CDC Issues New Guidelines for COVID-19 Vaccinations

With inoculations of a second COVID-19 vaccine set to begin Monday across the United States, federal health regulators have issued new guidelines of who should be prioritized in the next round of inoculations.

An advisory panel of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted 13-1 Sunday to make Americans 75 and older, along with so-called “frontline essential workers,” the first in line to receive coronavirus vaccines. The essential workers include first responders such as police and firefighters, teachers, employees of the U.S. Postal Service, public transportation employees, and workers in food and agriculture, manufacturing and grocery stores.

The panel’s vote came as hundreds of delivery trucks began fanning out across the nation to deliver nearly 6 million doses of the vaccine developed by U.S.-based drug maker Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.

The new vaccine shipped out just two days after the Food and Drug Administration granted it emergency use authorization, which itself came just days after agency regulators confirmed Moderna’s claims of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

The Moderna-NIH vaccine adds to the 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipped last week that began the vaccination effort in the U.S., starting with frontline health care workers and nursing home residents.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will receive the Pfizer vaccine Monday during a publicly televised event. The 78-year-old Biden is at high risk of contracting the virus due to his age. A spokesman for Biden’s transition team says Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, will be vaccinated sometime next week.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, along with Surgeon General Jerome Adams, received the Pfizer vaccine during a televised event last Friday in Washington.

Meanwhile, a growing list of nations banned most travel from Britain in response to a dramatic rise of infections due to a new strain of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, sweeping across southern Britain.

At least 14 European nations, including Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands, announced a ban on all flights from Britain on Sunday. France also banned all travel from Britain at the iconic English Channel, forcing Britain to shut down all passenger and freight travel at the crucial port city of Dover, leaving scores of trucks carrying tons of goods stranded.

Other nations have also banned flights from Britain, including Canada, which announced Sunday night that it was halting flights from Britain for 72 hours. Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Iran and Israel are among the other countries who have also announced a ban on flights from Britain.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold an emergency meeting of his Cabinet Monday to discuss the travel bans. Johnson announced new restrictions for both London and southern Britain on Saturday, including the closure of all nonessential businesses, such as gyms and hair salons, a limit on the number of people gathering indoors for the upcoming Christmas holidays, and a ban on nonessential travel.

As the continent struggles to blunt the spread of the new COVID-19 variant, the European Union’s drug regulation agency is meeting Monday to decide whether to grant emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) was scheduled to meet on December 29 to discuss the vaccine, but it moved it a week earlier under heavy pressure from Germany and other EU nations. If the EMA grants emergency use as expected, the first vaccinations could begin December 27.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran announced Monday during a television interview the country will begin vaccinations that day, beginning with “the most vulnerable among us first of all.”

South Korean health authorities reported 24 COVID-19 related deaths Sunday, its biggest single-day death toll since the start of the pandemic. South Korea now has a total of 698 deaths out of 50,591 total infections, including 926 new cases on Sunday.

The South Korean capital Seoul and the surrounding areas of Gyeonggi Province and Incheon city have issued an order prohibiting gatherings of five or more people effective Wednesday and lasting until January 3.

And in Australia, a cluster of COVID-19 infections in Sydney’s northern beaches has risen to 83 after 15 new cases were detected on Sunday. The new cases were discovered after health authorities in New South Wales province tested a record 38,578 residents in Sydney. The northern beach suburbs have been placed under a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve.

Source: Voice of America