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In boost for parents, Biden administration says COVID vaccine for kids under 5 could start June 21, and Prince Andrew misses Jubilee event after testing positive

Children under 5 years old could begin to receive vaccinations against COVID-19 as early as June 21, a Biden administration official said Thursday, in a boost for parents anxious for their very young children to be added to the program.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID response coordinator, told reporters at a briefing: “We expect that vaccinations will begin in earnest as early as Tuesday, June 21, and really roll on throughout that week,” if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the vaccines.

“Our expectation is that, within weeks, every parent who wants their child to get vaccinated would be able to get an appointment,” he said.

An FDA advisory panel is scheduled to meet June 15 to discuss the vaccines made by Pfizer
PFE,
+1.26%

 with BioNTech 
BNTX,
-2.29%

 as well as Moderna
MRNA,
-1.71%
.

The news comes as U.S. cases seem to be stabilizing again after a steady climb caused by omicron and its subvariants. The U.S. is averaging 101,348 cases a day, down 3% from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker. Cases are stabilizing in states in the Northeast that were recent hot spots, although there are concerns that the predominance of home testing may be distorting the numbers as those results are not being collected by data aggregators.

The country is averaging 27,243 hospitalizations a day, up 14% from two weeks ago. The daily death toll has fallen to 281 on average, down 7% from two weeks ago.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that it expects deaths from COVID in Africa to decline sharply in 2022 from 2021, reflecting a rise in immunity after many people on the continent have been infected.

In a study published in the Lancet, the agency said it now expects about 22,563 COVID deaths this year, down more than 90% from the 350,000 counted last year. “We are turning the tide on last year’s catastrophically high COVID-19 death toll in the African region,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, at a news briefing.

“The African region is estimated to have had a similar number of COVID-19 infections to that of the rest of the world, but with fewer deaths,” said the report. “Our model suggests that the current approach to SARS-CoV-2 testing is missing most infections.

“These results are consistent with findings from representative seroprevalence studies. There is, therefore, a need for surveillance of hospitalizations, co-morbidities, and the emergence of new variants of concern, and scale-up of representative seroprevalence studies, as core response strategies.”

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Prince Andrew has tested positive for coronavirus and will not attend the queen’s Platinum Jubilee thanksgiving service on Friday, BBC News reported, citing a statement from Buckingham Palace. The duke of York tested positive after a routine test and will miss the service “with regret,” the palace said. It is understood he has seen the queen in the last few days but not since he tested positive. As a non–working royal, the prince did not join the queen on the balcony during Thursday’s Jubilee celebrations.

• Germany’s federal and state leaders agreed Thursday to try to avoid closing schools and child-care facilities if there is another surge in coronavirus cases this fall, the Associated Press reported. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after meeting with the governors of Germany’s 16 states that the goal would be to prevent “another blanket closure” of schools and kindergartens like what happened during previous waves of the pandemic.

• Novavax shares
NVAX,
-22.80%

tumbled 22.9% Friday after the Food and Drug Administration published a report that detailed the agency’s assessment of the clinical data for the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. There were at least four instances of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation, in the clinical-trial participants. “If causally associated, the risk of myocarditis following NVX-CoV2373 could be higher than reported during post-authorization use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines,” the FDA said. Those vaccines showed no cases of myocarditis in clinical trials but the condition did show up after authorization. The FDA report was released in advance of next Tuesday’s meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to review the Novavax vaccine. The two-shot vaccine has a 90% efficacy rate against mild to severe symptomatic COVID-19.

• Chinese authorities have apparently eased restrictions on a commuter town near Beijing after the latest show of public anger against COVID-19 controls, the South China Morning Post reported. Thousands of residents of Yanjiao, in the Hebei province gathered to protest the measures that have made it difficult to get into Beijing in the past two years. The town is about 35 kilometers from the city center.

Shanghai residents took selfies outside and toasted with champagne as the city emerged from a Covid-19 lockdown that lasted more than two months. But there are economic challenges ahead as China shows no signs of easing its zero-covid strategy. Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 531 million on Friday, while the death toll rose above 6.29 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 84.6 million cases and 1,008,063 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 221.4 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 66.7% of the total population. But just 103.6 million have had a first booster, equal to 46.8% of the vaccinated population.

Just 14.2 million of the people aged 50 and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 22.7% of those who had a first booster.

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