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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Just over 43% of Americans—140 million people—have been infected by SARS-CoV-2. This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate comes from antibody testing on blood samples taken during routine testing unrelated to COVID-19 and shows that seroprevalence, or the percentage of people with antibodies from prior infection with SARS-CoV-2, is about twice that of reported COVID-19 cases, according to the Washington Post.

If that many more people are prone to post-COVID risks, then we might see an even greater future burden on already stretched medical staff (see Topics to Watch for how these strains have impacted nurse staffing). Mental health resources might also be strained because, as a recent US Department of Veterans Affairs study suggests, infection makes a person 46% more likely to experience  adverse mental health outcomes.

COVID-19 vaccination rates have plateaued in recent months while other routine vaccinations have declined (see Topics to Watch). People who view mRNA vaccines as risky might be inclined to take the more traditional vaccines that Sanofi-GSKand Novavax will be submitting for regulatory review or the plant-based vaccine from Medicagothat was recently approved in Canada (and which Medicago is also submitting for US review).

Increased Reliance on Travel Nurses to Address Nursing Shortages Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

At a Glance

  • Travel nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who work in temporary roles to help fill staffing gaps in areas where shortages exist. They are increasingly relied upon to address the nursing shortage, which has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A recent survey of 6000 acute and critical care nurses indicated that 66% have considered leaving nursing as a result of their work experiences during the pandemic. Many others have switched to travel nursing.
  • As of the fourth quarter of 2021, at one staffing agency more than 15 000 nurses and other traveling staff were on assignment, a rate that was 50% higher than in 2020. A hospital system in West Virginia reported that about 40% of their current acute care nurses are on temporary travel assignments, compared with none in 2019.
  • With staffing costs soaring, some states are considering legislation to cap nurse wages.

Strategies to Mitigate Decreased Routine Vaccination Observed During the COVID-19 Pandemic

At a Glance

  • Stay-at-home orders, social distancing, concerns about SARS-CoV-2 exposure, misinformation, and vaccine fatigue have contributed to a decrease in routine vaccination nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Routine vaccination is an important public health measure to protect individuals and communities against contracting and spreading certain communicable diseases.
  • Actions are needed to help restore routine vaccination, especially in populations that are at a greater risk of contracting diseases and experiencing worse outcomes, such as children, people who are immunocompromised, and older adults.
  • The CDC, doctors’ offices, mobile health clinics, vaccination clinics in schools, and pharmacists are implementing new measures and initiatives to spread awareness of the importance of routine vaccination and to increase patient access to vaccination during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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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: March 11, 2022

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