The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency approval for Pfizer admission to teenagers 12-15 years old on Monday. This makes it the first coronavirus vaccine approved for younger adolescents and adolescents. States will get permission to administer the shot to the new age group once the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives their final approval on Wednesday, although doctors who already have doses available are using theirs can provide discretion when using. The move opens the door for another 5% of Americans (nearly 17 million people) to be vaccinated, and 85% of the US population will soon be eligible for the vaccine.
President Joe Biden greeted the news Monday, saying, “The light at the end of the tunnel is growing and today it is getting a little brighter.” The president’s comments highlighted the positive impact the country’s robust immunization program has already had on combating cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Nearly 58% of adults in the US have had at least one dose and 34% of the general population are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
However, other parts of the world are grappling with catastrophic outbreaks with few to no vaccines in sight, and remind us of the deep divisions caused by uneven global vaccine adoption. High and middle income countries make up 53% of the world’s population but have received 83% of the vaccines, while low and low middle income countries – which make up 47% of the world population – have only received 17% of the vaccines, according to new data from the World Health Organization (WHO). “Yes, vaccines reduce serious illness and deaths in countries fortunate enough to have them in sufficient quantities, and initial results suggest vaccines could also reduce transmission,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Monday. “However, the shocking global inequality in access to vaccines remains one of the greatest risks to ending the pandemic.”
Tedros added that “we are still in a dangerous situation around the world,” indicating a rapid increase in cases and deaths in the WHO’s Southeast Asian region, which includes India – where the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak continues unfolds. India officially recorded 329,942 cases of Covid-19 and 3,876 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total burden to over 22.9 million and a death toll of 249,992. So far, less than 3% of the country’s 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated.
To protect more Indians from the virus, the Indian government has shifted its focus from delivering vaccines to other countries under the COVAX program, a vaccine sharing initiative for lower-income countries, to prioritizing its own citizens . However, since COVAX is largely dependent on Indian vaccine manufacturers, countries that are dependent on these doses are still waiting.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: How can a parent be sure that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine will not harm their child?
A: People have been asking if vaccines could have an effect on fertility as long as pediatrician Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Chair of the Infectious Diseases Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics, remembers this.
There’s a whole group of people who have talked about what they call “primary ovarian failure” – an extremely rare condition when a woman’s ovaries stop shedding eggs – and they have attributed this to other vaccines in the past, Maldonado says . So it wouldn’t be surprising if the same people made the same false connection with the Covid-19 vaccine, she said.
There is currently no evidence that this vaccine affects development or fertility. It’s an mRNA vaccine platform – it gets into the cell and serves as a template for antibody development and breaks down into small, inert pieces almost immediately. It’s made up of nucleic acids, which are basically the building blocks of all of our cells and aren’t built into anything. They just fall apart and are eliminated.
For more questions about children and the Covid-19 vaccine, see the rest of CNN’s Q&A with Dr. Maldonado here. Submit your questions here. Are you a healthcare worker fighting Covid-19? Drop us a message on WhatsApp about the challenges you are facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY?
The WHO classifies the Indian strain as a “worrying variant”.
The Covid-19 variant B.1.617, identified for the first time in India, has been classified by the WHO as a “variant of concern”. This label indicates that the variant identified may show, among other things, that it is more communicable, causes more severe illness, does not respond to treatment, eludes immune response, or is not diagnosed by standard testing.
Quantifying the risk posed by the variant requires not only stronger genomic monitoring but also real data, WHO officials said on Monday that they will publish more information on the variant on Tuesday.
People in England will soon be able to hug again
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced further easing of pandemic restrictions in England on Monday, saying the move was the “biggest single step” towards normalcy. From May 17, international travel to “green list” countries will be allowed without quarantine, and indoor hospitality and entertainment, as well as some major events, including concerts and sporting events, will reopen. The government also wants “intimate contact between friends” to be re-established in England, Prime Minister Michael Gove told the BBC on Sunday. When asked if this meant that hugs would be allowed again from May 17th, Gove replied, “Yes.”
The UK’s Covid-19 alert level was lowered on Monday from level four – which says transmission is high or increasing exponentially – to level three, where the epidemic is in general circulation. The country is currently seeing around 2,000 new coronavirus cases every day, compared with a daily high of over 76,000 in January, according to government figures. Daily deaths have also dropped dramatically.
The UK has the worst death toll in Europe, with more than 127,000 deaths, but has emerged from a devastating second wave with the help of a successful vaccination campaign. To date, more than 50 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country. The government announced on Sunday that the program should offer all adults a chance by the end of July.
Why India’s Covid Chaos Could Worsen Global Bottlenecks
India’s Covid-19 crisis has gotten out of hand, devastating families across the country and devastating the country’s healthcare system. As the country’s current health emergency threatens to slow its own economic recovery, it is also sending shock waves through several major global industries, including shipping, pharmaceuticals, textiles and finance.
That’s because 80% of the world’s trade in goods is on ships and more than 200,000 of an estimated 1.7 million seafarers come from India. Given the country’s ongoing crisis, some experts fear that travel restrictions for people from India could lead to an impending seafarer shortage that could disrupt the global supply chain.
Another major concern is the pharmaceutical sector as India is the world’s largest supplier of generic medicines. In the US, 90% of all prescriptions are filled with generics, and one in three pills consumed is made by an Indian generic manufacturer in April 2020, according to a joint study by the Indian Industry Association and KPMG.Up to 70% of their raw materials come from China, a link in the supply chain that now appears vulnerable. Read more about how the current situation in India could affect you here.
ON OUR RADAR
- The European Union took further legal action against AstraZeneca on Tuesday for late delivery of its Covid-19 vaccines, just weeks after the EU first announced it would sue the British-Swedish-British drug maker for an alleged breach of its vaccine supply contract. The move marks a dramatic escalation of a month-long dispute.
- Biden’s government is open to coronavirus vaccine exchange with North Korea. This emerges from two sources familiar with internal discussions. Government officials believe North Koreans will not be ready to contact the US until the pandemic threat is over. That’s one reason vaccine sharing could grease the wheels for an initial diplomatic engagement, current and former officials said.
- China is establishing a “dividing line” at the summit of Mount Everest to prevent climbers from Nepal and climbers from the Tibetan side, which is in China, from mixing as a precautionary measure in light of the growing cases in Nepal.
- Germany marked another important milestone on Tuesday, reporting a total of 85,000 deaths from coronavirus, according to the country’s national agency for disease control and prevention.
- China is seeing a boom in rural tourism amid the Covid-19 pandemic as city dwellers escape their fast-growing urban centers for small communities, farms and orchards for a taste of the simple life.
TODAY’S TOP TIP
For the first time in more than a year, many of us are ready to imagine the next chapter of our lives. But as we prepare for the “new normal,” Dr. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta on how calm will play a vital role as we begin to get out of the pandemic.
But first we need to talk about change – and the stress that can come with it.
Gupta says stress can be good – and even essential for brain health. That’s because we used to think that humans have a certain number of brain cells that eventually die, and that was it. More recently, however, we have learned that it is entirely possible that humans can create new brain cells throughout our lives. As an added bonus, humans also have the ability to make new connections between these new brain cells, and possibly even alter the brain circuitry known as neuroplasticity. For some, the pandemic has allowed space to take these steps to rewire and even expand our neural pathways to build healthy habits for happier, safer lives.
One of the big changes we could make, says Gupta, is recognizing calm. If we really build calmness into our schedules and treat them as the priority they should be, then even fairly intense stress can be fine and encourage growth.
Find out more about the latest episode from Dr. Gupta’s podcast “Chasing Life”.