Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines – in smaller doses – are now available to about 17 million children in the United States after the shots received the greenlight for children under 5 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the weekend.
“Parents and caregivers can now get their children 6 months through 5 years of age vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines to better protect them from COVID-19. All children, including children who have already had COVID-19, should get vaccinated,” says the CDC statement.
While some parents are eager to finally get their children vaccinated against Covid-19, others are more hesitant about the jab.
The widely held view is that vaccines will still work, but researchers are on the hunt for proof.
The study focuses on a mutation called N501Y, which is emerged in both new variants.
This is thought to be important because it is in the part of the virus that makes first contact with our body’s cells and changes could make it easier to get in and cause an infection.
The researchers created two forms of the virus – one with and one without the mutation – and then bathed those viruses in blood samples taken from 20 patients that had been vaccinated in clinical trials.
The study results showed the immune systems of vaccinated patients were able to take out the new mutation.
However, the variant that emerged contain multiple mutations whose combined effects may help the virus evade the immune system.
In an interview with La Sexta TV on December 28, Salvador Illa emphasized that vaccination would not be mandatory.
He said: “What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners… of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it.
“It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection.”
The health minister added: “People who are offered a therapy that they refuse for any reason, it will be noted in the register… that there is no error in the system, not to have given this person the possibility of being vaccinated.”
According to a recent poll, the number of Spanish citizens who have said they will not take the vaccine has fallen to 28% from 47% in November.
In other comments, Salvador Illa said people would be contacted by regional authorities when it was their turn to be inoculated.
He told reporters: “People who decide not to get vaccinated, which we think is a mistake, are within their rights.
“We are going to try to solve doubts. Getting vaccinated saves lives, it is the way out of this pandemic.”
The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in Spain rose above the 50,000 on December 28. Spain has registered more than 1.8 million infections during the pandemic.
The country is under a nationwide curfew, between 23:00 and 06:00, until early May. In many places, people are only allowed out in that period to go to work, buy medicine, or to care for elderly people or children.
Spain’s regional leaders can modify curfew times and can also close regional borders for travel.
Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU. The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on December 26: “This really is a happy Christmas message. At this moment, trucks with the first vaccines are on the road all over Europe, all over Germany, in all federal states. Further deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow.
“This vaccine is the crucial key for defeating the pandemic. It’s the key for us getting back our lives.”
Health workers in north-east Germany decided not to wait for December 27 and started immunizing elderly residents of a nursing home in Halberstadt.
The authorities in Slovakia also said they had begun vaccinating.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio urged his compatriots to get the vaccine: “We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again.”
In Hungary, the first recipient of the vaccine was a doctor at Del-Pest Central Hospital on December 26, the state news agency says.
On December 20, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new set of guidelines for the next groups of Americans to be eligible for vaccination.
Phase 1A: US vaccine distribution has so far 21 million healthcare workers, as well as the three million elderly Americans living in long-term care facilities. Vaccinations for this group began last week.
Phase 1B: Americans aged 75 and older, in addition to frontline workers will be next up. This broad category includes some 30 million workers “who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society” with high risk of exposure. First responders, corrections workers, US Postal Service employees, and those who work in education, public transit, grocery stores, manufacturing, food and agriculture will be eligible. This phase is expected to begin in January.
Day after the FDA started probing five allergic reactions that happened after people were administered Pfizer and BioNTech SE’s coronavirus vaccine, the CDC has made recommendations on how people with histories of allergies should proceed.
The agency issued the following guidelines on vaccination after allergic reactions:
Individuals who had a severe reaction to a vaccine against the novel coronavirus shouldn’t get the second shot.
Anybody with histories of severe allergic reactions to vaccines should consult their doctors about the vaccine dose.
Individuals who have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a Covid-19 vaccine should avoid the vaccine formulation containing the ingredient.
People with severe allergies to food, pets, latex or environmental conditions as well as people with allergies to oral medication or a family history of severe allergic reactions could still get vaccinated.
As Mike Pence was receiving his vaccine, President Donald Trump incorrectly said on Twitter that the Moderna vaccine was “overwhelmingly approved” with “distribution to start immediately”. It is still awaiting final approval from the FDA.
More than 310,000 people have died with coronavirus in the US, which has recorded more infections and fatalities than any other country. More than 17 million cases have been recorded in the country since the start of the pandemic.
VP Pence, 61, received the first of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at 08:00 local time, along with his wife Karen and Dr. Adams. He is the most senior US official to be vaccinated so far.
He said: “We gather here today at the end of a historic week to affirm to the American people that hope is on the way.”
“Karen and I were more than happy to step forward before this week was out to take this safe and effective coronavirus vaccine that we have secured and produced for the American people,” he continued, calling it “a truly inspiring day”.
