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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In the 10 weeks since the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was identified, more cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide than in all of 2020 (see Topics to Watch for the future of an Omicron-specific vaccine). With so many people contracting COVID-19, some are concerned that more patients might experience post-COVID conditions or Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC).

Recent research might help identify who is most at risk. One study linked high blood levels of coronavirus RNA, high blood levels of certain autoantibodies, reactivated Epstein-Barr virus, and preexisting type 2 diabetes at diagnosis with COVID-19 to the development of post-COVID conditions. Another study found that a combination of 5 initial symptoms (fever, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal upset), older age, preexisting asthma, and low blood levels of certain antibodies identifies those at risk.

Understanding who is likely to suffer post-COVID conditions can help health systems prepare for future treatment needs (see Topics to Watch for emerging pediatric post-COVID care). Health systems might also need to assess whether current patient testing regimens are adequate. Specialized magnetic resonance imaging has revealed microscopic lung damage that would not be seen with normal diagnostics. Although this is a small pilot study (recruitment of up to 400 patients is under way), preliminary results suggest that decreased flow of oxygen to patients’ blood might cause some post-COVID symptoms. 

Omicron-Specific mRNA Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19

At a Glance

  • The increasingly prevalent Omicron coronavirus variant has numerous spike protein mutations that lead to decreased effectiveness of currently available COVID-19 vaccines, contributing to recent increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations worldwide.
  • Pfizer (New York, New York), in collaboration with BioNTech (Mainz, Germany), and Moderna (Cambridge, Massachusetts) are developing messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines specifically targeting the Omicron variant to prevent COVID-19.
  • Pfizer is evaluating its investigational vaccine as a 2-dose primary series as well as a booster. Moderna’s vaccine candidate (mRNA1273.529) is being evaluated in a phase 2 trial as a booster dose.
  • Pfizer and Moderna anticipate their vaccines might become clinically available in 2022, Pfizer’s in March and Moderna’s in the fall.

Pediatric Recovery Programs for Post-COVID Conditions

At a Glance

  • Pediatric recovery programs are being established by numerous children’s hospitals across the country to provide comprehensive evaluation, treatment, and management of post-COVID conditions, or PASC, by multidisciplinary specialists.
  • PASC in children encompasses a broad, multisystem range of symptoms lasting months after COVID-19 infection, commonly including fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, joint and muscle pain, and respiratory problems.
  • These dedicated programs might increase access to coordinated care and shorten the recovery time for children with PASC.

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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: February 11, 2022

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