Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Said to Be Powerfully Protective in Adolescents

Here’s what you need to know: Taking part in the Pfizer vaccine trial at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.Credit...Cincinnati Children's Hospital The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine is extremely effective in adolescents 12 to 15 years old, perhaps even more so than in adults, the companies reported on Wednesday. No infections were found among children who received the vaccine in a recent clinical trial; they produced strong antibody responses and experienced no serious side effects. The findings, if they hold up, may well speed a return to normalcy for millions of American families. Depending on regulatory approval, vaccinations could begin before the start of the next academic year for middle school and high school students and for elementary school children not long after. The companies announced the results in a news release that did not include detailed data from the trial, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. The good news arrives even as the country records an alarming rise in infections and health officials renew calls for Americans to heed precautions and get vaccinated. On Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that rising caseloads had left her with a sense of “impending doom.” President Biden urged Americans to keep wearing masks, whatever state officials might say. Vaccination efforts are accelerating throughout the nation. As of Tuesday, 29 percent of adults had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 16 percent had been fully inoculated, according to the C.D.C. But the country cannot hope to reach herd immunity — the point at which immunity becomes so widespread that the coronavirus slows its crawl through the population — without also inoculating the youngest Americans, some experts say. Children under 18 account for about 23 percent of the population in the United States. The trial included 2,260 adolescents ages 12 to 15. The children received two doses of the vaccine three weeks apart — the same amounts and schedule used for adults — or a placebo of saltwater. The researchers recorded 18 cases of coronavirus infection in the placebo group, and none among the children who received the vaccine. Still, the low number of infections makes it difficult to be too specific about the vaccine’s efficacy in the population at large, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist affiliated with Georgetown University. The adolescents who received the vaccine produced nearly twice the levels of antibodies on average, compared with participants 16 to 25 years of age in an earlier trial of adults. They experienced the same minor side effects as older participants, although the companies declined to be more specific. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, said she had expected antibody levels in adolescents to be comparable to those in young adults. “But they’re getting even better levels from the vaccines,” she said. “That’s really incredible.” She and other experts cautioned that the vaccine might be less effective in children, and adults, against some of the variants that are circulating in the United States. Pfizer and BioNTech have begun a clinical trial of the vaccine in children under 12 and started inoculations of children ages 5 to 11 just last week. Company scientists plan to start testing the vaccine next week in even younger children, ages 2 to 5, followed by trials in children ages 6 months to 2 years. Pfizer and BioNTech plan to request from the Food and Drug Administration an amendment to the emergency use authorization for their vaccine, in hopes of beginning vaccinations of older children before the start of the next school year. Place de la Concorde in Paris on Tuesday. France has reported an average of about 37,000 daily new cases over the past week.Credit...Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images PARIS — More than a year after the government in France ordered its first national lockdown to fight back the Covid-19 pandemic, the authorities now seem to have little choice but to do the same again, as infections rise sharply across the country and hospitals in Paris are overflowing. President Emmanuel Macron will address the country at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and is expected to announce new restrictions, possibly bringing in a third national lockdown, which he has long tried to avoid. France on Tuesday reported more than 5,000 people in intensive care units for the first time since last April, with bed shortages in hospitals in the most affected areas becoming acute. And the slow vaccine rollout has not prevented an outburst of infections, as an average of about 37,000 daily new cases have been reported over the past week. “The outlook is worse than frightening,” Jean-Michel Constantin, the head of the intensive care unit at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, told RMC radio on Monday. “We’re already at the level of the second wave and we’re quickly g

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Said to Be Powerfully Protective in Adolescents
Here’s what you need to know: Taking part in the Pfizer vaccine trial at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.Credit...Cincinnati Children's Hospital The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine is extremely effective in adolescents 12 to 15 years old, perhaps even more so than in adults, the companies reported on Wednesday. No infections were found among children who received the vaccine in a recent clinical trial; they produced strong antibody responses and experienced no serious side effects. The findings, if they hold up, may well speed a return to normalcy for millions of American families. Depending on regulatory approval, vaccinations could begin before the start of the next academic year for middle school and high school students and for elementary school children not long after. The companies announced the results in a news release that did not include detailed data from the trial, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. The good news arrives even as the country records an alarming rise in infections and health officials renew calls for Americans to heed precautions and get vaccinated. On Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that rising caseloads had left her with a sense of “impending doom.” President Biden urged Americans to keep wearing masks, whatever state officials might say. Vaccination efforts are accelerating throughout the nation. As of Tuesday, 29 percent of adults had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 16 percent had been fully inoculated, according to the C.D.C. But the country cannot hope to reach herd immunity — the point at which immunity becomes so widespread that the coronavirus slows its crawl through the population — without also inoculating the youngest Americans, some experts say. Children under 18 account for about 23 percent of the population in the United States. The trial included 2,260 adolescents ages 12 to 15. The children received two doses of the vaccine three weeks apart — the same amounts and schedule used for adults — or a placebo of saltwater. The researchers recorded 18 cases of coronavirus infection in the placebo group, and none among the children who received the vaccine. Still, the low number of infections makes it difficult to be too specific about the vaccine’s efficacy in the population at large, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist affiliated with Georgetown University. The adolescents who received the vaccine produced nearly twice the levels of antibodies on average, compared with participants 16 to 25 years of age in an earlier trial of adults. They experienced the same minor side effects as older participants, although the companies declined to be more specific. