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Coronavirus Update: Biden administration unveils plan to vaccinate children below the age of 5 once the FDA gives the go-ahead

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The Biden administration has unveiled a plan to ensure that if vaccines are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for children below the age of 5, they will be readily available starting as early as the week of June 20.

“As always, state and local governments, healthcare providers, federal pharmacy partners, national and community-based organizations, and other entities will be critical to the success of this historic, nationwide effort,” the White House said in a fact sheet released early Thursday.

The administration has already secured 10 million vaccine doses for states, tribes, territories, community health centers, federal pharmacy partners and others and will start shipping them as soon as it gets the nod from the FDA.

The program will be ramped up over time as more doses become available.

The administration “will make vaccinations for our nation’s youngest children widely available at thousands of trusted, accessible sites across the country — with 85% of children under the age of 5 living within five miles of a potential vaccination site,” said the fact sheet.

Children will be able to get their shots at a range of outlets, from doctors’ offices and pediatric centers to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and community centers. The administration will ensure the available hours are convenient for parents and guardians, including after school, early evening and on weekends.

See: Moderna’s next-generation COVID-19 booster provides ‘superior’ protection against omicron

The news comes as U.S. cases are averaging 111,512 a day, up 1% from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker. The country is averaging 28,833 hospitalizations a day, up 11% from two weeks ago. The daily death toll has fallen to 344 on average, down 5% from two weeks ago.

Experts are concerned that case numbers are being greatly undercounted as more and more people test at home, where data are not being collected. In addition, the rapid spread of two subvariants of the omicron variant, BA.4 and BA.5, is raising concerns they will spark another wave. For now, the two appear highly infectious but no more lethal than other subvariants.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

If you’ve had Covid before, why can you get it again? WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez explains what the possibility of reinfections means for the future of public-health policy and the Covid-19 pandemic. Illustration: David Fang

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Shanghai is planning to lock down seven districts this weekend to conduct mass COVID testing, in the first restrictions to be imposed since a two-month lockdown was ended at the start of June, Bloomberg reported. The temporary lockdown, which will cover millions of people across the Pudong, Huangpu, Jing’an, Xuhui, Hongkou, Baoshan and Minhang districts, comes as infections found in the community rebounded to six as of 5 p.m. on Thursday, up from zero the day before. Thousands of COVID-19 testing booths have popped up on sidewalks across Beijing and other Chinese cities in the latest twist to the country’s “zero-COVID” strategy, the Associated Press reported.

• North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has convened a political conference where he’s expected to review state affairs, including a COVID-19 outbreak, and possibly address relations with Washington and Seoul amid his revived nuclear brinkmanship, the AP reported separately.Officials at the World Health Organization said Wednesday they believed the outbreak was worsening and requested more information be shared with the U.N. health agency.

Despite censorship, videos shared online show growing desperation and anger at prolonged Covid-19 lockdowns in China’s economic capital of Shanghai, where officials are trying to solve issues including food shortages while doubling down on the country’s strict pandemic policy. Photo Composite: Emily Siu

• NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has been diagnosed with shingles and will therefore hold talks scheduled in Germany and Romania only remotely, a NATO official said on Thursday, Reuters reported. The illness can occur after a case of COVID. Stoltenberg tested positive for COVID in mid-May. At the time, he was showing mild symptoms and working from home, according to a spokesperson for the Western military alliance.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 533.9 million on Thursday, while the death toll rose above 6.3 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 85.3 million cases and 1,010,608 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 221.6 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 66.7% of the total population. But just 104 million have had a first booster, equal to 47% of the vaccinated population.

Just 15 million of the people aged 50 and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 23.9% of those who had a first booster.

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