Live Updates

May 12 coronavirus news

A vaccine without needles? It's on the way

What you need to know

  • The CDC’s vaccine advisers voted to recommend use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in youths age 12 to 15.
  • At least 19 Indian states are recording a Covid-19 positivity rate of more than 20%, according to the Indian health ministry.
  • The true global pandemic death toll could be as high as 6.9 million — more than double official figures — a new analysis from the University of Washington shows.

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CDC has reports of fewer than 10,000 "breakthrough" Covid-19 infections in vaccinated people

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 9,245 cases of “breakthrough” infections in people vaccinated against coronavirus, an official said Wednesday, but the evolution of new variants may make these vaccine failures more common.

“As of April 26th, among 95 million people who were fully vaccinated in the US, 9,245 breakthrough infections have been reported through national passive surveillance,” the CDC’s Dr. Heather Scobie told a meeting of the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. 

Passive surveillance means the CDC is not actively looking for cases of people who develop infections, so the true case count is likely higher.

What health officials are really worried about are new variants or the virus that reduce vaccine effectiveness. As effectiveness goes down, more breakthrough cases can be expected. Scobie said the CDC will start measuring this.

“Starting soon, a CDC project with Emerging Infections Program sites should allow estimation of the frequency of SARS-CoV-2 variants among vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the US,” she said.

But CDC is planning on vaccine makers having to refresh their vaccine formulations to match the evolving virus, Scobie said. “Periodic update of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is likely to be needed,” she said.

Mixing Covid-19 vaccines tied to more side effects, early UK data suggests

People who got mixed doses of coronavirus vaccines — receiving a different vaccine type as a second dose than the first dose — appear to be more likely to experience mild side effects, such as fever, chills, fatigue or headache, researchers in the UK reported Wednesday.

But the side effects following mix-and-match vaccinations were short-lived and there were no other safety concerns, the researchers reported in the Lancet medical journal.

“These are the type of reactions you do expect with vaccine,” Dr. Matthew Snape, an associate professor of pediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Oxford and chief investigator on the trial, said during a media briefing.

“They are more or less the same types of reactions that you’re seeing with the standard schedules. It’s just that they’re occurring more frequently, and we’re seeing both more frequent both in mild and moderate symptoms — but they resolved quickly,” Snape said.

It’s something to keep an eye out for when giving mixed doses, the researchers said. Mixing vaccine refers to receiving one type as a first dose and another type as a second dose.  

“One of the things it’s telling us is that, for example, you wouldn’t want to immunize a ward full of nurses on the same day with a mixed schedule because you may have higher rates of absenteeism in the next day,” Snape said. 

The new research included 830 adults 50 and older who were randomly assigned to four different vaccine schedules involving the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, with first and second doses given 28 days apart.

They either got the AstraZeneca vaccine as both doses; AstraZeneca as a first dose and Pfizer as a second dose; the Pfizer vaccine as both doses; or the Pfizer vaccine as a first dose and AstraZeneca as a second dose.

The researchers found that people who got different vaccines had more side effects following the second dose, with feverishness reported by 34% of those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine first and Pfizer vaccine second, compared with 10% of those given the AstraZeneca vaccine for both doses. 

Fever was reported by 41% of the people who received the Pfizer vaccine first and AstraZeneca vaccine second, compared with 21% of the volunteers given the Pfizer vaccine for both doses.

“Similar increases were observed for chills, fatigue, headache, joint pain, malaise, and muscle ache,” the researchers wrote. They noted that people could take acetaminophen – sold under brand names such as Tylenol — to ease the side-effects.

There were no hospitalizations due to the symptoms and most of the increased reactions were seen within 48 hours after immunization, the researchers found. They noted that they did not see evidence of a rare blood clotting syndrome that’s been linked with the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in any of the volunteers within a week after the second dose.

The researchers are now testing mixed administration of vaccines made by Moderna and Novavax. More research is also needed to evaluate immune responses following different types of schedules, the researchers noted.

States won't get Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week

A health department employee places boxes of Johnson and Johnson's Covid-19 vaccines in a refrigeration unit shortly after their delivery to Louisville Metro Health and Wellness headquarters on March 4 in Louisville, Kentucky.

White House officials told governors during their weekly call that there won’t be any doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in next week’s federal allocations, according to an official familiar with the matter. 

The move is another sign of the repeated problems that have plagued J&J’s rollout in the US. Officials had once hoped it would be key to quick vaccinations, given it requires only one dose compared to the others that require two. But J&J has faced multiple issues, including limited shipments and a brief pause to evaluate a link to rare blood clots. 

Most problems have stemmed from a production plant in Baltimore that ruined 15 million potential J&J vaccines earlier this year due to poor quality control and contamination of vaccine ingredients. That facility, which is run by Emergent BioSolutions and is still awaiting FDA authorization, has come under increasing scrutiny after a report by the FDA detailed multiple flaws, including that there was “no assurance that other batches have not been subject to cross-contamination.”

Two of Emergent BioSolutions’ executives have now agreed to testify on Capitol Hill next week. 

Rep. Jim Clyburn told CNN Wednesday morning there appeared to be “untoward” events taking place and said the House’s select committee on the coronavirus was looking at the two executives, Fuad El-Hibri and Robert Kramer. 

“They all made millions in stock transactions while they seem to be hiding stuff from the public,” Clyburn said. “So we want to make sure that no laws were broken. Certainly we don’t know that yet.”

Evidence shows Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness is "remarkably consistent," CDC says

A doctor prepares vaccines for a Covid-19 vaccine clinic at a Hindu temple Sanatan Dharma Temple on Saturday, May 8 in Norwalk, CA.

Coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer continue to be more than 90% effective, based on various studies, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said Wednesday. 

A review of the efficacy of mRNA vaccines – those that use messenger RNA to deliver immunity – shows two doses provide strong immunity in a variety of groups, Dr. Katherine Fleming-Dutra of CDC’s respiratory diseases branch told a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

A single dose is less effective, the studies have shown.

“Initial COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness estimates from recently published reports are demonstrating remarkably consistent results across studies with a variety of methods and populations,” Fleming-Dutra said.

Studies are ongoing, she added.

“An important vaccine effectiveness priority is to understand the duration of protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines,” she added. “This will inform the question about the need for a booster.”

Another factor – new variants. So far, none seem to greatly affect the effectiveness of vaccines.

“It is important to take into account changes in the circulating variants over time,” Fleming-Dutra said.

CDC director recommends use of Pfizer Covid vaccine in 12-15-year-olds

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday the agency now recommends the use of Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine in 12-15-year-olds.

“Today, I adopted CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that endorsed the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and its use in 12- through 15-year-old adolescents,” Walensky said in a statement.

ACIP voted 14-0 with one person recusing to recommend CDC endorse the vaccine for use in youths.

“Though most children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, some children can get severely ill and require hospitalization. There have also been rare, tragic cases of children dying from COVID-19 and its effects, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C,” Walensky added.

“This official CDC recommendation follows Monday’s FDA decision to authorize emergency use of this vaccine in 12- through 15-year-old adolescents and is another important step to getting out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and closer to normalcy.”

Maryland lifts all remaining restrictions on businesses

Gym goers workout at LA Fitness in Hyattsville, Maryland, on March 13.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that effective this Saturday, the state will be lifting all restrictions on all outdoor entertainment, sports venues, as well as all indoor entertainment venues, conventions and other businesses.

He said this is a direct result of the state’s pace of vaccinations and “because of the subsequent declines in hospitalizations, positivity rate, transmission rates and case rates.” 

Restrictions will also be lifted on both indoor and outdoor dining.

“So effectively, as of Saturday, every business in Maryland will be able to open at 100 percent with no restrictions,” Hogan said.

Additionally, Hogan announced that Baltimore’s cruise terminal will also be allowed to reopen, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working directly with ports and the cruise industry representatives preparing for their safe return to businesses.

The governor said the only remaining restriction will be the indoor mask requirement, which will be lifted as soon as Maryland reaches the federal goal of 70% of adults receiving at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“President Biden set the goal of trying to get things back to normal by the Fourth of July. Here in Maryland, our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day,” Hogan said. “Once again, the fastest way to get rid of our damn masks, and to put this pandemic behind us once and for all, is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

According to the governor, more than 5.3 million vaccines have been administered in Maryland, with 65.4% of all Marylanders over 18 now vaccinated, and a current positivity rate of 2.74% – the lowest the state has seen since Sept. 29 of last year.

