EXPLAINER: What we know and don’t know about omicron variant

By JAMEY KEATEN and MARIA CHENG

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization says it could still take some time to get a full picture of the threat posed by omicron, a new variant of the coronavirus as scientists worldwide scramble to assess its multiple mutations.

Stock markets swooned, some public gatherings got canceled, and countries across the globe suspended incoming flights after scientists in South Africa last week identified the new version that appears to have been behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in the country’s most populous province.

Over the weekend, the list of countries that have spotted the new variant in travelers grew. Portugal detected 13 cases linked to the new variant among members of a single soccer club — only one of whom had recently traveled to South Africa.

On Friday, WHO designated it as a “variant of concern,” its most serious designation of a COVID-19 variant, and called it “omicron” as the latest entry into its Greek alphabet classification system designed to avoid stigmatizing countries of origin and simplify understanding.

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WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT OMICRON?

By Sunday, U.N. health agency issued a statement on omicron that boiled down to: We don’t know much yet.

It said it wasn’t clear whether omicron is more transmissible — more easily spread between people — compared to other variants like the highly transmissible delta variant. It said it wasn’t clear if infection with omicron causes more severe disease, even as it cited data from South Africa showing rising rates of hospitalization there — but that could just be because more people are getting infected with COVID-19, not specifically omicron.

From just over 200 new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks, South Africa saw the number of new daily cases rocket to more than 3,200 on Saturday, most in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

Now, up to 90% of the new cases in Gauteng are caused by it, according to Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.

“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with omicron are different from those from other variants,” WHO said. It said there’s no evidence — yet — that COVID vaccines, tests and treatments are any less effective against the new version.

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WHY ARE SCIENTISTS WORRIED ABOUT THIS NEW VARIANT?

So far, the main difference with other variants appears to be that there may be an increased risk of reinfection with omicron — in other words, that people who’ve already had COVID-19 could get reinfected more easily.

The variant appears to have a high number of mutations — about 30 — in the coronavirus’ spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads to people.

Some experts say that could mean that vaccine makers may have to adapt their products at some point.

Sharon Peacock, who has led genetic sequencing of COVID-19 in Britain at the University of Cambridge, said the data so far suggest the new variant has mutations “consistent with enhanced transmissibility,” but said that “the significance of many of the mutations is still not known.”

Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, described omicron as “the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen,” including potentially worrying changes never before seen all in the same virus.

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WHAT SETS OMICRON APART?

Scientists know that omicron is genetically distinct from previous variants including the beta and delta variants, but don’t know if these genetic changes make it any more transmissible or dangerous. So far, there is no indication the variant causes more severe disease.

It will likely take weeks to sort out if omicron is more infectious and if vaccines are still effective against it.

Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London said it was “extremely unlikely” that current vaccines wouldn’t work, noting they are effective against numerous other variants.

Even though some of the genetic changes in omicron appear worrying, it’s still unclear if they will pose a public health threat. Some previous variants, like the beta variant, initially alarmed scientists but didn’t end up spreading very far.

“We don’t know if this new variant could get a toehold in regions where delta is,” said Peacock of the University of Cambridge. “The jury is out on how well this variant will do where there are other variants circulating.”

To date, delta is by far the most predominant form of COVID-19, accounting for more than 99% of sequences submitted to the world’s biggest public database.

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HOW DID THIS NEW VARIANT ARISE?

The coronavirus mutates as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying genetic changes, often just die out. Scientists monitor COVID-19 sequences for mutations that could make the disease more transmissible or deadly, but they can’t determine that simply by looking at the virus.

Peacock said the variant “may have evolved in someone who was infected but could then not clear the virus, giving the virus the chance to genetically evolve,” in a scenario similar to how experts think the alpha variant — which was first identified in England — also emerged, by mutating in an immune-compromised person.

ARE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS JUSTIFIED?

Depends on who you ask.

Israel is banning foreigners from entering the country and Morocco stopped all incoming international air travel. Scores of countries in Europe, North America, Africa and beyond restricted flights from southern Africa.

Given the recent rapid rise in COVID-19 in South Africa, restricting travel from the region is “prudent” and would buy authorities more time, said Neil Ferguson, an infectious diseases expert at Imperial College London.

But WHO noted that such restrictions are often limited in their effect and urged countries to keep borders open.

South Africa’s government said the country was being treated unfairly because it has advanced genomic sequencing and could detect the variant quicker and asked other countries to reconsider the travel bans.

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AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from London.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Dallas boy, 9, is youngest of 10 killed at Houston festival

By RANDALL CHASE and MIKE CATALINI

A promising college student expected to graduate in the spring. A visitor from Washington state. And a 9-year-old boy who had been in a coma for more than a week.

The death toll stemming from a crowd surge during a Travis Scott performance at the Astroworld music festival in Houston rose to 10 on Sunday. The latest victim is also the youngest, 9-year-old Ezra Blount, of Dallas, who had been in a medically induced coma since Nov. 5.

The dead ranged from 9 to 27 years old. Hundreds more were injured.

City officials are investigating what caused the pandemonium at the sold-out event attended by about 50,000 fans. Scott, a rapper known for his high-energy concerts, has said he would cover funeral costs for the victims.

‘THEIR PRECIOUS YOUNG SON’

Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Blount family, said in a news release Sunday night that he was “committed to seeking answers and justice” on behalf of the family.

