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Vermont Seeing Largest COVID Surge of Pandemic, Despite 74% of Residents Vaccinated

Newsweek reported:

Although 74% of its population is fully vaccinated, the state of Vermont is experiencing its largest surge of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Throughout the past week, coronavirus infections have jumped 54% along with an 18% increase in hospitalizations.

Vermont is far from the only state recording surges of COVID-19 infections. The number of Americans fully vaccinated reached 200 million Wednesday amid a dispiriting holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations that has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated corners of the country.

Man Dies of COVID ‘Vaccine-Induced’ Hemorrhage With ‘Very Swollen’ Brain, Doctor Confirms

International Business Times reported:

A man in England died of a severe brain-bleed that doctors say is caused by the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, according to an inquest.

Adam Bounds, a 41-year-old Devon resident, died on May 31 this year at a hospital in Plymouth, just 11 days after he received his AstraZeneca shot. He had been transferred from Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital prior to his death for neurosurgical intervention.

FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine Booster Shots for 16- and 17-Year-Olds Amid Omicron Threat

The Washington Post reported:

Federal regulators Thursday authorized booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, a step that could bolster protection against Delta, the dominant variant in the United States, and the emerging Omicron version.

The FDA’s authorization is expected to be reviewed and endorsed by Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

The clearance means 16- and 17-year-olds who received the initial two-shot series of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be able to get a booster six months after the second dose. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not authorized for anyone under 18.

Most Parents Still Have Concerns About Safety of COVID Vaccines for Children, Survey Finds

CNN Health reported:

Most parents still have concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for children, and about three in 10 say that they will “definitely not” vaccinate their children against COVID-19, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Vaccine uptake has slowed among adolescents ages 12 to 17 in recent months. And among parents of younger children ages 5 to 11, about 29% say that their child has already been vaccinated or will be “right away.” But another third of parents of children in this age group say that they want to “wait and see” before vaccinating their child against COVID-19.

About six in 10 parents say that they don’t have enough information about the effectiveness, side effects or safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in children. In fact, more than one in six parents who have not yet vaccinated their children say that the need for more information, testing and research is the top reason they haven’t yet vaccinated their children against COVID-19, according to the KFF survey.

It’s a Question of ‘When, Not If’ the Definition of Fully Vaccinated Is Changed to Include a Further Shot, Fauci Says

Business Insider reported:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top medical doctor, said that it would be “a matter of when, not if,” the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is reclassified to include an additional shot.

His comments came after early stage lab studies suggested that a further dose of vaccine may be necessary to provide protection against the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The definition of what constitutes fully vaccinated could be important, particularly as some organizations require it of their employees.

The AP Interview: CDC Chief Says Omicron Mostly Mild so Far

Associated Press reported:

More than 40 people in the U.S. have been found to be infected with the Omicron variant so far, and more than three-quarters of them had been vaccinated, the chief of the CDC said Wednesday. But she said nearly all of them were only mildly ill.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the data is very limited and the agency is working on a more detailed analysis of what the new mutant form of the coronavirus might hold for the U.S.

She said “the disease is mild” in almost all of the cases seen so far, with reported symptoms mainly cough, congestion and fatigue. One person was hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, CDC officials said.

Vaccine Makers Racing to Update COVID Shots, Just in Case

Associated Press reported:

Vaccine makers are racing to update their COVID-19 shots against the newest coronavirus threat even before it’s clear a change is needed, just in case.

Experts doubt today’s shots will become useless but say it’s critical to see how fast companies could produce a reformulated dose and prove it works — because whatever happens with Omicron, this newest mutant won’t be the last.

Norwegian COVID Experts Says Omicron Could Provide ‘Best Scenario’ of ‘Natural Immunity’

Summit News reported:

COVID experts in Norway say that the Omicron variant being highly transmissible but “milder” could prove to be the “best scenario” because it would boost “natural immunity” and bring the end of the pandemic closer.

The country’s state epidemiologist Frode Forland was responding to news of the biggest Omicron outbreak outside of South Africa, which occurred at an Oslo Christmas party.

Oslo infectious disease doctor Tine Ravlo revealed, “They have symptoms like fever, cough, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, but for now, none of them has become severely ill, and none of them have been treated in hospital.”

An Inside Look at a New York Lab Working With Omicron — NYU Virologist: ‘What Omicron Represents Is Scary, but Omicron Itself Is Not Scary’

MedPage Today reported:

MedPage Today spoke with Benjamin tenOever, PhD, a virologist at NYU Langone Health, for an inside look at sequencing efforts to track down Omicron.

“Right now, we have hamsters that have been either vaccinated or previously infected, and we challenge them with Omicron so that we can answer these questions about whether the way you taught your immune system — either via vaccine or infection — will still protect you from Omicron. My guess is the answer to that is going to be, yes,” said tenOever.

“The proteases and the replication machinery of Omicron has not changed compared to Beta or Delta, so it’s also clear that drugs like Pfizer‘s drug and Merck’s drug are still going to be equally effective against Omicron.”

“The truth is that I’m not overly concerned about Omicron at all. All the cases have been very mild and I don’t actually understand where the hysteria is coming from,” he added.

COVID: Medical Board Deletes Anti-Misinformation Policy Amid GOP Pressure

The Tennessean reported:

Tennessee’s medical licensing board voted Tuesday to delete a policy opposing coronavirus misinformation from its website due to fears a powerful conservative lawmaker would otherwise dissolve the board and replace its members.

The policy, unanimously adopted by the Board of Medical Examiners in September, establishes that doctors who spread demonstrably untrue information about COVID-19 vaccines could have their licenses suspended or potentially revoked. Members voted 7 to 3 to delete — but not rescind — the policy.

FDA Authorizes AstraZeneca Antibody Cocktail for Immunocompromised People

The Hill reported:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized AstraZeneca’s antibody cocktail designed to prevent COVID-19 in immunocompromised people who may not mount an adequate immune response to vaccines.

The FDA granted AstraZeneca’s Evusheld, previously known as AZD7442, an emergency use authorization to be given to certain adult and pediatric patients who are not currently infected with COVID-19 and have not been exposed to someone with the virus.

German Vaccine Panel Recommends COVID Shot for Children Ages 5 to 11

Reuters reported:

Germany’s vaccination advisory commission STIKO recommended on Thursday that Pfizer-BioNTech‘s (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) COVID-19 vaccine is given to children aged five to 11 with pre-existing conditions and said others could also request it.

STIKO said in a statement that it also recommended the vaccine for children who are in contact with people with a high risk of severe COVID-19, such as the elderly or those with suppressed immune systems.

Meanwhile, STIKO said the risk of rare side effects of the vaccination cannot be assessed due to limited data available, which is why it is not making a general recommendation for children under 12 to get the shot.

South Africa Approves Pfizer Vaccine Booster Amid COVID Wave

Associated Press reported:

South Africa’s regulatory authority has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster shot, opening the way for third doses to be administered to battle the current surge driven by the Omicron variant.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority approved the Pfizer vaccine as a booster shot for people 18 years and older, six months after they received their second dose.

The regulatory body also approved a third dose for people aged 12 years and older who were “severely immunocompromised,” which may be taken 28 days after their second dose.