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FDA Permits Use Of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine For Kids 12 And Up 

The Food and Drug Administration announced this week that they approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for kids aged 12 and up; previously the vaccine was only approved for individuals 16 and older. 

The administration’s approval will ideally get all middle and high school students vaccinated before the fall semester. The FDA is also hoping that the approval will accelerate America’s effort to drive down new infections and reach herd immunity. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee is scheduled to meet this Wednesday to review the shot completely for use in kids. If approved by the CDC, as it is expected too, adolescents can begin receiving their shots as early as this week. 

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Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said “the decision brings us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. I want to assure parents that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data before clearing it for use in the teens.”

The companies expressed how in late March the vaccine was found to be 100% effective in a clinical trial of more than 2,000 adolescents, as well as activated a “robust” antibody response in younger children. All apparent side effects were also consistent with those seen in adults. 

Health experts have long claimed that vaccinating children is an essential step to ending the pandemic, and is the only way America has a shot at reaching herd immunity. According to government data children make up 20% of the total U.S. population. “Between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated against Covid to achieve herd immunity, and some adults may refuse to get the shots. Though more experts now say herd immunity is looking increasingly unlikely as variants spread,” experts claim.

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The White House’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said in April that “the US could begin vaccinating older kids against Covid-19 by the fall while elementary-age children may start getting their shots by early next year.” 

Approval by the FDA for kids under the age of 12 could potentially come in the second half of the year, according to Fauci. Pfizer claims that it expects to apply for authorization for its vaccine to be given to toddlers and younger children in September, and infants in November. Pfizer has also become the first vaccine manufacturer to begin the submission process to get full FDA approval for its use of the vaccine in people 16 and older. 

Pfizer and BioNTech reported that they began a clinical trial for their vaccine in healthy 6-month to 11-year-old children. 

This will also be a major step in President Biden’s efforts to bring back full in-person learning for America’s kids in the fall. The administration even announced plans to invest $10 billion into Covid-19 testing for schools specifically.

Pfizer BioNTech Vaccine

Restaurant Workers Are Wearing Bracelets To Prove They’ve Been Vaccinated 

One restaurant in Philadelphia is attempting to make its customers feel more comfortable about returning to normalcy by requiring its vaccinated employees to wear a bracelet that makes it clear they’ve received their immunizations. 

El Merkury is the restaurant that’s having most of its employees wear a blue silicone bracelet with a QR code on the side of it that links directly to their proof of Covid-19 vaccination. The overall goal of this is to not only give the customers a greater peace of mind, but staff members as well. 

Sofia Deleon is the owner of El Merkury who spoke to local journalists this week regarding the new bracelets and how it’s providing staff and customers with an extra sense of security.

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“It was really important for me to have everybody vaccinated so that they could come back to work and really feel safe.”

The bracelets work by having the wearers upload their vaccination cards for review before they can receive the band itself. The documentation is stored on a server that is in compliance with medical privacy laws so users don;t have to worry about their information being shared. The process is end-to-end encrypted, providing the most security for users. 

ImmunaBand is the brand responsible for making these bracelets, and the company makes two types of bands. One of them just has the QR code while the other has the QR code plus the wearer’s name and type of vaccine they received. That code can easily be scanned by any smartphone’s camera for proof of vaccination. 

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Tashof Bernton is the president of ImmunaBand and recently spoke to CNN about how restaurants in Los Angeles and Pennsylvania specifically are buying the bands the most currently. 

“I hope the use of our bands will become more widespread to help demonstrate support for the vaccination program and help people feel more comfortable as the economy continues to reopen.”

Berton explained how the bracelets are simply a “way of saying ‘look I’m safe,’ and try to deescalate some of the tension and fear that people feel after a year in lockdown.” 

Even better, a portion of profits from the bands go directly to Covid relief and recover funds. Berton discussed how ImmunaBand “is a business, but it also really is about showing support for the vaccination program and doing what we can to bring us back together again as a society.”

Nurse Holding Vaccine

India’s Covid-19 Crisis Is Causing An Increase In Vaccine Inequality Around The World

Countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been begging foreign governments for assistance in vaccine supply and distribution. Many of these countries haven’t even hit 1% in terms of people who are fully vaccinated. 

AstraZeneca Vaccine

European Union Sues AstraZeneca Over Vaccine Delivery Delays 

The European Union (EU) announced this week that it will be launching legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca after claims that it repeatedly under-delivered on its Covid-19 vaccine shipments throughout the continent. 

The 27 nations within the European Union have all reported a relatively slow rollout of vaccinations for citizens due to delays in delivery from AstraZeneca. The union claims that tens of millions of doses have fallen through, and the company has barely upheld their end of the contract with the EU to get every citizen vaccinated. 