“The Blount family tonight is grieving the incomprehensible loss of their precious young son,” Crump said. “This should not have been the outcome of taking their son to a concert, what should have been a joyful celebration. Ezra’s death is absolutely heartbreaking.”

Treston Blount, Ezra’s father, described what happened Nov. 5 in a post on a GoFundMe page that he set up to help defray Ezra’s medical expenses. He said Ezra was sitting on his shoulders when a crowd surge crushed them. The father lost consciousness and when he came to, Ezra was missing, Blount said. A frantic search ensued until Ezra was eventually found at the hospital, severely injured.

The child incurred severe damage to his brain, kidney, and liver after being “kicked, stepped on, and trampled, and nearly crushed to death,” according to a lawsuit his family has filed against Scott and the event’s organizer, Live Nation. The Blount family is seeking at least $1 million in damages.

‘SUPER GLUE OF THE FAMILY’

Bharti Shahani, a high-achieving student at Texas A&M University, died Wednesday night, attorney James Lassiter said during a news conference with the family.

Shahani had been hospitalized since she was critically injured at the concert.

Bharti’s relatives described her as diligent in her electronics systems engineering studies and someone who always thought of others — including that she had signed up to donate her organs when she died.

Astroworld was supposed to be a rare escape, her sister Namrata Shahani said.

“For the first time in her life, she just wanted to have fun, and that was taken from her,” Namrata said.

Namrata said her sister’s last words to her were, “Are you OK?”

Her cousin, Mohit Bellani, attended the concert too. He said Shahani had two heart attacks on the way to the hospital. “Bharti was the glue of the family. She was the super glue of the family” he said.

‘LOVED HIS MOM’

Franco Patino, 21, was working toward a mechanical engineering technology degree at the University of Dayton, with a minor in human movement biomechanics, his father, Julio Patino, told The Associated Press. He was a member of Alpha Psi Lambda, a Hispanic interest fraternity, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and was working in an engineering co-op program.

Patino described his son as a charismatic, energetic leader who was active in his community and intent on helping people with disabilities. His son was working on a new medical device and wanted to find a way to help his mother walk again after she was severely injured in an automobile accident in Mexico two years ago, Patino said.

Through tears, Patino described how his son — who enjoyed weight lifting, football and rugby — used his strength to break a door and free his mom from the wreckage.

“He loved his mom,” Patino said. “He said everything that he was doing, it was trying to help his mom. The entire goal.”

Julio Patino, of Naperville, Illinois, was in London on business when the phone rang around 3 a.m. He answered it and heard his wife, Teresita, crying. She said someone had called from a hospital about Franco and that a doctor would be calling her soon. After 30 minutes, she called back with the doctor on the line.

“The doctor was giving us the news that our son had passed away,” Patino said.

Patino said he had last spoken with his son about 2 p.m. Friday, when he reassured his father he was fine.

“I just said, ‘OK, just be careful,’” Patino said.

‘HUGE HOLE IN OUR LIVES’

Jacob “Jake” Jurinek, 20, was a junior at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where he was “pursuing his passion for art and media,” his family said in a statement Sunday. He was just short of his 21st birthday.

He was attending the concert with Patino, his friend and former high school football teammate, according to Patino’s father, Julio Patino. He was deeply committed to his family and was known as “Big Jake” by his younger cousins.

He will be missed by his father, Ron Jurinek, with whom Jake became especially close after his mother died in 2011.

“In the decade since, Jake and Ron were inseparable – attending White Sox and Blackhawks games, sharing their love of professional wrestling, and spending weekends with extended family and friends at Jake’s favorite place, the family cottage in Southwestern Michigan,” the family’s statement said.

“We are all devastated and are left with a huge hole in our lives,” his father, Ron Jurinek, added in an emailed statement.

‘GOOD STUDENT, ATHLETE, SO POLITE’

Memorial High School ninth-grader John Hilgert, 14, was the youngest of those who died. Mourners began tying green ribbons around trees at the school over the weekend in his memory.

He was at the concert with classmate Robby Hendrix, whose mother, Tracy Faulkner, spoke with the Houston Chronicle. The boys had hoped to get a good spot to watch the show.

“Everything about that night was a tragedy,” Faulkner told the newspaper. “John was a good student and athlete and so polite. He was the sweetest and smartest young man.”

‘LIFE OF THE PARTY’

Madison Dubiski, 23, lived in Houston. She was a varsity cheerleader in high school and member of a community service group called the National Charity League, according to a former classmate who spoke to the Houston Chronicle.

“She was definitely the life of the party and loved by so many people,” Lauren Vogler told the newspaper.

She was her mom’s best friend and she loved watching her brother play sports, family friend Claudia Sierra said.

‘HARD-WORKING MAN’

Mirza “Danish” Baig, who identified himself on Facebook as a district manager for AT&T, and appeared to be a devoted Dallas Cowboys fan, was among those who died at the the concert, his brother Basil Baig said on Facebook.

“He was (an) innocent young soul who would always put others before him. He was a hard-working man who loved his family and took care of us. He was there in a heartbeat for anything. He always had a solution to everything,” Basil Baig told ABC News.

Baig’s funeral was held Sunday in Colleyville in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. Messages left with Basil Baig were not returned.

County officials identified him as Mirza Baig, but his brother said on Facebook he went by Danish. He was 27.

LOVED TO DANCE

Brianna Rodriguez’s family told People magazine that she was among those who perished at the concert. She was 16, a student at Heights High School and loved dancing, according to the family the magazine spoke with. Her family has not responded to a message left by AP.

