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Coronavirus Update: Experts dismayed at Florida’s contrarian stance on vaccinating healthy children, while U.S. COVID death toll tops 960,000

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Florida took its latest stand against federal efforts to manage the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, when the state’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, said that Florida will formally issue a recommendation against COVID-19 vaccinations for healthy children.

The news was greeted with dismay by public health experts and White House officials.

“I’m really concerned that this is going to make parents question what they are hearing from every other source — pediatricians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC,’’ Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a University of Florida professor, pediatrician and a former infectious-disease specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “deeply disturbing that there are politicians peddling conspiracy theories out there and casting doubt on vaccinations when it is our best tool against the virus.”

Ladapo made the announcement at a roundtable event organized by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed Ladapo to his position in September, and featuring a group of doctors who criticized coronavirus lockdowns and mandate policies, as the AP reported.

From the archives (January 2022): DeSantis viewed as target of recent Trump remark about ‘gutless’ politicians not admitting to receiving booster shots

Also see: Florida’s DeSantis scolds students for wearing masks: ‘We’ve got to stop with this COVID theater’

“The Florida Department of Health is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children,” Ladapo said at the end of the roundtable discussion.

“We’re kind of scraping at the bottom of the barrel, particularly with healthy kids, in terms of actually being able to quantify with any accuracy and any confidence the even potential of benefit,” he added.

Read: Global death toll from COVID hits 6 million, and WHO warns pandemic is not yet over

The Food and Drug Administration added children to the vaccine program after studies found smaller doses were 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID. Just as for adults, vaccines have proved the best defense against the highly infectious omicron variant. While many vaccinated people have suffered breakthrough infections, even after receiving a booster dose, those are almost all mild or asymptomatic cases.

The majority of the roughly 1,500 Americans who are dying of COVID every day are unvaccinated. And while children are less likely than adults to develop severe illness, those with underlying conditions such as asthma, diabetes or obesity are at risk of worse cases and hospitalization. And nearly 1,000 children in the U.S. have died of COVID, not all of whom had an underlying issue.

The U.S. is averaging 43,250 cases a day at present, according to a New York Times tracker, down 51% from two weeks ago. It is averaging 37,118 hospitalizations, down 43% from two weeks ago. And deaths are finally declining to about 1,473 a day, although that remains an undesirably high number.

The World Health Organization reiterated its message that the pandemic is not yet over and that new variants are likely.

“The composition of current COVID-19 vaccines may therefore need to be updated,” the agency said in a statement issued with its technical committee on vaccines.

“Any update to current COVID-19 vaccine composition would aim to, at a minimum, retain protection against severe disease and death, while ensuring the breadth of the immune response against circulating and emerging variants, which may be antigenically distinct,” said the statement.

What is an endemic and how will we know when Covid-19 becomes one? WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez breaks down how public-health experts assess when a virus like Covid-19 enters an endemic stage. Photo: Michael Nagle/Zuma Press

From the archives (March 2021): Gov. Ron DeSantis under fire over January vaccinations at upscale enclave in Florida Keys

Also (August 2021): Top donor of Florida’s Ron DeSantis invests in COVID drug that governor promotes

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• A new study published in the British journal Nature found that people who had COVID suffered tissue damage in the brain, mostly in areas related to smell, the New York Times reported. The study involved 785 adults aged 51 to 81 who are participants in UK Biobank, a repository of medical data. The researchers reviewed scans taken both before and after they contracted the virus at a date between March of 2020 and April 2021.

• Moderna
MRNA,
+5.07%

 said it will never use its COVID-19 vaccine-related patents to stop others from manufacturing its vaccine in more than 90 low- and middle-income countries but signaled it was prepared to begin enforcing patents in wealthier countries, the Wall Street Journal reported. The drug maker said Monday it now expects anyone in higher-income countries that want to use its patented technologies to respect the company’s intellectual property. It also said it is willing to license its patents to others in those countries on “commercially reasonable terms.”

• Americans can start ordering free COVID-19 test kits from the federal government again. The U.S. government will mail COVID tests to people who order them through the United States Postal Service. You can order them online here, or by calling 1-800-232-0233. Each order consists of four rapid antigen tests, and will ship free — there is an order limit of two per residential address — for a total of eight tests — according to the USPS website.

• Hong Kong is mulling postponing plans for mass COVID testing to April, the South China Morning Post reported. The move is aimed at reducing current high death rates and to allow more care for the elderly, the paper reported. Hong Kong counted 30,493 new cases on Tuesday, and reported 291 deaths. It is under pressure from Beijing to do more to rein in the spread in line with China’s “zero COVID” strategy.

As countries loosen Covid-19 restrictions, Hong Kong is sticking to a ‘dynamic zero-Covid’ approach – with help from Beijing. A surge in cases has overwhelmed hospitals and threatens business confidence in the global financial hub. Photo: Bertha Wang/Bloomberg

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose above 448.1 million on Monday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll climbed above 6 million.

The U.S. leads the world with 79.3 million cases and 960,354 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 216.2 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 65.1% of the population. But just 95.2 million are boosted, equal to 44.1% of the vaccinated population.

Key Words: Bill Barr hints he would still vote for Trump in 2024 if he was the GOP nominee

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