U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Moderna says a clinical trial shows that a low dose of its COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children between 6 and 11 years old.
The company says it inoculated more than 4,700 children with its two-dose vaccine about 28 days apart, with each shot about half the strength given to adults. Preliminary results show the antibody levels in the children were the same levels as those seen in young adults who received a full dose of the vaccine.
Moderna says the children suffered mild side effects from the vaccine such as fatigue, headache, fever and pain at the site of the injection. The number of test subjects was too small to detect any rare side effects such as myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, which has been detected mostly among boys and young men who received either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine.
The study has not been published by any peer-reviewed journal, but Moderna says it will soon present its findings to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other global drug regulators. The FDA is meeting Tuesday to review an application by Pfizer and its German-based partner, BioNTech, to offer its vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old.
In a related development, Reuters is reporting that the African Union will purchase up to 110 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. The AU will receive 15 million doses before the end of the year, with another 35 million doses arriving in the first quarter of 2022 and up to 60 million in the second quarter.
The purchase was facilitated by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, which is deferring delivery of 33 million doses it had purchased from Moderna to give the AU an opportunity to negotiate with the company.
"This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately," AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email, according to Reuters. "We urge other vaccine producing countries to follow the lead of the (U.S. government) and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the coronavirus health rules for cruise ships until January 15, 2022. The current regulations, which were first imposed in March 2020 and include a requirement for ships to sail with at least 95 percent of passengers and crew fully vaccinated, were set to expire on November 1.
The CDC says when the current regulations expire in January, it will shift to a voluntary program for cruise ship operators to detect and control the spread of COVID-19 on their vessels.
In Hong Kong, chief executive Carrie Lam announced Tuesday that the city will tighten its coronavirus travel restrictions to bring it more in line with mainland China.
Lam told reporters the government will cancel most of the quarantine exemptions granted to certain groups of visitors coming from overseas and the mainland, with the exception of cross-border truck drivers. Diplomats, airline crews, business executives and airline crews are currently exempt from the city’s mandatory 14-to-21 day hotel quarantine period, one of the tightest restrictions in the world.
Lam defended the tightened restrictions, saying they are necessary to give authorities in Beijing the confidence to resume quarantine-free travel between the mainland and Hong Kong,
But a leading regional financial industry group, the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, said Monday that Hong Kong’s strict zero-COVID policy and quarantine requirements for international travelers is eroding the city’s status as a global financial hub.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.