meaning that the costs and benefits of these policy moves, from a medical perspective, were not fully aired publicly and discussed in advance.

48 Test Positive for COVID on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Forbes reported:

Four dozen passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of a weeklong Royal Caribbean cruise aboard Symphony of the Seas that sailed into Miami yesterday, reported the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

But breakthrough cases happen so routinely on cruise ships these days, it’s become something of a trend.

​​All of the ship’s passengers age 12 and older were required to be fully vaccinated and to test negative to board the cruise, which left Miami on Dec. 11. Children too young to be vaccinated were also required to test negative before sailing.

In response to rising infection rates due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Royal Caribbean tightened its mask policy this week to require that all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in all indoor public areas unless actively eating or drinking.

Omicron Spreading and Infecting the Vaccinated — WHO

Reuters reported:

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the COVID-19 disease, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

“There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing for Geneva-based journalists, held at its new headquarters building.

New Zealand Says Man’s Death May Be Linked to Pfizer Vaccine

Bloomberg reported:

New Zealand health authorities said they believe a man’s death may be linked to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The 26-year-old man died within two weeks of his first dose of Pfizer and preliminary post-mortem information suggests the probable cause was myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle wall that is a rare side effect of some COVID-19 vaccines, New Zealand’s COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board said in an emailed statement on Monday.

It is New Zealand’s second reported death linked to the vaccine after the board said in late August that a woman’s myocarditis was probably due to vaccination. It said today that another two people had died with potential myocarditis following vaccination. Further information was needed in the case of a 13-year-old child, while the death of a man in his 60s was unlikely related to the vaccine, it said.

Moderna Halts Patent Fight Over Coronavirus Vaccine With Federal Government

The Washington Post reported:

Moderna is pausing a patent dispute with the federal government over its groundbreaking coronavirus vaccine, saying it is “grateful” to government scientists who collaborated with the company and wants to “avoid any distraction” in the fight against the Omicron variant.

The decision could have implications for the Biden administration’s global vaccination strategy, as officials look for leverage to share mRNA vaccine discoveries with developing countries in an effort to ramp up worldwide supply.

It is also expected to turn down the heat on the Cambridge, Mass., vaccine maker, which projected as much as $18 billion in sales from its vaccine this year, and has received stinging criticism for doing too little to share its breakthroughs with poorer nations.

NBA Postpones 5 More Games; Young, Vogel Enter Protocols

Associated Press reported:

The NBA on Sunday postponed a total of five games involving nine teams in response to rising coronavirus numbers, raising the number of contests that have been pushed back this season to seven.

Called off were three Sunday games: Cleveland at Atlanta, Denver at Brooklyn and New Orleans at Philadelphia. Also shelved were Orlando’s game at Toronto on Monday and Washington’s game at Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Leaguewide, through Sunday evening, there were at least 75 players from 20 teams who have either been ruled out to play — or in the case of the postponed games, would have been ruled out — because they are in the protocols.

U.S. officials are expecting a wave of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated given the surge of holiday travelers and gatherings expected in the coming days. The NBA has said 97% of players are fully vaccinated and somewhere around 60% had received boosters as of last week.

Claim Alleging Injury or Death From a COVID Countermeasure to Be Compensated

The Epoch Times reported:

For the first time amid the pandemic, the U.S. government compensation program will pay out one of the 4,751 claims alleging injuries or death arising from the administration of a covered countermeasure used to diagnose, treat or prevent COVID-19.

Countermeasures may include emergency authorized or federally approved vaccines, drugs, and medical devices that the Food and Drug Administration allows for use during a public health emergency.

A total of 5,242 claims have been filed with the CICP from 2010 to Nov. 1, 2021, of which 4,751 claims are related to injuries or death from COVID-19 countermeasures, specifically 2,297 claims are for COVID-19 vaccines and 2,454 for other countermeasures.

‘It Is Embarrassing’: CDC Struggles to Track COVID Cases as Omicron Looms

Politico reported:

As the world experiences new, more transmissible COVID-19 variants, scientists and health officials in the U.S. are still struggling to gather accurate and timely domestic data to help inform policy decisions to safeguard Americans.

Continuing gaps in the CDC’s data collection program, which almost two years into the pandemic still relies on state health departments who use a mix of often incompatible and outdated state systems to identify cases, impedes the nation’s understanding of where and how fast the virus is spreading, according to more than a dozen state and federal officials involved in tracking cases.

In interagency health and high-level White House meetings, health and White House COVID-19 officials have lamented that U.S. epidemiological data is lacking in speed and accuracy and have advocated that the administration use data collected by international allies while considering policies on vaccinations and booster shots, those sources said.

Moderna’s Third Dose Boosts Antibodies Against Omicron

Bloomberg reported:

A third dose of Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine increased antibody levels against the Omicron variant, results the company described as reassuring while it works on a shot tailored to the new strain.