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The EU initially ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, with an optional 100 million doses, of which the union has gone without. 

AstraZeneca released a statement in which they claimed that they “regret” that the European Commission is choosing to take action against the company, but it would be strongly defending itself in a court setting. 

AstraZeneca and the EU in general have already been dealing with some major tensions as many citizens refused to get vaccinated, so that combined with the company’s own failures to deliver the agreed upon doses has led to a major feud between the government and pharmaceutical company. 

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Stefan De Keersmaecker, health spokesperson of the European Commission, was the one who initially announced that a lawsuit had been launched, arguing that “the terms of the EU-AstraZeneca contract had not been respected, and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery of doses.”

“We want to make sure that there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to, and which have been promised on the basis of the contract. All 27 countries support this legal action.”

AstraZeneca released their own statement this Monday: “Following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges, our company is about to deliver almost 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast.”

The company added that “AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court. We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.”

Vaccine Development

Greta Thunberg Calls Out Vaccine Inequality Between Rich And Poor Countries

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg wants the world to “step their game up” when it comes to vaccine manufacturing, development, and distribution. Specifically, she joins a call from a multitude of climate and human rights activists who are fighting against vaccine inequality after the world’s richest countries purchased a majority of the planet’s Covid-19 doses, leaving those in poorer countries without. 

 The World Health Organization announced this week that 5.2 million new confirmed coronavirus cases have appeared throughout the world within the past week; this marks the largest weekly count yet according to the United Nation’s health agency.

Thunberg recently donated $120,000 from her charitable foundation to the WHO foundation to help buy more Covid vaccines for poor countries where they’re especially needed right now.

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“It is completely unethical that high-income countries are now vaccinating young and healthy people if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups and on the front lines in low- and middle-income countries,” said Thunberg, who was recently invited as a guest for a regular WHO briefing.

“While the development of Covid vaccines in record time is impressive, it’s estimated that one in four people in high-income countries have received them so far, while only one in 500 in middle and lower-income countries have.”

“The international community, governments and vaccine developers must step up their game and address the tragedy that is vaccine inequity. Just with the climate crisis, those who are the most vulnerable need to be prioritized and global problems require global solutions,” she continued. 

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, recently discussed how new Covid cases rose for an eighth straight week in a row around the globe, while Covid-related deaths have been on the rise for the past five weeks straight. 

“Infections among people 25 to 29 are increasing at an alarming rate, possibly as a result of highly contagious variants and increased social mixing among younger adults.”

In total, more than 3 million patients have died within the past year of the pandemic, and more than 141 million residents around the world have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University which has been collecting data since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Thunberg said people need to “step up for one another. We young people may be the ones who are least affected … by the virus in a direct way. Of course, many young people fail to draw that connection. Not all, but some.”

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

CDC Expected To Meet About J&J Vaccine Pause

The CDC and FDA are meeting to discuss the six blood clotting cases among people who received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

Immunity Coronavirus

Expert Claims Israel May Have Reached ‘Sort Of Herd Immunity’ From Covid-19

Eran Segal is a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science who recently spoke with the local Israeli media about how Israel in general may have reached a “sort of herd immunity” after getting nearly 4.9 million residents fully vaccinated. This led to a 97% decrease in the amount of new Covid-19 cases appearing in the nation.

“It is possible that Israel has reached a sort of herd immunity and regardless, we have a wide safety net. I think that makes it possible to remove some of the restrictions immediately.”

Segal claimed that now that most Israelis are immunized, a multitude of economic sectors can begin reopening to assist the nation in its recovery post-pandemic. He also cited that since the gatherings over the Purim and Passover holidays did not lead to any direct spike in cases, the vaccines were proving to be more than effective.

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If Israel does actually achieve this goal, they will be the first country in the world to hit herd immunity. Last week, researchers at the University College London said that the United Kingdom would reach herd immunity by Friday; a claim that was immediately disputed.

Israel has already begun rolling back on a multitude of coronavirus restrictions within the recent months as more and more citizens received their vaccinations. Businesses were able to reopen, even venues and other gathering activities were able to occur more frequently has morbidity levels dropped exponentially with the country’s world-leading vaccination drive.

The Israeli Health Ministry is expected to lift outdoor mask mandates in public spaces later this month while some restrictions on gatherings and schools are still being enforced to protect younger generations.

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Israel is continuously limiting the number of people who can enter and/or exit the nation every day as well, as many experts are worried about the multitude of variants around the world that could potentially undermine the effectiveness of their vaccination program.

