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NEW YORK (WABC) — New studies show that pediatric cases of COVID-19 have jumped nearly 900% since last summer. Kids now make up almost a quarter of all cases in the U.S.

The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says the agency is now considering expanding booster shots to younger kids in the coming months.

“We’re first starting to get our five-to-11-year-olds vaccinated,” she said. “We’ll look again at the 12-to-15-year-olds, of course, as with the FDA, in real time.”

But as health officials work to expand vaccine eligibility some Americans are refusing to get their shots.

Roughly two-thirds of parents of elementary school-aged children are either holding off on getting their younger kids vaccinated or refuse to do so.

Here are more of today’s COVID-19 headlines:

Hochul to announce ‘additional steps’ as NY hospitalizations trend up
Governor Kathy Hochul is making a stop in the Lincoln Square neighborhood Friday morning to talk about additional steps she’s taking to combat a surge in COVID cases in New York. The steps are mostly being enacted upstate and it’s all about vaccinations. New York City and surrounding areas have the highest vaccination rates in the state, but if you take a drive up north and west the rates start to plummet.

FDA authorizes boosters for teens 16 & 17
The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters, ruling that 16- and 17-year-olds can get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine. The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech — if it’s been six months since their last shot.

South Africa approves Pfizer vaccine booster amid COVID wave
South Africa’s regulatory authority has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster shot, opening the way for third doses to be administered to battle the current surge driven by the omicron variant. South Africa’s new COVID-19 cases continue to rise. In the last 24 hours, South Africa recorded 22,391 new cases, up from about 200 per day in early November. More than 90% of the new cases are omicron, according to genetic sequencing surveys. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has approved the Pfizer vaccine as a booster shot for people 18 years and older, six months after they received their second dose.

Vaccine makers racing to update COVID shots, just in case
Vaccine makers are racing to update their COVID-19 shots against omicron even before it’s clear a change is needed, just in case. Experts doubt today’s vaccines will become useless, and the first hints this week suggested boosters likely do offer some protection against the newest variant threat. But further tests are underway to tell if it’s enough, or if protection has dropped enough to warrant a recipe change. It’s not clear how big a drop would trigger such a drastic move. Pfizer and Moderna have practiced tweaking their shots against earlier mutants so they’d know how but brewing new doses still would take months.

WHO warns fears of omicron could spark new vaccine hoarding
The World Health Organization has expressed concerns that rich countries spooked by the emergence of the omicron variant could step up hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines and strain global supplies again. It said Thursday that could complicate efforts to stamp out the pandemic. The U.N. health agency reiterated its advice to governments against the widespread use of boosters in their populations so that well-stocked countries instead can send doses to vulnerable people in poorer countries that have largely lacked access to them. Months of short supplies of COVID-19 vaccines have begun to ease over the last two months or so and doses are finally getting to needier countries. WHO wants that to continue.

Slovakia to pay people over 60 if they are vaccinated
Slovakia’s Parliament has approved a plan to give people 60 and older up to 300 euros ($339) if they are vaccinated against COVID-19. The measure should boost inoculations in the European Union country with one of the bloc’s lowest vaccination rates. It should also help the struggling health care system amid a record surge of new infections. So far, only 46.5% of the nation’s 5.5 million people have been fully vaccinated. Those people who have received a booster shot by Jan. 15 will receive 300 euros, while anyone who has had at least one primary vaccination will get 200 euros.

Africa CDC: Nations might turn to COVID-19 vaccine mandates
The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says African governments might have to resort to COVID-19 vaccine mandates if their citizens don’t hurry to get the increasingly available doses. The warning by John Nkengasong to reporters that governments “will not have a choice” came as the flow of doses to Africa’s 54 countries grows. But vaccine hesitancy, and the short shelf life of some donations, create new pressures to get doses into the arms of the continent’s 1.3 billion people. Africa remains the world’s least vaccinated region against COVID-19, with less than 8% of its population fully jabbed.

Senate votes to repeal Biden’s vaccine mandate for private companies
The Senate voted Wednesday night to repeal President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate on private businesses with over 100 employees by a vote of 52-48. Two Democrats crossed party lines and voted with all Republicans present to repeal the mandate. Both Democratic yes votes, cast by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jon Tester, D-Mont., were expected. While the legislation has now passed the Senate, it will almost certainly not impact the mandate. It’s unclear if the senate passed repeal will be brought up in the House. Speaker Pelosi is not required to bring it up for a floor vote, and at least 218 signatures would be needed to force consideration. Even then, if the House were to pass it, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that Biden would veto it should it land on her desk.

CT seeing ‘extremely concerning’ spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Connecticut has seen an “extremely concerning” rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks, health officials said, as the number of cases also continues to trend up. The state health department reported at least 500 hospitalizations on both Monday and Tuesday, marking a roughly 80% increase in the past two weeks — and the highest numbers since April.

Study raises renewed alarm about missed cancer diagnoses during pandemic
Oncologists have been warning about dangerous gaps in cancer care since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, a nationwide study based on data from Veterans Affairs hospitals is raising new alarms.
Since March 2020, COVID-19 has caused a disruption in surgeries and treatments for patients with cancer. At different periods during the pandemic, some states have also required health care facilities to suspend elective procedures, many of which include cancer screenings, to preserve resources during COVID surges.

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