A picture taken on May 8, 2021 shows a sign of the World Health Organization at the entrance of their headquarters in Geneva amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)
BERLIN / LOS ANGELES / ROME / WASHINGTON – A modified coronavirus vaccine that targets the Omicron variant can be administered as a booster dose to broaden immunity, a technical advisory group set up the World Health Organization said on Friday.
Such a variant-adapted vaccine may benefit those who have already received the primary series of shots, the agency's panel on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition said, citing available data.
Vaccine makers including Moderna and Pfizer Inc are developing a potential next generation booster targeted at both the Omicron variant as well as the original strain of the coronavirus
The vaccines could be considered for use globally by the agency once they get emergency use authorization or an approval by a stringent national regulatory authority.
Vaccine makers including Moderna and Pfizer Inc are developing a potential next generation booster targeted at both the Omicron variant as well as the original strain of the coronavirus.
Moderna last week said a new version of its vaccine produced a better immune response against Omicron than the original shot, while the European Medicines Agency this week began rolling reviews of the variant-adapted COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach attends the cabinet meeting of the German Government at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, May 18, 2022. (MARKUS SCHREIBER / AP)
There will not be another attempt to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory, said German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, while making the case for more people to get a second booster shot.
Anyone who is often in contact with others and wants to protect themselves and others should consider a fourth shot, regardless of age, said Lauterbach. Some 80 percent of Germany's over-60s have not had their fourth COVID-19 shot, he added.
He also recommended that people continue to wear masks inside in light of a summer wave of infections.
READ MORE: Some 3m virus doses to expire in Germany by end of June
Italy's coronavirus infection rate has been climbing for two weeks in a row after a period of decline, according to data released Friday by the country's High Institute of Health.
The institute, known as ISS, said infection rate for the week ending Thursday reached 310 per 100,000 inhabitants, an increase from 222 per 100,000 a week earlier and 207 per 100,000 two weeks before.
The Rt rate, a measure of how fast a disease is spreading, rose from the previous week, reaching 0.83 for the June 10-16 period, up from 0.75 a week earlier. A rate of 0.80 is considered the threshold for a disease to be classified as an epidemic nationally. An Rt rate above 1.0 means a disease is no longer contained and is spreading.
Health outcomes are still strong, however, with the percentage of infected patients in intensive care units dropping to 1.9 percent over the last week, down from 2.0 percent a week earlier and 2.3 percent over the previous week.
For the first time, ISS said on Friday that 100 percent of the more than 572,000 active cases of coronavirus are of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, which first emerged in South Africa in November 2021. The so-called "BA.2" sub-variant was "dominant" in Italy, data showed, accounting for 23.2 percent of all cases, according to a rapid survey conducted by ISS, the Ministry of Health, regional labs, and the Bruno Kessler Foundation.
Over the 24-hour period ending Friday, Italy recorded more than 35,000 new coronavirus infections, a surge from around 21,500 a week earlier. The country reported 41 new deaths from COVID-19.
The United States
US President Joe Biden has recently said Americans "are really, really down" as they continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19.
"They're really down," Biden told The Associated Press during an Oval Office interview on Thursday. "Their need for mental health in America has skyrocketed because people have seen everything upset."
"Everything they counted on upset. But most of it's a consequence of, of, of what's happening, what happened is a consequence of the, the COVID crisis," he underscored.
The United States has reported more than 86 million COVID-19 cases and 1 million related deaths since the outbreak of the public health crisis, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
He is also in a tough position over rising inflation in the United States.
The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children down to 6 months of age.
For the Moderna vaccine, the FDA amended the emergency use authorization to include use of the vaccine in individuals 6 months through 17 years of age. The vaccine had previously been authorized for use in adults 18 years of age and older.
For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the FDA amended the EUA to include use of the vaccine in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age. The vaccine had previously been authorized for use in individuals 5 years of age and older.
The agency determined that the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks in the pediatric populations authorized for use for each vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine is administered as a primary series of two doses, one month apart, to individuals 6 months through 17 years of age.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered as a primary series of three doses in which the initial two doses are administered three weeks apart followed by a third dose administered at least eight weeks after the second dose in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age.
The FDA's decision came after a meeting of its advisors earlier this week, which voted to recommend the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old.