Outsider her school, pink ribbons and balloons adorned the fence, spelling out “Bri.”

“Brianna was someone who performed with the band and was someone who could always make anyone smile,” the Heights High School band said in a tweet.

Her high school dance team remembered her in an Instagram post, saying that she was with the group for three years, served as the junior social officer and “never failed to put a smile on everyone’s face.

“She was a wonderful friend, teammate, dancer, sister, daughter, and leader. The bulldog community is deeply saddened and will honor her in every way we can. We love you Brianna,” the team said in the post.

COMPUTER SCIENCE STUDENT

Axel Acosta Avila, 21, was a computer science major at Western Washington University. His father, Edgar Acosta, told KOMO-TV his son was among the victims who died at the festival.

The school in Bellingham, Washington, released a statement Sunday: “By all accounts, Axel was a young man with a vibrant future. We are sending our condolences to his family on this very sad day.”

Acosta Avila was initially identified by family with the single last name, Acosta, but his father said Monday that his full name should be used.

ASPIRING BORDER AGENT

Rodolfo “Rudy” Pena, 23, of Laredo, Texas, was a student at Laredo College and wanted to be Border Patrol agent, his friend Stacey Sarmiento said. She described him as a people person. Officials identified him as Rodolfo Pena, but friends called him Rudy.

“Rudy was a close friend of mine,” she said. “We met in high school. He was an athlete. … He brought happiness anywhere he went. He was easy to get along with. It was like positive vibes from him at all times.”

“We all came to have a good time … it was just horrible in there,” she added.

Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle and Juan Lozano in Houston contributed to this report. Chase reported from Dover, Delaware, and Catalini reported from Trenton, New Jersey.

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China, US pledge to increase cooperation at UN climate talks

By SETH BORENSTEIN, ELLEN KNICKMEYER and FRANK JORDANS

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — The world’s top carbon polluters, China and the United States, agreed Wednesday to increase their cooperation and speed up action to rein in climate-damaging emissions, signaling a mutual effort on global warming at a time of tension over their other disputes.

In back-to-back news conferences at U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and U.S. counterpart John Kerry said the two countries would work together to accelerate the emissions reductions required to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It’s beneficial not only to our two countries but the world as a whole that two major powers in the world, China and the U.S., shoulder special international responsibilities and obligations,” Xie told reporters. “We need to think big and be responsible.”

“The steps we’re taking … can answer questions people have about the pace at which China is going, and help China and us to be able to accelerate our efforts,” Kerry said.

China also agreed for the first time to crack down on methane leaks, following the lead of the Biden administration’s efforts to curb the potent greenhouse gas. Beijing and Washington agreed to share technology to reduce emissions.

Governments agreed in Paris to jointly cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a more stringent target of trying to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) preferred.

Both sides recognize that there is a gap between efforts taken globally to reduce climate pollution and the goals of the Paris deal, Xie said.

“So we will jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation with respect to our respective national situations,” he said.

A U.S.-China bilateral agreement in 2014 gave a huge push to the creation of the historic Paris accord the following year, but that cooperation stopped with the Trump administration, which pulled the U.S. out of the pact. The Biden administration brought the U.S. back in to that deal, but has clashed with China on other issues such as cybersecurity, human rights and Chinese territorial claims.

“While this is not a gamechanger in the way the 2014 US-China climate deal was, in many ways it’s just as much of a step forward given the geopolitical state of the relationship,” said Thom Woodroofe, an expert in U.S.-China climate talks. “It means the intense level of US-China dialogue on climate can now begin to translate into cooperation.”

The gesture of goodwill comes just days after President Joe Biden blamed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failure to attend talks in person for the lack of more progress in climate negotiations.

The U.S. and China will also revive a working group that will “meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade,” the declaration said.

Both Washington and Beijing intend to update the world on their new national targets for 2035 in 2025 — a move that is particularly significant for China. The declaration also said China will “make best efforts to accelerate” its plans to reduce coal consumption in the second half of this decade.

The announcement came as governments from around the world were negotiating in Glasgow about how to build on the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect vulnerable countries from the impacts of global warming.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the move “an important step in the right direction.”

Some experts noted the deal was short on commitments that would significantly reduce heat-trapping gases.

“It’s a good sign that the world’s two biggest emitters can actually work together to face the biggest crisis of humanity but there’s not a lot of meat there after the methane stuff,’ said Byford Tsang a China policy analyst for the European think tank E3G.

Earlier Wednesday, a draft of a larger deal being negotiated by almost 200 countries in Glasgow called for accelerating the phasing out of coal — the single biggest source of man-made emissions — although it set no timeline.

Setting deadlines for phasing out fossil fuels is highly sensitive to countries that still depend on them for economic growth, including China and India, and to major exporters of coal such as Australia. The future of coal is also a hot-button issue in the U.S., where a spat among Democrats has held up one of President Joe Biden’s signature climate bills.

Greenpeace International director Jennifer Morgan, a long-time climate talks observer, said that the call in the draft to phase out coal would be a first in a U.N. climate deal, but the lack of a timeline would limit the pledge’s effectiveness.

“This isn’t the plan to solve the climate emergency. This won’t give the kids on the streets the confidence that they’ll need,” Morgan said.

The draft also expresses “alarm and concern” about how much Earth has already warmed and urges countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about half by 2030. Pledges so far from governments don’t add up to that frequently stated goal.

