Covid-19 Policy Update #620
As the year comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for you and the important work you’re leading. It’s been a privilege to learn from and support you through these updates.
While we experienced moments of returning to normalcy over the last year, it’s also clear that it has been a difficult and demanding time for many of us. Government officials, business executives, and non-profit heads have shared with me their struggles with exhaustion, depression, and burnout due to the overwhelming demands placed upon them.
To those leaders, I extend my heartfelt wishes that this holiday season be filled with peace. I hope you are able to take some time to recharge and reconnect with loved ones, and that you are able to find joy in the simple pleasures that matter most.
May the new year bring hope, health, and happiness to us all.
Vaccine Efficacy Against Infection in Kids Dropped Amid Omicron: Study:
The estimated effectiveness of two COVID-19 vaccine doses was 61% among children and 67% among adolescents in Argentina during Delta variant predominance and 16% and 26%, respectively, during the Omicron period.
"Vaccine effectiveness against death related to SARS-CoV-2 infection during omicron predominance was 66.9% in children and 97.6% in adolescents."
"Vaccine effectiveness in preventing mortality remained high in children and adolescents regardless of the circulating variant. Vaccine effectiveness in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection in the short term after vaccination was lower during omicron predominance and decreasing sharply over time."
In a related commentary, the researchers said the study may have found lower VE in children because they tend to have no or mild COVID-19 symptoms, which can lead to many unidentified infections and an underestimate of VE. Children are also much more likely than adults to be infected with other respiratory viruses, which can lead to missed diagnoses and misdiagnoses.
Federal Spending Package: Congress reached a consensus around a $1.7 trillion Omnibus. The Senate just passed the bill. It now heads to the House for a quick passage and then off for the President's signature. Some highlights:
Total for ED: $79.6 billion (+$3.2 billion). Title I: $18.4 billion (+$850 million). The bill also directs ED to target $87 million within the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant program to support SEL grants and an additional $87 million for STEM. The bill also directs IES to "support a new funding opportunity for quick turnaround, high-reward scalable solutions."
CCDBG: $8 billion (+$1.8 billion)
Regional Innovation Hubs: $500 million for planning grants.
Mental Health: $5.27 billion (+803 million), including $111 million for school-based mental health grants at the Department of Education. It also extends HHS rules that made telehealth more accessible during the pandemic, but falls short of permanently extending the flexibilities.
NSF is in line for $10 billion in funding, the largest dollar increase ever for the agency and the largest percentage increase in two decades.
Boosters for Kids Under 5: A quick update via Katelyn Jetelina.
Who is eligible for a fall booster? This is very confusing, as it depends on what vaccine series (and how much of that series) they have received:
Moderna: Every child that had the primary series (2 shots) is eligible for the fall booster
If your child completed primary series (3 shots), they are not eligible.
If your child did not complete the primary series (i.e., had 1 or 2 shots only), they are eligible for the fall booster.
The vaccines continue to be safe. We saw this during the clinical trials, but we continue to see it in the real world. The CDC released results of their active (V-Safe) and passive surveillance (VAERS).
The most frequent reactions: injection site pain, fatigue, and fever.
Four children received care at a hospital after vaccination: two were unrelated to vaccination, one was unwilling to provide further information, and one is under further review. None have died.
No cases of myocarditis were reported.
FDA: FDA commissioner urges parents not to stockpile children's flu medications amid shortages.
President Zelenskyy's: Video of his historic speech to Congress. (Transcript)
FDA Approves Roche's COVID-19 Antibody: The intravenous anti-inflammatory drug, Actemra, is a monoclonal antibody that reduces inflammation and was approved in 2010 to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It is the first FDA-approved monoclonal antibody to treat COVID-19.
Ron DeSantis Gambles on Vaccine Grievance: Via the Dispatch.
"In his official petition, released the same day, DeSantis suggested that Pfizer and Moderna, the companies that developed the mRNA COVID vaccines that tens of millions of Americans have received, had inflated their vaccines’ efficacy and downplayed their drawbacks in public statements throughout the pandemic."
"But as they brought their products to market, Pfizer and Moderna hadn’t made any such claims themselves. Indeed, their applications for FDA emergency approval, written and publicly released in late 2020 before the vaccines became widely available, were explicit that the vaccines’ efficacy against COVID transmission remained unknown. The “unknown benefits/data gaps” section of both companies’ letters (here and here) asserted that fact in identical language: “Data are limited to assess the effect of the vaccine against transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from individuals who are infected despite vaccination.” The letters further warned that new virus mutations “may potentially limit the generalizability of the efficacy conclusions over time.”
"As it happens, the early results following mass mRNA vaccine uptake showed the vaccines were effective at reducing COVID transmission in the first half of 2021. (This emerging data was what prompted the statements from Biden and Fauci referenced in the petition.) But that effectiveness waned as the virus continued to mutate, as the manufacturers had warned it might. Still, the vaccines continued to offer strong protection against serious illness and death."
"Medical arguments aside, it raises a question: How wise is it politically to pick a fight with the group behind one of the most significant vaccine developments of all time? The COVID vaccines have been a miracle, defanging the most fearsome pandemic in a century. But in the long run, they may prove most significant simply in how they kicked the door open for mRNA technology—a technology with a whole host of other treatments now already in development, for diseases from malaria to the flu to HIV to tuberculosis to cancer."
California: Thousands of L.A. students show up for school on first day of winter break.
"After a slow start in registrations, about 72,000 Los Angeles students had signed up to be back in the classroom on their first day of winter break Monday, an increase from about two weeks ago when some 45,000 of the district’s 422,276 students had registered and the deadline was removed."
"The process is an experiment for L.A. Unified. The format varies from school to school and grade level to grade level. Even though teachers union leaders had expressed skepticism, about a third of teachers volunteered to take on the extra days — for which they will be paid. Even nonparticipating teachers had a role to play: They had to decide what and how much work would be necessary for a student to raise a grade, which could mean the difference between passing and failing a class for some."
Virginia: Some fun times with a llama on the loose. Helicopter video.
“Crematoriums across China are straining to deal with an influx of bodies as the country battles a wave of Covid cases that authorities have said is impossible to track,” AFP reports.
How Learning and Employment Records Shape Access to Quality Education and Jobs: Via Brookings.
"Despite growing interest and rapid growth in these ecosystems, the widespread adoption of digital credentials and learning and employment records (LERs) at scale is still in very early stages. The foundational institutions, regulatory frameworks, and policies needed to govern technology—in general and more specifically to help people make sense of the ever-expanding smattering of digital learning and employment options—are very nascent."
A Winter Holiday Wish for Our Children: Via Dean Matthew Slaughter and Matthew Rees:
"How can the world’s largest economy and, in many ways, the world’s most powerful nation not better protect its children from guns? Not ensure all its infants can eat? Not enable its children to make sustained progress in their academics?"
"In these end-of-year holidays, many of us delight in giving children gifts of food, toys, and other immediate enjoyments. In the new year, may we find new ways to give our children more-sustaining gifts—of safety, nourishment, and learning."
The States Leading Recovery Grant: Via Accelerate: An opportunity available exclusively to state education agencies and statewide nonprofits with a focus on education. Grantees will receive $1 million in funding and strategic support to advance academic recovery by effectively integrating high-impact tutoring into public schools in the 2023-2024 school year and beyond.
Kindness: In 1999 Ayda Zugay was an 11-yo refugee fleeing the former Yugoslavia with her older sister when a stranger handed them an envelope on a flight to the United States. Inside- a $100 bill. More than two decades, they found the woman who helped them.
Light Show: Rotherham went full Encanto this year.
Do A Little Good: Via Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell.