• UNICEF releases Preventing a Lost Decade: Urgent Action to Reverse the Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on Children and Young People, which describes the pandemic as the worst crisis for children since UNICEF was established 75 years ago. It has caused a 10 percent increase in child poverty, corresponding to 100 million more children; recovery will take at least seven to eight years. The report calls for investing in social protection, human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery; ending the pandemic and reversing the alarming rollback in child health and nutrition; building back stronger by ensuring quality education, protection and good mental health for every child, and building resilience to better prevent, respond to, and protect children from crises. Source
• Pfizer and BioNTech issue a press release announcing results from an initial laboratory study looking at effectiveness of two or three doses of its coronavirus vaccine. Researchers found a 25-fold reduction of neutralization titers against Omicron in people who had two doses of the vaccine – which may not be sufficient for protection. A third dose of the vaccine induced antibodies that neutralized Omicron variant.
“Our preliminary, first dataset indicate that a third dose could still offer a sufficient level of protection from disease of any severity caused by the Omicron variant,” said Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech. Source
• The US FDA issues a press release to announce that it has issued an emergency use authorization for AstraZeneca’s monoclonal antibody combination of tixagevimab and cilgavimab (called Evusheld) for pre-exposure prophylaxis of COVID-19 in people ages 12 years and over with moderate to severely compromised immune system who might not mount an adequate immune response to coronavirus vaccines, or who have a history of severe adverse reactions to a coronavirus vaccine or its ingredients.
A single dose of Evusheld, which is given as two separate injections right after one another, can help to prevent COVID-19 for up to six months, although it is not a substitute for vaccination, nor is it effective as post-exposure prophylaxis or for treating COVID-19. Source
• The New York Times reports that South African doctors are seeing an increase of COVID-19 among young children – who are not yet eligible for vaccination – admitted to the hospital for other reasons. “What is scary now is the proportion of patients who are positive among those who are admitted is very high,” said Dr. Sithembiso Velaphi, who works at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, who noted that the number of overall admissions has not increased. Source
• In Australia, Queensland’s acting chief health officer, Peter Aitken, announces that health authorities have discovered a new version of the Omicron variant in a traveler who returned from South Africa. Although the new version is still classified as Omicron, it only has half of the mutations of the original Omicron and, unlike the original, it cannot be detected through PCR testing. “We now have Omicron and Omicron-like,” said Mr. Aitken. Source
• In Japan, deaths from COVID-19 have dropped to six a week, which is remarkable for a G7 country – especially since it has the world’s largest proportion of adults over age 65. Source