What We’re Reading: DOJ Files Antitrust Lawsuit; CDC to Update Mask Guidance; EMA Supports Youth Boosters

A new lawsuit aims to block a $13 billion health insurance acquisition; the CDC is expected to release updated mask guidelines; the European Medicines Agency supports boosters among teenagers for COVID-19.

DOJ Aims to Stop Insurance Merger

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit Thursday to block UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of Change Healthcare, alleging the proposed $13 billion transaction would reduce competition in commercial health insurance markets. The complaint, which was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, also claims the merger would harm competition in the market for technology used by health insurers to file claims and reduce health care costs. Should the deal go through, it will stifle innovation in employer health insurance markets, said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. United would also gain access to rival health insurers’ competitively sensitive information.

New Indoor Masking Guidance Expected

The CDC is expected to announce a change to indoor masking guidance as early as today, The Washington Post reports. Metrics such as hospital capacity and COVID-19 admissions will be weighed in the recommendations as opposed to just COVID-19 case counts, said individuals familiar with the plan. Numerous states have already announced plans to loosen indoor masking requirements in the coming month but have been pressing the agency to announce better guidelines to inform decisions. Currently, more than 96% of counties are considered substantial or high transmission for COVID-19, meaning CDC recommends indoor masking in these areas.

EMA Supports Teen Boosters

The European Medicine Agency (EMA) announced it supports booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 and older, and Moderna’s vaccine for those aged 6 to 11, Reuters reports. However, recommendations need to be followed with final decisions from the European Commission. Several European countries, including Germany, already offer booster doses to teens. The Moderna vaccine is already approved for those aged 12 and older in Europe, while in the United States, Moderna’s vaccine is authorized only for those aged 18 and older.