Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids
Kid-size doses of Pfizer’s vaccine appear safe and nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 22 October 2021

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids
  • Shots could begin in early November with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas if regulators give the go-ahead
  • FDA was expected to post its independent review of the company's safety and effectiveness data later in the day

DUBAI: Kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appear safe and nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday as the US considers opening vaccinations to that age group.
The shots could begin in early November — with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas — if regulators give the go-ahead.
Details of Pfizer’s study were posted online. The Food and Drug Administration was expected to post its independent review of the company’s safety and effectiveness data later in the day.
Advisers to the FDA will publicly debate the evidence next week. If the agency ultimately authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the final decision on who should receive them.
Full-strength Pfizer shots already are authorized for anyone 12 or older, but pediatricians and many parents are anxiously awaiting protection for younger children to stem rising infections from the extra-contagious delta variant and help keep kids in school.
More than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers already have signed up to get the shots into little arms.
The Biden administration has purchased enough kid-size doses — in special orange-capped vials to distinguish them from adult vaccine — for the nation’s roughly 28 million 5- to 11-year-olds. If the vaccine is cleared, millions of doses will be promptly shipped around the country, along with kid-size needles.
A Pfizer study tracked 2,268 kids in that age group who got two shots three weeks apart of either a placebo or the low-dose vaccine. Each dose was one-third the amount given to teens and adults.
Researchers calculated the low-dose vaccine was nearly 91 percent effective, based on 16 COVID-19 cases in youngsters given dummy shots versus three cases among vaccinated children. There were no severe illnesses reported among any of the youngsters, but the vaccinated ones had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.
In addition, young children given the low-dose shots developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teens and young adults who got regular-strength vaccinations.
That’s important information considering that hospitalizations of mostly unvaccinated children reached record levels last month.
The CDC reported earlier this week that even as the delta mutant surged between June and September, Pfizer vaccinations were 93 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations among 12- to 18-year-olds.
Pfizer’s study of younger kids found the low-dose shots proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects such as sore arms, fever or achiness that teens experience.
The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men.
While children run a lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 has killed more than 630 Americans 18 and under, according to the CDC. Nearly 6.2 million children have been infected with the coronavirus, more than 1.1 million in the last six weeks as the delta mutant surged, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
Moderna also is studying its COVID-19 shots in elementary school-age youngsters. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger children as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.


Great Mosque of Córdoba under threat from tourist sweat 

Great Mosque of Córdoba under threat from tourist sweat 
Updated 11 sec ago

Great Mosque of Córdoba under threat from tourist sweat 

Great Mosque of Córdoba under threat from tourist sweat 
  • The danger to the building was exposed in a report which found that condensation has damaged several key areas
  • Report recommended implementation of measures that improve the mosque’s ventilation

LONDON: The Great Mosque of Córdoba is under threat due to the heavy stresses caused by tourists. 

The mosque, one of the world’s most celebrated Islamic monuments, is struggling with the condensation caused by its millions of annual visitors.

The danger to the building was exposed in a report submitted to the government this week, which found that condensation has damaged several of its key areas. 

Condensation has damaged its iconic mihrab, which showed the direction of Makkah and provided a chamber for directing prayers.

The mosque, which receives up to 2 million annual visitors, was built between the eighth and 10th centuries. 

“This is caused by the special architectural configuration of the spaces and their insufficient ventilation,” said the report.

Body heat emitted by tourists is causing the damage, it said, adding: “This evaporation causes the disintegration of these materials and contributes to their rapid deterioration.”

The building already struggles seasonally due to Córdoba’s status as the hottest city on the Iberian Peninsula, reaching temperatures of almost 47 degrees Celsius. 

“When the moment of greatest evaporation converges with the moment of greatest influx of tourists, it has been verified empirically how the absolute humidity indices of the environment rise very noticeably, which poses a risk to the conservation of the materials most sensitive to moisture,” said the report. These include wood, which is a major part of the building’s materials. 

The report recommended that it was “fundamental to implement all measures that improve the ventilation of the building and . . . to control the flows of visitors, avoiding agglomerations and spreading them out during visiting hours.”


Francis begins first papal visit to Athens in two decades

Francis begins first papal visit to Athens in two decades
Updated 04 December 2021

Francis begins first papal visit to Athens in two decades

Francis begins first papal visit to Athens in two decades
  • The pope’s trip will see him return on Sunday to the island of Lesbos, which he last visited in 2016 during the early years of the migration crisis

Athens: Pope Francis on Saturday began a landmark trip to Greece with the first visit to Athens by a pontiff in two decades, aiming to improve relations with the Orthodox Church of Greece and highlight the plight of refugees.
Flying in after a two-day trip to Cyprus, the pope landed shortly after 0900 GMT and was greeted at Athens airport by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and senior officials from the Greek Catholic community.
The pope’s trip will see him return on Sunday to the island of Lesbos, which he last visited in 2016 during the early years of the migration crisis.
The 84-year-old’s visit to the Greek capital is the first by a Pope since John Paul II in 2001, which in turn was the first papal visit to Athens since the 1054 Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Francis is seeking to improve historically difficult relations with the Orthodox Church — strained by the Schism and the 1204 sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade — while also highlighting the plight of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece.
“I ardently long to meet you all, all, not only Catholics, but all of you,” he said in a message before embarking on his 35th international trip, which began on Thursday with the visit to Cyprus.
“By meeting you, I will quench my thirst at the springs of fraternity.”
Francis on Saturday will meet Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the head of the Church of Greece Archbishop Ieronymos.
He is then scheduled to see members of Greece’s small Catholic community, which represents just 1.2 percent of the majority-Orthodox population.