Coronavirus variants remain susceptible to Pfizer vaccine, lab experiments show

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine appears to work against the B.1.526 variant first detected in New York, B.1.429 variant first seen in California and B.1.1.7 variant with a E484K mutation (B.1.1.7+ E484K) first identified in the United Kingdom, researchers have reported.

Based on lab experiments, those variants appeared susceptible to an important immune response that the vaccine elicited, researchers write in a letter that published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. But researchers need to study just how effective the vaccine is against those variants in the real world.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was found to have an estimated effectiveness of 89.5% against any infection with the B.1.1.7 variant, a separate team of researchers wrote earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

That variant has acquired a mutation called E484K. Now, researchers from Pfizer, BioNTech and the University of Texas, write in the new letter that, “as compared with the previously reported neutralization of B.1.1.7-spike, the additional E484K mutation, which is also found in the B.1.351 and B.1.526 lineages, caused little compromise to neutralization.”

The researchers came to that finding after conducting experiments involving 20 serum samples collected from 15 fully vaccinated people. They analyzed how the serum samples neutralized the original coronavirus strain, the B.1.429, B.1.526 and B.1.1.7+E484K variants.

The researchers found that all the serum samples neutralized the original strain, B.1.1.7+E484K and B.1.429 similarly. Neutralization of B.1.429 was “slightly lower.”

The researchers noted that “because these data show that the newly emerged B.1.526, B.1.429, and B.1.1.7+E484K variants remain susceptible to an important vaccine-elicited immune effector (neutralizing antibody), they confirm the importance of mass immunization with current, highly effective, authorized vaccines as a central strategy to end the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Also, new coronavirus variants continuously emerge, the researchers noted, and therefore more research is needed to monitor the constant shift of concerning variants.

CVS will begin administering Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine in 12-15-year-olds on Thursday

CVS pharmacies will begin to administer Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to children ages 12-15 on Thursday, the company said Wednesday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the vaccine in this age group on Wednesday.

The vaccine will be available for children 12-15 starting on Thursday in more than 5,600 locations nationwide, CVS said. Appointment scheduling is available now, and walk-In vaccinations will be possible at locations that have the Pfizer vaccine.

Consent from a parent or guardian will be required to get the vaccine in a CVS pharmacy, and an adult must be present with the child to get the vaccine.

The company said its Return Ready program, which hosts testing and vaccine clinics, will participate in the vaccine’s expanded eligibility. Schools can sign up with the program to sponsor their own vaccination clinics.

Uber and Lyft to provide free rides to vaccination sites, Biden says

President Biden announced new ways to make the Covid-19 vaccine more accessible. The President said rideshare companies Uber and Lyft will provide free rides to vaccination sites from May 24 to July 4.

This is to help meet the administration’s goal of 70% of adults getting at least one coronavirus shot by July 4.

The White House said on Tuesday that it shared information on the location of about 80,000 vaccination sites with the rideshare companies and the two companies plan to promote the free rides in their apps.

Biden said Uber and Lyft will take people to clinics, wait for them, and then take them back at no cost.

“We are now on track to hit 60% of adults with at least one shot by next week, and we still have a lot of work to do to get the adult vaccination rate to 70%, but I believe we will get there,” Biden said on Wednesday.

CDC reports 28 cases of rare blood clotting among 8.7 million people given Johnson & Johnson vaccine

A nurse fills a syrings with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine during a walk-up clinic  in Washington, DC on May 6.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reports of 28 people who have developed a rare blood clotting syndrome after being given the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

Three people have died, with no additional deaths since the last update in April, the CDC’s Dr. Tom Shimabukuro told a meeting of CDC vaccine advisers Wednesday. He said 8.7 million people have been given the Janssen vaccine.

The CDC has said the condition, thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), is plausibly linked to J&J’s Janssen vaccine, but has said the benefits of the vaccine nonetheless outweigh the risk. All cases have been seen in people ages 18 to 59. “Most of the these TTS cases are occurring in the 30-49 year-old age group,” Shimabukuro said.

