Canada approves vaccine for kids, US offers beer for jabs
Canada has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 12 years and up, becoming the first nation to do so.
"This is the first vaccine authorised in Canada for the prevention of COVID-19 in children and marks a significant milestone in Canada's fight against the pandemic," Health Canada chief medical adviser Supriya Sharma told a press conference.
"We are (also) the first in the world to authorise Pfizer for ages 12 to 15," she said, adding that Britain and the European Union are expected to soon follow after reviewing the same testing results submitted by the manufacturer.
The United States will also reportedly authorise the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in 12-15 year olds as early as next week.
Data from a clinical trial in the United States involving more than 2000 youths who were given two doses of the vaccine showed it is as safe for adolescents as it is for adults, Sharma said.
There were no cases of COVID-19 recorded among the vaccinated children, according to a Health Canada statement. In adults the Pfizer shot has been shown to be at least 90 per cent effective in preventing infection.
The most common reported side effects such as a sore arm, chills or fever were also found to be similar to those in older ages.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorised in December for use in Canadians 16 and older.
Other manufacturers of the four vaccines authorised in Canada - the others are AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna - are conducting or planning their own studies in children as young as six months old.
Ms Sharma said Health Canada will expedite reviews of those results. Since the start of the pandemic, about 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Canada were recorded in people under the age of 19.
As of Wednesday (local time), nearly 1.25 million people in Canada have been diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 24,000 died.
About 13 million Canadians or 35 per cent of the population has so far received at least one vaccine dose.
While younger people are less likely to experience serious illness from COVID, Ms Sharma said, "having access to a safe and effective vaccine will help control the disease's spread to their families and friends, some of whom may be at higher risk complications".
"It'll also support the return to a more normal life for our children who've had such a hard time over the past year," she said.
Ms Sharma also further clarified health authorities' recommendation that Canadians should take whichever Covid vaccine is offered to them first, after a government advisory panel sparked confusion this week by ranking jabs according to safety.
"Each vaccine will have its advantages and disadvantages. The goal," she said, "is to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible".
Very rare but serious blood clots occurred in a handful of cases among millions who received the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Two new deaths were reported in Alberta and New Brunswick provinces this week, bringing Canada's total clotting deaths linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine to three.
Canadian officials have said the risk of dying from COVID-19 is significantly higher than the likelihood of experiencing fatal vaccine complications.
FREE BEER, DOUGHNUTS FOR AMERICANS WHO GET JAB
Free beer, free doughnuts, savings bonds - US government officials and businesses are teaming up to encourage Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
US President Joe Biden wants 70 per cent of adults to have received at least one shot by Independence Day on July 4 and overcoming vaccine hesitancy is key to reaching the goal.
"We know there are millions of Americans who need a little bit of encouragement to get the shot," Mr Biden told reporters earlier this week.
Some 56 per cent of American adults - more than 145 million people - have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine but the pace of vaccination has been declining lately.
Federal, state and local officials are partnering with pharmacies, restaurants, breweries, supermarkets and sports teams to come up with incentives to get people to get their shots.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy launched a "Shot and a Beer" program to encourage vaccination.
"Any New Jerseyan who gets their first vaccine dose in the month of May and takes their vaccination card to a participating brewery will receive a free beer," Murphy tweeted.
The offer is only open, of course, to residents of the "Garden State" who are over the age of 21, the legal drinking age in the United States.
Governor Ned Lamont of the state of Connecticut unveiled a similar "Free Drink" promotion with participating restaurants last month.
In Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents of the nation's capital to "come get vaccinated and grab a beer, on us" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice announced that the state will offer $US100 ($A130) savings bonds to residents aged 16 to 35 who get vaccinated.
"Our kids today probably don't really realise just how important they are in shutting this thing down," Gov Justice said.
"I'm trying to come up with a way that's truly going to motivate them - and us - to get over the hump."
"They're not taking vaccines as fast as we'd like them to take them," Gov Justice said. "If we really want to move the needle, we've got to get our younger people vaccinated."
In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said state employees who get vaccinated will receive $100.
They also must agree to receive any booster shots recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or they will have to reimburse the $100.
"Incentives like this are another way to reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated, and we strongly encourage businesses across the state to consider offering incentives to their workers as well," Hogan said.
Krispy Kreme is offering a free glazed doughnut to anyone who presents their COVID-19 vaccination card at one of its stores.
According to a survey conducted in March by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 25 per cent of Americans aged 18 to 29 are adopting a "wait and see" attitude towards being vaccinated.
Among US adults, 61 per cent said they had been vaccinated or intended to do so as soon as possible while 17 per cent said they were adopting a "wait and see" approach and 13 per cent said they will "definitely not" get vaccinated.
FANS CAN GET JAB AT YANKEES, METS GAMES
Meanwhile, New York's Major-league Baseball teams, the Yankees and the Mets, will give free tickets to fans who get vaccinated for the coronavirus at their ball parks before the games, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday, local time.
"If you get a vaccination, they will give you a free ticket to the game," Gov Cuomo said at a press briefing.
In a further move toward returning the country's largest city to pre-pandemic normality, Cuomo also announced that tickets to Broadway shows would go on sale on Thursday (US time) for performances beginning on September 4.
Originally published as Canada approves vaccine for kids, US offers beer for jabs