An expert panel that advises the CDC has scheduled an emergency meeting Friday to discuss allowing extra COVID-19 vaccine doses for all adults, adding to reports suggesting booster shots will soon become more widely available.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, (ACIP), has already endorsed boosters to specific groups. These include older people, young adults at high-risk for severe COVID-19, as well as those whose lives or jobs put them at high danger of infection. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to sign off on the plan before Friday’s meeting without convening its own expert advisory committee.

The New York Times reported Tuesday morning that Pfizer BioNTech boosters could be authorized by FDA to all Americans over 18 years old. This is according to the Times. The booster recipients must have had their Moderna or Pfizer vaccinations completed at least six months ago before they can receive the additional dose. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the wait is only two months.

The final step — CDC’s official recommendation — could come soon after Friday’s advisory panel meeting, meaning booster shot availability could expand nationwide as early as this weekend.

California, Colorado and New Mexico have all endorsed boosters to help adults.

— Karen Weintraub

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►Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city would lift indoor mask mandates starting Monday, with a number of exceptions that include public transit vehicles and stations, schools, libraries, nursing homes and other congregate living settings, as well as any private businesses that opt for the requirement.

►Cases are rising in 31 states, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. For the week ending Monday, the number of cases was 584 449. This is 15% more than the recent low for the week end Oct. 26.

►The CDC on Monday moved four European travel destinations — Hungary, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Guernsey — to its highest-risk, “Level 4” category. Avoid travel to this category as they have more than 500 COVID-19 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days.

►Maine surpassed its record for the number of people in the state hospitalized with COVID-19 as that figure reached 261 on Monday, 72 of them in critical care.

►A Houston hospital temporarily suspended a doctor for spreading false information about COVID-19 to her patients and on social media.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 764,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global summaries: There have been more than 253,000,000 cases worldwide and there has been a total of 5.1 million deaths. More than 195 million Americans — 58.8% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: As doctors’ offices and pharmacies fill appointments fill to immunize children, parents across the country are looking forward to the freedoms their kids can enjoy after getting their shot. But the question of masking — especially in schools — still remains. 

For the most recent news, keep checking this page. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox, and join our Facebook group.

Pfizer will share a promising drug with countries of low income

A deal between American drugmaker Pfizer and a U.N.-backed public health organization could provide a promising COVID-19 pill to more than half the world’s population, a significant step toward accelerating the pandemic’s end.

Pfizer Tuesday announced that it would license the Paxlovid antiviral drug to Geneva’s Medicines Patent Pool. This will allow generic drug firms to make the pill available in 95 low- or middle-income countries (which accounts for about 53%) of the world population. Similar agreements were struck between Merck and the MPP in New Jersey for its COVID-19 experimental medicine, Molnupiravir.

Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization of Paxlovid at the Food and Drug Administration. The drug had a 89% reduction in the death or hospitalization risk for COVID patients that were given it within 3 days of symptoms arising.

“We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, decreasing the strain on our healthcare systems and saving lives,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Health officials said the fact that the deal was struck even before Pfizer’s pill has been authorized anywhere could help to end the pandemic sooner.

“It’s quite significant that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and has just been developed, to more than 4 billion people,” said Esteban Burrone, head of policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, who estimated production of the pill would begin within months.

Fauci said that families who have been vaccinated ‘can be happy’ to spend holidays together

Presidential medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said people who have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 should feel comfortable getting together over the holidays with loved ones who have also been inoculated.

“If you get vaccinated and your family’s vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends,” Fauci said in a Monday interview hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

With cases still high, Fauci urged Americans to wear masks when in groups of people in indoor settings.

“But when it’s with your family at the home, enjoy that with your parents, children, and grandparents,” he stated. There’s no excuse not to.

Pfizer requests FDA authorization after submitting antiviral data

Pfizer applied for emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration in order to distribute its COVID-19 antiviral medicine Paxlovid the American people.

Recent research showed that the medication had a 89% lower death and hospitalization rate than if it was given three days after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. The trial involved subjects who were at risk of severe illness. The study was stopped by an independent agency due to its efficacy. It is available in three tablets that are administered for five days. The drugs limits replication.

— Karen Weintraub

Times Square Celebration will be open for all (vaccinated).

Crowds will be welcome again at New York City’s iconic New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square — provided participants are vaccinated against COVID-19.

After limiting attendance mostly to first responders in socially distant pods last year as the coronavirus raged throughout the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would open its arms to “hundreds of thousands of people there to celebrate. It’s possible to get together once again. It will be incredible.

For those who’ve had their shots, at least. People age 5 and older will have to provide proof of vaccination along with a valid photo ID to be admitted to the viewing area. Those under 5, and therefore ineligible for the vaccine, must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult, and they have to wear a face covering at all times. 

— Jordan Mendoza

A report calls for a clearer federal strategy to combat COVID misinformation

A new report from a panel of government, academic and journalism leaders urged a clearer federal strategy to counter misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic as part of 15 broad recommendations to reduce “the chain reaction of harm” caused by false information.

The report, released Monday by the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder, followed a six-month investigation of the spread of COVID-related misinformation. The report emphasized the importance of a comprehensive federal approach with clear responsibilities for all branches.

According to the report, “at the moment of writing, Federal Government doesn’t have any clear leadership nor strategy for the disinformation problem.” This is despite the fact that it acknowledges the effects on elections, public health, business, technology, politics, and continues campaigns on communities, such as immigrants and refugees. The report stated that the lack of strategy, leadership or ownership is hindering efforts and slowing down response times.

It was also recommended by the panel that social media platforms provide more transparency when sharing information regarding viral posts and their spread.

Florida teacher who was at the heart of an ivermectin lawsuit is dead after fighting COVID-19

A teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida, who was at the center of a battle to get a hospital to administer an unproven drug for her worsening COVID-19 symptoms has died from the illness.

Tamara Drock of Loxahatchee (Florida), died of complications from COVID-19 12 weeks following her admission to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

As she struggled with the disease, her husband, Ryan Drock, sued the hospital last month in an attempt to require it to administer ivermectin, a drug approved by the FDA to treat conditions caused by parasitic worms but not COVID-19.

One of many cases across the country sought to make hospitals administer the drug. This is a popular treatment option in conservative circles for those with serious forms of the disease. The FDA says ivermectin has not proved effective against COVID-19 in pre-clinical trials.

— Andrew Marra, Palm Beach Post

Contributing to The Associated Press



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