While most cases were among women, six cases were reported among men, Shimabukuro told the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. He said 19 had a type of brain blood clot called thrombosis of the cerebral venous sinus, or CVST, while others had different types of blood clots.

The CDC has alerted doctors and the patients about the possibility of the complication so it can be recognized and treated promptly and properly.

“There were no cases with a known or documented coagulation disorder,” Shimabukuro said. That indicates it’s difficult to predict who might develop the condition.

“It is important to recognize TTS early and initiate appropriate treatment,” he added. “TTS is a rare, clinically serious and life-threatening condition.”

The CDC and FDA paused administration of the Janssen vaccine from April 13-23. Since then, any new cases of TTS have been evenly split between women and men, the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told ACIP.

Fewer women are now being given the Janssen vaccine, she said – especially women ages 18 to 49. 

“We have updated the risk-benefit analysis with the updated incidence of TTS,” she said. “The benefits still outweigh the risk and … no updates to vaccine policy are needed.”

CDC advisers vote to recommend giving Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds

Family members look on as Jack Frilingos, 12, is inoculated with Pfizer's vaccine against Covid-19 after Georgia authorized the vaccine for ages 12 and up, at Dekalb Pediatric Center in Decatur, Georgia on on May 11.

Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Wednesday to recommend use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in youths age 12 to 15.

The US Food and Drug Administration extended its emergency use authorization of the vaccine to the younger age group Monday. It’s up to the CDC to recommend the use of the vaccine in the new age group.

“The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is recommended for persons 12-15 years of age in the US population under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization,” the committee decided.

They voted 14-0 to recommend use of the vaccine, with one recusal.

“This is one more step to gaining immunity and bringing the pandemic closer to an end,” said Dr. José Romero, who chairs ACIP and is also Arkansas’ health secretary.

“We still need to vaccinate the rest of the world, but we have made significant steps and are on the road,” he said.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to quickly sign off on the recommendation.

Masks are no longer required indoors in Denver if people can show proof of vaccination 

A hand sanitizer and reminders of coronavirus guidelines are placed on each table of Barolo Grill in Denver, Colorado on February 3.

Masks are no longer required indoors in the City and County of Denver, Colorado, in some situations, according to the revised Public Health Order on mask-wearing. 

According to the order, if 80% of people in an office or 85% of a restaurant’s workers can show proof of vaccination, they do not need to wear masks. Gatherings with nine or fewer people also do not have to wear masks.

The order says managers of stores, restaurants and other businesses can ask to see vaccination cards of customers and employees, but no one is required to show proof of vaccination. 

Masks are still required for children indoors and at “grocery stores, large retail stores, childcare centers, schools, hospitals, indoor camps, nursing homes, jails, larger government facilities, and on airplanes, buses, and trains,” the order says.

Increased transmissibility of B.1.617 variant may be impacting Covid-19 spread in India, epidemiologist says

Some evidence suggests the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 may be more transmissible, which may be contributing to the surge in cases in India, a World Health Organization scientist said in a public Q&A on Wednesday.

“We have some evidence of increased transmissibility,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead with WHO. “There are studies that are looking at transmissibility. They’re looking at severity and they’re looking at the impact of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.”

On Tuesday WHO published its weekly epidemiological report, which said the variant is increasingly prevalent in multiple countries. According to WHO data, the B.1.617 variant is most prevalent in India, which also has the most new Covid-19 vases and Covid-19 deaths.

Van Kerkhove said that multiple factors, like increased socializing and relaxing public health measures, are contributing to the spike. “The other factors are these variants that were pointed out,” she said.

“Some of these virus variants of concern have mutations, for example, that allow the virus to enter the cell more easily, so they can infect you more easily. It doesn’t mean that the modes of transmission or the way that it spreads is different, it just, it’s easier to actually infect someone else.”

Van Kerkhove said in a situation of rapid spread like what is seen in India, it is important for individuals to maintain prevention practice, even in the face of variant spread.

15 US states have fully vaccinated at least half of adult residents, CDC data shows

A medical worker administer the Jansen Covid-19 vaccine to the public at a FEMA run mobile Covid-19 Vaccination clinic at Biddeford High School in Bidderford, Maine, on April 26.

