FDA advisers recommend virus boosters for 65 and older

A man smiles as he gets a COVID-19 shot at a vaccination event before an NCAA college football game between Missouri State and Oklahoma State, in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Sept 4, 2021. (SUE OGROCKI / AP)

BRUSSELS/ OTTAWA/HAVANA – The COVID-19 vaccine booster shot proposed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE should be given to older Americans and those at high risk, a panel of expert advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration said, rejecting a request for broader distribution.

While the recommendation isn’t binding, it’s a blow to the Biden administration’s plan to deliver third doses to all American adults in the coming weeks to stave off the virus’s spread. Pfizer had originally proposed approving a booster shot for everyone 16 and older. But the advisers rejected that idea out of concern that the data to support such a broad application was thin and there could be risks, especially for younger people.

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Instead, the panel voted 18-0 in favor of an emergency-use authorization  a more limited clearance than a full approval  for people 65 and older or individuals at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Belgium

Belgium's government has decided to abolish, effective from Oct 1, the requirement to wear face masks in several places, including dining venues and shops.

However, wearing a mask remains compulsory in healthcare centers, at airports and in major events attended by more than 500 people.

To date, Belgium has recorded 1,217,473 COVID-19 cases and 25,494 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the Sciensano institute.

Canada

The national seven-day average of 4,375 new cases reported daily from Sept 10-16 is an increase of 16 percent over the previous week, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada on Friday.

The highly contagious Delta variant accounts for the majority of recently reported cases in Canada, said Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, in a statement on Friday.

Cuba

Cuba on Friday said it registered 8,291 new cases of COVID-19 infection in 24 hours, pushing the total number of cases detected to date to 784,416.

The Ministry of Public Health also reported 75 more deaths from the disease in the same period, raising the pandemic death toll to 6,676.

Europe 

The European Medicines Agency will evaluate the possibility of giving COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 6 to 11 in November, Marco Cavaleri, head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy at the agency, said in an interview with La Repubblica on Saturday.

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“Pfizer will send us some data at the beginning of October, Moderna should follow early November. Our evaluation will take three to four weeks”, Cavaleri told the Italian daily. 

France 

France has given the first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 to 50 million people, President Emmanuel Macron said in a Twitter post on Friday. The country initially aimed to reach this milestone at the end of August.

Germany

The coronavirus infection rate in Germany has slowed for a fifth day, with the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants dropping to 72.0, according to the latest data published by the Robert Koch Institute. That figure was as high as 83.8 earlier in the month. 

Russia 

Russia reported more than 20,000 new cases in the past day for the first time since Aug 22 as the country holds tightly controlled parliamentary elections. The daily death toll rose to 799. 

Health authorities are warning of a “fourth wave” in Moscow, where new cases have climbed for the past five days. 

President Vladimir Putin is self-isolating for at least a week after dozens of people working close to him tested positive. 

In this file photo taken on June 3, 2021 passengers push their luggage on arrival in Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport in London. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

UK

The UK government eased coronavirus testing requirements for fully vaccinated people arriving in England, removing a significant barrier to travel and boosting airlines and tourism firms.

Those who’ve had two shots will be exempt from a pre-departure test before flying from nations that aren’t high risk, while screening after arrival will be downgraded to quicker and cheaper lateral-flow tests starting from Oct 4, the Department for Transport said Friday.

A so-called traffic-light system used to categorize countries will also be replaced, with a single “red list” for locations where infection rates are high and “simplified measures for the rest of the world,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a message on Twitter.

England will also expand the list of countries from which it recognizes vaccinations, after the success of a pilot with the United States and Europe. Another 17 countries and territories will be added to the list, including Japan and Singapore.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced months of pressure to ease the restrictions. Airlines and travel companies blamed the testing and complicated rules for the slowness of a recovery in air travel over the summer and warned that far-reaching changes were needed or more job losses would follow the 100,000 already lost.

The industry, already on its knees after 18 months of restrictions, is facing a cliff edge as a government furlough scheme ends later this month with winter approaching, when fewer people travel and businesses tend to make a loss.