Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine,

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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

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Credit…The New York Times

Pfizer said today that its Covid-19 vaccine was safe and highly effective in young children ages 5 to 11, with side effects similar to those observed in children ages 16 to 25.

The announcement, which did not include detailed trial data, puts the company on track to apply to the F.D.A. for authorization by the end of the month. If the regulatory review goes well, millions of elementary school students could be inoculated before Halloween.

An authorized pediatric vaccine would be a game changer — not just for families with young children, but for broader vaccination efforts. There are more than 28 million children ages 5 to 11 in the U.S., and vaccinating them would get the country much closer to herd immunity.

But it remains to be seen how many parents will have their young children vaccinated.

If older children are any indication, it looks like an uphill battle. Pfizer’s vaccine, made with its German partner BioNTech, was approved for children ages 12 to 15 in May, but only about 40 percent have been fully vaccinated, compared with 66 percent of adults 18 and over. About 20 percent of parents of 12- to 17-year-olds said they definitely did not plan to have their child vaccinated.

Many school administrators and teachers’ organizations applauded the Pfizer trial results, but approval seems unlikely to lead to immediate policy changes.

Only a single large school district — Los Angeles Unified — has mandated vaccination for students who are eligible for a shot. The district said today that it was not ready to respond to the latest Pfizer news.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that the promising results from Pfizer did not change his conviction that student vaccine mandates were the wrong approach. Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said last month that it was “premature” to discuss imposing vaccine mandates in schools because children under 12 aren’t yet eligible.

No state has mandated that children or adolescents be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and five states explicitly ban such mandates.

But the need is urgent: Children now make up more than one in five new cases in the U.S., as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sent more children to hospitals in the past few months than at any other time during the pandemic.

Unvaccinated children, even if they do not become ill themselves, can spread the virus to relatives, teachers and others they interact with regularly. They are just as likely as adults to transmit the virus to others, and more likely to do so than adults older than 60, according to the C.D.C.


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A reindeer herders’ traditional tent in the Polar Urals.

The Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia is one of the few remaining places on Earth where a nomadic people retain a traditional culture. On the tundra, the Nenets, an Indigenous minority in the Russian north, follow a lifestyle shaped by the seasonal migrations of the reindeer they herd.

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Nomads receiving a vaccination questionnaire.

Even in these remote areas, the pandemic’s grip can be felt. More than 100 new cases of the virus are recorded in the region every day, as well as three to five deaths.

But now vaccines are arriving, too.

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A paramedic from the district hospital inside a mobile clinic.

Many herders pitch their chums — traditional tents somewhat resembling Native American tepees that are outfitted with electric generators and satellite dishes tuned to Russian TV stations — along a snow-covered highway. A photographer for The Times, Maxim Babenko, followed along as medical buses traveled on the highway, stopping to vaccinate willing herders.

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Children watching Russian cartoons on satellite TV.

Despite some hesitancy, more than 135,000 people in Yamal have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, including about 56 percent of eligible adults.

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Warming up with tea after being vaccinated at the mobile clinic.

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Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

An art installation along the National Mall is honoring the more than 670,000 people in the U.S. who have died from the coronavirus.

The exhibition, “In America: Remember,” which opened on Friday, contains messages painted on white flags that pay tribute to lost loved ones.

The artist behind the installation, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, planted 267,000 flags in Washington last fall to recognize what was then the U.S. coronavirus death toll. Almost a year later, that figure has more than doubled. In the past week alone, more than 13,000 Americans have died of the disease.

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The installation covers 20 acres of federal park land near the Washington Monument.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times



Now back to in-person work, each day I cannot wait to get back to my car and take off my mask. No, not the cloth one. The mask that covers how I’m really doing. I cry every day on my commute. It’s one way to process the worry I have for my unvaccinated kids, as I deal with the stress of getting “back to normal” when this pandemic still rages around us. After that cry, I try to smile again at pickup time for my kids and relish in their school stories, because I am also glad they get to be social again and have friendships. But the fear lies beneath, always, layered in my heart.

— Nicole, New Jersey

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