About 45% of adults in the United States are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But in 15 states, more than half of adult residents are fully vaccinated. Those states are: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Mexico, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa.

In Mississippi, however, less than a third of adults are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. Another nine states – largely concentrated in the South – have fully vaccinated less than 40% of their adult residents: Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Wyoming, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

Nationally, nearly 59% of adults have received at least at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, CDC data shows. But six states have already reached the Biden administration’s goal to vaccinated at least 70% of adults with at least one shot by July 4: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine.

Overall, 264,680,844 total doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered – about 79% of the 337,089,765 doses delivered, according to CDC data.

That’s about 1.5 million more doses reported administered since Tuesday, for a seven-day average of about 2.2 million doses per day.

Note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.

It's OK to give Covid-19 vaccine alongside other vaccines, CDC advises

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe with a vial of the J&J/Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12 in New York City.

It’s now OK to give the coronavirus vaccine alongside other vaccinations – a consideration important for children and teenagers – a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expert said Wednesday.

Doctors and other clinicians had been advised to avoid giving coronavirus vaccine within two weeks of any other vaccine. But Dr. Kate Woodworth of the CDC’s birth defects division said that advice has now changed.

“Due to the novelty of the Covid-19 vaccines, the previous recommendation was to administer Covid-19 vaccines alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccine, to better understand any adverse events,” Woodworth told a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. ACIP is meeting to discuss recommending the use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in 12-15-year-olds.

“However, substantial data have now been collected regarding the safety of Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized by FDA for use under EUA,” she added.

“Extensive experience with non-Covid-19 vaccines has demonstrated that immunogenicity and adverse event profiles are generally similar when vaccines are administered simultaneously as when they are administered alone,” she added.

“For these reasons, the clinical considerations regarding coadministration are being updated to state that Covid-19 and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of Covid-19 with other vaccines on the same day, as well as coadministration within 14 days.”

Woodworth noted that the number of childhood vaccinations has fallen off and many US kids need to catch up on their routine vaccines, including vaccinations against influenza, tetanus, meningitis and human papillomavirus (HPV).

The American Academy of Pediatrics also said Wednesday it supports giving routine childhood vaccines together with coronavirus vaccines.

Slovakia to offer Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in June

Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrives at Kosice Airport, Slovakia, on March 1.

Slovakia will be the second EU country, after Hungary, to offer Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said on Wednesday. 

“I expect we will also include it (Sputnik V) in the vaccination programme at the beginning of June,” he said. “At the moment, we’re sorting out the logistics of the [vaccination] scheme as it [Sputnik] is a different method than the vaccines we’ve been using so far and also sorting out the network of vaccination centres. This will be clear in one, two weeks,” he added.

In March, the European Medicines Agency started its rolling review of the Sputnik V vaccine but has yet to recommend its emergency use across the European Union. 

Hungary introduced it in January when the EU was struggling with vaccine supply. The EU has authorized four vaccines for Covid-19: Comirnaty, Moderna, Vaxzevria (previously Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca), and J&J’s Janssen.

The Americas reported more than 1.2 million new Covid cases last week

The Americas reported more than 1.2 million new Covid-19 cases and almost 34,000 related deaths last week.

With nearly 40% of all global deaths attributed to the region, it’s a clear sign that “transmission is far from being controlled,” the Pan American Health Organization’s director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said Wednesday.

Assessing the pandemic evolution across the region, Etienne warned that even as countries like the US and Brazil have reported a reduction in cases, Canada is seeing higher rates of infections than the US and Cuba continues to drive most new infections in the Caribbean.

In South America, Covid-19 cases are increasing in areas of Guyana and Bolivia that border with Brazil while Colombia is expected to see steep rises following days of protests in the country, Etienne said. 

The region’s health systems continue to struggle across the region, Etienne told reporters. “Nearly 80% of our intensive care units are filled with Covid patients and numbers are even more dire in some places,” she said.

In Chile and Peru, 95% of intensive care unit beds are occupied, the majority, by Covid patients, Etienne said. In Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, where 96% of ICU beds are being used, authorities have tightened restrictions to avoid the collapse of hospitals, the PAHO director added.