A 50-microgram booster dose — the authorized amount, which is half the dose used for primary immunization — saw a 37-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies, the company said in a statement Monday. The company also tested a 100-microgram dose, which increased antibody levels 83-fold compared with the primary two-dose course.

The results add to a growing body of evidence that three shots will be needed to neutralize the fast-spreading Omicron.

The Pandemic Could Drive Another National Health Crisis, GAO Warns: Anxiety

The Washington Post reported:

“The pandemic is potentially driving another national crisis related to its effects on behavioral health, with people experiencing new or exacerbated behavioral health symptoms or conditions.” That’s the stark warning in the first paragraph of a letter to Congress in a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The expansive impact of the pandemic is demonstrated by this statistic: More than four out of 10 adults, 43%, told a Census Bureau pulse survey in November 2020 they suffered from anxiety or depression.

Citing an August 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, the GAO said 13% of adults responding to a survey admitted “having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19.”

Therapists know “behavioral health problems are often under reported,” said Lynn Bufka, the American Psychological Association’s senior director of practice transformation and quality.

“We’re seeing a large increase in demand for anxiety and depression treatment” by mental health professionals who report long wait times for clients seeking care, Bufka said.

Omicron May Sideline Two Leading Drugs Against COVID

Associated Press reported:

As strained U.S. hospitals brace for a new surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, doctors are warning of yet another challenge: the two standard drugs they’ve used to fight infections are unlikely to work against the new strain.

For more than a year antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly have been the go-to treatments for early COVID-19, thanks to their ability to head off severe disease and keep patients out of the hospital.

But both drugmakers recently warned that laboratory testing suggests their therapies will be much less potent against Omicron, which contains dozens of mutations that make it harder for antibodies to attack the virus. And while the companies say they can quickly develop new Omicron-targeting antibodies, those aren’t expected to launch for at least several months.

Children Receive Unapproved COVID Vaccine

RT News reported:

Police in Germany are investigating after at least three children under 12 were “incorrectly” given the Moderna vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center. Parents have reportedly sought assault charges against a staffer.

The incident occurred on Sunday at a center in the town of Attendorn in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The children who received the Moderna shot apparently exhibited no ill effects after they left the vaccination center. The incident was reported to the police at the parents’ request.

According to the district administration, it was not yet clear if the staff member was the only one at the center to have injected children with the wrong shot or if other employees had done the same. It was also not known whether the children administered the incorrect vaccine were given an adult dose.

The authorities noted that around 365 children had been vaccinated in general against COVID in the town, with parents being told to monitor them for any adverse effects. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been greenlighted by the agency for children aged between five and 11 in the bloc so far.

French Health Regulator Approves Pfizer Vaccine for 5- to 11-Year-Olds

Reuters reported:

France’s Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) health regulator approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all children aged 5-11 on Monday.

Last week France started vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds with medical conditions that require special protection and ramped up logistics to roll out vaccination of all children in the age group once the HAS approves the move.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that he was in favor of vaccinating children, but added that this needed to remain the decision of parents.

Dec 17, 2021

Pfizer Expects Vaccine for Kids Under 5 in ‘First Half’ of Next Year + More

Pfizer Expects Vaccine for Kids Under 5 in ‘First Half’ of Next Year

The Hill reported:

Pfizer and BioNTech said Friday they expect to submit an application for the use of their COVID-19 vaccine in children under five years old in the “first half of 2022” as they test a third dose for the age group.

Pfizer said it is studying a third small dose of its vaccine for children under 5, given that the testing so far showed that the immune response with two small doses was not as high as desired in children 2 to 4 years old.

Pfizer also said Friday it is testing a third dose in children 5 to 12 and 12 to 17, as experts urge adults to get a booster shot.

Moderna COVID Shot Likelier to Cause Heart Inflammation Than Pfizer’s: Study

Reuters reported:

Moderna‘s (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine is up to four times more likely to cause inflammation of the heart muscle, a very rare side effect, than its rival vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE.N), according to a Danish study published in the British Medical Journal late on Thursday.

The study, in which almost 85% of Danes, or 4.9 million individuals, aged 12 and older participated, investigated the link between mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines and heart inflammation, also known as myocarditis or myopericarditis.

Earlier studies from Israel and the United States have indicated an increased risk of heart inflammation after inoculation with the mRNA-vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was only associated with a higher risk of heart inflammation among women, the study said, contrasting with the results of the studies from Israel and the United States.

COVID Hysteria Is Destroying the Lives of Disabled Children Like Mine

Newsweek reported:

As the parent of a severely disabled and non-verbal child, I’ve spent his entire life as a caregiver looking out for his medical, educational, social and equipment needs and ensuring he leads the most meaningful, healthy and safe life possible.

