February 25, 2022

COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: New Guidance on Measuring Severity Anticipated

As vaccination rates drop to an all-time low in the United States, the CDC is preparing new guidance on measuring the severity of outbreaks in our communities. Meanwhile, a study on the impact of hospitalization on the mental health of family members highlights additional burdens of the pandemic.

CDC Shifting From Focusing on Number of Cases to Hospitalizations

The U.S. is currently averaging 2,000 COVID-19 deaths per day, but case numbers and hospitalizations have drastically declined. The CDC is expected to release a new guidance that will help determine if localities are safe enough to ease mandates and other COVID-19 precautions. The determination will be based on number of hospitalizations in relation to hospital capacity as opposed to how the agency currently measures severity of outbreaks using number of cases.

CDC Changes Vaccine Recommendations

This week, CDC silently changed its vaccine recommendation by lengthening the interval males between the ages of 12 and 39 should wait to get their two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The original recommendation was to wait three to four weeks between doses, but now it states eight. According to CDC, the risk of myocarditis for males between the ages of 12 and 39 could be lessened by widening the time between shots.

First Plant-Based Vaccine Authorized

On Thursday, Canada became the first country to authorize use of a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine. Canadian regulators said the plant-based, two-dose vaccine can be given to adults ages 18 to 64 but said there is not enough evidence on the efficacy of the vaccine in people 65 and older.

Vaccination Rates at an All-Time Low

COVID-19 vaccination rates in the U.S. have dropped to the lowest level since the start of the vaccination campaign — the latest indicator that the country may be nearing maximum uptake.

WHO Releases Statement on Omicron Sub-Variants

The WHO in their statement summarizing the current knowledge of Omicron sub-variants BA.1 and BA.2 concluded that BA.2 should continue to be monitored. While cases of all Omicron variants are declining globally, the proportion of BA.2 cases is increasing relative to BA.1, which aligns with some studies demonstrating that BA.2 has a growth advantage over BA.1 and appears to be more transmissible that BA.1. A recent study out of Japan available as a pre-print demonstrated that in animal models BA.2 may cause more severe disease than BA.1 but analysis of real-world data collected from hospitalized individuals in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark reported no clinical differences between the two sub-variants.

PTSD in Family Members of COVID-19 ICU Patients

Based on data from families of patients from 23 Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in France, researchers found that family members of those who had been admitted to ICU for COVID-19 were significantly more likely to suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression three months later, compared to families of those who had been discharged from ICUs after an Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) not related to COVID-19, such as ARDS due to influenza. The ICU admissions in this study were in January-October 2020, so before vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 became available. These findings reveal yet another layer of the burden caused by COVID-19, and underscores the importance of a wide social support for survivors and their families, and of preventing the disease in the first place.

Vaccination Reduces Long-Term Complications From COVID-19

A U.K. meta-analysis of studies published through January 2022 showed that vaccination reduced the incidence and severity of long COVID symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, muscular weakness and pain, interstitial lung disease and others. The report looked at studies where vaccination was given to people who already had developed long COVID as well as studies where vaccination preceded infection. The report underscores the importance of vaccination for improving health outcomes.

mRNA Vaccines Comparison

One of the two key mRNA vaccines available in the US was associated with a significantly lower risk of a “breakthrough” infection than the other. The study was based on millions of health records from 63 health care organizations representing a sizable proportion of the US population from all 50 states. A similar finding was reported from Qatar where the same mRNA-based vaccine was more effective at preventing a breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infection, while both mRNA vaccines were highly effective against hospitalization and death.

Did Apps Help With COVID-19 Prevention and Control?

A study of apps built on social-media platforms in China found that their quality was low and that health education functions were lacking. The authors suggest that in order to improve engagement and efficacy, the apps aiming to help in the fight against a pandemic should be built specifically for that purpose rather than as add-ons to existing digital platforms.

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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