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Coronavirus Update: CDC directs vaccine makers to prep for shots for children below 5 by Feb. 21, as FDA advisory meeting looms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has directed COVID-19 vaccine providers to get ready to receive shots for children below the age of 5 by Feb. 21, a week after the regulator is expected to make a recommendation on the matter.

If the vaccine gets an expected emergency-use authorization, providers will receive an initial 10 million doses, according to a pediatric vaccine planning guide that was updated this week, as the Washington Post reported. The FDA has secured enough supply for the 18 million children aged six months to 4 years, the White House said on Wednesday.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is scheduled to meet Tuesday to review the two-dose vaccine for young children and make a recommendation. After that, it’s up to the CDC to make the final decision.

There are concerns that parents of children in the lowest age group will shy away from vaccination, after interim results from a trial showed the vaccine developed by Pfizer
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and German partner BioNTech
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did not produce a strong immune response in children aged 6 months to 4 years.

The companies announced in December that they would modify the trial to add a third shot at least two months after the primary doses. But the data from that study will not be available until March.

A survey published this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that just 3 in 10 parents of children under 5 will get them vaccinated as soon as it is authorized.

Parents are also cautious about older children. Just 33% of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds say their child has had at least one COVID-19 shot, though that’s up from 16% in November, while 61% of parents of 12- to 17-year-olds said their child had received at least one shot, up from just under 50% in November.

The news comes as more states make plans to drop COVID restrictions including face masks in public places, as governors seek to restore some semblance of normalcy to daily life. New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington have all announced varying timetables for the relaxing of restrictions.

The CDC, however, has not dropped its mask recommendation and Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday it is still too early to do so.

The U.S. is still averaging 227,903 new COVID cases a day, according to a New York Times tracker, down 63% from two weeks ago and well below the peak hit in December and January when the highly contagious omicron variant was racing across the country.

Hospitalizations are down 30% to average 107,124 a day, although that remains an undesirably high number. And deaths continue to rise, up 4% at 2,576 a day, the most since last winter before vaccines were widely available.

“Our hospitalizations are still high, our death rates are still high,” Walensky said at a press briefing. “So, as we work toward that and as we are encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”

See now: Fauci says U.S. heading out of ‘full-blown-pandemic phase,’ sees end to COVID restrictions in coming months

Don’t miss: ‘You will not believe what I’ve just found.’ Inside the ivermectin saga: a hacked password, mysterious websites and faulty data.

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

•A blockade of the bridge between Canada and Detroit by protesters demanding an end to Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions forced the shutdown Wednesday of a Ford
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plant and began to have broader implications for the North American auto industry, the Associated Press reported. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, stood firm against an easing of Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions in the face of mounting pressure during recent weeks by protests against the restrictions and against Trudeau himself. The protest by people mostly in pickup trucks entered its third day at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Traffic was prevented from entering Canada, while U.S.-bound traffic was still moving.

From New York to California, an increasing number of states are lifting statewide mask mandates as the Omicron wave recedes. Federal public-health officials, meanwhile, continue to recommend mask-wearing in public indoor settings in much of the country. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

• Belgium and France have moved to block copycat “freedom convoys’ that had announced plans to descend on Brussels and Paris in the coming days, according to media reports. Authorities in both capitals have announced a ban on such protests, CNN reported. The convoys are seeking to block off the cities until political leaders agree to drop COVID restrictions. French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune slammed the protesters as anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, saying in an interview with French broadcaster LCI that “it is a bit paradoxical to pretend to be for freedom when the project is to block people’s lives.”

•Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID for a second time, the Guardian reported. The73-year-old heir to the throne is self-isolating. His first case was in March of 2020, when he confirmed losing his sense of taste and smell but suffering overall from a fairly mild form of the virus.

• New Zealand counted a record of 306 new community cases of COVID on Thursday, beating the previous record of 243 on Feb. 5, local broadcaster RNZ reported. Police arrested 122 people who were protesting against protection measures and refused to leave the grounds of the parliament.

Footage showed trucks in gridlock on the Ambassador Bridge, a key trading link between the U.S. and Canada. It was temporarily closed early Tuesday amid growing protests against Canada’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates. Photo: WXYZ/AP

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose above 403.9 million on Thursday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll climbed above 5.77 million.

The U.S. leads the world with 77.1 million cases and 912,257 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 213.2 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 64.2% of the population. But just 90.5 million are boosted, equal to 42.5% of the vaccinated population. 

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