Top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, and CDC Director Robert Redfield were in the audience to observe the doctors from Walter Reed hospital perform the injections.
Both men elbow-bumped Mike Pence and his wife after their jabs. President Trump did not attend the event.
Dr. Fauci said in brief remarks: “We want virtually everyone eligible to get this vaccine ultimately.
“By the time we get to several months into this [coming] year we will have enough people protected that we can start thinking seriously about the return to normality.”
Earlier this week, President Trump reversed a plan for senior members of his administration to be among the first to receive the vaccine “unless specifically necessary”.
The president, who contracted coronavirus in October and recovered after hospital treatment, said he was not scheduled to take the jab but looked forward to doing so “at the appropriate time”.
Many of his support base have doubts about the efficacy and safety of vaccines.
President-elect Joe Biden, who at 78 is in a high-risk group from Covid-19, is expected to be vaccinated next week.
The US Covid-19 vaccination has began, as the country gears up for its largest ever immunization campaign.
Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse in Long Island, New York, is believed to have been the first person to be given the vaccine.
Millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are being distributed, with 150 hospitals expected to receive them on December 14.
The US vaccination program aims to reach 100 million people by April.
Covid-19 fatalities are nearing 300,000 in the US, which has by far the world’s highest death toll.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received emergency-use authorization from the FDA on December 11.
President Donald Trump tweeted following the news from New York: “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!”
The roll-out of the vaccine comes as the epidemic continues to ravage the US. Deaths have been rising sharply since November and the number of people in hospital with the disease has also continued to grow steadily, with more than 109,000 people currently admitted, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, received the vaccine live on camera. Footage was streamed on the Twitter feed of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state was the epicenter of the US epidemic in the first wave earlier this year.
She said: “It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine.
“I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We’re in a pandemic and so we all need to do our part.”
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – a collaboration between a US pharmaceutical giant and a German biotechnology company – offers up to 95% protection and is the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved by US regulators.
The vaccine is already being rolled out in the UK, while Canada is also beginning its inoculation program on December 14, with an initial 30,000 doses going to 14 sites across the country.
Anita Quidangen, a caregiver at the Rekai Centre nursing home in Toronto, was the first to receive the vaccine in Canada.
The first three million doses in the US are being distributed to dozens of locations across all 50 states by cargo plane and truck.
Authorizing the emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 11, the FDA – which had come under intense pressure from the Trump administration to do so – said the move was a “significant milestone” in the pandemic.
During a news conference on December 12, Gen. Perna – speaking for the government’s vaccination campaign Operation Warp Speed – said doses of the vaccine would be packed into shipping containers for transportation “within the next 24 hours”.
He said: “Expect 145 sites across the states to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday.”
He also said that next week’s distribution would complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and cover about three million people.
Gen. Perna told reporters he was “100% confident” that the doses “needed to defeat the enemy Covid” would be transported safely.
However, he warned that while it had been a week of progress, “we are not done until every American has access to a vaccine”.
The Pfizer vaccine has already received regulatory approval in the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Like those countries, US health authorities are expected to prioritize health workers and care home residents for the first doses.
More Americans outside the highest-priority groups are likely to be able to get the vaccine in January, with general availability expected by April.
On December 10, medical experts advising the FDA recommended the emergency-use authorization. A 23-member panel concluded the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks.
Emergency use, the FDA said, was not the same as full approval, which would require Pfizer to file a separate application to secure.
The Pfizer/BioNTech product was the first coronavirus vaccine to show promising results in the latter stages of its testing process.
It is a new type called an mRNA vaccine that uses a tiny fragment of genetic code from the pandemic virus to teach the body how to fight Covid-19 and build immunity.
The FDA said: “The vaccine contains a small piece of the [Covid-19] virus’s mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make the virus’s distinctive ‘spike’ protein.”
Joe Biden has vowed 100 million Covid-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.
The president-elect said his first months in office would not end the outbreak and gave few details on a rollout plan but he said he would change the course of Covid-19.
Introducing his health team for when he takes office on January 20, Joe Biden urged Americans to “mask up for 100 days”.
On December 8, a report paved the way for a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be approved and rolled out for Americans.
Emergency authorization for its use could be issued by the FDA on December 10, with the country’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci saying mass vaccination could start as soon as next week.
Also on December 8, President Donald Trump attended a summit at the White House of his Covid-19 vaccination program, Operation Warp Speed, and hailed the expected approval of vaccines. His administration hopes to vaccinate as many as 24 million people by mid-January.
According to Johns Hopkins University research, the US has recorded more than 15 million cases so far and 285,000 deaths, both global highs.
Many parts of the US are seeing peak infections, with record numbers of people in hospital, with some experts blaming travel by millions over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.
