The Latest: Pfizer asks FDA to OK shots for kids ages 5-11

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Medical workers carry a patient infected with the coronavirus on a stretcher at the Syrian American Medical Society Hospital, in the city of Idlib, northwest Syria, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. Coronavirus cases are surging to the worst levels of the pandemic in Idlib province, a rebel stronghold in Syria — a particularly devastating development in a region where scores of hospitals have been bombed and that doctors and nurses have fled in droves during a decade of war. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

NEW YORK — Pfizer is asking the U.S. government to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11.

If regulators agree, shots could begin within a matter of weeks. Pfizer already had announced that a lower dose of its vaccine worked and appeared safe in a study of the youngsters.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Thursday officially filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. FDA’s advisers are scheduled to debate the evidence on Oct. 26. Until now, the vaccine was available only to those as young as 12, and many parents and pediatricians are clamoring for protection for younger kids.

Keeping children in school can be a challenge with the coronavirus still raging in poorly vaccinated communities.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— More than 120,000 US childrenhad caregivers die during pandemic

— WHO working to get COVID-19 medical supplies to North Korea

— Virus measures stop legal return of thousands to New Zealand

— Health officials say it’s OK to get COVID-19 and flu vaccinesat same time

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— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea — The World Health Organization has started shipping COVID-19 medical supplies into North Korea, a possible sign that the North is easing one of the world’s strictest pandemic border closures to receive outside help.

WHO says it has started the shipment of essential COVID-19 medical supplies through the Chinese port of Dalian for strategic stockpiling and further dispatch to North Korea.

WHO representative told AP the items included emergency health kits and medicine. The country still claims to have a perfect record of fighting the virus and has reported no coronavirus cases. It recently turned down some Sinovac vaccines offered via the U.N.-backed program. It had severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade for the past two years despite the strain on its crippled economy.

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MOSCOW — The daily coronavirus death toll topped 900 for a second straight day with a record 924 deaths reported Thursday.

The toll reached 929 deaths the previous day. Russian authorities have struggled to control a surge in new cases amid a slow pace in vaccinations and few restrictions.

The government’s coronavirus task force reported 27,550 new confirmed cases on Thursday. That’s a nearly 10% rise from the previous day. New infections in Moscow soared by nearly 50% to 5,404 cases.

Russia has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic at more than 213,000 fatalities, which is considered by many health experts an undercount.

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BEIRUT — Rebel-held northwest Syria is facing an unprecedented coronavirus surge and aid agencies are calling on the world to help provide humanitarian and medical aid, increase hospital capacity and ensure people are vaccinated.

The surge apparently caused by the more contagious delta variant has overwhelmed hospitals with sick patients and is causing shortages of oxygen, according to local officials. The local rebel-run authority imposed a nighttime curfew as of Tuesday while schools and universities were closed and students are getting distant learning.

The region is home to 4 million people, many of them internally displaced people by Syria’s 10-year conflict.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, president of The International Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, or UOSSM, says international aid is urgently needed “to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Millions of lives are at stake.”

The rate of positive test results — an indication of the level of virus spread — is around 55%, according to UOSSM and Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision. Only 1.3% of people are vaccinated, according to World Vision.

Local medical authorities say the number of registered coronavirus cases in the region reached nearly 77,000, with confirmed deaths at 1,357.

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HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam’s airlines will resume domestic flights on Sunday, after the country suspended their operation in July to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In the first phase of the resumption, passengers must be vaccinated with at least one shot and hold a negative virus test to board flights, according to the plan announced by the civil aviation authority Thursday. Carriers can board only half of each plane’s seat capacity.

Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Vietnam’s major city in the northern region, will remain closed for domestic flights. The city authority said on Wednesday it was not ready to receive a large volume of travelers, who could potentially spread the virus.

The outbreak fueled by the delta variant that began in July was Vietnam’s worst, infecting over 800,000 people and killing more than 20,000. More than half of the 98 million population was under lockdown for almost three months.

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TOLEDO, Ohio — The number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. is falling and the number of new cases per day is about to dip below 100,000 for the first time in two months.

All are encouraging signs perhaps the summer surge is waning. Government leaders and employers are looking to strengthen and expand vaccine mandates.

Los Angeles has enacted one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates. Minnesota’s governor is calling for vaccine and testing requirements for teachers and long-term care workers. Health experts say there are still far too many unvaccinated people. In New York, a statewide vaccination mandate for all hospital and nursing home workers will be expanded Thursday to home care and hospice employees.

Across the nation, deaths per day have dropped by nearly 15% since mid-September and are averaging about 1,750. New cases have fallen to just over 103,000 per day on average, a 40% decline in the past three weeks.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has declined by about one-quarter since its most recent peak of almost 94,000 a month ago.

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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