The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:48 PM ET, Wed September 22, 2021
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8:52 a.m. ET, September 22, 2021

CDC advisory committee will discuss vaccine boosters today following FDA advisers vote last week

From CNN's Maggie Fox, Jamie Gumbrecht and Jacqueline Howard

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is holding a two-day meeting on Wednesday and Thursday on booster shots.

Wednesday’s meeting will include a discussion on booster doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, vaccine effectiveness in the US and vaccine safety in pregnant women.

Wednesday's meeting comes after the vaccine advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration voted Friday to recommend emergency use authorization of a booster dose of Pfizer's vaccine to people 65 and older and those at high risk of severe Covid-19 six months after they get their first two shots.

But the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee rejected a broader application to approve booster doses of Pfizer's vaccines for everyone 16 and older six months after they are fully vaccinated.

Members of the committee expressed doubts about the safety of a booster dose in younger adults and teens, and complained about the lack of data about the safety and long term efficacy of a booster dose.

Biden administration officials had previously announced a plan to begin administering booster doses to the general population during the week of Sept. 20, irritating some members of the committee. They later noted that any action would be pending signoff from the FDA and the CDC.

The CDC must give its stamp of approval for any booster doses to be officially given. In a letter sent last Thursday and obtained by CNN, the CDC urged local and state health officials to wait to administer boosters until both agencies had signed off.

Third doses are already approved for certain immunocompromised people, but not for the general public.

9:45 a.m. ET, September 22, 2021

Here's how soon the FDA could authorize Covid-19 vaccines for young children, according to one expert

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

(Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle/Getty Images)
(Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle/Getty Images)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could soon authorize a Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for young children, experts said — a development that offers hope in the midst of a dangerous time in the pandemic for kids, who account for a quarter of all cases reported last week.

"It is conceivable that by Halloween, we could see shots going into arms, but it's going to take a number of weeks for that process to work its way through," Dr. James Hildreth, a vaccine adviser to the FDA, told CNN's Don Lemon Monday.

That process is happening as the second highest total of new cases in children was reported last week and cases among that group continue to rise exponentially, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics published Monday.

And as cases spread, hospitalization rates are high. An average of 311 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 every day over the past week, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In Pittsburgh, officials at UPMC Children's Hospital said they are seeing a "historic" number of children coming to the Emergency Department. A tent was set up outside the emergency room Friday to help accommodate more patients, the hospital said in a social media post.

Currently, the youngest Americans eligible for vaccination are 12 year olds, and the vaccination rate of adolescents is still inching toward the halfway mark, according to a CNN analysis of data from the CDC.

Where things stand now: Trials are currently underway for younger children, and Pfizer/BioNTech announced in a news release Monday that a Phase 2 of 3 trial showed their two-dose vaccine was safe and generated a "robust" antibody response in children 5 to 11.

The expansion of vaccine access would be important both for protecting children and for ending the hold the virus has on the US for everyone, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Peter Hotez said.

"Ultimately, if we're serious about halting this epidemic in the United States, we need 85-90% of the US population vaccinated," Hotez said. "That means all of the adults, all of the adolescents and large numbers of young kids."

But there is still a big challenge ahead: getting the doses into kid's arms, CNN medical analyst Dr. Johnathan Reiner said.

8:53 a.m. ET, September 22, 2021

Biden will host a global virtual Covid-19 summit today

The Covid-19 pandemic was a central focus of President Biden's speech yesterday before the United Nations General Assembly.

Biden argued that the global community's response to pressing challenges like the climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic will "reverberate for generations yet to come."

"Indeed, today many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed through the force of arms. Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants. To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will. We need to get shots in arms as fast as possible and expand access to oxygen, tests, treatments to save lives around the world," he told world leaders.

Biden touted the US shipping more than 160 million Covid-19 doses to countries around the world and putting more than $15 billion toward the global pandemic response

"Planes carrying vaccines from the United States have already landed in 100 countries, bringing people all over the world a little dose of hope as one American nurse termed it to me. A dose of hope, direct from the American people, and importantly, no strings attached," the President said.

Biden said that he'd be announcing additional commitments at a US-hosted virtual global Covid-19 summit today as the country "seeks to advance" the fight against Covid-19 and "hold ourselves accountable around specific targets on three key challenges."

Biden listed those challenges as:

  1. Saving lives now
  2. Vaccinating the world
  3. Building back better

CNN's Kate Sullivan, Maegan Vazquez and Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.