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Covid News Live Updates: Vaccine Mandates, Variants and More

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ImageInoculations among older children have lagged: Only about 42 percent of children ages 12 to 15 have been fully vaccinated in the United States, compared with 66 percent of adults.
Credit…Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Tuesday that they had submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration that the companies said showed that their coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11.

The companies said that they would submit a formal request to regulators to allow a pediatric dose of their vaccine to be administered in the United States in the coming weeks. Similar requests will be filed with European regulators and in other countries.

The announcement, coming as U.S. schools have resumed amid a ferocious Delta wave, brings many parents another step closer to the likelihood of a Covid vaccine for their children.

Just over a week ago, Pfizer and BioNTech announced favorable results from their clinical trial with more than 2,200 participants in that age group. The F.D.A. has said that it will analyze the data as soon as possible.

The companies said last week that their vaccine had been shown to be safe and effective in low doses in children ages 5 to 11, offering hope to parents in the United States who are worried that a return to in-person schooling has put children at risk of infection.

About 28 million children ages 5 to 11 would be eligible for the vaccine in the United States, far more than the 17 million of ages 12 to 15 who became eligible for the vaccine in May.

But it is not clear how many in the younger cohort will be vaccinated. Inoculations among older children have lagged: Only about 42 percent of children ages 12 to 15 have been fully vaccinated in the United States, compared with 66 percent of adults, according to federal data.

Although many remain eager to inoculate their children, opinion polls suggest that some parents have reservations. A survey published last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 26 percent of parents of children ages 5 to 11 would vaccinate their children “right away” once doses were authorized for their age group, 40 percent said they would “wait and see” how the vaccine worked before doing so and 25 percent said they would not have their child vaccinated at all.

Studies have shown that unvaccinated children who contract the coronavirus tend not to get seriously ill, leading some parents to wonder whether the potential risks of a new vaccine outweigh the benefits.

And some parents who are themselves vaccinated have expressed concerns about the relatively small size of children’s trials and about a lack of data on the long-term safety of the shots.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

New York State’s pioneering effort to force health care workers to receive coronavirus vaccines appears to have pressured thousands of holdouts to receive last-minute shots, though hospitals and nursing homes continue to brace for potential staffing shortages should the mandate fall short, according to state and industry officials.

As the vaccination mandate went into full effect just after midnight on Monday, 92 percent of the state’s 600,000 hospital and nursing home workers had received at least one vaccine dose, state officials said.

The significant increase in the days before the deadline — just 84 percent of the state’s nursing home workers, for example, had received a vaccine dose as of five days ago — propelled New York’s health care workers into the highest tiers of vaccination rates among those workers nationally, and served as a positive sign that President Biden’s planned federal vaccination mandate for most health care workers might also buoy rates nationwide.

At the same time, at least eight lawsuits and several angry protests against mandates in New York served as a reminder that thousands of health care workers would likely resign or choose to be fired rather than get vaccinated.

Many hospitals and nursing homes were facing staffing shortages before the mandate took effect, for reasons including pandemic-related burnout and the high pay being offered to traveling nurses, meaning even minor staff losses because of vaccine resistance could put some patients at risk.

As a result, many health care facilities have braced themselves by activating emergency staffing plans, calling in volunteers and moving personnel to cover shifts.

Implementing the mandate has become a major test for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who took office in August and has made fighting Covid a top priority.

The governor declared a state of emergency late Monday night that will allow her to use the National Guard to fill staffing shortages at hospital and nursing homes if needed. She has also opened a crisis operations center for health care facilities to request help and waived licensing requirements to allow nurses and other health care workers from other states and countries to help out in New York.

“I‘m using the full power of the state of New York to ensure that we do everything to protect people,” Ms. Hochul said on Monday. “This is simple, common sense.”

New York is a bellwether of sorts for vaccine mandates, as a number of states have imposed similar requirements that take effect soon, including California, where health care workers must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30. New York’s mandate is among the strictest, providing no option to test weekly rather than get vaccinated. It also allows no religious exemptions, though that is the subject of litigation.

In the New York City public hospital system, more than 8,000 workers were unvaccinated a week ago. By Monday morning, that number had dropped to about 5,000 — or just over 10 percent of the work force.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president of the system, said Tuesday that about 500 unvaccinated nurses were among the employees placed on unpaid leave on Tuesday, but that the system had enough staff and reinforcements to continue functioning safely.

Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

The Delta variant of the coronavirus was the leading reason that people decided to get vaccinated against Covid-19 this summer and why most say they will get boosters when eligible, according to the latest monthly survey on vaccine attitudes by the Kaiser Family Foundation, released on Tuesday morning. But the survey indicated that nearly three-quarters of unvaccinated Americans view boosters very differently, saying that the need for them shows that the vaccines are not working.

That divide suggests that while it may be relatively easy to persuade vaccinated people to line up for an additional shot, the need for boosters may complicate public health officials’ efforts to persuade the…

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