Roundup: The Boosted 97 Times Less Likely to Die from COVID, CDC Says; Vaccines for Kids, 6 Months-5 Years, Nears Approval; and More

CDC Chief: Boosted Adults 97 Times Less Likely to Die from COVID Than Unvaccinated

Fully vaccinated U.S. adults are 14 times less likely to die of COVID-19 than those who haven’t received any shots, and those who have received boosters are 97 times less likely to die from the coronavirus, according to new data presented this week by the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, M.D.

The CDC director cited reports from 25 U.S. jurisdictions in the week ending Dec. 4. For every 100,000 people, 9.7 of those who were unvaccinated died from COVID-19, compared to 0.7 of those fully vaccinated and 0.1 of the boosted, the data found.

“These same trends are seen across all age groups,” added Dr. Walensky during a White House briefing with the media. “These data show us that the percent of people who are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 are disproportionately unvaccinated and disproportionately not boosted.”

The latest data also confirms that vaccination and boosting continues to protect against severe illness and hospitalization, even during the Omicron surge, she added.

Dr. Walensky said COVID cases and hospitalizations are decreasing across the nation, but cautioned that the surge from the more transmissible Omicron variant continues to overwhelm some regions.

“While we continue to see large decreases in average daily case counts across the country, hospitalizations remain high, stretching our healthcare capacity and workforce to its limits in some areas of the country,” said Dr. Walensky. “And daily deaths also remain quite high.”

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for Kids — 6 Months to 5 Years of Age — May Be Authorized by Month’s End

An advisory committee of experts for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet virtually on Feb. 15 to discuss the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in children 6 months through 4 years of age.

Pfizer-BioNTech asked the FDA this week to authorize two doses of their vaccine for children younger than five as the companies continue to conduct clinical trials on whether three doses would be more effective for this age group. The two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech primary series could be approved by both the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the end of February.

“Having a safe and effective vaccine available for children in this age group is a priority for the agency and we’re committed to a timely review of the data, which the agency asked Pfizer to submit in light of the recent Omicron surge,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement that three doses of the vaccine will be needed eventually for this age group “to achieve high levels of protection against current and potential future variants.” For now, the approval of two doses will give parents “the opportunity to begin a Covid-19 vaccination series for their children while awaiting potential authorization of a third dose,” he added.

The request to extend their vaccine to this age group is based on the “totality of data on the safety, tolerability, immunogenicity, and available efficacy of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine,” the two companies said in a news release.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is already authorized for use in children as young as 5 years of age.

Neurological Impact of COVID: ‘Long COVID’ Symptoms Can Mirror Those of ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’

Scientists involved in the field of neurology have drawn parallels between the symptoms experienced by individuals with “long COVID” to those living with myalgic encephalomyelitis, most commonly known as “chronic fatigue syndrome” — suggesting there could be common risk factors involved.

Acute COVID-19 infection can lead to linger effects, known as “long COVID,” that can include symptoms a loss of taste and smell, impaired concentration, fatigue, pain, sleep disorders, chronic headaches, and even psychological effects such as depression or psychosis.

In a new article, Nervous System Consequences of COVID-19, published in the journal Science, Avindra Nath, M.D., clinical director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and Serena Spudich, M.D., of the Yale School of Medicine, made the comparison between long COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Their article states: “Many of the symptoms experienced by individuals with Long Covid are similar to those of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), which is also considered to be a post-infectious syndrome caused by a variety of infectious agents. Because the pathophysiology of ME/CFS is poorly understood and there are no effective disease-modifying therapies available, it is likely that the study of Long Covid may benefit ME/CFS patients as well.”

People with ME/CFS commonly have overwhelming fatigue that does not improve with rest. The complex and difficult-to-diagnose condition may get worse after any activity, whether it’s physical or mental.

Drs. Nath and Spudich add that future studies with neurological and psychiatric assessments have the potential to answer questions about both ME/CFS and long COVID. “Ultimately, interventional trials based on these discoveries are needed to determine approaches to curtail or reverse nervous system effects of COVID-19 that are experienced by huge numbers of people globally,” they wrote.

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