What We're Reading: COVID-19 Vaccine in Young Children; EPA Limits Power Plant Emissions; Black Women, Cervical Cancer Link

Pfizer/BioNTech expected to file for emergency use designation of its COVID-19 vaccine in young children aged 6 months to 5 years; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets limits on power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous pollutants; Black women at disproportionately greater risk of late-stage cervical cancer diagnosis and death.

COVID-19 Vaccine in Children Under 5 Years Could Come This Month

NPR reported that Pfizer/BioNTech is expected to file a submission to the FDA for emergency use designation of its COVID-19 vaccine in young children aged 6 months to 5 years. With the filing potentially coming as early as today, the move would grant vaccine access to the last age group of the population who are not yet able to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In research on the vaccines presented last Fall, clinical trials indicated that low doses generated protection in children up to 2 years old, whereas kids aged 2 to 5 years did not achieve ample protection. Emergency use authorization would allow children to begin on a primary 2-dose regimen, followed by a third booster shot at a later date that would be determined by data.

EPA Restores Limits on Power Plant Mercury Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday it will be resuming enforcement of a 2012 rule imposed under the Obama administration and reversed by former President Trump that limits power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous pollutants. According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration had nixed the rule in 2020 citing regulatory overreach that caused undue harm on the power sector, which the EPA called a fundamentally flawed interpretation that ignores or undervalues notable health risks. Limiting mercury emissions has been linked with reducing neurological damage in children and preventing premature deaths, as well as reducing the risk of heart attacks and cancer.

Black Women at Disproportionately Greater Risk of Cervical Cancer Mortality

Despite cervical cancer being largely preventable, with a 5-year survival rate of over 90% if caught early, findings of a joint report by the Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic and Social Justice and Human Rights Watch indicate that Black women are more likely to receive late-stage diagnosis of the disease and are nearly 1.5 times more likely to die compared with White women. Mortality rates among the participants from rural Georgia uncovered racial disparities that worsened with age, which may be explained by reasons such as insurance and health care affordability, a lack of comprehensive sexual health education, and the historic mistreatment of minorities, NPR reported. Notably, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for more than 95% of cervical cancer cases.