At a news conference in Delaware on December 8, Joe Biden laid out how he plans to address the pandemic in his first 100 days in office. That period is traditionally seen as a benchmark for new presidents to make their mark with new policies and ideas.
He vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people”.
Last week, Joe Biden complained he had been given no rollout plans by the Trump administration. Operation Warp Speed’s top scientist Moncef Slaoui has still to meet the Biden team and is expected to do so this week.
Getting children back to school would also be a priority, he said.
Joe Biden also introduced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nomination for health secretary and his choice of Rochelle Walensky as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Among his other aides will be Dr. Anthony Fauci as chief Covid medical adviser. The expert also advised the Trump team and often fell foul of the president for his views.
Getting 100 million vaccines to Americans in just over three months is not expected to be easy. The large geographical size of the US and the logistics of rolling out a new vaccine could present challenges in achieving the goal.
Elderly people in care homes and care home staff are top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.
However, because of the limited stocks and need to store at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospitals so care home residents may not be immunized until later.
The Pfizer/BioNTech product is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.
The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the free jab – enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
The doses will be rolled out as quickly as they can be made by Pfizer in Belgium, Matt Hancock said, with the first load next week and then “several millions” throughout December.
UK’s PM Boris Johnson said: “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be non-compulsory and there will be three ways of vaccinating people across the UK:
In the community, with GPs and pharmacists.
Around 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centers – in venues such as conference centers or sports stadiums – are being set up now.
Because the initial doses are being delivered to hospitals, which already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospital hubs – for care home staff, NHS staff and patients – so none of the vaccine is wasted.
It is thought the vaccination network could start delivering more than one million doses a week once enough doses are available.
Scientists said the data was further encouraging news.
Although the full trial data has yet to be published, the companies say there have been no serious safety concerns.
However, they did notice headaches and fatigue in about 2% of volunteers given the vaccine, although older people seemed to experience minimal side effects.
There is also evidence that the vaccine protects against severe Covid – but this is based on only 10 cases.
It’s still unclear how long protection from the vaccine lasts and if it stops people transmitting the virus.
In the trial, 42% of all participants are from diverse ethnic backgrounds and 41% are aged between 56 and 85 years old.
The trial, which is testing people at 150 sites in the US, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, will collect data on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for another two years.
Pfizer and BioNTech expect to produce up to 50 million doses of the vaccine this year and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
There are hundreds of vaccines in development around the world, and about a dozen in the final stages of testing, known as phase three.
The first two to show any results – made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – both use an experimental approach, called mRNA, which involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body to train the immune system.
Antibodies and T-cells are then made by the body to fight the coronavirus.
Russia’s Sputnik vaccine has also released early data from phase three based on a smaller number of volunteers and Covid cases.
There are some logistical challenges with mRNA vaccines, namely the need to store them at cold temperatures.
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at around minus 80C, although it can be kept in a fridge for five days.
Moderna’s vaccine needs to be stored at minus 20C for up to six months and kept in a standard fridge for up to a month.
A vaccine – alongside better treatments – is seen as the best way of getting out of the restrictions that have been imposed on all our lives.
The data shows that two doses, three weeks apart, are needed. The trials – in US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey – show 90% protection is achieved seven days after the second dose.
However, the data presented is not the final analysis as it is based on only the first 94 volunteers to develop Covid-19 so the precise effectiveness of the vaccine may change when the full results are analyzed.
Pfizer chairman Dr. Albert Bourla said: “We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis.”
Prof. Ugur Sahin, one of the founders of BioNTech, described the results as a “milestone”.
A limited number of people may get the vaccine this year.
The two companies say they will have enough safety data by the third week of November to take their vaccine to regulators.
Until it has been approved it will not be possible for countries to begin their vaccination campaigns.
Pfizer and BioNTech say they will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Each person needs two doses.
Not everyone will get the vaccine straight away and countries are each deciding who should be prioritized.
Hospital staff and care home workers will be near the top of every list because of the vulnerable people they work with, as will the elderly who are most at risk of severe disease.
People under 50 and with no medical problems are likely to be last in the queue.
There are still many unanswered questions as this is only interim data.
We do not know if the vaccine stops you spreading the virus or just from developing symptoms. Or if it works equally well in high-risk elderly people.
The biggest question – how long does immunity last – will take months or potentially years to answer.
There are also massive manufacturing and logistical challenges in immunizing huge numbers of people, as the vaccine has to be kept in ultra-cold storage at below minus 80C.
The vaccine appears safe from the large trials so far but nothing, including paracetamol, is 100% safe.
There are around a dozen vaccines in the final stages of testing – known as a phase 3 trial – but this is the first to show any results.
It uses a completely experimental approach – that involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code – in order to train the immune system.
Previous trials have shown the vaccine trains the body to make both antibodies – and another part of the immune system called T-cells to fight the coronavirus.
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