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 has approved boosters for certain groups. This includes older adults, those at higher risk of severe COVID-19, and individuals whose job or lifestyle puts them at risk. 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. To be eligible for the booster, recipients need to have received their Moderna and Pfizer vaccines within six months. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the wait is only two months.

California, Colorado, New Mexico, and New York City have already approved boosters for all adult citizens.

— 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. The week ended Monday with 584,449 cases, up 15% over the previous low of 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 an average incidence rate exceeding 500 COVID-19 new cases per 100,000 persons over the last 28 days, according to the CDC.

►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 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. 

This page is updated regularly so you don’t miss any new information. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox, and join our Facebook group.

Pfizer shares promising drug information with nations 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. This agreement is similar to one that was reached in October by the MPP with Merck, New Jersey-based Merck. It was for the experimental COVID-19 drug 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 ‘feel good’ about going on 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 requested an emergency authorization from Food and Drug Administration for the distribution of its COVID-19 antiviral medication Paxlovid, to the American public.

The medication was found to be 89% less likely than the placebo in reducing hospitalizations and deaths when administered within 3 days of COVID-19 symptoms. The trial involved subjects who were at risk of severe illness. Because of the effectiveness, an independent review agency stopped it from being continued. Three pills are taken daily for five days to stop the virus from reproducing.

— Karen Weintraub

Times Square will host a celebration for the unvaccinated

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 is going to be extraordinary.

Minimum for people who have had their shots. 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

COVID Misinformation: Federal Strategy Needed to Be Clearer

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.

The report stated that “At this time, the Federal Government does not have any clear leadership or strategy for the disinformation issue, despite acknowledging the effect on public health and elections as well as on technology and ongoing campaigns against communities of color including refugees and immigrants.” This lack of leadership and ownership or strategy hinders efforts, delays response times, duplicating efforts and slows down responses.

The panel recommended that social media platforms share more information on viral posts, how they were spread and other relevant details.

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 (47), of Loxahatchee in Florida died on Friday from COVID-19 complications 12 weeks after she was admitted to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Her husband stated that Tamara Drock had been there for treatment.

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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