What We’re Reading: FDA Panel Supports Pfizer Vaccine in Children; Merck Grants COVID-19 Pill License; Infections Down by 60%

An FDA advisory panel voted 17-0 in favor of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years; COVID-19 pill molnupiravir to be manufactured and sold in 105 developing nations; new US COVID-19 cases dropped nearly 60% in just over a month.

FDA Panel Votes to Authorize Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 5 to 11 Years

A FDA advisory panel voted in favor of authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, STAT News reported. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted Tuesday 17-0, with 1 abstention, that two 10-mcg doses of the Pfizer vaccine should be granted emergency use authorization for this age group. This news comes after the Moderna vaccine was found to be safe and effective in children aged 6 to 11 years. The FDA is not required to adhere to this vote, but the agency usually follows the committee’s guidance. The vaccine will need to be reviewed by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and approved by the CDC director before it becomes available.

Merck Grants Royalty-Free License for COVID-19 Pill to Developing Countries

Merck granted a royalty-free license for its COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir, allowing the drug to be manufactured and sold cheaply in 105 developing nations, The New York Times reported. The agreement was made with the Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations–backed nonprofit that works to make medical treatment and technologies globally accessible. Molnupiravir is a twice-daily antiviral pill developed by Merck that has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death caused by COVID-19, and it is awaiting FDA authorization for emergency use.

New US COVID-19 Infections Down by 60%

According to data compiled by The Washington Post, new US COVID-19 infections dropped nearly 60% since the Delta variant caused a spike in cases in September. During the week of October 25, the 7-day average of infections was about 69,000, whereas the week of September 13 had an average of 164,475. Some states still face high rates of infection, such as Montana, where 45 in 100,000 people are hospitalized for COVID-19. The data suggested that higher vaccination rates are linked to lower rates of hospitalizations and deaths.