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Explainer: What to know about COVID-19 vaccines for young children

The United States has begun rolling out COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months after receiving the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The following are some details about the two messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc /BioNTech SE for young children:

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How many doses are needed?

Moderna’s vaccine is a two-dose regimen in children aged 6 months to 6 years old. The 25-microgram doses are given 28 days apart. Adults received 100 micrograms per shot for their first two doses.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a three-dose course for children aged 6 months to under 5 years old. The first two doses are given 21 days apart and the third is administered at least two months after the second. Each dose is 3 micrograms, below the 10 micrograms given to children aged 5 to 11 and 30 micrograms for people aged 12 and older.

Both companies had sought lower-dose versions for younger children to try to reduce side effects.

How effective are the vaccines?

Moderna’s vaccine was estimated to be 50.6 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections among children 6 months to under 2 years old and 36.8 percent effective at doing so in children ages 2 to 6 in a clinical trial of over 5,000 subjects.

It is not yet known how effective the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is at preventing infection in people under age 5 because of the low number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases among the children in its trial. An early analysis based on 10 symptomatic COVID-19 cases suggested a vaccine efficacy of 80.3 percent in this group. Once 21 children in the trial contract symptomatic COVID-19, the companies can finalize the vaccine’s efficacy.

Both the company’s trials showed that the vaccines generated a similar immune response to those seen in older age groups.

Are the vaccines safe for children?

Neither vaccine has raised any serious safety issues in the trials.

Heart inflammation known as myocarditis and pericarditis has been found to be a rare side effect of the vaccines in young men, but there have been few cases reported in the United States in children ages 5 to 11, and none in either of these trials for the youngest age group.

What are the side effects?

Some children reported pain and swelling at the injection site after vaccination from both vaccines.

Pfizer’s low-dose vaccine was generally better tolerated, with only slightly more participants who received the vaccine complaining of fevers, irritability or fatigue when compared with those who received a placebo. In ages 2 to 4, 33.7 percent of participants who received their second dose of the vaccine reported one of these side effects, compared to 32.2 percent who received placebo.

For Moderna’s vaccine, 58.9 percent of 3 to 5 year-olds reported some type of reaction like fever, headache or fatigue after receiving their second dose, compared with 37.2 percent of participants who received placebo.

Why vaccinate young children?

COVID-19 is generally milder in children than adults, but there have been more than 440 US COVID deaths among those under age 5, according to FDA officials.

Data has shown that in older children and adults, vaccines protect against hospitalization and death, according to Dr. Matthew Harris, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Northwell Health in New York.

People who had a COVID-19 infection and received a booster shot had the most protection against COVID-19, he said.

Where can young children get vaccinated?

Vaccines will be available in pediatrician offices, children’s hospitals, health clinics, and pharmacies.

Not all pharmacies will offer the shots for this group and some will only provide them for children older than three. CVS Health Corp, for instance, will offer shots for children aged 18 months, while Walmart Inc and Rite Aid Corp have said they would make them available for those 3 and older.

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UAE reports 1,796 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

The UAE announced 1,796 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the official Emirates News Agency reported.

This brings the current total active cases in the UAE to 17,551 and the total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic to 949,384, according to data from the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The cases were determined out of 232,943 tests in the last 24 hours.

No deaths from the virus were recorded on Saturday, maintaining the total deaths caused by COVID-19 to 2,317 in the UAE.

At least 1,727 patients recovered in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total COVID-19 recoveries to 929,516.

On June 13, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced it would strictly enforce its mask rules – with penalties for those flouting the protocol – and announced it would tighten its rules on the Al Hosn green pass system amid rising coronavirus cases across the country.

NCEMA said that it has recently “monitored some behaviors that have become a danger to society and public health,” referring to people not adhering to COVID-19 precautionary and preventative measures and how it has “negatively” impacted recovery efforts.

“Negligence and recklessness in following precautionary measures, and failure in the societal role in maintaining public health and acquired immunity, has resulted in a rise in the number of infections and new waves of the virus,” the authority spokesman said in the briefing.

The authority reaffirmed the need to wear masks in closed public spaces, reiterating that it was mandatory and that not adhering to this rule would result in a fine of up to $816 (AED 3,000).

According to the World Health Organization, more than 4.1 million cases were reported globally in the last week.

It added, however, that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500, noting that COVID-related deaths increased in three regions: the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

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Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccines could increase protection as boosters: EMA

Coronavirus vaccines tweaked to include the omicron variant strain can improve protection when used as a booster, the European Medicines Agency and other global health regulators said on Friday.
Following a meeting on Thursday, the EMA said global regulators had agreed on key principles for updating COVID-19 shots to respond to emerging variants.
While the existing coronavirus vaccines continue to provide good protection against hospitalization and death, the group said, vaccine effectiveness has taken a hit as the virus has evolved.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
As such, an omicron-specific or bivalent booster – meaning a vaccine that includes both the new strain and the original coronavirus strain – could “increase and extend” protection, a statement from the EMA said.
The statement refers specifically to the mRNA vaccines. Both Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc have been testing retooled versions of their vaccines to include the omicron variant.
Vaccines which include other variants, for example the beta variant, might also be considered for use as boosters if clinical trial data demonstrate an adequate level of neutralization against omicron and other variants of concern, the statement said.
It follows guidance from the World Health Organization that omicron-specific boosters could restore protection against emerging strains of the coronavirus.
But it stops short of the position of the regulator in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said on Thursday that it would seek the inclusion specifically of the newer BA.4 and BA.5 strains of omicron, currently driving a surge in new infections globally, in any new shots for use domestically.
On Tuesday, the head of a WHO advisory committee that has considered the modified shots said the group preferred BA.1-based boosters, arguing that the variant is more distinct and could generate a broader response than the more recently circulating subvariants.
Top US FDA official Peter Marks said in an interview that regulators from other countries were seriously considering using new boosters based on the BA.1 omicron variant that caused the massive surge in cases last winter, because those shots can be available sooner than the BA.4/5 based booster the United States plans to use.
The EMA said it would provide more details in coming days.
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Russia scraps remaining COVID-19 restrictions

Russia said on Friday it was ending all restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, including the requirement to wear masks, citing a steady decline in deaths from the virus.
However, it did not rule out re-introducing restrictive measures if the situation deteriorates.
Consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said it was “suspending previously introduced restrictions, including the mask regime, a ban on public catering at night, and a number of other measures.”
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
It said the dynamics of the virus were consistent with global trends and 93 percent of confirmed cases were mild or asymptomatic.
Since the start of the pandemic in Russia in April 2020, over 800,000 people have died from coronavirus or causes related to COVID-19, Reuters calculations show, with the country recording over 18 million infections.
Russia was quick to develop and launch its Sputnik V vaccine when the pandemic struck but take-up was slow, with many Russians citing distrust of the authorities and fear of new medical products. About 52 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
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