The draft is likely to change, but it doesn’t yet include full agreements on the three major goals that the U.N. set going into the negotiations: for rich nations to give poorer ones $100 billion a year in climate aid, to ensure that half of that money goes to adapting to worsening global warming, and the pledge to slash global carbon emissions by 2030.

It acknowledges “with regret” that rich nations have failed to live up to the climate finance pledge. Currently they are providing around $80 billion a year, which poorer nations that need financial help both in developing green energy systems and adapting to the worst of climate change say isn’t enough.

Papua New Guinea Environment Minister Wera Mori said that given the lack of financial aid his country may “rethink” efforts to cut logging, coal mining and even coming to the U.N. talks.

The draft says the world should try to achieve “net-zero (emissions) around mid-century,” a target that was endorsed by leaders of the Group of 20 biggest economies in a summit just before the Glasgow talks. That means requiring countries to pump only as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as can be absorbed again through natural or artificial means.

In a nod to one of the big issues for poorer countries, the draft vaguely “urges” developed nations to compensate developing countries for “loss and damage,” a phrase that some rich nations don’t like. But there are no concrete financial commitments.

Britain’s Alok Sharma, who is chairing the negotiations, acknowledged that “significant issues remain unresolved.”

“My big, big ask of all of you is to please come armed with the currency of compromise,” he told negotiators. “What we agree in Glasgow will set the future for our children and grandchildren, and I know that we will not want to fail them.”

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Associated Press journalist Helena Alves contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate. Follow Borenstein, Jordans and Ghosal on Twitter.

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Sheriff: Baldwin fired prop gun that killed cinematographer

By MORGAN LEE and WALTER BERRY

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on a movie set and killed the cinematographer, authorities said. The director of the Western being filmed was wounded, and authorities are investigating what happened.

Halyna Hutchins, cinematographer on the movie “Rust,” and director Joel Souza were shot Thursday on the rustic film set in the desert on the southern outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to County Sheriff’s officials.

A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks, though a charge without a metal projectile is unlikely to kill at a moderate distance. Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said detectives were investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported the 63-year-old Baldwin was seen Thursday outside the sheriff’s office in tears, but attempts to get comment from him were unsuccessful.

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel, the sheriff’s department said. Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, where he is undergoing treatment.

“The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event,” International Cinematographers Guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine said in a statement.

Sheriff’s deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person being shot on set, said Rios, the sheriff’s spokesman. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western “News of the World.”

“This investigation remains open and active,” Rios said in a statement. “No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”

Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film “Archenemy,” starring Joe Manganiello. She was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.

“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” said “Archenemy” director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”

Manganiello called Hutchins “an incredible talent” and “a great person” on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.

Baldwin teamed up as a producer previously with Souza on the 2019 film, “Crown Vic,” which starred Thomas Jane as a veteran Los Angeles police officer on a manhunt for two violent bank robbers. Souza’s first credited film, 2010’s “Hanna’s Gold,” was a treasure hunt adventure featuring Luke Perry.

Production was halted on “Rust.” The movie is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s’ Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.

In 1993, Brandon Lee, 28, son of the late martial-arts star Bruce Lee, died after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie “The Crow.” The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.

A Twitter account run by Lee’s sister Shannon said: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust.’ No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series “Cover Up.”

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Berry reported from Phoenix. Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.

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Plane burns after takeoff mishap in Texas; no one badly hurt

BROOKSHIRE, Texas (AP) — A plane taking passengers from Texas to the AL Championship Series game in Boston burst into flames after it ran off a runway during takeoff Tuesday morning, but no one was seriously hurt, authorities said.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-87 was carrying 21 people when it rolled through a fence and caught fire at the Houston Executive Airport in Brookshire, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Everyone made it off the plane safely and the only reported injury was a passenger with back pain, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon said on Facebook. Duhon, who is the highest elected official in the county, told reporters that the group was headed to see Game 4 of the ALCS between the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.

Cheryl McCaskill, who lives in the Houston suburb of Cypress, was aboard the plane. She told the Houston Chronicle that she felt “shaky and shocked” after running from the burning jet in her Astros jersey.

“When it finally stopped, everyone went ‘get out, get out, get out.’ We jumped out on that inflatable thing and then everyone went ‘get away,’” McCaskill said.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said a team of agency investigators was expected in Texas by Tuesday night and that they would likely examine the aircraft’s flight data recorder.

The aircraft is registered to a Houston-area investment firm.

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Global stocks rise ahead of closely watched US hiring data

By JOE McDONALD

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets rose as investors waited for U.S. jobs data Friday that might influence a Federal Reserve decision on when to roll back stimulus after lawmakers averted a possible government debt default.

London and Frankfurt opened higher. Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced. Wall Street futures advanced.

Investors want to see whether U.S. hiring in September was strong enough for Fed officials who are discussing when to withdraw bond purchases and other stimulus that is boosting stock prices but say they want a healthy job market.

Friday’s Labor Department data “will decide, in the markets’ minds, whether the start of the Fed taper is a done deal for December,” said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda in a report.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London rose 1.7% to 7,079.73 while Frankfurt’s DAX lost 0.3% to 15,208.73. The CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.2% to 6,586.79.

On Wall Street, the future for the benchmark S&P 500 index lost less than 0.1%. The future for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up less than 0.1%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.8% while the Dow added 1% after U.S. lawmakers agreed to extend Washington’s borrowing ability into December. Lack of agreement might have led to a default experts say would set back a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite that truce, “concerns around the U.S. funding its government have far from dissipated,” said Mizuho Bank’s Venkateswaran Lavanya in a report.

