Pfizer and BioNTech announce vaccine safe for kids

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Angelica Sofia Parker of Guilderland was vaccinated against COVID-19 in May as soon as her age group was allowed.

ALBANY COUNTY — On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced their vaccine is safe and effective for children between the ages of 5 and 11, and they plan to submit their data to the Food and Drug Administration and to other regulatory agencies around the world as soon as possible.

Currently, only Americans 12 and older can get an authorized vaccination.

The companies state, “Results in children under 5 years of age are expected as soon as later this year.”

“Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240 percent in the U.S. — underscoring the public health need for vaccination,” said Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, in a release. “These trial results provide a strong foundation for seeking authorization of our vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, and we plan to submit them to the FDA and other regulators with urgency.”

The trial involved 2,268 participants who were 5 to 11 years old and received a two-dose regimen of the vaccine, at a lesser strength than the adult vaccine.

“The vaccine was safe, well tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses,” the companies state.

“The safety profile and immunogenicity data in children aged 5 to 11 years vaccinated at a lower dose are consistent with those we have observed with our vaccine in other older populations at a higher dose,” said  Ugur Sahin, chief executive officer and co-founder of BioNTech, in the release.

Hospitalizations and deaths in the United States have surged in recent months, primarily among the unvaccinated. Pediatric hospitalizations have been on the rise, too, as the non-dominant Delta variant is more contagious. Roughly a quarter of Americans are still not vaccinated.

While President Joe Biden in August had made the case for third shots for people who had gotten messenger RNA vaccinations — Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna — an FDA advisory panel on Friday rejected that plan, recommending Pfizer booster shots only for people 65 or older; for people at high risk for serious disease; or for first responders, health-care workers, and others at high risk of infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA have yet to weigh in on the matter.


Travel restrictions to be lifted

Also on Monday, the White House announced that the 18-month travel ban imposed on 33 countries will be lifted in November.

“In early November, we’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated,” said Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki in a briefing on Monday. “Obviously, this is the conclusion of a policy process on that particular issue — an important one facing many people around the world.”

Psaki said of unvaccinated Americans who would be flying home from foreign travel, “So, there would still be requirements for these — for individuals — Americans who are not vaccinated — including providing proof of a negative test result taken within one day of their departure and providing proof they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival for Americans who are not fully vaccinated — which, at this point, would obviously apply to children as well.”

She also said that contact-tracing is part of the plan. “CDC is going to issue a contact-tracing order that will require airlines to collect comprehensive contact information for every passenger coming to the United States and to provide that information promptly to the CDC, upon request, to follow up with travelers who have been exposed to COVID-19 variants or other pathogens,” said Psaki. “And these requirements will apply globally ... 

“As we were making these policy decisions, we had to account for and plan for and ensure that we could implement this policy in a way that was clear, that was equitable, that provided — that ensured that there was equal treatment around the world of how people could come into the United States given COVID protocols.”

The international travel announcement did not include an opening of land borders to Mexico or Canada; non-essential travel there is still banned.

“Title 19 is what is in place, of course, at land borders; it’s being extended for another month, through October 21st,” said Psaki. “We don’t have any updates or predictions at this point in time. But, obviously, we’re continuing to consider — as is evident by our announcement today — how we can return to a place of travel and people being able to move from country to country, including at our land borders.”

Newest numbers

After three days of new infections in the triple digits, the count for new COVID-19 cases in Albany County came down to 87 on Sunday and to 45 on Monday, according to daily releases from Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy.

“We’ve reported triple digit increases in new positive cases for three days in a row and our hospitalizations for the last week have remained at our highest levels since March,” said McCoy on Saturday.

“Albany County continues to offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics at our health department and with partners at community events to get more people vaccinated and to help curb the spread,” he went on. “Getting a vaccine shot is your best protection against serious illness should you become infected with the virus in the future.”

According to the state’s vaccine tracker, as of Monday evening, 70.9 percent of Albany County’s 307,117 residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, as have 81.9 percent of county residents 18 and older.

Statewide , 70.9 percent of New Yorkers have received at least one dose as have 82.7 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older. At the same time, 62.6 percent of New Yorkers have completed a vaccination series as have 74.2 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older.

Albany County, like New York State and every state except California, which has a substantial rate, continues to have a high rate of transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means people, whether vaccinated or not, are to wear masks indoors in public.

Albany County’s five-day average of new daily positive cases on Monday was down to 88.8. Albany County’s most recent seven-day average of percent positive rates is down to 4.7 percent, and the Capital Region’s average rate is now down to 4.0 percent.

Statewide, the rate is 3 percent.

As of Monday morning, there were 496 active cases in the county, down from 531 on Sunday. The number of people under mandatory quarantine decreased to 1,126 from 1,243.

There were two new hospitalizations since Sunday, and 38 county residents are now hospitalized with the virus. There are currently nine patients in intensive-care units, up two from on Sunday.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 400.

“I urge people to stay home if you are sick and get tested if you have symptoms,” said McCoy in Monday’s release. “I encourage those who are unvaccinated to get a vaccine shot.”

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