RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
Tuesday afternoon, Pfizer announced they had submitted an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months through 4 years old.
"That would get that last remaining important segment of our population which has been at risk from COVID with these very contagious variants around, it would give them an opportunity for vaccination," said Dr. Mark McClellan, the founding director of the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University.
McClellan, who previously served as FDA Commissioner under President George W. Bush, noted children have been affected by a recent surge in cases spurred by the omicron variant.
"Unfortunately with this omicron spread, we're seeing more cases of severe illness in that group, including hospitalization and some deaths. The overall rates fortunately are very low, but with so much risk of infection, so much transmissibility from omicron, and now BA.2, kids are at-risk fi they haven't been vaccinated," said McClellan; BA.2 is a subvariant of omicron.
The EUA is for two doses, and a smaller amount than the version available for adults. The FDA advisory committee is set to meet February 15th to review Pfizer's vaccine data.
"It does appear to show a very good immune response, maybe not as high as we saw in older age groups, especially for kids age two and younger, but a significant immune response which does provide that protection, especially against serious illness," said McClellan.
Over the past few weeks, about 120,000 children in North Carolina have tested positive for COVID, though the week-over-week numbers are decreasing. Health officials stress that vaccinations are the best way to provide protection against severe symptoms. However, in North Carolina, just 20% of kids aged 5-11 and 44% of children aged 12-17 are fully vaccinated, figures that lag national averages.
"It was really important as a member of the community to protect ourselves and to protect others in the community. We have friends and family who are immunocompromised and who aren't able to be vaccinated," said Tina Sherman, a Triangle mother of four who serves as the Senior Campaign Director at MomsRising, an advocacy organization.
Her four children - ages seven to 16 - are all vaccinated.
"We're going to have to figure out what operating in the world of COVID looks like, and we're going to have to continue to have these conversations. Discouraged - no. Ready to move on- aren't we all," said Sherman, who hoped more parents would have conversations with their doctors and healthcare providers about vaccinations for their children.
She added her children, who are learning in-person, have had no issues with masking or safety protocols in-class.
"My kids aren't worried about it. They go to school, they're there to learn, they're excited to be with their friends," said Sherman.
-- ABC11's Michael Perchick reported
COVID-19 metrics in the state of North Carolina continue to slowly tick downward.
There were 8,757 newly reported cases Tuesday. That's down from over 13,000 last week and nearly 32,000 two weeks ago.
The daily percentage of positive cases also dropped from 36.4% last week to 29.8% today.
Pfizer is expected to request emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine designed specifically for kids between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
Early Pfizer data has shown the vaccine - which is administered to younger kids at one-tenth the strength of the adult shot - is safe and produces an immune response. But last year Pfizer announced the two-dose shot proved to be less effective at preventing COVID-19 in kids ages 2-5, and regulators encouraged the company to add a third dose to the study on the belief that another dose would boost the vaccine's effectiveness much like booster doses do in adults.
Free N95 masks are available at all but one Durham County library location.
The Stanford L. Warren Library is closed for repairs, so the masks will not be given out at that location.
All the other sites will allow each household to pick up two bags of five free N95 masks--meaning each household can get 10 masks.
"I'm going to share them with my mother, who's 91. I want her to be safe," Terry Burtyk said.
The masks were in such demand, the county had to replenish inventory at multiple library locations Tuesday. So far, the county said it has distributed nearly 130,000 N95 masks.
Businesses and other organizations can also request masks from the county's health department.
In just over a week, Wake County Health and Human Services has distributed almost 130,000 N95 masks to the public at regional centers, vaccine clinics, testing locations and community organizations.
Masks will be replenished at all public distribution sites by end of day Tuesday.
"The demand for these masks has been extremely high and we know they are going to go fast," said Associate Medical Director & Epidemiology Program Director Dr. Nicole Mushonga. "We appreciate our community's patience as we continue working to get N95 masks into the hands of as many people as possible."
Masks will be restocked tomorrow at all locations below and will be distributed Monday through Friday while supplies last:
Residents can check if there are masks available ahead of time by visiting wakegov.com/covid.
The Wayne County Health Department will begin distributing N95 masks Tuesday at four locations across the county.
Each household will receive one box of 20 masks, first come, first served, while supplies last. N95 masks will be available at the following locations on weekdays:
These masks are being provided free of charge by the federal government to local pharmacies and health centers across the United States. Updates to the N95 distribution can be found here.
COVID-19 daily cases are at their lowest total of the year so far, good news in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Carolina reported 7,327 new cases. A week ago, there were 18,452 new cases added and the number was even higher two weeks ago (22,308).
This is the first time the daily case total has been below 10,000 since Dec. 29.
The percent positive is also trending in the right direction,
The daily percent positive is 26.6%, the fifth consecutive day below 30%.
A week ago it was 37.8%.
Hospitalizations stand at 4,882. That's 202 fewer than Friday It's the fourth day that the number of patients has decreased.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Yet another new mass COVID-19 testing location is opening Monday.
This latest testing site will be at DPAC, and it will be open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily.
The site offers PCR testing with results delivered within 1-2 days, and the test will be totally free.
Appointments are encouraged but not required. On site registration is also available. Click here to book your appointment.
Wake county COVID-19 testing sites reopen Monday morning at 11 for the first time since Friday. The sites closed Saturday due to winter weather and cold temperatures.
Business owners have until the end of the day to apply for COVID-19 recovery grants from the state government.
The state set aside $500 million in relief funds with the Business Recovery Grant Program. Those grants come in one-time payments and are designed to help North Carolina businesses that experienced an economic loss due to COVID-19.
Around 4,300 businesses have applied for grant money so far. Each could receive as much as $500,000.
More information about applying for the grant can be found on the NC Department of Revenue's website.
COVID-19 testing locations resume normal operation today in Durham County after many closed Saturday due to winter weather.
Also, a brand new testing site is set to open Monday at DPAC. The new mass testing site will be open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily.
Free N95 masks are now available across the Triangle region.
"I think it's awesome. I work at a child care center and I know that these cloth ones do not provide the level of protection that these fancy N95 masks do, and I don't want to miss anymore work so I appreciate this," Jemma Brodney said.
National pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS have signs on their front doors to say if they do or don't have masks. Some county health departments are also receiving the N95 masks from the federal government and passing them out at various locations. Check with your local health department for specific details.