Earlier, the S&P 500 swung between gains and losses of more than 1% for four days due to anxiety about the debt fight.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.7% to 3,592.17 after Chinese markets reopened following a five-day holiday. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo jumped 1.3% to 28,048.94 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 0.6% to 24,837.35.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 0.1% to 2,956.30 while Sydney’s ASX-S&P 200 added 0.9% to 7,320.10. India’s Sensex gained 0.7% to 60,075.91. New Zealand declined while Southeast Asian markets advanced.

On Thursday, the Labor Department reported the number of people applying for unemployment fell last week.

Earlier, Fed officials responded to a spike in inflation by saying they wanted to be sure a recovery was established before withdrawing stimulus. Stronger employment might add to pressure for prices to rise faster, which investors worry might prompt the Fed and other central banks to wind down stimulus that has boosted stock prices.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.21 to $79.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 87 cents on Thursday to $78.30. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, advanced $1.24 to $83.19 per barrel in London. It added 87 cents the previous session to $81.95.

The dollar rose to 111.95 yen from Thursday’s 111.63 yen. The euro advanced to $1.1554 from $1.1550.

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‘Pandora Papers’ bring renewed calls for tax haven scrutiny

By PAUL WISEMAN and MARCY GORDON

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls grew Monday for an end to the financial secrecy that has allowed many of the world’s richest and most powerful people to hide their wealth from tax collectors.

The outcry came after a report revealed the way that world leaders, billionaires and others have used shell companies and offshore accounts to keep trillions of dollars out of government treasuries over the past quarter-century, limiting the resources for helping the poor or combating climate change.

The report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists brought promises of tax reform and demands for resignations and investigations, as well as explanations and denials from those targeted.

The investigation, dubbed the Pandora Papers, was published Sunday and involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.

Hundreds of politicians, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have used shell companies or other tactics to hide their wealth and investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world.

“The Pandora Papers is all about individuals using secrecy jurisdictions, which we would call tax havens, when the goal is to evade taxes,” said Steve Wamhoff, director of federal tax policy at the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington.

The tax dodges can be legal.

Gabriel Zucman, a University of California, Berkeley, economist who studies income inequality and taxes, said in a statement one solution is “obvious’: Ban “shell companies — corporations with no economic substance, whose sole purpose is to avoid taxes or other laws.’

“The legality is the true scandal,” activist and science-fiction author Cory Doctorow wrote on Twitter. “Each of these arrangements represents a risible fiction: a shell company is a business, a business is a person, that person resides in a file-drawer in the desk of a bank official on some distant treasure island.”

The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, and associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some of those targeted strongly denied the claims.

Oxfam International, a British consortium of charities, applauded the Pandora Papers for exposing brazen examples of greed that deprived countries of tax revenue that could be used to finance programs and projects for the greater good.

“This is where our missing hospitals are,” Oxfam said in a statement. “This is where the pay-packets sit of all the extra teachers and firefighters and public servants we need.”

The European Commission, the 27-nation European Union’s executive arm, said in response to the revelations that it is preparing new legislative proposals to enhance tax transparency and reinforce the fight against tax evasion.

The Pandora Papers are a follow-up to a similar project released in 2016 called the “Panama Papers” compiled by the same journalistic group.

The latest bombshell is even more expansive, relying on data leaked from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions. The records date back to the 1970s, but most are from 1996 to 2020.

The investigation dug into accounts registered in familiar offshore havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong and Belize. But some were also in trusts set up in the U.S., including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.

The document trove reveals how powerful people are able to deploy anonymous shell companies, trusts and other artifices to conceal the true owners of corrupt or illicit assets. Legally sanctioned trusts, for example, can be subject to abuse by tax evaders and fraudsters who crave the privacy and autonomy they offer compared with traditional business entities.

Shell companies, a favored tax evasion vehicle, are often layered in complex networks that conceal the identity of the beneficial owners of assets — those who ultimately control an offshore company or other asset, or benefit from it financially, while other people’s names are listed on registration documents. The report said, for example, that an offshore company was used to buy a $4 million Monaco apartment for a woman who reportedly carried on a secret relationship with Putin.

While a beneficial owner may be required to pay taxes in the home country, it’s often difficult for authorities to discover that an offshore account exists, especially if offshore governments don’t cooperate.

A Treasury Department agency working on new regulations for a U.S. beneficial ownership directory has been debating whether partnerships, trusts and other business entities should be included. Transparency advocates say they must or else criminals will devise new types of paper companies for slipping through the cracks.

International bodies like the G7 group of wealthiest nations and the Financial Action Task Force have begun initiatives in recent years to improve ownership transparency, but the efforts have moved at a modest pace.

Pointing to the secrecy behind many of the tax dodges, some critics are calling for a global wealth registry that would make sham investments in shell companies public, embarrassing politicians or celebrities worried about their reputations.

In the U.S., the House passed legislation this summer that would require multinational corporations to publicly disclose their tax payments and other key financial information on a country-by-country basis. Anti-money laundering and corporate transparency measures were tucked into legislation funding the Defense Department; it has yet to be implemented by the Treasury Department.

The Biden administration is also pushing for U.S banks to be required to report customers’ account information to the IRS as part of the $3.5 trillion economic and social spending package before Congress. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other officials say it’s an important way to prevent tax dodging by wealthy individuals and companies, but it has raised fierce opposition from banking industry groups and Republican lawmakers, who maintain it would violate privacy and create unfair liability for banks.

