Sources and updates, May 29

  • New Surgeon General advisory on health worker burnout: This week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new advisory on COVID-19 burnout among health workers, summarizing research on the issue and highlighting it as a public health priority. The advisory discusses a variety of societal, cultural, structural, and organizational factors contributing to health worker burnout, while tying this burnout to growing shortages of doctors and other health professionals. From the one-page summary of the advisory: “If not addressed, the health worker burnout crisis will make it harder for patients to get care when they need it, cause health costs to rise, hinder our ability to prepare for the next public health emergency, and worsen health disparities.”
  • CDC may change COVID-19 reporting for hospitals: The CDC is planning a few changes to its reporting requirements for hospitals in order to simplify the reporting process and cut down on redundant information, according to a draft plan shared with Bloomberg. Among the changes: hospitals may no longer be required to report suspected COVID-19 cases (i.e. those cases not yet confirmed with a PCR test); with most hospitals testing all patients when they’re admitted, suspected cases are less common and the data are less useful than they had been at earlier points in the pandemic. The CDC may also stop requiring COVID-19 reporting from some types of facilities, such as mental health centers, and may change the frequency of required reporting.
  • New preprint about Omicron BA.4 and BA.5: While the U.S. mostly worries about BA.2.12.1, additional Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have been spreading in South Africa and other countries. A new study from a highly-regarded consortium of Japanese researchers suggests that BA.4 and BA.5 are about 20% more transmissible than BA.2 (similarly to BA.2.12.1). Also, even more concerning: the researchers found that BA.4 and BA.5 are more capable of resisting protection from a prior Omicron infection than BA.1. While the study has not yet been peer-reviewed, it garnered a lot of attention on Twitter this week from scientists warning that we need to watch out for these subvariants.
  • U.S. gets closer to a vaccine for kids under five: The FDA has set new dates for its vaccine advisory committee to review data on COVID-19 vaccines for children under age five: the committee will discuss both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s under-five vaccines on June 15, after discussing Moderna’s vaccine for children ages six to 17 on June 14. This announcement came after Pfizer and BioNTech released new data on their under-five vaccine, saying that a series of three doses provided strong protection against severe disease. There are some caveats for the data (which were shared via press release), but this is great news for children under age five and their families.
  • NIH sharing some COVID-19 technology (but not patents): I missed this news from earlier in May: the National Institutes of Health has made a deal with the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool and the Medicines Patent Pool to lisense 11 technologies used in COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. This lisense will allow pharmaceutical manufacturers around the world to make the coronavirus spike protein, RNA virus tests, and other COVID-19 components, increasing access to these technologies in low- and middle-income countries. Of course, it would be better for these countries if the NIH had shared full vaccine patents, but apparently that’s asking too much.

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