And pandemic over-regulation has made the challenges of my son’s life infinitely harder — as it has the lives of countless other individuals with disabilities.

Throughout the pandemic, young children with autism and other special needs have been kicked off of flights, have been banned from flying, denied entry into museums, thrown out of bookstores and had their education stunted. They have been generally treated like loathsome vectors of disease, like contagiants.

Pfizer and BioNTech Ask FDA to Approve Their COVID Vaccine for Kids as Young as 12

Politico reported:

Pfizer and BioNTech completed their request to the Food and Drug Administration to approve their COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12, the companies announced Friday.

The companies submitted Phase III clinical trial data to FDA as a supplemental application for their vaccine, which is already approved for adults and children as young as 16. In the new data, their vaccine was 100% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children who received the vaccine up to four months after their second dose.

FDA will review the data and decide whether to update the vaccine’s approval.

The Tragedy of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID Vaccine

STAT News reported:

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine was going to be a shot for the world. Now, under the weight of a mountain of bad PR, one wonders if the world will want it.

On Thursday, a panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously that the shots developed by Pfizer and Moderna should be recommended over the J&J one.

In April, U.S. regulators announced a pause of the rollout of the J&J shot while they investigated a rare but serious side effect involving both blood clots and serious bleeding. When it was finally introduced, there were distribution problems that limited supply.

The vaccine’s popularity never recovered.

Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Cancels Shows Due to Breakthrough Infections

NBC New York reported:

The Radio City Rockettes became the latest casualty of the sweeping COVID-19 surge to disrupt Manhattan’s bustling live performance industry.

Adding to the growing list of Broadway show cancelations, “The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes” has announced the cancelations of all four of its Friday performances due to breakthrough infections among its crew.

American Parents Worrying Less About Kids Contracting COVID-19: Gallup Poll

The Hill reported:

Fewer parents report being worried about their child contracting COVID-19 compared to three months ago, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll found that 45% of parents with children aged 18 and younger say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried that their child will be infected with COVID-19, a drop from 53% in September.

Gallup noted that vaccination status does not relieve parents’ worry about their child contracting the virus, with 63% of parents whose children have been vaccinated report being worried about them being infected, while only 17% of parents of unvaccinated children report the same.

Fully Vaccinated Is About to Mean Something Else

The Atlantic reported:

For nearly a year now, the phrase fully vaccinated has carried a cachet that it never did before. Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is a ticket for a slate of liberties — a pass to travel without testing and skip post-exposure quarantine, per the CDC, and in many parts of the country, a license to enter restaurants, gyms, and bars. For many employees, full vaccination is now a requirement to work; for many individuals, it’s a must for any socialization at all.

Sometime in the very, very near future, that status — and the perks that come with it — could evaporate in an instant for millions of Americans. Medical experts and public-health officials have for weeks been calling for the CDC to alter the definition of fully vaccinated to include another dose. Countries such as Israel have already done it; Anthony Fauci has been gunning for the switch.

Millions of people would be bumped back into “partially vaccinated” purgatory. Unvaccinated people would have one more hurdle to clear to achieve CDC-sanctioned status; some could be further disincentivized from getting the necessary shots

South Africa Hospitalization Rate Plunges in Omicron Wave

Bloomberg reported:

South Africa delivered some positive news on the Omicron coronavirus variant on Friday, reporting a much lower rate of hospital admissions and signs that the wave of infections may be peaking.

Only 1.7% of identified COVID-19 cases were admitted to hospital in the second week of infections in the fourth wave, compared with 19% in the same week of the third Delta-driven wave, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a press conference.

Health officials presented evidence that the strain may be milder, and that infections may already be peaking in the country’s most populous province, Gauteng.

A COVID ‘Viral Blizzard’ Is About to Hit the U.S., Expert Says, With ‘Millions’ to Be Infected Soon

CNN Health reported:

The coronavirus will hit millions of Americans in a “viral blizzard” within a few weeks as infections from the Omicron variant pile on top of Delta, an expert predicts.

The Delta variant remains a problem. And Omicron, with its high transmissibility, could strike millions more soon, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Omicron will cause a serious strain on the healthcare system as more workers will likely get sick, Osterholm said, even though most cases from Omicron seem to be mild.

AstraZeneca Therapy Works Against Omicron; Results Mixed for Regeneron

Reuters reported:

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Regeneron (REGN.O) on Thursday reported contrasting data on the effectiveness of their COVID-19 antibody therapies against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, underscoring the major challenges ahead for drugmakers.

U.S.-based Regeneron said its REGEN-COV therapy, also called Ronapreve, is less effective against Omicron, though it is still active against the Delta variant, confirming indications from lab tests and computer modelling late last month.

Anglo-Swedish rival AstraZeneca, however, said a lab study found that its antibody cocktail Evusheld retained neutralising activity against Omicron, the first such data for the treatment.