France, Europeans working to open joint mission in Afghanistan — Macron

France, Europeans working to open joint mission in Afghanistan — Macron
Updated 04 December 2021

France, Europeans working to open joint mission in Afghanistan — Macron

France, Europeans working to open joint mission in Afghanistan — Macron
  • The United States and other Western countries shut their embassies and withdrew their diplomats as the Taliban seized Kabul

DOHA: Several European countries are working on opening up a joint diplomatic mission in Afghanistan that would enable their ambassadors to return to the country, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.
Western countries have been grappling with how to engage with the Taliban after they took over Afghanistan in a lightning advance in August as US-led forces were completing their pullout.
The United States and other Western countries shut their embassies and withdrew their diplomats as the Taliban seized Kabul, following which the militants declared an interim government whose top members are under US and UN sanctions.
“We are thinking of an organization between several European countries... a common location for several Europeans, which would allow our ambassadors to be present,” Macron told reporters in Doha before heading to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The United States, European countries and others are reluctant to formally recognize the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, accusing them of backtracking on pledges of political and ethnic inclusivity and to uphold the rights of women and minorities.
“This is a different demarche than a political recognition or political dialogue with the Taliban ... we will have a representation as soon as we can open,” he said, adding that they still needed to iron out security issues.
In a statement following talks with the Taliban a week ago, the European Union suggested it could open a mission soon.
“The EU delegation underlined that the possibility of establishing a minimal presence on the ground in Kabul, which would not entail recognition, will directly depend on the security situation, as well as on effective decisions by the de facto authorities to allow the EU to ensure adequate protection of its staff and premises,” it said.
France separately announced on Friday that it had carried out an evacuation mission in Afghanistan with Qatar’s help, taking more than 300 people, mostly Afghans, out of the country.


Storm weakens after heavy rain, evacuation in southern India

Storm weakens after heavy rain, evacuation in southern India
Updated 04 December 2021

Storm weakens after heavy rain, evacuation in southern India

Storm weakens after heavy rain, evacuation in southern India
  • Authorities shut schools, canceled trains and anchored fishermen’s boats in the affected areas until Sunday

HYDERABAD, India: A tropical storm weakened after dumping heavy rains overnight in parts of southern India off the Bay of Bengal as more than 50,000 people evacuated to government-run camps, officials said Saturday.
No loss of life or major damage has been reported so far from the rain-hit areas of Andhra Pradesh state.
Kanna Babu, a state commissioner for disaster management, said 54,000 people who evacuated on Friday from vulnerable areas were waiting in nearly 200 state-run relief camps for the weather to clear before returning to their homes.
Authorities shut schools, canceled trains and anchored fishermen’s boats in the affected areas until Sunday.
The storm is likely to further weaken later Saturday and curve toward eastern Odisha state before making landfall on Sunday as a deep depression, the Indian Meteorological Department said.
Scientists say that cyclones and powerful storms in the Indian Ocean are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.
“The Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea are now warmer compared to earlier decades because of climate change,” said K.J. Ramesh, one of India’s top meteorologists and the former chief of the weather agency.
He said that storms were also forming simultaneously as a result of climate change over the past decade — a phenomenon that was rare in the past.
In May, two storms hit India within 10 days, with Cyclone Tauktae killing at least 140 people across western states. Nearly 70 of the victims were on a barge that ripped free of its anchors and sank off Mumbai’s coast.
In May last year, nearly 100 people died in Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit eastern India in more than a decade. It flattened villages, destroyed farms and left millions without power in eastern India and Bangladesh.
Some of the deadliest tropical cyclones on record have occurred in the Bay of Bengal. A 1999 super cyclone killed around 10,000 people and devastated large parts of Odisha. Due to improved forecasts and better-coordinated disaster management, the death toll from Cyclone Phailin, an equally intense storm that hit in 2013, was less than 50, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

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210 migrants found packed into truck in central Mexico

210 migrants found packed into truck in central Mexico
Updated 04 December 2021

210 migrants found packed into truck in central Mexico

210 migrants found packed into truck in central Mexico
  • The National Migration Institute said the truck failed to stop as directed at a checkpoint in Puebla state on Friday
  • When the doors of the trailer were opened, agents found women, men and children amid cushions and homemade fans
MEXICO CITY: Mexican immigration authorities say they discovered 210 migrants packed into a truck trailer in the central part of the country.
The National Migration Institute said the truck failed to stop as directed at a checkpoint in Puebla state on Friday and it was pulled over after a pursuit near the city of Tecamachalco.
When the doors of the trailer were opened, agents found women, men and children amid cushions and homemade fans, the institute said. The driver of the truck was detained.
The discovery came two weeks after authorities found 600 migrants in two trailers in the eastern state of Veracruz.