The US will experience “a lot of unnecessary loss of life“Unless Congress provides billions more dollars for COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatments in preparation for the pandemic’s next wave, the Biden administration said.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 infections reportedly surged in South Africa despite research that suggests 98% of the population had antibodies.
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Pfizer submits COVID shot for children under 5 for FDA authorization
Pfizer Inc. asked US regulators to clear its COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children under age 5, an effort to extend protection against the virus to the country’s youngest.
The drugmaker and BioNTech SE finalized their rolling application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization of their vaccine in kids ages 6 months through 4 years old, the companies said in a statement on Wednesday. The vaccine partners began the submission process in February.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced in late May that a three-shot regimen was highly effective and prompted a strong immune response in children under age 5, based on early results from a highly anticipated trial that is likely to pave the way for infants and toddlers to get immunized.
The preliminary analysis found that the vaccine was 80.3% effective in preventing COVID infections among young children, with 10 infections occurring among all participants. Final results will be determined once 21 children enrolled in the study have been infected, according to the companies.
—Riley Griffin, Bloomberg News
South Africa was hit by wave of infections, despite most people having antibodies
Coronavirus infections surged in South Africa in recent months despite research suggesting that about 98% of the population had some antibodies from vaccination, previous infection or both.
The study, released Thursday but not yet peer reviewed, analyzed the prevalence of two types of antibodies in 3,395 blood donors collected mid-March across the country in order to estimate prevalence at the national level. It found that by that time, about 87% of the population had likely been infected with the coronavirus. About 11% had antibodies that, according to the study’s authors, suggest that a person had been vaccinated but not recently infected.
But although the vast majority of the South African population had antibodies against the virus, many still became infected in the latest virus wave, which began in April and was driven by BA.4 and BA.5, new subvariants of omicron.
As the wave peaked in late May, confirmed new cases of the virus averaged more than 7,000 a day, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. New daily deaths also rose, averaging about 50 per day, but remained far below the peak of South Africa’s second wave in January 2021, when, according to the data, an average of more than 500 people were dying per day.
The researchers say the study provides yet more evidence of the ability of the virus to evolve and dodge immunity.
—Livia Albeck-Ripka, The New York Times
WHO believes COVID getting worse, not better in North Korea
A top official at the World Health Organization said the UN health agency assumes the coronavirus outbreak in North Korea is “getting worse, not better,” despite the secretive country’s recent claims that COVID-19 is slowing there.
At a briefing on Wednesday, WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan appealed to North Korean authorities for more information about the COVID-19 outbreak there, saying “we have real issues in getting access to the raw data and to the actual situation on the ground .” He said WHO has not received any privileged information about the epidemic — unlike in typical outbreaks when countries may share more sensitive data with the organization so it can evaluate the public health risks for the global community.
WHO has previously voiced concerns about the impact of COVID-19 in North Korea’s population, which is believed to be largely unvaccinated and whose fragile health systems could struggle to deal with a surge of cases prompted by the super-infectious omicron and its subvariants.
Ryan said WHO had offered technical assistance and supplies to North Korean officials multiple times, including offering COVID-19 vaccines on at least three separate occasions.
—Maria Cheng, The Associated Press
More than two-thirds of people have COVID antibodies, WHO says
More than two-thirds of the world’s population probably have significant levels of COVID-19 antibodies, meaning they have either been infected or were vaccinated, the World Health Organization said.
So-called seroprevalence rates surged to 67% in October from 16% in February of 2021, the WHO said, in a summary of studies from around the globe. Given the emergence of the fast-spreading omicron variant, the figure is probably even higher now.
The WHO’s roundup offers a snapshot of how well the world is increasing resistance to the pandemic. While vaccines provide only modest protection against infection from omicron, the WHO still urged countries to boost vaccination rates, especially for people in high-risk groups, because immunization gives higher levels of protection against severe disease than a previous COVID infection.
—Thomas Mulier, Bloomberg
Seattle Times staff & news services