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With mask mandates being dropped, governments declaring it’s time to “learn to live with Covid” and an increasing number of people being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, it almost feels like the pandemic is over in much of the world.
But there is one group that remains particularly vulnerable to catching the virus: little kids. There is still no vaccine for children under five – and there won’t be one for at least few more months. Even then, it’s not clear how widely it will be available.
Yet kids are getting infected in large numbers.
Three quarters of children in the United States have had Covid-19, according to a new study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Kids are less likely than adults to be hospitalized or to die from Covid-19, but in the US alone, 475 children under the age of five have died from the disease as of Tuesday, according to separate data from the CDC.
The study showed that as of February 2022, roughly 75% of children under the age of 18 in the US had developed antibodies to the virus. The same study found about 64% of adults aged 18 to 49 have had Covid, 50% of those aged 50 to 60, and 33% of those aged 65 and older.
The CDC stressed it is still not known how long this kind of infection-induced immunity lasts, or whether all people who tested positive for Covid antibodies continue to have protection from their prior infection.
For that reason, the CDC says it is still important for people to stay up to date on their Covid-19 vaccines, getting the recommended shots and boosters.
For many parents of the youngest children, this means the pandemic won’t be over until they can get their kids vaccinated.
“Young children who are unable to mask and cannot yet be vaccinated have been at higher risk throughout the pandemic, and they remain at higher risk now. Try to limit their time in these settings and look for ways to improve ventilation,” said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
While Moderna has shared some data on its trials of two doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for younger children, Pfizer and BioNTech’s trial data on three doses for under-fives is not yet available.
More than 10,000 children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years are enrolled in Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine trials at study sites around the world.
Pfizer and BioNTech expect to submit data from these trials focused on children younger than 5 in the coming months. That age group is the only one for which a Covid-19 vaccine has not been authorized in the US.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the goal was to have its Covid-19 vaccine available for kids aged 4 and younger in June.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said last week that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is weighing whether to consider emergency use authorization for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for young children at the same time, rather than looking at them separately.
Providing some relief to worried parents, the FDA announced Monday that it had approved the first Covid-19 treatment for children younger than 12.
It has expanded approval of the Covid-19 drug remdesivir to treat patients as young as 28 days and weighing about 7 pounds.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Should older children get the booster?
A: Yes – there seems to be a significant boost to immunity following the booster shot.
Pfizer and BioNTech said that a third dose of the vaccine for children raised Omicron-fighting antibodies by 36 times in kids from 5 through 11 years of age compared to the levels after the second dose.
The companies said Tuesday that they have submitted an application to the FDA for emergency use authorization of a Covid-19 booster for the age group.
They will also share the data with the European Medicines Agency and other regulatory bodies.
In an analysis of 140 children with no evidence of prior Covid-19 infection, antibody levels against the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were six times higher one month after a booster than a month after the second vaccine dose.
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READS OF THE WEEK
Beijing tests 20 million residents amid ‘fast and furious’ Omicron outbreak
The Chinese capital has rolled out mass Covid testing for nearly 20 million residents across most of the city, as authorities race to contain a fresh Omicron outbreak that has sparked panic buying amid fears of a Shanghai-style lockdown.
Shanghai has for weeks been under a strict home lockdown as officials try to contain an outbreak there. Public discontent has been mounting, with residents struggling to secure food and medical access.
Beijing started testing all residents of Chaoyang, a bustling district home to the city’s business center and foreign embassies, on Monday morning, in the first of three rounds of testing to be conducted over a five-day period, Nectar Gan and CNN’s Beijing Bureau report. Residents and office workers formed long lines at makeshift testing centers throughout the day.
“The outbreak in Beijing is coming fast and furious,” Xu Hejian, a spokesperson for the Beijing municipal government, said at a news conference.
Family members of Covid-19 ICU patients are at risk of PTSD
Families of Covid-19 patients in the intensive care unit have a lot to deal with. All of a sudden, their lives turn upside down. They may have to make tough decisions quickly and feel a loss of control, Madeline Holcombe writes.
Often, family members come away from the experience with symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD, according to a new study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Dr. Timothy Amass, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, drew comparisons with experiences in situations of conflict. “When you put that in a hospital, the sudden change in health status is Mom or Dad was healthy yesterday and now they’re in the ICU on life support,” he said.
Amass and his team surveyed family members in the months after a loved one was admitted to the ICU with Covid-19 in 12 hospitals across the country. Many of the people studied had experienced limited visitation and contact with the patient.
The study found that of the families that responded to the survey, 201 out of 316 (about 63%) had significant symptoms of PTSD.
Opinion: More Covid-19 funding is needed to stay ahead in the next battle
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, is warning that the US is in a complicated moment in the pandemic.
Writing for CNN, Jha says that while infections are low, they are on the rise again in many parts of the country and world, mainly due to the more transmissible subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2.
And while deaths in the US are declining from their most recent peak, hundreds of Americans are still dying from Covid-19 each day.
The US has a choice to make, he says. “We can wait and see what happens next, or we can use this moment as an opportunity to prepare. We can invest in the strategies that will save lives, protect our most vulnerable, keep schools open and keep the economy going when the next surge hits.
“After more than two years of the pandemic and numerous surges, the right answer is clear: We need to prepare now so we can finally get ahead of this virus and be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead,” he writes.
“We can do this. But we need funding to make it happen.”
If you have several boxes of Covid-19 home tests stashed away, you might want to use them before they expire to err on the side of caution.
The Food and Drug Administration, the body that authorizes these tests in the US, says on its website it doesn’t recommend using at-home diagnostic tests after expiration dates as parts of them may degrade or break down and potentially give inaccurate test results.
But as manufacturers change the expiration dates for some distributed tests as they get more data, many are left wondering if it is that simple.
“Since it takes time for test manufacturers to perform stability testing, the FDA typically authorizes at-home Covid-19 tests with an expiration date of about four to six months from the day the test was manufactured, based on initial study results,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
“Once the test manufacturer has more stability testing results, such as 12 or 18 months, the test manufacturer can contact the FDA to request that the FDA authorize a longer expiration date. When a longer expiration date is authorized, the test manufacturer may send a notice to customers to provide the new authorized expiration date, so the customers know how long they can use the tests they already have.”
Shaffner said there are tests now that have been shown to be good for a year or even longer. “In other words, these are very, very stable tests. Now, if I have a test that expired last week, will it still be accurate this week if I use it? And the short answer is yes,” he said.
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