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Coronavirus Update: Pfizer vaccine found to be less effective in preventing infection in very young children than older ones, as U.S. death toll tops 950,000


The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer

 and German partner BioNTech

is much less effective in preventing infection in children aged 5 to 11 than in older people, according to a new data set from health officials in New York state.

The data, which was reported by the New York Times, found the vaccine still offers protection against severe disease, a key defense. But it does not help prevent children catching COVID, even a month after immunization, according to the data, which was gathered during the recent surge of the highly contagious omicron variant.

Experts said the difference may be explained by the fact that younger children receive just one-third of the dose given to older children and adults. Data from a trial of the vaccine in children aged 2 to 4 years was also disappointing, and that group received an even smaller dose.

There’s now concern that parents will opt not to have their younger children vaccinated, which health experts say would be a mistake.

A new poll from the Washington Post-ABC News found that most Americans believe the pandemic is not yet over and are in favor of continuing restrictions. The poll, conducted from Feb. 20 to 24, found 44% of respondents approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic, down from 47% in November, last time the poll was conducted.

Roughly half, or 49% of those polled, said the pandemic is “somewhat under control”, although most have not yet returned to pre-coronavirus life yet.

A separate poll conducted by the Associated Press — NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Americans less worried about catching COVID or spreading it than they were six months ago.

That poll found about half of those surveyed strongly or somewhat favor wearing face masks in public spaces, down from 55% in August of 2021 and 75% in December of 2020.

That comes as many states are moving to drop face mask mandates, including New York, which will end the requirement for students starting Wednesday.

It also comes as U.S. cases continue to decline from their January peak and remain at levels last seen before the omicron variant was detected in November.

The U.S. is averaging about 64,276 COVID cases a day, according to a New York Times tracker, down 59% from two weeks ago.

The U.S. is averaging 49,899 hospitalizations a day, down 44% from two weeks ago. And deaths are finally starting to fall, down 23% to an average of 1,855 a day. The number of Americans in intensive care units is down 43% to 9,427 a day.

The White House on Monday unveiled sweeping nursing-home reforms designed to improve the quality of care, ensure adequate staffing levels and make facility ownership more transparent. President Joe Biden will discuss the measures in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the White House said, emphasizing the pandemic’s toll on long-term care residents and staff.

For more, see: After 200,000 COVID deaths in nursing homes, White House unveils reforms

Covid-19 wreaked havoc on healthcare systems and changed the way many people think about their own health. Here are 3 trends investors should look for in 2022.

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Researchers in Canada have discovered a first possible case of COVID transmission from a deer to a human, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News reported. Until now, researchers have only found evidence of humans spreading the virus to deer, and deer spreading it to other deer. The new research paper posted Friday on bioRxiv, an online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences, has not been peer reviewed. The findings stem from work by a team of scientists who collaborated to analyze samples taken from hundreds of deer killed by hunters in the fall of 2021 in southwestern Ontario.

• Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has tested positive for COVID, according to the local 7 News channel. The PM said he had been experiencing “flu-like symptoms” and will isolate at home in Sydney.

New studies offer clues about who may be more susceptible to long Covid, a term for lingering Covid-19 symptoms. WSJ breaks down the science of long Covid and the state of treatment. Illustration: Jacob Reynolds for the Wall Street Journal

• Officials on Capitol Hill have lifted a requirement that masks be worn on the House floor, eliminating what could have been a point of contention with some Republican lawmakers at Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, Medill News Service reported. The now-rescinded mask mandate was setting the stage for potential conflicts during Tuesday’s address given that some members of Congress, such as Georgia GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde, have flouted mask mandates and racked up fines. The requirement has ended following a memo Sunday from the U.S. Capitol’s attending physician, Dr. Brian Monahan.

• Novavax

reported $222.2 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021, well below the FactSet consensus of $331.8 million. The company’s protein-based COVID-19 vaccine is its only authorized or approved therapy; it recently received authorization in several regions, including the European Union, New Zealand, and the U.K. The shot is currently under review in the U.S.

See now: U.S. factories grow a bit faster as omicron fades, ISM finds, but shortages still a drag

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose above 437.3 million on Tuesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll climbed above 5.95 million.

The U.S. leads the world with 79 million cases and 950,610 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 215.6 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 64.9% of the population. But just 94.2 million are boosted, equal to 43.7% of the vaccinated population.

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