The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 65 and older and those whose jobs put them at high risk for exposure to COVID-19.
The boosters can’t be made available to the public until a critical Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee votes on how to implement that expanded access. That is expected Thursday, after which CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is likely to quickly sign off, making boosters available to more people within a few days.
Wednesday’s FDA authorization comes almost six weeks after the FDA authorized extra doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people who are severely immunocompromised.
It also includes individuals 18 and up who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. And the high-risk jobs include “health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others,” said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock.
Also in the news:
► The United States has reported its 680,000th death to COVID-19, Johns Hopkins University data shows. Half the deaths have been since early January.
► The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced it will require every member of its delegation at the 2022 Beijing Olympics to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a new policy posted on Team USA’s web site.
► Portugal is closing in on its goal of fully vaccinating 85% of the population against COVID-19 in nine months.
► A doctor who was fired after Houston-area public health officials accused him of stealing vials of COVID-19 vaccine to administer to family and friends sued the county Tuesday, accusing it of discriminating against South Asians and issuing disinformation about him.
► Michigan reached a grim milestone Wednesday, passing 1 million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic early last year, its health department said. The state also has more than 20,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 42.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 681,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 230 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 182 million Americans — 54.9% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
What we’re reading: COVID-19 vaccines for kids may be just around the corner. So, when can little ones get the vaccine? We answered your questions.
A Kansas education official says a middle school student has died of COVID-19, making it the first reported COVID-19 death of someone age 10 to 17 in Kansas and only the third reported for someone under 18 in the state.
Nationally, more than 550 kids under 18 have died from COVID-19, according to CDC data.
Education Commissioner Randy Watson said Wednesday that state health officials told him the child died this week. State health officials said they are investigating the report.
Meanwhile, state health officials reported 11 new COVID-19 clusters at schools. Data from the department showed there are now 72 active school outbreaks across Kansas, resulting in 537 coronavirus cases and one hospitalization.
Long the bane of parents and school health providers, head lice has typically been viewed as an undesirable, itchy insect that spreads like wildfire within schools. But new safety measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are upending those assumptions, according to The National Association of School Nurses.
Those safety measures also help limit the spread of lice, and school nurses are optimistic that cases will be lower this year.
“We have social distancing, doing a lot of hygiene, kids aren’t sitting on top of each other on the floor anymore,” Linda Mendonça, president of the National Association of School Nurses, told USA TODAY. “They’re trying to keep kids separated.”
Those practices are showing that, contrary to popular belief, lice need close contact to spread. They cannot fly or jump, they can only crawl. And, Mendonça says, are more likely spread through actions like sharing a hairbrush. Read more here.
– Keira Wingate, USA TODAY
Florida’s new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, an outspoken critic of lockdowns and COVID-19 mandates, signed new protocols Wednesday allowing students exposed to COVID-19 not to quarantine if their parents choose.
Students who are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who tested positive can remain in school, the new state guidance says. Previous guidance required students to quarantine at least four days away from school after being exposed.
“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”
The CDC recommends that students quarantine for 14 days if they are unvaccinated, and seven days if they test negative after exposure. Children under 12 years old are not currently eligible for a vaccine.
More Iowans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any point earlier in 2021, according to data released by the Iowa Department of Public Health on Wednesday.
The weekly data release shows 638 people hospitalized in Iowa with COVID-19, up from 578 last week. While that’s not close to the November 2020 peak of 1,527 concurrent COVID-19 hospitalizations, it’s the highest that number has been since Dec. 22, 2020.
There are 161 COVID-19 patients in the ICU and 74 on ventilators, both up from the previous week as well.
The first time Iowa dealt with this number of COVID-19 patients, it was a precursor to the November spike that stretched the health care system to the brink. Now, health care officials are worried about the pressure it’s putting on a workforce battered by 18 months of pandemic care. Read more here.
— Tim Webber and Nick Coltrain, The Des Moines Register
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub and USA TODAY; The Associated Press