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, said she had expected antibody levels in adolescents to be comparable to those in young adults. “But they’re getting even better levels from the vaccines,” she said. “That’s really incredible.” She and other experts cautioned that the vaccine might be less effective in children, and adults, against some of the variants that are circulating in the United States. Pfizer and BioNTech have begun a clinical trial of the vaccine in children under 12 and started inoculations of children ages 5 to 11 just last week. Company scientists plan to start testing the vaccine next week in even younger children, ages 2 to 5, followed by trials in children ages 6 months to 2 years. Pfizer and BioNTech plan to request from the Food and Drug Administration an amendment to the emergency use authorization for their vaccine, in hopes of beginning vaccinations of older children before the start of the next school year. Place de la Concorde in Paris on Tuesday. France has reported an average of about 37,000 daily new cases over the past week.Credit...Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images PARIS — More than a year after the government in France ordered its first national lockdown to fight back the Covid-19 pandemic, the authorities now seem to have little choice but to do the same again, as infections rise sharply across the country and hospitals in Paris are overflowing. President Emmanuel Macron will address the country at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and is expected to announce new restrictions, possibly bringing in a third national lockdown, which he has long tried to avoid. France on Tuesday reported more than 5,000 people in intensive care units for the first time since last April, with bed shortages in hospitals in the most affected areas becoming acute. And the slow vaccine rollout has not prevented an outburst of infections, as an average of about 37,000 daily new cases have been reported over the past week. “The outlook is worse than frightening,” Jean-Michel Constantin, the head of the intensive care unit at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, told RMC radio on Monday. “We’re already at the level of the second wave and we’re quickly getting close to the threshold of the first wave,” he said. “April is going to be dreadful.” New restrictions were introduced on the regional level in mid-March in an attempt to stave off a third wave of infections, affecting about a third of the population, including the Paris region. The rules forced businesses that are considered nonessential to close, ordered residents to limit their outdoor activities to places within six miles of their homes and banned travel to or from regions where infections were rising. But as infections nonetheless stubbornly rose, pressure has been building on Mr. Macron to implement tougher measures. Writing in Le Journal du Dimanche, 41 doctors from the Paris region warned that hospitals may soon become so stretched that they will have to choose which patients to try to save. “All indicators show that the current measures are and will be insufficient to quickly reverse the alarming curve of contaminations,” they wrote. Mr. Macron, in the same newspaper, said that he would “look at the effectiveness of the containment measures in the coming days, and we’ll take others if they are necessary.” In late January, Mr. Macron made a calculated gamble of resisting a new national lockdown, hoping that his government could tighten restrictions just enough to fight back a rise in infections. That strategy seemed to be working until mid-March, when infections rose sharply and the vaccination campaign failed to gather speed, amid the disarray of the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The health authorities on Tuesday said that about 8.3 million people had received at least a first shot of the coronavirus vaccine, or about 12 percent of the total population. The government plans to vaccinate 10 million people by mid-April and 30 million by the summer. But France still lags behind some other Western countries in its vaccine rollout. Britain has vaccinated 46 percent of its population and the United States 29 percent, according to data from The New York Times. Many doctors and epidemiologists are calling for a lockdown comparable to that of early 2020, when the authorities enforced some of the strictest Covid-19 restrictions in Europe, ordering people to stay inside except for a few exceptions. Schools, which France has kept open since last June, unlike many of its neighbors, could also be forced to close as the virus is increasingly spreading in classrooms. Republican lawmakers meet during the first 2021-22 legislative session in the Assembly Chambers at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.Credit...Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal, via Associated Press The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down a statewide mask order on Wednesday, concluding by a 4-3 vote that Gov. Tony Evers exceeded his powers in issuing it. The ruling comes the same week that President Biden urged states to maintain or reimpose mask mandates, and federal health officials have warned of a possible fourth surge of the virus. Coronavirus cases around the country have started rising again in some states, including Wisconsin, where the number of new virus cases has shot up 34 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. The ruling delivered the latest mask reversal in the state since its original order went into effect in August. Since then, the mask order has been extended, suspended and reinstated multiple times. In February the Republican-led State Legislature repealed the governor’s original mandate. Mr. Evers, a Democrat, issued a new mask order an hour later, an action the Wisconsin Supreme Court said on Wednesday was unlawful. The justices on the court are elected to 10-year terms, and though the races are technically nonpartisan, they have been bitterly contested in recent years on partisan and ideological lines. Conservatives now outnumber more liberal justices, 4 to 3, and voted together on the mask ruling. The majority wrote in the ruling that “the question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not.” Responding to the decision, Mr. Evers said in a statement that the state’s fight against the virus was not over. “While we work to get folks vaccinated as quickly as we can, we know wearing a mask saves lives, and we still need Wisconsinites to mask up so we can beat this virus and bounce back from this pandemic,” he said. Though the United States is in far better shape now than it was in January, when new cases, hospitalizations and new deaths peaked, health officials say that relaxing proven measures like mask-wearing now could jeopardize the recent progress. They have urged Americans to hold on a little longer. Even so, some governors have recently lifted mask orders after seeing declines in virus cases and deaths. “This is a critical moment in our fight against the pandemic, as we see increases in cases, we can’t afford to let our guard down,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Wednesday at a White House news conference, referring broadly to the current state of the pandemic in the United States. She said the country is close to seeing life return to normal. “We’re not quite there yet,” she said. “We need to keep taking the mitigation measures like wearing a mask and social distancing as we continue to get more and more Americans vaccinated.” Wisconsin announced on Tuesday that all residents 16 years and older would be eligible for vaccinations beginning April 5, joining dozens of other states that have accelerated plans for vaccinating all adults. Federal health officials have said that speeding up vaccinations is one of the best ways to fight potential virus surges, particularly as new variants make their way around the country. In Wisconsin, 31 percent of the state’s total population had received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Tuesday, on par with the national average of about 29 percent, according to a New York Times Times analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Andrés R. Martínez contributed reporting. Receiving