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US government buys 200 million Pfizer shots as booster doses and for kids

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The US government has bought 200 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, in anticipation of booster shots and doses for children being approved. Meanwhile, jab or no jab, kids are being asked to mask up to return to school.

Pfizer announced the purchase on Friday, stating that the sale brings the total number of doses of its Covid vaccine supplied to the US government to 500 million. “Vaccines have been and will remain critical to protecting lives against this devastating disease,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “These additional doses will help the US government ensure broad vaccine access into next year.”

The White House later confirmed the purchase, an administration official telling the media that 65 million doses will be set aside for children under 12, and others reserved for use as booster shots – something Pfizer has pushed for and US regulators are still evaluating.

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None of the three Covid vaccines currently in use in the US – by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – have yet been approved for children under 12. Clinical trials on children are currently underway for all three, and White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has said it is “likely by late fall, early winter, we’ll have enough data” to consider approval. 

Speaking at a CNN town hall earlier this week, President Joe Biden said that such authorization would come “soon.” 

Technically, none of the coronavirus vaccines has been generally approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Instead they have been authorized for emergency use.

Children are not typically at risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19. Even as the more transmissible Delta variant becomes the dominant strain of the virus in the US, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that under-18s account for 0.05% of all Covid-19 deaths in the US since the pandemic began, and around 3% of hospitalizations.

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Nevertheless, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called this week for all children over two to wear masks when they return to school this fall, regardless of their vaccination status. The recommendation goes further than the updated guidance that was issued earlier this month by the CDC, which said students and school employees who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks.

State to state and locality to locality, rules on masking vary. Eight states have prohibited mandatory masking policies, while others have taken a hard opposite approach. California banned maskless kids from entering public schools earlier this month, but backtracked on that decision within hours and left the decision up to local districts.

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