FDA Authorizes Use of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine in Kids Ages 5-11

On Friday, the FDA released a statement authorizing the emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 in the United States. This decision came a few days after the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) recommended the authorization of the vaccine in this age group. The study this authorization was based on showed that the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection with no serious side effects noted for people ages 5 through 11. There were a total of around 3,100 children in this study who received the vaccine and the dosage of the vaccine was a lower dose compared to the adult dose. Once the CDC meets to give its recommendations, which will likely be early next week, children in this age range should be able to get their COVID-19 vaccine. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us!

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COVID-19 Vaccines Do Not Increase Risk of Non-COVID Death

Recent results from a longitudinal study show that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are not more likely to die from non-COVID causes. The study, which was a partnership between Kaiser Permanente, HealthPartners in Minnesota, and Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, was conducted to assess vaccine hesitancy and concerns that the vaccines are not safe. We already have ample evidence that the vaccines significantly reduce the chances of dying from COVID-19, but some people have been worried that getting vaccinated would make them more likely to die from other causes. Using data from electronic health records, the study looked at 11 million patients — 6.4 million patients who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and had not recently tested positive for COVID, and 4.6 million patients who had only been vaccinated for the flu between December 2020 and July 2021. All three COVID-19 vaccines showed reductions in non-COVID deaths compared to patients who had only received only the flu shot. There was no significant difference between Pfizer and Moderna reductions in non-COVID deaths. Johnson and Johnson vaccine recipients had an overall reduction in non-COVID deaths but not as much as those who had received the other vaccines. Researchers believe that the reductions in deaths are in part due to the fact that people who are vaccinated tend to be healthier and/or with fewer underlying conditions. It is possible that there are underlying health and behavioral differences between patients who receive each of the various vaccines, and this is something that the CDC and researchers have said they will further investigate. For now, researchers hope the public is encouraged by further evidence that vaccination is safe and effective not only for COVID-19, but also that it does not increase risk for non-COVID deaths either. 

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New Survey Finds Larger Financial Impacts of Pandemic on Black, Latino, and Native American U.S. Households 

A new report found significant racial and ethnic disparities in the impacts of the Delta variant on households in the U.S., with Black, Latino, and Native American households faring worse than Asian and White households on financial measures. The survey was conducted during August and early September of 2021 by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Among the main findings:

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Appeals Court Ends COVID-19 Protection of Immigrants

Last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned, in a two to one vote, a nationwide order that required immigration authorities to monitor and release individuals that had a high risk of dying from or having possible long-term complications of COVID-19. The court stated that the federal district judge who issued the preliminary injunction in April of 2020 overreached. The injunction was issued when COVID-19 was spreading rapidly in crowded facilities. At that time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) argued that releasing large numbers of individuals would set precedent even after the pandemic and that it was mere speculation that detained individuals were contracting the virus. The Trump administration appealed the injunction but did not do anything to immediately block it. In September, the Biden administration and immigration lawyers asked to be able to mediate their differences, but the court said the request came too late and refused the request. The court stated that the injunction failed to recognize that ICE had already devised pandemic policies and released high-risk individuals prior to April 2020, but the dissenting judge stated that ICE had no policies in place for providing acceptable detention conditions for medically fragile inmates and no enforcement mechanism. The injunction mandated that ICE devise policies, but did not dictate what those policies should be and did not interfere with the agency’s role in running it’s facilities. While there are vaccines available, there is hesitancy in uptake that could be due to mistrust in ICE by immigrants. Individuals still deserve protection through physical distancing and other safety precautions from a potential life-altering or life-ending disease. While this is a big step backward in protections, lawyers will continue to fight for immigrant rights, including appealing this decision. 

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County in Tennessee Illegally Jailing Black Children

Earlier this month, a report from ProPublica was released showing Rutherford County, Tennessee illegally detained children and at least once, used a made-up charge to detain children. In 2014 (most recent year of data), 48% of children there were jailed after being referred to juvenile court. This is nearly 10 times the state average of 5%. Most of the stories cited in the report involve children who are Black being put in jail. Judge Donna Davenport, who is white, runs the juvenile justice system in the county, which includes everything from appointing magistrates to setting rules to presiding over cases. This means there is little oversight for her actions and the harm that is caused. Davenport has taken a strict line, but states that she is trying to help the children of her county. Lived experiences from children in the county show that she is not helping. In a 2016 incident at a local school, two young boys aged 5 and 6 were recorded trying to throw some punches at an older boy. Officer Chrystal Templeton investigated the video and instigated arrests of 10 children who were supposedly onlookers, the youngest of them was only 8. One of the children arrested is clearly heard on the video asking another kid to stop and another child arrest was not even at the incident, but at a pizza party for her basketball championship. All of the children arrested were done so on a false charge that does not exist in the state. This caused media outrage in the community and unveiled the mess of the juvenile system in the county through lawsuits, but so far nothing has changed. 

In 1999, Rutherford County violated federal law 191 times by keeping children locked up for too long. In an interview with Judge Davenport at that time, she revealed that half of those violations occurred because a child had cursed at her or someone else. That usually led her to sentencing kids for two to ten days in jail. Judge Davenport has also set up the system so that any child accused of a violation must be taken into custody and transported to jail, even before the charging papers are filed. Once there, detention center staff can decide who is deemed a true threat and must be detained - even if the charge is minor. Tennessee has narrow limits on when a child can be held prior to receiving a court hearing because of the harm it may cause. These include: jail escapee, being wanted elsewhere for a felony offense, being accused on substantial evidence of a crime resulting in serious injury or death. In 2016, the county detained 986 children for a total of 7,932 days. In the lawsuits of the school fight case, lawyers estimated that between 2006 and 2017, children had been wrongly arrested 500 times by the sheriff’s office and that the juvenile detention center improperly locked children up around 1,500 times. Research shows that kids who have been arrested and detained are more likely to commit crimes in the future, more likely to struggle in school, and more likely to have issues with drugs and alcohol. The county has settled lawsuits against them and in part, denies any wrongdoing. In 2017, a federal judge ordered the juvenile detention center to stop detaining children based on their subjective decision of a true threat. Other than that, there have been few changes to the juvenile justice system in Rutherford County and it still lacks oversight to prevent this from happening again. Many children were failed and harmed, but little has been done to repair that harm. 

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Protests Continue Over MSU’s Poor Handling of Pandemic

Michigan State University's poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to draw protests on campus. On October 22nd, members of the Graduate Employee Union and the Union for Non-Tenure Track Faculty hosted a protest at the Hannah Administration building, the third protest the unions have held in the last two months. According to the Graduate Employee Union, they negotiated an agreement with the University regarding contact tracing and to allow faculty to teach remotely when students test positive for COVID-19, but the University has ignored the agreement. Reports also indicate that MSU's Triage hotline is understaffed, resulting in students having to wait three hours to find out whether they should be tested for COVID-19. According to the State News, the protesters have four demands:

Queering Medicine reported in September about MSU refusing basic COVID-19 safety precautions and denying faculty requests to shift to teaching remotely temporarily after students in their class tested positive for COVID-19. After the issue came to public attention, the University announced it would hide most COVID-19 cases from faculty, further putting employees and students at risk.

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):