Tax havens have already come under considerable scrutiny this year.

In July, negotiators from 130 countries agreed to a global minimum tax of at least 15% to prevent big multinational corporations from minimizing taxes by shifting profits from high- to low-tax jurisdictions such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Details of the plan by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, have yet to be worked out; it’s supposed to take effect in 2023.

And while the plan would cover huge multinational corporations, it would not include the shell companies and other entities behind the schemes described in the Pandora Papers.

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Associated Press writers Stan Choe in New York and John Rice in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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This story was first published on October 4, 2021. It was updated on October 5, 2021 to remove a photo with a caption that erroneously identified Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan as one of 330 current and former politicians who reportedly benefitted from secret accounts. The report identified Khan’s associates as beneficiaries, but not Khan himself.

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Merck says pill cuts risk of Covid-19 hospitalization, death in half as many states see vaccinations increase

By Travis Caldwell | CNN

A pill has cut the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19 by half in a study, Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutic said Friday.

It would become the first oral antiviral for Covid-19 if approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization.

“At the interim analysis, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%,” Merck said in a news release. “7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization (28/385), compared with 14.1% of placebo treated patients (53,377). Through Day 29, no deaths were reported in patients who received molnupiravir, as compared to 8 deaths in patients who received placebo.”

Merck said it will seek FDA emergency use authorization “as soon as possible.”

Experts have said that developing an oral antiviral could be the next chance to thwart Covid-19. A short-term regimen of daily pills would aim to fight the virus early after diagnosis and prevent symptoms from developing after exposure.

One antiviral drug has been approved to treat Covid. Remdesivir is given intravenously to sick patients in the hospital. It is not meant for early, widespread use.

Some states are seeing increased vaccinations

Meanwhile, as more states and health care systems move toward mandatory inoculations for certain workers, officials are hoping the incentive of employment will eliminate vaccine hesitancy — while one governor is arranging contingency scenarios.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has instructed the National Guard to prepare in case there are staffing shortages when a vaccine mandate and testing requirement goes into effect at the end of Monday, he said. State employees must provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing requirements by the deadline, and those who don’t comply will be placed on unpaid leave.

As of Thursday, more than 63% — 20,000 employees — were fully vaccinated while 12% of employees have started weekly testing, Lamont said. More than 8,000 non-compliant employees remain, yet some 2,000 have updated their status in the last two days.

“We have provided most state employees with the option to get tested weekly instead of getting vaccinated, providing more flexibility than our neighboring states. We have also provided our employees with a compliance grace period. There is no reason all our employees should not be in compliance,” Lamont said.

Connecticut is just one of several states that face pushback over mandating vaccinations for critical workers, a move that has been highlighted by health experts as necessary to protect those at a higher risk for Covid-19, but which has been met with stiff resistance from a vocal minority who wish to remain both unvaccinated and in their current roles.

In Rhode Island, the department of health announced in August that “all employees, interns, and volunteers in RIDOH-licensed healthcare facilities” would be required to get their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by Friday.

Care New England, one of the largest hospital systems in the state, reported Thursday that over 95% of its healthcare workforce has been vaccinated. Staff vaccination “continues to climb by the day and the hour,” according to the system’s CEO James E. Fanale.

The deadline has already passed in other states. California’s 2 million health care workers needed to be vaccinated by Thursday or risk losing their jobs, with exemptions available for religious beliefs or qualifying medical reasons.

Many hospitals that CNN surveyed had high vaccination rates among employees, averaging over 90% at some of the state’s largest healthcare systems.

In New York, none of the health care facilities shut down as a result of vaccine mandates for workers, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday. Earlier this week, it was reported that 92% of nursing home staff, 89% of adult care facilities staff, and 92% of hospital staff have received at least one dose statewide.

“You will see that number go higher quickly, because what we’re finding is, you know, as more people are furloughed or suspended, that that number is going to go up,” Hochul said.

Some area hospitals had reported suspending employees without pay or temporarily halting elective inpatient procedures due to shortages.

Vaccines for ages 5-11 may be available soon, but poll finds hesitancy remains

As the Delta variant continues to spread, health care employees are far from the only who deal with everyday risks on the job. The resumption of in-person learning in schools has already been complicated by Covid-19 outbreaks and the quarantining of exposed students and staff.

Yet despite evidence that vaccinations are lowering Covid-19 infections and severity among eligible age groups, there is still hesitancy among parents and guardians about inoculating children ages 5 to 11, according to a new survey.

Only around one-third of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds say that they will vaccinate their child as soon as a vaccine becomes available for that age group, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Vaccine Monitor results published Thursday. A similar percentage, 32%, say that they will wait and see how the vaccine is working, and 24% say that they definitely won’t get their 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated.

According to the report, 58% of parents said that K-12 schools should require masks in school for all students and staff, 4% said masks should be required only for unvaccinated students and staff, and 35% said there should be no mask requirements.

There is a split between vaccinated and unvaccinated parents polled, KFF found, with 73% of vaccinated parents saying schools should require masks for all students and 63% of unvaccinated parents saying there should be no mask requirements.

The bulk of interviews, conducted September 13 to 22 from a sample of more than 1,500 adults, were before Pfizer announced that clinical trials showed their Covid-19 vaccine was safe and generated an immune response in this age group.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for people age 16 and older and has an emergency use authorization for people ages 12 to 15. On Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they submitted data on children ages 5 to 11 to the FDA for initial review but are not yet seeking emergency use authorization.

