Health Highlights: May 6, 2021

CDC Gives Cruise Ship Lines Guidelines for Simulated Voyages

Guidelines for cruise ship lines to conduct simulated voyages as a step toward resuming sailing in American waters were issued Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The guidelines outline all the requirements and recommendations for cruise ship operators to begin simulated voyages with volunteer passengers before they can restart restricted passenger services, the CDC said.

The document outlines how CDC inspections of cruise ships will be conducted during simulated and restricted passenger voyages, and includes requirements and recommendations on COVID-19 prevention and surveillance on ships.

"CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the [guidelines]," the agency said in a statement. "This goal aligns with the prospective resumption of passenger operations in the United States by mid-summer, expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers."

"COVID-19 vaccines play a critical role in the safe resumption of passenger operations, but not all cruise ship operators have announced plans to mandate passenger vaccinations," the agency added. "As more people are fully vaccinated and more drug therapeutics are available, the phased approach allowed CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for safe resumption of cruise ship travel. CDC recommends that all port personnel and travelers [passengers and crew] get a COVID-19 vaccine when a vaccine is available to them."

Cruise ship sailings in U.S. waters were halted last year by the CDC in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Woman Gives Birth to Nine Babies

A Malian woman who had been expecting seven babies gave birth to nine instead, and the mother, five girls and four boys "are all doing well," Mali's health minister said Tuesday.

The babies were born by cesarean section on Tuesday in Morocco, where their 25-year-old mother, Halima Cisse, had been sent for special care, the Associated Press reported.

The nonuplets are in incubators in the private Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca.

The case appears to be the first on record of a woman giving birth to nine surviving babies at once, the AP reported.

Cisse gave birth prematurely at 30 weeks and is now in stable condition after heavy bleeding for which she was given a blood transfusion, the AP reported.

The Guinness Book of World Records told the AP on Wednesday that its current record for most living births at once is eight, and that it is verifying the Morocco births.

Pfizer to Seek Approval in Fall for COVID Vaccine Use in Children Aged 2-11

Emergency use authorization for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children ages 2 to 11 could be sought from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by September, the company said Tuesday.

During a quarterly earning call with Wall Street analysts and reporters on Tuesday, Pfizer also said it plans to apply to the FDA this month for full approval of the vaccine for use in people ages 16-85, The New York Times reported.

Obtaining full FDA approval would allow the companies to market the vaccine directly to consumers. The approval process is expected to take months, the Times said.

It may also make it easier for companies, government agencies, schools and other entities to require vaccination. The University of California and California State University school systems, for instance, have announced that once coronavirus vaccines receive full FDA approval, they will require students, faculty and staff members to be vaccinated, the Times reported. The U.S. military, which has seen many troops decline coronavirus vaccines, has said that it would not make them mandatory as long as the vaccines have only emergency authorization.

Pfizer's announcement came as the pace of vaccination in the United States has been slowing.

"We are essentially nearing the end of vaccinating those that were willingly waiting to get in line to get it," Rupali Limaye, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins who studies vaccine use, told the Times. "And so, the next push is going to be I think more critical than ever."

Full approval from the FDA could help boost confidence in the vaccine, especially among people who may have lingering worries about how quickly it was developed, Limaye said. "I think people still have concerns about it even if they know that no corners were cut," she said. "It will nudge people to say, 'OK, it's been thoroughly vetted.'"

Pfizer also said clinical trial data on the safety of the vaccine in pregnant women is expected by early August.

FDA emergency use authorization for the vaccine's use in children aged 12-15 is expected by early next week, the Times reported.

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