Brazil has reported waiting lists for ICU beds, according to Etienne.

India’s B.1.617 Covid variant has been detected in six countries in the region with specific cases mainly among travelers, Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO’s incident manager, told journalists during PAHO’s weekly briefing.

More than 114 million people have been fully vaccinated in the Americas, PAHO officials said.

Pharmacies and pediatricians can help vaccinate teens and children against Covid-19, CDC says

Pharmacies, pediatricians and health clinics can help vaccinate children and teens against coronavirus, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official told the agency’s vaccine advisers Wednesday.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is considering whether to recommend that teens and children age 12-15 be given the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. The US Food and Drug Administration extended its emergency use authorization for the vaccine to the younger age group on Monday.

One consideration is whether it’s feasible to give the vaccine to that age group. The CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver said a subcommittee of ACIP, called the working group, found a wide range of sites would be available.

“Increasing access to primary care providers serving adolescents has the benefits of utilizing trusted providers for providing information and education about Covid vaccines, as well as vaccinating against Covid,” Oliver told ACIP. 

Sites provided by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency that provides health services to uninsured and otherwise vulnerable groups and that is helping vaccination efforts, are another resource for kids, Oliver said. 

“Pharmacies and HRSA sites have a wide footprint across the nation, and can rapidly expand to provide Covid vaccines for adolescent school-based vaccinations, have the benefit of reaching adolescents in their own communities, as well as being trusted sources of information for communities,” Oliver said.

Federally qualified health centers are another potential place to vaccinate children and teens, she said.

While there is no federal law requiring parental or caregiver consent for vaccinating minors, states and territories do have laws that must be followed, Oliver said.

More teens hospitalized for Covid-19 than for flu, CDC says

More adolescents have been hospitalized for severe coronavirus disease than are usually hospitalized for influenza, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

It’s a clear sign that Covid-19 can be dangerous to children and teens, and an argument for vaccinating children as young as 12, the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told a meeting of CDC’s outside vaccine advisers. 

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is holding a public meeting to discuss whether to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in youths as young as 12. The US Food and Drug Administration extended its emergency use authorization for the vaccine in 12-15-year-olds Monday.

“Adolescents 12 to 17 years of age are at risk of severe illness from Covid-19,” Oliver told the meeting. “There have been over 1.5 million reported cases and over 13,000 hospitalizations to date among adolescents 12 to 17 years.”

A comparison of hospitalization rates from past annual influenza epidemics shows more children and teens have been hospitalized because of Covid than for flu, Oliver said.

“Overall the hospitalization rate for Covid in this population is higher than the influenza-associated hospitalization rate for the same age group during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic,” she said. The Covid hospitalization rate for 12-17-year-olds has also been significantly higher for Covid than it was for flu in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, she said.

The committee is scheduled to vote at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Biden administration has distributed $2.7 billion of relief funds to 21,000 restaurants across nation

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Michael Regan looks on during the daily press briefing at the White House on May 12 in Washington, DC.

The Biden administration has distributed $2.7 billion of relief funds to 21,000 restaurants across the country as part of the recently-launched Restaurant Revitalization Fund, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. 

As of Wednesday, the US Small Business Administration had received more than 147,000 applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners requesting a total of $29 billion in funds, Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing. 

She said businesses that qualify for grants should expect to receive the funds within two weeks. 

The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund was established as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill the President signed into law earlier this year.

The fund will provide restaurants with up to $10 million per business in funding to match their pandemic-related revenue losses, with no more than $5 million per physical location, according to the SBA. The minimum award is $1,000.

The SBA will prioritize funding applications from small businesses owned and run by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals for the first 21 days of the program, according to the White House. After those initial 21 days, the applications will work on a first-come, first-served basis.

Italian prime minister supports US call for suspension of Covid-19 vaccine patents

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi speaks during a session at the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome on May 12.

Italian Prime minister Mario Draghi supports a “temporary, limited and well-defined suspension” of Covid-19 vaccine patents, and supports the position of the United States on the matter, he said on Wednesday.

Speaking to the Lower Chamber of the Italian Parliament, Draghi said that the position of the US “must be shared” and that “a temporary, limited, well-defined suspension – the experts in the sector tell me – should not constitute a disincentive”. 

