CDC head talks screwups, 4th doses, omicron’s wave in long-awaited briefingvar abtest_1824627 = new ABTest(1824627, ‘click’);

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held its first COVID-19 press briefing in over a year on Friday. The briefings covered a wide range of topics related to the pandemic, from the rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases to the trajectory of the omicron wave and the agency’s own mistakes in communicating with the public.

CDC Director Rochelle Valensky posed most of the questions herself during the nearly 35-minute phone conference, as reporter after reporter expressed the need for more briefings and thanked her for being available today. Valensky mentioned that she was at more than 80 COVID-19 briefings organized by the White House. However, the CDC had not given its briefing on its epidemiological actions since January 6, 2021.

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In the intervening year, the CDC has experienced periodic misunderstandings and has come under heavy criticism for the messy messaging around the ever-evolving pandemic guidance. The latest such episode came to the fore last week when the agency said that some persons infected with COVID-19 may leave the isolation period early without testing negative. Despite science-based criticisms and concerns, the agency maintains that the CDC’s decision was influenced by political interests, namely avoiding the problem of lack of testing.

At today’s briefing, Valensky did not directly reference the latest dust-up, but said the sudden resumption of the press briefing was motivated by a recognition that journalists want to hear independently from the CDC. When pressed, she assured reporters, “I hope this will be the first of many briefings.”

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Valensky began the briefing by focusing on recent updates aimed at keeping children safe during the current phase of the pandemic – the worst wave ever amid the surprising rise of the ultra-transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant. But the nearly 30-minute Q&A portion of the briefing spanned a wide range of topics, providing useful insight into the agency’s thinking on the Omicron phase. Here are the details of what was covered.

Children and COVID in schools

CDC Updated Thursday quarantine And Solitude Protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in K-12 schools, Valensky highlighted. The updates align the CDC’s school-specific guidance with the agency’s controversial update on quarantine and isolation protocols for the public, shortening both to just five days.

That is, students, teachers and staff who test positive for COVID-19 should be isolated from others for at least five days. If in five days, they remain asymptomatic or if symptoms are resolving (if they are fever-free for at least 24 hours), they may end isolation, although they may be kept in indoor settings for an additional five days. Wearing of mask is required. As with general guidance for the public, K-12 guidance does not require that people receive a negative test to end isolation early.

Similarly, students, teachers and staff who are not up to date about their vaccinations need to be quarantined for at least five days if they have had close contact with an infected person. People are considered “up to date” on vaccination if they have received all the vaccinations they are eligible for, including boosters. People who are up to date on their vaccinations are not required to quarantine after close contact with a case, but must wear a mask for 10 days.

In announcing the update, Valensky acknowledged that many schools have had to go back to distance learning amid the huge Omicron wave. This update, along with other CDC guidance on test-to-stay systems, mask-wearing, and increased ventilation, “provides the tools needed to reopen these schools for in-person learning and to keep the rest of the school open.” years,” she said.

children in hospitals

Still, Valensky acknowledged the heavy toll that the current boom is taking on children, especially unrelated children. “Pediatric hospitalization is at the highest rate compared to any prior point in the epidemic,” she said. “Unfortunately, we are seeing an increasing rate of hospitalization for children [ages] 0 to 4 – Children who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.”

It’s still not clear how serious Omicron is in children. It is also unclear whether the rising hospitalizations reflect the huge number of cases now being seen in the oomicron wave or if the record-high hospitalization numbers reflect the relatively low vaccination rates among children.

Even for children who are eligible to get their shots, vaccination rates are low. For example, only 16 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated. Valensky urged parents of eligible children to vaccinate and promote them as soon as possible, noting that unvaccinated children aged 11 to 12 are more likely to contract COVID-19 than vaccinated children of that age. were 11 times more likely to be hospitalized for

Vaccine Update

This week, the CDC made three new vaccination recommendations that may have been mired in an overflowing news cycle, Valensky said.

  • First, the CDC signed off on Food and Drug Administration authorization to give Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses five months instead of six after the initial dose.
  • The CDC’s advisory group voted Wednesday in favor of increasing the eligibility for booster doses for children ages 12 to 15. CDC endorses decision, Now, everyone 12 years of age and older should get a booster dose five months after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
  • Ultimately, the CDC recommends that immunized children ages 5 to 11 receive a third dose 28 days after their second shot. This age group is not yet eligible for a booster.

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