Sources and updates, March 5

  • FDA authorizes joint COVID/flu rapid test, but there’s a catch: Late last week, the FDA issued emergency use authorization to the U.S.’s first at-home, rapid test capable of detecting both COVID-19 and the flu. This could be a really useful tool for people experiencing respiratory symptoms, since COVID-19 and flu can appear so similar. But you might not be seeing this test on pharmacy shelves anytime soon: Lucira Health, the test’s manufacturer, just declared bankruptcy. And the company actually blamed FDA authorization delays for contributing to its financial situation, as it had produced supplies anticipating a fall/winter sale of tests. Brittany Trang at STAT News reported on the situation; read her story for more details.
  • COVID-19 surveillance stressed out essential workers: For a new report, the nonprofit Data & Society interviewed 50 essential workers from meatpacking and food processing, warehousing, manufacturing, and grocery retail industries about their experiences with COVID-19 surveillance efforts, like temperature checks and proximity monitoring. Overall, workers found that these surveillance measures added time and stress to the job but did not actually provide information about COVID-19 spread in their workplaces. (Companies often cited privacy concerns as a reason not to share when someone got sick, according to the report.) The report shows how health data often doesn’t make it back to the people most impacted by its collection.
  • Vaccinations vs. Long COVID meta-analysis: A new paper published this week in the BMJ examines how COVID-19 vaccination impacts Long COVID risk. The researchers (at Bond University in Australia) performed a meta-analysis, compiling results from 16 prior studies. While the studies overall showed that vaccination can decrease risk of getting Long COVID after an infection (and may reduce symptoms for patients already sick with Long COVID), the studies were too different in their methodologies to actually allow for “any meaningful meta-analysis,” the authors noted. To better study this question, more rigorous clinical trials are needed, the researchers wrote.
  • Tracking Long COVID with insurance data: Another notable Long COVID paper, published this week in JAMA Health Forum: researchers at the insurance company Elevance Health compared health outcomes for about 13,000 people with post-COVID symptoms compared to 27,000 who did not have symptoms. The researchers found that, in the one year following acute COVID-19, Long COVID patients had higher risks for several health outcomes, including strokes, heart failure, asthma, and COPD; people in the post-COVID cohort were also more likely to die in that year-long period. I expect insurance databases like the one used in this paper may become more common Long COVID data sources. Also, see Eric Topol’s Substack for commentary.
  • FDA committee recommends RSV vaccine applications: Finally, a bit of good news on the “other respiratory viruses” front: the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee has recommended the agency move forward with two applications for RSV vaccines. Major pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have been working on RSV vaccine options; while early data appear promising, clinical trials on both vaccines have found potentially concerning safety signals. The trial populations have been relatively small, making these signals difficult to interpret right now but worthy of additional study. As usual, Katelyn Jetelina at Your Local Epidemiologist has provided a great summary of the FDA advisory committee meeting.

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