LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has recommended clearing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorized for people under 18.
In a decision on Friday, the EU drug regulator says research in more than 3,700 children ages 12 to 17 showed the Moderna vaccine — already approved for adults across Europe — produced a comparable antibody response.
Until now, the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has been the only option for children in North America and Europe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to extend the use of the Moderna vaccine for children under 18.
With global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world still is struggling to immunize adults, and agencies including the World Health Organization have urged rich countries to donate their doses to the developing world — where fewer than 2% of people have been vaccinated — rather than moving on to inoculate their younger, less vulnerable populations.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Tokyo Olympics are arriving at last, after a yearlong delay
— In Canada and Zimbabwe, paths to vaccination diverge
— GOP’s vaccine push comes with strong words, few actions
— Virus’s impact: More relaxing and thinking, less socializing
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOKYO — Belated and beleaguered, the Tokyo Summer Olympics finally opened Friday night with cascading fireworks and made-for-TV choreography that unfolded in a near-empty stadium during the pandemic Games.
As their opening played out, devoid of the usual crowd energy, the Olympics convened amid simmering anger and disbelief in much of the host country. But organizers hope the excitement of the sports to follow will offset the widespread opposition.
Only a little over 20% of the population is fully vaccinated. And there have been near daily reports of positive virus cases within the so-called Olympic bubble that’s meant to separate the Olympic participants from the Japanese population.
BEIJING — The Chinese city of Nanjing has reported 12 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 23 in an outbreak that has locked down at least 30,000 people.
The first nine cases were found at the airport in Nanjing on Tuesday. Authorities are conducting mass testing of the city’s population and have locked down 34 residential communities.
China has controlled the spread of the coronavirus through quick lockdowns of affected areas and mass testing to identify and isolate infected people.
It also is witnessing a spate of cases in Yunnan province near the border with Myanmar, which is facing a severe outbreak. Authorities reported 13 new cases in the latest 24-hour period, all people who had crossed the land border from Myanmar in the past month.
LONDON — The British government has sought to ease food supply pressures in England by exempting more than 10,000 workers from quarantine rules that had led to staff shortages and empty shelves and fears of panic-buying.
However, it has come under criticism Friday for the way it has lifted coronavirus restrictions in England and for not doing more to help other crucial sectors, such as transport, the emergency services and energy industry.
Many critics say the National Health Service’s contact tracing app is a distraction from the fact the U.K. is in a third wave of the pandemic. It follows the spread of the more contagious delta variant and the recent lifting of lockdown restrictions.
TOKYO — Jill Biden has held a virtual meet-and-greet with several U.S. athletes who will compete at the Tokyo Games.
The U.S. first lady is in Tokyo to support the athletes and attend the opening ceremony.
She spoke virtually with Eddy Alvarez, a baseball player and short track speed skater, and basketball player Sue Bird. Both will be flagbearers for the U.S. at the opening ceremony. She also spoke with Allison Schmitt, a four-time Olympic swimmer and mental health advocate.
Biden told the athletes that they’d given up a lot to be in postponed Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus and relied on support from family and friends. On Saturday, she’ll dedicate a room in the residence of the U.S. chief of mission to former U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye.
She will host a U.S.-vs.-Mexico softball watch party at the U.S. Embassy for staff and their families, and cheer U.S. athletes competing in several events before leaving Tokyo. She visited a coronavirus vaccination site in Alaska before heading to the Olympics.
LISBON, Portugal — The head of Portugal’s vaccine rollout program says the country is experiencing steep shortfalls in expected deliveries of the Janssen COVID-19 jab.
Rear Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo said in testimony to a parliamentary committee Friday that Janssen promised 800,000 doses in July but provided only 260,000.
In August, only 200,000 Janssen doses will be delivered instead of the expected 600,000.
He said the shortfall was “bad news” for Portugal’s inoculation drive. He did not give an explanation for the Janssen reduction.
Authorities are looking for other suppliers to make up for the shortfall.
Gouveia e Melo said around 65% of Portugal’s target population has had a first jab and about half are fully vaccinated. He said he expected 70% to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 12.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has passed the grim milestone of 1 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year.
Pakistan reported another 11 deaths Friday and 1,425 new cases of infection, bringing the country’s tally to 1,000,034 people infected. The nation has confirmed 22,939 deaths.
Infections have been steadily increasing as the more contagious delta variant spreads, and authorities expect a new surge from public activities during the Eid al-Adha holiday this week.
About 30 nations exceed 1 million cases, and more than 190 million people have been infected worldwide, a number considered an undercount.
SYDNEY — An Australian state government on Friday declared an emergency due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney.
The New South Wales state government reported one fatality and 136 new infections in the latest 24-hour period, the biggest daily tally of new cases since the outbreak began in mid June.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian called on the federal government to provide more vaccines for the worst-effected suburbs in Sydney’s west and south.
Sydney has been locked down for a month. The delta variant cluster has spread from Sydney to Victoria and South Australia states which are also locked down. Half Australia’s population of 26 million is currently locked down.
Only 15% of adult Australians are fully vaccinated. While there are ample supplies of locally manufactured AstraZeneca, many are concerned about the slight risk of blood clots associated with that vaccine and a demanding Pfizer, the only alternative registered in Australia.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it’ll extend the toughest distancing rules imposed on the greater Seoul area for another two weeks, as it’s battling its worst coronavirus outbreak.
South Korea on Friday reported 1,630 new virus cases, marking a 17th straight day its daily caseload is above 1,000. About 70% of the recent cases have been detected in the Seoul area, where about half of South Korea’s 52 million people reside.
Interior and Safety Minister Jeon Hae-cheol says it’s inevitable that social gatherings and travel are restricted to suppress a widespread domestic outbreak linked to a variety of sources in daily lives.
The current government-imposed rules ban gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. and require high-risk facilities such as nightclubs to suspend operations. Weddings and funerals can be attended by only relatives, but capped at 49 people. Those rules were to expire on Sunday, but the government will implement similar restrictions two more weeks. From next Monday, the government says that non-relatives can attend weddings or funerals but the 49-person cap will still be maintained.
South Korea’s total caseload stands at 185,733, with 2,066 deaths from COVID-19.
CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools has announced its students, teachers and staff will be required to wear masks indoors when they return to classrooms in August.
In a letter to parents Thursday, Chief Executive Officer José Torres said the policy is based on feedback from local, state and federal public health experts and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Visitors to school buildings will be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Torres says the masks can be removed while eating or drinking and while students are engaged with in outdoor activities.
Pediatricians recently said everyone older than 2 should wear a mask in schools, regardless of vaccination status.
However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month fully vaccinated students, teachers and staff don’t need face coverings inside classrooms.