Government ministers this past week voted to further ease certain Covid-19 restrictions in schools; they removed the requirement that made fourth graders learn in much smaller class sizes. Ministers also ended the requirement that made all students present a health declarations signed by their parents to enter into a classroom. All universities and colleges are also now able to hold all tests in person.

Currently, Israeli residents are allowed to gather outdoors in crowds up to 100 and up to 20 for indoor gatherings. Cultural and even venues are allowed to host up to 750 people under the Green Pass Program. This program is designed to grant access to public venues exclusively for individuals who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.

As of this past Saturday there were 4,002 active Covid-19 cases throughout Israel; 221 of which were recently diagnosed last week. The Health Ministry claims that 268 individuals are in serious condition, but the death toll has remained at 6,292. According to the ministry over 5.3 million citizens are vaccinated with their first dose while 4.9 million are now fully immunized.

Syrigne of Covid Vaccine

China Looking For Foreign Vaccine Options After Admitting To Ineffective Vaccines

This weekend, the director of China’s health agency claimed that Covid-19 vaccines being produced by private and state-run groups are not very effective. This announcement comes after an Oregon congressman began pushing for more effective and compassionate vaccine property rights to be shared among the world to end the pandemic more quickly.

The Associated Press initially reported that the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, claimed Chinese vaccines “don’t have a very high protection rate.” Sinovac is the privately-owned company that has been producing Covid vaccines in China. Sinopharm is a state-owned firm responsible for the same thing. International testing has revealed that the vaccines from both businesses are 50% effective in preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 symptoms.

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Despite the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have both tested to be 97% and 94% effective respectively, Gao Fu casted doubt on mRNA technology in general, so both vaccines weren’t even put under consideration. This weekend, however, Gao Fu claimed that China is considering other vaccine options now, as their goal is to vaccinate 40% of it’s population by June; for reference they currently have about 5% of their 1.4 billion population vaccinated.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have claimed that 35% of US residents have received at least one of their shots by now. Earl Blumenauer is the Oregon Congressman who also discussed how access to effective vaccines “is a key to global herd immunity from COVID.”

“None of us are safe, we’re only a plane ride away form being reinfected.”

Several lawmakers share Blumenauer’s viewpoints, and have even signed a request to the Biden Administration to temporarily lift intellectual property rights to the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines. “The idea is for other countries to produce effective vaccines too.”

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“It’s in everyone’s interest to do this, we’ll only be safe when the whole world can be protected, but it’s hard when wealthy countries like the US bought up most of the initial supply of effective vaccines.”

“This risks further deepening of global inequities, sparking new tensions and divides, with really serious ramifications for stability and progress around the world. Letting Covid circulate in other countries will yield stronger variant strains, which may be resistant to current vaccines.”

Martha Newsome is the president of Medical Teams International, a Pacific Northwest-based organization that works to vaccinate people in poorer countries.

“It’s literally a human rights issue. I think sometimes we just think ‘I need to get my family vaccinated, I need to get my community vaccinated,’ but we will not get out of this pandemic isolation that we’re feeling until everyone is vaccinated.”

The pharmaceutical industry opposes sharing intellectual property rights, however, which Blumenaur claims is a “short-sighted, and frankly inhumane attitude to have when facing a global health crisis. If we don’t defeat this virus together, it’ll come back to bite us.”

Two Positive Covid Tests

Michigan’s Surge In Covid-19 Cases Has Health Experts Worried For Rest Of The US

Michigan is currently in the middle of a major surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations that has many experts worried for the rest of the nation. Younger people are among the most vulnerable as they’re the last group to receive their vaccinations. Dr. Celine Gounder is an epidemiologist who spoke to the media about this recent surge.
“Michigan is really the bellwether for what it looks like when the B.1.1.7 variant spreads in the United States. It’s causing a surge in cases and it’s causing more severe disease, which means that even younger people, people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are getting very sick and being hospitalized by this.”

The B.1.1.7 strain was initially spotted in the United Kingdom but is now the most dominant strain of Covid-19 in America. Experts have claimed this strain is more contagious, may cause more severe disease and is potentially more deadly. Florida currently has the highest number of variant cases, filled by Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, according to the CDC.

