The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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The highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant is now the most prevalent coronavirus in the United States. Although early studies suggested the variant was more deadly, recent work has not linked the B.1.1.7 to more severe disease. Calls are being made to better track variants, perhaps through a national genomic sequencing initiative, yet simpler assays might be more readily available (see Topics to Watch).

Vaccination rates are steadily rising, and access is opening up to all adults across the country. However, appointment scheduling remains difficult for many, and programs are aiming to both ease the process and prevent waste of valuable vaccine resources (see Topics to Watch). Programs like these may become even more vital if vaccine supply is bottlenecked by the pause that began April 13 in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of deaths from a rare blood clotting risk similar to that connected to AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Europe.

Centralized Waiting Lists to Manage Distribution of Leftover COVID-19 Vaccine Doses 

At a Glance

  • Vaccines are packaged in multiple-dose vials, with the Pfizer vial providing 6 doses and the Moderna, 10. These vaccines can expire within hours of thawing and cannot be refrozen, putting vaccine doses at risk of being wasted because of expiration, appointment no-shows, or unexpected extra doses in vials.
  • People unable to secure a vaccination appointment reportedly wait in unofficial standby lines to receive leftover doses of the vaccines.
  • Vaccination sites face challenges maintaining waiting lists when individuals register on multiple waiting lists or when registrants do not meet the state guidelines for vaccine rollout.
  • Centralized waiting lists have been created by Dr. B, Vaccination Standby (which subsequently merged with Dr. B), and others to better manage unused doses of vaccine by notifying preregistered individuals of available leftover doses in their area. Upon being notified, individuals must confirm that they can get to the provider's location quickly.

Variant-Specific Nucleic Acid–based Assays to Diagnose COVID-19 and Detect SARS-CoV-2 Variants

At a Glance

  • Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 variants is largely performed using SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing followed by viral genomic sequencing tests, which have not received marketing clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), limiting the availability of patient-specific variant test results.
  • Using its Allplex platform, Seegene, Inc (Seoul, South Korea) has developed an RT-PCR assay (the Allplex SARS-CoV-2 Master Assay) that provides full screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection and five S-gene mutations present in one or more SARS-CoV-2 variants.
  • If authorized by the FDA, the assay results could be used to diagnose COVID-19, identify variants in the population, and provide patient-specific variant results.
  • Seegene has not yet announced plans to apply for FDA authorization for this product. However, the company has obtained approval for an RT-PCR–based COVID-19 test. 

Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders.
The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to [email protected].

Posted: April 23, 2021

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