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COVID-19 vaccine rollout for US kids close after CDC vote

A sign is seen by the entrance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia on April 23, 2020. (TAMI CHAPPELL / AFP)

WASHINGTON / NEW YORK / RABAT / JOHANNESBURG – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday recommended COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months, allowing a nationwide rollout to start next week.

The CDC's move came after a panel of advisers to the institution voted earlier on Saturday to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for those children.

"We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today's decision, they can," said Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, in a statement.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Moderna Inc's shot for children aged six months to five years, and Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for children aged six months to four years. Pfizer's vaccine is already authorized for children over the age of five. 

"This infection kills children and we have an opportunity to prevent that," Beth Bell, one of the doctors on the advisory panel, said following the vote. "Here is an opportunity to prevent a known risk."

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement the move was a "historic milestone."

President Joe Biden's administration plans to roll out the vaccines to the under-five age groups as early as next week.

"This coming week, parents will be able to start scheduling appointments at places like pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals, and pharmacies," Biden said in a statement on Saturday.

"Appointments will ramp up as more doses are shipped out, and in the coming weeks, every parent who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. As the vaccination program ramps up, Vaccines.gov will be live next week with vaccine availability and appointments increasing throughout the week."

In this file photo, the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press briefing on Mar 12, 2021, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

In another development, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Sullivan, 45, is "asymptomatic" and has not been in close contact with US President Joe Biden, according to Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

He is the latest member of the Biden administration to have been infected with the coronavirus.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Morocco soars again with 1,956 new cases recorded on Saturday.

Morocco reported 1,734 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, and 1,568 on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health.

The North African country raised its alert level for COVID-19 from green to orange earlier this month, as cases spiked again.

People take a COVID-19 test at an outdoor testing site in Los Angeles, Jan 4, 2022 as California is starting to feel the full wrath of the Omicron variant with hospitalizations jumping nearly 50 percent since Christmas. (JAE C HONG / AP)

Research on Omicron variant

People infected with the earliest version of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first identified in South Africa in November, may be vulnerable to reinfection with later versions of Omicron even if they have been vaccinated and boosted, new findings suggest.

Vaccinated patients with Omicron BA.1 breakthrough infections developed antibodies that could neutralize that virus plus the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but the Omicron sublineages circulating now have mutations that allow them to evade those antibodies, researchers from China reported on Friday in Nature.

Omicron BA.2.12.1, which is presently causing most infections in the United States, and Omicron BA.5 and BA.4, which now account for more than 21 percent of new US cases, contain mutations not present in the BA.1 and BA.2 versions of Omicron.

Those newer sublineages "notably evade the neutralizing antibodies elicited by SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination," the researchers found in test-tube experiments.

The monoclonal antibody drugs bebtelovimab from Eli Lilly and cilgavimab, a component of AstraZeneca's Evusheld, can still effectively neutralize BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5, the experiments also showed.

But vaccine boosters based on the BA.1 virus, such as those in development by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, "may not achieve broad-spectrum protection against new Omicron variants," the researchers warned.

"My personal bias is that while there may be some advantage to having an Omicron-specific vaccine, I think it will be of marginal benefit over staying current with the existing vaccines and boosters," said Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, and infectious diseases researcher at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut who was not involved in the new study.

"Despite immune evasion, the expectation can be that vaccines will still protect against serious disease," Ogbuagu said. "If you're due for a booster, get a booster. What we've learned clinically is that it's most important to stay up-to-date with vaccines" to maintain high levels of COVID-19 antibodies circulating in the blood.

South Africa

South African Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel on Saturday welcomed the World Trade Organization's agreement to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents, 20 months after the African nation proposed a broad waiver to combat the pandemic.

The WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference closed Friday at dawn at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, with members agreeing on key issues such as pandemic response and TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver related to COVID-19.

The recent agreement allows governments to authorize local manufacturers to produce vaccines or their ingredients, substances or elements and utilize processes which are covered by patents without the permission of the patent holders for five years.

South Africa and India first proposed the waiver to the WTO in October 2020, with support of other developing countries during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa "fought" for the agreement until it was concluded in the early hours on Friday morning, Patel told a media briefing at O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.