a dose of the Moderna vaccine on Thursday at a site in West Farms Square Plaza in the Bronx.Credit...James Estrin/The New York Times Even as much of the rest of the country has had a reprieve, New York City has remained a coronavirus hot spot, with new cases holding level, often at about 25,000 a week. As variants and vaccinations have taken hold, public health experts have debated what to call the current, confusing phase of the epidemic, when cases remain alarmingly high, but hope is drawing nearer. “The term I’ve been using is ‘high plateau’,” said Dr. Jay Varma, a senior adviser for public health at City Hall. “We’re basically trying to come down off of our second wave and what we’re trying desperately to do is prevent a third wave.” Since mid-February, the seven-day average of new cases in the city has largely remained between 3,500 and 4,000. Epidemiologists and disease modelers spoke of a stalemate between the pace of vaccinations and the momentum of two new, more contagious variants that were spreading steadily across the city. Those variants now make up a majority of cases, city officials said. Several public health experts who use prediction models believe that New York’s current upswing probably won’t reach levels that the city saw during the peak after the holiday season, when cases surged to nearly 6,500 per day on average. But the cases aren’t likely to drop much soon either. Dr. Ronald Scott Braithwaite, a professor at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine who has been modeling New York City’s epidemic and is an adviser to the city, predicted that cases would gradually rise — “not so much a wave, but a bulge,” he said — for a month or two until a critical number of people had been vaccinated. “At our current rate of vaccination, it seems it will be mid- to late May before vaccinations win the tug of war,” Dr. Braithwaite said. On Monday, state officials announced that all adults in New York would be eligible for vaccination starting next week, which should boost the vaccination effort as supply begins to increase. The new normal for New York City, at least until mid-May, may well be an average positive test rate that hovers around 6 percent and a daily case rate of around 4,000. Wan Yang, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said that changing social behavior might be the tipping point that leads to a sustained upswing in cases. She noted that New York’s restrictions had eased over the past month — including looser limits around indoor dining and the reopening of indoor fitness classes — and that many New Yorkers were socializing and interacting more than before. Tracey Tully contributed reporting. A main shopping street in Istanbul last week. On Wednesday, Turkey recorded its highest single-day total of new infections since the pandemic began.Credit...Emrah Gurel/Associated Press With coronavirus infections surging and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaching, the Turkish government is reimposing strict social-distancing measures, including a prohibition on the large gatherings for meals before sunrise and after sunset that are traditional during Ramadan. Turkey recorded 37,303 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the country’s highest single-day total since the pandemic began and a fourfold increase since the beginning of March. The sharp surge in infections — mostly from the highly contagious variant of the virus that was first identified in Britain — prompted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reinstate some of the restrictions he had eased just a few weeks ago. With nearly two-thirds of adult intensive care beds occupied, the government has ordered restaurants to shift to takeout only and nearly the entire nation of 83 million is being ordered to stay at home on weekends. In an address to the nation on Monday, Mr. Erdogan said that 80 percent of cities in Turkey were now considered at very high risk for the coronavirus, forcing his government to reinstate lockdown measures. “The increase in the number of cases and patients, and deaths, obliged us to review the current practices,” he said. But Mr. Erdogan has come under fire from opposition politicians and Turkish citizens for holding meetings of his governing party in crowded sports complexes around the country, ignoring the social distancing rules that were otherwise strictly enforced by his government. Critics also say that the authorities were too quick to begin relaxing restrictions in early March. The new lockdowns are expected to be especially difficult for traders and small-business people, who had been hoping for an economic lift during Ramadan. “The ones meeting at crowded congress are playing with our bread,” tweeted a group that represents cafe, bar and restaurant employees. “The whole sector is getting shut down because of the words coming from the mouth of one single person.” Even Turkey’s health minister, Fahrettin Koca, appeared to offer veiled criticism of Mr. Erdogan, telling reporters at Parliament on Tuesday that because the virus continues to afflict Turkey, “everyone in this struggle should fulfill their own responsibility.” Mr. Koca said that Turkey’s vaccination drive would soon gather pace with the delivery of millions more doses of the vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinovac as well as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Since January, 6.8 million people in the country have received two doses of the Sinovac shots. — The New York Times Disinfecting a wet market in Wuhan, China, in January.Credit...Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times China on Wednesday sought to shift attention away from efforts inside its borders to trace the source of the coronavirus, arguing that health experts should start looking for clues in other countries. A day after the World Health Organization released a report detailing the findings from a team of experts that visited the city of Wuhan, Chinese state media outlets rejected criticism from the White House and others that Beijing had not been transparent in the inquiry. “Maybe it’s time for scientists to dig somewhere else and test more hypotheses to solve the mystery,” said an article in Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid owned by China’s ruling Communist Party. The Chinese foreign ministry echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement that the investigation into the origins of the virus was a “global mission that should be conducted in multiple countries and localities.” The remarks by Chinese officials clash with the prevailing view among scientists that the virus most likely emerged in China and that resources should be focused on further studies inside the country. The 124-page W.H.O. report, written jointly by a team of 17 Chinese scientists and 17 global experts, concluded that the coronavirus probably emerged in bats before spreading to humans through an intermediate animal. But it said that China lacks the research to indicate how or when the virus began spreading, and recommended more detailed studies of the earliest infections and extensive testing of livestock and farmers in China and Southeast Asia. Whether Beijing will cooperate in further investigations is unclear. Chinese officials seemed skeptical of a suggestion on Tuesday by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. chief, that experts should look more closely at the possibility that the virus emerged accidentally from a lab. Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday brushed aside suggestions that the virus could have leaked from a lab in Wuhan and said that health experts should instead look at labs around the world, including in the United States. “We hope that if it is necessary, other relevant countries will be able to closely work with the experts of W.H.O. in a scientific, open, transparent and responsible manner like China,” she said at a news briefing in Beijing. At a separate briefing on Wednesday, Chinese scientists who participated in the W.H.O. mission rejected criticism of the government’s refusal to share raw data about early Covid-19 cases with the W.H.O. team, which Dr. Tedros had also raised on Tuesday. Liang Wannian, a top health official, said that some data could not be shared outside China because of privacy laws. The White House has expressed concern that the Chinese government influenced the findings of the report. After its release, 14 countries, including the United States and Britain, released a statement saying that the study was “significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples,” and called for additional investigation. Albee Zhang contributed research. A vaccine center in Munich in December. So far, only about 11 percent of the European Union’s population has received at least one dose.Credit...Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times The European Union, facing criticism for the slow rollout of vaccines even as waves of infection prompt new lockdowns across the bloc, said that it will have distributed a total of about 107 million doses by the end of March and vowed to speed up distribution. The goal, according to Dana Spinant, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, was to have enough doses to cover 70 percent of the European Union’s population by July. The commission, which is the bloc’s executive arm and is responsible for ordering the vaccines, said it was expecting 360 million further doses to be delivered before the summer. So far, only about 11 percent of the bloc’s population has received at least one vaccine shot, compared to 46 percent in Britain and 29 percent in the United States. That has created frustration across the European Union, a feeling that has been exacerbated by the wave of new outbreaks. Among the roughly 107 million doses, 67.5 million are from Pfizer-BioNTech, 9.8 million from Moderna, and 29.8 million from AstraZeneca. The AstraZeneca figure is a significant decline from the initial commitment by the company to deliver more than 100 million shots in the first three months of the year. Cuts in supply announced by AstraZeneca have led to a bitter spat between the bloc and the company, significantly slowing down the European Union’s pace of inoculations. But the headaches with the rollout stem not only from the supply shocks, but also from problems organizing the shots, which is the responsibility of national governments. Even in richer countries, such as France and Germany, inoculations have been hampered by logistical failures. The temporary halt in use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by many European countries over reports of rare side effects this month also contributed to the slackening of the pace. The announcement by the European Commission lifted hopes of an improvement in the rollout that could rescue the summer vacation season, which is particularly crucial for the economies of southern European countries, such as Greece, Italy and Spain. A vaccination site capable of inoculating 1,000 people per day inside Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, England, in January.Credit...Andrew Testa for The New York Times In January, Britain made a change to its vaccine guidelines that shocked many health experts: If the second dose of one vaccine wasn’t available, patients could be given a different one. The new rule was based on sheer guesswork. There was no scientific data at the time demonstrating that mixing two coronavirus vaccines was safe and effective. But that may change soon. In February, researchers at the University of Oxford began a trial in which volunteers received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine followed by a dose of AstraZeneca’s formulation, or vice versa. This month, the researchers will start analyzing the blood of the subjects to see how well the mix-and-match approach works. As growing numbers of vaccines are being authorized, researchers are testing other combinations. A few are in clinical trials, while others are being tested in animals for now. Mixing vaccines might do more than just help overcome supply bottlenecks. Some researchers suspect that a pair of different vaccines might work better than two doses of the same one. “I think we’re on the cusp of some interesting data,” said Adam Wheatley, an immunologist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. The concept of mixing vaccines — sometimes called a heterologous prime-boost — is not new to our pandemic era. For decades, researchers have investigated the approach, hoping to find potent combinations against a range of viruses, such as influenza, H.I.V. and Ebola. But scientists had little to show for all that research. It was easy enough to demonstrate that two vaccines may work well together in a mouse. But running full-blown clinical trials on a combination of vaccines is a tall order. Some researchers are investigating heterologous vaccines not to find a superior mixture, but simply to open up more options for countries desperate to vaccinate their populations. Last week, India held back exports of vaccines to other countries as it grappled with a Covid surge. For countries that were counting on those vaccines, a safe alternative for second doses could save lives. Worldwide, 13 vaccines are now in use against Covid-19, with 67 more in clinical trials. “In the current situation, we have a quite a luxurious position of having so many advanced, effective vaccines,” Dr. Wheatley said. As the number of authorized vaccines grows, the possible combinations in which they can be used will explode. Whether scientists carry out more experiments on other vaccines will depend on the willingness of the vaccine manufacturers. “You’re requiring quite large pharmaceutical companies to play nice together,” Dr. Wheatley said. Dr. Bernard Moss, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suspects that a number of companies will be willing to let their vaccines be tested in combinations. “It’s always better to be a part of something that is going to be used,” he said, “than to wholly own something that isn’t.” Injecting a rabbit at a laboratory in Vladimir, Russia, in December. The vaccine was developed in part as a public health tool, in case the virus begins to spread easily from animals to humans.Credit...Vetandlife.Ru/via Reuters MOSCOW — Russia’s state veterinary service said on Wednesday that it had become the first regulator in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine for animals, intended for use on fur farms or for pet cats and dogs. The agency said it had developed the vaccine for animals in part as a public health tool, lest the virus spread from animals to humans or — in a worst-case scenario — mutate in animals and then spread back to humans in a more virulent form. It could also revive fur farming after infections on mink farms devastated the business last year, it said. The agency, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision, said it did not recommend routine vaccination of animals, for now. The World Health Organization has found no instances of infections in humans caused by pets, the agency said. Though cats and dogs do rarely catch the coronavirus, neither species gets very sick. Lions, tigers and snow leopards can also catch the coronavirus. The Russian agency noted four reports of pet infections just in the last week, in Italy and in Mexico. It that said a vaccine for pets was needed as insurance against variants that might spread more easily. “We did this work for the future,” the agency’s deputy director, Konstantin Savenkov, said in a statement. “We should be prepared to prevent a situation rather than deal with it later if it takes a negative turn.” The vaccine, called Karnivak-Kov, is intended for carnivores. The agency said it had carried out clinical trials on arctic foxes, cats, dogs, mink and other animals. The agency said it would begin industrial-scale production in Russia at a plant that manufactures veterinary drugs. Fur farmers in Russia, as well as in Austria, Canada, Greece, Poland and the United States, have inquired about buying the vaccine, the agency said. The statement did not say when or if the vaccine would become available for pets. The problem of animal infections came into focus last year when mink farms culled millions of the creatures because of infection. Denmark killed all farmed mink — some 17 million animals — after the virus spread from a mink to a human. Separately, a farmed mink in Utah seemed to have passed the virus to at least one wild mink. Scientists have raised alarms about the virus establishing a “reservoir” in wild animals that could later spread back to people. Russia last August also claimed to be the first country to approve a human vaccine, Sputnik V, though other candidates were in fact further along in clinical trials at the time. It has since promoted Sputnik V to countries around the world, bolstering the Kremlin’s soft power. Hollywood High Teachers Assistant Yolanda Franco conducts class remotely in Los Angeles, California.Credit...Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images The coronavirus pandemic has taken an “alarming” toll on Los Angeles students, leaving nearly two-thirds of kindergartners behind in the skills necessary to learn reading, and about 40,000 high school students at risk of not graduating over the next four years, an early analysis of educational data from the nation’s second-largest public school system has found. The report, based on publicly available data from the Los Angeles Unified School District, was released Wednesday by Great Public Schools Now, a nonprofit advocacy group backed by California philanthropies that favor charter schooling. The findings add to mounting evidence that when schools shifted to remote instruction last year, students paid in lost academic progress, emotional and developmental setbacks and widened achievement gaps. The report is “a call to action for L.A.U.S.D. and all education systems to develop a comprehensive educational recovery plan now,” said Ana F. Ponce, the organization’s executive director and a parent of a third-grader in the district. The Los Angeles school system is California’s largest, serving more than 650,000 students more than 80 percent of whom are Black, Latino or low income. Instruction for the overwhelming majority has been online since last March and students are only this month beginning to return to classrooms. The Great Public Schools report, using the district’s data and learning assessments, found that during the early months of the pandemic, as the district scrambled to shift to online instruction, “two out of five middle and high school students were absent every day from the district’s online learning program, Schoology.” Of the students who did log on, only 36 percent actively engaged daily in online instruction, according to the data, and some elementary students were entirely absent for the last several months of that school year. Even after a system was in place for the fall semester and attendance improved, the report said, more than one-third of the district’s enrollment — tens of thousands of students — were still failing to actively engage on a daily basis. Attendance was lower among Black, Latino and low-income students, as well as among students who had disabilities or housing issues, who were in foster care, or who were learning English. As of February, some 23,000 students still were regularly missing three or more days a week of classes and some 9,000 were absent for weeks at a time — so disengaged that they did not click even once on the district’s online platform. Grade school literacy assessments showed that only 43 percent of Black students and only 44 percent of Latino students were on track in reading, and huge numbers of high school students have fallen so far behind in credits toward graduation that they may not earn their high school diplomas. Among them, the researchers reported, are more than 40 percent of the Los Angeles Unified Class of 2022. The group recommends that as vaccines and health measures make classrooms safer, the district should prioritize live time with teachers, increase counseling and mental health services and accelerate classwork to get students caught up, rather than get bogged down in more time-consuming traditional remedial classes. The group also advises the district to use a planned expansion of summer school to assess and develop individual learning plans for each student. Mayor London Breed of San Francisco speaking to parents, students and teachers at a rally at City Hall this month in support of reopening schools.Credit...John G Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock The pandemic has brought grinding frustrations for parents, educators and students across the United States. But perhaps no place has matched San Francisco in its level of infighting, public outrage and halting efforts to reopen schools. In February, the city sued its own school system, which has been entirely remote for a year, and board of education, accusing them of violating state law by not resuming in-person instruction. Soon after, two parents infuriated by the school board’s decision to rename 44 schools, even as it kept them closed, started a drive to recall three of the board members. Some 9,000 people have joined the campaign’s mailing list, and they are expected to begin collecting signatures soon. Then critics of the board unearthed four-year-old tweets written by the board’s vice president in which she accused Asian-Americans of sidling up to white Americans to get ahead without confronting racism, comparing them to slaves who benefited from working inside a slave owner’s house. More than a third of the district’s students are Asian-American. Amid the chaos, one thing has remained clear: A large share of the city’s public school students are unlikely to see the inside of their classrooms this academic year. The district has set dates in mid-to-late April to start bringing back elementary students and some high-needs older students, but there is no plan yet for the majority of middle or high school students to return. At the same time, all of the roughly 10,000 teachers and staff members in the district have been offered vaccinations. In the realm of education, the pandemic has reinforced the notion of a city divided by wealth and race. Around one-third of the city’s schoolchildren, many of them white, go to private schools, one of the highest rates of any major city in the United States. Many of those private-school students have been sitting in classrooms for months while public school students, who are disproportionately Black, Latino and Asian-American, have spent the year in virtual classes. Administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in Lviv, Ukraine, this month. Recent opinion polls have shown that about 40 percent of Ukrainians do not trust the shot.Credit...Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters What does it take to get a vaccine in Ukraine? For some people, lots of Facebook friends. Ukraine’s vaccine effort, which has been among the slowest in Europe, has been hampered by widespread hesitancy, mainly among older people who currently qualify for the shot. The problems have not been helped by the flood of often confusing and bad news around the AstraZeneca vaccine, the main option available in the country. Recent opinion polls have shown that about 40 percent of Ukrainians do not trust the shot. To bolster acceptance, the Ministry of Health has opened vaccination to people deemed to have a public persona, regardless of their age. That includes actors, pop stars, athletes, writers, journalists — and social media influencers. The criteria are decided locally, by city officials or doctors at vaccination sites. Those who think they have sway with the public can fill out an online form, which asks how many social media followers they have, on Facebook or on other platforms. Influencers only qualify for shots leftover at the end of the day that might otherwise be wasted. The main requirement under the program is that recipients share their vaccination selfies on social media. The program has drawn some bona fide opinion leaders. The Ministry of Health organized a public vaccination of leaders of different religions, for