How 4 main tools in the fight against the coronavirus impacted the pandemic in 2022
The third year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States introduced vaccines for very young children and an updated booster, as well as greater availability of an antiviral drug and home antigen tests . Here’s what we’ve learned since those accomplishments caused a stir.
Pictures for the little ones
On June 18, the The COVID-19 vaccine has been recommended for children under 5the last group in the United States to wait for the blows (SN online: 06/17/22). The thumbs up was supported by immunity and safety data and the clear and present health risks of COVID-19 for young children.
Update: Many young children in the United States are still unvaccinated. Only 11% of these 6 months to 4 years, or 1.8 million children, had received at least one dose by December 7. A Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey conducted in mid-July explored some reasons for mixed responseincluding concerns that the vaccine has not been sufficiently tested.
There are also barriers to getting the vaccine, with 44% of black parents worried about taking time off work to vaccinate young children or care for them if they have side effects. Among Hispanic parents surveyed, 45% are worried about not having the opportunity to get vaccinated in a place they trust.
A new amplifier
An update The COVID-19 vaccine has become available as a booster in the United States in early September for ages 12 and up, and for ages 5 to 12 in mid-October (SN: 08/10/22 and 22/10/22, p. seven). The vaccine, which targets two omicron subvariants as well as the original version of SARS-CoV-2, was designed to stimulate a broader immune response, protecting against more versions of the virus.
Update: In the United States, only 13.5% of people aged 5 and older, or 42 million people, had received the updated bivalent booster as of December 7. In a survey conducted in September, half of American adults had heard little or nothing about the new recall, highlighting the need for greater public awareness. President Joe Biden, who had COVID-19 in July, received his updated vaccine on October 25 and announced new measures to get more reminders in the arms. A study of American adults, published in November, found that the updated booster provided additional protection against symptomatic COVID-19 in those who had already received at least two doses of the original vaccine.
Home COVID-19 tests
Early 2022, the use of home COVID-19 tests flew in response to omicron’s winter wave (SN online: 1/11/22). From January to September, the Biden administration sent about 600 million free home tests.
Update: Home antigen testing is quick and easy, although advice on how to interpret the results has changed. With data that repeat the tests improved the odds of detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended in August that people with and without symptoms who have been exposed to the virus and tested negative take additional tests over the next few days.
A downside of home testing is that results have not been consistently tallied, leading to undercounting of cases. Estimates vary depending on the number of missed cases. A research group calculated that in New York City between April 23 and May 8, about 1.5 million adults had COVID-19, or nearly 30 times more than the official case count of 51,218.
A new medicine
The antiviral Paxlovid – authorized at the end of 2021 – has become one of the few treatment options for COVID-19 in pill form. A study published in April reports that Paxlovid reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 by 89% versus placebo (SN online: 5/11/22).
Update: In July, the FDA allowed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid to get the medicine to more people faster, because it needs to be taken at the start of an infection. A study conducted during the omicron push suggested that the drug is beneficial for those aged 65 and over but is not useful for 40 to 64 year olds.
Paxlovid also made news this year when reports surfaced of COVID-19 symptoms return after treatment with drug ended (SN online: 8/12/22). It is unclear how common the so-called Paxlovid rebound is. Some research has shown that the incidence is similar in patients treated with Paxlovid and those treated with placebo, while other researchers have reported that rebound occurs more often with Paxlovid than without treatment.
There is also early evidence that Paxlovid may reduce the risk of developing long COVID. A preliminary study of US veterans reported in November that treatment with Paxlovid within five days of a positive COVID-19 test was associated with a 26% reduction in the risk of long COVID compared to a group that did not receive antiviral treatment after an infection.