Covid Live Updates: Mexico Resists Vaccinating Children Despite Court Order

ImageMexican students returned to classrooms at the end of August after a year of online learning.
Credit…Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

MEXICO CITY — As U.S. officials prepare to expand Covid vaccine eligibility to children ages 5 to 11, the Mexican government has resisted calls to vaccinate youths, despite a court order that it do so.

This month a judge ordered Mexico’s government to vaccinate anyone aged 12 to 17 after the parents of a 15-year-old girl sued to get their daughter vaccinated, just one of many lawsuits from parents demanding that their children be inoculated.

But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador dismissed the ruling as “not definitive” and hinted at challenging the decision, saying during a news conference that “legally this is going to be respected, but at the same time, we are going to go to the relevant authority to clarify” the court’s decision.

Whether the government would mount such a challenge remains unclear, but the president’s rhetoric is emblematic of Mexico’s continued resistance to allow minors to be inoculated, even as regulators in the United States and other countries have increasingly approved shots for children.

Mexico’s medical safety agency has granted the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine emergency use authorization for youths 12 and over, but the government has refused to allow the shots to be administered to most minors, and has played down the risks Covid-19 poses to children.

Mexico has fully vaccinated only about 41 percent of its population, according to Our World in Data. The government has said it should concentrate on vaccinating the millions of adults who have yet to get shots, and put off vaccinating otherwise healthy children until the vaccines are proved to be safe for them.

The stance has been criticized by public health and political experts. Some say the government’s resistance to vaccinating children stems from a lack of planning and insufficient vaccine supplies.

“This mess comes from the lack of preparation,” said Xavier Tello, a public health policy expert in Mexico City, adding that the government has “no strategy.”

Hundreds of parents have taken the government to court and demanded shots for their children, and many have succeeded.

In the wake of the mounting media and legal pressure, Mr. López Obrador’s government said last month that it would begin vaccinating children over 12 who had an underlying condition, which could mean that more than one million are now eligible. But the government is holding firm on its commitment to vaccinate adults first.

“There is a vaccination plan,” Mr. López Obrador said this month, regarding the recent ruling mandating vaccines for teenagers. “A public policy cannot be defined based on the interest of a person or a group.”

Credit…Melinda Deslatte/Associated Press

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana lifted the state’s indoor mask mandate on Tuesday for at least the next four weeks.

“I stand here today optimistic, relieved that the worst of the fourth surge is behind us now,” said Mr. Edwards, a Democrat. “We have made tremendous progress, and I have no doubt that reinstating the mask mandate was key to this.”

But he cautioned that the pandemic was not over, and reminded residents who were not fully vaccinated to follow federal guidance and wear a mask. He also said that the state lagged far behind in vaccinations, ranking 45th in the country.

Only 56 percent of state residents 12 and over are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor masking is still required for students in public schools, which may opt out as long as they continue following quarantine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. No students under age 12 are vaccinated, but an F.D.A. panel endorsed Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds on Tuesday afternoon.

Louisiana’s mask requirement was reinstated in August in a bid to slow community spread of the more contagious Delta variant, as the state faced its fourth and worst surge of the coronavirus. Louisiana was averaging more than 4,300 new cases per day in the first week of August, according to data compiled by The New York Times. The state had the highest per capita rate of new cases in the country and its hospitals were overflowing with patients.

About this data

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

The mandate helped turn the trend lines around, and the picture looks much more positive in the last week of October, the governor said. The state is averaging 500 new coronavirus cases a day, a 31 percent decrease in the last two weeks, according to Times data.

The number of people hospitalized has dropped 39 percent and deaths have declined 27 percent in the last two weeks. The numbers are among the state’s lowest since the pandemic began, according to state health department data.

Mr. Edwards said that the number of hospitalized Covid patients on Tuesday was just 323, the state’s lowest number since July 2, from a peak of 3,022 10 weeks ago during the Delta surge.

Many of Louisiana’s parishes are still considered at high risk for Covid exposure, according to the C.D.C.




F.D.A. Panel Endorses Pfizer-BioNTech Shots for Young Children

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted to recommend a pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

“Based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine when administered as a two-dose series, 10 micrograms each dose three weeks apart, outweigh its risks for use in children 5 to 11 years of age?” “This concludes the vote: Out of 18 voting members, 17 voted yes and we had one abstain.”

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A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted to recommend a pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11.CreditCredit…LM Otero/Associated Press

An expert committee advising the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended that regulators authorize Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, bringing about 28 million children a major step closer to becoming eligible for shots.

If the F.D.A. follows the panel’s advice in the coming days, as is expected, the Biden administration will have expanded vaccine access to all but the youngest Americans, while providing booster shots for many as well.

Biden administration officials see the pediatric dose as crucial to keeping schools open and restoring a sense of normalcy to family and work life as the pandemic hurtles toward the end of its second year. The administration wants to be seen as doing everything possible to combat the virus and build upon positive trends, as the Delta variant ebbs and the daily drumbeat of infections and deaths fades.

Younger children would start getting their shots at a time when coronavirus cases are dropping sharply. But public demand for a pediatric vaccine has been high, and some panel members said that even though young children are less likely to get severely ill from Covid-19, parents and doctors alike are anxious to protect them.

Dr. Jay Portnoy, a medical director at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., said he had seen critically ill children in the intensive care unit and “terrified” parents. “I’m looking forward to being able to actually do something to prevent that,” he said.

The vote was 17-0 in favor, with one abstention. Federal regulators and scientists made a strong push, arguing that 8,300 children between 5 and 11 had been hospitalized with Covid-19 and nearly 100 had died over the course of the pandemic.

Covid-19 is “the eighth-highest killer of kids in this age group over the past year,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a top C.D.C. vaccine official. “Use of this vaccine will prevent deaths, will prevent I.C.U. admissions and will prevent significant long-term adverse outcomes in children.”

Data from Pfizer showed that the vaccine had a 90.7 percent efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in a clinical trial of 5- to 11-year-olds. Still, many advisory committee members expressed concern about limited safety…

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