example. “The Lord sent us vaccinations,” the chief rabbi of Kyiv, Jonathan Markovitch, said, encouraging inoculation. “You definitely need to take advantage of this.” The program was quickly flooded with young influencers. There they were, in glowing good health and at relatively little risk from the disease, posting pictures of themselves getting the shot, grinning or giving a thumbs up. Some had fewer than a thousand followers on social media. Medical ethicists say that anybody offered a shot should take it, even if they think others may be more qualified. The recipients do not set the rules, after all, and refusing a shot can risk vaccine being wasted. In the month since Ukraine received its first shipment of 500,000 doses, fewer than half have been administered. The country is going through a new wave of infection, registering this month the highest numbers of new cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Still, the ministry published a revised rule this month limiting the program to influencers older than 60, though few could be found. — Maria Varenikova Ghie Ghie, center-right, and Weng, two undocumented domestic workers from the Philippines, in London this month. They said their employers had asked them to get vaccinated.Credit...Andrew Testa for The New York Times LONDON — The British government said in February that everyone living in the country would be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, free of charge, regardless of their immigration status. But many undocumented immigrants in the country are not getting inoculated. Some are afraid that asking for a shot will get them deported. Others have been turned away at local doctors’ offices, which often ask for identification or proof of address, even though neither is required to access primary care in Britain. And many simply are in the dark about the services available to them — a lasting effect of a government policy of hobbling their access to jobs, bank accounts and free medical care in the hope of spurring them to leave the country. “It’s all very well to say, ‘Anyone can get a vaccine,’” said Phil Murwill, head of services at Doctors of the World U.K, a humanitarian organization. “But for years, there was a deliberate policy of creating a hostile environment for undocumented immigrants that has put people off from accessing any kind of care. And we’re seeing that play out now.” As in much of the world, the virus has ravaged immigrant communities in Britain, which supply the bulk of frontline workers in grocery stores and domestic care. The British government has not published a count of its undocumented immigrant population since 2005, but outside estimates put the number at 800,000 to 1.2 million. It is a significant group that includes many at-risk workers, and one that epidemiologists say the nation’s vaccination effort must reach if Britain hopes to safely exit the pandemic. In the United States, efforts are underway to prioritize vaccinating those in jobs done primarily by undocumented immigrants, like farm work. But Britain did not extend its “social care” eligibility category to include domestic workers, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson confirmed in an email. The department has said that anyone undergoing vaccination, testing or treatment for the coronavirus would not be subject to immigration status checks. But there are still instances in which the department shares patient information with the Home Office, which is in charge of immigration. Most commonly, it occurs when undocumented immigrants have overdue secondary-care medical bills of 500 pounds, about $690, or more. (Primary care is free.) “The government needs to suspend all charging and data-sharing operations, if they want to prioritize the widest possible access to public health,” said Zoe Gardner, a policy adviser for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. Dolores Hiwiller meeting with her daughters Karen King, right, and Sue Shirey in person for the first time since March of last year.Credit...Kristian Thacker for The New York Times Every day for a year, Kathy James peered through the window at her mother’s assisted living facility outside Chicago and dreamed of the day they would be together again. That moment finally came one recent morning, when Ms. James packed a goody bag full of family photographs, a Sunday copy of The Chicago Tribune and a container of potato soup, and met her mother, Renee Koerber, 90, inside the nursing home. “I said, ‘Mom, we’re in the same room!’” said Ms. James, 63, her heart swelling with relief. They had made it. But sitting several feet apart in a common area, where they were not allowed to hug, Ms. James was also startled at how frail her mother looked. She seemed to grow tired after just 15 minutes. “I thought I would be so happy,” Ms. James said. “And I just feel such grief because of the year of time I have lost and I will never get back.” Many American nursing homes have begun to welcome visitors again after a year of excruciating lockdowns. The Biden administration in March published sweeping guidelines allowing indoor visits in most cases. It is a profound change that comes as vaccinations ramp up, reaching nearly 100 million Americans, including a majority of people in nursing homes. Even as the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week of a possible fourth coronavirus surge, nursing homes are so far holding steady, reporting drastically fewer cases and deaths since the start of vaccinations. The improved outlook means that across the country, people are once again greeting loved ones in nursing homes with bouquets of flowers, with homemade pudding and lemon bars, with news from children and grandchildren. Nursing homes have been centers of the pandemic since the beginning, when an outbreak was first identified at a facility outside Seattle. In the United States, the pandemic has killed more than 179,000 residents and employees of long-term care facilities — one-third of all coronavirus deaths nationwide — and left many others withering in isolation. In reopening to visitors, nursing homes now offer an early glimpse at what everyone may face in trying to go back to normal after a year of separation and stillness. Some reunions may be tinged with grief, others with reminders of all that has changed. Pauline Boss, a family therapist and professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, said the experiences of families coming back together reminded her of research she had done on husbands returning home to wives after war, or cancer patients who suddenly learn they are in remission. “Things don’t quite get back to normal,” Dr. Boss said. The Yankee Stadium vaccination site in New York last month.Credit...Kirsten Luce for The New York Times As millions of people get vaccinated in the United States, event venues that have been used as makeshift vaccination sites are now having to decide whether to move forward with administering shots as some of those events start to return. Ahead of baseball season, some stadiums pledged to continue vaccinations for now. Yankee Stadium will be used as a site at least through the end of April, with reduced hours. The stadium, home to the New York Yankees, will not administer vaccines on the days home games are scheduled. At Citi Field in Queens, home to the New York Mets, daily vaccinations will continue at McFadden’s, a restaurant near the third-base entrance to the stadium, a team spokesman said. The stadiums will be operating at 20 percent capacity for games under New York State guidelines starting on April 1, opening day. Other stadiums have already closed or moved their vaccination sites. In Boston, state officials announced that Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play, would no longer be used as a place to administer shots; operations will shift to Hynes Convention Center. Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said officials decided to move the vaccine operation out of Fenway Park to prevent confusion, given that the team not only plays games at the stadium but also practices there. “It does create a certain amount of potential for confusion for people who are going there to actually get a vaccine,” Mr. Baker said at a news conference this month. In San Diego, officials shut down a vaccination site in Petco Park, home to the San Diego Padres, on March 20. “The agreement with the Padres was that the site would close at the start of the baseball season,” José Álvarez, a spokesman for San Diego County, said in a statement. Some state officials say stadium closures will not greatly affect the number of vaccines administered, even as eligibility expands. “Sports venues are a high-profile but increasingly small part of the state’s efforts to vaccinate Californians,” Darrel Ng, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement, adding that a majority of vaccines will be administered in doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. Other venues have announced plans to double up on events and vaccinations. In Roseville, Calif., @the Grounds, an event venue, announced that it would host an anime event at the end of this week in place of administering vaccines, prompting criticism from some social media users. Charlie Gardner, the venue’s general manager, defended the decision, pointing to local officials’ extending the hours the vaccine site is open earlier in the week to make up for the two-day closure. Mr. Gardner said the venue had a longstanding agreement with the event organizer. “We don’t have any other conflicts like this in the near future and don’t expect to have any further interruptions,” he said. — Madeleine Ngo Plaza de Armas in downtown Santiago, Chile, on Sunday after a quarantine order was imposed.Credit...Cristobal Olivares for The New York Times SANTIAGO, Chile — Having negotiated early access to tens of millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines, Chile has been inoculating its residents faster than any other country in the Americas and appears poised to be among the first in the world to reach herd immunity. But experts say the country’s speedy and efficient vaccination drive — only Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Seychelles have vaccinated a larger share of their populations — gave Chileans a more lax outlook toward the virus, contributing to a sharp spike in new infections and deaths. The surge in cases, even as more than a third of Chile’s population has received at least the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, serves as a cautionary tale for other nations looking to vaccination drives to quickly put an end to the era of beleaguered economies, closed borders and social distancing. The rise in cases prompted a new set of strict lockdown measures that have restricted mobility for much of the country, affecting nearly 14 million people. The severity of the crisis became clear on Sunday, as President Sebastián Piñera asked Congress to delay by six weeks a vote scheduled for early April to elect the representatives who will draft a new constitution and other officials. In a statement, Mr. Piñera argued that the current state of the pandemic was not conducive to holding a vote that was “democratic, inclusive and safe.” While more than six million of the country’s 18 million people have been vaccinated, a surge in infections has left intensive care units operating with few beds to spare and the system at a breaking point. Last week Chile recorded 7,626 new Covid-19 cases in a single day, a record, and the pace of new infections has doubled in the past month. Officials have also identified cases of new variants that were first seen in Britain and Brazil. “No one questions that the vaccination campaign is a success story,” said Dr. Francisca Crispi, a regional president of Chile’s medical association. “But it conveyed a false sense of security to people, who felt that since we’re all being vaccinated the pandemic is over.” Stay-at-home orders and bans on indoor restaurant dining during the pandemic disrupted many people’s eating patterns, experts say.Credit...Spencer Platt/Getty Images Experts who treat eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder are reporting an overwhelming spike in the need for their services, with waiting lists growing at many practices and treatment centers across the United States. The National Eating Disorders Association reported a 41 percent increase in messages to its telephone and online help lines in January 2021, compared with January 2020. And in a study of about 1,000 American and Dutch people with eating disorders published last July, more than one-third of subjects reported that they were restricting their diet and increasing “compensatory” behavior like purging and exercise. Among the Americans in the study, 23 percent said they also regularly binge-eat stockpiled food. “I’m seeing more clients, and I’m getting clients who are sicker when they come to me, because we cannot get them access to a higher level of treatment,” said Whitney Trotter, a registered dietitian and nurse in Memphis who provides one-on-one nutritional counseling for adolescents and adults. She noted that many in-patient treatment centers were fully booked. — Virginia Sole-Smith “With vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives,” the chief executive of Delta Air Lines said.Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times Delta Air Lines said Wednesday that it would sell middle seats on flights starting May 1, more than a year after it decided to leave them empty to promote distancing. Other airlines had blocked middle seats early in the pandemic, but Delta held out the longest by several months and is the last of the four big U.S. airlines to get rid of the policy. The company’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said that a survey of those who flew Delta in 2019 found that nearly 65 percent expected to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by May 1, which gave the airline “the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft.” Delta started blocking middle seat bookings in April 2020 and said that it continued the policy to give passengers peace of mind. “During the past year, we transformed our service to ensure their health, safety, convenience and comfort during their travels,” Mr. Bastian said in a statement. “Now, with vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives.” Air travel has started to recover meaningfully in recent weeks, with ticket sales rising and as well over one million people per day have been screened at airport checkpoints since mid-March, according to the Transportation Security Administration. More than 1.5 million people were screened on Sunday, the busiest day at airports since the pandemic began. Air travel is still down about 40 percent from 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend against travel, even for those who have been vaccinated. This week, its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned of “impending doom” from a potential fourth wave of the pandemic if Americans move too quickly to disregard the advice of public health officials. Delta also said on Wednesday that it would give customers more time to use expiring travel credits. All new tickets purchased in 2021 and credits set to expire this year will now expire at the end of 2022. Starting April 14, the airline plans to bring back soft drinks, cocktails and snacks on flights within the United States and to nearby international destinations. In June, it plans to start offering hot food in premium classes on some coast-to-coast flights. Delta also announced changes that will make it easier for members of its loyalty program to earn points this year. A vaccination site in Houston on Monday.Credit...Go Nakamura for The New York Times As eligibility for Covid-19 vaccination rapidly expands to all adults in many states over the next month, a new poll shows a continuing increase in the number of Americans, particularly Black adults, who want to get vaccinated. But it also found that vaccine skepticism remains stubbornly persistent, particularly among Republicans and white evangelical Christians, an issue that the Biden