December 10, 2021

COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: The Latest on the Omicron Variant

As the holiday season continues, the Omicron variant has prompted an exceptional level of research activity and information-sharing. The early evidence on the Omicron variant is a mixture of encouraging news and more concerning news, as leaders continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated, get their booster shots and make an effort to mitigate spread.

Booster Shots for Ages 16 & 17 Approved 

On Thursday, December 9, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced 16- and 17-year-olds can get a booster shot of the mRNA vaccine already approved for this age group after getting the first two doses at least six months prior. This is an extension of the previous authorization that allowed booster shots to be administered only to individuals 18 and older. 

Three-Dose Vaccine

The manufacturer of the mRNA vaccine that was the first on the market in the United States is now saying that its current two-dose regiment vaccine should be a three-dose vaccine. This change is due to speculation that its vaccine may not provide enough protection against the Omicron variant with just two doses. The vaccine manufacturer is already working on an Omicron-specific vaccine that could be ready as early as March 2022. 

Antibody Treatment Authorized To Prevent COVID-19 

On Wednesday, December 8, the FDA authorized the first injectable antibody treatment for long-term protection against COVID-19 for the 3% of U.S. adults who are immunocompromised. This cocktail is intended to be for those who do not have an adequate immune response from a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Request to Block Federal Mask Mandate for Air Travel Rejected 

Chief Justice John Roberts dismissed without comment an emergency request filed against the Transportation Security Administration to block the federal mask mandate until the court of appeals and the Supreme Court weighed in on the issue. Just last week, the Biden administration extended the federal mask mandate for planes, trains and buses through March 18.

Statewide New York Mask Mandate Starts Monday 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a statewide mask mandate starting Monday for most indoor activities.  Businesses and venues may choose to either require all patrons and employees to be vaccinated or require everyone over the age of two to wear a mask at all times while in an indoor, public space or face a fine of up to $1000. This mandate is in response to increasing number of COVID cases throughout New York State.  

Omicron News 

The Omicron variant has prompted an exceptional level of research activity and information sharing. Some of what we are discovering seems encouraging — for example, the hospitalization rates specifically for those with Omicron are, so far, not as high as originally feared.  On the other hand, some of the news is more troubling — for example, the diminished ability of currently available tests to detect this variant. 

Other Omicron news and resources include:

Holiday Gift Ideas

A book is a gift that will keep on giving long after the holiday season. Here are a couple of suggestions for yourself or for science students on your holiday list:

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.
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