COVID News: UK authorizes Merck's coronavirus treatment pill

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Britain has granted a conditional authorization to Merck's coronavirus antiviral, the first pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19. It is the first country to OK the treatment, although it was not immediately clear how quickly the pill would be available.

The pill was licensed for adults 18 and older who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have at least one risk factor for developing severe disease. The drug, known as molnupiravir, is intended to be taken twice a day for five days by people at home with mild to moderate COVID-19.

An antiviral pill that reduces symptoms and speeds recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing caseloads on hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with fragile health systems. It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.

Molnupiravir is also pending review at regulators in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last month it would convene a panel of independent experts to scrutinize the pill's safety and effectiveness in late November.

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



NYC reaches deal with 4 municipal workers unions over COVID-19 vaccine mandate
New York City announced agreements Thursday with four unions over the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all municipal employees, including on exemption requests and leave policies. The unions -- DC 37, Teamsters Local 237, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association Local 831, and SEIU Local 300 -- collectively represent approximately 75,000 employees, excluding members employed at the Department of Education or NYC Health+Hospitals.

Around 92% of city workers under the mandate are vaccinated, including 90% of EMS, 79% of firefighters, 85% of sanitation workers, and 85% of NYPD employees. Without a mandate in effect, the Department of Corrections remains at 63% vaccinated.

NYC-run sites begin offering Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids 5-11
New York City-run vaccination centers and hospitals are now offering the pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine to kids ages 5-11. The city has nearly a quarter-million available. Mayor Bill de Blasio said children ages 5-11 will be eligible to get the $100 vaccine incentive when they get vaccinated at a city-run site. The shots will also be available through 1,500 pediatricians at doctor's offices in all five boroughs.

New vaccine mandates: Most US employees must get shot or test weekly for COVID by Jan. 4
President Joe Biden's administration announced two new sweeping nationwide safety standards Thursday -- one that demands large businesses require their employees to either get the vaccine or test for COVID-19 regularly, and another that mandates vaccines for most health care workers. These federal rules identify COVID-19 as an occupational hazard. Businesses that don't comply could be fined $14,000 per infraction, and hospitals could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid dollars. The temporary emergency rule for the private sector requires every U.S. private business that employs 100 workers or more -- from grocery stores to meatpacking plants -- to get their workers fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, and have unvaccinated workers produce negative COVID-19 test results on a weekly basis. This impacts some 80 million Americans, or two-thirds of all U.S. workers.

Q&A: What to know about COVID-19 vaccines for kids aged 5-11
Vaccinations finally are available to U.S. children as young as 5, to the relief of some parents even as others have questions or fears. Late Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final OK for youngsters age 5 to 11 to get kid-size doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. Pediatricians and other doctors' groups praised the move and are gearing up to help families decide whether to vaccinate their children. The shots could be available as soon as Wednesday and will be offered at pediatricians offices, clinics and pharmacies. Like COVID-19 vaccines for adults, they are free. Here's everything you need to know.

Will the supply chain issues impact holiday shopping? Here's what the experts say
With the holiday shopping suddenly upon us, it appears that getting that perfect gift or preparing that perfect meal will be far more challenging than in years past due to supply chain issues. Shoppers are noticing that it's difficult to find a variety of items, and virtually everything from food to Christmas trees are more expensive. The price increase is being caused by gridlock at major seaports and a truck driver shortage across the country. Analysts say the forecast for the holiday season is not looking better.

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