administration has flagged as an impediment to achieving herd immunity and a return to normal life. By now, roughly 61 percent of adults have either received their first dose or are eager for one, up from 47 percent in January, according to the latest monthly survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The shift was most striking among Black Americans, some of whom have previously expressed hesitancy but who have also had access issues. Since just February, 14 percent more Black adults said they wanted or had already gotten the vaccine. Over all, Black adults, who have also been on the receiving end of vigorous promotional campaigns by celebrities, local Black physicians, clergy members and public health officials, now want the vaccine in numbers almost comparable to other leading demographic groups: 55 percent, compared with 61 percent for Latinos and 64 percent for white people. The Biden administration has made equity a focus of its pandemic response and has added mass vaccination sites in several underserved communities. In early March, a New York Times analysis of state-reported race and ethnicity information showed that the vaccination rate for Black people in the United States was half that of white people, and the gap for Hispanic people was even larger. Dr. Reed Tuckson, a founder of the Black Coalition Against Covid, hailed the increasing acceptance rates but noted that practical problems still get in the way of uptake. “The data, and our anecdotal feedback, are encouraging and further support the need for equitable distribution and easy-to-access vaccination sites that are led by trustworthy organizations,” he said. “The system needs to support those choices by making the right thing to do the easy thing to do.” Over all, the poll found that the so-called wait and see group — people who have yet to make up their minds — is shrinking commensurately, now at 17 percent, down from 31 percent in January. The seven-day average of vaccines administered hit 2.77 million on Tuesday, an increase over the pace the previous week, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey was taken from March 15 to March 22, among a random sample of 1,862 adults. Despite the progress, one in five adults (20 percent) said they would either definitely refuse the shot or be vaccinated only if required by their job or school. A number of employers and institutions are considering imposing such a requirement. Last week, Rutgers University became the first large academic institution to require students this fall to get the vaccine (with exemptions for some medical or religious reasons). The people most likely to firmly oppose being vaccinated identify as Republicans (29 percent) or as white evangelical Christians (28 percent). In contrast, only 10 percent of Black adults said they would definitely not get it. According to the Kaiser survey as well as other polls, Republicans have budged little in their views on vaccine acceptance in recent months, although they were more open last fall, before the November presidential election. The partisan divide over the Covid-19 shots is wide, with just 46 percent of Republicans saying they have received at least one shot or want to get it, compared with 79 percent of Democrats. No group is monolithic in its reasons for opposing or accepting the vaccines. Those who are skeptical say they mistrust the government generally and are apprehensive about the speed of the vaccine’s development. Awash in online misinformation, many cling to a fast-spreading myth — that tracker microchips are embedded in the shots. For rural residents, access to the vaccine is so problematic that they see the logistics and travel time involved as simply not worth it. With so many reasons cited to avoid the vaccine, crafting messages to improve vaccine confidence can be difficult. But the latest Kaiser report identified some approaches that seem to be successful in moving people to consider the shots. At least two-thirds of the so-called wait and see group said they would be persuaded by the message that the vaccines are “nearly 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death from Covid-19.” Other strong messages included information that the new vaccines are based on 20-year-old technology, that the vaccine trials included a broad diversity of candidates, and that the vaccines are free. The survey also noted that many people who are hesitant would be amenable to certain incentives. As the country begins to open up and on-site work returns, the role of the employer in vaccination is becoming increasingly pertinent. A quarter of those who are hesitant and have a job said that they would get the shot if their employer arranged for workplace vaccination. Nearly as many would agree if their employers gave them financial incentives ranging from $50 to $200. But over all, the strong growth in adults who have either gotten one dose of the vaccine or are inclined to get it is most likely because of their increasing familiarity with the notion. Surveys show that as they begin to know more friends and relatives who have gotten the shot, they can more readily imagine getting it themselves. Jill Biden, the first lady, will deliver remarks for Cesar Chavez Day, a holiday honoring the birthday of the labor organizer who co-founded the United Farm Workers of America.Credit...Pool photo by Anna Moneymaker Jill Biden, the first lady, is traveling to California on Wednesday to visit a pop-up vaccination site for farmworkers, who have lobbied for priority access to shots amid the pandemic. Thousands of Central Valley farmworkers are getting the coronavirus vaccine over six weekends in March and April at the “Forty Acres” property just west of Delano, a historic site that became the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America, the country’s first successful farmworker’s union. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, and his partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, will join the first lady at the site. Earlier this year, California launched a landmark effort to get vaccines to farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented and whose close-quarter working conditions have left them particularly vulnerable to the virus. Researchers from Purdue University estimate that about 500,000 agricultural workers have tested positive for the virus and at least 9,000 have died from it. (The virus has killed over 550,000 people in the United States, according to a New York Times count.) Dr. Biden will also deliver remarks for Cesar Chavez Day, a holiday honoring the birthday of the labor organizer who co-founded the union with the activist Dolores Huerta. Ms. Huerta told the website Bakersfield.com that Dr. Biden’s visit was “a great birthday present for Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers and the Latino community.” Mr. Chavez’s family members will greet the first lady and give remarks when she visits Forty Acres. Julie Rodriguez, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs, is Mr. Chavez’s granddaughter, and is accompanying Dr. Biden on the trip. Over the course of President Biden’s first two months in office, union leaders have praised his administration as one of the most labor-friendly in modern history. (One of Mr. Biden’s first official acts was to move a bust of Mr. Chavez into the Oval Office.) Mr. Biden has publicly supported the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bill that would grant temporary legal status to seasonal farm workers, many of whom are undocumented, and offer a 10-year path to citizenship. “For generations, America’s farmworkers — many of whom are undocumented — have worked countless hours to feed our nation and ensure our communities are healthy and strong,” Mr. Biden said in a statement on the day the House passed the act and sent it on to the Senate. “This has been even more clear and crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic, as farmworkers have put their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line to ensure that families across the country have food on the table.”