A formal submission to request EUA for the vaccine is expected to follow in the coming weeks, the companies said in a statement.

Among those already eligible for vaccines, the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 200 million US adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. Nearly 67% of US adults are fully vaccinated.

Death rates in nonmetropolitan areas are higher, study finds

Meanwhile, researchers are looking at the effects the pandemic is having on different parts of the nation.

Deaths from Covid-19 in nonmetropolitan areas are now occurring at more than twice the rate of deaths from Covid-19 in metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data from the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Policy Analysis.

After analyzing data on average Covid-19 death rates at the county level, it was determined that in the two weeks ending September 15, 2021, nonmetropolitan areas had an average of 0.85 Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 residents. Metropolitan areas had an average half that — 0.41 Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 residents.

Deaths in nonmetropolitan areas have outpaced those in metropolitan areas consistently since the beginning of the study in April 2020, and the numbers from September 15 are the fourth time overall that the nonmetropolitan death rate has been at least double the metropolitan death rate. However, the nonmetropolitan rate had not been double that of metropolitan areas since December 1, 2020.

The researchers used US Department of Agriculture methodology to differentiate between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. Counties were logged as metropolitan if they had an urban area with 50,000 or more people or were an outlying county with strong economic ties to an urban center. All other counties in the study were coded as nonmetropolitan.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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Asia shares mostly fall on China energy, Evergrande worries

By YURI KAGEYAMA

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares mostly fell Tuesday as concerns about China chipped away at investor optimism following a mixed finish on Wall Street.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.3% to 30,139.65. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 1% to 7,314.10. South Korea’s Kospi declined 0.8% to 3,109.07. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 1.7% to 24,619.28. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.3% to 3,594.18.

A power crunch in some parts of China has shut down factories and left some households without electricity under an effort to meet official energy use targets. That could have global repercussions, including on supplies needed for manufacturing throughout Asia, coming right ahead of the year-end shopping season.

The woes come on top of parts and raw material shortages that already ail regional manufacturing because of supply disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Analysts say the power shortage in China could become prolonged as the demand for coal and natural gas surges during the winter.

Another lingering market worry resonating from China is the possible collapse of one of China’s biggest real estate developers, Evergrande Group, which is struggling to avoid a default on billions of dollars of debt.

“Crucially, contagion risks loom large due to transmission within the property sector due to similar risks to home-buyers and banks via balance sheet exposures,” said Vishnu Varathan of the Asia & Oceania Treasury Department at Mizuho Bank. “Fact is Evergrande is at best a risk that has temporarily abated but is far from abolished.”

The vote for the leader of Japan’s ruling party, set for Wednesday, was also weighing on Tokyo trading, according to analysts, as players took a wait-and-see attitude. Four candidates are in the race to replace Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is stepping down after a year in office. No major economic or foreign policy changes are expected, as the pro-U.S. Liberal Democratic Party has ruled Japan almost continually in recent decades.

Wall Street’s major stock indexes ended mixed as losses by technology and health care companies outweighed gains elsewhere in the market.

The S&P 500 fell 0.3% to 4,443.11, ending a three-day winning streak for the benchmark index, which last week notched its first weekly gain in three weeks. The Nasdaq dropped 0.5% to 14,969.97, while the Dow managed a 0.2% gain to 34,869.37. The Russell 2000 picked up 1.5% to 2,281, a sign that investors are still confident about future economic growth.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 1.49%. It was at 1.31% a week ago, as market jitters drove investors to shift money into bonds, which lowers their yield. It has been climbing for the past week.

The yield influences interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, so when it rises it allows lenders to charge higher rates. Bank of America gained 2.7%.

U.S. markets have had a choppy month so far and the S&P 500 is on pace to shed 1.8% in September, which would mark the first monthly loss since January. Investors have been trying to gauge just how much room the economy has to grow amid waves of COVID-19 crimping consumer spending and job growth while inflation remains a concern.

Consumer spending has been the key driver for the economic recovery and it has been crimped in part by rising cases of COVID-19 because of the highly contagious delta variant, which remains a huge concern in Asia.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 25 cents to $75.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.47 to $75.45 per barrel on Monday.

Brent crude, the international standard, rose 21 cents to $79.74 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar rose to 111.16 Japanese yen from 110.99 yen. The euro cost $1.1695, inching down from $1.1700.

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AP Business Writers Damian J. Troise, Alex Veiga and Ken Sweet contributed.

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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Why a Covid-19 vaccine for younger children is taking longer than a vaccine for adults

By Jen Christensen | CNN

Anxiety is high among parents as more kids head back to school without the protection of a Covid-19 vaccine for at least a few more months.

Parents have a reason to be concerned. After months of declining cases, the virus is finding the unvaccinated.

Adolescents as young as 12 can be vaccinated against Covid-19, but younger children aren’t eligible yet. Children made up nearly a quarter of the reported cases for the week ending August 26. The numbers have “increased exponentially,” reaching levels the United States hasn’t seen since last winter, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday.

Children have largely been spared the worst of Covid-19 — hospitalizations and deaths are more rare for children than for adults — although children’s hospitals are filling up in Covid-19 hotspots around the country.

A kids’ vaccine cannot come soon enough, but the process is taking longer than some initially expected.

“We had really hoped that maybe we would have something in place before we tried to bring kids back into the school classroom, but, unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do that,” said Dr. Emily Chapman, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Children’s Minnesota.

