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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in children as young as 12 on Wednesday, expanding access to millions of adolescents to get the shot.

The endorsement came after an independent advisory panel voted in favor earlier on Wednesday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on the official guideline Wednesday night, after clearing 12- to 15-year-olds to receive the vaccine, marking an important step in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have said vaccinating children may be necessary for the United States to reach herd immunity.

President Biden hailed the decision as “one more giant step” in the fight against the pandemic and called on parents to get their children inoculated.

Here are some significant developments:

  • U.S. citizens living abroad are requesting that the government ship surplus vaccine shots to countries where vaccination rollouts have been slower, Reuters reported.
  • Governors found out on a Tuesday call with the White House that Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots won’t be available next week, Politico reported.
  • Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft will offer free rides to vaccination sites through a partnership with the Biden administration announced Tuesday.
  • Los Angeles County, the most populous in the United States, could reach herd immunity by mid- to late July, health officials said Monday.
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is allowing parents to opt their children out of a school’s mask requirement, undercutting health experts’ suggested best practices to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

With Pfizer vaccine authorized for adolescents, some parents scramble for appointments, but others are wary

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Judy Fisher has been trying frantically to get a coronavirus vaccine appointment for her twin 12-year-olds. She has downloaded apps for every drugstore chain in New York City, is strategizing on multiple text chains and looking into out-of-state appointments, hoping to get her daughter and son fully vaccinated so they can see their friends and go to summer camp.

“I’m foaming at the mouth to get them vaccinated so they can have some semblance of a normal summer,” Fisher said. “I cry when I think about all they have missed already.”

After a year of stifling confinement and missed schooling, children ages 12 to 15 have been cleared to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine under emergency use. The decision that the two-shot regimen is safe and effective for younger adolescents had been highly anticipated by many parents and pediatricians, particularly with the growing gap between what vaccinated and unvaccinated people may do safely.

At Sona in NYC, diners can help fight coronavirus in the country where the dishes originated

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Priyanka Chopra Jonas's Indian restaurant, SONA, in New York City has dedicated a dish to covid-19 relief efforts in India. (Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine seeks to incentivize coronavirus vaccines with chance to win $1 million

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As coronavirus vaccine demand plateaus, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is giving state residents a significant incentive to get vaccinated: the chance to win $1 million.

The Republican governor announced Wednesday night that vaccinated adults will be eligible to enter a lottery that will pay out $1 million to five lucky winners on May 26. Separately, DeWine is offering five vaccinated teenagers full rides to the state’s public universities, including all four years of tuition, room, board and textbooks paid.

“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.’ But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19,” DeWine said in a statewide address.

Analysis: With the waning of the pandemic, life has improved for Americans

12:24 a.m.
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President Biden signed his most significant legislative accomplishment into law on March 11. Centered on ameliorating the economic damage done by the coronavirus pandemic, it included substantial stimulus checks, which began going out to Americans a few days later.

Even as that rollout began, though, the shape of the pandemic had already shifted dramatically. By March 17 — when the government started distributing the stimulus payments — some 40 million Americans had already been vaccinated against the virus. Relative to the middle of January, when the number of new cases each day was at its peak, new case totals were down about 70 percent and deaths down 60 percent.

Every two weeks, the Household Pulse Survey releases information about how the pandemic has affected Americans. And as cases and deaths fell, economic indicators such as the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity or having trouble paying their bills had already begun to improve.

CDC identifies additional rare blood clots with ‘plausible causal association’ to Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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Federal officials confirmed additional cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot among people who received Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine, stressing the risk remains extremely low.

A CDC official on Wednesday told a panel of vaccine advisers that 28 such cases, including three deaths, have now been identified among nearly 9 million who received the shot. That’s an increase of 13 known cases since the last briefing in April with no new confirmed fatalities.

Federal health authorities recommended pausing distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in mid-April after six reports of women with the clots. They lifted the pause a week later, saying benefits far outweighed the risks.

Tom Shimabukuro, a CDC vaccine safety official, told the panel Wednesday that evidence backs a “plausible causal association” with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. His presentation said no evidence has linked the clots to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The 28 cases include six men and a dozen people who are obese, a risk factor for developing the clot. Most are adult women under the age of 50. All of the confirmed cases predated the April 13 pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice took no action on the new data that came during a scheduled briefing, though some panel members raised concerns about the risks to young adult women. The CDC said it continues monitoring for blood clots and other adverse reactions to vaccines.

