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Advisers to the U.S. government are recommending that COVID-19 booster shots used this fall be modified to better match more recent variants of the coronavirus. A final decision from the Food and Drug Administration is expected within days, and it will have to set the exact recipe for the change. Pfizer and Moderna tested shots updated against the omicron mutant that surged last winter. But those shots are already somewhat outdated, with relatives of omicron now the main threat. Advisers said they have no crystal ball for what might spread this fall.
FILE - A health worker administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Keystone First Wellness Center in Chester, Pa., on Dec. 15, 2021. Government advisers are debating Tuesday, June 28, 2022, if Americans should get a modified COVID-19 booster shot this fall — one that better matches more recent virus variants. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Will he go or not? Chinese President Xi Jinping is keeping Hong Kong guessing about his possible appearance at the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China. The government has yet to say whether he will attend in person the events, which include the inauguration of the city's new chief executive. The commemorations are hugely symbolic for Xi, who wants to be seen as propelling a “national rejuvenation” as he prepares for an expected third five-year term as head of the ruling Communist Party. Part of that is erasing the legacy of colonialism. Xi hasn’t left mainland China since the start of the coronavirus pandemic 2 1/2 years ago.
Pfizer says tweaking its COVID-19 vaccine to better target the omicron variant is safe and boosts protection. Saturday's announcement comes just days before regulators debate whether to offer Americans updated booster shots this fall. The current COVID-19 vaccines still offer strong protection against hospitalization and death. But protection against infection has dropped markedly with the omicron variant, and now its even more transmissible relatives are spreading. Pfizer says either an omicron-targeted booster or a combination shot that mixes the original vaccine with omicron protection substantially increases protection. Rival Moderna hopes to offer a similar combination shot.
FILE - A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic at the Keystone First Wellness Center in Chester, Pa., Dec. 15, 2021. Pfizer says tweaking its COVID-19 vaccine to better target the omicron variant is safe and boosts protection. Saturday, June 25, 2022 announcement comes just days before regulators debate whether to offer Americans updated booster shots this fall. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this March 2021 photo provided by Pfizer, vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared for packaging at the company's facility in Puurs, Belgium. According to a study published Thursday. June 23, 2022 in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, but even more deaths could have been prevented if global targets had been reached. (Pfizer via AP)
Scientists estimate that nearly 20 million lives were saved worldwide by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year. In a study published Thursday, they say even more deaths could have been prevented if global targets for vaccines had been reached. Scientists at Imperial College London used data from 185 countries to estimate how many deaths were prevented by the vaccination effort. They excluded China because of uncertainty around the pandemic’s effect on deaths there and its huge population. There are a lot of limitations in modeling studies, but independent experts agree that vaccines saved millions of lives.
As the World Health Organization convenes its emergency committee to consider if the spiraling outbreak of monkeypox warrants being declared a global emergency, some experts say WHO’s decision to act only after the disease spilled into the West could entrench the inequities that arose between rich and poor countries during the coronavirus pandemic. Many scientists also doubt any declaration would help to curb the epidemic, since the developed countries recording the most recent cases are already moving to shut it down. Monkeypox has sickened people for decades in central and west Africa. To date, no deaths have been seen outside Africa. The WHO said Thursday it did not expect to announce any decisions by its emergency committee before Friday.
After two years of pandemic restrictions, travel demand is back, but airlines and airports that slashed jobs during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up. With the busy summer tourism season underway in Europe, passengers are encountering chaotic scenes at airports, including lengthy delays, canceled flights and headaches over lost luggage. The head of Europe’s biggest airline warned the turmoil would last all summer. Data from aviation consultancy Cirium says that nearly 2,000 flights from major continental European airports were canceled during one week this month. It’s a similar story in the United States, where airlines canceled thousands of flights over two days last week because of bad weather just as crowds of summer tourists grow.
The nation’s youngest children are getting their chance at vaccines for COVID-19. Shots began Monday at a few locations, though they were expected to ramp up after the Juneteenth federal holiday. The Food and Drug Administration cleared vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer last week and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final signoff over the weekend. Roughly 18 million youngsters under 5 are eligible. For the little kids, Pfizer’s vaccine is three shots and Moderna’s is two shots. Getting some parents on board may be a challenge given disappointing vaccination rates in school-age kids.