A federal advisory committee will meet Tuesday to decide whether to recommend COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5 to 11.
If the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decides the benefits of vaccination outweigh risks in this age group, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would weigh in. If Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off, vaccines would become available as soon as Wednesday at pharmacies and pediatricians’ offices.
The vaccine, which will be free, would be delivered at one-third the dose given to adolescents and adults, in two shots at least three weeks apart. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be available in this age group. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still being tested in adolescents and children.
In several small trials, Pfizer-BioNTech saw no serious side effects connected with the shots. But some side effects are likely to appear later as millions of children receive the vaccine. Typical side effects, which go away within a day or two, include headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, pain at the injection site and vomiting, nausea or diarrhea.
In a study of about 2,500 children, the vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. Although children are far less likely to suffer severe COVID-19 infections than adolescents or adults, they still can become severely ill or even die and can have symptoms that linger for months.
Presidential advisor Jeffrey Zients said Monday that the Biden administration had ordered enough to vaccinate all 28 million American children in this 5-11 age group if they are authorized. The administration’s distribution program will be “running at full strength” the week of Nov. 8, he said.
— Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY
Also in the news:
►The first-dose vaccination rate of U.S. adults has reached 80%, and 70% of adults are fully vaccinated, the White House said Monday.
►Pennsylvania is offering five days of paid leave – in addition to the paid day off to get vaccinated – to state employees who get their COVID shots by the end of the year. The state treasurer said the incentive could cost the state more than $100 million.
►All adults who are regularly in schools and child care centers in the District of Columbia must be vaccinated as of Monday. Also, students 12 and older must be fully vaccinated to participate in school-based extracurricular athletics. Religious and medical exemptions are available. Mayor Muriel Bowser previously had required city employees to be vaccinated.
►South Dakota has joined Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wyoming in a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded 46 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 747,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 247 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 192.5million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Coronavirus cases in children grew by 129% nationwide in the six weeks after schools opened compared with the same period before classes started, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from the CDC.
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9K NYC employees on unpaid leave
More than 90% of New York City’s employees have been vaccinated and about 9,000 were placed on unpaid leave Monday for failing to meet the mandatory vaccination deadline, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The mandate required that any of the city’s 300,000 workers who haven’t had their first dose be placed on unpaid leave. More than 12,000 have applied for medical or religious exemption, and those requests are still being processed, de Blasio said.
“Vaccine mandates work. 91% of our City workforce has gotten vaccinated against #COVID19 and that number is still growing,” de Blasio tweeted Monday.
The police department, which employs about 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian employees, had an 84% vaccination rate as of Monday, de Blasio said. The fire department was at 77% of firefighters and 88% of EMTs. Sanitation’s rate was 83%.
The fire department has said it was prepared to close up to 20% of fire companies and have 20% fewer ambulances in service. More than 2,000 of the city’s 11,000 firefighters have taken sick days in the past week, but Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said no firehouses have closed despite “irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members (that) is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters.”
Judge suspends deadline for Chicago cops to get vaccinated
A judge on Monday suspended a Dec. 31 deadline for Chicago police officers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but didn’t interfere with a requirement that they are regularly tested.
Disputes over vaccinations should be handled as a labor grievance with an arbitrator, Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell said.
“The effect of this order is to send these parties back to the bargaining table and to promote labor peace by allowing them to pursue” remedies under Illinois law, Mitchell said.
The grievance process could last months, the city said last week.
Officers who haven’t been vaccinated still must be tested twice a week under city policy. Officers also can lose work and pay if they don’t disclose their vaccine status.
Mandatory vaccination for companies with 100+ employees inches closer
The controversial Biden administration plan to require companies with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccination for their workers or require weekly testing cleared another hurdle Monday when the Office of Management and Budget completed its regulatory review.
The plan also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects. The Federal Register will publish the emergency temporary standard “in the coming days,” the Labor Department said in a statement. It’s not clear when the mandate would become effective.
Biden announced the plan in September, and attorneys general in two dozen states quickly sent the White House a letter threatening to challenge the mandate in court.
Oft-delayed Novavax vaccine gets first authorization, from Indonesia
The Maryland-based Novavax biotech company, which has run into repeated delays in its attempt to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, said Monday it has received its first emergency use authorization, from Indonesia.
In partnership with the Serum Institute of India, Novavax plans to distribute the protein-based vaccine in Indonesia under the name COVOVAX. The company said in a statement that it’s also seeking authorization in the Philippines, India, Canada, Europe and Australia.
Novavax, which received at least $1.6 billion for vaccine development from former President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, added in the statement that it “expects to submit its complete package to the U.S. FDA by the end of the year.”