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December 17, 2021

COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Booster Shots and the Omicron Variant

In our final newsletter of 2021, we share updates on the federal government’s latest vaccine recommendations, the spread of the Omicron variant, and what the preliminary findings tell us about the need for booster shots to protect against this new strain of the virus.

CDC Recommends mRNA Vaccines Over One-Dose Vaccine

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that people get either of the two mRNA vaccines instead of the current one-dose adenovirus-based vaccine. ACIP voted unanimously that the mRNA vaccine options are safer and more effective, and therefore the preferred option. The single-dose vaccine will continue to be on the market and remains a viable option, especially for those who cannot take the mRNA vaccine due to prior allergic reactions to its ingredients.

Omicron Spreading Rapidly, Poised To Become Dominant Strain

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, indicated that the Omicron variant is expected to become the dominant strain in the United States in the coming weeks. The Omicron variant represents about 3% of the cases in the U.S, but it has a doubling time of about three days. When compared to the Delta variant, the current dominant strain that currently accounts for 96% of cases, it doubles at a rate of about two weeks. The administration is gearing up for a harsh winter with the demand for testing to increase. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) projects that by February 2022, 3 to 5 million tests will be conducted daily, up from the current daily level of 1.6 million.

CDC Endorses ‘Test To Stay’ Policy To Keep Kids in School

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced during a December 17 White House briefing that the agency recommends schools to adopt a “test to stay” policy, a strategy to allow unvaccinated children to stay in school even if they have been exposed to COVID-19. If the student tests negative for the virus at least twice during the week after an exposure, the child can continue to attend classes and avoid having to quarantine at home. Many schools nationwide have implemented this policy and have seen significant reduction in the number of days kids had to miss of school while keeping the classroom safe. With CDC’s endorsement, it is likely more schools will feel comfortable implementing it as a measure to keep students safe and in school.

Definition of ‘Fully Vaccinated’ May Change

In an interview earlier this week, Dr. Fauci said that revising the definition of “fully vaccinated” to refer to someone who has had a booster shot (in addition to an initial course of vaccines) is “certainly on the table.” New York State Governor Hochul stated at a recent press conference that she plans to introduce legislation to change the definition of fully vaccinated to include a booster shot.  This proposed change comes as more reports are released describing the increased efficacy of the current vaccines against the Delta and Omicron variants achieved after three doses as compared to the current two-dose regimen.

NIH Director Francis Collins Summarizes Covid-19 Vaccine Protection for Omicron Variant

A large amount of research is ongoing, and some initial findings suggest that although two doses of vaccine may not provide as much protection against Omicron as for the Delta variant, the level of protection does increase significantly with a booster (a third dose of vaccine). Researchers have also found that the Omicron variant, like other SARS CoV2 variants, uses the ACE2 receptor to infect human lungs, which suggests that current vaccines and therapies should still provide a level of protection or efficacy against the virus. Additionally, data show that the Omicron variant does not have mutations that would impact other pathways for immune defense, such as T-cells, which would protect against severe illness. Early research is also suggesting that the Omicron variant may cause milder symptoms than the Delta variant, which is still dominant in many regions. Latest on Omicron Variant and COVID-19 Vaccine Protection – NIH Director's Blog.

Anticoagulants Offer No Survival Benefits

Early in the pandemic, abnormal blood clotting was often observed in COVID-19 patients, and anticoagulants were therefore thought to be a possible treatment for those symptoms. Now the data are available showing that anticoagulants did not improve survival, and that even though thrombotic events were reduced with higher doses, the risk of bleeding increased.

A Guide To Vaccines for Kids

A short yet informative article about vaccines for children provides useful information for parents, practitioners and policymakers, and also explains the remaining gaps in our current knowledge of pediatric vaccines against COVID-19.

Boosters Recommended as a ‘Third Dose’ — and Perhaps That Will Be the Last Dose Needed?

In the absence of a magic “crystal ball”, one can look at the available evidence to try to anticipate what the future might hold. Encouragingly, some experts speculate that the third dose of mRNA vaccines, which is strongly recommended now, might boost our immunity so well that further vaccinations might become unnecessary. Time will tell.

Mixed News About Delta Variant

After analyzing data collected on the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, researchers came to the conclusion that Delta does not necessarily cause more severe disease compared to the previous variants. Unfortunately, the virus remains a formidable foe, and Delta caused an alarming rise of hospitalizations, driven primarily by the infection spreading among the unvaccinated.

‘Living Evidence’ Guidelines a Proven Success

In an article published by Nature researchers argue that “living evidence” clinical guidelines should replace the outdated model of waiting for retrospective meta-reviews to inform decision makers, especially in fast-evolving situations, such as that forced on the world by COVID-19.

2021 Progress in Charts and the Work That Lies Ahead

Graphical summaries of scientific and social developments related to understanding and responding to the pandemic clearly illustrate the progress made this year. The charts also bring to mind all the work that still lies ahead, such as counteracting the diminishing efficacy of vaccines over time or developing a universal coronavirus vaccine as urged by U.S. health care leaders.

The COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Signing off for 2021

In observation of the upcoming holidays, this will be our final weekly newsletter for 2021. We will be back on January 7, 2022. We appreciate you following our efforts to track and make sense of the latest COVID-19 developments, and we hope you have a happy and healthy 2022.

Additional Resources

Global COVID-19-Related Patent Office Status and Deadline Extension Updates

Information regarding the status of each foreign patent office and the availability of extensions of time in each jurisdiction.

Government Actions: COVID-19

Tracking executive orders, legislation, and other government actions related to COVID-19 by state and major locality across the U.S.

Faegre Drinker’s Coronavirus Resource Center is available to help you understand and assess the legal, regulatory and commercial implications of COVID-19.

The material contained in this communication is informational, general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. The material contained in this communication should not be relied upon or used without consulting a lawyer to consider your specific circumstances. This communication was published on the date specified and may not include any changes in the topics, laws, rules or regulations covered. Receipt of this communication does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In some jurisdictions, this communication may be considered attorney advertising.

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