COVID-19 Updates: New Pfizer Drug Reduces Hospitalization, Deaths by Almost 90%

  • More than 5 million people globally have died from COVID-19.
  • More than half of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated.
  • COVID-19 booster shots are now available for some people in the United States.

Update on COVID-19 numbers

  • Globally, there have been more than 248.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 5 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The United States has reported more than 46.3 million confirmed cases and more than 752,000 associated deaths.
  • Currently, more than 222.9 million people in the United States have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with more than 193.4 million people fully vaccinated.

Healthline updates this page on weekdays. For up-to-date information about the virus, go here.

11/5/21 3:10 p.m. PDT — New Pfizer drug reduces hospitalization, deaths by almost 90%

Drugmaker Pfizer announced today that its new, oral COVID-19 drug has been found to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk people by nearly 90 percent.

“The scheduled interim analysis showed an 89% reduction in risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization or death from any cause compared to placebo in patients treated within three days of symptom onset,” said the company in a press release.

According to Pfizer, if the new drug, called Paxlovid, is approved or authorized, it would be the first oral antiviral of its kind.

The drugmaker says Paxlovid is meant to be prescribed at the first signs of infection or awareness of exposure, and can potentially help people avoid severe illness. It works by blocking an enzyme the coronavirus needs to replicate.

“Today’s news is a real game-changer in the global efforts to halt the devastation of this pandemic,” Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said in a statement.

“These data suggest that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved or authorized by regulatory authorities, has the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalizations,” he continued.

Germany sees steep rise in COVID-19 cases

Health officials in Germany warn that the country is experiencing a “very worrying” spike in cases, and unvaccinated people face severe risks.

This warning comes after the European nation recorded its second new record in daily infections, according to CNN.

More than 37,000 new cases were reported today — 3,000 more than recorded yesterday, reported CNN.

The spike in infections is occurring during a significantly slower vaccine rollout than seen in other large European nations.

11/4/21 1:37 p.m. PDT — Biden administration announces new COVID-19 vaccine and testing guidelines

By early in 2022, most U.S. employers with at least 100 workers must ensure that unvaccinated employees be tested at least weekly and are masked in the workplace, in accordance with new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, the White House announced today.

According to the Biden administration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services will also require that healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are fully vaccinated.

In an emailed statement, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), told Healthline the CMS guidelines might worsen an already dire staffing crisis.

“While we support the overall intent of this CMS policy, we are concerned that the execution will exacerbate an already dire workforce crisis in long-term care,” he said.

“A hard deadline with no resources for providers or glide path for unvaccinated workers is likely to push too many out the door and, ultimately, threaten residents’ access to long-term care,” explained Parkinson.

This new rule will affect more than 17 million workers at approximately 76,000 healthcare facilities, including hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The testing requirement for unvaccinated workers will begin after January 4, according to the White House. However, employers have until December 5 to comply with requirements like paid time off for employees to be vaccinated and masking for unvaccinated workers.

The new guidelines do not require employers to pay the cost of COVID-19 testing.

Colorado governor authorizes hospitals to turn away patients amid pandemic surge

On Sunday, Colorado governor Jared Polis signed an executive order (EO) granting healthcare workers the authority to prioritize crisis care as directed by the state’s health department.

The order will empower the governor, “in the event of an emergency epidemic that has been declared a disaster emergency,” to respond by ordering hospitals “to transfer or cease admission of patients or perform medical examinations of persons.”

According to the EO, while Colorado has a nearly 80 percent vaccination rate, hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated patients experiencing severe COVID-19.

The most recent data from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard shows about 1,400 people hospitalized with severe COVID-19 as of Wednesday, a significant increase over the last month.

Cold weather brings record levels of COVID-19 to Europe

According to Reuters, the World Health Organization describes record levels of COVID-19 in Europe as a “grave concern,” as fall temperatures dip significantly.

The surge in cases, especially in Eastern Europe, is prompting debates on what pandemic restrictions, if any, to reintroduce before the Christmas season — and how to encourage more people to be vaccinated, reported the news outlet.

“The current pace of transmission across the 53 countries of the European Region is of grave concern,” regional WHO head Dr. Hans Kluge told Reuters, emphasizing that the spread was worsened by the Delta variant.

Kluge also warned that should European cases follow their current trajectory, by February there could be a half-million COVID-related deaths in the region.

11/3/21 1:44 p.m. PDT — Kids under 12 start getting COVID-19 vaccines

One day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcedTrusted Source their approval of Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, children ages 5 through 11 have started receiving their first doses.

On Tuesday, it was announced that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer pediatric vaccine.

According to the CDC press releaseTrusted Source, the agency has expanded vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States for this age group and will allow healthcare workers to begin vaccinating them immediately.

“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Walensky in a statementTrusted Source.

“We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” she added.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN that the United States will “hit the ground running” to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11.

“That was what the preparedness was about,” Fauci told the network. “It’s a good thing. We’ll hit the ground running, and probably by the beginning of next week, we’ll be at full speed.”

He added that the pediatric version of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be available in pharmacies, pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals and certain community locations.

Indian drugmaker’s COVID vaccine candidate granted WHO emergency approval

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced emergency use approval of Indian drugmaker Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine, called Covaxin, reported CNBC.

According to a press release from Bharat Biotech, validation from the WHO means countries can now expedite their regulatory approval processes to import and administer Covaxin.

“The EUL [emergency use listing] authorization for COVAXIN will enable us to contribute to accelerating the equitable access of Covid-19 vaccine, and the access to our vaccine globally thereby addressing the current public health emergency,” Dr. Krishna Ella, chairperson and managing director at Bharat Biotech, said in a statement.

11/2/21 5:06 p.m. PDT — CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids

The CDC is formally recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. A key CDC advisory panel voted in favor of the recommendation earlier Tuesday.

Pfizer announced the proposed dose for younger children is one-third the dose given to people over age 12. Children between 5 and 11 years old would receive two injections spaced about 3 weeks apart.

According to United Press International (UPI), the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) agree that children in this age range can receive the vaccine.

White House Coronavirus Response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said Monday that the Biden administration has ordered enough vaccines to cover all U.S. children in the 5–11 age range, reported the news outlet.

Vaccinations for this age group could start this week.

15 million COVID-19 shots rolled out for children by next week, says White House

On Monday, the White House announced that U.S. distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old will begin this week, reported Reuters. However, most of the 15 million shots slated for use are unlikely to be available before next week.

According to Reuters, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said that millions of doses formulated for children in that age group will start arriving at distribution centers over the next few days, and the federal government purchased enough doses for all 28 million eligible children.

“We are ready to execute, pending CDC’s decision. And starting the week of November 8th, our vaccination program for kids ages 5 through 11 will be running at full strength,” Zients told reporters at a briefing.

Kentucky governor emphasizes importance of COVID-19 booster shots

Increasing numbers of vaccinated Kentucky residents have developed COVID-19, with some being hospitalized, reported the Associated Press (AP). This signals the importance of receiving booster shots, said the state’s Governor Andy Beshear on Monday.

“I think when you look at this growth, the only natural explanation is that the immunity does lessen a little bit over time,” the governor said at a news conference, reported the AP.

“The Delta variant is part of it, right? But this means you need to get your booster,” he said.

According to AP, the governor also said 67 percent of people in Kentucky who are eligible to receive the vaccine have received at least the first dose.

“We need to push this more, but two-thirds of eligible Kentuckians isn’t bad — we just know we have to do better,” Beshear added.