COVID Update: CDC Meets on Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for Kids and Mandates Imminent


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee meets today to discuss authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children aged 5 to 11 years. For that and more COVID-19 news, read on.

CDC: Immunity Lasts at Least 6 Months from Both Vaccines and Natural Infection

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report that reviewed dozens of studies and its own unpublished data on COVID-19. The study concluded that immunity caused by natural COVID-19 infection and vaccines both lasted at least six months, but the immunity provided by the vaccines was more consistent. The vaccines also provided a significant improvement in antibodies for people who had previously been infected.

Because COVID-19 infections range from asymptomatic to severe, the CDC found antibody levels varied in natural conditions. And they also pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized any test that reliably measures an individual’s protection from disease. Higher neutralizing antibody levels are generally believed to indicate higher protection, but no one knows what levels actually offer protection.

CDC Expected to Sign Off on Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for 5- to 11-Year-Olds

The CDC is meeting today, November 2, and November 3, to discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The FDA authorized the shots at one-third the dose given to adults last week for this age group. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to authorize the vaccine in this age group.

In preparation, the Biden administration has said they are already assembling and shipping millions of the shots for kids ages 5–11. Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, said, “We are not waiting on the operations and logistics.”

Zients indicated the government already had enough of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to dose all 28 million children in the U.S. who fall into that age group.

How Common is COVID-19 Vaccine-Related Myocarditis?

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle. An unpublished study by Sweden’s Public Health Agency recently found a slightly increased risk of myocarditis in young men and boys. Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway halted vaccinations in this age group due to this research. 

Sweden’s Public Health Agency indicated the data signaled “an increased risk of side effects such as inflammation of the heart muscle or the pericardium. … The risk of being affected is very small.”

The FDA told Moderna on October 29 that it needed more time to evaluate its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) request for its COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 17. The agency needs more time to look at recent international data on the risk of myocarditis as a serious side effect of the vaccine. Some cases of myocarditis have been observed with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. However, viral infections, including COVID-19, can cause myocarditis. Incidents of myocarditis associated with COVID-19 vaccines are rare and generally mild.

In August, an Israeli study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was associated with a threefold higher risk of myocarditis. However, an even higher risk of myocarditis was linked to COVID-19 infection. In that study, myocarditis was connected to five events per 100,000 people.

The study authors wrote, “We estimated that the BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) vaccine resulted in an increased incidence of a few adverse events over a 42-day follow-up period. Although most of these events were mild, some of them, such as myocarditis, could be potentially serious. However, our results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 infection is itself a very strong risk factor for myocarditis, and it also substantially increases the risk of multiple other serious adverse events.”

Biden Admin Moves Ahead with Vaccine Mandates

Although controversial, at least with some parts of the population, the Biden administration continues its vaccine mandate for private-sector companies with 100 or more workers. The details are expected to be released later this week. On November 1, the federal government released guidance on the mandate for federal contractors.

Part of the mandates mentioned so far includes allowing administrative leave to receive a booster shot.

“The administrative leave will cover the time it takes to travel to the vaccination site, receive the vaccination dose and return to work,” the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force stated. “Because there is currently no requirement for federal employees to receive a vaccine booster shot or additional dose, granting duty time is not allowable in these instances.”

A Labor Department spokesman said on Monday, November 1, “Covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose either to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.” The rule “also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects.”

Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Authorized in Indonesia

Novavax and the Serum Institute of India announced that Covavax, the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, received its first emergency use authorization in Indonesia. One of the apparent advantages of Covavax over, for example, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, is that it can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, which utilizes existing vaccine supply channels and traditional cold chain capabilities. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require much colder storage and transportation temperatures, which has been part of the problem with distribution in some of the low- and middle-income countries.

“The first authorization of Novavax’ COVID-19 vaccine exemplifies our commitment to equitable global access and will fill a vital need for Indonesia, which despite being the fourth most populous nation on earth, continues to work to procure sufficient vaccine for its population,” said Stanley C. Erck, president and chief executive officer of Novavax. “This also marks the first regulatory authorization worldwide of a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine based on Phase III clinical data demonstrating efficacy and a favorable safety profile. This is a landmark moment for Novavax and our partner, Serum Institute of India, and it is the first of many authorizations that Novavax expects in the coming weeks and months for our vaccine globally.”

Covavax is a recombinant nanoparticle protein-based vaccine with Matrix-M adjuvant.

EmitBio Receives Patent for COVID-19 Light Treatment

Durham, N.C.-based EmitBio announced it had received a U.S. patent covering its novel treatment of COVID-19 and the underlying technology. They also published a technical paper in Scientific Reports that details how safe, visible light can inhibit coronavirus replication in human tissue without causing damage to the tissue.

Dr. David Emerson, chief executive officer of EmitBio, noted, “Our proprietary biotechnology platform enables a series of safe, personalized treatments for major disease areas such as respiratory infections and airway inflammation.”

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