Vaccination of children, advances in treatments and more news about coronavirus

A shot for children are moving forward, vaccination mandates are coming into force, and new treatments are showing promise. Here’s what you should know:

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Headlines

A shot for kids comes one step closer to approval just as it is most needed

This week, Pfizer-BioNTech submitted data from its clinical trial of a Covid vaccine for children to the FDA, meaning that shots may soon be available to children ages 5 to 11 in the United States. The need for this has never been more urgent. We now know that children are capable of spreading the disease and becoming seriously ill. Last week, about 250,000 children across the United States were ill with covid. And a new study has found that parents are increasingly on board with vaccinating children: As of September, 34 percent of parents of children aged 5 to 11 said they would get their children shot, up from 26 percent in July.

But even when shots are approved, getting them distributed will be a formidable challenge. Vaccines are likely to be delivered to children in different locations and by staff other than the adult. And they arrive at a time when national talk of vaccines is more politicized than ever, which could complicate matters further. For example, school-based clinics may be the easiest way to get shots out logistically, but politically speaking, they are unlikely to be a widespread option.

Despite the decline, employee vaccination mandates are in place – and they work

Earlier this week, health workers in New York were required to be vaccinated to perform their jobs. There was some concern that the implementation of the vaccine mandate would result in hospitals being short-staffed, but so far the new rules mostly seem to be working. On Sunday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the number of nursing home workers who had been vaccinated rose from 70 percent to 92 percent ahead of Monday’s deadline. A similar mandate, which went into effect in California this week, also increased the vaccination rate among health care professionals to more than 90 percent.

Nevertheless, these new rules have been subject to some decline. A judge ruled this week that New York must temporarily allow exemptions for health care professionals for religious reasons to want to remain unvaccinated. And a group of teachers in New York City have also called on the Supreme Court to stop the city’s vaccination mandate for educators before it kicks off on Monday. As of this week, 89 percent of district employees had been vaccinated.

New research offers promising treatment and vaccination updates

Drug maker Merck said this week that its experimental oral antiviral drug reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half among recently vaccinated people who were recently infected. It is also likely to be effective against known variants, including Delta, as it is not targeted to the virus’ spike protein, which separates variants. The company said it plans to ask for permission soon. If approved by the FDA, it will be the first pill that can treat Covid-19, a significant achievement in an area where research has lagged. Elsewhere, much earlier stage research is examining treatment options using two unexpected species: llamas and hamsters.

In terms of vaccines, AstraZeneca announced the long-awaited results of its U.S. vaccination trial earlier this week, which found the shot is 74 percent effective in preventing symptomatic disease. And another clinical trial has shown that it is probably safe to administer Pfizer or AstraZeneca Covid shots and flu shots at the same time.

Daily distraction

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Something to read

In an excerpt from his new book, The Every, Dave Eggers explores a fictional world where the largest search engine and social media companies merge with the ruling e-commerce site to create the richest – and most ominous – monopoly ever. Does that sound familiar?

Sanity Check

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A question

How has the pandemic affected bird watching?

In the thick of the pandemic, bird watching experienced an unprecedented boom as many people tried to spend time in solitude and outdoors. As a result, civic science initiatives experienced a boom in participation, with many more people recording bird sightings in their neighborhoods. Eg. Had eBird, a database where people record which species they have seen where, an increase of more than 40 percent in observations in April 2020 compared to the year before, more than doubled the app’s normal growth. This is great for researchers, but it also poses a problem because it can be difficult to say whether changes in the data are a result of animal behavior or increased human participation. In fact, there is some evidence that future researchers need to factorize changes in the pandemic in their use of this data.


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