Uruguay, once a coronavirus model, struggles against a deadly wave

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Gonzalo Alvarez, a player in Uruguay’s premier basketball league, started feeling the symptoms a few days after a game: fatigue, headaches, lower back pain, loss of taste and smell.

A test confirmed his suspicion: covid-19. But he wasn’t the only one. Five teammates, six opponents and an assistant coach in Defensor Sporting’s victory over Capitol last month also fell ill.

In the early days of the pandemic, Uruguay was a global model. Leaders in the progressive, stable, high-income nation united behind science-based measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Low case counts enabled it to reopen schools and businesses before many of its more virulent neighbors.

Biden calls vaccinations for kids as young as 12 ‘one more giant step’ in fight against pandemic

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A federal advisory panel threw its support Wednesday behind the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in children as young as 12, paving the way for millions of adolescents to get the shots and making it easier for state and local officials to reopen schools and summer camps.

The decision was hailed “as one more giant step in our fight against the pandemic” by President Biden, who called on parents to get their kids inoculated. The bottom line is this: A vaccine for kids between the ages of 12 and 15 … [is] safe, effective, easy, fast and free,” he said. “So my hope is that parents will take advantage of the vaccine and get their kids vaccinated.”

The vote Wednesday afternoon by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an independent group of medical and public health experts, was 14 in favor, with one recusal. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was expected to sign off shortly after 5 p.m., giving the green light for the two-dose vaccine to be used in children 12 to 15 years old.

Maryland lifting capacity restrictions on restaurants, entertainment venues

9:17 p.m.
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Wednesday that restaurants and entertainment and sporting venues, which have been restricted to limited capacities for more than a year amid the coronavirus pandemic, can resume normal operations Saturday.

The governor also said he plans to lift the state’s indoor mask mandate when 70 percent of residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, which Hogan said was expected to occur by Memorial Day weekend.

“Our goal is to get back to normal by Memorial Day,” he said. More than 65 percent of the state’s residents have gotten at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The moves, which come as the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continues to fall in the state, will make Maryland the first in the region to drop its capacity restrictions and indoor mask mandate.

The GOP effort to blame Fauci for the coronavirus

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For much of the past year, Republicans have decried lead government coronavirus expert Anthony S. Fauci’s prescriptions for mitigating the pandemic — including masks, social distancing and keeping society shut down.

But increasingly in the past week, the effort has taken on a new flavor — with suggestions that Fauci might be personally to blame for the advent of the virus itself.

There remain major questions about just how the virus emerged, including the idea that it somehow escaped a lab in the city of Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. The theory, which was once highly speculative and which was downplayed by top medical experts such as Fauci, is suddenly being treated more seriously, though there is no conclusive evidence either way.

But while some Republicans have criticized the initial dismissal of that theory as evidence of a lack of curiosity from the media and health officials about the origins of the virus — or even some kind of pro-China or anti-Trump bias — the theories about Fauci’s complicity take things to another level.

CDC advisers meet to recommend coronavirus vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

7:05 p.m.
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An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting Wednesday to recommend that the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine be used in children as young as 12, expanding access to adolescents in an important next phase to end the pandemic.

The federal vaccine advisory committee is widely expected to issue a recommendation with sign-off from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky soon after, giving the green light for the two-dose vaccine to be used in 12- to 15-year-olds. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the vaccine for emergency use in that age group Monday, saying it was safe and effective at the same dose given to those age 16 and older.

The CDC action will mean the inoculation can be given at any site authorized to administer the shots. Pharmacies and large vaccination clinics that already have doses of the Pfizer vaccine are likely to be among the first places where adolescents can get the shots, according to federal and state health officials. The vaccine’s cold-storage requirements and large lot size — 1,170 doses are the minimum order — make it more challenging to be distributed to doctors’ offices right away, officials said.

Virginia pushing for school vaccine clinics after Pfizer authorization

6:01 p.m.
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Top state officials in Virginia are urging local school systems and private schools to hold vaccination clinics once the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is authorized for 12- to-15-year-olds, which could happen as soon as Wednesday.