Gounder claims Michigan’s surge in particular is caused by a combination of two factors: the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant combined with the fact that many states have already pulled back, or completely removed, all health and safety precautions meant to curb the spread of Covid due to the fact that vaccines are rolling out more quickly now.
“While some officials are trying to make a case for the federal government to ramp up vaccines to the state, that won’t help in Michigan’s case. Here’s why: it takes about two weeks after the Pfizer and Moderna second doses and about two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before people are immune. Meanwhile, the incubation period, which is the time from when you’re exposed to when you are infected with Covid, is four to five days.”
“So there is no way that a surge in vaccination is going to help curb this when transmission is happening right now. The hard truth is that the only thing that will curb transmission right now are measures that take effect immediately. For example, masking up, not dining indoors, and socializing outdoors,” Gounder explained.
Michigan is currently reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases everyday, when just a few weeks ago the state’s data showed that it’s daily case count was as low as 500. Dr. Rob Davidson is an emergency room physician in the state who told the media recently that “hospitalizations have gone up four fold in just the last two weeks.”
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN: “Hospitals are being inundated, Michigan needs to shut down and the government should send more vaccines to the state. Think about it this way: Every year during fire season, when forest fires get out of control, we don’t just leave the states to manage as best they can. We surge firefighting forces into those states. So Michigan is on fire now. And we need to put that out.”
Beyond just Michigan health officials are warning of sharp increases in Covid-19 all throughout the country. Minnesota officials are specifically claiming it’s “more important than ever to keep wearing a mask and physical distancing.” Some experts in the US think that the nation could prevent another surge in the coming weeks if all Americans just continue to treat this pandemic like they did in the beginning while the rest of the country waits to receive their vaccinations.
So far about 35.9% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of their vaccine and 21% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the record pace that the US is administering vaccines, the country could reach the vaccination numbers needed to control the virus over the next few months. The way to do that is to vaccinate like crazy,” Reiner said.
“The last 20 to 30% are going to be the hardest because a lot of folks in this country are still hesitant to get the vaccine. We’re seeing it all over the country. We need to really get down on the grassroots level, talk to people about their hesitancy and get shots into arms, because if we don’t vaccinate that last 30% or so, we’re still going to have to live with this virus for a very long time.”
Doctor Giving Coronavirus Vaccine

Half Of US Adults Could Be Vaccinated By This Weekend 

According to an adviser from the White House, the United States is currently on track to have half of all adults vaccinated with at least one Covid-19 shot by this weekend, however, the adviser also emphasized that this doesn’t mean America is done with the pandemic. 

“We do have to remember that there are 100 million-plus adults that still haven’t been vaccinated. They’re not there yet, and you don’t win the war until you bring everybody over with you.”

President Joe Biden recently announced the goal of getting vaccinations open for all adults in all 50 states by April 19th, a task that is becoming more and more likely to occur as vaccine supplies increase, according to Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser who recently spoke to the press regarding the pandemic. 

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Dr. Anthony Fauci has claimed that around 70-85% of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach a proper herd immunity, and many states have a large population of people who don’t want to be vaccinated. Current data projects that certain states will likely be done vaccinating all willing adults by mid-June, while others could take until the end of 2021. 

Some states have been criticized for prematurely lifting mask mandates and other procedures meant to curb the spread of the virus due to the fact that they feel the vaccine’s release is enough to re-open the world. Fauci claims this couldn’t be more false: 

“It’s too premature to declare victory, we’ve got to continue to hang in there a bit longer by continuing with the public health measures.”

Slavitt claims that the US is more than equipped to stay on course with vaccination efforts, which is a great sign for the future of the nation in regards to this pandemic’s end. This is great news considering more and more health experts are growing concerned with the number of variants of the virus appearing throughout all 50 states. 

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky is the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who recently discussed how “the daily rate of new cases has been on the rise over the last four weeks due to highly transmissible variants like B117 spreading.” According to Walensky within the past week alone five states have accounted for 44% of new Covid-19 cases. 

Within the past week there have been around 453,000 new cases in the US; New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey accounting for 198,000 of those cases. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, “Michigan had the highest rate per capita and is leading the country in terms of new cases. Along with Michigan, Minnesota is also reporting some of the highest new cases in the country, however both states have high levels of vaccination.”

Many health experts are also discussing how to monitor which US citizens have been vaccinated and which haven’t in a post-pandemic world. Many believe that vaccine passports, or some form of official written proof of vaccination, should be required to enter into certain highly populated spaces. New York, for example, is currently testing out “Excelsior passes” to grant vaccinated citizens access to sports events and concerts at limited capacity. 

Director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota Michael Osterholm, recently claimed that “in addition to vaccination documentation debates, the US will also have to contend with ‘long Covid,’ a condition in which even patients with relatively mild illnesses could suffer symptoms long after their infection.”

One in three people who have been infected with Covid-19 have reported longer mental health and neurological symptoms, according to a recent study, so the US will have to continue to fund research that can help those individuals in their continued Covid journey after the pandemic comes to its eventual end.