Latest News: Pfizer seeks vaccine authorization for kids 5-11; studies highlight waning vaccine protection for people 65+: Live COVID-19 updates

Pfizer and BioNTech have asked federal regulators to authorize emergency use of their coronavirus vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11, the companies announced Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will need to sign off on the vaccine before it becomes available to children of those ages. An independent expert panel will review the data Oct. 26.

“With new cases in children in the U.S. continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against #COVID19,” Pfizer tweeted. “We’re committed to working with the FDA with the ultimate goal of helping protect children against this serious public health threat.”

Pfizer and its German vaccine partner released data from a clinical trial last month indicating their vaccine was safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11 at one-third of the dose given to adolescents and adults. The vaccine could be crucial for elementary schools, where no students have had access to vaccination because of age limits.

The study of 2,268 volunteers ages 5 to 11 showed they mounted the same type of strong immune response to the vaccine as teens and young adults. Because the vaccine has already proved effective in older groups, the companies only had to show that it led to a similar immune response in children – rather than prove it prevented COVID-19 infections.

Also in the news:

►In another sign that the surge of COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant is waning, San Francisco will lift mask mandates on some public indoor venues that require proof of vaccination starting Oct. 15. Surrounding counties in the Bay Area are also relaxing masking rules.

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►High school weight rooms are being renovated and new football fields are getting built. The money for these high school sports projects was part of a $123 billion infusion intended to help schools reopen and recover from the pandemic. But some districts have used large portions for athletics projects they couldn’t previously afford.

►Health authorities in Spain say the key 14-day infection rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people has dropped below 50 for the first time since July 2020, which Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called “a crucial milestone.”

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► A Texas man who posted on Facebook that he paid someone sick with COVID-19 to intentionally spread the virus was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. He was found guilty on two counts for violating a federal law that criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons after pretending to have someone spread COVID-19 at a San Antonio grocery store.

►The World Health Organization is working to ship COVID-19 medical supplies into North Korea, a possible sign that the North is easing one of the world’s strictest pandemic border closures to receive outside help.

Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 44 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 708,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 236.6 million cases and 4.83 million deaths. More than 186.5 million Americans – 56.5% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

What we’re reading: Schools and parents are still burdened by COVID-19 cases, contact tracing and quarantines. Remote learning has returned in some cases. In others, kids are back to sitting at home without work. Unlike last year, most classrooms are open, but they operate amid shifting health recommendations and frequent fights over masks. When will school be normal again? Many educators, parents and students look past the health hurdles and say: Never. Read more here.

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