Medical experts welcomed the news that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine could be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use in adolescents ages 12 to 15 by early next week, a major step forward in the U.S. vaccination campaign.
Vaccinating children is key to raising the level of immunity in the population, experts say, and to bringing down the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. And it could put school administrators, teachers and parents at ease if millions of adolescent students soon become eligible for vaccinations before the next academic year begins in September.
Pfizer’s trial in adolescents showed that its vaccine was at least as effective in them as it was in adults. The F.D.A. is preparing to add an amendment covering that age group to the vaccine’s existing emergency use authorization by early next week, according to federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and the father of two adolescent daughters, said the approval would be a big moment for families like his.
“It just ends all concerns about being able to have a pretty normal fall for high schoolers,” he said. “It’s great for them, it’s great for schools, for families who have kids in this age range.”
This is big. FDA set to authorize Pfizer for 12-15 year-olds. Soon
About 16 million humans in this age group in US
Getting them vaccinated will help US effort to get high levels of population immunity
I have 2 such humans at home ready to get the shothttps://t.co/aXjYxE8ddL
— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) May 3, 2021
But with demand for vaccines falling among adult Americans — and much of the world clamoring for the surplus of American-made vaccines — some experts said the United States should donate excess shots to India and other countries that have had severe outbreaks.
“From an ethical perspective, we should not be prioritizing people like them over people in countries like India,” Dr. Rupali J. Limaye, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who studies vaccine use, said of adolescents.
Dr. Jha said that the United States now had a big enough vaccine supply to both inoculate younger Americans and aid the rest of the world. As of Monday, the United States had about 65 million doses delivered but not administered, including 31 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to figures collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 105 million adults in the United States have been fully vaccinated. But the United States is in the middle of a delicate and complex push to reach the 44 percent of adults who have not yet received even one shot.
While adolescents so far appear to be mostly spared from severe Covid-19, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top Covid adviser, has repeatedly stressed the importance of expanding vaccination efforts to include them and even younger children. In March, Dr. Fauci said that he expected that high schoolers could be vaccinated by fall and elementary school students by early 2022.
Dr. Richard Malley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said that immunizing adolescents was worthwhile because they can spread the virus, even if they transmit it at a lower rate than adults.
After a year of extreme disruption, elementary and some secondary schools have already been steadily reopening around the country. According to a school reopening tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute, 47 percent of the more than 8,000 districts being tracked were offering full-time in-person instruction on April 19.
Savita Mullapudi, an international development consultant in Pittsburgh, heard the ping of a WhatsApp message on her phone around 4 p.m. on Thursday. The sender was a former colleague who, like her, was an Indian immigrant who had lived in the United States for years. He had an urgent favor to ask.
With India’s health care system overwhelmed by the nation’s unprecedented Covid-19 surge and hospitals running out of lifesaving oxygen, an Indian charity was scrambling to find oxygen concentrators, which filter oxygen from the air. One manufacturer was based in Pittsburgh. Could Ms. Mullapudi visit the site to vet the equipment?
Like many members of the Indian diaspora who have watched and mobilized from afar as a deadly second wave of the coronavirus has swept across India in recent weeks, Ms. Mullapudi, whose parents and in-laws live there, leapt at the opportunity to help. She called the company a few minutes later but was told the earliest date for a visit was May 8 — far too late.
So Ms. Mullapudi, 44, said she did “the next-best thing.” She asked a few local doctor friends to tap their networks in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania for their opinions of the company and the quality of its products.
By 9 a.m. the next day, she had received texts and long emails from medical professionals and hospital executives with “rave reviews” of the manufacturer, she recalled, as well as detailed descriptions of the machines’ electricity costs and how long they lasted.
“The minute I said ‘India Covid,’ I was inundated with responses,” Ms. Mullapudi said. “These networks of people that we all work with or know as friends just churned it around, and that’s what really gave the organization confidence to go ahead.”
Before noon on Friday, the foundation ordered more than 400 oxygen concentrators to be flown to India. Though Ms. Mullapudi described her role as just “one drop in an ocean,” she acknowledged the profound impact of so many small acts of human kindness in the face of such dire challenges.
“Eventually it’s just people helping people,” she said. “That’s the story of hope.”
Less than two months after Tanzania’s first female president took office, the government on Monday announced new steps to tackle the pandemic, a significant shift for the East African nation whose late former leader had denied the seriousness of the virus.
Beginning Tuesday, all travelers arriving in Tanzania are required to present proof of a negative coronavirus test taken in the previous 72 hours and must pay for a rapid test after they land, the health ministry said.
