It appears that the surge in cases of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant has peaked, and nationwide hospitalizations are also declining. There are currently about 130,000 patients hospitalized with the virus at this time, but hospitalizations remain at the highest levels of the pandemic thus far.
Pfizer and BioNTech have requested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve two doses of their vaccine for children under five years old. According to the New York Times, the regulator requested that the companies submit for approval even though the two doses failed to produce the immune response among children between 2- and 4-years old in the clinical trial.
Modern Healthcare notes that vaccinations have been lower among children than any other age group, and expects this trend to continue for children under age 5. As of last week, only 20% of children ages 5 to 11 and half of American teenagers were fully vaccinated.
Moderna has won full approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, now called Spikevax. This is the second fully licensed vaccine in the country after Pfizer’s Comirnaty, which was fully approved in August. According to STAT News, Novovax, based in Maryland, also filed for authorization of its vaccine, currently known as NVX-CoV2373, which is a protein vaccine instead of an mRNA vaccine.
During the Omicron surge, unvaccinated adults have been 23 times more likely to be hospitalized and four times as likely to be infected as fully vaccinated adults who also received a booster. They were also significantly more likely to require intensive care unit admission, intubation or even die, compared with vaccinated adults, Medpage Today reports.
Fierce Healthcare is keeping a running tally with hospitals who have experienced layoffs of personnel due to noncompliance with the federal vaccine mandate for healthcare workers issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS said in December that eligible healthcare providers must have a vaccination policy in place with all staff having received at least one dose by January 27 and those workers must be fully vaccinated by February 28.
Fierce Healthcare found that most hospitals have retained over 99% of their workforce, putting a damper on widespread concerns that the mandates would exacerbate already severe workforce shortages. From Ezekiel J Emanuel, M.D., vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania:
If you look at healthcare systems that have actually mandated this, they’ve retained over 99% of their workforce. Their workforce does go along when their employer requires it.
The U.S. Army will now discharge soldiers who refuse COVID-19 vaccination, NPR reports. Any soldiers who refuse vaccination will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and may have to return special or incentive pay. As of January 26, the Army said that 96% of all active troops have been completely vaccinated. Nearly 5,900 soldiers have received temporary exemptions and 3,350 have refused the vaccine.
Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars. Unvaccinated Soldiers present a risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.
Supply Chain Concerns
The nation’s medical system is experiencing a severe blood shortage, exacerbated by the Omicron surge as potential donors avoid blood drives for fear of transmission. According to USA Today, the Red Cross reports frequently experiencing less than a day’s worth of blood on-hand. As a result, hospitals have had to delay surgeries due to the shortage and the wave of incoming emergencies.
NPR reports that masks and at-home COVID-19 test kits are impacting budgets and spending for American families while supplies remain limited. A box of 20 N95 masks on Amazon costs roughly $35, which means many Americans are recycling the masks against guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The dominant Omicron variant lineage in the United States is known officially as BA.1, and is part of a larger Omicron grouping. A sister variant within that group, BA.2, has taken dominance in India, Denmark and a few other countries and demonstrates higher transmissibility than even BA.1. According to STAT News, it is likely that BA.1 had more opportunity to spread further than BA.2 initially, among a number of other environmental factors.