However, he added “there is obviously a risk that must be avoided, namely that the suspension of patents represents a disincentive to the research and production of other vaccines.

He elaborated further, saying “there is a substantial imbalance between the position of some large pharmaceutical companies, which have received massive government subsidies, and that of the poorest countries in the world, which either do not have access or have no money to buy vaccines.”

Draghi also urged the United States and the United Kingdom to first “remove the substantial block on exports.”

On May 5, US President Biden said the US would support the easing of patent rules on Covid-19 vaccines, potentially expanding global supplies, as a devastating wave envelops India and calls grow louder for rich countries to narrow the gap with the developing world.

The World Health Organization has also called for patents on Covid-19 vaccines to be temporarily lifted until the global health crisis is under control.

However, Germany is resisting momentum to lift patent protection for coronavirus vaccines, saying Thursday that a US decision to support such waivers “has significant implications for vaccine production.”

Kids are making up larger proportion of Covid-19 cases now, CDC says

Children and teens are starting to make up a larger proportion of coronavirus cases now than earlier in the epidemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is holding a public meeting to discuss whether to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in youth as young as 12. The US Food and Drug Administration extended its emergency use authorization for the vaccine in 12-15-year-olds Monday.

The CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver said children and teens are starting to account for a larger share of new coronavirus infections. “In April, 9% of cases were aged 12-17 years, which actually represents a larger proportion of cases than adults 65 and older,” she told the ACIP meeting.

“However, we note that diagnosed and reported cases are an underestimate,” she added. Adjusted estimates, she said, showed 22 million children ages 5-17 had been infected with coronavirus, accounting for 19% of all infections. The CDC has said the official count of diagnosed coronavirus cases underestimates the true count.

Early in the pandemic, older adults accounted for more cases, Oliver said. Now, as more adults are vaccinated, children and teens are making up a larger share of infections.

The committee is scheduled to vote at 2:45 p.m. ET.

New York has administered 17 million vaccine shots statewide, governor says

People stand in line to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12 in New York City.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday the state had a positivity rate of 1.1%, calling it “great news”

“Yes, we are doing great, no we have not fully conquered the Covid beast,” Cuomo said.

He said that the state recorded 26 new deaths from Covid-19.

The state has administered 17 million vaccine shots statewide, with 50% of New Yorkers being fully vaccinated, according to the governor.

The governor announced from Friday to Wednesday the state will be offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) hubs. Each person who receives a shot will get a seven-day NFTA Metro pass ticket. 

“We have to get on with life, we have to reopen but we have to do it smart,” Cuomo said.

On Memorial Day, beaches and pools statewide will be open with 6-foot social distancing, the goal is to have 100% capacity at beaches and pools by the Fourth of July, the governor said.

Note: These numbers were released by the city’s public health agency and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

California will effectively end mask mandate when state fully reopens next month, governor says

California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a news conference on May 11 in Los Angeles.

California will effectively end its mask mandate next month when it fully reopens its economy after more than a year of Covid-19 restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

In an on-camera interview with KTTV Los Angeles reporter Elex Michaelson posted on Twitter, the governor was asked, “Are we looking at masks after June 15?”

“No. Only in those settings that are indoor – only in those massively large settings where people around the world, not just around the country, are convening, and when people are mixing in real dense spaces,” Newsom replied. “Otherwise, we’ll make guidance recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions on businesses large and small.” 

California currently requires the use of masks in indoor settings outside of one’s home, including on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status. However, fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks outdoors, except when attending crowded events.

Last month, state health officials announced the June 15 target date to fully reopen the state amid falling Covid-19 infection rates and low hospitalizations, shelving its color-coded tier system that dictates reopening by county based on infection rates.

California’s mask mandate, however, would remain in place at least “in the short run,” Newsom said at the time. 

Spokespersons for the governor’s office and California Department of Public Health did not respond to CNN requests for comment Wednesday.

US Secret Service recovers $2 billion in fraudulently obtained Covid-19 relief funds

Federal officials from the US Secret Service have helped recover around $2 billion in fraudulently obtained Covid-19 relief funds, and seized more than $640 million from accused fraudsters, the agency said Wednesday. 

