March 19, 2021

COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: 116 Million Vaccines

It was a largely encouraging week in the U.S. COVID-19 response, where the vaccination rollout continues to outpace initial goals. Elsewhere, the World Health Organization (WHO) weighed in on the idea of requiring international travelers to show vaccination certificates, and studies produced new findings about children’s susceptibility to COVID-19 and the symptoms associated with “long COVID.”

116 Million Vaccines Administered

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 116 million vaccines have been administered since the roll-out began in December, with about 29% of all adults receiving at least one dose. President Biden hoped 100 million vaccines would be administered within his first 100 days in office, which will happen by the end of this week. Though states are racing to get their residents vaccinated, 15 states have started to see a 10%-25% increase in their number of cases this week.

Antibodies Against COVID-19 in Newborn

The passage of a mother’s antibodies to her child during pregnancy through the placenta is known, established science and is also seen in situations where mothers who were previously infected with COVID-19 have a child. However, this week, a child born to a mother who had been administered the Moderna vaccine three weeks prior to delivery was found to have antibodies in their blood sample. Though these are preliminary results, and more research will follow on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in pregnant women, this is a promising and positive sign that scientists are encouraged to see. 

Medicare Increasing Payment for COVID-19 Vaccine

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Medicare will reimburse at almost double the previous payment rate for administration of the COVID-19 vaccines. The agency will increase the administration rate and create one standard rate for each COVID-19 vaccine administration for Medicare beneficiaries.

Xavier Becerra Confirmed as HHS Secretary

This week, the United States Senate narrowly confirmed Biden nominee Xavier Becerra of California to serve as his Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Becerra is expected to be sworn in imminently. In this role, Secretary Becerra will be an essential leader in the federal government’s continued strategy against the pandemic.

WHO Weighs in on Vaccine Certification for Travelers

On Thursday, officials representing the WHO reiterated their recommendation against requiring vaccine certificates for international travel because of concerns including equity. However, they further indicated WHO is working on what such certification should look like if and when it is required.

FDA Consolidates COVID-19 Information

FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) has launched a new website that seeks to present consolidated information on its EUA review and decisions for COVID-19 therapies. This is a targeted page for authorized COVID-19 treatments. The page, in effect, duplicates information on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization (EUA) site, but according to CDER is meant to help the public more easily locate the information. The FDA has also updated the fact sheets for several of the monoclonal antibody therapies to inform health care providers of susceptibility of SARS CoV-2 variants to the treatments. Variants addressed are B.1.1.7, B.1.351, P.1, B.1.427/B.1.429, and B.1.526. 

Children’s Susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 May Be Underestimated

CDC data from Mississippi on seropositivity among children and teenagers under 18 showed that by mid-September 2020, over 113,000 such individuals had had a SARS-CoV-2 infection (with or without symptoms), whereas fewer than 9,000 patients under 18 had been reported as having a confirmed of probable COVID-19 diagnosis. This discrepancy suggests that most SARS-CoV-2 infections in that pediatric group went unrecognized. In Texas, seropositivity in children is now above 30%, which is higher than that in adults (under 30%). In a separate study from Australia,  modeling based on the data from the earlier months of the pandemic suggests that the widely touted lower incidence of COVID-19 in children compared to adults may be due to bias in testing and sampling strategies, fewer exposure opportunities in children when schools are closed, and a generally milder acute phase, as opposed to genuine differences in susceptibility to the virus. Continued collection and careful examination of pediatric data is important in order to better understand, prevent and treat both acute severe COVID-19 and the multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children.

Half of ‘Long COVID’ Patients Have One or More New-Onset Symptoms

In a new study from France, survivors of COVID-19 were clinically assessed four months after their initial hospitalization.  In more than half of the cases, these individuals experienced new symptoms during that period, with most common being persistent fatigue, cognitive difficulties and shortness of breath.

More COVID-19 Insights

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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.

Tracking Fraud Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tracking federal and state law enforcement and regulatory actions taken against bad actors who have exploited the COVID-19 emergency to defraud consumers and payers.

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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