WHO advisers weigh in on COVID-19 reminders and Pfizer vaccine in young children

Vaccine advisers from the World Health Organization (WHO) today updated their COVID-19 vaccine prioritization guidelines, which support booster shots in high priority groups and refined their recommendations for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which he now recommends at a reduced dose for 5-year-olds. at the age of 11.

In further developments, health officials in Europe provided insight into the latest impacts of the Omicron variant, with the UK naming the BA.2 sub-variant as a variant under study.

Most vulnerable priority

WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) met on January 19 to assess the latest vaccine developments and update their recommendations, including those related to the use of Pfizer vaccine emergency. Today, during a briefing, they announced the third revisions to their COVID-19 vaccine prioritization roadmap, which was first published in October 2020.

They said the main objective remained to fully protect the most vulnerable groups, adding that booster doses should be offered to high priority groups such as the elderly and healthcare workers 4 to 6 months after completing the series of primary vaccines. The WHO recommended interval is consistent with shorter intervals adopted by some countries.

SAGE also stressed that countries with high vaccination coverage in their high-risk populations should prioritize global vaccine sharing over vaccinating healthy children and adolescents, who are at the lowest risk of disease. serious.

Regarding their updated evaluation of the Pfizer vaccine, they recommended extending the use of the lower dose version of 10 micrograms to children aged 5 to 11 years.

Omicron tracking, BA.2 subvariant tracking

In an epidemiological update on the Omicron variant and its impacts today, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said it accounts for 69.4% of samples sequenced in 23 countries that have sequencing adequate, 20% more than the previous week.

Although present in all countries in the region, Omicron is not yet dominant in some, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Of the cases with known clinical status, 76% were symptomatic. And of the cases with known outcomes, 1.14% were hospitalized, 0.16% required intensive care unit (ICU) treatment and 0.06% died.

In further developments from Omicron, the UK Health Safety Agency (HSA) said today that it has designated the BA.2 sub-variant as a variant under investigation. He said numbers of BA.2s in the UK are low, but he made the designation due to the increase in numbers both domestically and internationally.

Britain’s first BA.2 case was detected on December 6 and sequencing has so far identified 426 cases, with the highest numbers in London and the South East.

Early analyzes suggest a higher growth rate than the original Omicron variant, but the results are uncertain and further analysis is needed. The HSA also notes that the variant lacks the genetic deletion on the spike protein that produces S gene target failure on some PCR assays, which has been a proxy for identifying Omicron cases.

Officials said the origin of BA.2 was unclear, but the first samples were submitted from the Philippines, with most samples uploaded to sequence-sharing databases in Denmark. Other countries that have uploaded over 100 samples include India, Sweden, and Singapore.

More global headlines

  • Some European countries continue to report daily records, including Germany, where the health minister predicts daily cases could reach 400,000 by mid-February, and Poland, where the government has stepped up testing offered free in pharmacies.
  • Cases in Africa have dropped significantly and deaths in the region are starting to drop, officials from the WHO’s African regional office said yesterday. They noted that if trends continue, the rise in deaths could be the shortest of any wave of COVID-19 in Africa. Despite increased vaccine supplies, immunization levels are still low, averaging 10% with two doses.
  • Pakistan today reported a daily record, with a rise in hospitalizations and Karachi as the country’s main hotspot, according to Reuters.
  • The Austrian parliament yesterday passed a bill on compulsory vaccination. If it passes the upper house and is signed into law, as expected, it will mark the European Union’s first vaccine mandate.
  • The global total topped 340 million today, rising to 344,904,162 cases and 5,581,538 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins’ online dashboard.

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