By Rob Picheta and Hafsa Khalil, CNN
The US could be vaccinating infants, toddlers and preschoolers against COVID-19 within days.
Vaccine advisers at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are meeting Wednesday to discuss extending the emergency use authorization of Moderna’s and Pfizer/BioNTech’s shots to those aged six months and older.
It comes a day after the 22 members of the agency’s advisory committee voted unanimously to authorize Moderna’s shot for those aged 6 to 17.
Both companies have reported positive trial results when using their vaccines on younger children. Pfizer found that three child-sized doses appeared to be safe and generated an immune response in trials that’s comparable to the response in older people. Moderna, meanwhile, have reported that two smaller shots appeared to yield a similar immune response as their two-dose vaccine series does in adults 18 to 25.
And the White House is ready for the FDA’s green light. The Biden administration has prepped 10 million doses to be distributed around the country, and expects the first vaccinations to start next week, according to a factsheet shared with CNN this month.
The big question, though, is how quickly parents will take up the opportunity to vaccinate their young kids.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor survey, published last month, only 18% of parents of children under 5 said they would vaccinate their child against COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine was available.
Nearly 40% of parents of young children said they would “wait and see” before vaccinating their child, 11% said they would get the vaccine only if required, and 27% said they would “definitely not” vaccinate their child against COVID-19.
Lack of available information about the program is a factor in that hesitancy, according to the survey; a majority of parents of kids under 5 said they don’t have enough information about its safety and efficacy.
But the US wouldn’t be alone in vaccinating toddlers and preschoolers against COVID-19.
Most countries offering the vaccine to children do so from the age of 5, according to Our World in Data. However, some extend their programs to younger kids — and that’s been the case for some time.
China started vaccinating children as young as 3 last year, and some early real-world data several months later found that its Sinovac and CoronaVac shots did provide some protection to youngsters.
Hong Kong approved vaccinations for 3-year-olds in February amid a surge of infections. And Cuba has been inoculating children aged 2 and older for nine months, in a strategy initially aimed at reopening schools during a wave of cases.
Though COVID-19 more severely affects older age groups, there are benefits to vaccinating the youngest children. Kids can get long COVID and are susceptible to the broad and unpredictable range of symptoms that comes with that condition. Hospitalizations of young children with COVID is uncommon but does occur, and transmission can be high in school settings.
“We have waited a long time for this moment,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said last week.
“If the FDA and CDC recommend these vaccines, this would mark an important moment in the pandemic … kids are better protected, they’re better off, if they’re vaccinated,” he added.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Will we ever know how the pandemic began?
A: A team of international scientists tasked with understanding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic released its first report on Thursday, saying that all hypotheses remain on the table, including a possible laboratory incident.
The 27-member scientific advisory group convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) said available data suggests the virus jumped from animals to humans, but gaps in “key pieces of data” meant a complete understanding of its origins could not be established.
“Studying origins of any novel pathogen or pandemic is incredibly difficult,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead for its Health Emergencies Program. “There is a lot more work that needs to be done, in China and elsewhere.”
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READS OF THE WEEK
America’s workers gained power during COVID. A volatile economy will put that to the test
The pandemic emphasized the disparities in benefits and rights among the US workforce and helped fuel a movement to unionize more workers, Alice Wallace reports.
Major corporations such as Starbucks and Amazon have seen unions forming; union election petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board from October 2021 to March 2022 were up by 57% from the year before. A September Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans surveyed were in favor of labor unions — the highest level of approval since 1965.
But the war in Ukraine, record gas prices and spiraling inflation all continue to put pressure on the US economy, begging the question of whether the newly robust labor movement can weather higher unemployment and an eventual economic downturn.
Ending of testing rule in the US opens international summer travel floodgates
Just as the weather cranks up the temperature, the US is lifting its requirement for all travelers entering the country to present a negative COVID-19 test.
The rule ended on Sunday, bringing a collective sigh of relief — and with it, most probably a flood of US-bound travelers.
For many American travelers, the development means no longer having to worry about testing before returning to the States, or running into the cost and burden of remaining abroad to quarantine and wait for a negative test result.
US-bound international travelers can now plan trips without the fear of having to cancel because of a positive test. Most non-US citizens must still be vaccinated to travel to the country.
They felt like the world left them behind: Raising young children in a pandemic
Rohit Kumar Rai and his wife have both lost family members in India to COVID-19, so they know how serious the disease can be. That’s why they have been living so cautiously in Texas until their 4-year-old son can be vaccinated as well.
That means reining in playdates and school attendance when cases are higher, an inconsistency that can frustrate their son, he said. “Sometimes you are saying it’s OK to go, and sometimes you are saying not,” Rai said his son complains to him.
While some families hesitate or refuse to vaccinate their young children, for many, the news brings a huge sigh of relief.
“It’s not like I am expecting some miracle vaccine; like as soon as he gets it it is going to end,” Rai said. “He might get COVID, he might be affected, but the worst-case scenario wouldn’t happen. That’s my ultimate goal for my kid.”
Summer vacations are getting easier.
This month, Japan has started allowing foreign tour groups entry (individual travelers are still not permitted), and the US has ended its testing rule, which means it should be smoother sailing for some aspects of international travel.
But make sure to check the advice for wherever you’re traveling. This week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put Mexico in its “high risk” category for COVID-19.
The CDC also recommends testing within three days of your flight and not to travel if you are sick.
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