One year into the pandemic, the Secret Service has opened 690 cases regarding unemployment insurance fraud, on top of another 720 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program fraud investigations and inquiries.

“The amount of unemployment insurance benefits provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in the history of the nation’s unemployment insurance system,” said Larry Turner, the acting inspector general for the Labor Department. “Unfortunately, the significant increase in benefits made the program a target for those seeking to defraud government programs.”

In a recent hearing in front of House lawmakers, Secret Service Director James Murray said the agency’s approach to recovering stolen funds has evolved over the last year from stopping scams to building robust prosecutions. Murray also noted the size of the Covid-relief packages from Congress is extraordinary and the work to root out fraud will continue long after the virus slows.

“We’ve probably made more than 120 arrests specific only to Covid fraud,” Murray said. “This is not something that is going to go away. The size of these packages are so notable and the opportunities that exist are going to be persistent, we’re going to be addressing Covid fraud for many years to come.”

In March, the Justice Department announced federal investigators identified more than $500 million in fraud and charged 474 people with crimes related to stealing from Covid-relief designated funding.

Among the top targets by prosecutors were fraudsters trying to steal from the Paycheck Protection Program, with people running schemes ranging from exaggerating their business expenses to concocting fake companies to get funding. In one Texas case, a man pleaded guilty to seeking $24.8 million in PPP Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans using the names of 11 different companies to make loan applications to 11 lenders. 

He managed to obtain $17.3 million in forgivable loans and used the money to buy homes, jewelry and luxury cars.

NOW: CDC committee is meeting on recommending Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

Syringes containing a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a clinic at CIELO on April 10 in Los Angeles.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has begun meeting to decide the question of whether it should recommend the use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds. It’s expected to vote to recommend, and the CDC is expected to accept the recommendation.

A vote is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. ET after public comments.

After that, the committee will hear the latest on a rare blood clotting condition linked with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

You can see the full agenda of their meeting here.

CDC ensemble forecasts predict decrease in Covid-19 cases and deaths over next 4 weeks

Ensemble forecasts published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project that the number of newly reported Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths will decrease over the next four weeks.

The forecast predicts a total of 591,000 to 602,000 deaths reported by June 5.

The previous ensemble forecast, published May 5, projected up to 600,000 deaths would be reported by May 29.

White House Covid-19 adviser tells Americans unsure about vaccination to "look at India"

A health worker walks through a Covid-19 ward at the SRN hospital in Allahabad, India, on May 3.

Following concerns regarding vaccine hesitancy in the US, White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt told people who may be uncertain about getting vaccinated to talk to their doctors and people they know who are vaccinated. He also told them to compare the downward trends in the virus here to what’s happening in India, where there is less vaccine availability and a massive, ongoing public health crisis. 

“We know that some people make very quick decisions about whether to get a vaccine or not and some people want a little more time to consider whether they should or not. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. If you have a question you want answered, ask your doctor. If you want to talk to one of the 150 million people who have been vaccinated and see the experience, do that,” he said during an appearance on MSNBC. 

“Look at the data, look at India, and see the results of what happens when you can’t get vaccinated. So we’re going to just continue to make it easier and easier for people to one, get the questions answered, and two, take away every inconvenience that would possibly get in the way,” he continued.

He touted progress in vaccinations, which he said has happened more quickly than expected, and pointed to new resources announced Tuesday, including Lyft and Uber rides to vaccination sites.

Slavitt declined to project a total percentage of Americans that the administration believes can and will be vaccinated.

He did not otherwise preview the President’s 3:30 p.m. ET remarks, when Biden is set to provide an update on Covid-19 response and vaccinations.

Switzerland aims to open indoor restaurants from May 31

People sit outside at a restaurant in Lausanne, Switzerland, on May 3.

Switzerland hopes to allow restaurants to open their indoor spaces as of May 31, a Swiss government news release says. This can happen if infection numbers allow for it, the statement says.

The Swiss government says the epidemiological situation is getting better, regarding Covid-19 numbers, hospitalization as well as stress on intensive care units.

As of May 31, indoor events can hold 100 instead of 50 people, and outside the numbers can go from 100 now to 300 people.