EU Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Young Adolescents

The European Commission has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12, widening the pool of those eligible to be inoculated, following similar approvals in the United States and Canada.The commission made the announcement Friday after the European Union’s medical regulator, the European Medicines Agency, recommended Friday the use of the vaccine in children ages 12-15, saying that data show it is safe and effective.”Extending the protection of a safe and effective vaccine in this younger population is an important step forward in the fight against this pandemic,” said Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of health threats and vaccines strategy.It is now up to individual EU states to decide whether and when to offer the vaccine to young adolescents.Germany and Italy have already said they are preparing to extend their vaccination campaign to youths ages 12-15.Also Friday, Britain approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. It is the fourth COVID-19 vaccine approved in the country, after inoculations made by Pfizer and BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna.French President Emmanuel Macron pledged Friday to help provide South Africa and other African countries with vaccine doses. During a visit to Pretoria, Macron said France would donate more than 30 million doses this year to the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine initiative.According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, South Africa has so far vaccinated roughly 700,000 people out of its population of 40 million.In Australia, Melbourne went back under lockdown on Friday, as health authorities said a cluster of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases had increased to 39.Health officials have ordered residents to stay home for seven days to prevent the infection from spreading and allow time to investigate how the virus was transmitted from a man being quarantined at a hotel.The outbreak has been traced to an overseas traveler who was found to be infected with an Indian variant of the coronavirus.The acting premier of Australia’s southern state of Victoria, James Merlino, told reporters in Melbourne that the new outbreak is the result of “a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded.”Stores are closed during a lockdown to stop the spread of the new coronavirus in downtown Ribeirao Preto, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, May 28, 2021.During the lockdown, residents will be allowed to leave their homes only for essential work, school, shopping, caregiving, exercise and medical reasons, including receiving their scheduled coronavirus vaccinations.The new lockdown is the fourth one imposed on Victoria state since the start of the pandemic. The most severe period occurred in mid-2020 and lasted more than three months as Victoria was in the grip of a wave of COVID-19 infections that killed more than 800 people.Merlino had already imposed a new set of restrictions for Australia’s second most populous state, including limiting the size of public gatherings and making mask wearing mandatory in restaurants, hotels and other indoor venues until June 4.In other developments Friday, India reported 186,364 new coronavirus infections during the previous 24 hours, its lowest daily rise since April 14. Deaths rose from the previous day to 3,660.In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said children at summer camp who are not vaccinated do not have to wear masks outside unless they are in crowds or in sustained close contact with others. The new guidance comes as millions of children are set to resume summer camp this summer after the closure of many camps last year due to the virus.Americans are celebrating the start of the Memorial Day weekend by hitting the roads and skies as they seek to cast off more than a year of pandemic restrictions and try to resume a sense of normalcy.U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urged Americans to be patient this weekend at busy airports.”People will see lines because there’s going to be a tremendous amount of people traveling this weekend,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday.More than 1.8 million people went through U.S. airports on Thursday, and that number is expected to rise over the weekend.Also in the United States, Facebook said it will no longer remove statements that COVID-19 was created by humans or manufactured “in light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts.”A man in a protective suit stands next to the burning pyre of a person who died of COVID-19, at a crematorium in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, May 28, 2021.Since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, Facebook has changed its policy several times on what is and is not allowed on the topic. Another claim banned from discussion on the platform is the notion that vaccines are toxic or not effective.The American Civil Liberties Union requested Thursday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “provide immediate vaccine access to the more than 22,100 people in ICE custody.””Over the course of the pandemic, ICE detention facilities have been some of the worst hotspots for the spread of COVID-19, with positivity rates five times greater than prisons and 20 times greater than the general U.S. population,” said the ACLU’s Eunice Cho.


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