Health News Roundup: Omicron becomes dominant variant in Germany - RKI institute; Analysis-India's new COVID-19 rules aim to free up resources but carry risks and more
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
U.S. Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine-or-test policy for large businesses
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden's pandemic-related vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses at a time of escalating COVID-19 infections while allowing his administration to enforce its separate vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities. The court acted after hearing arguments last Friday in the legal fight over temporary mandates issued in November by two federal agencies aimed at increasing U.S. vaccination rates and making workplaces and healthcare settings safer. The cases tested presidential powers to address a swelling public health crisis https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps that already has killed more than 845,000 Americans.
Son calls father's pig-heart transplant a miracle of science
The son of a transplant recipient who was implanted with a genetically modified pig heart in a first-of-its-kind surgery, called his father's procedure "a miracle." The surgery, performed by a team at the University of Maryland Medicine on Jan. 7, is among the first to demonstrate the feasibility of a pig-to-human heart transplant, a field made possible by new gene editing tools.
Record 14 million Americans sign up for healthcare since enrollment start - govt
The number includes ten million people in the 33 U.S. states using the federal marketplace exchange and about four million people from states that have their own exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on a press call.
Biden to send more military medics to U.S. hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots
President Joe Biden on Thursday said he was deploying more military health workers to hospitals in six U.S. states, and would give Americans free masks and more free tests to tackle the fast-spreading Omicron variant around the country. The phased dispatch of 1,000 military health personnel beginning next week comes as U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a record high with Omicron overtaking Delta as the dominant variant of the coronavirus and health facilities facing a staffing crunch.
Omicron becomes dominant variant in Germany - RKI institute
Omicron has become Germany's dominant coronavirus variant accounting for 73.3 % of cases nationwide compared with 44.3 % seven days ago, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases wrote in its weekly report on Thursday. The long-dominant Delta variant now accounts for just 25.9 % of cases, the RKI said.
Analysis-India's new COVID-19 rules aim to free up resources but carry risks
India has eased its COVID-19 rules on testing, quarantine and hospital admissions in a bid to free up resources for its neediest people, a strategy hailed by experts even though it carries the risk of a heavy undercount of infections and deaths. The moves will offer a breathing space for healthcare facilities, often overstretched in a far-flung nation of 1.4 billion, as they battle a 33-fold surge in infections over the past month from the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Germany among first to recommend COVID-19 booster for 12 to 17-year-olds
Germany's vaccine committee recommended on Thursday that all children between the ages of 12 and 17 receive a COVID-19 booster shot as the country reported a new daily record of more than 81,000 coronavirus infections. The government's coronavirus crisis manager warned of possible bottlenecks in testing, though Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said Germany had the means to handle the situation.
Explainer-Why you should still try to avoid catching Omicron
A fast-spreading Omicron variant that causes milder illness compared with previous versions of the coronavirus has fueled the view that COVID-19 poses less of a risk than in the past. In which case, some ask, why go to great lengths to prevent getting infected now, since everybody will be exposed to the virus sooner or later?
Spain to cap antigen test prices, expand booster programme
Spain will cap prices for rapid coronavirus tests and open up its booster shot programme to everyone over the age of 18, the government said on Thursday, as infections continued to rise albeit at a slightly slower pace. Health Minister Carolina Darias said that from Saturday antigen tests would be sold to the public for a maximum of 2.94 euros ($3.37), bringing prices closer in line with other European countries.
Biogen seeks dialogue with U.S. CMS about Alzheimer's drug coverage decision
Biogen Inc's chief executive officer on Thursday said the company wants a dialogue with the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) ahead of a final decision on coverage of its controversial Alzheimer's disease drug in April.
The comments follow a draft decision https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/future-biogens-aduhelm-hinges-us-medicare-alzheimers-coverage-2022-01-11 on Tuesday by CMS, which runs the government's Medicare health plan for people age 65 and over, saying it would cover Aduhelm and similar treatments for the mind-wasting condition only for patients enrolled in approved clinical trials - a decision that would likely severely limit use of a drug struggling to gain sales traction.
(With inputs from agencies.)