The ministry said that foreigners arriving from countries with new Covid-19 variants would be placed in a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a government-designated facility, while returning residents would be permitted to isolate themselves in their homes. The announcement did not specify which countries these measures would apply to.
Truck drivers crossing borders will be permitted to stop only at designated locations and could be tested for the coronavirus at random while in Tanzania.
“Based on the global epidemiological situation and emergence of new variants of viruses that cause Covid-19, there is an increased risk of their importation,” Abel N. Makubi, the permanent secretary of health, said in a statement. As such, he added, the government “decided to elevate and enhance prevailing preventive measures especially those with regard to international travel.”
The new measures under President Samia Suluhu Hassan represent a departure from the blithe approach taken by Tanzania’s former president, John Magufuli, who died in March. Mr. Magufuli long opposed masks and social distancing measures, promoted unproven treatments as cures, argued that vaccines didn’t work and declared that God had helped Tanzania eradicate the virus.
His government also stopped sharing coronavirus data with the World Health Organization. Tanzania has recorded no new cases of the virus since April last year, when it reported 509 infections and 21 deaths.
Two weeks before he died, Mr. Magufuli changed course and told citizens to take precautions against the virus, including wearing masks and observing social distancing.
But since her ascension to power, Ms. Hassan has taken a different turn, stating that Tanzania could not ignore the virus. In early April, she said she would set up a committee to investigate the pandemic and advise the government on its response.
“We cannot isolate ourselves as an island,” Ms. Hassan said in a speech last month.
But Ms. Hassan has also drawn criticism at times for not wearing a mask, including at her own swearing-in ceremony, and for addressing large gatherings of unmasked supporters.
The Hong Kong government on Tuesday backpedaled from a plan to require coronavirus vaccinations for all foreign domestic workers after several days of sharp criticism from foreign diplomatic missions and some residents, who called the requirement discriminatory.
Officials had announced on Friday that the domestic workers — largely low-paid, female migrants from Southeast Asia who clean, cook and perform other household tasks — would have to be vaccinated in order to renew their employment contracts. The government has not issued vaccination requirements for any other group in the city, including other foreign workers.
But officials said it was necessary after two domestic workers recently tested positive for variant strains of the coronavirus. Sophia Chan, the secretary for food and health, said that because domestic workers had a habit of “mingling” with each other during their time off — which, under Hong Kong law, is only one day a week — the entire group of roughly 370,000 workers was considered high-risk.
Hong Kong’s vaccine uptake has been slow, and none of its major outbreaks of the coronavirus have been attributed to domestic workers gathering on their days off.
The announcement provoked an immediate backlash, with critics alleging that the government was making scapegoats of the domestic workers, who make up about 5 percent of Hong Kong’s population of 7.5 million and have long endured poor treatment.
The consuls general of the Philippines and Indonesia — the two main sources of Hong Kong’s foreign domestic workers — said that if there were vaccination requirements, they should be applied to all foreign workers. The Philippines’ outspoken foreign secretary tweeted that the move “smacks of discrimination.”
The government denied that it was discriminating against the workers, but on Tuesday, Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said that in light of the “discussion and attention” that the plan had elicited, she would ask the labor department to “study the specific situation again” and consult foreign consulates. A decision on the plan would be announced later, she said.
Still, the government has said that all foreign domestic workers who have not been fully vaccinated must be tested for the coronavirus by May 9.
These days, visitors to the website of one of Italy’s most renowned contemporary art museums are met with a twofold invitation: “Book your visit in advance” and “Book your vaccination.”
The Castello di Rivoli, once a palace owned by the Savoy dynasty, recently became one of several Italian museums to join the country’s vaccine drive, following in the footsteps of cultural institutions throughout Europe.
With the rallying cry of “Art Helps,” the museum near Turin has set aside its third-floor galleries for a vaccination center run by the local health authorities. During their shots, patients can enjoy the wall paintings by Claudia Comte, a Swiss artist.
Comte worked with the composer Egon Elliut to create a soundscape that evokes “a dreamlike feeling,” the artist said, and lulls vaccine recipients as they move from room to room before and after the shot.
“Art has an extraordinarily important effect on well-being,” said Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the museum’s director. She said that she couldn’t have commissioned “a more perfect” backdrop than Comte’s works for a “space to merge the art of healing the body and the art of healing the soul and the mind,” noting that in Italian the words for “to heal” and “curator” came from the same Latin word, “curo.” In history, she said, some of the first museums were former hospitals.