Timeline for younger children’s Covid-19 vaccines

Trial data are still being gathered for Covid-19 vaccines for younger children. Once the vaccine companies have trial results, they’ll need to submit the information to the US Food and Drug Administration, which will assess the vaccines for authorization.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner who now sits on the board of Covid-19 vaccine maker Pfizer, said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation that the company will likely be able to file the data for 5-11-year-olds for authorization “at some point in September” and then file the application for an emergency use of the vaccine “potentially as early as October.”

“That’ll put us on a time frame where the vaccines could be available at some point late fall, more likely early winter depending on how long FDA takes to review the application,” Gottlieb said.

There’s no official timetable once a company submits to the FDA. Emergency use considerations can take several weeks.

“There’s always something that makes things not the way we think,” said Dr. Stanley Perlman, who is on the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee and is also a pediatrician and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa Health Care. “Obviously, we want it done as soon as possible, but we want it done right.”

When asked Wednesday whether a Covid-19 vaccine will be authorized for young children before Thanksgiving, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he hopes so, but he does not want to get ahead of the FDA.

“They should be getting the data, at least in one of the companies, by the end of September,” noted Fauci.

“Then the data will be presented to the FDA, and the FDA will make a determination whether they will grant that under an emergency use authorization or some other mechanism.”

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a National Parent Teacher Association town hall Wednesday that she is hopeful the Pfizer vaccine will be available for kids in 2021.

“Everybody is looking at this with urgency. Everyone recognizes how important it is for those children to have access to vaccines,” she said when asked about the timeline. “My understanding of the timeline is pretty consistent with what is being said: the middle of fall is my understanding, early fall is when we will anticipate seeing the data, and then it will lie with the hands of the FDA. And I’m hopeful for the end of the year.”

Data for 2-to-5-year-olds could arrive soon after the older kids’ data. For the youngest children, Pfizer told CNN it could potentially have enough research by October or November, and shortly thereafter ask the FDA to authorize emergency use.

Moderna’s trial is underway, but is a few months behind Pfizer. Johnson & Johnson doesn’t expect its multiple trials in children to even start until the fall.

Why a vaccine for younger children takes longer

Hundreds of millions of adults have been vaccinated, proving that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, but those results are not a substitute for the research needed in kids.

“As much as we would like to go ahead and start vaccinating our children now, it’s most important that we take this time to ensure that the science is rigorous,” said Minnesota’s Chapman.

For the kid’s version of the Covid-19 vaccine, scientists use results from the adult trials and a full pediatric trial.

Having the adult research speeds up the process. For people as young as 12, Perlman explains, the companies didn’t have to enroll the 30,000 people it needed for adult trials because it could do what’s called “immunobridging.” The data showed that for this age group, the immune response was the equivalent of adults’.

Companies take a similar approach with the younger kids, but in early August, the FDA asked for six months of follow-up safety data, instead of the two months it asked for with adults. It also asked Pfizer and Moderna to double the number of children ages 5 to 11 in clinical trials.

Vaccine advisers to the CDC said in June there is a likely association between the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and extremely rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults, but the benefits of vaccination still clearly outweigh the risks. The inflammation cases appeared to be mild, and they resolved quickly on their own or with minimal treatment.

At Texas Children’s Hospital, interim pediatrician-in-chief Dr. James Versalovic said it was no problem to recruit more kids for the Pfizer and Moderna trials. Many trial sites have long waiting lists. The trial expansion, though, added at least a month more to the research process.

“We all agreed it was worthwhile, just to make the trials even more robust data to provide that additional level of reassurance to parents across the country. It does lengthen the trial, but just a bit,” Versalovic said.

‘Children are not small adults’

Children’s vaccine trials actually start in adults.

“Typically, every vaccine candidate, even for other conditions, would be evaluated first in adult patients and then in progressively younger ages,” explained Dr. Kari Simonsen, who is leading the trial of the Pfizer vaccine at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. “We can’t make assumptions about the safety or tolerability of medicines in children being the same as for adults,” she said.

It’s because of biology.

“As we are fond of saying in pediatrics: Children are not small adults. Children are children,” said Versalovic. “Their bodies are developing and will react differently, and we need to treat them differently.”

When it gets to the kids’ phase of the testing, scientists make their best educated guess on what dose would be safe and generate an immune response. The levels and timing is based on development stages.

“By and large our children have very active and responsive immune systems, and so we suspect that smaller doses of vaccine will trigger an adequate response in a child to successfully fight off infection,” said Chapman.

As with any vaccine testing, it must go through a three-phase trial before the FDA can authorize it. The first phase tests to see if the vaccine is safe in about 20 to 100 healthy kids.

Since these are expedited trials, scientists have combined phases 2 and 3 of the trials so they can do more steps in parallel, Versalovic said. In these phases, scientists monitor safety and test to see if the children’s immune systems respond to the vaccine. At this step, scientist recruit hundreds or even thousands of children. Some get vaccine, some get placebo and results are compared.

Only after these steps are complete can a company ask the FDA for authorization or approval.

If the FDA signs off on it, the vaccine gets another set of expert eyes with the CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices. That committee also puts together a formal recommendation around the delivery, storage, timing, distribution, and administration of the vaccine. The committee’s recommendation becomes official when the CDC director reviews and approves it.

In these intervening months, the experts say, children can stay Covid-19 free. Adults, though, will have to help them.

“Best thing we can do for them is surround them with adults who are vaccinated,” Chapman said. “And surround them with people who are masking and keep their masks on as much as possible.”

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