Public health officials said having local health departments vaccinate youths at school would reduce issues with equity and access and allow parents to give written consent ahead of time, without having to make a special trip to have their children vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated youths will not have to quarantine after an exposure to the coronavirus, eliminating missed school days, sports and other after-school activities, said Dena Potter, the spokeswoman for vaccine distribution in Virginia.

A frustrated Turkey goes into lockdown — except for the tourists

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ISTANBUL — Shopkeepers pulled their steel shutters down last week in a warren of tool shops near the Bosporus, to comply with a nationwide lockdown. But every third shutter or so was left open a crack, to allow the furtive flow of continued commerce. Hardly anyone in Turkey these days can afford to be locked down.

Not small business owners, who were aching from the flailing economy and rocketing inflation even before coronavirus restrictions were imposed last week. And not even the government, which permitted a glaring exception when it said foreign tourists, a critical source of foreign currency, would be allowed to travel the country freely, while telling Turkish citizens to stay home.

In the 12 days since the lockdown began, the restrictions have set off soaring economic anxiety, arguments and public irritation. With infections and deaths surging to new highs, few disputed the measures were necessary. Rather, complaints have centered on the way they were imposed.

Global vaccination plan is coming ‘soon,’ Biden officials promise senators

4:44 p.m.
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Biden administration officials vowed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the White House’s plan for international vaccine distribution will be announced “very soon.”

“I’m not trying to be clever. I am trying to honor a system of deliberation,” Gayle Smith, who coordinates the State Department’s global coronavirus response, said in reply to questions from Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) about how the United States envisions distributing millions of doses that President Biden pledged to share with the world.

The senators repeatedly pressed Smith and Jeremy Konyndyk, who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development’s coronavirus task force, for more details about the administration’s international strategy, citing the worsening global outbreak and overseas rivals touting their own vaccines in deals with dozens of countries, including nations in Central and South America.

Said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.): “My worry is, with China and Russia investing so heavily in vaccine diplomacy, in the U.S. — if we are not going into the Bolivias and Argentinas and Honduras and other nations — this is going to be a very, very serious challenge for us.”

Konyndyk responded: “What we see China and Russia trying to do is, in effect, use small amounts of vaccine sales to extract political concessions and gain political influence. What we want to do is use a mass response to end the pandemic and let that be the legacy of what America is trying to do here.”

But the senators expressed frustration about the lack of details.

“We’re all here listening and, frankly, wondering: Why can’t we move as quickly as Russia and China to decide precisely what we want to do [and] where we want to do it and communicate that to the world?” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he hoped the officials would return to brief senators when their plans were finalized. He also asked who was leading the White House’s global coronavirus efforts, citing a Washington Post report that “suggested that the administration’s international response is uncoordinated and it lacks a strategy.”

“I would not say that the response is uncoordinated,” Smith replied, saying the National Security Council and the White House coronavirus response team were jointly setting strategy.

Travel to Germany gets easier with relaxed rules for vaccinated and recovered visitors

3:44 p.m.
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BERLIN — Germany’s Cabinet decided new rules Wednesday that lift quarantine and testing requirements for vaccinated and recovered travelers, unless they come from an area with virus variants deemed “of concern” by health authorities.

Non-vaccinated travelers who are not coming from high-risk areas, including Americans, can still enter Germany with an antigen or PCR test taken in the past 48 or 72 hours, respectively.

The new rules are aimed at easing hurdles for travelers entering Germany, especially as vacationers gear up for the summer holidays.

Children of vaccinated parents don’t need proof of a shot and must only show a negative test if they are older than 6 years. Vaccinated travelers must demonstrate they have received a vaccine recommended for use by the European Medicines Agency, such as those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

Vaccinated and recovered travelers entering from an area with virus mutations must still quarantine. Unvaccinated travelers coming from high-risk or high-incidence areas, as defined by Germany’s federal agency for infectious disease, can shorten quarantine requirements with a negative test.

The relaxed rules come as new coronavirus cases in Germany continue to decrease, with one-tenth of the country now fully vaccinated. One-third of Germans have received a first dose.

Top health officials nevertheless advised caution at a Wednesday news conference. “Despite all the confidence, there is one thing we must not forget: This pandemic is not over,” said Germany’s top infectious-disease expert, Lothar Wieler. “Incidences are going down, but they are still too high in Germany,” he said.

As of Wednesday, Germany registered 14,909 new coronavirus cases from the previous day, and its seven-day rate of new cases per 100,000 residents is at 107.8.